12 Best Open Back Headphones in 2019

Best Overall

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
  • Utilizes enhanced bass and nicely equalized treble
  • Tight headband built for the needs of professionals

  • Important components can be easily replaced

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Premium Choice

Sennheiser HD 660 S

Sennheiser HD 660 S
  • Comes with 6.35, 4.4, and 3.5 mm plugs

  • Can connect directly to Hires home stereo devices
  • Improved transducers deliver low harmonic distortion
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Great Value

Koss UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones

Koss UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones
  • Some of the cheapest open back headphones available
  • Diaphragms are titanium coated for better performance
  • Incredibly compact and foldable design great for travel
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If you want to listen to music with the best and most in-depth sound quality you’ll find, there’s nothing that can compare to open back headphones. The exceptional sound stage created by open headphones along with their generally high level of comfort makes them stand apart from options like closed back headphones and traditional earbuds and has made them the premier choice for both audiophiles and for a number of major studio producers.

But there are a lot of open eared options on the market, and separating the wheat from the chaff can be difficult. That’s what we’re here for. We’ve sorted through the options available today to highlight 12 of the best open back headphones of 2019.

The Best Open Back Headphones

Best Overall

1. Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

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Beyerdynamic always brings their game when it comes to a new pair of headphones, so it's no surprise that the DT 990 Pros don't disappoint. They're some of the most comfortable open back headphones around due to the incredibly soft velour ear cups, and they're really handsome to boot: combining fluffy silver cup cushioning with a caged black design. The build quality may be mostly plastic, but it sells itself well on its style.

And while these over ear open back headphones can't compete with some of the top shelf options in terms of sound quality, they outperform just about everything in their class. The sound stage if full and rich, and there's some great clarity across the frequency range. The bass is scaled up a bit, but it's a conscious choice, and it's not one that will leave your ears ringing. Hip-hop heads will love the results.

Key Features
  • Utilizes enhanced bass and nicely equalized treble
  • Tight headband built for the needs of professionals

  • Important components can be easily replaced

  • Incredible value for the price
TypeWired
 Drivers45 mm 
Frequency response5 Hz to 35 KHz
 Weight0.84 lb
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Premium Choice

2. Sennheiser HD 660 S

Sennheiser HD 660 S

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Unless you're looking for specifically flat headphones for studio recording, every great open back headphone is going to have its own unique personality. For the HD 660 S , it's a personality that extends from the personality of the build into the engineering of the sound. The open grill over the ear pads and their extended size lend an industrial aesthetic to these headphones, and the fit is inherently snug. It won't appeal to everyone, but it helps remedy the sound leakage that a lot of open back models suffer from.

These aren't budget open back headphones by a long shot, but they are headphones with exceptional sound quality. The sound is neutral, making it ideal for studio professionals, but there's a particularly natural richness to the mid-range that stands apart from much of the competition. It may be expensive, but it promises some of the best sound around.

Key Features
  • Comes with 6.35, 4.4, and 3.5 mm plugs

  • Can connect directly to Hires home stereo devices
  • Improved transducers deliver low harmonic distortion
  • Durable and comfortable build quality
TypeWired
 Driversnot listed
 Frequency response10 Hz to 41 KHz
 Weight9.17 oz
Great Value

3. Koss UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones

Koss UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones

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Good open back headphones don't come much cheaper than the Koss UR40 . Less than $30 gets you some stylish gear that outperforms expectations, and while you shouldn't expect these to meet your needs as serious open back headphones for recording, they're more than suitable for the needs of more casual listeners. Not only are they portably sized, but they fold into themselves, making them some of the best budget headphones for travel available today.

The sound performance certainly isn't perfect, but it gets within earshot of right mid-level balance. The lower bass performance is a little thin, while there's a nice sense of relaxed neutrality to the mids. Combine this with decent trebles and a reasonable sound stage, and you have headphones that can't contend with the top dogs but extend exceptionally far beyond what's reasonable for such a cheap model.

