Open-back headphones aren’t that commonly thought of by most gamers, but that’s a pity. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to track down some open-back headphones you can use while gaming. If you want to get lost in the sound design of your favorite games (and let’s be honest – sound design sometimes doesn’t get the love it deserves in many gaming spaces), then open back is the way to go.
You probably have a number of questions, and we have you covered. We’ll start by running you through a top 10 list of the best open-back headphones for gaming. While they’re roughly ordered in terms of our favorites, keep in mind that different headphones are going to be better fitted for different consumers.
TL;DR - 10 Best Open Back Headphones for Gaming:
- beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Headphones
- Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones
- Sennheiser GAME ONE Gaming Headset
- Philips Audio SHP9500 HiFi Precision Over-Ear Headphones
- AKG Pro Audio K702 Open-Back Studio Headphones
- ASTRO Gaming A40 TR X-Edition Headset
- Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile Open-Air Headphones
- HIFIMAN HE-400I Over Ear Open-Back Design Headphones
- GRADO SR60e Open-Back Stereo Headphones
- LyxPro OEH-10 Hi Fi Audiophile Open Back Headphones
1. beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Headphones
Great in the Studio or on the Battlefield
The thing that makes the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO such well-regarded monitoring headphones is the same thing that makes them great for gaming: consistency. They sport a pleasantly neutral sound that offers balance across any gaming genre with the best clarity surfacing in the mids and the highs.
These headphones are both comfortable and durable, too. The band and the cups may not be made of the sturdiest material we've encountered, but they feel incredibly plush and soft against your ears. The depth of the sound stage on the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is particularly worthy of your attention, as it's one of the biggest advantages that open-back headphones can offer.
2. Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones
Luxury in Every Shape
The Shure SRH1840 is built with serious professionals in mind, and that shows both in the performance and the design. Unfortunately, it's also reflected in the price. But if you want the best of the best, there's a great argument to be made for these open-back headphones.
The sound quality is maybe the best for under a grand - providing a level of richness and clarity that's built with the needs of audiophiles in mind but is also a great choice for gamers. And while they may not look all that different from other open-back headphones for gaming, they're sturdily and comfortably built.
3. Sennheiser GAME ONE Gaming Headset
Audiophile Sound/Gaming Performance
Making a list of the best open-backed headphones for gaming often means finding audiophile headphones that will also be suitable for gaming. Fortunately, Sennheiser offers one of the rare few pairs of open-back headphones built explicitly with gaming in mind.
While that means that the music quality isn't too great, these headphones do a phenomenal job of reproducing in-game sound effects and voices. And then there's the mic, which offers incredibly clear voice transfer when trying to communicate with your teammates. No matter what platform you prefer to play on, the AUX input can suit your needs.
4. Philips Audio SHP9500 HiFi Precision Over-Ear Headphones
Perfectly Neutral Sound
Like a lot of open-back headphones, the Philips SHP9500 are built with critical listening in mind. But what sets them apart from most of the competition is that they're also very affordable. They retail for well under a hundred dollars but deliver some sound performance that can compete with much more expensive headphones.
There's a nice sense of neutrality to the frequency coverage - a choice that ensures these headphones will work solidly no matter what gaming genres you prefer. And while you shouldn't be wearing these headphones (or any open-back headphones) outdoors, they're rather durable headphones.
5. AKG Pro Audio K702 Open-Back Studio Headphones
A Deeply Satisfying Bass Sound
Designed as they are with a neutral frequency response range and a breathable form factor, studio reference headphones aren't a regular point of conversation among competitive gamers, but the K702 will make some gaming enthusiasts rethink their biases.
And the sense of neutrality at work here means that you can get natural sound performance and better directional audio in everything from sports games to shooters to roleplaying games. Dialogue in particular comes across great, and the lack of over-emphasis in the mid-range ensures that the bass also offers some of the best sound quality you'll find anywhere.
