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Best Open Back Headphones - Spring 2017
Reviews

Open-Back Headphones are designed to deliver an immersive listening experience by reducing the level of isolation between you and your environment. This means open-back headphones produce a spacious soundstage and give you the impression of listening to a good speaker set up in an ideal room. However, they also leak a lot, which may distract the people around you. Below are our recommendations for the best open-back headphones we have tested so far.

Best Open-Back Headphones

Usage Ratings
5.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
8.5Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
4.4Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
5.1Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
4.3Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The HD 800S are the best open back headphones we've tested. They are specifically designed to deliver a comfortable and accurate listening experience. If you consider yourself a critical listener or an audiophile who refuses to compromise on sound quality, then the HD 800S will not disappoint. They’re sturdy, comfortable headphones that deliver a well-balanced frequency response and a large and spacious soundstage. However, they’re quite expensive, so they may not be in everyone’s price range.

See our review

Best Mid-Range Open-Back Headphones

Usage Ratings
5.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
8.3Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
4.5Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
5.3Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
4.5Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The DT 990 Pro are affordable critical listening headphones that deliver in the sound department. They’re incredibly well built for their price, and although a bit tight on the head they’re a suitable recommendation for most audiophiles. If you’re looking for a mid-range open-back option and do not mind the slightly tight headband and non-removable audio cable, then the DT  990 are a good choice.

See our review

Runner-Up

The AKG K712 Pro are a bit more expensive than the Dt 990 and have a slightly worse build quality, but they’re a lot more comfortable. If you wear your headphones for very long listening sessions, then the K712 may be a good alternative, as they don't cause as much fatigue over time as the DT 990 pro.

See our review

Best Budget Open-Back Headphones

Usage Ratings
5.4Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
8.1Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
4.3Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
5.0Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
4.3Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The Philips SHP 9500 are a great budget option for critical listening.  They’re not made from the fanciest or sturdiest of materials, but they feel durable enough that you would not worry if you dropped them by accident. They’re comfortable, have an excellent soundstage and are the best critical headphones under 100$ that we’ve reviewed so far.

See our review

Runner-up

Most of the headphones on this list are bulky and not the easiest to carry around on your person.  Therefore, if you’re looking for headphones that deliver a good and open sound quality while still being portable enough to fit into your jacket pocket or handbag, then the Porta Pro are a good option. They’re comfortable, lightweight and sound sufficiently balanced to compete with much pricier headphones. Unfortunately, their build quality is not the best.

See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best open-back headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

A few examples of critical listening headphones that didn't make the cut:

  • Sennheiser HD 600. Good, open sound and a spacious soundstage. They're a viable and cheaper alternative to the HD 650. See our review
  • AKG K702. Slightly better sound quality than the K701 and the audio cable is replaceable. See our review
  • Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X. Above average sound and unique design. They look and feel a bit cheap for their price. See our review
  • Bose SoundSport In-Ear. Comfortable and open in-ear fit. Lightweight and stable headphones for sports use, but they lack a lot of bass. See our review

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for open-back headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste and preference will matter more in your selection.

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