Top 3 Best Open-Back Headphones 2021:
When one says the word “headphones”, you probably think about a small universe of various devices that you put over or in your ears that connect to a sound-distributing device. This would be a very simplified view of headphones as these devices come in various shapes, designs, and capabilities.
One type that I’m going to cover today is called “open-back”, and true audiophiles probably know what I’m talking about. These headphones reproduce sound in an open stage manner by removing any unnecessary sound isolation between the listener’s ear and the speaker.
This allows for music that has a lot of tracks recorded over each other to be heard and listened to more clearly. People who are into high-quality audio material whether it be a song on their computer, a CD or a blu-ray film should definitely look into acquiring one of these devices.
In case you’re on the verge of making such a decision, my article is here to help as it includes the reviews of some of the best open-back headphones available today. If you like what you’ve read so far, then I’d encourage you to keep reading!
See Also: The Best Bass Headphones
28 Best Open-Back Headphones In 2021: Detailed Reviews
1. AKG K701 Open-Back Reference Class Stereo Headphones with Varimotion and Flat Wire Voice Coil Technology
AKG is a brand that enjoys high trust from its customers, and checking out what they have to offer is indeed a good idea. The fist AKG model that I’ll take a look at today is the K701.
The headphones are made from a breathable and comfortable material so wearing them for long periods of time shouldn’t be a problem at all. They reproduce the sound of fantastic quality and are ideal for listening to music at home, playing video games, and watching videos with HQ sound.
A potential problem with K701 is that they their cable is not detachable so you can’t replace it if it gets damaged. Also, being open-back headphones, they are quite sensitive to ambient noise so use them in a relatively quiet environment.
The second AKG product on this list is the K702 series, a successor of the K702. Let’s see what this one can do.
K702 follow the way of their predecessor in the sense that they’re also breathable and quite comfy. It is also important to note that both K702 and K701 are quite bulky so this might not be ideal for everyone.
Soundwise, these headphones are excellent and, like most AKG devices, live up to their hype.
One of the reasons for their high sound quality is the flat-wire voice coil which is very sensitive and creates a very good treble and impulse response.
The product has a ⅛” to ¼” adapter, and their cable is detachable so you can change it if something happens to it.
These are the final AKG headphones, and the model is called K240. This one is a bit different than the previous two as it has a semi-open design.
The semi-open design limits the sound quality a little bit, and in K240 this is felt in the lack of bass, but the higher frequencies are reproduced very clearly and sound excellent. They are intended for studio use, especially monitoring which is where they’ll do a good job.
The headphones have a detachable 3 m cable, and a ⅛” to ¼” stereo plug so they should be good for most people’s needs. Another key benefit is their price as it is several times lower than that of K701 and K702.
Last but not least, they’re comfortable to wear, adjustable, and shouldn’t cause you any discomfort even after hours of use.
Audeze is a premium brand that boasts with one of the most expensive models on the market right now. Are they worth it? Let’s find out.
The sound that you’ll get out of these is truly spectacular, and if you’re looking for sound quality without any compromise, this might be the model for you.
LCD-X are used by music professionals and aficionados worldwide and are suitable for studio live performances, studio or just home use.
These headphones feature planar magnetic drivers which gives them their audio properties but also makes them pretty heavy, so this may not be ideal for specific users. When it comes to comfort, LCD-X ranks very high and the luxurious leather material feels excellent on one’s ears.
If you have the money and don’t mind the slight drawbacks, then Audeze’s product is one of the best options on the market.
Here’s another excellent product, this time from Audio-Technica, another famed headphones maker. The ATH-R70X open-back headphones are a great choice for people looking for a balanced sound and premium comfort.
ATH-R70X uses highly efficient magnets as well as a pure alloy magnetic circuit design that aims to minimize distortion and any unwanted noises. To ensure a spacious and natural sound, this product has honeycomb mesh housings made from aluminum.
The fabric earpads are breathable and soft, and the headphones can be adjusted to any head size. They have a dual-sided cable which is detachable and which separates the left and right speaker signals so that it creates a quality stereo listening experience.
