These days, technology, in general has come a long way from what it was back then, and audio tech is not an exception. Back in the day, the standard of what makes a good headphone is whether your audio experience has static sounds. That’s it, that’s all a headphone had to provide to be considered useful decades ago.
Now, things are so different that one may believe that a century has passed, not just tens of years. These days, if one wants to make a good headphone, one must provide it with many unique qualities. For example, a headphone must have an excellent bass response, lossless audio, superior sound clarity, etc. Even a wireless earbud needs to also have those qualities.
However, among these technologically advanced headphones, a single variant is just different: the open-back, wireless kind. They are the signs of a whole new leap into the future, as we are now no longer bound by cables or even our rooms. Thus, we compiled this list of the Best wired and wireless Open Back Headphones for you to try out.
What You Should Consider Before Getting Open-Back Headphones
Before recommending the options to you, we want to make sure that you know exactly what you are getting.
Closed-Back vs. Open-Back
At the moment, there are two main types of headphones available on the market: open-back and closed-back. So, let us compare openback vs closedback?
Exactly as the name suggests, closed-back headphones excel at noise isolation. Of course, this is not the active noise cancellation headphones tech we are talking about, but the headphones’ very construct with their over-the-head design. To be specific, it’s the big pads cupping your ears as well as the insulated plastic shells covering them.
Due to this design alone, most closed-back headphones can help reduce about 10 dB of noise. Thus, the moment you plug it in and start the music, these noise cancellation headphones will dampen the outside world’s sounds and bring the music to the forefront.
This is the main benefit of closed-back headphones, removing you from the outside environment so that you can focus entirely on what the headphone is playing. The audiophiles call this effect as the music being “in your head”. In other words, it’s like imagining the song, hearing it as your own thoughts, sort of like an auditory dream, no sound leakage.
For instance, let’s say you are sitting on a porch during summertime. Once you start listening to music with a closed-back headphone, all the ambient light noise will disappear. Consequently, you will not hear any birds chirping, leaves rustling, traffic noise in the distance, etc.
As a result, lots of people became infatuated with this sense of intimacy. Also, there is the additional benefit that they can actually follow the technical parts of the music easily. For instance, audio engineers almost always wear noisecanceling headphones when they are doing professional studio works.
While the strong point of closed-back headphones is their ability to isolate noise and capture/reflect their own noise, it is completely the opposite for open-back headphones.
The grills/perforations that we always see on the pad of open-back headphones are there to allow sound and air to go through freely. Hence, these headphones will be able to significantly alter your listening experience. To be more specific, there will not be any “in your head” feeling, but more of a “in the world around you” feeling.
For example, let us go back to that summertime porch, but this time we are listening with an open-back headphone. Thus, this time you will surely feel many differences, as the sounds around you bleed into the headphone. Accordingly, you will feel like the singer has personally come and is singing right in front of you, as the voice blends into the ambient sounds.
Of course, many people have been using closed-back headphones throughout their life, so they may not be able to grasp this idea. After all, they have become so familiar with the “in your head” effect of closed-back headphones. Thus, they are not sure if open-back headphones can solve the issue of ambient noise messing with the music.
Actually, this concern is quite reasonable, as the strongest advantage of open-back headphones is also their most vital weakness. Naturally, the ability to hear all the surrounding sounds are not always a blessing. So, it is in their nature that open-back headphones are more fitting for places with less noise interference vs closed ones.
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People that have hung around audio circles for periods of time must have heard of the term frequency response at least once or twice. In fact, the term can pop up in almost any kind of audio conversation, be it about speakers, DACs, amplifiers, or headphones. So, what is it exactly?
As the name suggests, frequency response deals with frequency range foremost. In addition, it also deals with how well specific audio components can reproduce every tone that humans can hear.
To be more specific, our hearing ranges from the low frequencies of 20 Hz to a high of 20 kHz. Naturally, this is just the average number, as individual hearing varies between these two extremes.
To make things easier, we divide this range into three parts: treble, middle, and bass. Typically, the bass is between 20 and 300 Hz, middle ranges from 300 Hz to 4 kHz, and treble means anything over 4 kHz.
