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A Buyer’s Guide to Open Back Headphones
There are so many different ways for us to listen to the things we love. For private listening, modern headphones and earphones have come a long way in recent years. There are also perhaps more different types of headphones than you may be aware of. In this guide, we’re going to be focusing on open back headphones, and why they may be worth you considering if you’re in need of a new pair of cans any time soon.
What Are Open Back Headphones?
Open back headphones are specifically designed to help improve the quality of the sound or music you’re listening to. While plenty of expensive headphones and hardware are built with innovative technology to help enhance sound quality, open back models take a simpler approach.
Open back headphones are designed to support more immersive listening. They are built without the backing that many headphones and cans come built with as standard. This is so that air can freely flow through your earpieces and to the speakers. This, for many listeners, helps to lessen pressure on the ears and the head. It can also help you to focus on your audio when you really need to.
Why Buy Open Back Headphones?
Plenty of people are going to want to buy open back models for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few points you may wish to consider while shopping around:
• If you need to listen to audio files for work or need extra focus at home, open back headphones offer a greater sense of immersion.
• There is less risk of irritating echoes building up in your ears – you’ll only ever hear the audio you need to hear.
• For listeners looking for a natural sound without risk of reverb or muffled noise, this hardware is likely to be a good choice. It will also be a better fit for certain genres of music, and for the spoken word.
While these positives may sound all well and good on paper, there are also a few other factors you’ll need to bear in mind when making an educated purchase.
Open Back vs Closed Back
The vast majority of headphones available on the market now are closed back by design. Open back headphones are, in fact, a more modern approach to sound design. However, they may not be the best fit for everyone. Let’s consider some of the larger comparisons between the two types of design.
• Closed back headphones only ever let sound out to your ears. That means they are probably better suited to listening in certain environments.
• For example, open back headphones may not offer you the privacy and noise reduction you need in busier environments. If you commute regularly or listen to audio in noisy areas, closed back headphones will block out more noise.
• There is also the argument that closed back headphones protect the technology inside from moisture building up. For that reason, open back headphones may also be considered less stable and less robust for everyday use. You’d need to be extra careful wearing them on a regular basis!
• However, closed back headphones can build up lots of heat and pressure around your ears, which for long-term listening isn’t particularly comfortable.
Ultimately, your choice between open back and closed back headphones revolves around what you are listening to and where. There are midway options called semi-open-back headphones, too – these work with all the positives and the negatives of either type. Therefore, if you’re really not sure about which to choose, you may at least find a middle ground to stick to.
Features to Look For
While open back hardware is still fairly modern tech, there are more than a few big brands who have invested in such designs. These include Sennheiser, Philips, Bose, AKG, Beyerdynamic and more. Therefore, you’re always likely to have plenty of choice if you’re looking for an open back solution.
There are also going to be plenty of other features you’ll want to look for in a pair of open backs. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Even a simple browse will let you know that open back headphones are, at present, largely available in wired form only. That means you’re always going to be tethered to your sound unit. If this doesn’t bother you, you have a wealth of choice available. However, it doesn’t seem that wireless tech and open back design are quite working hand in hand just yet.
However, you should always consider the length of headphone cable you are offered. As open back headphone units are designed more for home or studio use, you will likely get a good length on a cable for movement and comfort. Three metres or more, generally, should give you plenty of flexibility.
Comfort in Design
With open back hardware removing plenty of the clunky plastic you’d expect from normal headphones, you also want to make sure the headphones you buy offer you some decent comfort in return. Open back models remove a lot of pressure, but you’ll also need to look for a pair which has good cushioning designed for maximum comfort during intensive listening.
Check the marketing blurb for any headphones you buy. Is there more emphasis on sound quality and precision engineering than simple comfort? You may wish to look for something a little easier on the ears.
Focus on Quality
Of course, you should also be concerned about looking for headphones which offer incredible sound quality. After all, this is the main selling point of open back models. You should ideally be looking for low-pressure statistics (measured in decibels, or dB), a wide frequency response range and patented design. It can sometimes be difficult to cut through marketing blurb when it comes to finding true quality – but if you bear some of these points in mind while shopping, you should be able to easily narrow down your search.
Let’s consider some of the more frequently asked questions about open back headphones.
How Much Should I Pay for Open Back Headphones?
You can expect to pay as little as £40 for a pair of open back headphones, though costs can escalate into the hundreds.
Is it Worth Buying Budget Headphones?
Open back headphones won’t come with as many added quirks as high-end closed back models, but there’s still a difference between budget and premium hardware. The more you pay, the more precision in design you’ll receive. However, there are still plenty of great budget models out there worth trying.
Is Noise Reduction Available?
Unfortunately, noise reduction is always unavailable with open back designs due to their very nature of construction. Therefore, if you value reduced noise and privacy, you may wish to opt for closed back or semi-open models.
Are Open Back Headphones Better than Closed Back Headphones?
It all depends on your needs and your listening habits. If you are in need of crisp, natural audio without any of the muffled echoes and reverb which can build up in normal models, they are certainly worth the money.
However, they are not well-suited to noisy environments and do not carry many of the added features and technology contained in closed back models. For example, wireless technology is widely available in closed back only. It all depends on the type of sound quality you’re looking for.
Is it Easy to Move from Closed Back to Open Back?
If you are making the move from closed back to open back headphones, you may well be doing so as a result of pressure build-up. Therefore, you may find it a relief to make the leap from closed to open. At the same time, the sound quality you receive is likely to be very different from that which you may be accustomed to. If you can, it makes sense to try before you buy.
Which Brands of Open Back Headphones Should I Consider?
There are plenty of different brands and names in audio technology working to create different open back solutions for a modern listening audience. As mentioned, some of the bigger names on the market include Sennheiser and Bose – though there are also plenty of lesser-known brands which are producing solid results worth looking into. As far as brands are concerned, with this technology still being fairly fresh to the mainstream, we’d advise being open-minded.
Open back headphones may not be for everyone, but they do still offer a fantastic opportunity for listeners to achieve incredible soundscapes. Therefore, we strongly suggest you take a look at the wider market. Do try and try some of these headphones before you buy them, and always make sure to read upon on verified user reviews if you’re still unsure.
Open back headphones are very reasonably-priced right now for a fantastic, natural sound. Take a look at online stores or your local music tech distributors to find out more. Who knows – you may soon be converted from closed to open back listening!