One more advantage of the ATH-R70X is their weight – a mere 210g which only improves their ergonomics. The product is not cheap, but it is far from being the most expensive on this list.
This is the second and final Audio-Technica product in today’s article, and it differs than the one we previously reviewed.
The ATH-AD700X is a model that isn’t praised as much as the ATH-R70X. However, it does come at a price that is more than three times lower than the aforementioned product, so it is worth taking a look at.
ATH-AD700X have an open and spacious sound, as any open-back headphones should. The audio quality is very high, but the treble can be too harsh at times, and the bass lacks the punch that some other models have.
Also, this product has a cable that isn’t detachable and connects to one headphone only. It is, nevertheless, highly conductive and contains plastic TPE which prevents tangling. Last, the headphones have a ⅛” gold-plated adapter and a ¼” connector.
Beyerdynamic’s DT 990 Pro are durable open-back headphones that will most likely satisfy anyone looking for a pair of solid open-backs.
The DT 990 Pro’s sound quality is excellent, especially when it comes to critical listening. It has a lot of sound leakage, which is expected for headphones of this type, so they aren’t ideal for use outside your home.
One of the best things about this model is the velour ear padding which is soft, comfortable, and removable, so you can wash it once it gets dirty. The entire construction is quite sturdy, and the product feels like it is well made once you hold it in your hands.
The headphones have a single-sided non-detachable coiled cable with a ⅛” to ¼ “ adapter. DT990’s price is in the, and the quality that you get for it is more than decent.
DT 1990 Pro also hails from Beyerdynamic but is a bit more high-end than the previous one.
This model is made for personal and professional studio use and is optimized for mixing and mastering purposes. Their stylish design looks very appealing, and their constructions feel sturdy and well-made.
Just like DT 990, this pair of headphones is very comfortable and also includes removable earpads. It is important to mention that this product contains two different sets of earpads, one for analytical and another for a well-balanced sound.
Besides earpads, DT 1900 Pro comes with two different detachable cables – a coiled one and a straight one, so you can switch between them if you like.
The price of this model is significantly higher than that of DT 990, and, as a matter of fact, places it among the more expensive open-back models that I found.
Grado SR60e is a pair of headphones that will appeal to those looking for something relatively affordable yet of solid quality.
These headphones are a good choice for everyday use. Their sound quality is not among the best but is well above average which should be enough for most audiophiles. Like most other open-backs, they have a massive sound leakage and do not block ambient noise.
The construction of SR60e is the biggest downside, as they feel kind of flimsy. The headphones are very light and easy to hold on one’s head, but at the same time, they tend to fall off if you move your head quickly.
The headphones are comfortable to wear, reproduce excellent bass and mid, but a treble that’s not up to par. Considering their price, the SR60e are more than worth it, and if you don’t mind the negatives, this might be a good model for you.
Here, we’ve got another Grado product, and these are the first wireless headphones on the list so far.
The GW100’s sound quality could be described as decent especially when considering that they are wireless. The mid is very good, the treble isn’t, and the bass is even better than some of the wired models that I tried.
The headphones have very simple controls – an on/off button, and two volume buttons. They are battery-powered and can last up to 15 hours of continuous use. If you want to hook them up to a device, you can do that either by a USB to micro USB cable or through a ⅛” TPR cable.
Of course, portability is the main advantage of this model, but it is a very comfortable pair as well. GW100’s cost is somewhere in the low-mid range, and I say they’re a pretty good deal.
HiFiMan is another renowned maker of headphones, and I’m going to inspect several of their products today, starting with the HE-400 open-back model.
HE-400 is a pair of bulky, cool-looking headphones that are mainly produced for home use. They are powered by planar magnetic drivers which makes them a bit heavy on the head, but nevertheless comfortable.
The headphones have a metal construction which is padded with foam and leather. The ear pads are big, thick and will cover your ears entirely, but they will let a lot of sound leak through.
