Best Open Back Headphones - Audiostance

The 10 Best Open Back Headphones

When it comes to choosing a pair of headphones, you’ll stumble upon a variety of different types and styles. From over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear headphone styles – you also have open back headphones and closed back headphones. You might be wondering: What exacty are open back headphones? What is the difference between open back and closed-back headphones? What about semi-open back alternatives? Which one is right for me?

In this guide, we’ll be answering all of the above questions for you as well as review the 10 best open back headphones currently on the market. If you don’t have time to read through each review but want to know which headphone is best depending on the application, check out our quick picks below!

Our Pick!

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Professional Headphones

Sennheiser HD 600

Great critical listening headphones with a well-balanced sound. They excel in the midrange and offer excellent clarity for vocals and instruments.

Quick Pick – Our Awards!

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones

What are open back headphones?

Open back headphones are rather special in that they allow air to pass through the headphone ear cups to the speaker. What this means is that since open back headphones don’t block surrounding noises as closed-back do, you’ll be able to enjoy an immersive sound experience. The sound is likely to be more natural and high quality, thanks to the lack of pressure build-up.

Open back headphones create a feeling of space and it feels as if the musicians are all sitting around you. They’re a popular choice for those looking to make the most of their listening experience.

Due to the design, open back headphones do leak sound and others who are nearby will also be able to hear what you’re listening to. This might not sound very appealing if you’re only used to wearing closed back headphones but the benefit is in the immersive sound experience you’ll get.

Where closed back headphones provide the feeling of being confined in the studio booth, open back headphones create a feeling of space and it feels as if the musicians are all sitting around you. This makes open back headphones a popular choice for those looking to make the most of their listening experience.

In terms of durability, open back headphones are more easily susceptible to moisture and are sometimes regarded as more fragile when compared to closed back headphones. If you’re planning on getting a pair, its suggested that you leave them at home, or in the studio. Nonetheless, they can provide exceptional and natural sound quality allowing for instruments and vocals to sound more detailed than ever before.

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What are open back headphones? Audiostance

Open back headphones
are a good choice for:

  • An immersive sound experience
  • At- home listening
  • High-quality audio files
  • Critical listening

Open back headphones
are NOT a good choice for:

  • Listening to music in a public space
  • Blocking out external sound
  • Commuting
  • Recording sessions, if sound leakage is prevalent

What are closed back headphones?

Closed back headphones are very common, and you’re likely to have used them at some time in your life. The headphones are sealed around the back, which allows the sound to travel directly into your ears. The benefit is, of course, having a private listening experience with minimal sound leakage, and possibly outside noise cancellation if the headphones are good enough.

You won’t get that natural-sounding experience with closed back headphones as you would with a pair of open back headphones.

What are closed back headphones? Audiostance

Breathability also comes into place, your ears are more likely to get warm inside closed-back headphones, than they would in open-back. In terms of studio experience, closed-back will allow you to listen to yourself while recording, without the danger of your microphone picking up the noise.

Closed back headphones usually provide a better “bass” experience, as open backs traditionally struggle in the lows. All in all, they’re an excellent option for those looking to take their headphones out into the public and aren’t looking for a ‘specific’ kind of sound.

Closed back headphones
are a good choice for:

  • Listening to music in public or at home
  • Recording and mixing audio
  • Bass emphasized music

Closed back headphones
are NOT a good choice for:

  • Very warm environments – if the ear cups are not well ventilated.

What about semi open back headphones?

Semi-open back headphones are basically a combination of open back and closed back, however they lean more towards closed back. The only difference is that they don’t completely seal the speaker, which in turn allows some air into the headphone chambers.

Enjoy the sound quality which open back headphones provide, while also having reduced sound leakage and noise-canceling features of closed back headphones.

The result is that the closed back hybrid will now benefit from some of the features of open-back headphones in terms of sound quality. It may also be able to prevent more sound leakage and block outside noise, but this isn’t definite in most cases. These headphones can be for those who are undecided and want the positives (and sometimes negatives) of both types.

What are semi open back headphones? Audiostance

Semi open back headphones
are a good choice for:

  • Listening to music at home
  • Listening to music in public at respectable volumes
  • Those who want an open-back experience, but the privacy of a closed back.

Semi open back headphones
are NOT a good choice for:

  • Blocking outside noise completely
  • Listening to music at high volumes in public

1. Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Headphone

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Headphones

If you’re an audiophile, the Sennheiser HD600 needs no introduction. Some people regard them as the most famous open-back headphones ever released. In 1993, the German brand released the HD580, which formed the foundation of all open-back model releases, including the HD580 in 1995, the HD600 in 1997, and recently the HD660S in 2017.

But how well can a pair of headphones released 20 years ago stack up against today’s offerings? In 1996 when the HD600 was first released it received critical reception. Nobody could deny the headphones sounded absolutely outstanding, but some features left consumers in a state of limbo at the time. In today’s time, however, the HD600 has become a standard by which all modern headphones can be compared to.

Build Quality

The Sennheiser HD600 is mostly made of plastic, but this doesn’t mean the feeling isn’t high quality. It feels far more premium than that of competitors like the Beyerdynamic DT880 and the AKG K701. The Sennheiser HD600 is durable and well manufactured, the metal articulation between the ear cups and headband give testament to this.