Key Features
  • Some of the cheapest open back headphones available
  • Diaphragms are titanium coated for better performance
  • Incredibly compact and foldable design great for travel
  • Leatherette cups are comfortable and isolate noise well
TypeWired Drivers50 mm Frequency response10 Hz to 20 KHz Weight6 oz

4. AKG K240STUDIO Semi-Open Headphones

AKG K240STUDIO Semi-Open Headphones

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Cheap open ear headphones aren't that hard to find. Ones that are well suited for critical listening are a different case entirely. The AKG K240 Studios are semi open back headphones that can actually work in the studio or for serious audiophiles, and they only cost about $70. That may be a decent price hike over the aforementioned UR40s, but these headphones have a serious legacy for quality. First developed over three decades ago, they sport a comfortable design that hasn't changed much over the years and opts for simple design over unnecessary flourishes.

If there was one adjective to describe these headphones, it would be "clean". The bass is present but not overstated, and there's a level of smoothness and clarity that extends across the entire frequency response range. They aren't the best option for hip-hop and EDM, but their balance lends them a pretty wide level of diversity.

Key Features
  • Designed for professional studio use
  • Simplistic but comfortable build quality
  • Three meter cable gives you plenty of room to move
  • Incredibly clean performance for a modest price point
TypeWired Drivers30 mm Frequency response15 Hz to 25 KHz Weight8.5 oz

5. Sennheiser HD 599 Open Back Headphone

Sennheiser HD 599 Open Back Headphone

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Sennheiser's headphones often come with some pretty specific purpose. They pride themselves on creating models that are catered to the needs of serious critical listeners, but the HD599 offers more general purpose performance without sacrificing the quality engineer Sennheiser is so praised for. They look great too. The white ivory design certainly stands apart from the pure black that tends to dominate the market, and despite being made of plastic, these headphones are light and adjustable in a way that can accommodate most listeners.

These headphones are designed to be a smooth way to transition into more refined listening, and they succeed in that regard. These are great general purpose models that can work for watching movies and listening to music and can even serve as open back headphones for gaming in a pinch. They aren't exactly neutral, but they have a nice warmth that adapts to different soundscapes well.

Key Features
  • A great and inexpensive entryway into audophile sound
  • Standout design is elegant but understated
  • Made from premium components developed in house
  • Backed by a two year warranty from Sennheiser
TypeWired Drivers38 mm Frequency response12 Hz to 38.5 KHz Weight0.55 lb

6. Philips SHP9500 Over-ear Headphones

Philips SHP9500 Over-ear Headphones

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The Philips SHP9500 s are headphones that are there to get the job done. That's not to say that they don't look good, but their rugged and simplistic design is focused on utility above all else. The large ear cups are breathable and soft and should fit snugly over most ears, while the headband is similarly generous with its padding. They're also reinforced by a thin metal frame that complements the durable overall build quality.

The meager sub-bass is a bit disappointing but generally expected in open back headphones, but once you move beyond that, they perform exceptionally. The mid-range performance is exceptional, but these headphones avail themselves well once you move into the high treble range too. And while bass performance is the clear weak link here, it's not terribly unbalanced. But combine together the large size and poor isolation of these headphones, and they're clearly built for home use.

Key Features
  • Comfortable headband and breathable ear cups
  • Great performance across the entire spectrum
  • 1.5 meter cable provides lots of range
  • Durable build across the board
TypeWired Drivers50 mm Frequency response12 Hz to 35 KHz Weight0.66 lb

7. Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones

Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones

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You'd have to look far and wide to find a pair of headphones more comfortable than the Grado SR80e . The ear cups are exceedingly large, providing a breathable environment accompanied by foam cushioning that's as soft as a cloud. The result is the lightest application of pressure that still manages to hold firm. The vintage look is another standout feature: resembling retro old school radio headphones with just a splash of modernity to them.

The soundscape here is dynamic. The richer performance on the bass end of things will appeal to listeners who like a little more weight to their music, and those extra large ear cups serve double duty at creating a luxurious sound stage while also supporting a more spacious sense of stereo imaging. All told, it offers some incredibly naturalistic sound, an impressive feat for headphones that clock in at right around $100.