Now, when it comes to the sound, HE-400 reproduces a surprisingly bright and balanced output that could easily match some of the more expensive models I encountered. Again, this makes it ideal for folks who want to enjoy quality audio in a quiet environment.
Another HiFiMan product is the famed Ananda, one of the more popular models from this company. The selling point of this model is that it can be used with any smartphone due to its high sensitivity.
Ananda, like HE-400, is a planar magnetic powered pair of headphones which creates a sound of exceptional quality, especially when it comes to critical listening.
The headphone’s design is rather bulky, and the earpads will cover not just your ears, but the area around them too. However, the isolation is rather weak, so its best to use this device in your home.
The headband is sturdy yet comfortable and will make the heavy headphones seem lighter on your head. The construction is metal and feels very durable.
Ananda has a detachable dual cable with a cool transparent coating which plugs into both left and right ear pads to create a good stereo sound.
HiFiMan HE1000 is the single priciest open-back headphones model on today’s list, and it’s time to take a closer look at it.
Now, why in the world is this model so expensive? There are a few reasons.
HE1000 is the world’s first headphone to have a one-nanometer thick diaphragm. This is important because the thinner the planar magnetic diaphragm is, the distortion will be lower and the response faster.
Another key feature of this product is the “window shade” system which reduces reflection in order to improve the width of the sound stage.
The headphones have a design that is made to fit most people, regardless of their head size. It has a leather strap that is quite comfortable and needed for such big ear pads.
The cables are detachable and plug into the left and right earpad, and they are a bit stiffer than those of other headphones I tried.
Koss Porta Pro KTC is a slim and affordable pair of open-back headphones for mixed use and might appeal to those who don’t like bulky models.
Overall, the design of this pair is lightweight and somewhat unique. They have a metal headband that attaches to plastic ear pads covered with foam which have an adjustable tightness slider.
They are quite breathable, and you should be able to wear them for a long time without feeling discomfort.
As for the sound, it could be said that it is decent and of a quality that is above average. The mid is quite good, the bass is slightly lacking, and the treble is uneven and unpredictable.
Portal Pro KTC can be used with all Apple’s products, but using them loudly in public might be an issue as the sound leaks a lot.
Koss has become synonymous with great quality headphones at low prices, and the following product captures the very essence of that.
Koss UR40 can be found for a price almost twice cheaper than the previous model I reviewed, but this doesn’t come at the expense of quality.
If you’re here, then you’re probably concerned with the sound, and I’m glad to inform you that it is more than good, and you probably won’t find it better for this cost.
The sound could be described as warm and clear with a slightly weaker bass, a characteristic that bassheads will frown upon.
UR40 has two non-detachable cables which are 1.2 meters long. The headphones are light, and you’ll probably forget that you have them on after a while. The entire construction feels kind of cheap, but this shouldn’t be an issue unless you drop or throw them around.
Monolith’s headphones are somewhat of a pleasant surprise as they feel that they should be more expensive than their current price.
The first thing that struck me about this was their sound which can easily match that of high-end models. The overall audio could be described as neutral with a small mid bump, but I don’t mean it negatively.
The body of M1060 is mainly made from wood and metal, making them pretty heavy. Since they’re planar magnetic headphones, their ear pads are very large and will cover your ears completely.
The ear pads are very deep, and they create a bit of space between the speaker and the listener’s ear. The open-backs have a unique and stylish pattern which improves the aesthetics of these headphones.
Monolith offers a 5-year replacement warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee for this product.
Ether Flow hails from MrSpeakers, and they are a high-end product that comes with a price that matches the quality.
The design of these headphones is nothing out of the ordinary – the classic round headband, and large ear pads with thick padding and rectangular inlets.
The body is made from metal and plastic, but it doesn’t weigh as heavy as it may seem. The back of the ear cups is covered with a metal honeycomb protection and since it is open, creates a spacious and open soundstage.
The audio quality is close to impeccable. The mids are completely in place, with a slightly subtle but still present bass. The highs may be a bit inconsistent, but this shouldn’t be a problem for most listeners.