As for the drivers, they are protected by external grills whereas the ear pads are made from a high-quality velour. The good news is that they are removable and replaceable. After a few years of usage, you can pop new ones on and the headphones will feel brand new again.

Durability

When it comes to the durability factor, the Sennheiser HD600 really shines in this department. Like the ear pads, every part is replaceable and can be found online easily. Considering these headphones have been manufactured for over 20 years now, you’re not going to have a problem finding parts. In fact, some users have reported that they still have their original 20-year-old HD600’s and the headphones are still working in perfect condition! Moreover, others have claimed the same, and said all they have replaced are a few cables and ear pads over the years.

Comfort

In terms of comfort, the Sennheiser HD600 reigns king with few challengers for the throne such as the K501 or DT880. There’s no break needed when wearing these headphones, you can simply wear them for days at a time (take them off while showering though).

Previously we spoke about the velour ear padding, and besides the comfortable fit, your ears will thank you during those long summer sessions. The earpads are oval-shaped, measuring just over half an inch thick. Those with larger than average ears will rejoice at the flexible contouring of the mold. The headband is also sturdy and has four pieces of thick foam.

Lastly, the HD600 weighs around 9.17 ounces placing it on the lighter scale of over-ear headphones. The weight is also evenly distributed throughout the headphones, adding to their comfort.

Connectivity

The Sennheiser HD600 has a detachable Kevlar oxygen-free copper cable. It is connected via 3.5mm and comes included with a 1/4” adapter. Although the headphones’ build quality is brilliant, cable quality is somewhat lacking. The stock cable feels cheap for such an expensive pair of headphones. They’re rather fragile and seem like they can become defective over a short period of time.

The good news is that the cables are replaceable, and the HD580, 600, and 650 cables are all compatible with one another. So, if you have an extra pair around the house you could interchange cables, or buy new ones online

Impedance

Impedance is basically a measure of how much power it will take to drive the headphones. In the case of the Sennheiser HD600 it’s a monstrous 300 ohms, whereas normal consumer headphones will have less than 50 ohms. How does this benefit you may ask? Well, it means the headphones will be able to handle higher degrees of amplification. The downside is that you’ll also need an amplifier or a playback device that’s capable of putting out a good amount of power to get the most out of the HD600’s.

Consequently, if you’re planning on plugging these into your smartphone, you’ll probably not get as much volume and dynamic range as you’re expecting. There shouldn’t be any surprise here though, the headphones were designed for professional studio reference monitors.

How does the Sennheiser HD600 sound?

The Sennheiser HD600 has the most transparent and natural presentations you’re bound to find in an audio experience. They’re very balanced and neutral, with the bass and treble aligning nicely.

Starting with the lows and bass, there is a light but still present bump around 100 Hz followed by a roll-off between 70 Hz. When listening to modern music which is ‘bass emphasized’, the HD600’s will handle adequately, whereas other tracks will respond rather ‘bass light’ compared to other headphones around this price tag. This doesn’t mean the bass is of poor quality, its still impressive with no distortion, but mid-bass and upper-bass boots can leave one craving more if you’re that way inclined.

The midrange handles string instruments and vocals kindly, allowing for fullness and no graininess around the 100 to 500 Hz range.  There are some drawbacks surrounding the upper-mids though, around the 3000 to 5000 Hz area, high density genres can be too elevated and piercing at times.

When looking at the highs, it extends very far, being well-calibrated and barren of sibilances. Lower-treble is also smooth and delightful for the ears, without lacking air or sounding too muted. Moving onto the soundstage, instruments and vocals have depth and placement. As an open-back over-ear pair of headphones, the HD600 still delivers that ‘open/ spatial’ experience you’d want.

What’s in the box?

  • Sennheiser HD600 Headphones
  • ¼” adapter

2. Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Headphones

Every once in a while, a pair of headphones come along that offers real bang for the buck in terms of value. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones might be the best open-back headphones under 200 dollars you will find. Handcrafted in Germany, these headphones are assembled with high-quality materials and meticulous workmanship.

The DT 990 Pro is marketed for those interested in professional mixing, editing, and mastering. Their transparent, spacious, strong bass and treble are perfect for studio applications while ensuring comfort for prolonged sessions. If you can look beyond their retro design, these headphones may just what you’re looking for fellow audio producers and music lovers.

Build Quality

At first inspection, you’ll notice the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro has a very solid build that feels sturdy when placed upon your head. There’s no wobbliness that you’ll find with larger headsets that may feel too light for your head. While raising the stability topic, these headphones were in no way designed for sports or active situations, they will slip off your head if you try to run with these. But if you’re going to be using them for casual listening sessions, you should have no problem.

Durability

The headband has a metal frame that ensures the DT990 PRO won’t instantly break should you bend them, but we wouldn’t suggest putting too much physical stress upon them. However, nobody would outrightly bend their headband, but storing it in a tiny compartment in your backpack may breed unfortunate results.

Although the open-back ear cups are made from plastic, this shouldn’t discourage you from picking the headphones up, the rest of the build is still very durable and should survive the occasional drop.

Comfort

Speaking about ear cups, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro’s are well padded and large, ensuring comfortability with listeners of every ear size. The only comfort problem most users experience is the headband, which can be a little too tight if not properly adjusted.