So, frequency response lets us know if a specific component can reproduce all of the above frequencies and how well it can do so without changing the signal. Hence, not counting for deliberate EQ settings, the ideal component’s output should be equal to its input. We call this type of frequency response “flat”, and it is the standard you should check for.
Certainly, if a headphone does not have a flat frequency response, you will end up hearing more of certain frequencies and less of others. Thus, it is not at all an overstatement when we say that your sound experience will be severely affected.
Imagine sitting in the center of a small theater, 10 rows from its front, watching a live perform of an orchestra. Once you close your eyes, you can still easily feel the distance, where the drummers are, where the violinists are, etc. This is the basic idea of what we later call soundstage.
Basically, in the realm of audiophiles, speaker image, or soundstage, is an imaginary 3D space. Essentially, this space is the product of high-fidelity sound reproduction, enabling the listeners to feel like they are right in the center of the room and musicians playing just for them. Thus, it has become quite a popular feature that many audiophiles want.
At bottom, the direction that headphone’s tech is advancing is to make the sound as real as possible. As a result, the soundstage technology has been receiving more and more exposure. Ultimately, what makes live music in general and orchestra particularly so attractive is the harmonization of sound, which needs music instruments to scatter around.
As you may know, drivers are the component that would produce sound signals within the headphones. Thus, it is not an overstatement if we say that the driver is arguably the most vital part of any headphone.
Currently, we have four main types of drivers available on the market. However, only three of them are used in open-back headphones, so we will only focus on them.
In most cases, dynamic drivers are what you will find inside budget headphones. After all, they are among the cheapest, as their construct is quite simple. To be more specific, a dynamic driver requires only a magnet, usually neodymium, creating a static magnetic field. Then, this field interacts with a voice coil, oscillating it toward and away, forming sounds.
Naturally, if we talk about sound quality, dynamic drivers can reproduce frequencies of the lower ends adeptly. However, they cannot handle louder volumes all that well, creating undesirable harmonic distortion. Additionally, if your driver is too small, weird distortions are possible due to sound bouncing off in strange angles at your ears.
Planar Magnetic Drivers
Planar magnetic headphones always have a unique look: their ear cups’ underbelly has a rectangular shape, rather than the usual elliptical. This type of drivers is more prevalent in open-back headphones.
All in all, planar magnetic drivers utilize the same principles as dynamic drivers, magnetic fields. However, they do not use coils, but a large and flat membrane with wire patterns embedded.
As this membrane can receive vibrations evenly across its surface, the planar magnetic drivers can mitigate distortion. Obviously, this will also help reproduce better frequency response, so you can expect more accurate output.
Besides, these drivers make the detailed sound travel in a straight line by creating a flat sound source. Consequently, when it reach your ears the sound is far less likely to bounce off, making it easier to keep the “in the world around you” illusion.
Headphones that can sport electrostatic drivers are, without any doubt, incredibly rare as well as expensive. They use static electricity in order to make an electric field, which repels and draws a thin diaphragm from and to two metal plates, creating sounds. Naturally, each of these plates are perforated, allowing air to flow.
As you can guess, there being no metal components allows these drivers to make virtually distortion-free sounds. Hence, there is no denying that it is simply a godsend for audiophiles. However, as the process of making one is so long and incredibly complicated, the electrostatic drivers are quite rare.
Obviously, it is not as high on the importance list, but size is, in fact, something that you should always consider before getting a headphone. In truth, size does not make too much of a difference in vocal or the quality of sound. Nonetheless, it does have a big impact on something most of us overlook when we get headphones, comfort.
Hence, if you want to use your headphone for a reasonable time, we strongly recommend that you get the right size. To be more specific, we suggest that you get something that can cup your ears entirely and is as light as possible.
Of course, there are people assuming that the lighter headsets will not be as durable as a heavier one. In truth, this is no longer applicable due to the advancement of technology. These days, the ergonomics and design of headphones are entirely different, and lighter is no longer the same as weaker.
The Best Wired Open Back Headphones On The 2021 Market
#1: Sennheiser Pro Audio HD600 – Best For Smooth Audio
Sennheiser Pro Audio HD600
The Sennheiser Pro Audio HD600 comes out on top of our list as the best open back headphone for transparent and natural audio. The sound this equipment delivers is very neutral.
