Comparing Open and Closed Back Headphones

Fun fact: Did you know that only 8% of people actually clean their headphones once a week?

All around the world, almost 87% of the people use headphones to listen to music. 

The other common uses of headphones include listening to the radio, watching movies and TV shows, listening to audiobooks, and also playing video games. 

When you decide to purchase a set of headphones, you get to see a huge variety available in the market.

Depending on your usage, one type of headphone might suit your needs better than the other. 

In this article, we will talk about the two main kinds of over-the-ear headphones – the closed-back and the open-back.

We will talk about how they are different from each other, their benefits and drawbacks.

If you want to invest in good quality headphones, it is essential that you are aware of the differences. 

By the time you finish reading this article, you will be clear about which type of headphone is more suitable for you, depending on what you use it for. 

By the way, have you heard about the bone conduction headphones?

Make sure to also check those out if you haven’t.

Ok, let’s talk about closed-back headphones first.

Closed-back Headphones

Closed-back Headphones 

The majority of the headphones used by us are closed-back.

But what exactly is a closed-back headphone?

As the name states, the outer part of the headphone cup is covered and sealed around the back. Therefore, the sound emitted only reaches your ear. 

Some of the features of a closed-back headphone are mentioned below:

  • Blocking Outside Noise

A small speaker driver is situated inside the headphone which produces sound towards your ear and also away from it.

In case of a closed-back, the sound that is directed away from the ear, towards the outside, is blocked.

This means that whatever you are listening to remains between you and your headphones.

It sort of isolates you from the world by blocking the outside noise.

  • Use in Public Places 

Most of us use these headphones while traveling or when in public places.

A closed-back headphone is ideal for such a situation.

If you’re traveling by airplane, train, bus, or even your own car, these headphones come a lot in handy.

  • Use in Studio

Such headphones are also used by people who work with sound or make music.

Therefore, if you’re working in a studio, a closed-back headphone is the ideal choice as it allows you to just hear and focus on your voice alone, cutting all the outside world’s noise. 

But studios are already quieter mostly like libraries. So yea, it’s a maybe here.

  • In-head Concert

Using this headphone makes you experience an in-head concert.

This means that when you’re listening to music, it is all going straight to your head. It makes you feel like you’re listening to a band playing at a concert. 

This feature might not appeal to everyone, but Pink Floyd lovers know exactly what I mean.

  • Portability

Most portable headphones are designed as closed-back. So, when you’re looking for headphones that can be taken with you, you will find a wide variety of closed-back headphones.

They have foldable headbands and are smaller as compared to the other types, which adds a plus portability point. 

The above features make it seem like closed-back headphones are the best. But then why even need an open back ones right? Well, read on…

  • Ventilation 

As closed-back headphones are sealed from the back, there is no space for air to pass through.

This means you cant wear them in a warmer environment. And don’t get me started on wearing these for gyms.

Wearing them for longer periods set your ears on fire, if you know what I mean.

  • Pressure on Eardrum

Another bad thing about these headphones is the immense pressure they cause on eardrums.

Since the sound emitted towards the outside is blocked, it bounces back towards your ear.

This causes the eardrums to be subjected to damage if used for longer periods of time.

This can only be a cause of concern if you’ve turned up the volume too loud and again if you listen to music for long hours.

But don’t let me scare you, they are still cool. And a best buying choice, if you want to cut the “Outside World” and be with yourself for a while, listening to “Comfortably Numb” 🙂

Best Closed-back Headphones

So, we have tested alot of these headphones, go back and see the featured image, you’ll know what I mean. And the following are the best choice to make if you buy this headphone.

Bose 700 Headphones

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We also added this in our Cool gadgets to buy post. Make sure you check that out too.

So, for years, Bose has overshadowed the world of headphones due to its exemplary active noise cancellation feature.

It has been used by people for blocking out rackety environments. 

Although recently it has stepped down from being the top closed-back headphones due to other brands coming out with more elaborate features, it is still packed with quirks that other brands cannot match at this price. 

