Open-back headphones deliver an immersive listening experience through their unique design. As they lower the isolation level between you and your surroundings, they can produce a wide and spacious soundstage that can feel like you're listening to speakers in your room rather than something in your ears. Unfortunately, they leak a lot of sound, even if you're listening to music at a reasonable level, and can distract people around you. They also struggle to reduce background noise. If you're looking for something for mixed-use, check out our recommendations for closed-back headphones, but if you're looking for a great sound experience from your headphones, this is the place to be.
We've tested over 670 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones with an open-back design you can buy. If you're still looking for headphones, look at our recommendations for the best audiophile headphones and the best headphones for music.
The best open-back headphones we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These wired headphones create a passive soundstage that seems large, spacious, and natural. Their sound seems to come from speakers in the room around you rather than inside your head.
They're very well-built and have a comfortable, breathable design. Their sound profile is neutral and well-suited for a variety of genres. Their mid-range response is very accurate, so vocals and lead instruments are clear and present in mixes, but like most open-back headphones, their sound lacks a bit of thump and punch in the bass range.
Unfortunately, they don't have any sound customization features, and their sound may disappoint fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. If you're looking for open-back headphones that deliver more bass, you may prefer planar magnetic headphones like the HiFiMan Ananda or HiFiMan Edition XS, although they both have worse passive soundstage performances. That said, if you're looking for open-back headphones, these have a versatile sound profile and an immersive soundstage.
The Astro A40 TR + MixAmp Pro 2019 are the best open-back headphones for gaming that we've tested. Unlike other open-back headphones on this list, they have a boom mic that offers a great performance so that your teammates hear you clearly. Their passive soundstage also seems wide, natural, and spacious, which can help create an immersive gaming experience.
What makes these headphones stand out from the pack is their in-line MixAmp. This device puts controls like volume, chat mixing, and EQ presets at your fingertips, so it's easy to adjust their performance on the fly. Out of the box, they have a warm sound profile that adds a touch of extra boom, which can help emphasize sound effects while you game. That said, you can adjust their sound to your liking using their companion software's graphic EQ and presets.
On the downside, they're prone to some inconsistencies in bass and treble delivery, so it's important to take the time to adjust their fit in order to get a more consistent sound. Keep in mind that these headphones also come in PC/PS4 and PC/Xbox One variants, so it's important to ensure you get the right model. That said, these open-back headphones offer a lot of customization features and have a built-in mic suitable for gaming.
The best headphones with an open-back design under $200 that we've tested are the Philips Fidelio X2HR. These over-ears have a very good passive soundstage performance that seems natural and spacious. Thanks to their automatically-adjusting headband, they also have a very comfortable fit and are suitable for long listening sessions.
They have a very well-balanced and neutral sound profile that reproduces vocals and lead instruments accurately. Although they struggle to reproduce low-bass like most open-back headphones, they have a touch of extra warmth and boom in the mid to high-bass to help balance their sound. They're also well-built and have a detachable audio cable, so you can easily replace the cable should it get damaged.
That said, they have a very bulky design that isn't very portable. They're not very versatile, as the open-back design means they won't block out any background noise. They also leak lots of audio. However, they're a suitable choice if you're looking for more affordable audiophile headphones.
If you're looking for headphones with better build quality, you may prefer the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. While they have a less comfortable fit than the Philips Fidelio X2HR, they feel sturdier and have a solid-feeling metal frame. Their sound profile is well-balanced and a bit more excited, so it delivers some extra punch in the bass range, while instruments are detailed and sibilants are bright. They can sound a bit piercing, but you may prefer this type of sound profile since it lets you hear imperfections in your audio. Unfortunately, the audio cable isn't detachable, so you can't easily replace it if it's damaged.
If you want the headphones with a more comfortable fit or a more neutral sound profile, go for the Philips, but try the Beyerdynamic if build quality is a priority.
The Philips SHP9500 are the best budget-friendly open-back headphones that we've tested. These over-ears create a great passive soundstage that feels open and spacious. If you like to listen to audio for long periods of time, they also have a very comfortable fit with large ear cups, so you shouldn't feel fatigued over time.
Although they lack low-bass like most open-back headphones, they have a bump in the high-bass to help balance out the range a bit more and add extra warmth to mixes. Their mid-range is also very flat and well-balanced, so vocals and lead instruments seem natural, clear, and accurate. Overall, their sound is well-suited for a variety of audio genres.
On the downside, their low price point is reflected in their build quality. They feel plasticky and the fabric over the padding feels like it can rip over time. Their swivelling ear cups also seem like they can be prone to breaking with stress. However, if you're on a budget, these open-back headphones are worth considering.
Apr 22, 2022: We've checked our picks for accuracy and product availability. However, there hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Feb 22, 2022: Removed the HiFiMan Arya because the variant we tested isn't currently available.
Dec 13, 2021: Checked out picks for accuracy and product availability. That said, there hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Oct 14, 2021: We've made minor updates to the text and checked for product availability. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Aug 17, 2021: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones with an open-back design for most people to buy. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones 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).
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.