Open-back headphones are recommended for those who want a more natural audio reproduction, whether for casual listening or professional use. They have a better soundstage than sealed headphones, but their bass is not as powerful. Open-back headphones are less versatile than closed-back headphones and are limited to indoor use because of their poor noise isolation. Whether you are listening to music or gaming, a quiet room is where they shine.
With many good options on the market, shopping for the best open-back headphones can be a time-consuming and confusing task. Fortunately for you, we already got you covered with this product guide. In this guide, you’ll find the top open-back headphones on the market, from premium audiophile headphones to gaming headphones.
The Focal Clear headphones are impressively built premium headphones with excellent sound quality. They are all-around headphones suitable for pretty much all music genres. The industry recommends Focal Clears for headphone enthusiasts and audiophiles who are looking for “endgame” open-back headphones. While they are costly, selling for around $1,500, these headphones are worth the money and will serve you well for a long time.
The Focal Clear are good-looking headphones with an appealing aesthetic. Their classy silver-and-gray color scheme separates them from most other headphones, which usually have a darker color scheme with black as the most dominant color. They are sturdy and durable, featuring a mostly metal construction with aluminum yokes and stainless steel ear cup mesh.
Unlike some companies, Focal did not slack on the accessories for the Focal Clear. There are three audio cables included in the box, one of which is a short cable that ends with a standard 3.5-millimeter plug for universal compatibility. Included is a hard case for storage and travel, with the sturdy case protecting against scratches, minor drops, and water damage.
The Focal Clear has large ear cups with memory foam pads covered with perforated microfiber fabric for better breathability. Their metal headband, which has a leather cover on the outer side, also has the same perforated microfiber fabric cover on the underside. There is minimal branding on the ear cups and the headband, making for a cleaner and more discreet look.
While not as comfortable as some high-end headphones, the Focal Clear are comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. They have enough rigidity for a secure and comfortable fit, with their well-padded headband also distributing the weight evenly, which is essential since they are not as lightweight as some over-ear headphones. Additionally, they are glasses-friendly and have softly padded ear cups that can cover most ear sizes.
On the other hand, the Focal Clear is not portable and not designed for outdoor use. They are bulky and don’t fold into a more compact format for storage. Their wired connection and lack of an inline remote for music management while on the move can be inconvenient as well. They are not bulky enough to make wearing them around your neck awkward, but if you want more portable and more versatile headphones for both indoor and outdoor use, there are far better options.
The Focal Clear are some of the best-sounding headphones on the market, boasting a well-balanced overall sound quality. They are bright, detailed, and have a deep bass for open-back headphones, but their soundstage is not as wide as that of other open-back headphones. Often compared to the similarly-priced Sennheiser HD 800 S; while their soundstage is inferior compared to the Sennheiser headphones, they are more all-around headphones that are suitable for all kinds of music.
Overall, the Focal Clear are outstanding open-back headphones. They are well-crafted headphones that sound great but also look great. Although they are not perfect, they have minimal flaws in both build quality and sound quality. If you can spend around $1,500 on a pair of premium headphones, check out this French-made model.
The MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open is the open-back version of the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Closed, which sells for the same price. While they are still expensive headphones, they are much more affordable than the Focal Clear, selling for around $700 less. They are some of the best open-back headphones costing under $1,000 for headphone enthusiasts.
Featuring planar magnetic drivers, the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open look very similar to their closed-back variant. They have the same unique teardrop-shaped ear cups and a dual headband composed of leather and a Nitinol metal. Their rather unusual design is not for everyone; these premium headphones look good and feel solidly built, featuring stainless steel grille on the ear cups.
Regarding comfort level, the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open is right up there among the best, with their very flexible metal headband making them suitable even for those with larger heads. They have an excellent clamp that doesn’t feel too tight, and they feature an effortless adjustment scheme. Their spacious ear cups have soft memory foam pads covered with artificial leather that feels nice on the skin. Overall, they are incredibly comfortable to wear and are more suitable for long listening sessions than the Focal Clear.
As expected from headphones designed for home use, the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open is not portable. They are bulky and don’t collapse for compact storage, though the latter also translates to fewer moving parts susceptible to wear and tear, which is a good thing. They do come with a hard case for travel, making them more protected against scratches and physical impacts while stored in your bag.