It should be noted that the coiled 3ft cable is also quite heavy. If you’re planning to connect these to your phone be sure to have it resting somewhere it cannot be pulled off of. Nevertheless, if you’re plugging it into a computer there should be no problem.

Connectivity

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro has a coiled 3.5mm cable approximately 3.77 ft in length. If you’re planning on using the headphones on higher-end gear, you’re able to attach the included 1/4” adapter. These headphones have been labeled with an impedance of 250 ohms, so if you’re listening to music without an amp, having one to push these a little more will definitely help. You’ll therefore not be required to max out the volume on your smartphone. 

How does the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro sound?

At this start of introducing these headphones we boasted about the sound quality, and you won’t be disappointed! The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro delivers excellent audio quality considering its retail price. The lows are impressive as they’re not overly powerful, yet have enough kick while delivering just the right amount of bass.

When it comes to mids, vocals and instruments sound clear and emphasized regardless of the genre you’re listening to. Some songs can have too much bass, which in turn disturbs the vocals of the track. The great thing about the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is its ability to keep the bass in check and let vocals flourish. Finally, clarity and distortion can be turning points when deciding on your headphone purchase. We were pleased to find that, when inspecting the highs, no distortion or crackling was present.

Like every set of headphones, however, there are some drawbacks that come with being on a budget. The open-back design is not ideal for everyday use as there is leakage present. These will therefore not be ideal if you’re not in a private area. Leakage can sometimes also mean poor isolation. Due to the open-back design the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro’s don’t offer any isolation below 1KHz. When journeying above 1Khz there will be a 4dB/Octave roll-off present which will have a negligible impact of blocking surrounding noises.

Leakage and isolation aside, there is still a lot to look forward to in terms of sound quality when buying these headphones. They reproduce detailed, clear, and crisp sound quality with a spacious soundstage. The treble range is emphasized, leading to instruments, bass, and vocals being well received and well-balanced.

What’s in the box?

  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones
  • ¼” adapter
  • Soft carrying case

3. Sennheiser HD 599 SE

Sennheiser HD 599 SE

Sennheiser’s proprietary transducer technology guarantees a truly excellent sound performance for the entry-level audiophile. The HD 599 SE (Special Edition) is no different from the standard HD 599, which only differs from a cosmetic color scheme. The traditional ivory and brown colors have been transformed into an all-black with silver accents giving it a more appealing feel to the general market. Cosmetics aside, the Sennheiser HD 599 has a lot to offer ranging from its exceptional comfort to high-quality sound.

Build Quality

When most of us hear a headset is made entirely from plastic, we’re quick to raise our noses and toss the suggestion aside for something that will ‘last longer’. Although the HD 599 is made from plastic weighing approximately 250g, it’s certainly not a toy. The build quality is durable, tough, and extremely flexible to the point that we would say you’d have to go out your way to break these headphones.

Comfort

The headband is padded and you can expect luxurious extra-large ear pads inside for extended listening sessions. If you’re someone who wears glasses, you’ll also be pleasantly surprised that the headphones do not cause any discomfort with minimal clamping force. The over-ear, open-back design stays true to its nature delivering an open spatial presentation to further advance your listening experience.

Connectivity

The HD 599 SE comes with two cables, a 9.8ft cable with a 6.3mm jack that can be used for a home entertainment system, and secondly a 4ft cable with a 3.5mm jack that is ideal for phones, tablets, computers, and laptops.

How does the Sennheiser HD 599 SE sound?

If we had to summarise the Sennheiser HD 599 audio quality, it can be defined as a mature sound, with reasonable bass, extended treble, and a colorful midrange. The propriety Sennheiser 38mm, 50-ohm transducers as previously stated are bound to deliver great detail, dynamics, and clarity.

When looking at the frequency response, the headphones have a response of up to 12 – 38,500 Hertz. They are impressively open and wide, making it an excellent performer for those interested in competitive videogames. Upon hearing the headphones you’ll notice a lot more detail happening in the corners than you usually would.

When listening to pop, rock, jazz, and blues, the bass is definitely there, and nobody should label these headphones “light-bass”. However, when changing the playlist to electronic dance or hip-hop, bass lovers might miss the earth-shattering thump they will expect from headphones with full extension. This should not deter you however, it’s just a precaution to a headphone that focuses more on clarity and quality of overall sound.

The mids are fairly neutral in a range of up to 1kHz, they are comparable to the H600 with a little less energy in the upper mids, but more in the low mids. Vocals are clear and have a smooth quality to them, especially acoustic soundtracks. Finally, treble is restrained, but still incredibly detailed. There’s no piercing sound or unnecessary harshness, Sennheiser has managed to get it just right.

What’s in the box?

  • Sennheiser HD 599 SE Headphones
  • Detachable ¼” cable
  • ¼” to ⅛” adapter

4. Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

Sennheiser HD 599 SE

Previously we spoke about the superior sound quality of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro for just under 200 dollars. But what about the best open back headphones under 100 dollars? Well, the Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X headphones could come pretty close! These headphones offer outstanding versatility and quality for the price and are a particularly good option for anyone getting started with audiophile headphones.