You will not find any other product that gives crisp sounds as this HD600 does. The computer-optimized magnet system works to reduce all the distortion, giving only smooth and clear sounds.
Thanks to the advanced diaphragm design of this headphone, all the standing waves will be removed. There will be no artifacts or acoustical disturbances in your music.
Keep in mind that this headphone has no noise-canceling feature. If you use this device in a noisy environment, it may not give its best performance.
- Lightweight aluminum voice coils ensure excellent transient response
- Neodymium ferrous magnets maintain optimum sensitivity and excellent dynamics
- Computer-optimized magnet system reducing distortion
- Advanced diaphragm reducing standing waves for clear audio
- Optimum sensitivity
- Excellent dynamics
- No noise canceling
- Cables getting in the way sometimes
#2: Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO – Best For Comfort In Use
Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO has pleased us a lot due to its design for comfort. You are free to do many activities while listening to music with this model.
While the Sennheiser HD600 has a double wire setup, this Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO comes up with a single-side cable style. Thanks to this design, the wire will never get in your way or tangled while you are working.
Feel free to wear this device as long as you like. This equipment will never make your ears tired or hurt! Its ear cups are equipped with soft and circumaural pads, making sure for high comfort in use.
The cable of this equipment is not detachable. If you let the wire break, the headphone may become useless. Therefore, please be careful when carrying or storing this product.
- Open over-ear headphones, ideal for professional mixing, mastering and editing
- Perfect for studio applications thanks to their transparent, spacious, strong bass and treble sound
- Single-side cable design
- Soft ear cups for comfort
- Exceptional spaciousness
- Detailed tonal depth
- Low bass
- The cable is not detachable
#3: Sennheiser HD 599 SE – Best For Immersive Sound
Sennheiser HD 599 SE
When it comes to high audio quality, the Sennheiser HD 599 SE will shine. This music equipment can work to deliver music at a reasonable bass, a great mid, and an extended treble.
The manufacturers have built the headphone with 50-ohm transducers. These components use high-quality aluminum voice coils that can deliver excellent dynamics without any distortion.
This Sennheiser HD 599 SE is really a great deal for people who like playing competitive games or listening to energetic and festive music. With an open acoustic design, the headphone will release the audio at a high soundstage. You will feel like you are immersed in live music!
What turns this product down is the noise leakage. When you play music at a high volume, people around you can also hear it clearly.
- Premium, audiophile-grade over ear, open back headphones
- Lightweight with luxurious velour covered ear pads for extreme comfort
- 50-ohm transducers with aluminum voice coils for excellent dynamics
- No distortion
- High bass for immersive sound
- Detachable cables
- Noise leakage
- Short cable
#4: Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X – Best For Lightweight
The next product we want to introduce to you is the Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X. With a lightweight of 8.32 ounces, this headphone will ensure a comfortable listening experience.
The manufacturers have chosen honeycomb aluminum to build its frame. This material is not only durable but also very light. As you put this headphone on your head, you will nearly feel no pressure.
No matter how big your head is, this model can support all. The lightweight and self-adjusting wing will automatically align the frame to fit your head size. All are for the highest comfort in use.
We have to give a thumbs down to the ear pads of this headphone. They are too thin and will not give maximum protection to your ears.
- Newly designed 53 mm drivers with CCAW voice coils reproduce remarkably natural sound, with deep, impactful bass and outstanding vocal projection
- Open-air headphones produce no sense of pressure on the ears, resulting in a completely natural sensation
- Lightweight honeycomb aluminum
- High durability
- Self-adjusting wing supports all head sizes
- Single-side cable design for no tangles
- Thin ear pads
- The cable is not detachable
#5: AKG Pro Audio K240 – Best For Connectivity
AKG Pro Audio K240
The last product on our list is the AKG Pro Audio K240. This headphone has impressed us a lot due to its high connectivity.
The package contains all the essential pieces of equipment you need to connect this headphone to your portable device. In detail, the AKG Pro Audio K240 comes along with a mini XLR connector, a 3-meter wire, and a convertible jack plug.
All these connectors are detachable. Whenever one connector is broken or snapped, you can find a replacement for it with ease.
