What Is the Difference Between Open-Back and Closed-Back Headphones

There are plenty of people who can’t live without a pair of headphones, especially when it comes to listening to music.

One pair is enough to access a whole different world of sound. Collecting headphones got me to learn that these items go by two terms.

They happened to be ‘open back’ and closed back.’

Regular headphone wearers are unaware that there are different types of headphones. For these people, any pair will do. However, it does pay to know the difference between them.

In this article, I am here to tell you what is the difference between open-back headphones and closed-back headphones.

If you want to read our buying guide on the best open back headphones today then you should read this article as we have reviewed for about 15 headphones that fit the category well.

Let's Start Here

The Design Between Open-Back and Closed-Back Headphones

Books are stacked, Headphones, White Cup, Orange Slices, open Di

The two types of headphones carry the same circumaural design. Circumaural “go over-the-ear.” A person has to put it over their head to use them.

Some people don’t like how bulky these headphones are and how heavy they appear. However, in recent times, these kinds of headphones became popular to use.

Many do want to get their hands on over-the-ear headphones because of their look.

It’s not only because they look good, but quality headphones do give out good sound, too.

There was a lot of marketing involved to make headphones as popular as they are right now. Today, music and headphones go hand-in-hand.

I can’t even think of picturing them being apart from audiophiles.

A casual headphone user is contented on getting a pair of headphones. Many don’t like to bother knowing about the different brands of headphones. I found that there’s a huge pay-off the more I knew about the different headphone types.

Brief Explanation to What Closed-Back Headphones Are

These are the headphones that I am most familiar with. These are the most common, after all. When people think of headphones, they think of closed backs. Not all headphones are alike, though.

Closed-back headphones have ear cups designed to keep sound in. The sides of the cups face away from the ears and have a hard shell on them. Those are what keep the sound in and direct sound into the ear canals.

Closed backs make the sound go through the ear and make it sound as if it’s coming from inside the head.

Brief Explanation to What Open-Back Headphones Are

Open-back headphones have more exposed ear cups. Some might find this design choice strange, but this is on purpose. This is to allow more ambient sound, but also let the audio reverb in a natural state.

The Difference of Sound Between Open Back and Closed-Back Headphones

One of the critical differences between an open back and a closed back is how they broadcast sound. I’m here to tell you how to tell these two apart, aside from how they look.

The inner mechanisms of closed backs aren’t seen thanks to the ear cup design they boast. The cups keep a closed-off look to help keep the audio in and keep background noise out.

Young girl with headphones and coffee cupNoise isolation is the primary function of a pair of closed-back headphones. They make sure that all one listens to is its audio and they keep outside sound from getting in.

It works both ways. When I use them, I can hear the music but the people outside can’t.

Some closed-back headphones are even active noise cancellation headphones. This means it has options that block out the more ambient noise to hear the music better compared to open backs.

Even if a closed back has this feature or not, closed-back headphones’ main focus is to offer noise isolation. For open back headphones, it’s a different story.

As for the open back, the inner mechanisms are visible even at a quick glance. Some models have their cups exposed that one can take a glimpse of the diaphragm to vibrate when it’s turned on.

The exposed look of the headphones gives the listener a better grasp of the sound they have playing in them. Open-back headphones give the listener better access to an audio’s soundstage.

Many liken open backs’ sound quality that is surround sound or some loudspeaker. This is how open-back headphones broadcast their sound.

The open-back headphones do give one access to a track or sound files’ soundstage. My ears managed to pick up the bits that make up the music with little bass or echo. A lot do say that the sound comes out more organically.

Which One to Pick: Which Headphone Type Is for You?

Anyone can go to a store or browse through a shopping site to pick any of the two headphones out. It’s all about taste and preference, but that is the short answer. Each headphone does a particular job, and each pair is great for certain people.

Let me make this clear: anyone can pick either one. Even a casual headphone user can get either one. If I ever want a pair of headphones that offers quality audio listening, get either of them. However, which one is for which then?

Who Should Use A Pair of Closed Back Headphones?

The regular consumer can get a pair of closed backs real easy. A lot like to equate headphones with isolation. I found that one pair is enough. A lot like the intimacy a good set of Redhead girl with headphone in the park.headphones can bring. I get a space in my head to call my own that some can only wish for.

If I only want a pair that provides me with music, then closed-back headphones are enough for me. Not to say that this pair is for the unprofessional bunch, but this pair is the more accessible type among the two.

Those who handle audio mixing or audio editing also like to work with this type of headphones. They use closed backs to pinpoint any flaws in a video or whatever audio project they’re working on. Closed-back headphones did give me a ton of focus on what I worked on but kept me from taking the sound for what it is.

Gamers can gain an advantage using these closed-back headphones. There are a lot of multiplayer games today. This means gamers need to communicate with others via their microphones. Sometimes, during a noisy game, game audio and a gamer’s voice can get mixed up during an important event. Closed-back headphones can help isolate the game audio so that the mic will only pick up the player’s voice.

Who Should Get a Pair of Open-Back Headphones?

Few people know about open-back headphones. I got my pair of open-back headphones because I wanted to get serious with music. I needed something that could help with my music, sound mixing, or audio editing.

Young girl with headphones and coffee cupAudiophiles and audio professionals like using these headphones for the soundstage. Many musicians dream to have their work featured in a concert or a stage. Open-back headphones give them a step in the right direction.

Musicians aren’t the only ones who can get an advantage with open-back headphones. Voice actors and recording artists might find open-back headphones useful.

A gamer with an appreciation for sound design will love using open-back headphones. I did notice they were excellent during the games I play these with. I had to make sure I didn’t have my roommates sleeping in the room while I played my games. They might hear the game audio while they get their sleep.

I got my pair because I wanted to try open-back headphones for myself. I had to learn how to be mindful of my surroundings afterward. Something I always need to remember is that sound leak becomes clearer to people the higher I put on the volume. That meant that I needed to be careful if I ever brought these to my workplace or in the local library. At the end of the day, I stuck to listening to these in the privacy of my room.  

Final Thoughts on Open Back and Closed-Back Headphones

So, what is the difference between open back and closed-back headphones? There’s a lot. It’s all about how the headphones give the user their audio and how they look.

A person can get either one. I like getting the closed back since it gives people the idea that I am lost in the world music. I don’t want anyone to bug me while I am listening to music.  

By learning the pointers I mentioned, I hope it helps you out when you go headphone shopping. Take a look at the ear cup designs on the side and see if they look exposed or not.

I like a pair of closed-back headphones, but I did try open-back headphones before. They do feel different, and I can see the appeal for them. Headphones are a nice accessory to have in general. Everyone has the right to enjoy good audio, after all.

Again, if you aim for music that feels like it’s inside your head, then closed-back headphones are your best bet. On the other hand, if you want a “realistic” sound, then opt for open-back headphones. The choice is up to you.



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