The noise cancellation feature of Bose 700 Headphones is simply outstanding.

Its paired with impressive voice clarity in noisy environments making it a good headset for calls even.

It has easy to use touch controls, which make it user friendly and feasible for use by everyone.

And yes you always want to look, cook, so given that, it has an elegant design that gives it a classy look and a super comfy headband to be worn for longer hours.

I mean look at it. Amazing.

But still, there are few things we don’t really like that much about this headphone.

It’s bit expensive when it comes to comparison with some of the competitors.

And sometimes the treble can be a bit rough.

There is also an absence of EQ features in the app. Not really a big deal. But yea thought I mention it too as people kind of get skeptical when buying these headphones just because of that.

Sometimes even if they don’t know what this feature does. LOL.

If we talk about battery life then it’s just okay…I mean given the price, it should have been more.

But the Bose 700 Headphones are ideal for travelers, to block out the sound of planes, trains and outside traffic.

Also, students can benefit from it if they’re sitting in a library or crowded place while making assignments or preparing for their paper. 

It helps a lot in focusing.

Sony WH-1000XM3/B (Also a great choice)

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The Sony WH-1000XM3/B are by far the top-rated closed-back headphones available in 2020. They have an unrivaled all-round package. 

They are extremely comfortable, with the best noise cancellation technology and wide-ranging sound quality.

It has a long battery life of almost 30 hours of continuous playback and has many customizable options via the app. 


The call quality isn’t very good, in fact, we can say it is kind of mediocre.

Also, the on-ear sensor is missing.

And, you have to pay to access the Google Assistant, but it’s not that useful in the first place.

The Sony WH-1000XM3/B is ideal for use by casual listeners as it has an impressive sound quality.

Marshall Mid ANC (Also Good)

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If you want closed-back headphones that look classy, then Marshall Mid ANC is what you need. It has a slimline design that sets it apart. 

In addition to the classy look, Marshall Mid ANC Headphones can be folded into a compact size.

It has a comfortable headband and earpads, combined with a long-lasting battery, which enables you to enjoy long listening sessions.

Other than this, it has great sound and a stable Bluetooth connection. 

But the biggest drawback of Marshall Mid ANC Headphones is the price.

It’s expensive compared to its competitors. Also, the noise cancellation feature doesn’t work well with wind.

But if you ask me, out of all three, I loved this one the most.

Alright, let’s talk open back now…

Open-back Headphones

Open Back Headphones

Open-back headphones are just as common as closed-back ones, but there’s a lot of difference in usage. 

As it is clear from the name, the woofer of the open-back headphones is open and exposed to the outside world.

The plastic covering that seals a headphone, is replaced by a metal grill with holes.

Air can easily pass through the cups to the system inside.

And most of the expensive high-end brands have open-backs because it makes the sound more natural and clear.

The reasons why you should opt for an open-back headphone are listed below:

  • Passage of Air

Again, they are designed in such a way that the air can easily pass through the metal grill to the speaker inside.

Due to this, no pressure is built up inside, causing the sound to appear natural, without any echoes.

In other words, they won’t damage your ears even if you put them on and sleep. But don’t use them though, we got the sleeping headphones covered here.

So they are for the people who have to work long hours with headphones.

As people who work with sound (Podcasters for example) are exposed to loud music for long hours, an open-back headphone is ideal for them.

The reason being, that as the ear is not sealed up, the air passes easily and there is no pressure on the eardrums.

Therefore, these headphones allow longer exposure to loud music, without causing any significant damage to your ear.

  • Listening for Pleasure 

Open-back headphones are usually made for the purpose of listening to music for pleasure.

Sitting in a private room, with nobody making noise and nobody being bothered by your music, is an ideal situation for using these types of headphones.

  • Sound Quality 

And when it comes to sound quality, there’s no denying that open-back headphones have the best overall sound quality.

The easy passage of air and the out-of-head experience, give it the likeliness of a speaker system. 

  • No More Sweaty Ears

And yes, they are ideal for the gym. As the back is open, your ear is not boxed up.