Often described as warm and engaging, the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open are some of the best-sounding premium headphones under $1,000, with their open-back design allowing for a more natural sound. They have powerful bass for an open-back design, but only if you can get a good seal with the ear cups, which can be a problem for those who wear glasses. There are three tuning filters included in the box for sound customization, with the filters fitting into the uniquely shaped ear cups with no need for tools.
Compared to most other open-back headphones, the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open offers slightly better noise isolation. Still, they are not suitable for commuting, office use, and will not work well for outdoor use. You can use them for listening to music in a quiet office, but their wired connection and lack of controls for music management can be inconvenient. When using them at the office, keep in mind that these planar magnetic headphones have high sound leakage, which can be distracting for people around you.
If you want great-sounding premium headphones but can’t afford to spend more than $1,000, consider the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open. They are well-built planar magnetic headphones that are incredibly comfortable to use for long listening sessions—recommended for those who put more stock in sound quality than conveniences like wireless connectivity and noise-canceling technology.
We recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro for professionals who prefer open-back headphones for studio use. They are German-made wired over-ear headphones that offer superb audio reproduction and excellent build quality. They are much more affordable than the previous two items, selling for less than $150, which makes them ideal for audiophiles with a tighter budget.
Compared to the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro has a more industrial and more professional look. They have large, well-padded ear cups covered with velour fabric and feature a flexible metal headband. Despite all the plastic in their construction, their build quality is excellent, which is one of their most significant selling points; they are sturdier and more durable than most headphones in the same price range and will not break after a few minor drops. They come with a non-detachable coiled cable that lacks an inline remote.
With their generously padded ear cups and lightweight frame, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is comfortable to wear. They are decently breathable and don’t feel too warm after just a couple of hours of use. However, their clamping force is on the high side, which is both good news and bad news; the tighter clamp makes the headphones a bit uncomfortable to use continuously for several hours, but on the other hand, it makes for a more stable and secure fit.
Portability is not one of the strengths of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro. These studio headphones are bulky and don’t fold into a more compact form. Their large ear cups don’t lay flat for storage, and they don’t come with a hard case, which can be a problem if you travel a lot. Included in the package is a soft carry pouch, but it only provides minimal protection for the headphones.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro are some of the best-sounding open-back headphones under $200, with excellent mid-range performance and functional style. They have a well-balanced treble and consistent bass for an open-back design. While their soundstage is not as good as other headphones, they are ideal for critical listening, sound mixing, and sound editing. You can use them for gaming and home entertainment in general, especially if you prefer to be aware of your surroundings when watching movies on your computer or gaming.
Like most other headphones designed for professional use, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro lacks an inline mic. It isn’t a problem when listening to music, either casually or in the studio. But if you work at home and take a lot of business calls or love to play online multiplayer games where team communication through voice chat is essential, the lack of a mic is an issue.
If you prefer the more natural sound of open-back headphones for studio use and don’t care about noise isolation, get the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro. They are great-sounding around-the-ear headphones that are durable and comfortable to use. They are made of high-quality materials and look like premium headphones. While they are not the most versatile headphones, they are excellent for their intended usage and are some of the best open-back headphones for studio use.
The 2019 Astro Gaming A40 TR + MixAmp Pro TR is the best open-back headphones explicitly designed for gaming. They sound good, offer customization options, and come with a boom mic. You can get the bundle for around $250, with Astro Gaming offering a blue-accented PS4 model and a red-accented Xbox One model. If you game on a PC, go for whatever color scheme works for you, as both models are fully compatible with a PC.
For a pair of wired over-ear headphones, the Astro Gaming A40 TR are bulky headphones that quickly come off as gaming headphones due to their eye-catching design. They have large ear cups that can cover most ear sizes and feature a uni-directional mic that the user can position on the side of the choice. They are sturdy and durable and are well-built overall.
The Astro Gaming A40 TR is comfortable to use for long gaming sessions. They have proper weight distribution and don’t feel too tight on the head, and their ear cups are spacious and breathable and come with soft padding. Even after several hours of continuous use, the ear cups don’t feel too warm, which is especially beneficial for those who sweat a lot.
Considering the product is meant for indoor use, it’s understandable that the Astro Gaming A40 TR has mediocre portability. They are bulky and don’t fold into a more compact format, although their ear cups can lay flat, allowing them to take less space when stored. You need to get a separate container when packing these gaming headphones, as they don’t come with a carry case, which is disappointing considering their price.