6. ASTRO Gaming A40 TR X-Edition Headset
The A40 by Astro has an advantage that many of the best open-back headphones don't: the fact that it's built exclusively with the demands of gaming in mind. With this headset, gamers will get a lightweight and comfortable fit along with sound performance that's optimized for the sort of music and sound effects most prominent in modern games.
The boom mic here is also fully detachable so it can stay out of the way when you want to dive headfirst into your favorite single-player gaming worlds. And in addition to working with PC and Mac, these gaming headphones are also compatible with Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
7. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile Open-Air Headphones
The Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X aren't the best performing headphones for gaming on our list, but they may very well be the best deal. That's because they offer the quality audio performance that Audio-Technica is known for with a price tag that hovers right around a hundred bucks. These headphones make use of powerful drivers that extend beyond the traditional 40- or 50-millimeter size for clarity even at higher volumes, and the honeycomb casing expands the spaciousness of the acoustics even more.
And even better, these are comfortable headphones. The larger size of the ear cups means that your ears will be comfortably ensconced while still providing you with plenty of room to breathe. And further expanding on how comfortable these headphones are for gaming is the fact that it makes use of fully 3D wing support that can adjust on the fly to match your listening experience.
8. HIFIMAN HE-400I Over Ear Open-Back Design Headphones
The HiFiMan HE-400i does something really interesting with their driver design. They ditch the traditional cone-shaped drivers for incredibly thin planar magnetic drivers. The result is some of the best sound performance we've ever seen, and these headphones especially sing on the lower bass frequencies.
And despite being a fairly large pair of headphones, the design here is very lightweight. HiFiMan boasts that their headphones weigh as much as 30% less than comparable headphones, but they also sport a comfortable and high-quality build. The highlight here is the FocusPad - a design that employs a beveled shape constructed from a pleather/velour hybrid.
9. GRADO SR60e Open-Back Stereo Headphones
Grado is a manufacturer that fulfills a pretty unique niche in the open-back headphones market. The unique and meticulously crafted design of their headphones is legendary, but it sometimes leads to the mistaken assumption that all of their headphones come with luxury prices. Their entry-level model, the Grado sr60e Prestige, maintains the quality that Grado is known for along with a uniquely nostalgic design, and it sounds as good as it looks. The bass is consistent without being amplified, the mids crisp and dimensionally rich, and the highs maintaining a great crispness. In terms of almost every quality, there isn't a better pair of open-back headphones at this price.
10. LyxPro OEH-10 Hi Fi Audiophile Open Back Headphones
If you're seeking out some open-back headphones for a gamer on a budget, the unassuming LyxPro OEH-10 is a promising choice. It may be lightweight in terms of pricing and name recognition, but it's got plenty going on underneath the hood. The design here is pretty slick, too. The grille and overall profile resemble the sort of headphones Grado makes while retaining a more traditional sense of identity.
That's because these are decent-sounding open-back headphones despite retailing for under a hundred dollars. LyxPro makes use of solid components throughout - including gold-plated connectors to reduce the risk of rust or corrosion. And for those who prefer more serious studio open-back headphones for their gaming, the fact that the ear cups can swivel at 90 degrees will be a welcome inclusion. While the cable itself can't be detached, it does come with an adapter for traditional stereo output.
Open-Back Gaming Headphones Buyer’s Guide
Not all of the headphones on our list are created with gaming in mind, but you can count on all of them to offer the best open-back design features and sound quality that rank them the best among gaming headphones. But even the best open-back headphones have unique qualities that distinguish them from one another. We’ll break down those core specs and features of open-back headphones for gaming so you can better understand which model is best for you.
Open-back headphones aren’t the most obvious choice for gaming. And if you’re looking for something more traditional, you can always pick out your best gaming headset using our guide to the best gaming headsets. But in some scenarios, the best open-back headphones can really add some new dimensions to your gaming experience. We’ll talk about that below along with some general analysis of the more important specs.
