Best Open Back Headphones - Audiostance

The 10 Best Open Back Headphones

While open back headphones aren’t new to the market, there has been a distinct increase in consumer interest over the last decade or so. The reason why so many people are moving to open back headphones is likely due to the technological advances that have allowed for more affordable products and the adoption of open back designs in gaming headsets. I’ve put together a list of what I consider the 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 my selections summed up below.

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Headphones
1Best Overall
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.

2Best Sounding
Sennheiser HD6XX

The Sennheiser HD6XX are fairly similar to the HD600, with slightly higher sensitivity and improved frequency response range. The HD6XX is the choice for those who are adamant in getting the best sound quality.

3Most Versatile
AKG Pro K712

The AKG Pro K712 is an extremely versatile pair of open back headphones, that lend themselves to gaming, studio work, and critical listening.

4Best For Gaming
Sennheiser PC38X

Most open back headphones don’t include a microphone, meaning those who plan to communicate with friends in-game need to purchase a separate mic. The Sennheiser PC38X offers a built in mic, for an easy open back gaming solution.

Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO
5Budget Choice
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

An extremely popular choice for budding audiophiles, the Beyerdynamics DT 990 PRO brings all the benefits of a high-priced pair of open back headphones at half the price.

Sennheiser HD 599 SE
6Most Comfortable
Sennheiser HD 599 SE

The Sennheiser HD 599 SE doesn’t only provide the same high-quality audio that we expect from a pair of open back headphones but also boasts some incredible comfort.

Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X
7
Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

These headphones offer outstanding versatility and quality for the price and are a particularly good option for anyone getting started with audiophile headphones.

Philips Audio Philips SHP9500
8Best Looking
Philips SHP9500

The style of the Philips SHP9500 is simplistic and not 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.

Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR
9Value for Money
Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR

These headphones deliver audio that is smooth and warm, vocals are textured, and the bass is round and low. They’re a pair of headphones that can simply do it all, from every music genre to immersive gaming. They’re one of the best open back headphones for gaming.

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X
10
Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

The Rise Of Open Back Headphones

Below is a diagram from Google Trends, showing how interest in open back headphones has grown over the years. An increase in demand saw the release of more models and in the process, it became a bit more difficult to know what to buy. For this list, I’ve selected headphones from various manufacturers and only included models with which I have great personal experience or outstanding customer reviews.

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 to which all modern headphones can be compared.

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 gives testament to this.

As for the drivers are protected by external grills, whereas the ear pads are made from 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

Regarding the durability factor, the Sennheiser HD600 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 will not have a problem finding parts. 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 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.

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

Impedance

Impedance measures 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, 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 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 expect. 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, it’s still impressive with no distortion, but mid-bass and upper-bass boots can leave one craving more if you’re 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 sometimes be too elevated and piercing.

When looking at the highs, it extends very far, being well-calibrated and barren of sibilances. The 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 we Like

  • Comfortable
  • Balanced sound signature
  • Lacks sibilance

What We Dislike

  • Fairly expensive

2. Sennheiser HD6XX

Based on Sennheiser’s legendary HD650 open-back headphones, the HD6XX is an excellent introduction to open-back headphones for audiophiles with a tighter budget. the HD6XX is far from cheap at around 400 dollars but falls shy of some other models offering similar quality.

The Sennheiser HD6XX open-back headphones are best used in quieter environments, such as in your studio, in front of your gaming console, or at the office, since they offer very little isolation, which will not only cause loads of outside noise to clash with your musical content, but you’d have to push the volumes to unsafe levels just to hear your music. 

They are incredibly comfortable to wear, as the soft velour padding, large ear cup size, and incredibly light weight of the headset mean you can wear them for hours on end without experiencing any heat build-up or head pains. Users who wear glasses will also find that compared to other headsets, these don’t apply any unnecessary pressure to your glasses.  