Featuring multiple connection ports – including USB and optical – the rectangular MixAmp Pro TR is a well-designed control hub. It has dedicated switches for activating the Dolby Surround Sound, cycling through the equalizer presets, and switching between PC and console modes. Also, it has large knobs for volume adjustment and for balancing the game and chat volumes. You don’t need to bring the MixAmp Pro TR for local multiplayer parties as the headphones can function without it.
Ideal for action-packed games, the Astro Gaming A40 TR are good-sounding gaming headphones with good bass and a wide soundstage. They have functional imaging and mid-range performance, but their treble is subpar and not as detailed as that of other open-back headphones. Their mic performance is high, even in a noisy environment, which is especially beneficial when playing online multiplayer games where voice chat is essential. You can customize your gaming experience with the MixAmp Pro TR and the desktop app.
Since they are open-back headphones, the Astro Gaming A40 TR best use is when gaming in a quiet room. If you want a more versatile pair of gaming headphones, you can get the optional A40 TR Mod Kit, which sells for around $60. With the kit, you can transform the Astro Gaming A40 TR into closed-back headphones for gaming in a noisy room.
On the whole, the Astro Gaming A40 TR is an outstanding gaming headset. Their sound quality is good, while their build quality is excellent. You can use them for different kinds of games, including RPGs, first-person shooters, open-world adventure games, and platformers. They are great for both online multiplayer games where team communication is essential and single-player games with a killer soundtrack.
The HiFiMan Sundara are some of the best headphones under $500. They are over-ear planar magnetic headphones that sound terrific and built solid. You can get them for around $350, making them significantly more affordable than the MrSpeakers planar magnetic headphones. While they have limited usage, they offer excellent value for the money.
Like all the other products mentioned so far, the HiFiMan Sundara are wired headphones, with their audio cable splitting up and connecting to both ear cups. They have a sleek design with a matte black finish that looks good. They have a dual headband composed of a metal headband and a synthetic leather headband. They feel sturdy and durable with their mostly metal construction, featuring a new hinge design that is more resistant to wear and tear.
For extended listening sessions, the HiFiMan Sundara are comfortable to use despite their firmer clamp and limited ear cup flexibility. They have even weight distribution and well-padded earcups that don’t get uncomfortably warm after a couple of hours of continuous use. While their tighter clamp makes for a more secure and stable fit, these headphones are still not recommended for running and gym use; they will slide off your head when doing intense physical activities.
Unlike some over-ear headphones, the HiFiMan Sundara doesn’t fold into a more compact form, which hurts their portability. But on the bright side, their non-folding design translates to fewer moving parts vulnerable to wear and tear. Their mediocre portability is not a surprise since they are not designed for travel and outdoor use in general, especially considering their open design.
In terms of accessories, the HiFiMan Sundara is limited. They don’t come with any form of carrying case, which is disappointing considering their price. An included soft carry pouch would justify the cost. There is only one audio cable included, and speaking of which, the audio cable has no inline mic and remote.
The HiFiMan Sundara are some of the best-sounding open-back headphones under $500. They have excellent imaging and good bass for open-back headphones. Their treble and mid-range performance are both balanced, while their soundstage is good but not as extensive compared to other open-back headphones. While meant for listening to music, these HiFiMan headphones are also useful for gaming and listening to audiobooks and podcasts in a quiet room.
All in all, the HiFiMan Sundara is highly recommended if you are in the market for great-sounding planar magnetic headphones under $500. They are well-built headphones with a comfortable and sturdy design. They have limited accessories, with their lack of a carry case being the most notable omission, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Often considered the best budget headphones for audiophiles, the Philips SHP9500 are some of the best-sounding headphones under $100. They are comfortable to wear for long listening sessions, thanks to their lightweight, breathable design and soft padding. You can get these headphones for just around $60, and the best part is that they sound even better than some headphones selling for twice the price.
The Philips SHP9500 are wired over-ear headphones with a minimalist but still appealing aesthetic, with their all-black color scheme making for a cleaner look. They have a metal-reinforced headband and a pair of large ear cups. While they are mainly plastic, their build quality is good, though the fabric cover on their ear cups feels a bit cheap. Like most other audiophile headphones, they don’t have any form of controls, either on-cup or inline.
As mentioned, the Philips SHP9500 is pleasant to wear. They are some of the most affordable open-back headphones. They are lightweight and don’t clamp too hard on the head, making them suitable for long listening sessions. They have adequate padding on the ear cups and headband, but the fabric cover on the ear cups don’t feel as gentle on the skin as the leather and artificial leather covers found in some headphones.