For those playing videogames, you’re sure to appreciate the Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X headphones for their precise positioning and great soundstage while in-game. With its comfortable build, great audio quality, and ridiculously good value for money ratio, these headphones might be all you’re looking for as a beginner audiophile.

Build Quality

The Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X is quite large in size and your first assumption might be that it’s going to be heavy. Surprisingly, for such a beefy pair of headphones its remarkably light-weighted. The headphones are constructed from basic, yet durable materials. The casing is aluminum, the frame is magnesium, the earpads are soft fabric, and the remainder of the materials are hardened plastic. The headphones are also fitted with large, 53mm drivers placed in open-air cans that conform around your ears with an abundance of room to spare. From an overall aesthetic perspective, the headphones are quite bulky. We’d probably advise using them either at home or at the studio. Frequently traveling with them to and from would not be ideal.

Comfort

From a comfortability standpoint, the ATH-AD500X really does shine. They’re only 8.32 ounces so you’ll barely notice them on your head. The breathable padding stays cool and allows you to wear them for hours without discomfort. Speaking about earpads, they are large, soft and provide enough space to fit anyone’s ear size. The fabric used is actually better than plush-leather or real leather earmuffs you’d usually find on more expensive headsets, whereby they don’t cause you to sweat in warmer climates. Finally, the 2-rod headband combines a self-adjusting wing system for exceptional fit and user customization.

The only drawback we have found was that the cable is permanently attached. There’s a little fear that goes through everyone’s mind with these, whereby if you somehow accidentally pulled on it too hard, you’d break the cable entirely. We’ve only pointed this out as these specific ATH-AD500X headphone models seem to have a cable that is slightly loose when pulled on. Most headphones are wired, and there are usually no issues with regard to this department.

Connectivity

The permanently-attached cable is a gold-plated 3.5mm plug and includes a separate ¼ adapter for amplifiers. The ATH-AD500X does rock 48 ohms of impedance so owners should be able to power these headphones with a 3.5mm port in most circumstances. As for the 9.84ft length of cable, this might not be ideal for casual listeners but will be appreciated for users monitoring and mixing.

How does the Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X sound?

In terms of overall sound quality, the ATH-AD500X headphones surpass the audio fidelity of many more expensive alternatives. We dare say that you might get better audio out of these than Beats, although certainly less bass and fashionable style. If you’re in the market for thumping bass, we would suggest that you stay away as these headphones provide warm mids and crisp vocals for all genres.

The bass is still there, but there’s no distortion or overbearingly drowned out sound which other headphones tend to promote at times. The sound signature is slightly bright, giving space for vocals and instruments in the mid-range. Overall, it can be described as rather neutral. In terms of the highs, when listening to all genres of music we found that they were never too sharp. So if you don’t like treble spikes, then the ATH-AD500X’s will do nicely.

Above we mentioned that these headphones are also a good option for gamers. Upon investigation and playing first-person shooter titles, the sound separation is a big help for pinpointing enemy footsteps and movement.

When looking at sound isolation and sound leaks, the headphones perform as many open-back headphones do. The sound isolation provided by the ATH-AD500X is non-existent, whereas sound leaks are highly prevalent and anyone nearby will be able to listen to what’s going on inside your headphones.

What’s in the box?

  • Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X Headphones
  • ¼” adapter

5. GRADO SR80e Prestige Series

GRADO SR80e

Grado Labs might not be a world-renowned headphone manufacturer, but this hasn’t prevented them from making high-quality products. The GRADO SR80e open-back stereo headphones are an upgrade to the SR80i, which released a few years ago. Unlike most manufacturers, Grado Labs do not mass-produce their headphones in Chinese factories. Instead, they’re a relatively small family run business situated in Brooklyn, New York. Hand-made and just under 100 dollars, the GRADO SR80e are another pair of good starter open back headphones ready to dazzle you with the price to performance quality.    

Build Quality

The first thing you’ll notice about the GRADO SR80e is that they are really retro-inspired. You may even question if these have been made in the past decade. However, times are changing and the headphones do have an interestingly unique look to them that will appeal to most people. Don’t worry, they’re not outdated, they contain all the features you’d expect from a pair of open back headphones these days, and a warranty is definitely included.

The GRADO SR80e also falls under the “retro 80’s theme” which the Prestige Series is inspired from, so these weren’t accidentally made with older materials, everything was intentional. Cosmetics aside, how do the headphones actually match up in terms of build quality? The earcups are perfectly round and comprise of foam ear pads. When most of us think of foam ear pads, we immediately have flashbacks of call center agents who have their headset attached to one ear, and mic at the ready. Surely foam ear pads are cheap when compared to a leather substitute in terms of durability. Well, not always because Grado has made their earpads replaceable!

The foam pads are also a lot larger and thicker than traditional ones, and they benefit is a much cooler experience when you’re in a hot environment compared to leather. Some may complain that foam earpads can be easily torn, but getting a sharp object near your headphones aren’t really a common occurrence. If this does somehow happen, Grado offers replacements or you could get earpads from third party manufacturers.

Back to the headphones build, the earpads do extend beyond the plastic driver unit making them perfect for most ear sizes. There is also a wire grill that covers the drivers, which allow you to actually see them. Finally, the headband is made from faux-leather and is connected via metal prongs giving it a radio headset feel.