Again, these are one of the more expensive headphones on the list, but if you decide to buy them, you probably won’t regret it.
Philips is a company that needs no introduction as the Dutch magnate has been creating top-notch electronics for many decades now. Fidelio X1/28 is one of the two Philips headphones that I’ve included in the list.
One of the main strengths of Fidelio is definitely how comfortable they are. They have a two-tiered frame – the metal that holds the headphones together and a breathable headband that goes on your head.
The earpads are large and covered with an unlikely material – memory foam for ultimate comfort.
Soundwise, these headphones perform extremely well. Their audio reproduction comes off a bit heavy on the bass, but it mixes very well with the other frequencies, so it doesn’t sound muddy at all.
Last, this model includes a removable cord, so if you wish to try other, more quality ones, you can do it without a problem.
Philips has always been known for their exceptional quality but not necessarily for low prices. However, SHP9500 proves that you can get an outstanding Philips product at a reasonable cost.
The headphones are really well-made. They feel sturdy and durable while being very comfortable at the same time.
The large ear cups are padded with a thick layer of foam which, honestly, seems a bit cheap in comparison to the rest of the headphones, but it does its job. The cable is detachable and this Thas many benefits regarding ease of use.
When it comes to the sound, SHP9500 reproduces a very balanced one. Everything is in place, from the bass to the highs and the open-back design allows for a lot of space.
All in all, this is a solid pair of headphones suitable for use at home.
Samson Technologies is famous for producing high-quality audio equipment for a long time now. In this part, I’m taking a closer look at their SR850 headphones.
The SR850 are semi-open headphones which means that they won’t leak sound as much as regular open-back models do. They are described by many users as proper monitor headphones meaning they do not color the sound in any way and give it to you the way it is.
The mid that this model reproduces is outstanding, but the treble might be a bit too snappy and inconsistent at moments. However, you’d have to have a very sharp ear to hear this so it probably won’t matter to those who don’t intend to use it professionally.
The cord is not detachable, so it isn’t very easy to replace it if it comes to that.
Sennheiser is a leading brand in the world of headphones, and they’re considered an industry standard by many professionals these days.
The HD 600 model is made almost exclusively for critical listening, but you can use it for other purposes as well. They have a very stylish design with the headband being covered with a glossy plastic coating, and the bottom side has cushioning for one’s head.
The padding on the ear cups is made from a suede-like fabric, and it doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the ears.
This model reproduces a very clear and open sound, with an excellent mid and a solid high. The bass isn’t as powerful as some would like it to be, so it might not be ideal for everyone.
The cables are detachable, and the ends are color-coded so you’ll know which one goes into which ear cup.
Continuing from where the HD 600 left off, the HD 800 S is a superb model of headphones which will almost certainly meet the needs of any critical listener.
And with this being said, these headphones are mainly made for professional use in the studio. They require a quiet room as they do not have any sound isolation. However, once you meet those requirements, you’re in for complete satisfaction.
The sound that HD 800 S has is superb – the low bass, the clear mid, and a smooth treble, something that many headphones lack.
In terms of design, this model has massive, oval ear cups and a plastic foam-padded headband. Just like with the previous model, the cups are padded with a soft, breathable material which won’t cause discomfort even after prolonged use.
The only downside of these headphones is their weight, so look into this before buying.
If you’ve ever bought a single piece of audio equipment, chances are that you’ve heard of Shure, a company with a long tradition in the industry. Shure is best known for their exceptional microphones, but their headphones aren’t half as bad either.
The SRH1840 is a high-quality model that costs the part.
These headphones have a sturdy construction, and very large earcups padded with a soft, plush material that makes them super comfy. The padding on the headband could be a bit thicker though, but this shouldn’t be a big problem.
The main advantage of these headphones is, of course, their sound. They will be able to play the most complex of compositions and have them sound as clear and spacious as they could be.
The cable is double-entry and removable, and you will even get a spare one for the price.
The next Shure headphones are entirely different from the previous ones, and now I’m going to place them under a magnifier.
