Closed-Back Vs Open-Back Headphones: What You Need To Know

Are you looking for headphones, but aren’t sure which type is right for you? Well, you’re in the right place! We will compare closed-back vs open-back headphones and give you a few tips on how to pick the right one.

There are many types of headphones available on the market today. When browsing through what’s available it’s easy to get lost in the details of specifications given by manufacturers. For instance, when shopping for a new pair of headphones, one might come across terms such as on-ear headphones, over-ear headphones, or in-ear headphones (also known as earbuds).

You might also come across information about wired vs wireless headphones or even earphones that are noise cancelling (like these ones). But there are also two types of drivers that are used for making headphones: open and closed.

Headphone drivers (or transducers) come in two basic types: dynamic and electrostatic. The type of driver is important because it affects a number of different factors. They vary in cost, design complexity and even sound quality.

How Open-Back and Closed-Back Headphones Are Different

The most obvious difference between open- and closed-back headphones is what you can see through their earcups. An open-back pair has small vents or perforations that let some sound bleed in and out. Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, are completely sealed. In some cases, the earpads are wrapped in leather or vinyl to provide an extra layer of isolation.

The two types of headphones have vastly different sound signatures. Open-backs generally have better imaging—the quality that lets you pick out specific instruments in a dense mix. This quality is largely due to the fact that open-back headphones let ambient sounds in to blend with your music. Closed-backs, on the other hand, tend to have a bass boost built into them because their sealed design traps low frequencies inside their earcups.

Open-back headphones are designed for listening at home or in a quiet office environment (although they’re not ideal for offices with paper thin walls). Their sound leakage means that people around you will be able to hear whatever you’re listening to—sometimes quite loudly. You’ll also be able to hear everything going on around you at lower volumes than with closed-back models, making them impractical for noisy environments like airplanes, trains and busy streets

Open-Back Headphones

If you are looking for the best open-back headphones, you’ve come to the right place. Open-back headphones differ from closed-back models in an important way: they don’t seal off your ears from the outside world. The result can be a more spacious, natural sound, but it also means that people around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to.

For this reason, open-back headphones aren’t ideal for use on the subway or in an office setting. But if you want to enjoy your music in solitude without disturbing others, and can control ambient noise levels, open-back headphones are ideal. They’re also a favorite of audiophiles and music professionals who want precise audio reproduction with a wide frequency range and minimal distortion.

Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones have a solid back on the earcups. They’re designed to isolate your ears from the sounds around you and also to prevent sound from leaking out of the headphone. If you use closed-back headphones, nobody will be able to hear your music or whatever you’re listening to in public.

If you want something for general purpose listening or for use in public, closed-back headphones are probably what you want. The closed design means that there won’t be any sound leakage, which makes them better for people around you. For example, if you want to use your headphones on an airplane without bothering others around you with your music, closed-back headphones are the way to go.

The downside of a closed design is that it can make them sound less natural than open-back ones. The lack of ventilation can cause bass notes to become

Noise Isolation

Noise isolation is one of the most important features when it comes to headphones. If a pair of headphones can’t block out ambient noise, then you won’t be able to hear your music well.

Closed-back headphones have cups that are sealed off from the outside world. This makes them great for blocking out ambient noise, but also means that the sound does not escape through the ear cups as easily as with open-back headphones.

Open-back headphones have grills or holes on the cups that let sound pass through more easily, which makes them better for mixing and monitoring audio than closed-back models. However, they also allow more external noise in because of this design feature.

Listening Environment

Closed-back headphones are the type most people are familiar with. They basically look like earmuffs, and they seal your ears from the outside world. The disadvantage of closed-back headphones is that they can sound a bit claustrophobic, but on the other hand they do provide some isolation.

Open-back headphones, by contrast, don’t enclose your ears at all. They’re basically shaped like a big C and sit on top of your head. Because they don’t seal off your ears, open-back headphones tend to feel more natural when you’re wearing them. On the other hand, they don’t provide any isolation, so you can’t use them if you want to listen without disturbing others.

Soundstage and Imaging

A Great Soundstage is a sense of space and depth a pair of headphones can deliver. It allows you to experience music as if you were in front of the band, with all of its instruments spread across the stage. Most closed-back headphones only have marginally spacious soundstages, but open-back headphones have great soundstages. In fact, open-backs are known for their large and airy soundstage.

Headphone Imaging is a quality that refers to how well the listener can distinguish where instruments are located on the stage. If an instrument is supposed to be playing right in front of you, but sounds like it’s coming from the left side, that would be bad imaging. Poor headphone imaging can make listening to music less enjoyable because it makes you work harder to figure out where everything is located.

Sound Leakage

Every set of headphones will leak sound. Even the most secure, noise-cancelling earbuds will leak a bit of sound. The only headphones that don’t leak are ones that you’ve never worn, and even then they still leak because they’re sitting there in the box leaking into the ether.

So if leakage is inevitable, then how do headphones differ? Well, it’s how much they leak and where they leak that counts.

A headphone can be an open-back or closed-back design. Open-back headphones allow sound to travel freely through the outer side of the ear cup, while closed-back headphones trap sound inside the ear cup. The distinction between these two styles is critical for understanding their sound characteristics and when to use them.

Pros and Cons of Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones are like the opposite of closed-back headphones. Instead of a solid piece of metal that covers the back, open-back headphones keep their backs open. This allows air and sound to flow through the ear cups freely.

The most significant advantage of open-back headphones is that they provide an incredible sense of realism and naturalness to the music you’re listening to. That’s why audiophiles love them so much.

The disadvantage is that this also allows outside noise to get in, which can muddle your music. But for many listeners, this isn’t a problem at all. The ability to hear outside noise is actually an advantage for some headphone users — runners and cyclists, for example, who want to be aware of their surroundings as they move through public places.

Another disadvantage is that open-back headphones tend to leak sound out into the environment around you at a much higher rate than closed-back headphones. If you don’t want others around you hearing your music, then stick with closed-back headphones!

Overall, open-back headphones have more advantages than disadvantages (especially if you plan on using them in your own home), but the disadvantages are enough that they may not be the right choice

Pros and Cons of Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones are a great option for anyone who needs to take their headphones on the go and wants to listen to music without disturbing those around them. They’re also ideal for gamers who want to experience a more immersive audio experience and need the headset to block out outside noises so they can focus on the game.

The biggest advantage of closed-back headphones is that they isolate sound well. They can prevent sound from leaking out and they prevent surrounding noise from coming in, which is great if you’re working in an office or are trying to sleep while your partner watches TV.

Closed-back headphones are relatively inexpensive, especially when compared with open-back headphones. The best closed-back headphones provide great sound quality, but they can’t compare with the open soundstage created by open-back designs.

If you plan on using your headphones for gaming, you may want to choose closed-back models since these are more likely to have microphones built in and will block out background noises so you can hear other players better.


Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of the differences between closed-back and open-back headphones. Knowing these differences will help you make an informed choice so you can get the most out of your music listening experience.

As a recap, open-back headphones provide a more natural sound and give the perception of listening to music in a large room. However, they are not ideal for outside usage because they leak sound and let external noise in. Closed-back headphones are great for listening to music while on the go because they isolate both sound leakage and ambient noise. However, some closed-back headphones do not give off as realistic sound as open-back models.

It’s important to know that there are exceptions with either type of headphone though — some open-backed models have excellent noise isolation and some closed-backs can provide a close approximation of a live performance. So don’t make your decision based solely on the type of headphone — check out our top recommendations for the best open back and best closed back headphones first.