The 8 Best Open-Back Headphones 2020 & Ultimate Buying Guide

Not all headphones are the same. It’s not just about the style of them or their power output, it’s about the quality of the speakers used and how they are designed.

Open-back headphones are designed with a gap in the headphone back cover. This is usually covered by a mesh to protect the internal components. The theory is that an open back headphone allows some of the sounds to exit the headphone, instead of being trapped in your ear canal.

This means less echo in your ear, a more realistic sound, and you retain the ability to hear things going on around you.

Of course, the downside is that those around you will be able to hear some of your sounds, depending on what you’re listening to that could be worth considering.

The good news is that once you’ve decided this style of headphones is for you, there are plenty of different ones to choose from. As always, some are better than the others, below you’ll find the best open-back headphones currently available.

8 Best Open Back Headphones 2020

Before you pick one of these it’s worth having a look at our buying guide, it will help to ensure you get the best open-back headphones for you, not the ones that your mate loves.

1. Sennheiser HD 660 – Best Open Back Headphones Overall

 Sennheiser HD 660 S review

With these open-back headphones, you’ll get some of the best sounds available and you’ll be impressed by how comfortable they are.

There really isn’t much else you could ask for from a headphone!

Specs

  • Impedance 150 ohms
  • Frequency response 10 to 41,000 Hz
  • Stylish design
  • Ventilated magnet system to minimize air turbulence
  • Comes with 2 connection cables: 6.35mm (with adaptor to 3.5mm) & 4.4mm Pentaconn
  • Weight 9.71 ounces

Pros

  • Stylish looking

There’s not much to say about this except that these headphones look good! The design borders on industrial but it really works.

  • Fantastic sound quality, all ranges balanced

The headphones use circumaural dynamics to create a great frequency response at all levels. Alongside this the transducer are hand selected, ensuring the perfect left/right output has matching tolerance and gives the best possible sound.

The choice of cables are Para aramid reinforced and use high conductivity OFC copper that ensures there is minimal handling noise.

  • Comfortable & durable

The Sennheiser HD660 has velour earpads and a silicone treated headband. This maximizes comfort and reduces any sound interference from the materials in the headphones.

These headphones are designed to stay on your ears

Cons

  • Plastic feel

Although a premium set of headphones, you’ll notice that they do have a plastic feel to them. This is a little disappointing considering the quality of these open-back headphones.

  • Distant vocals

The attention to musical notes combined with the open back does mean that voices can seem distant at times. This doesn’t necessarily affect the listening quality but it is worth noting.


2. Astro A40 TR – Best Open Back Headphones For Gaming

ASTRO Gaming A40 TR Wired Headset review

If you’re into gaming and like open-back headphones, this isn’t just the best option, it’s the only one you should be considering.

Specs

  • USB Dock for connectivity
  • Swappable precision microphone
  • MixAmp Pro for sound control
  • Transforms into closed-back if required
  • Weigh 1.47 pounds

Pros

  • Connection options

The command center software and USB connectivity ensure you can connect to virtually any system and benefit from great headphones, as well as enhanced voice communications and no lag.

It even ensures the headphones are 3D ready!

  • Comfortable

The Astro A40 TR is rugged but lightweight, giving you everything you need to comfortably play your game for hours. The ear cushions are covered with a thick cloth to enhance comfort and there’s a layer of leather to ensure the best possible acoustic response.

Cons

  • Treble is missing

At times the sound is excellent but at other times the lack of distinct treble is noticeable, bringing down an otherwise excellent pair of headphones.

  • Lack of instructions

It’s a little disappointing to find no instructions come with these headphones. Because they have a variety of gaming functions instructions are a useful extra and Astro are lacking in this department.


3. Philips X2HR Fidelio – Best Open Back Headphones on a budget

Philips Fidelio X2HR Over-Ear Open-Air Headphone review

The large earpads will make it seem like you’re alone in any space, they also help to ensure these headphones are extremely comfortable.

Specs

  • 50mm drivers
  • Low impedance cable
  • Replaceable cable
  • Memory foam earpads can be replaced
  • Weigh 0.91 pounds

Pros

  • Drivers & sound quality

Philips has left nothing to chance by incorporating 50mm high power drivers, complete with improved layered motion control diaphragm. In short, you won’t just get the bass notes, the higher tones are also crystal clear.

