Open-back headphones deliver an immersive listening experience through their unique design. As they lower the level of isolation 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. On the downside, 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 and these headphones perform best in a quiet room. Open-back headphones lack additional features like a microphone or wireless design, which can hurt their versatility. 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 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best open-back headphones you can buy. If you're still looking for headphones, take a look at our recommendations for the best audiophile headphones and the best headphones for music.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best open-back headphones we've tested so far. Their exceptional and immersive sound is perfect for experiencing your audio to the fullest.
Thanks to their premium design, their audio fidelity is well-balanced and bright, which will especially please fans of jazz and classical music. Their outstanding soundstage is spacious and natural, creating an immersive listening experience without external speakers. The headphones themselves are very well-built and feel premium thanks to their dense plastic and metal frame. Their large, spacious ear cups are well padded with suede-like material and should be able to get you through long listening sessions.
Although these headphones are among the best open-back headphones out there, they're incredibly expensive. If you're serious about sound, you may also want to purchase an amplifier to really get the full experience. However, if the high price tag isn't a problem and you're looking for the best quality you can get, these are a great choice.
If you're looking for open-back headphones with a great, immersive sound at a less steep price, check out the HiFiMan Ananda. They slightly lack in build quality and soundstage when compared to the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but have a similarly well-balanced sound profile for a considerably lower price. The HiFiMan are still very comfortable and even have a bit more bass than the Sennheiser. However, they can have inconsistent quality control and a few users report that they have issues with their units. Still, if you can get a properly functioning pair, these headphones can give you a great listening experience that's on par with other more expensive over-ears.
If you're looking for premium headphones that can give you a unique and immersive listening experience, get the Sennheiser. However, if you're looking for something more wallet-friendly and aren't worried about quality control issues, then check out the HiFiMan.
The best open-back headphones for gaming we’ve tested so far are the Astro A40 TR + MixAmp Pro 2019. These comfortable open-back headphones come in both PS4 and Xbox One variants and are designed to give you an immersive gameplay experience, especially over long gaming sessions.
Their spacious, well-padded ear cups feel soft on the skin while their wired design helps to keep you in the game without worrying about battery life or lag. They also have a USB dock that offers a variety of connectivity options. Their added bass can also add more vibrancy to your gameplay as it can make gunshots and explosions sound boomier. If you like to shotcall while you play, the boom microphone is superb too, even in noisy environments.
While their sound profile lacks detail and presence because of their reduced treble, they luckily come with a companion software called the Astro Command Center, which makes it easy to EQ this sound to your liking. You can even assign custom EQ presets to the MixAmp. If you're looking for open-backed headphones to help immerse you in your game, these are a solid choice.
The best open-back headphones under $200 we’ve tested so far are the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. As they're a collaboration between Sennheiser and Massdrop, you can only find these headphones on Drop's website, but their lower price point and great sound offer great value.
These headphones have a good build quality that's both dense and durable while their ear cups have a microfiber-like fabric padding that gives them a more premium feel. Their impressively well-balanced sound has slightly more of a punchy bass than other open-back headphones we've tested such as the Sennheiser HD 600 or AKG K702 but is well-suited for most genres of audio. They also have a decent soundstage, which can be rare at this price point.
Some may find these headphones uncomfortable as they have a tight fit. Their ear cups are large, and if you have a smaller head, they can extend past the jaw. If you damage the audio cable or just need a new one, similarly thick replacement cables are less common and can be difficult to find online. However, if you don't mind the tight fit, their price-to-performance ratio is great for those on a budget.
If you're looking for more comfortable open-back headphones at this price range, then consider the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. While they don't have the same balanced sound as the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee, they still have a more comfortable design overall, even though they also have a tight fit. Their headband does a better job of distributing pressure across your head too and the ear cups can give you more room to breathe, which is great if you're trying to cut down on headphone fatigue. On the downside, their sound profile can be sharp, especially if you're listening to brighter tracks, but this can vary across users.
If you need a more neutral sound profile that won't sound too sharp, stick with the Sennheiser. However, you're looking for something comfortable enough for long listening sessions, get the Beyerdynamic.
The best budget open-back headphones we've tested so far are the Philips SHP9500. Although the open-back design can be associated with a high price tag due to their audiophile features, these headphones offer good performance at an affordable price.
Even at their price point, these headphones deliver a great neutral sound that's spacious and well-balanced. They produce a surprisingly good soundstage that's open, although still somewhat small and narrow, and they're easy to drive so you don't need a fancy amp to get the best sound from them. Their comfortable, durable design also makes it easy to wear these headphones for long periods.
On the downside, these headphones lack in low-bass and they don't have a companion app to EQ for it. The fabric coating on the ear cups can also feel a bit rough to the touch and can bother users with sensitive skin. Still, their performance is impressive at this price point and they're a good option for those who want to try open-back headphones at a more affordable price.
If you're really limited in your budget, the Superlux HD 681 are an even more affordable, semi-open option to consider. While they feel more cheaply built in comparison to the Philips SHP9500, they're still decently comfortable. Their semi-open fit still manages to create a spacious soundstage while leaking slightly less sound. Their sound profile also produces good presence for vocals and lead instruments although the treble can be bright and piercing.
If you don't mind paying a few dollars more, the Philips are a better choice if you're looking for something more comfortable with better build quality; however, if you're on a tight budget, the Superlux are a cost-effective choice.
05/05/2020: Verification for accuracy; only small updates to the text.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best open-back headphones 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.