What to Look For in Open-Back Headphones
These are the most critical aspects of top-tier open-back headphones you’ll need to order for your priorities before spending money:
- Breathability: The open earcup and speaker housing allows the inside of the headphone to retain less heat, which is great for wearing for long periods without needing to vent. Consider the housing quality alongside the headphone pad material for maximum comfort and feeling preference.
- Ambient awareness: The perk of open-back headphones is it allows wearers to be aware of their environment. Closed-back headphones isolate listeners so they can’t hear doorbells and sometimes even their voices. Decide how much sound you want coming into your headphones from the environment.
- Microphone pickup: Because sound can escape more easily through open-back earcups, it isn’t ideal for public environments or if users intend on using microphones frequently. Figure out how often you’ll use them in conjunction, and consider seeking high-quality earpieces with microphones that don’t pick up a lot of feedback.
- Price: Cost is arguably the most influential factor in how much you’re willing to spend for an open-back headphone experience. If you’re second-guessing, test-run different models at local stores.
- Soundstage: How large do you want the sound field to be? Larger soundstages are necessary if you want to feel surrounded by a large sound space. If you want the sounds to feel closer, maybe a wide soundstage isn’t as vital.
Best Overall: Sennheiser HD 800 S
- ✓ Large earcups with replaceable pads
- ✓ industry appreciation for longevity
- ✓ Top-level soundstage with crisp clarity
- ✓ Adequate for multipurpose use
- ✗ Top padding isn't as plush
- ✗ Bass isn't as resonant
- ✗ Hefty price tag
In the headphones space, few have as recognizable of a design and reputation as the Sennheiser HD 800 S. It has a lushness that transcends years of wear, making it great for gamers and music enthusiasts. With crisp clarity and a top-tier soundstage, audio listeners of all kinds will experience a high quality listening experience.
While these aren’t the cheapest open-back headphones on the market, their sound and material quality are worth the price tag. It all comes down to preference, but these headphones champion dynamic sound in a way that will keep it a relevant headset for many years.
Sennheiser HD 800 S Over-the-Ear Audiophile Reference Headphones - Ring Radiator Drivers With Open-Back Earcups, Includes Balanced Cable, 2-Year Warranty (Black)
The Sennheiser HD 800 S open-back headphones offer quality sound for audio listeners of all kinds.
Best Budget: beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250
- ✓ Easily controlled with good clamp force
- ✓ Replaceable and stylish parts, like the leather top and silver pads
- ✓ Reasonably priced
- ✓ Comfortable for long periods of time
- ✗ Reviews claim they're overhyped because of frequent streamer brand deals
- ✗ Non-detachable coiled cords above and below ears
- ✗ Users can experience harshness in high frequencies
For a budget pair of headphones, the beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250’s give wearers the best investment for the cost — but know what you’re getting for that price. Some find the sounds muddled and less crisp, and depending on the sound wave frequency, it may cause piercing sounds or distortion. However, less attuned ears may not notice these moments among its other benefits.
Where sound quality may lack, the DT 990 Pro 250’s make up in construction. With attractive physical features and replaceable parts, these headphones will always look like you just bought them. Stylish looks and extreme comfort make the lower price justifiable.
beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones For Mixing, Mastering, and Editing
For a more affordable option, the beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 delivers comfort and aesthetics.
Best Premium: Focal Utopia High-Fidelity Over-Ear Open-Back Headphones
- ✓ Luxurious experience and design
- ✓ Beryllium driver provides unique immersion
- ✓ Lightweight, comfortable and flexible
- ✓ Massive soundstage
- ✗ Niche market, mostly for attentive music listeners
- ✗ French origin could cause higher shipping or import fees
- ✗ Hard-to-justify base price tag
For exquisite headphones fashioned through artistry, few compare to the French expertise of Focal’s Utopia. With its unique beryllium driver, this headset gives a sound unlike most headphones, reliant upon titanium or steel. Its musical intensity isn’t reflected in its weight, carrying lightly on the head without compromising durability.
All the luxury of Focal comes at a high cost, which won’t be suitable for everyone. This rings true as these headphones are best suited for very attentive music listeners. The grand listening experience — and potential to hear aspects of songs you’ve never noticed before —- are worth it for the price.
Focal Utopia High-Fidelity Over-Ear Open-Back Headphones (2022)
Focal Utopia High-Fidelity Open-Back headphones offer high-quality sound and craftsmanship.
Best for Gaming: Drop + Sennheiser PC38X
- ✓ Double-padded for comfort
- ✓ Precise treble for gaming sounds
- ✓ Inexpensive
- ✗ Doesn't come with a carrying case
- ✗ Delicate materials
- ✗ Earlier model is similar and cheaper
This dream collaboration produced one of the most famous headphones in the gaming sphere. The Drop + Sennheiser PC38X sits comfortably with minimal pressure and double padding, made for long and intense sessions of competitive, seamless gameplay.
This set has a unique appearance from many other options that will easily match the classic gamer aesthetic. The yellow mesh is distinct and colorful while still being understated.
The mic has one of the best sound qualities in the open-back headphone market with no noticeable feedback, so those in voice chat aren’t frustrated. It optimizes for sounds gamers want to hear, flexing its defined treble for sharpshooters in an FPS and thick environmental soundscapes for open-world experiences.
DROP + EPOS PC38X Gaming Headset Noise-Cancelling Microphone with Over-Ear Open-Back Design, Velour Earpads, Compatible with PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox, Mac, Mobile, and More (Yellow)
Drop + Sennheiser's PC38X collaboration is optimal for gamers looking for great sound and comfort.
Best Wireless: Sony LinkBuds
- ✓ Recycled plastic composition
- ✓ Comes with five sizes of supporters for different ear sizes
- ✓ Waterproof
- ✓ Wide area tap feature for controls
- ✓ App connectivity
- ✗ No support for multipoint Bluetooth connectivity
- ✗ No wireless charging
- ✗ Does not have noise-canceling qualities
If you’re looking for a less bulky listening vibe, the Sony LinkBuds prioritize wearability and the environment, as it is one of the few on the market made with recycled materials. It has a similar price as some AirPod variants, making it competitive with even the most dedicated Apple fans, despite being unable to connect to multiple Bluetooth devices simultaneously.
Its ring design promotes environmental awareness without compromising sound. Plus, it includes unique features like app connectivity to adjust for bass and treble, wide area tap, and a stemless design for a snug fit.
Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless Earbud Headphones with an Open-Ring Design for Ambient Sounds and Alexa Built-in, Bluetooth Ear Buds Compatible with iPhone and Android, Gray
For those who prefer earbuds, Sony's LinkBuds prioritize environmental awareness and superior sound.