Loaded with a 3.5mm or 1/8th inch cable on the source end of the headphones, these can be used with practically any device, and a TRS adapter can be simply screwed onto the end if you’re using studio equipment. I found the Sennheiser HD6XX is a little more power-hungry than other headphones, so if you’re using these with your cell phone, you may find yourself cranking the volume to get to reasonable listening levels. These headphones work best with computers, preferably with an external DAC for optimal audio quality. 

How Do The HD6XX Sound?

As for the sound quality, the Sennheiser HD6XX has excellent sound with reasonably flat frequency response, but I did find that they could do with a few minor tweaks for the critical listeners. Specifically, the low end requires a small boost around 80Hz, and the highs can benefit from surgical cuts around 4kHz and 16kHz to tame some harshness. Otherwise, these headphones offer incredible sound quality and bass that sounds weighty while still not coming across as overly EQ’d or false.

What we Like

  • Wide frequency response range
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Comfortable
  • Great for glasses wearers

What We Dislike

  • Fairly expensive

3. AKG Pro K712

AKG’s K712 open-back headphones are another commonly-utilized pair in the pro audio world, as they aren’t ridiculously expensive and offer incredible sound quality for critical listening and audio work. 

The AKG Pro K712s are quite large in general, particularly around the ears, which can potentially cause issues for users with smaller heads/ears. The oversized nature of this headset also makes transporting it a bit of a hassle. They are beautiful, and the headband is extremely comfortable, adding minimal pressure to the listener’s head. The AKG K712 open-back headphones have a suede-like carry case that looks and feels great but won’t offer much protection from drops or water contact. 

Does The AKG K712 Sound?

Sound quality-wise, the AKG K712 open-back headphones deliver a rather accurate representation of the frequency spectrum, with some slight shakiness around the high end. The lower frequencies are stable, warm, and tight, with a silky midrange and although a bit scattered in terms of linearity, the higher frequencies come out sounding well-defined and crisp. The highs can be a bit sharp at higher volumes, leading to quicker listening fatigue, so watch the volume knob when using these open-back headphones.

Isolation

As for isolation, since these are open-back headphones, you can’t expect much in terms of music leaking out and sounds leaking in, but the AKG K712 does seem to ‘bleed’ a little less than most open-back headphones.

Overall, the AKG K712 open-back headphones are solid pair of open back headphones which, for the price point, you get your money’s worth in the form of a comfortable fit and fantastic audio representation.

What we Like

  • Warm sound
  • Easy to drive
  • Good bass response

What We Dislike

  • Highs can peak a bit

4. Sennheiser PC38X

Designed with the needs of gamers in mind, Sennheiser’s PC38X open-back headphones combine audiophile-grade sound quality and technology, ultra-comfortable feel, and gaming-friendly features. 

Available with earcups in either black or yellow, the Sennheiser PC38X has a modern look and feel, with a volume control situated on the right ear cup for quick and easy adjustments. The PC38X has an onboard microphone that employs active noise cancellation techniques to ensure uninterrupted communications and has a built-in EQ filter for sibilance, so your voice always sounds clear and natural. 

The sound quality of the Sennheiser PC38X open-back headphones is one of the best we’ve seen for a set of gaming-oriented headphones. The angle of the drivers, coupled with its open-back nature, improved stereo imaging and locational accuracy, essentially heightening the gaming experience to another level of immersive. As for frequency representation, you’ll notice some boosts and dips here and there since these are designed to enhance the gaming experience, not critically edit a mix. 

As for connectivity, no matter whether you’re playing on a console or pc, or even just using this headset to listen to music on your phone, the PC38X has you covered. Sporting the standard 3.5mm jack with a split cable for PCs and consoles, Sennheiser allows for connecting to practically any source device the PC38X would typically be used for, with no adapters required. The headset runs on a 28-Ohm impedance, making it easily driveable, again adding to its versatility. 

The Sennheiser PC38X comes with a drawstring-style carry bag for when it’s time to pack up the rig and head to the LAN, though this carry bag doesn’t feel like it’ll protect the headphones if they were to drop to the ground, so I’d recommend investing in a more heavily-padded or hard-shell case. The headphones themselves also don’t feel too durable, so some may feel the need to baby them a little.