Key Features
  • Some of the most comfortable headphones available
  • Exceptional sound stage and stereo imaging
  • Soft vinyl headband is fully adjustable
  • Lively and natural sound quality
TypeWired Drivers40 mm Frequency response20 Hz to 20 KHz Weight0.51 lb

8. HE400i Over Ear Full-size Headphones

HE400i Over Ear Full-size Headphones

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It's hard to argue that the HE400i isn't a stylish pair of headphones. With its blocky profile, matte black finish and inset ear cups, it's as much a conversation piece as it is listening gear. But it's a lot more than that. The oversized design of the cups makes them incredibly breathable while also being comfortable to wear, and they're built like a brick house too. These headphones can take a serious hit and keep on ticking.

Manufacturer HiFiMan has focused their marketing on their planar magnetic drivers. Fortunately, it's more than just posturing. These drivers are exceptionally built, maintaining significant clarity across the board while maintaining a depth that's just phenomenal. And while the sound stage isn't as open as some other models, there's still a meaningful depth to it. And in a nice change of pace from more studio-focused headphones, this model has serious punch to its bass.

Key Features
  • All-around great performance with especially standout bass
  • Stylish aesthetic you'll be proud to wear in public
  • Build is both comfortable and very sturdy
  • Strong sound stage and spatial imaging
TypeWired Drivers60 mm Frequency response20 Hz to 35 KHz Weight13.1 oz

9. Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Open-Back Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Open-Back Headphones

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Open back headphones for mixing require some pretty specific requirements. They need to be designed to work comfortably during long sessions at the booth, and they need to offer a special flat sound quality that isn't necessarily enjoyable for recreational listening but can provide you with the most accurate results for engineering work. That's exactly what the ATH-R70x is built for. The build is sturdy as all get out while also being both light and eminently wearable.

And while they're a pretty expensive pair of headphones, these are the gold standard when you're looking for neutral sound. There's a nice, flat balance to the soundscape and the sound stage, but that doesn't mean they're boring. This is Audio-Technica at their best: creating truly exceptional and premium headphones targeted towards their core demographic of audio geeks and studio professionals, and they really stick the landing on it.

Key Features
  • Rich but neutral sound quality
  • Built like a tank while also being light
  • Dual-detachable locking capable means it's always oriented
  • Fabric ear pads are breathable and well supported
TypeWired Drivers45 mm Frequency response4 Hz to 40 KHz Weight1.63 lbs

10. Shure SRH1840 Professional Headphones

Shure SRH1840 Professional Headphones

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Shure has been one of the most reliable manufacturers of premium professional grade headphones for years, and the SRH1840 represents the best of the best even by their strict standards. They meet that perfect balance between rugged sturdiness and lightweight and comfortable design, and that's in large part due to the combination of aluminum and stainless steel that goes into their build. The foam offers a comfortable layer of protection without being so thick that it starts to build up heat. You can wear these for hours at a time without distress.

The sound stage here is bright and spacious, making you feel like you're in the middle of a live concert performance, and that's facilitated by the substantive power of the drivers. The bass and mid-range steal the show here, but the detail work in the treble is no slouch either. They're equally well suited for studio and recreational use.

Key Features
  • Premium level sound performance
  • A truly marvelous sound stage
  • Strong materials are both durable and lightweight
  • Backed by a full two year warranty from Shure
TypeWired Drivers40 mm Frequency response20 Hz - 20 KHz Weight4.4 lbs

11. ASTRO Gaming A40 TR Wired Headset

ASTRO Gaming A40 TR Wired Headset

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Open back gaming headsets are something of a rare bird. The idea of open back headphones with mic might seem counter-intuitive to the sort of open communications needed in gaming, but Astro has demonstrated that it can be done. The squared off cans and chrome blue accents really deliver the look of gaming gear, but they're also very comfortable to wear. Memory foam is distributed liberally throughout both the cups and the headband for that endurance comfort you need when gaming.

The open back wireless headphones sound great too. As you might expect from a gaming headset, it's heavy on the bass and the high frequencies, and the support for Dolby Atmos further increases the immersion of being in the midst of the battlefield. And adding to its versatility as a gaming accessory is the inclusion of MixAmp Pro for customizing your voice and in-game audio settings.

