HomeVersusOpen Back Vs Closed Back Headphones: Broadly Explained

Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones: Broadly Explained

Are you thinking of purchasing over-ear headphones?

Then you must come across the terms open-back and closed-back.

Before you spend a lot of cash, it is high time to know the details about the open and closed headphones.

Where you need to add salt, you are adding sugar there. Just imagine the situation!

Won’t it be horrible?

Yes! Everything has its different serving purposes. And we have to pick the one that can meet our needs.

Otherwise, all will go in vain.

Therefore, to guide you with the right headphones, I am here with a discussion on open back vs closed back headphones.

Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones: Head to Head Comparison

So, are open or closed headphones better?

Well, just like the salt and sugar, neither open back nor closed back is the winner here.

Both of them have different characteristics and applications to accomplish different targets.

Then what is the difference between closed and open-back headphones?

1. Physical Appearance

At first, let’s know the basic differences between them in terms of physical appearance.

What Does Open Back Headphones Mean?

In an open back headphone, the ear cups don’t remain sealed.

They have unsealed ear cups with holes or perforations on them.

This open design allows air to pass through the back of the ear cups.

What Are Closed Back Headphones?

On the contrary, closed back headphone means the back of the ear cups is totally closed.

They have perfectly sealed ear cups with plastic or metal covering.

So, no air can escape outside through the earcups.

Now I hope you won’t face any difficulties distinguishing them.

Due to the open and closed designs, both of them come with different sound signatures.

2. Open Vs Closed Headphones Sound Quality

This time I will show you how their sound quality varies with the design.

Open Headphones

Because of the open design, air can pass through the ear cups from the speakers.

So, the air pressure cannot build up in the ear cups.

It means you will feel less enclosed by the sound. Your music will have more room to breathe, which in turn creates a more open sound.

The HD 414 Sennheiser headphones became the first open-back headphones ever to strike the consumer market in 1968.

The sound you can hear with open-back headphones is more natural and clear.

It will give you a more transparent listening experience and also improves stereo imaging.

Closed Headphones

On the other hand, closed-back headphone sounds less natural than the open ones.

The sound cannot escape in any direction except reaching your ears.

So, you will feel like being in a bubble with closed back headphones.

However, don’t take it as a drawback.

Due to this, the low frequencies will sound louder and sometimes punchier depending on the design.

So you are getting a louder and improved bass response and immersive sound with the option of extended low frequencies in the closed-back design.

I sometimes face a question, which is, are open back headphones loud?

Well, if you have the same question, you have already got the answer.

Open-back headphones are not that louder like the closed ones.

While talking about the sound quality, I am also thinking of covering some important features of their sound profile.

It will help you to understand precisely.

So, let’s know about their soundstage now.

3. How Is Their Soundstage?

You will get a different soundstage for both headphones.

Open Soundstage for The Open Headphones!

As soundwaves can escape freely and aren’t confined to solid ear cups, open-back headphones provide a wide and spacious soundstage.

It portrays a spatial sound image before a listener. This type of soundstage allows the listener to hear the location of instruments when listening to music, providing the real-life stage experience.

You will feel like the sounds are coming from varying directions.

Soundstage Feels Smaller in Closed Headphone

Oppositely, closed-back headphone tends to have a smaller and less airy soundstage.

It feels like the sound is trapped inside or around your head rather than flowing past your ears.

However, in some cases, the soundstage in closed-back headphones can vary with headphones’ construction, materials, and price.

So, are open headphones better than closed ones?

We shouldn’t reach a conclusion by picking any of them. As I said earlier, one is better for some fields, while the other shows good performance in different fields.

Just keep reading. You will understand it all by yourself.

Though open-back headphones are superior in terms of soundstage, it comes at the cost of sound leakage and noise isolation.

4. Sound Leakage Performance

Let’s go deeper to understand precisely.

Open Back Headphones Leak More Sound

Due to the open design, they leak more sound. That means there won’t be any privacy unless you are alone in your room.

Otherwise, the music you are listening to will be heard by the people beside or around you.

Once I was listening to Baby Shark, though it’s quite weird for my age. Then my younger sibling laughed at me hearing from beside.

It was a horrible experience, I must say!

Almost No Sound Leakage in Closed-back Ones

As the outer part of the ear cups is well-sealed, people around you can not hear your music.

But if you are destroying your eardrums by exceeding the standard volume limit, it will leak a little more sound.

Now I am going to give an idea about their noise isolation.

5. Noise Isolation

Are open back headphones noise Cancelling?

The answer is no. I already said that open-back headphones sacrifice noise isolation for improved sound reproduction.

Open Back Headphones Can Barely Isolate External Noise

Its open design hardly blocks out any ambient noise. Outside noise can easily enter your ears and interfere with your listening experience.

Better Isolation in Closed Headphones

In contrast, closed-back headphones can isolate you only with your music by blocking out the background noise up to 30 dB.