What we Like

  • Great for gaming
  • Console support
  • Crisp mids and highs
  • Easy to drive

What We Dislike

  • Fairly narrow frequency response range
  • Could have better bass

5. Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Headphones

Every once in a while, a pair of headphones come along that offers a 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 be what you’re looking for in 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. You’ll find no wobbliness that can exist 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 them. But if you’re going to use 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 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 plan to connect these to your phone, have it resting somewhere it cannot be pulled off. 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 can 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 help. You’ll, therefore, not be required to max out the volume on your smartphone. 

How does the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro sound?

At the start of introducing these headphones, I 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 disturbs the track’s vocals. 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, some drawbacks come with being on a budget. The open-back design is not ideal for everyday use as leakage is 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 isolation below 1KHz. When journeying above 1Khz, there will be a 4dB/Octave roll-off present which will have a negligible impact on blocking surrounding noises.

Leakage and isolation aside, there is still a lot to look forward to regarding 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 we Like

  • Warm sound
  • Wide frequency range
  • Value for money

What We Dislike

  • Nothing

6. Sennheiser HD 599 SE

Sennheiser HD 599 SE

Sennheiser’s proprietary transducer technology guarantees an 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 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, so you’d have to go out of your way to break these headphones.

Comfort

The headband is padded, and you can expect luxurious extra-large ear pads for extended listening sessions. If you wear 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 advance your listening experience further.

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 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 could be defined as a mature sound with reasonable bass, extended treble, and a colorful midrange. As previously stated, the propriety Sennheiser 38mm, 50-ohm transducers 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 them 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.

The bass is there when listening to pop, rock, jazz, and blues; 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 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, especially on acoustic soundtracks. Finally, the treble is restrained but still incredibly detailed. There’s no piercing sound or unnecessary harshness; Sennheiser has managed to get it right.

What we Like

  • Easy to drive
  • Great cables
  • Clear sound

What We Dislike

  • Frequency response could be wider

7. Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

Audio Technica ATH-AD500X

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.

Read more about Audio-Tecnica Open-Back Headphones here.

For those playing video games, you will surely 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, and your first assumption might be that it will be heavy. Surprisingly, for such a beefy pair of headphones, it’s 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 abundant 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 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. A little fear 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 slightly loose cable when pulled on. Most headphones are wired, and this department usually has no issues.

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?

The ATH-AD500X headphones surpass the audio fidelity of many more expensive alternatives in terms of overall sound quality. 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, I suggest 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 that other headphones sometimes promote. 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.

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

What we Like

  • Balanced sound signature
  • Comfortable
  • Affordable

What We Dislike

  • Non-removable cable

8. 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 those looking to take them on the go.

Build Quality

The style of the Philips SHP9500 is simplistic without being too flashy. They have a matte black color scheme 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 looks pristine; the only aesthetic fault that 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 its open-back design, it should be noted that 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 easy cable removal 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-focused, but this doesn’t mean the headphones don’t cope well under highs and lows. Unlike many open back headphones on this list, the bass comes through very nicely. 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 that 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 we Like

  • Great aesthetics
  • Durable
  • Great sound

What We Dislike

  • Very open

9. Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR

Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR

The Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR headphones are regarded as 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, these headphones are built like a tank – in the best way possible! They’re ridiculously high quality, and we can see them lasting many years. 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, 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 to 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 warm, but nothing too extreme. The Philips Fidelio X2HR open back headphones are still extremely breathable and a pleasure 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, 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 smooth and warm audio; vocals are textured, and the bass is round and low. If you like EDM and Hip-Hop music, these headphones will send you into a whirlwind of excitement!

Highs are very good in that they are detailed without piercing or being too harsh. Unlike many open back headphones, they’re also not overbearing and fatiguing when listening for a long period. Mids shine in the Fidelio X2HR. Female and male vocals both are crisp and clear. Genres such as indie alternative, rock, tropical house, and R&B are all easily handled, 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 anything with a booming soundtrack is bound to get the adrenaline spiking!