Comfort

In terms of fit, the GRADO SR80e doesn’t necessarily wrap around your ears as most headphones do. Instead, they offer an on-ear fit. This doesn’t mean they’re not stable though, the metal rods that protrude from the headband easily conform around your head instantly for a quick fit. Overall, the parts that need to be metal are metal, but the rest is plastic. Production costs need to be within reason, especially at this price range.

Connectivity

The GRADO SR80e comes equipped with a rubber cable that is thick and durable. It measures around 7ft and at the straight jack, you’ll be able to see the tough strain relief. The weak point, however, is the Y-splitter which shows pinching around the plastic casing.

Finally, it should be noted that the headphones have cables connecting to each earcup. The cable isn’t too long, so it shouldn’t get in the way of daily tasks. These aren’t necessarily a commuting pair of headphones, so if you’re planning to sit by a desk these will do nicely in terms of cable management.

How does the GRADO SR80e Prestige Series sound?

Music with strong vocal presence really shines on the GRADO SR80e with rap, pop, and even classical songs doing amazingly. However, like many budget open back headphones, the GRADO SR80e falls short with a weak bass punch when listening to EDM, for example. Dynamic songs without bass place, the SR80e on a level of 200-dollar headphones. With songs like ‘Radiohead – Creep’ having such good sound separation that you can distinctly hear the guitar and male vocals shine through the headphones.

The mid-range extends deeply, while the upper mids produce quality just shy of closed-back headphones. The strongest range is where the highs shine! The treble is rather exceptional given the GRADO SR80e’s high-end sound which you’d usually pay for a more premium pair of headphones. It should be noted that the SR80e headphones can sound raw in parts while listening to them at higher volumes, perhaps this is from the foam pad design.

Aggressive guitar lines and vocals may wow you with definition and clarity while provoking your ears with their sometimes not-so-smooth texture. Generally speaking, if your playlist is full of dynamic and complex songs, then you’re in for a treat! While if its EDM and bass-heavy orientated, you should possibly stay away and look for an alternative option.

When it comes to noise isolation and sound leakage, you’ll find no surprises with these open back headphones. The GRADO SR80e leaks sound like a broken tap, and the passive noise isolation is non-existent. Therefore, when deciding on your music, picking the right ambiance setting will be very important.

What’s in the box?

  • GRADO SR80e Prestige Series Headphones
  • ¼” adapter
  • Owners manual and warranty card

6. AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO

AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO

Are you looking for a cheap critical-listening pair of semi-open over-ear headphones, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars? The K240 Studios from AKG might be just what you’re looking for retailing below 100 dollars. The K240 Studios trace their origin back to the original blueprint first created and designed in 1975. The 1975 version of these headphones had 6 passive radiators to boost the bass response, which was eventually refined into the model we have today. It’s no surprise to find that the design has held up for over 40 years with such impressive audio quality.

Build Quality

It’s weird to think these headphones were designed over 40 years ago and they still hold up in today’s standards of modern looks. Maybe it’s the black and gold color combination with stylish decals that give the headphones a fresh appearance.

Colors aside, if you’re someone who favors a metal frame, you’re going to be a bit disappointed. The headphones are essentially made out of plastic. The headband tubes, adjustment mechanisms, metallic-looking rings are all plastic. This isn’t all bad because there are a few advantages that come with such a material, for example, lightness and flexibility. The K240 Studios don’t feel paper-thin and cheap, but few might say it comes dangerously close.

As for the ear cups, they are smooth and rotate easily, with a build quality that rivals more expensive headphones.

Comfort

When looking at comfort and padding, the K240 Studios fall short on the latter. Simply put, the suspension strap has no padding and the same could be said for the ear cups. That shouldn’t deter you from the K240 Studio headphones though, the interesting build still offers a good experience while wearing them. They’re pleasantly comfortable when wearing for long periods of time.

Connectivity

The K240 Studio open back headphones come with a 10-foot detachable mini XLR to 3.5mm cable, as well as a 6.3mm adapter. The detachable input makes it easy for a replacement, so you don’t have to worry about the cable snapping and leaving you with a pair of broken headphones indefinitely. AKG also claims the cable is made of 99.99% oxygen-free copper and has gold plated plugs on both ends for maximum signal transfer.

How does the AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO sound?

Incredibly detailed mids and highs can be used to define the K240 Studios. Vocals, cymbals, guitars, and wind instruments all sound outstanding on these headphones. Speed and detail resolution on those higher notes are both impressive, and comparable to more costly open back headphones. Additionally, the semi-open design allows for great imaging, whereas the soundstage moves oh so slightly around your head.

If you’re a fan of acoustic, classical, rock, or detailed music you’re going to be very happy with the K240 Studio. They function pretty well for other genres too, but you’ll need to give yourself some time to adapt to their rather crisp signature. There is some bass present, but like many products on this list, these headphones were not designed for EDM, Hip Hop, Drum, and Bass or any other genres which are bass orientated.

The K240 Studio headphones have a rated impedance of 55 ohms, and the rating itself could be questionable. If you like listening to music at a louder volume you’ll likely need to crank these a bit higher than you’d expect. Bass and extreme volume aside, these headphones provide a very bright and detailed sound signature.