Key Features
  • Great sense of immersive space ideal for gaming
  • Unidirectional mic produces clear results
  • Supports 3D audio via Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic
  • Supports multiple profiles for different games and environments
TypeWired DriversNot disclosed Frequency response20 Hz - 20 KHz Weight11 oz

12. Audio-Technica ATHAD700X Open Air Headphones

Audio-Technica ATHAD700X Open Air Headphones

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Audio-Technica's bread and butter may be expensive, premium models built for the professional set, but that doesn't mean they don't have anything to cater towards more casual users. The ATHAD700X is their attempt at producing affordable open back headphones, and they hit the mark admirably. The lightweight build means that you'll barely feel them on your ears even after extended listening sessions, and they're fully adjustable so you can find the fit that's right for you.

These are spacious headphones with a fully there sound stage and a superb sense of balance throughout the frequency range. That sense of space accurately replicates the experience of being in the midst of a performance. And while the treble can be a little rough around the edges, it's still strong enough to give most comparable priced models a decent run for their money.

Key Features
  • Feel great even over long periods of time
  • Exceptional Audio-Technica sound at an affordable price
  • 3D wing support for comfort that doesn't sacrifice sonic integrity
  • Single-sided cord reduces the threat of tangles
TypeWired Drivers53 mm Frequency response5 Hz to 30 KHz Weight1.25 lbs

Open Back Headphones Buyer’s Guide

So what should you look for when buying open ear headphones? The specs are largely the same for other models of headphones, so you can check out our general guide to over ear headphones if you’re interested in more general knowledge. We’ll instead focus our guide on what specific things you should keep an eye out for when shopping for open back models.

Open Back Headphones vs Closed

The most obvious, and only notable, distinction between open back and closed back headphones are the back, but that can make a world of difference in how useful they’ll be to you. Both are great options, but they come with very different purposes in mind. Open back headphones don’t create a tight seal over your ear, and that results in two major problems.

They don’t isolate the sound coming through your speakers from outside noise, and they leak out. That means that everyone around you can hear what you’re listening to. Naturally, that makes them a bad choice for use in public spaces. But if you’re looking for headphones you can wear in the privacy of your own home, nothing offers the sonic performance that open back headphones do.

That extra space allows for what’s known as a “sound stage” to truly breathe. In a similar way to how the placement of surround sound systems allow you to get the experience of spatial distance, open back headphones allow you to distinguish more clearly between various components in a music’s makeup. And the more breathable design means they tend to be more comfortable and breathable than their closed back counterparts.

Wireless vs Wired Open Back Headphones

You may have noticed that we don’t have any wireless open back headphones in our list. While models do exist, they’re largely a self defeating feature. Bluetooth open back headphones allow you to listen without the need for a wire, but these headphones work best in a controlled environment where you’re unlikely to be moving significantly.

Since wireless capabilities can significantly increase the cost of headphones, we decided to opt not to include them. That allows us to focus on headphones that instead sink all of their production costs into great build design and superior sound performance.

Sound Stage vs Stereo Imaging

The sense of space is the most notable advantage of open back headphones, but you may have noticed that we reference both stereo imaging and sound stages in our reviews. While they’re sometimes used interchangeably, they refer to two specific things.

When we talk about the sound stage, we’re talking about the virtual space that’s created by headphones. It’s the amount of distance from left to right in which music can travel. Larger sound stages are inherently better, because they allow music to replicate a more meaningful depth of sound. If you were setting up a surround sound speaker system, you could think of the sound stage as the space available to place those speakers.

You can think of digital imaging as the individual performers upon a stage. In the engineering of a track, each performer within that track takes up a space upon the stage. The imaging refers to the level of clarity between these performers and how well defined they are in relation to one another.

If you really want the best sound performance, you want to look for performers that offer both strong imaging and a spacious sound stage. Finding the right balance will really help you appreciate the advantages of an open back model.

Final Thoughts

If you consider yourself an audiophile, you can basically consider open back headphones a necessity. They allow you to hear a richness of sound that no other headphones can replicate. And all of the models on our list represent the best of the best for their respective price points.