Koss SP/3 is the first modern closed-back stereo headphone, which took over the world like a storm by 1958.

Although the noise attenuation isn’t perfect enough, it improves your listening experience in noisy environments.

I already discussed the different aspects of their sound profile.

Now to answer some most queried questions, I will talk about which one is better for our hearing health.

6. Hearing Health: Closed Back Headphones Vs Open Back

Closed back headphones don’t allow the airflow to pass through the earcups. They build up pressure providing a loud, bass-heavy sound. In fact, low frequencies are heard louder in closed headphones.

So, definitely, a question arises here. Are closed-back headphones bad for your ears?

If I say it’s safe, I will be wrong considering all these.

However, you can protect your hearing even with closed-back headphones by maintaining safe volume.

So, it entirely depends on you.

Then, What type of headphones are safest? Are open back headphones better for your ears?

The answer is yes. They are quite safer for your ears than the closed-back ones.

Though the sound is not that louder here, you still need not exceed the standard volume to protect yourself from hearing loss or any hearing damage.

As you are here to gather knowledge on open air vs closed back headphones, you must be curious to know which headphone is good for which purposes.

After all, you are using them in the real world.

Therefore, now I am going to reveal it right before you.

7. Practical Uses in Different Fields

Go through the below points for the details. It will help you decide easily as per your requirements.

Studio Work

For critical listening, open-back headphones are the king due to their rich sound profile.

However, it may not be true sometimes. For example, you have to do different types of work in a studio, such as mixing, mastering, monitoring, recording, etc.

So, which is suitable for music production; open back or closed back?

In this case, you will need different headphones for each purpose.

a. Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones for Mixing and Mastering

Closed-back headphones have a narrow soundstage that doesn’t work well for mixing. The feeling of space is a lot more restricted here.

Hence, open-back headphones are the best for mixing and mastering as they offer a life-like sound experience.

They can provide a better spatial representation of each instrument and help you make transparent sound and accurate mixing.

b. Open Back or Closed Back Headphones for Recording?

For recording, closed-back headphones are definitely the best ones.

They will provide enough isolation to stop the sound leakage.

So, no unwanted sound can be picked up by your microphone.

Is Closed or Open Back Better for Gaming?

If you want an immersive experience for gaming, choose closed-back headphones.

They will isolate you only with your gaming world blocking all the background noise.

Therefore, you can focus on your gaming without any interruption.

Open-air headphones can also be used for gaming if your playing environment is calm and quiet and there is none to get bothered with the leaked sound.

Home Listening Performance

As open-back headphones leaks sound and cannot isolate background noise, they are more suitable for home listening.

Especially when you are alone in your room, there will be no one to feel disturbed by the leaked sound.

Besides, the calm and peaceful environment won’t bother you with any background noises either.

You can enjoy the open sound with an open mind with them.

However, it’s not like you cannot use closed-back headphones at home.

If you have a chaotic neighborhood or rowdy household, then you will need closed headphones to enjoy your listening.

Listening in Public Places

Suppose you are listening to your favorite rock song, Stairway to Heaven, in a bus station or other public places with open-back headphones.

What will be the scenario then?

It will leak sound, and others will be annoyed with you. Maybe it’s your favorite but not theirs.

Exclude this, can you even enjoy the song with all those irritating background noises of public places?

That’s why closed-back headphones are the best for listening in public places.

Listening in The Office

Unless you have a closed-door in your office, closed headphones will be perfect.

Nobody can hear you and judge your music taste in one hand.

On the other hand, you can concentrate on your work fully even if your office is loud.

Now, I will compare it in terms of comfort though it’s not that important.

You are surprised reading the previous line. Right?

Okay, just keep going through. You will know the reason why I don’t want to give that much priority to this comparative point.

8. Which One Is More Comfortable?

I will put open-back headphones a few steps ahead in respect of comfortability.

The outside air can reach your ears, offering more breathability.

Conversely, the closed design cannot provide breathability to your ears, making them sweaty after a while.

Open headphones are the best to use in hot-humid weather, and closed-back ones are more comfortable in cold weather.

But it’s not wise to come to a verdict just considering these facts.

You know what? The world is running faster than your thoughts. The thing that seems impossible today becomes possible after two days.

I hope you won’t disagree. Right?

Nowadays, the comfortability of a headphone mainly depends on the build and materials.

They feature adjustable headbands, cooling gel-infused ear cushions with breathable soft fabrics to provide you enhanced comfort.

And, you can get these features both in open and closed headphones.

So, there is actually nothing to compare. If you check the comfort features when purchasing, anything between these two will be a good deal.

I hope now you have understood the meaning of that line.

Well, I already presented all the possible comparisons between open-back and closed-back headphones.

I guess you have nothing more to know about them.

So, I am ending it here.


I hope this writing on open back vs closed back headphones will clear your conception about them.

You can also be able to choose the right one that matches your needs and demands.

Lastly, have a happy time with your desired headphones.

Thanks for reading this article.

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