With so much diversity and a plethora of options, the time has never been better for you to invest in a good quality headphone. And when you do decide to dig in and read up on reviews on cans that appeal to you, you may very well find yourself confused with some of the jargon. Among these, the terms “open back” and “closed back” headphones will definitely pop up plenty of times.
At first glance, the difference in build and structure might be what you think is the answer to the question. But there is more to it than meets the eye.
So what is the difference between closed back and open back headphones? And in the case of open back vs closed back, which is the best suited for me? We’re here to answer just that and help you make your decision.
Table of Contents
At First Glance
Closed Back Headphones Characteristics
- Noise isolation
- Can produce better bass in cheap pricing
- Usually better than open back headphones in terms of aesthetics
Open Back Headphones Characteristics
- Can be used for audio monitoring
- Better soundstage when compared to any closed-back headphones
- Produces natural and flat sound in comparison with closed-back headphones
What are open back headphones?
Open back headphones, or open ear headphones, are in Layman’s terms, open and allow the air to pass through. The have vents or grilles built in the ear cups to allow for air to pass through their planar drivers. Sometimes, you can even see the drivers inside the cups if you take a closer look through the vents.
The rear of the cups of open back headphones is facing away from your head, leaving an “open” and wider soundstage. And if you’re wondering, these modifications to the physical attributes do have an impact on the sound.
Because the cups on the open ear headphones are not wrapped around your ear, the sound tends to “leak” out. This happens when then volume is set rather high. Additionally, you will be able to hear what is going on around you as open back headphones are not as good at blocking out ambient sounds. Secondly, because of this design your ears are given room to breathe. Air flows through the vents and so you are not left with sweaty ears after long periods of continuous usage.
If you’re an audiophile who wants a bigger soundstage for a more immersive experience, open back headphones will do that. The bigger soundstage makes things sound closer or far away for more depth.
What are closed back headphones?
Just as the name of closed back, or closed ear, headphones might suggest, these headphones end up closing you off from the outside world. The design of these cans makes them completely sealed around the back so that the sound travels only to your ears. There are no vents in closed back headphones, so your ears are completely isolated. This results in closed back headphones blocking out far more ambient sounds from the outside world than open back headphones.
As these type of cans have their rear ends wrapped around your ears, the resulting experience is a confined one. After long and continuous use of wearing these around your head, you may find yourself to be a victim of sweaty ears and moist ear cups. However, these not just block out the outside noise but reduce the sounds coming out of the drivers to the outside world as well. The soundstage in closed back headphones might not be as big and wide sounding as open back and that is something to consider when making your choice.
Which one should you go for?
When deciding the winner between open ear headphones vs closed ear headphones, there are a few things that you’ll have to consider. If you’re a frequent traveler or commuter who takes the local subway often, you will want isolation from the noise. Open back headphones will not only let ambient noises from seeping in but will let the sound from the drivers leak out to the person next to you. And that certainly does not make for a pleasant experience. For this reason, you will be better off looking into a good pair of closed back headphones. They often come with great active noise cancellation and effectively block out the loud train noises or the jet engine of airplanes.
Or perhaps you fall into none of these categories and instead are looking for a pleasant, immersive and deep sounding experience. With the bigger soundstage of open back headphones, you’ll be able to achieve that. More often than not, you will want a relaxing environment with you being fully absorbed into the sound of the music or movies. For that, the choice of closed back headphones is the perfect one for you. With their deeper and bigger soundstage, you’ll find yourself listening to vocal ranges or audio cues that you might miss when using open back headphones.