The Philips SHP9500 is not the most portable headphone, which is the case for many other over-ear headphones. They are bulky and don’t collapse into a more compact form. Their earcups don’t lay flat, making them take up more space when stored. Furthermore, they don’t come with a carry case of any kind, which is disappointing but not surprising for budget audiophile headphones.
Like most headphones in the budget category, the Philips SHP9500 has limited accessories, so don’t expect to see a lot of extras upon opening the box. There is only one detachable audio cable, which is a single-sided audio cable that connects to the left ear cup. Outside of the audio cable and the gold-plated adapter, there is nothing else included in the box.
There aren’t many similarly priced headphones that sound as good as the Philips SHP9500. They have excellent sound quality for the price, with good bass, treble, and mid-range performance, and a decent soundstage. They don’t sound as good as some of the best premium headphones, but you’d be hard-pressed finding better-sounding open-back headphones in the same price range.
Although designed for listening to music, the Philips SHP9500 are decent open-back headphones for gaming, with their sound quality making them ideal for games with an excellent soundtrack – like Undertale and Bastion. However, they are not as customizable as some of the noteworthy gaming headphones, not to mention they don’t come with a built-in mic for voice chat when playing online multiplayer games.
Overall, the Philips SHP9500 are the best budget open-back headphones under $100. They sound great and don’t feel cheaply built. They offer excellent value for the money and are for audiophiles who have a tight budget. They are limited in features and accessories, though, but that’s easy to swallow considering their wallet-friendly price.
If our top picks are not quite what you are looking for, consider the following products. They are similar open-back headphones that are worth buying. The products include open-back headphones designed for watching TV and on-ear headphones, along with more audiophile headphones at different price ranges.
There aren’t many good open-back budget headphones under $50, especially if you want a pair of good-sounding headphones. If you have a tiny budget, check out the Superlux HD 681, which sells for just around $35. They are the cheapest headphones on this list, but don’t let their price tag fool you; they are good-sounding headphones that sound even better than some units selling for a much higher price. They are wired over-ear headphones with a non-detachable cable that lacks an inline remote for call and music management.
Technically, the Superlux HD 681 is not an open-back headphone. They are semi-open, but considering their poor sound isolation, they are practically open-back headphones. While their build quality is mediocre, as expected from cheaper headphones, they are comfortable to use for long listening sessions. They are lightweight and don’t feel too tight. They have a self-adjusting headband and a pair of well-padded ear cups. On the other hand, their portability is weak; they are quite bulky and don’t fold into a more compact format.
The Koss Porta Pro Wireless is a Bluetooth on-ear headphone with an around-the-neck cable that features an inline remote for call and music management. They are more portable than all other headphones on this list, featuring a compact design with folding ear cups. They are lightweight and breathable. You will barely feel them on your head, making them comfortable to use for long listening sessions despite their sparse ear cup padding and non-padded metal headband. They come with a hard case for a more secure container, which is nice since their build quality is not that great.
Regarding sound quality, these Koss headphone is surprisingly good. Their bass and mid-range are fair, while their imaging is excellent. Their treble and soundstage are both disappointing, though, especially the former. They have a good battery life with around 12-15 hours of playback on a single charge, which is good enough for casual everyday use. They easily pair with compatible devices, but they can only connect to one device at a time.
The Grado SR80e is a wired on-ear headphone with decent audio reproduction, and they are under $100. While their build is subpar, they are comfortable to wear for hours because of their breathable design. Unlike some on-ear headphones, they don’t press too hard on the ears, but their stability is mediocre. They come with a long, non-detachable audio cable that connects to both ear cups and lacks an inline mic and remote.
Since they are wired headphones, the Grado SR80e don’t suffer from latency issues and can easily connect to most devices with an analog audio port. However, if you want the convenience afforded by wireless connectivity, you can check out the more expensive Grado GW100. They look and sound similar to the Grado SR80e, but they are costly for what they bring to the table.
For more amazing audio devices, check out our guide on the best semi-open headphones.
If the HiFiMan Sundara is too expensive for you, consider the HiFiMan HE400S instead. They are planar magnetic headphones selling for a more affordable price. While they usually go for around $300, you can get them for less than $200 from some online sellers. They are great-sounding over-ear headphones that are comfortable to wear for hours due to their lightweight design and well-padded ear cups.