  • Comfort

The headband is made with calf-skin leather, ensuring breathability and comfort. The earpads are soft velour and oversized, ensuring you’ll find them comfortable no matter how long you’re wearing them. You may even forget to take them off, although the wired connection will remind you.

  • Quality

It’s Philips so you won’t be surprised to find that they’ve made reliability an important part of the equation, you won’t be disappointed!

Cons

  • Size

It’s worth noting that the Philips X2HR Fidelio is a little on the large size, you may struggle if you have a smaller head!

  • Short Cable

It’s worth noting that the cable on these headphones is surprisingly short, you’re going to have to be almost on top of your stereo or computer!


4. HIFIMAN HE-400I – Best Open Back Headphones for mixing

 HIFIMAN HE-400I review

These look good and, although not the cheapest option, they are definitely one of the best open-back headphones currently available.

Specs

  • Focus pads for comfort
  • Full-size planar magnets
  • Impedance 35ohms
  • Frequency response 20Hz – 35KHz
  • Weigh 13.1 ounces

Pros

  • Sound Quality Excellent

The Hifiman HE-400I is designed to give you the very best sound quality possible, that’s what makes them so good for mixing.

  • Comfortable

The earpads are made of leatherette and velour, ensuring maximum comfort and durability. You’ll be hard pushed to find a more comfortable pair of headphones.

Don’t forget that these headphones look impressive too.

Cons

  • Cable short

At just 1.5m long the cable isn’t going to allow you to move far from your decks. This may not be a bad thing but it is worth knowing about.

  • Fingerprint magnet

These headphones look great but they are going to be hard to keep that way, every touch will show up!


5. Audio-Technica ATH-R70x – Best Alternative Option For Mixing Open Back Headphones

 Audio-Technica ATH-R70x review

This is actually Audio-Technica’s first pair of professional open-back reference headphones but that shouldn’t deter you. The company knows what it’s doing and has produced an excellent option.

Specs

  • 45mm Magnetic drivers
  • Sensitivity 99dB
  • Aluminum honeycomb mesh housings
  • Frequency response 5-40,000 Hz
  • Self-adjusting headband
  • Weigh 1.63 pounds

Pros

  • Quality

If you’ve ever used Audio-Technica headphones before you’ll know that they can be a little bass heavy. That’s not the case with the R70X, these sound more like the Sennheiser with fantastic response at all frequency levels.

In short, the quality of the music is fabulous!

  • Comfort

Audio-Technica has stuck with their traditional ‘winged’ approach on the headband. This works, once these are on your head they’re not coming off accidentally, and they’ll stay comfortable over hours of use.

The velour ear pads help with comfort and prevent your ears from getting too hot.

Cons

  • Weight

It’s worth noting that these are not the lightest pair of headphones on offer, although the sound quality is great. Depending on how long you wear them for you may find that your head, or even your neck starts to feel tired.

  • Sub Bass

These headphones are not going to perform well with sub-bass, although to be fair most open back headphones struggle with the lowest end of the bass range.


6. AKG K 702 – Best Open Back Headphones for comfort

 AKG K 702 review

The AKG 702 open-back headphones come at an attractive price, especially when you realize just how good they are.

Specs

  • Cushioned leather headband for comfort
  • Cable individually tested
  • 3D foam ear pads
  • Variomotion diaphragms – patented
  • Detachable cable
  • Weigh 1.2 pounds

Pros

  • Comfort

These headphones have the potential to be the most comfortable of all the headphones on the list. The leather headband is good, but it’s the 3D foam earpads that really ensure you’ll barely notice the headphones, even after they’ve been on your head for hours.

  • Great Quality

The build quality is excellent, as is the sound quality. This is thanks to the high-performance neodymium magnets and the patented diaphragms. Putting the two together ensures you have quality sound and quality build. That makes them a worthwhile investment.

  • Price

Price shouldn’t be the deciding factor when considering the best open-back headphones, but it does help. These aren’t the cheapest, but they are a good price.

Cons

  • Little Bass

Despite the great sound quality, you’ll find there is minimal bass. In some applications this can be considered beneficial, you’ll have to decide if that applies to you.

  • Size

The headphones are on the larger size which isn’t going to be a good option if you have a small head!


7. GRADO SR60e – Best Open Back Headphones runner up

 GRADO SR60e review

This is a good all-round headphone at an attractive price. If you’re just getting into the scene in any form these can be a great introductory set, until you get more funds available and upgrade.