The AKG Pro Audio K240 model may not be a good option for people who like listening to dynamic music. It is quite bad that this equipment can not play music at a high volume.
- Professional studio headphones
- All connector equipment included in the package
- Detachable input tools
- Self-adjusting headband for ideal fit
- Low volume
- Low bass
The Best wireless Open Back Headphones On The 2021 Market
Sennheiser RS120 – Best wireless Open Back Headphones Under $100 – Best All-Around
To start things off, we want you to get to know the classic that made Sennheiser into one of the most popular headphone manufacturers. Actually, it is no overstatement that the Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphone plays a major part in popularizing open-back headphones.
So, why has the Sennheiser RS120 line of headphones had so many successes all these years? The answer is simply the fact that their creators did so good a job that the RS120’s quality is still among the best these days. For instance, it can receive signals through walls and ceilings with practically no interference for a maximum of 300 feet.
The Sennheiser RS120 is the classic that started it all
Also, the Sennheiser HD RS120 is also one of the lightest of all the over-head options in this list. Considering its age, this is undoubtedly quite a great achievement. Thus, we say with confidence that it is the best all-around Wireless Open-Back headphone, perfectly suitable as a studio headphone.
Besides, this pair of top-notch headphones has quite an easy to use system for recharging. To be more specific, the headphones themselves utilize NiMH batteries, which you can recharge easily by placing the RS120 headphone on a transmitter base.
Of course, even the best product must have one or two flaws, and the biggest weakness of the Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphone is the fact that it tends to pick up the white noise when there is no sound. The reason for this is the delay between the powering off of the base transmitter and the disconnecting of the headphone.
- Brand New in box. The product ships with all relevant accessories
- Exceptional sound
- Easy recharge process
- Long battery life
- Extreme comfort
- Picking up white noise when there is no sound
Sennheiser RS 175 RF – Best For Bass Boost
After blowing up on the scene with the classic RS120, Sennheiser became quite a household name. With this kind of success, most of the other companies may get complacent. However, it is not the case with Sennheiser, as they followed it up with another masterpiece, the Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless Headphone System.
Obviously, with such a great predecessor, there is no way the RS175 can be middle-of-the-pack. In fact, it is among the most advanced of its time, with some of the best techs around. For example, it is one of the first headphones to have an ergonomic and compact design that can still retain great durability.
The Sennheiser RS 175 RF has the best boost for bass
Moreover, it has two modes, a mode that can give you the most realistic sound as possible and a bass boost mode. Thus, if you are someone who cannot get enough of the low and strong vibration of bass, the Sennheiser RS 175 RF is surely the most comfortable fit for you.
Naturally, there will always be weaknesses in a product, no matter how good your craft is. For the RS 175, it’s the delay between activation and transmitter connection, which can be quite annoying for some people.
In addition, the RS175 only has one single channel in its transmitter. As a consequence, there is no way that you can use multiple headsets in the same household. For instance, the RS120 does allow you to pick from three available channels, creating much more freedom.
- Compact, ergonomic over-ear headphones. Connectivity Technology: Wireless
- Bass boost & surround sound listening modes. Maximum sound pressure level: 114 dB at 1kHz, 3 percentage THD. THD, total harmonic distortion: <0.5 percentage at 1 kHz, 100 dB SPL
- Exceptional clarity for digital audio
- Huge transmission range
- Two available frequency response modes
- Supporting both analogs as well as digital sound input
- Great gaming headset
- The delay between activation and connecting of the transmitter
- Only one available channel
Riwbox WB5 Wireless Bluetooth Foldable Headphones – Best For Customizing
Despite the domination that Sennheiser held onto the wireless open-back headphones market, Riwbox challenged them with many products. One of them, the Riwbox WB5 Bluetooth Wireless Foldable Headphone, left quite an impact, sometimes overtaking the RS120 in sales. So, what is so great about this set of headphones that it can face the king head on?
First of all, the Riwbox WB5 is built for complete comfort, no matter the situation. To be more concrete, the WB5 has ear cushions made out of memory protein, simulating human skin textures, which will certainly ensure comfort for you.
Riwbox WB5 has a whooping five EQ modes
Secondly, if the Sennheiser headphones focus much more on giving you the most realistic sound possible with flat frequency response tech, then Riwbox focuses in a completely different direction.
