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Last updated on September 1st, 2020 at 03:41 pm

Differences Between Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones

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Last updated on September 23rd, 2020 at 10:12 pm

Headphones may seem like a simple invention, but there is a lot of science behind them. There are so many categories, specifications, subcategories, pros, cons, etc. This gives you quite a lot of options, but it can also give you a headache. 

The Open Back vs Closed-Back headphones discussion is quite popular in the tech industry, and although it is partly based on your personal preferences, some well-known facts may help you navigate your thought process.

Today we will discuss the differences between Open-Back and Closed-Back headphones and which should you get. Here’s everything you need to know about open back vs closed-back headphones.

We will start with the basic and the most critical question – what are Open Back and Closed-Back headphones?

What are Open Back Headphones?

Headphones with an open back have particular, light ear cups that allow air to enter, pass through, and exit. This means that the flow and the pressure will prevent the effect of an echo that happens when air gets trapped inside the cup. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot hear the air passing through the headphones – not unless you are in a very windy area.

This sounds like an excellent idea – airy, bright, and healthy. But how does it work when applied to real life? Can you still use these headphones as effectively as you would use the Closed-Back headphones? Think about it.

Open Back vs. Closed Back Headphones

When it comes to Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones for mixing, we have a few things to go over. Naturally, when you are mixing, you want the sound to be as natural as possible.

You don’t want any distortion caused by air pressure or your subjective hearing. Your goal is to edit and create audio that is in no way altered by the isolation created by Closed-Back Headphones.

Imagine what happens when you work on specific audio while experiencing an echo – this audio will sound different when you play it live for other people.

Problem solved, right? Not really. We have a new challenge – the noise. If you have Open Back Headphones, you will not be affected by echo, but by all of the sounds in your environment. It makes it quite tough to concentrate on work.

If you hear all of your colleagues chatting in the background. It is also worth mentioning that any background noise, buzz, rustling, and beeping may confuse you, and you start to wonder which sounds come from the audio and which come from outside.

There is also another disadvantage of open-back headphones – sound leaks. If you have ever heard the expression Open Acoustics vs Closed Acoustics, you will know what we are talking about – these headphones leak audio.

Whatever you are listening to, other people can hear it too as well. Long story short, those around you will know your music taste and your secret projects.

What are Closed Back Headphones?

Closed Back Headphones will let the audio out only in your ear since cups surround it. They will not let anything in and, as a result, the sound will be less realistic, but the amount of blocked environment noise will also be significantly higher.

Most people refer to Closed-Back Headphones as just “headphones. ” This is essentially what most people think about when you say the word. They are also produced in a higher quantity, so it’s easier to run into them at shops.

ZMF Atticus Closed Back Headphones
ZMF Atticus Closed Back Headphones

And yes, you will experience a certain amount of echo, so depending on what you are using your headphones for, this may or may not be problematic. The Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones gaming experience should be much better with Closed Back headphones.

You surely don’t want to hear a lot of outside noise if you are focusing, and you are “in the zone“.

Most people think that Closed-Back Headphones are horrible for mixing, but you should know that this is not true. Although you would get a more realistic sound with Open Back Headphones, you will also pick up on other audio that will ruin the experience.

That is why it is best to first work with Closed Back Headphones and then Open Back Headphones in a professional environment for final adjustments.

Semi-Open vs Closed Headphones vs Open Headphones 

Wait, there is a third option? Yes, and it is a hybrid between Open and Closed Headphones – the Semi-Open models. If the whole Open vs Closed Headphones discussion is really giving you a headache by now, we advise you to check the third option out.

Semi-Open headphones are partly closed, and they will allow some air to pass. They are also partially open, depending on your perspective – just like the half-full, half-empty glass situation.

The amount of air that can flow through is not significant, but it still makes the experience more realistic. Keep in mind that this hybrid concept will mess around with the positive and the negative aspects of the headphones.

Black Open Back Headphones
Open Back Headphones

It is excellent that you can avoid an echo and get a realistic listening experience while still blocking out some of the outside noise, but then again, you still hear most of it.

The unblocked environment audio still disrupts you, and for any specific work that requires focus, this is a bad choice.

We do not recommend these, and it is better to choose either one or the other type. When things sound too good to be true, they are usually not true – even in the world of audio, where sounds are sometimes subjective.

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones –Which Is Better?

Let us make a nice pro-vs-con list for each of the two options. This will significantly help you in your choice, and it will give you a good starting point to start searching for the model you will buy.

Open Back Headphones

Pros

Excellent for precise work – mixing, editing, working with audio of very high quality. Not great for the same precise work if you do it in a busy and crowded environment.

Any distractions can be problematic for these headphones, and even listening to music becomes a tough task.

Open Back vs Closed Backheadphones for Gaming

For competitive gaming such as FPS shooters, open-back headphones are better than closed back. Because they have better and wider soundstage allowing you to pinpoint your enemy’s footsteps.

Cons

They are prone to damage more than your average Closed-Back headphones. It’s only logical to think this, since they let moisture and humidity inside, near the electronic components.

You might hear the term Open Air vs Closed Back Headphones as well, which paints the picture of the dangers that come with open airflow a little bit better.

Closed-Back Headphones

Pros

If you are looking for headphones you can use in a crowded environment – while on a bus, on a train, at the office, Closed Back Headphones should be your priority. For those who are working with professional audio that they can review later in a calm environment, Closed Back Headphones need to be on your wishlist.

Also, did we mention how good the bass is?

They are ideal for those private listening moments when you want to enjoy music or an audiobook in a crowded place. Although they cannot provide you with everything.

They are a decent option for most people.

Cons

The downside? The heat around your ears. After prolonged usage, you might start feeling the warmth build up around the sides of your head, and if you are naturally a sweaty person, this can be a bit problematic.

In the winter, it is a pro, but in the summer, a horrible con.

They are also a little bit heavier than Open Back Headphones, and they feel very claustrophobic for some people, so keep that in mind if you have never tried them out. 

Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones, Which One Should You Get? 

The first step to your choice is deciding what is essential for you. It is a personal preference, and you will have to decide which ones you can overlook in the process.

Once you choose the category, further choices will be more natural. This is when you should keep in mind the idea behind the sound quality.

Open vs Closed Headphones sound quality is not a debate – it just depends on the model itself. Some Open Headphones are fabulous, and some are horrible.

Some Closed Headphones are fantastic, and some make the weirdest sounds you will hear. You should always check the specifications and reviews before making a choice – do not rely simply on categories.

That is it on everything you need to know about open back vs closed-back headphones. 

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