Specs

  • Operates using the open air
  • 32ohm impedance
  • Sensitivity 99.8dB
  • New drivers with more depth, compared to the previous model
  • Weigh 7.76 ounces

Pros

  • Audio surprisingly good

There’s a surprising amount of bass on the Grado SR60e which combines with good mid and treble to create a nice well-rounded sound. It may not compete with some of the most expensive models but you won’t be disappointed for the price.

  • Price

This is one of the major selling points, at under $100 you’ll struggle to find a better deal for good-quality open-back headphones.

  • Comfort

The headband is fake leather but it remains a comfortable option. The actual earpads have plastic housings which are more comfortable than you may think, although they don’t look the best.

As well as being comfortable the Grado SR60e are surprisingly durable.

Cons

  • Cable Quality

The one part of these headphones that seems to be inferior quality is the cable, and it’s not detachable.


8. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro – Best Alternative All-Round Open Back Headphones

beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO review

The Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro is a surprisingly good looking pair of open-back headphones with great bass, a well-balanced treble and an almost perfect mid-range. These really are one of the best open back headphones currently available.

Specs

  • Impedance 80 ohm
  • Sound pressure 96dB
  • Frequency Response 5 Hz – 35kHz
  • 5mm Mini-jack plug and 6.35mm adaptor
  • Weight 1.35 pounds

Pros

  • Comfort & Durability

The soft ear pads and padded headband ensures that these headphones are comfortable on you head. But, while you’ll be grateful for this, you’ll also appreciate the impressive build quality. The DT 990 Pro design actually originates in the 90’s but the build quality is so good that you can expect a pair to last you for many years.

  • Sound quality

It’s hard to fault the sound quality on these headphones, it’s as good as ones costing 4 or 5 times the price.

They do use sound coupling on the ear to ensure you can hear all the different sounds the headphones produce. It helps to give you great sound quality in most situations.

  • Replaceable Parts

A nice touch by Beyerdynamic is that almost all the parts on these headphones are replaceable.  That will help if anything does go wrong with them!

  • Price

Despite being a great open back headphone the Beyerdynamic is well-priced, making it a great option if you’re on a budget and still want good sound quality.

Cons

  • U-Curve on sound

Although the sound quality is excellent the DT990 does tend to get a little excited at the top and bottom ends of the sound scales. This can make it difficult to capture all the more subtle tones.

  • Amplifier needed

If you’re hoping to use these with your computer then you need to be aware that the sound level is not that impressive, you’ll need an amplifier to really get the most out of these headphones.


The Ultimate Buying Guide for Best Open-back Headphones

Best Open-back Headphones buying guides

Check out this quick guide and get the right open-back headphones for your needs:

Budget

The cheapest open back headphones on this list are under $50, while the most expensive are considerably more. This means you’ll be able to find something whatever your budget. But, you should decide what your budget is before you start looking. If you don’t you’ll get carried away and are likely to spend a small fortune.

Driver

It’s worth taking a few minutes to see what drivers are in the headphones, it’s not always about size. Of course, if you want good bass you need large drivers, at least 40mm.

The best drivers are magnetic as the output is constant and the distortion should be minimal. Cheaper headphones tend to have dynamic drivers, these are more likely to create musical distortion, especially as you turn the volume up.

Quality/Reputation

You should always spend a little time considering the manufacturer and the supplier. If they are well-known you should be able to easily assess whether they are known to provide high-quality and reliable products.

But all manufacturers can make mistakes. That’s why it’s a good idea to check out some social media sites and headphone forums. You’ll find there are honest opinions regarding how good specific headphones are.

The response will help you to decide if the headphones you’re thinking about will be a good buy. It should be noted that not all responses will be positive, but if the majority are you’re on the right track.

Comfort

The comfort of your headphones is very important. You don’t want to have to take them off halfway through a mix or a game. If possible you should try some on before you buy, although this won’t tell you how comfortable they are after several hours.

For this, you’ll need to look at reviews like this and check the responses on social media and forums. This will help to ensure you choose the ones that will feel just as good when you’ve finished wearing them as they did when you put them on.

Conclusion

It can be hard to choose the best open-back headphones. But, if you consider the above points first and remember that your preferred option doesn’t need to be the same as anyone else’s, then you’re heading in the right direction.

Personally, I love the sound that open back speakers give you and wouldn’t go anywhere without my Sennheiser HD700’s, but that’s my personal choice.

As long as you’re happy with the look, feel, and sound quality of the headphones then you’ve picked the right ones.

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