For the price, the clarity is almost unmatchable to other semi-open headphones in this price category. In terms of noise isolation and sound, you may expect the K240 Studio to perform rather well considering they are semi-open back headphones. However, they are still open and do leak sound.

However, they do in some way cancel surrounding noises to an extent, if music is playing at a medium level you can comfortably block out background sounds. Overall, if you can drop your expectations of thumping bass, the way the mids and highs sound is top tier, and the K240 Studio is a perfect budget option!

What’s in the box?

  • AKG Pro Audio K240 Studio Headphones
  • ¼” adapter

7. Philips SHP9500 Open Back Headphones

Philips Audio Philips SHP9500

Philips is a company renowned for making an assortment of products, so the real question is whether they can make good quality open back headphones? In short, the Philips SHP9500, like many headphones on this list, offers a superb option for sound quality and sturdy build. Even better is that you could use the SHP9500 for just about anything! They’re an excellent choice for home use and for those looking to take them on the go.

Build Quality

The style of the Philips SHP9500 is simplistic in nature without being too flashy. They have a matte black color scheme which is complemented by a nice metal frame with Philips branding on each earcup. The headphones are generally well padded and look more premium than most over-ear open back headphones in their price range. Everything really does look pristine, the only aesthetic fault that really comes to mind is the earcup padding which looks a bit out of place compared to the rest of the build quality.  As for the materials themselves, the headphones are predominantly plastic with the headband being reinforced with a thin metal frame that should be able to handle a fair amount of stress.

The headband also has a double layer of padding, whereas the ear cups have breathable ear cushions that can be worn for a long period of time. The Philips SHP9500 also offers good ventilation with their open-back design, it should be noted however the earpads are not replaceable. We doubt that they will tear before the actual headphones stop working themselves so you don’t have to worry about that though. In summary, the headphones can withstand a few drops without getting damaged. For the retail price, the build quality offers excellent value and longevity.

Connectivity

The Philips SHP9500 includes a 10-foot gold plated cable which is removable. The 3.5mm jack also allows for easy removal of cable for adding a microphone (not included) or switching sources. The SHP9500 cable is rather long and would preferably be used in indoor situations only for easier cable management.

How does the Philips SHP9500 sound?

The Philips SHP9500 offers great sound quality for neutral listening, delivered by a large 50mm driver. It may be a little midrange focussed, but this doesn’t mean the headphones don’t cope well under highs and lows. Unlike many open back headphones on this list, there is some bass present. If you’re looking for an all-rounder in terms of clarity and enough bass to pack a tiny punch, then the SHP9500’s might be ideal.

If you’re planning on using these headphones for home instrument practice, including drums or piano, you’ll be delighted to know they perform accurately without unnecessary sound coloration. Vocals are crisp and the treble is bright without sounding fatigued.

When looking at isolation we have found there’s absolutely zero, the headphones are extremely open. If your goal is to use the Philips SHP9500 in public, also be wary that they do leak a lot of sound and they’re generally marketed for home use only. Additionally, if you’re thinking about using the SHP9500 in the studio you may want to stay away, the mic will most definitely pick up the leaking audio that comes with the open back headphone design.

It should also be noted, if you want to replace the rather long 10-foot cable you should do so with a high-quality cable. Lower brands might result in sound degradation and connectivity issues. Putting aside the shortcomings, the Philips SHP9500 offers a well-balanced experience of bass, mids, and treble. The large ear cup design gives the headphones a spacious soundstage for a truly worthwhile experience considering the build quality and pricing.

What’s in the box?

  • Philips SHP9500 Headphones
  • Detachable cable
  • ¼” adapter
  • Mesh pouch

8. Samson SR850 Semi Open-Back Headphones

Samson SR850 Semi Open-Back Headphones

Over the course of this list, we have spoken about varying headphone prices. As many of us know, the more expensive something is the more likely it will offer better performance. But what if a pair of headphones could be under 50 dollars and perform to the likes of the Sennheiser HD600 and the AKG K240? Well, that’s where the Samson SR850 semi-open back headphones come in. Now, don’t get us wrong, they’re certainly not going to be on par with a pair of headphones over 100 dollars, but they might be able to mimic the sound quality to a certain extent.

What Samson has tried to produce with the Samson SR850 is a pair of headphones that produce excellent sound quality for musicians, music loves, singers, and even sound engineers. In layman’s terms, the SR850’s are designed for audiophiles on an extreme budget.

Build Quality

Let’s get the first thing out the way in terms of looks – The Samson SR850 is a clone of the much pricier AKG K240. There’s nothing wrong with that, the AKG’s are an incredible set of headphones for those in the 70-dollar range. However, the Samson SR850’s similarities end in cosmetics as it is far cheaper in design and has a thin plastic feel. The open-ear design allows for improved ambient listening, providing true to tone sound surroundings while refining stereo imaging in a wider soundstage. Utilizing 50mm drivers, the Samson SR850 also offers a dynamic range, which is essential for providing excellent audio quality.

Comfort

When looking at the self-adjusting headband, the headphones offer decent comfort even when being used for long periods of time. No further adjustments are required, and the headphones will simply follow the contour of the ear to provide a personalized fit and comfortable experience. Earlier we spoke about the Samson SR850 having been made with a rather ‘thin’ plastic, but this doesn’t mean the headphones aren’t durable. Other users have reported the headphones have lasted over a year without any issue.