Frequency response is the most accurate measurement we have for sound quality, but it’s far from a perfect metric. The range of audible human hearing extends from 20 Hz (the deepest bass) to 20,000 Hz (the highest treble). But since different manufacturers use different standards to measure their frequency range, a simple range of numbers won’t always tell you the whole story. Some manufacturers further elaborate on the sort of variance that arises at higher or lower frequency responses.
For the average gamer, this sort of variance isn’t going to be that big of a deal, but the breadth of the response range can have an impact. Frequencies outside the normal human hearing range may be discernible or felt as a tactile rather than auditory response, but frequency range can lead to a more crystalline sound quality and better imaging and soundstage quality.
Driver is just a fancy word for the speakers that sit within the headphones and direct music or other sounds into your ears. In most instances, the maxim of ‘bigger is better’ holds true for drivers. Larger drivers have more range to properly project the frequencies at the edge of human hearing, and they can create a greater sense of space (an asset that open-back headphones already have a head start on over closed-back headphones).
But that’s not always the case. While larger drivers are generally a sign of higher quality, they don’t have to be. Smaller drivers can sometimes outperform depending on the materials used or the shape of their construction. Most notable for this are planar magnet drivers. They’re much smaller than the size of more traditional drivers, but they also offer some of the best sound quality around.
The shortest and sweetest definition of sensitivity is maximum volume, but it’s a little more complicated than that. That’s because when a speaker reaches a certain decibel level, they begin to show distortions and feedback. Most manufacturers will list a sensitivity level that goes as far as the headphones reasonably can before experiencing recognizable distortion.
But this is also a case where there are no universal standards for how sensitivity is measured. Fortunately, there are some manufacturers – as well as some enterprising audiophiles with the right equipment – who provide more precise measurements for sensitivity. They’ll tell you what sort of distortion you can expect at higher decibel levels and also provide a more accurate understanding of open-back headphones’ sound quality at higher volumes.
For most gamers, sensitivity won’t be that big of a deal. The variance between different sensitivities in the best and worst open-back headphones isn’t going to be all that different, and they’re all comfortably within the realm of normal human hearing. If you really want to hear the blast of gunfire and explosions, you may want to pay more attention to sensitivity, but it won’t be a big deal for most gaming experiences.
How long is the cable of the open-back headphones you’re looking at? Are they designed to be sturdy and built to prevent tangles? What are they constructed from? Do they use gold-plated connectors to prevent the risk of corrosion? These should all be questions you ask yourself when you’re trying to separate the best open-back headphones from those that are simply run of the mill.
In terms of connections, there aren’t a whole lot of standards to worry about now. Most headphones are going to come with a 3.5 mm connection. That should give you compatibility with practically any gaming console on the market. You can also connect to practically any device that can broadcast sound. That said, sound performance on more traditional audio components is also often better. If you want to be able to hook your headphones up to more heavy-duty stereo systems, you may want to look for one that also comes with a quarter-inch adapter.
Finding a pair of comfortable headphones is important, but the only measurable spec for build quality is weight. Lower weight headphones are going to generally feel better during longer play sessions, but that’s also just one factor to consider when looking at your potential comfort. Also, keep in mind that weight will be less important. Closed-back headphones can really weigh down on you and cause your ears to overheat, but the more expansive sound that open-backed models offer also creates a more comfortable general experience.
That said, you should still look at what materials different headphones are made out of and what reviewers and other customers are saying about them. Form factor, construction, and a thousand other factors can also determine whether or not headphones will be the right fit for you in terms of comfort.
If you want the best sound performance in gaming, open-back headphones are a great, if unconventional, option. If you need to dig a little deeper, you’ll find plenty of articles about gaming gear and accessories, and we can even help you perfect your photographic skills or build a killer gaming rig. And we always keep our review guides updated, so feel free to check back later or leave your opinion if you’ve tried any of these products.If you liked our article on open back headphones for gaming, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.