Featuring a dual headband design with a simple adjustment system, the HiFiMan HE400S is a wired headphone with a rather bland aesthetic. Their overall build quality is decent. However, the same thing is not true with the audio cable; as noted by some users, the default audio cable feels cheaply built, and it’s best to replace it. If you want entry-level planar magnetic headphones, check out the HiFiMan HE400S. They are great for listening to music in a quiet room and are some of the best-sounding headphones under $300.
The AKG K702 are great-sounding open-back headphones with excellent imaging and mid-range performance. They are wired over-ear headphones with a detachable cable that connects to the left ear cup. There is no inline remote for call and music management, which is common among headphones designed specifically for professional use. While they are not as versatile as some over-ear headphones, they are great for listening to music in a quiet room.
Although they are bulky, the AKG K702 is comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. Their large, circular ear cups have excellent padding while their headband is flexible. They don’t clamp too hard and are very lightweight despite their bulky design. They are not the most portable headphones, though, with their non-folding design making them harder to pack for travel, not to mention they don’t come with a travel case like some other headphones for travel and commute. Overall, the AKG K702 are terrific headphones with excellent audio reproduction and build quality, but they are not as suitable as the more affordable Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro for professional studio use.
If you prefer over-ear headphones with a tighter clamp for a more secure and more stable fit, check out the Sennheiser HD 600. They are wired open-back headphones with a firmer brace, keeping them from sliding off your head. They are decently comfortable on the head, featuring oversized ear cups that can cover most ear sizes. On the other hand, their tighter clamp can be uncomfortable for long listening sessions.
The Sennheiser HD 600 are well-designed headphones with a subtle aesthetic that some might find eye-catching. They are sturdy and durable, but they are quite bulky and don’t fold into a more compact format, hurting their portability. They have a detachable audio cable that connects to both ear cups but lacks an inline remote. Like other professional open-back headphones, the Sennheiser HD 600 is only suitable for listening to music while indoors, not only because of their open-back design but also because of their mediocre portability. On the bright side, their overall audio reproduction is excellent, making them well worth the money despite their limited usage.
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The Sennheiser RS 185 is for those who prefer to use open-back headphones for home entertainment. They are RF wireless over-ear headphones with a transmitter that supports both digital and analog inputs. The transmitter also serves as a dock and charging station for the headphone, which runs on two rechargeable AAA batteries. Since they need the large transmitter to work wirelessly, these headphones are not as portable and convenient to use as wireless Bluetooth headphones, but this isn’t a big deal considering they are for home use.
Featuring on-cup controls, the Sennheiser RS 185 has a comfortable and durable design. They have large, spacious ear cups and a sturdy headband with proper padding. They don’t fold into a more compact format, which translates to fewer moving parts. While not as premium compared to that of other Sennheiser headphones, their overall build quality is adequate. They also sound acceptable and are suitable for both listening to music and watching movies.
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The Audeze LCD-2 Classic are premium headphones selling for around $800, making them an alternative to the similarly priced MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open. They are planar magnetic headphones with excellent audio reproduction. Their mid-range, soundstage, and imaging are all great, while their bass performance is suitable for open-back headphones. Considering their non-existent sound isolation, they are used best for listening to music in a quiet room.
Equipped with memory foam earpads, the Audeze LCD-2 Classic are bulky with large, circular ear cups and a steel suspension headband. Their build quality feels high-end, from the ear cup grille to the metal yokes. On the other hand, they are heavy and are not comfortable to use for long listening sessions despite their generously padded ear cups. They are not easy to pack for travel; they don’t fold into a more compact format and lack a carry case, which is ridiculous for a pair of headphones selling for $800.
If you wear glasses, be sure to invest in a pair of quality headphones for glass wearers from our list.
If you can spend more than a grand on premium headphones, the Sennheiser HD 800 S is another pair that are worth investigating. The wired, over-ear headphone is made of high-quality materials, featuring a sturdy metal headband and stainless steel mesh on the ear cups. While they are bulky and heavy, these premium headphones are supremely comfortable for long listening sessions; they are breathable, don’t clamp too hard, and feature large ear cups with luxurious padding. On the other hand, they are not very portable due to their bulky and non-folding design.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are some of the best-sounding wired over-ear headphones on the market, with excellent mid-range, treble, imaging, and soundstage performance. They are fantastic headphones for listening to music in a quiet room and are suitable for different music genres. If you want a pair of premium headphones that are more comfortable and have a wider soundstage than the Focal Clear, check out the Sennheiser HD 800 S, which sells for a similar price. They are some of the best open-back headphones currently on the market and are an excellent choice for headphone enthusiasts.