The headphone pads are fabric, so if you’re planning on wearing them in hot temperatures, your ears won’t get hot and stuffy. Altogether, the Samson SR850 has a solid build structure for the price, and what it lacks in appearance it sure does makeup in function and sound performance!

Connectivity

The connection is rather standard with the Samson SR850. It comprises of a gold-plated 1.8” cable which is 8.2” inches long.  Samson, like most manufacturers, has also included a ¼” adapter to go along with the headphones. Again, considering the price, you’re getting the same accessories and cable quality you would with much pricier options. The Samson SR850 is really a budget champion!

How does the Samson SR850 sound?

What kind of sound quality can 50 dollars get you? With the Samson SR850, we’d reckon great value for money! Starting with the drivers, they are smooth, and actually hold up with all sorts of pressure, improving over time. Again, other users have reported that you’ll need about 200 hours of listening time to officially break these headphones in. After that, you can expect some nice lows which will cater to bass-enthusiasts.

Surprisingly, the headphones which are the cheapest on this list actually provide the best “all-rounder” experience ranging from hip-hop to classical music. The Samson SR850 can do it all, within reason of course. The headphones are tight, as in sound does not leak to the mids during the lows. Speaking about mids, they have been hailed as the most impressive part of the headphones. Vocals are crisp, clean, and well balanced. As for highs, they are also quite impressive, being nicely detailed and very transparent.

The semi-open design certainly had an effect on the sound quality. It gave the Samson SR850 a nice spacious sound, almost as if you’re listening to music in an outdoor amphitheater but with an up-close and personal feel.

Additionally, we can say that these headphones can also be used for gaming. If your options are limited, the SR850 puts you right in the action. Sound leakage will depend on how loud you’re playing your music. The semi-open design also means that they’re not as bad as fully open back headphones, but you can expect some leakage if maxing out the volume. This means that you could take these out in public without any worries about people hearing your music if you keep them in the mid-range of listening levels.

Finally, the price point is just ridiculous for its exceptional performance. If you’re looking for crystal clear clarity and you’re on a very tight budget, the Samson SR850 is definitely for you!

What’s in the box?

  • Samson SR850 Headphones
  • ¼” adapter
  • Owners manual and warranty card

9. Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR

Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR

The Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR headphones are regarded as being outstanding open back headphones. There’s a lot of buzz about them online, and although they may be well over 100 dollars, Fidelio X2HR offers exceptional build quality with versatile audio capabilities. They’re a pair of headphones that can simply do it all, from every music genre to immersive gaming. These headphones are going to be around for a very long time!

Build Quality

First things first, these headphones are built like a tank – in the best way possible! They’re ridiculously high quality and we can see them lasting for many years to come. These are the endgame open back headphones to any audiophile’s collection. The headband consists of steel tubes covered in genuine leather. The self-adjustable hammock beneath the headband is lightweight and flexible, ensuring the perfect fit. On the outside of the ear cups, you’ll find wire mesh surrounded by beautiful aluminum with the signature printing “High-Resolution Philips Fidelio X2HR; 50 mm High Power Neodymium Driver.”

Comfort

The Philips Fidelio X2HR is rather heavy though, coming in at 13.4 ounces. However, this doesn’t mean they’re uncomfortable. The weight is evenly distributed around the headphones, so there’s nothing to worry about.

The earpads are quite thick, covered in comfortable memory foam, and replaceable. The outer diameter is approximately 4.25-inches, whereas the inside ear pad is around 2.25 inches. Therefore, you’ll likely not experience any friction on your ears during extended listening sessions. As for the drivers themselves, they’re 50mm in size, and the memory foam is the only material separating them.

Finally, the headphones can get a little warm, but nothing too extreme. The Philips Fidelio X2HR open back headphones are still extremely breathable and a pleasure to have on the ears.

Connectivity

The Fidelio X2HR comes with a 3.5mm oxygen-free detachable braided cable. It’s around 10 ft long and includes a 6.3mm adapter. Philips has also made cable management easier by including a free clip, but it’s not necessary to use it. The Fidelio X2HR can also be used with a mic, so if you’re interested in gaming then these are certainly multifunctional! There’s also no difference in sound quality but as stated earlier, the microphone may pick up leakage from the headphones.  

How does the Fidelio X2HR sound?

The Philips Fidelio X2HR delivers audio that is smooth and warm, vocals are textured, the bass is round and low. If you like EDM and Hip-Hop music, these headphones are going to send you into a whirlwind of excitement!

Highs are very good in that they are detailed, without being too piercing or harsh. Unlike many open back headphones, they’re also not overbearing and fatiguing when listening for a long period of time. Mids really shine in the Fidelio X2HR. Female and males vocals both are crisp and clear. Genres such as indie alternative, rock, tropical house, and R&B all handle with ease, providing a laid-back experience. As previously stated, lows and bass are also accounted for, without having a distorted rumbling sound. In other words, the bass is there to add to the listening experience and is not the entire focus.