The SRH144 is a model that has a clean and simple design, and it is important to note that it is semi-open. This product has a long and round collapsible headband with two relatively small ear cups, which is a big contrast from most of the headphones in today’s list.
Also, you can adjust the tightness by sliding the earcups up and down the headband which is quite unique. The ear pads are very comfortable and can easily be worn for long periods of time.
Now, in terms of sound, the SRH144 reproduces kind of bass-heavy audio, with a little less emphasis on highs. Don’t get me wrong, it all sounds balanced and clear, but the “enhanced high-frequency response” that this model is supposed to have isn’t so noticeable.
25. Sivga Premium Wood Over-Ear Open-Back Headphones Hi-Fi Noise Cancelling Professional Studio Earphone
Sivga’s Premium is a beautiful looking pair of headphones that will appeal to those who enjoy the simplicity and the sight of wood.
The headphones have a metal headband with thick padding that looks very neat. The headband connects the two handcrafted rosewood ear cups that give this product its charm.
The wood, besides looking good, is supposed to enhance the sound of these headphones through its unique mechanical properties. However, their sound isn’t as great as you might expect it to be.
The reproduction is bass-centered to the point that it might sound slightly muffled at times (this depends on the recording). Also, the high ends are sometimes muted and not very clear.
The headphones have a removable cable, and a microphone too.
Spadger is a name that you might not have heard of, but fortunately, I’m going to give you a detailed introduction.
Their CD990 open-back headphones are an affordable yet highly praised model. They have very large ear cups with thick padding covered with leather-like material. The pads can be removed for cleaning if necessary.
The headband’s construction is metal, and it is padded with the same material as the ear cups.
It’s good to mention that this model is Hi-Res Audio certified, which means that they meet all the industry standards for high-quality sound reproduction. The sound is quite balanced, and they are best used in a studio environment.
CD990 has dual-entry removable cables which are 9 feet long, so they allow a lot of movement freedom. On top of this, the company offers a one-year warranty for manufacturer defects.
Status Audio is a company that creates headphones similar to an already existing famous model and sells them for a significantly lower price. Generally speaking, there is a negative connotation with such companies, but this doesn’t always have to be the case.
The greatest advantage of OB-1 is, of course, the price which happens to be among the lowest in today’s list. The build quality of the headphones isn’t too shabby, and I mean it. They’re well-constructed and comfortable, with the sturdy plastic headband and sizeable padded ear cups.
In terms of sound, these headphones perform very well. They’ve got a solid mid, boosted bass, and smooth highs. The soundstage is not as spacious as one would ideally want, so this might be an issue.
As expected, there is a difference between them and more expensive models, but they do not sound flat.
And the final piece in this article is the Superlux HD 681 pair of semi-open headphones, so let’s see what they’re all about.
First, the headphones are quite comfortable with the headband that doesn’t feel tight and their large ear cups. The ear pads are made from a smooth material which feels good on the skin, but the padding is a bit firm so it might cause discomfort to some users.
Second, the semi-open design provides the listener with a bit of isolation, but they’re still quite leaky so use them at home only. Their overall sound is very good, but things might get a bit out of control when listening to music at high volumes.
Last, even though the build feels cheap and plasticky, HD 681 is a solid pair of headphones that is well-worth its price.
Top Pick: Audiophiles and music professionals who need a top-notch pair of headphones must not skip the Sennheiser HD 880 S. This model has truly got it all – impeccable sound and unmatched comfort, ideal for long days in the studio. Their price is high but far from being the highest, and I feel that they are a wise investment.
Runner-up: Right behind Sennheiser, there is the Audio-Technica ATH-R70X. These headphones are a bit more versatile than the winner meaning that they don’t need to be used in complete silence, but this is advisable too. All in all, what you get for the price is more than amazing.
Budget Pick: Superlux HD 681 headphones are the last product on my list, but as I said, they’re not the least. Their selling point is their low-cost, but also the excellent sound quality that they reproduce. The build isn’t as sturdy as with some other headphones, but this shouldn’t be a huge issue, especially considering how comfortable they are.