Reading through headphone reviews can be a bit overwhelming especially if you are not totally familiar with the terms and concept of the audio industry. If you are planning to invest in personal audio, you need to understand some jargon and terms to make sure that you will be spending money on a pair of worthy headphones. Some of the terms that you need to be familiar with are open back vs closed back headphones. In this article, we will help you learn the difference between open back vs closed back headphones, not only through its physical aspect but through its audio quality and sound experience as well.

If you plan on buying over-the-ear headphones, you need to know that they come in two primary designs – open back vs closed back headphones. Each of these designs have their own strong points and benefits to cover. If you have a question or two about open back vs closed back headphones, this article is for you.

Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones

What are open back headphones? Open back headphones lets air pass through the ear cups to the speaker. With the design and mechanism of open back headphones, pressure can’t build up nor affect the sound. Little echoes are also avoided. A lot of expensive and high-end headphones have open back designs because it helps make the model sound clear and natural. However, the sound is not really as clear and natural when there is some ambient noise nearby. 

When it comes to open back vs closed back headphones, the former cannot really block outside noise well because of its design. With open back headphones, users can easily hear noises around and the sound that they are hearing from the item may also leak. Therefore, if you are planning to use this while doing your job in the office, in a library or sitting in a quiet place, don’t make the mistake of playing the volume of your music too loud because people near you will surely hear what you are listening to. Open back headphones are recommended for home or personal use.

Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones – Which is more fragile?

When it comes to comparing open back vs closed back headphones, the former is more fragile because there is less material to stand in the way of moisture that can seep into the electronics. Hence, open back headphones need to be treated more with care than closed back headphones.

Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones – Pros and Cons

If we compare open back vs closed back headphones in terms of critical listening, playing high quality audio files and at-home listening, open back headphones will yield a better performance. Meanwhile, when it comes to commuting on a subway train, listening at the office, listening on a plane or just blocking outside noise, the closed back headphones are considered to be an expert in those specific environment.

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Design

Some would say that differentiating between open back vs closed back headphones may be easy (possibly for sound engineers), but while the terms of the models are clear as day, there’s more to their physical form in terms of providing a unique listening experience.

The design of open back headphones usually have an outer shell covering that’s perforated in some sort of fashion, the majority of them have horizontal cutouts. Meanwhile, closed back headphones may also come with a solid outer shell but a telltale sign that it’s a whole different story from open back headphones. Closed back headphones have no perforations on the outer shell.

Another easy way to differentiate open back vs closed back headphones is to think of the former as a colander-like shell and the latter as a mixing bowl shell.

What are semi-open back headphones? In comparing open back vs closed back headphones comparison, we need to learn that semi-open back headphones are also referred to as closed back headphones. While it is more or less closed back, the speaker elements are not completely sealed, hence still allowing some air to pass in and out of the chamber.

Closed back headphones or semi-open back headphones may have some pros over open back headphones but take note that it also has its own disadvantages, too. Semi-open back headphones may still allow noise and sound in, but not as much as open back headphones.

If you are a buyer looking for a good pair of headphones in the market that’s ideal for listening at home or something that can give value to pure casual listening on a trip to memory lane, semi-open back headphones are a good option. If you are always commuting and you are not fond of hearing noises or chitchat, closed back headphones may still let outside noises in.

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones – All About Closed Back Models

Primarily, closed back headphones get big points when it comes to removing noise from the environment and spoiling the ears with music. Think of it this way, if you are sitting in your garden on a chirpy, sunny day, the birds, bees, lawn mower and other external noises can be dampened or eliminated. Some of the top selling closed back headphones come from Sennheiser but there are also budget models available, too. Audiophiles who love to mute the outside world while listening to their favorite songs know that closed back models provide the closest studio or hi-fi listening experience rather than open back models.

Aside from giving an “in the head” sensation, closed back headphones can really allow the listener to focus on technical aspects of audio, ideal for audio engineers working in a studio or for DJs working on mixers. Closed back headphones are also ideal if you are constantly using a mic for whatever purpose it may serve (video conferences, gaming, tutorial, etc.) because the design effectively prevents sound to leak and reduces feedback creation picked up by a mic.

Closed-back headphones are also good when you’re using a microphone for any purpose (gaming, video-conferences, etc.) as they prevent the sound from leaking out and creating feedback when picked up by the microphone.

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones – Open Back Sound

Meanwhile, open back headphones allow sound and air to pass freely (thanks to the perforations). While the closed back headphones provide an “in your head” listening experience, open back headphones provide an “around me” listening experience, where the sounds naturally bleed into the headphones.

That ends our comparison guide for open back vs closed back headphones. We hope that you learn this by heart so you won’t make any mistake and lose your hard earned cash over a wrong choice of model. At the end of the day, choosing between open back vs closed back headphones is easy as long as you consider where you are going to use the headphones. Open back and closed back headphones have their own sets of benefits and drawbacks, and the intent of usage is completely up to you.