The Fidelio X2HR open back headphones are also a great option for gaming enthusiasts. Due to the soundstage, big open-world games are precise in locating targets, single-player titles are immersive, and basically anything with a booming soundtrack is bound to get the adrenaline spiking!

Sound leakage is present, so if you’re going to turn the volume above 60% others are likely to hear – seeing as these are open back headphones. The same applies to sound coming in, you will be able to hear your surroundings at very low volume levels.

Otherwise, at around $150 dollars, its improbable you’ll do better for a music-listening headphone that also operates as a competitive gaming headset. If you are interested in going higher in the price, you may only notice a difference in audio quality by jumping to something like the DT 1990 PRO which retails for around $500 dollars. That’s a whole lot of extra money saved compared to other headphones gathering at the 200 to 400-dollar price range.

In conclusion, if you like listening to music but want to listen to every genre, the Fidelio X2HR is perfection!

What’s in the box?

  • Fidelio X2HR Headphones
  • Detachable cable
  • ¼” adapter
  • Owners manual and warranty card

10. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

Dubbed as ‘a completely natural listening experience, with unsurpassed comfort, and ideal for long listening sessions.’ The Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X is slightly above-price compared to the ATH-AD500X. Would spending a bit more really make a difference in sound quality and build? The ATH-AD700X is around the 100-110 dollar mark, so its geared toward a more budget-level of audiophile headphones. This does not mean its ‘entry’ level by any means though, a few years ago the ATH-AD700X would have set you back 200 dollars!

Build Quality

The ATH-AD700X is a rather unique looking pair of headphones, they feature little headbands called “self-adjusting 3D wing support”. As for the entirety of the headphones, they are quite large and have generous circular ear cups that have an open-back design. The cups themselves are sheltered by a thin metal grill, whereas the inside is padded with a soft cushion material.

Comfort

They feel really comfortable on the skin, but it does look a bit budget when compared to headphones at the same price level. As for cosmetics, you may be able to get away with the headphones in public, but they’re very bulky. These aren’t the type of headphones you’ll be able to hang around your neck and go on with the rest of your day.

Back to comfort, the ear cups are large so they’ll easily accommodate your ears without that ‘tight’ feeling. They’re also quite heavy at 0.57 lbs, however, its distributed quite evenly so there’s just the right amount of pressure on your head.

The ATH-AD700X does have some letdowns in the build quality and stability department though. Even though the headphones are well-built the unique headband design has a lot of small moving parts that we can see will wear through with daily use. On the other hand, the ear cups do feel quite solid, so the headphones can likely take a few falls and still be alright.

The ATH-AD700X is designed for casual listening sessions in a stable position. With that being said the cable is unfortunately not detachable, so if it gets hooked onto something they’re bound to fall off.

Connectivity

The ATH-AD700X comes along with a gold-plated stereo 1.8” connector, allowing it to be used on almost any device. Like many audiophile headphones though, you’ll likely want to hook these up to an amp or additional add-ons, which have bigger ports. Audio-Technica has included a 1/4″ adapter, which has almost become standard with most open back headphones today. Again, it should be noted that the 9ft cable is wired. This isn’t all bad, the build quality still feels durable.

How does the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X sound?

Although Audio-Technica has come out with a rather unique design in these ATH-AD700X headphones, one needs to ask if the sound is also exclusive? With a frequency range of 5 to 30 000 Hz and 53 mm drivers there’s definitely some potential. Like many open back headphones, the ATH-AD700X offers good mids and highs but comes up short in the bass.

There is a fix to this, however, if you alter the EQ settings, you may be able to increase the bass range, but this comes with the price of detracting the rest of the sound range. An additional option would be to get your hands on a good amp, this will result in the mids and high range being focused while strengthening your lows.

With the impedance measuring at just 38 ohms, we would compare the ATH-AD700X’s convenience and efficiency to that of a pair of Grado headphones. Vocals and instruments have depth and clarity, you may pick up small details in your favorite songs you haven’t noticed before. In particular, female voices really shine with these headphones, male voices are a close second.

In terms of dynamics, you’ll be able to crank the volume up with these headphones and there’s little to no distortion while listening to music at high volumes. The ATH-AD700X also do really well in treble. The detail retrieval is brilliant, if you’re listening to orchestral music it will allow you to easily distinguish percussion and brass from stringed instruments. With that said, the treble can be a little harsh at times, there may be no distortion, but there’s definitely a ‘piercing’ feeling.

Sound leakage is definitely present, like all open back headphones. Again, you’ll likely be using these headphones at home or somewhere private. The sound leakage is not necessarily a disadvantage to open-back type headphones either, they allow users to be aware of their surroundings while still enjoying their music.

All in all, if you’re looking for detailed headphones you’ve come to the right place. Although it may lack in the low end, the ATH-AD700X offers a neutral sound signature that can be enjoyed for music, movies, and videogames alike.

What’s in the box?

  • Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X headphones
  • ¼” adapter
  • Owners manual and warranty card

Our Pick!

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Professional Headphones

Sennheiser HD 600

Great critical listening headphones with a well-balanced sound. They excel in the midrange and offer excellent clarity for vocals and instruments.

Zach
Written by
Zach

Zach is a South African-based writer, audiophile, and PC enthusiast. When he's not writing for Audiostance, you'll find him reading and re-enacting scenes from the Lord of the Rings.

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