Sound leakage is present, so if you turn the volume above 60%, others are likely to hear – 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, it’s 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 lot of extra money saved compared to other headphones gathering at the 200 to 400-dollar price range.

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

What we Like

  • Affordable
  • Great sound quality
  • Clean bass response

What We Dislike

  • Nothing

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 make a difference in sound quality and build? The ATH-AD700X is around the 100-110 dollar mark, so it’s geared toward a more budget-level audiophile’s 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 are sheltered by a thin metal grill, whereas the inside is padded with a soft cushion material.

Comfort

They feel comfortable on the skin, but it looks a bit budget 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, it’s evenly distributed, 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 many small moving parts that we can see will wear 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 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 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 must ask if the sound is also exclusive. A frequency range of 5 to 30 000 Hz and 53 mm drivers allows the AD700X to cover the deep low end with some slight EQ. 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 from 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 does well in the treble. The detail retrieval is brilliant, if you’re listening to orchestral music, it will allow you to distinguish percussion and brass from stringed instruments easily. With that said, the treble can be a little harsh at times, there may be no distortion, but there’s a ‘piercing’ feeling.

Sound leakage is present, like all open back headphones. Again, you’ll likely use 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 we Like

  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Overall high-quality sound

What We Dislike

  • Treble can be a bit harsh

Buyer’s Guide – What To Know Before Buying

I believe that the best purchase is an informed one, and while I’ve done my best to specify the benefits and drawbacks of the products included on my list – I also want to run you through some considerations when weighing out your choices.

Understanding Impedance

You may already have an understanding of what impedance is and how it will impact your purchase decisions, but in case you don’t I’ll quickly run you through why impedance matters.

Without getting too technical, the impedance of your headphones will dictate what devices they may be compatible with and whether or not you will need an amplifier or DAC. Most traditional consumer headphones run at low impedance, meaning you can easily use them with a games console or even your cellphone.

Open back headphones tend to be focused on providing higher impedance, as a higher impedance is often associated with increased sound quality. So when do you need a DAC or amplifier?

It’s recommended that you use a DAC if your impedance is higher than 50ohms, as this is typically where you will start to notice degradation in audio from most devices. Even if you’re connecting to a computer, for higher impedance open back headphones, you’ll need to add an amplifier or DAC to your setup.

This is standard practice for many audiophiles, but keep it in mind when you are buying headphones. If costs constrain you, settling for slightly lower quality but a more easy-to-drive, low-impedance model may be beneficial. However, I would always suggest investing a bit more for a DAC and opting for higher impedance.

Why 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 their design, open back headphones 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. However, you will need to take this into consideration and I wouldn’t recommend open back headphones for public transport or shared office spaces where the leaking of sound could become a problem.

Closed back headphones provide the feeling of being confined in the studio booth, while 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. This wide space is also something that has become a favored trait by gamers who are looking for a more immersive journey.

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, it’s 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.

Skip straight to the headphone reviews

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

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

Closed back headphones usually provide a better “bass” experience, as open backs traditionally struggle in the lows. Though that’s not to say there aren’t some great bass responses from some of the headphones on this list. You’ll find that open backs tend to offer better low-end frequency response, it’s just how those frequencies respond to the design of the headphone that influences our perception of the bass we hear.

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.
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Written by
Bryn De Kocks

Bryn learned of the importance of quality audio through competitive gaming. Since then he's expanded his interest in the audio sphere, focusing primarily on the headphone market.

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3 comments
  • the Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X seems like it went with the exact same look as the Sennheiser 599 SE, but they forgot to change logo. haha

  • Why is it that companies will not put their warranty with the specs? I had thought about trying the Philips SHP9500 but even when chatting with a tech, they could not provide a warranty. I love the Sony MDR 7506 and my first pair lasted 5 years. The second pair went out after 7 months and Sony has changed their warranties to 90-days for all their headphones.