This causes it to breathe freely, resulting in a more comfortable and longer listening time. 

  • Light Weight 

Comparing both they are also lighter.

Open-back headphones weigh considerably less than closed-back.

This is also a good point when it comes to wearing them for longer hours.

  • Best for ASMR

Open-back headphones are recommended for use for ASMR, as the sound isn’t isolated and the mids and highs are hit perfectly.

It gives you a clear and crisp sound, which makes it perfect for ASMR. 

Now let’s get to the points which might make you think twice before buying open-back headphones. 

  • Outside Exposure 

As open-back headphones are not really covered from the back, the noise cancellation feature doesn’t go with them.

Whatever you are listening to, can be heard by others as well.

Also, there’s no blocking of outside noise. Therefore, if you’re sitting in a public place, the purpose of a headphone won’t be met. 

  • Fragile

They are also a bit delicate as compared to closed-back headphones. They are open from the back, which allows moisture to reach the system inside.

This can cause damage to electronics.

You have to take care of these headphones to save them from becoming faulty. 

Besides this, they are a good choice to make.

Best Open-back Headphones

Below are some of the best selling open-back headphones. 

Philips L2BO

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If you want strong and sturdy headphones with a unique design,  Philips L2BO is a good choice.

It has mesh on the back of its speakers, which helps with balancing the air pressure and produces better sound in return. 

The Philips L2BO comes with an aluminum body and leather headband, which can be bent and extended to fit heads of all sizes.

It has high sensitivity and flat frequency response to the entire audio range.

It is a long-lasting battery wise and natural sounding headphone, available at a reasonable price.


Again, its “Open” so it’s not suitable for outdoor use. You cannot use it while traveling as it won’t be able to cancel out the environmental noises.

Also, the ear cushions it comes with are irreplaceable. So if the ear cushions get damaged, you’ll have to buy new headphones. 

But still, these open-back headphones are ideal for mobile and home use. 

Hifiman Sundara

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Hifiman Sundara is a classy looking headphone, that sounds good too. It has so many features that one never grows tired of it. 

It is built of premium quality materials.

It has a balanced tuning and a good technical ability.

It has been made especially for people who prefer long listening sessions, as it is very comfortable to wear while comparing with others.

These not much “But…” here to talk about.  The only thing we pointed out was the quality of the stock cable and treble. It can be better. But that’s just me.

Sennheiser HD 598s

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The Sennheiser HD 598s is a pair of comfortable headphones with striking aesthetics.

The color scheme – brown and cream, makes it stand out from the usual grey and black design. 

It is lightweight if we compare it with others so it’s much more comfortable to wear for longer periods.

Its unique mechanism balances the bass and treble quite well.

Also, the tunes played on this magnificent pair of headphones sound natural when added to its popularity. 


It is a bit expensive for the features it provides because all of them are available on cheaper priced headphones as well, but still given the quality, I think it’s okay.

One other thing…

It comes without a case which might be a huge turn off for many people.

And its brown and cream color seems unattractive to some, who prefer the classic black or grey headphones.

In other words, a person who is into “goth” would never like them.

So, let’s sum up

The final verdict of this comparison is that open-back headphones and closed-back headphones are both used for different purposes.

To summarize the whole evaluation, we can say that:

  • Open-back headphones are recommended for use at home or when you’re listening to music for pleasure. It can also be used when you’re mixing and working with sound in an isolated environment. They are also ideal for listening to high-quality audio files and critical listening. In case you plan to use it in public, make sure the people around you don’t mind what you’re listening to. 
  • Open-back headphones are not good for use while traveling in public transport or during a flight. Even during office hours, the use of these headphones is not recommended, as it doesn’t serve the purpose of blocking out external noise. 
  • Closed-back headphones are ideal to use when you want to block out all external distractions and focus. It is recommended to use it while in public or commuting. In case you’re using it in a studio, it can be used for listening to a backing track while recording. It is also good for use in the office. 

Surely by now, you must have gained a considerable amount of insight regarding both types of headphones. You can now easily choose the perfect headphone for yourself.