Updated

Best Open Back Headphones - Winter 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 $600+

Sennheiser HD 800 S
Sennheiser HD 800 S Design
Usage Ratings
5.2Mixed 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.
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:
3.6Commute/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.
4.8Sports/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.
4.1Office
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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.
5.2Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are excellent sounding open-back reference headphones. They have a crisp and clear reproduction of instruments, vocals, and bass. They do a great job with stereo imaging and create a broad and spacious soundstage. They're one of the the best critical listening headphones we've measured so far. Unfortunately, they're slightly bright and also quite expensive.

HiFiMan Edition X
HiFiMan Edition X Design
Usage Ratings
4.9Mixed 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.
8.5Critical 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:
3.3Commute/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.
4.5Sports/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.
3.7Office
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.
4.4Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The HifiMan Edition X deliver a comfortable critical listening experience. They sound great and reproduce tracks with remarkable fidelity with a bit more bass than the HD 800 S. Additionally, the low impedance planar magnetic drivers do not require an amp and can be powered by your mobile device. However, they're one of the bulkiest headphones we've reviewed so far, so they feel a bit cumbersome. 

Best Open-Back Headphones $300 to $600

Sennheiser HD 650
Sennheiser HD 650 Design
Usage Ratings
5.2Mixed 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.
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:
3.5Commute/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.
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.
4.2Office
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.
5.2Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Sennheiser HD 650 are excellent headphones for critical listening. They deliver an outstanding sound quality that accurately reproduces bass, instruments, and vocals. They also create a spacious and open soundstage that makes what you're listening to more immersive. However, they're not as durable or comfortable as the HD 800 S, they also but they're a lot cheaper.

HiFiMan HE-400i
HiFiMan HE-400i Design
Usage Ratings
4.7Mixed 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.
7.9Critical 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:
3.3Commute/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.
4.6Sports/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.
3.5Office
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.
4.2Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The HiFiMan HE-400i sound great and deliver a comfortable listening experience. Like the Edition X, these planar magnetic headphones can be powered by your mobile devices thanks to their low impedance. They have a well balanced audio reproduction and a decently sturdy design. However, the premium you pay for planar magnetic drivers does not enhance the bass response all that much compared to the Sennheiser HD 650.

Best Open-Back Headphones $150 to $300

AKG K702
AKG K702 Design
Usage Ratings
5.2Mixed Usage
Show Help
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.
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:
3.5Commute/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.
4.6Sports/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.
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.
5.4Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The AKG K702 are comfortable headphones with a good sound and a spacious soundstage. Bass, instruments, and vocals are well balanced and feel like they are part of your environment. They sound similar to the K701 but with a slightly weaker bass-range. However,  unlike the K701s these headphones have a detachable and replaceable cable, which slightly increases their durability, even if the overall build quality is a little weak.

Sennheiser HD 600
Sennheiser HD 600 Design
Usage Ratings
5.0Mixed Usage
Show Help
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.
7.9Critical 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:
3.3Commute/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.
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.
3.9Office
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.
5.0Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Sennheiser HD 600 are almost the same as the HD 650 but have a less comfortable and weaker headband. They also perform a bit worse soundwise, especially with bass. However, they still have a good audio reproduction that shines with instruments and vocals. They're also much cheaper than the HD 650 for a very similar sound profile.

Best Open-Back Headphones $75 to $150 

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Design
Usage Ratings
5.3Mixed Usage
Show Help
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.
8.0Critical 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:
3.6Commute/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.
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.
4.2Office
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.
5.5Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO deliver a superb audio reproduction at a great price. Their sound quality is well balanced, open and spacious. They're sturdy, durable and well-padded headphones. Sadly, they're a bit tight on your head, and the audio cable is not replaceable if it gets damaged. 

Sennheiser HD 598
Sennheiser HD 598 Design
Usage Ratings
5.3Mixed Usage
Show Help
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.
7.8Critical 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:
3.5Commute/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.
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.
4.4Office
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.
5.8Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Sennheiser HD 598 deliver a very comfortable critical listing experience. They're well-padded, lightweight and offer a good, open sound that rarely distorts. They're less balanced and suffer a bit to reproduce phase in a stereo image, unlike the higher-end HD 600 and 650, but they're also much cheaper.

Best Open-Back Headphones below $75

Philips SHP9500
Philips SHP9500 Design
Usage Ratings
4.8Mixed Usage
Show Help
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.
7.8Critical 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:
3.4Commute/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.
4.6Sports/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.
3.7Office
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.
4.4Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Philips SHP9500 have a surprisingly good build quality and a phenomenal audio reproduction for their budget price tag. They have a wide and open soundstage and a decently, well-balanced representation of bass, instruments, and vocals. They're comfortable and lightweight, but the ear pad cushions feel a little cheap. Their bass also isn't as punchy as some of the pricier headphones on this list.

Koss Porta Pro
Koss Porta Pro  Design
Usage Ratings
5.4Mixed Usage
Show Help
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.
7.4Critical 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:
3.6Commute/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.
5.6Sports/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.
4.6Office
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.
5.6Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Koss Porta Pro are a little unique when it comes to open headphones. They have a lightweight, compact on-ear design and open ear cups that give them a fairly spacious soundstage. That combined with the decently balanced audio reproduction gives these headphones an above average sound at a very budget price. Unfortunately, their build quality is not the most durable, and they look a bit cheap.

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 518. Good, open sound and a spacious soundstage. They're a viable and cheaper alternative to the HD 598, but they're not as well designed.See our review
  • AKG K701. Slightly better bass than the K702 but the audio cable is not 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 is no perfect open-back headphone. Personal taste, preference will matter more in your selection.

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