Open back vs Closed-back Headphones

With the world moving at the speed of light, the dynamic field of technology walks almost hand in hand with our real life. This cross-section between the virtual and real happens to be a sweet spot for people who prefer to excel in both, and one piece of technology which is elemental in that would have to be headphones. 

When you sit down and start going through the sea of products in the market right now, then compare the price, feature, and reviews, it can definitely be a drag. While keeping in mind that there is no one perfection of sound for everyone, we can definitely understand when people start glossing over the highly technical explanations and jargon, especially if the product you are looking at comes with a high price tag!

So, to tackle this herculean task, let us view the in-depth comparison between the two famous types of headphones prominent in the market right now; Open Back vs Closed-back headphones!

What exactly are open-back headphones?

Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones are designed in a way that is meant to allow the air to pass right through the ear cup located at the back of the driver of the speaker. This, in simple terms, means that the build-up of sound, frequency, and disturbing resonance is not an issue with these headphones. The main plus of many of the high-end open-back headphones is that it not only allows your ears to be comfortable but also make sure that the sound you’re hearing is as close to the real sound as possible. This makes it a perfect device not only to make your media come to life but also to make sure that you can enjoy long hours without that annoying ear sweat. 

However, due to the rear-open design of the headphones, the audio leakage into the sound is a bit of an issue. These types of headphones are preferable indoors, in a quiet room where there is no additional noise to contribute to the sound of the media. These types of headphones therefore won’t work in a crowded scenario, for example, your commute to work, your morning jog, or even a quiet bus ride. One thing to note here is that, not only would you be interrupted by a noise in your media sound, but the audio leakage outside would also make life difficult for the people around you. 

The benefit of this type of sound is that instead of the typical all-in-your-ear sound provided by the closed-back headphones, the open-back headphones come with a better sound stage providing you with a more immersive experience. This will make sure that the music you watch or the music you listen to while sitting inside your room will transport you to their place of making with just the sound. 

What exactly are Closed Back Headphones? 

Closed-back headphones are the normal headphones, with drivers lined with a cushiony-foamy layer that cups your ear and an insulated shell of plastic to block out all the external noise. This is different than the ANC headphones because the noise cancellation in the closed-back headphones happens just thanks to the design. 

If we just talk about the virtue, the closed-back headphones would give you around 10dB of noise reduction than their open-back competition. 

When we talk about closed-back headphones, these are ideal to drown out outer noise by the virtue of their design. However, it is important to make sure that you take care of yourself when you are wearing them while jogging in a crowded area as the spatial presence of the environment is hampered by the sound of the closed-back headphones. 

You can expect your low frequencies to be powered up or amplified, due to which the sound would not feel original, and would rather resemble it being re-created in a room with a closed-off base. One other thing that the Closed back comes with is that once you have donned the headphones for a longer duration of time, you can soon start to feel your ears starting to heat up, making it an unreliable partner for longer listening durations. 

If we had to allocate locations to these headphones, places like airplane travel, a subway train, or even in your car on an empty road would enhance the sound. Another beautiful benefit of the design is that the headphones come with a closed-off structure that can really help in the case of recording instruments or songs without the scare of overlapping the with the mic picking up voice from the leaking sound of the open back!

List of pros and cons

Now that we are aware of the design and a brief introduction of how that design would feature into your life, let us quickly have a look at the list of pros and cons for both the designs, to help you pick one that is more suited to your needs. 

Pros for Open-Back Headphones 

  • Brilliant for critical listening of media
  • A perfect design for the studio requirements of mixing and mastering audio files
  • Perfect fit for the high-quality audios
  • An amazing product with a great immersive sound stage in quiet settings
  • Perfect for at-home listening
  • Almost natural sound re-creation

Cons for Open-Back Headphones 

  • Not made for commuting or jogging due to the sound leakage
  • Is not good at blocking outside noise
  • Not good for all outdoor activities as the noise can bleed into your media sound and similarly the media sound can bleed out. 

Pros for Closed-Back Headphones 

  • Perfect for casual listening whether at home or outside
  • A brilliant product for noisy spaces like schools, offices, and gyms
  • A perfect partner for commuting
  • A great device to record instruments or singing voice without mic picking any voice leakage

Cons for Closed-Back Headphones 

  • The ear cups start to heat up with extended use
  • Can be dangerous while in traffic

Final Verdict

Choosing just one piece of technology, and claiming it is best for everyone is blasphemy and we don’t stand by that. Both the amazing products have their own lists of strengths and weaknesses that need to be weighed against each other before you make a decision. Make sure that you consult our list of pros and cons before picking out the best between Open Back vs Closed-back headphones

Are Semi-open back headphones the best of both worlds?

What if you have points of acceptance and contention with both the headphones, and want to find a middle ground? Well, the market does offer an option of semi-open headphones that takes its features from both open-backs and closed-back headphones. While not completely sealed off, the rear of the driver is more covered than the open back but still allows air to pass through making sure the overheating does not happen. 

However, while we would find that there are some advantages that the semi-open back headphone would bring, it is not able to completely eliminate the disadvantages of the open back headphones as you would still have to deal with aural leakage, though not as much. 

Let us quickly look at the pros and cons to find if Semi-Open-Back headphones are actually worth investing in or not!

Pros of Semi-open back headphones: 

  • Perfect device for casual listening
  • Might work in a very slight noise
  • Brilliant for at-home listening

Cons of Semi-open back headphones: 

  • Not good for public places with a lot of noise
  • Not good for commute due to audio-leakage


While the Semi-open back headphones may act like a little bridge between the two, we would still recommend finding your bend between the Open Back vs Closed-back headphones for better results. Still in doubt? Check out our list of pros and cons for open-back vs closed-back headphones.

About the author

James is an audiophile and love to write about products. James is the founder of the

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