To be more direct, they made a whole five available modes of EQ volume optimization: Pop, Rock, Classic, Country, Jazz, and normal. Thus, you can easily match the music you like, which is a level of customizability that is just not there for the previous two options.
Thus, we believe that it is best if you are into customizing your sound. Of course, this also means it is among the best headphones for gaming
Also, even while wireless, you will never have to worry about this semiopen headphones headphone running out of power. After all, it has quite a strong battery, which can last for up to 20 hours of full-on music time with just one full charge.
Obviously, there will be a trade-off if a product can achieve so many great advantages. For the WB5, it is the fact that there can be a mix-up if you are not paying attention during EQ mode selection.
- FIVE EQ MODES FOR RICHER EXPERIENCE: Volume-optimized EQ gives you a consistent, balanced performance. Match your music with Rock, Pop, Classic,Jazz,Country and Natural styles.
- BUILT TO STAY COMFORTABLE: The Memory-protein ear cushion simulate human skin texture, ensuring lasting comfort. Perfect cover ears, the sound of isolation from the outside world, let you better enjoy your journey of music.
- Long battery life
- Five available EQ modes
- Incredibly comfortable for your ears
- High customizability
- Customizable sound profiles
- Complicated EQ mode selection
GRADO GW100 Wireless Open-Back Bluetooth Headphones – Best For Real Sound
Despite losing the throne of the best open-back headphone manufacturer to Sennheiser, GRADO is still among the most popular for a reason. Obviously, we are talking about their commitment to the quality of the output, and the GRADO GW100 Wireless Open-Back Headphone is a great example.
For instance, the first thing that you will notice about this headphone is that it reproduces the most natural sounding and smoothest audio possible. To tell the truth, with its balanced and flat frequency response, you can listen to your favorite artist for hours with no sound fatigue. Hence, we suggest it as the best fit for people interested in real sounds only.
Despite being an on-ear, GRADO GW100 is really comfortable
Also, for an on-ear headset, the GRADO GW100 is actually a lot more comfortable to wear than even some over-ear headphones. The reason for this is the fact that it has a comfortable and lightweight headphone design, so you barely feel anything wearing it.
Needless to say, there will be some kind of trade-off, and for GRADO GW100, it’s the durability. To be truthful, we want to be less harsh, but the build quality of this headphone is almost like toys at Fisher-Price.
- Detailed and smooth sounds
- Flat and balanced frequency response
- Extremely comfortable
- Low-quality build
- Low durability
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HIFIMAN Deva Over-Ear Full-Size Headphone – Best Premium Option
Stepping into the open-back headphone market much later than the other companies, HIFIMAN realized that there is just no way that they can win the general population over. Thus, they focus on somewhere else, the high-end market with the HIFIMAN Deva Over-Ear Full-Size Headphone.
The HIFIMAN Deva is the definition of “premium”
As you can see from the name, the HIFIMAN Deva utilizes the planar magnetic drivers, which we have covered above. Therefore, when it comes to producing real and smooth sounds, none of the other options can challenge it.
Naturally, using the planar magnetic drivers also means that the price of this headphone can never be less than double that of the ones using dynamic drivers. Thus, we believe that it only fits for people who don’t have to worry about the budget.
- Bluetooth, USB, Wired- Your Choice ★Bluetooth: A variety of HD Bluetooth protocal-LDAC, aptX-HD, aptX, AAC fully HD compatible ★USB: USB DAC via USB-C cable: up to 24bit/192kHz ★Wired: Traditional wired 3.5mm Balanced input; Also support a standard 3.5mm single ended input
- Bluemini-Small but Mighty: The DEVA companion Blueooth / USB module; Bluetooth receiver, DAC and Amp all in one. Bluemini’s built in power amp and buffer stage filter has power, dynamics and detail enough to rival a desktop amp. With built-in Microphone
- Very comfortable
- No sound distortion at all
- The closest to real sounds
- Too expensive
Any of the reference headphones that we have presented is capable of being a perfect choice, depending on the needs you have. However, if you want the Best wireless Open Back Headphones with a balance between budget and capability, we recommend that you look into the Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphone for your listening sessions.