Ask any audiophile or music producer and they will tell you how awesome open-back headphones are.
In this guide, we dissect the best open-back headphones so you can find the right pair for you. Below are some notable selections. But further below you’ll find even more quality open-back headphones worth considering.
The Top Open Back Headphones Overall
Now that you have seen the highlights let’s get into the details. Every one of the headphones below offer impressive features and are some of the best studio headphones you can buy.
Focal Clear MG Pro Review
Best Open Back Headphones For Music
- Exquisite Sound – The sound quality of the Focal Clear MG Pro is amazing. Stunningly accurate across the range with lively dynamics.
- No Fatigue – The well-balanced sound creates an immersive sound experience. Not a hint of ear fatigue even after using these for long periods.
- Stylish Design – Smart and attractive design. The contrast between the padding color and the accents is perfect. Plus the honeycomb mesh adds plenty of eye appeal.
- Built Tough – Robust quality throughout. Solid headband, premium components, and high-quality accessories. Perfect from top to toe.
- Expensive – Premium quality and extensive engineering come with a high price. Not for the budget-minded buyer.
The Focal Clear MG Pro is easily one of the best open-back headphones out there. But it does come with an eye-watering price tag. But if you can afford it you won’t regret investing.
The listening experience is sublime. Satisfying lows that offer warmth and punch. Clear mids that provide definition and body. Plus crisp highs that don’t fatigue your ears. If you love listening to music you’ll adore these.
Building on this solid foundation is a super slick appearance. So many open-back headphones look bland and uninspired. But these make a statement. Not gaudy or tacky. Refined and distinguished.
If you want a premium pair of open-back headphones you can’t look past these. One of the best open-back headphones out there.
Focal Clear MG Pro
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Review
- Stunning Audio – The DT 1990 Pro offers exceptional sound quality. A natural sound profile that is ideal for analytical listening but equally awesome for casual use.
- Magnificent Ear Padding – Super plush ear padding that hugs and envelops your ears. The high comfort level is perfect for extended listening sessions.
- Quality Construction – Excellent component quality. Rigid and dependable headband. Fantastic Tesla neodymium drivers and top-notch padding.
- Accessories – Includes a spare pair of earpads that offer a different sonic profile. Two high-quality cables. And a great case.
- Needs An Amp – The high impedance level requires an amp. If you need a pair of headphones for your laptop or smartphone you’ll need to look at other options.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is a fantastic pair of open-back headphones. These offer excellent audio quality that is both powerful and neutral.
From generous lows to rich mids and balanced highs, these headphones deliver a listening experience second to none.
The high comfort level is another appealing element. If you are a producer that spends hours in the studio you’ll appreciate how comfortable these are.
With great extras and premium build quality, the DT 1990 Pro is easily among today’s best open-back headphones.
Read our full Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review for more detailed information.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Sennheiser HD 600 Review
- Clear And Precise – Open-back headphones tend to offer good clarity and precision. But these seem even more refined than other options out there. Impeccable detail.
- Accurate Sound Reproduction – Great sound quality that is highly accurate. A flat response across the full range for precise mixing and mastering.
- Durable Build – Component quality is fantastic. The solid headband combines well with the large oval ear cups. Components are also easily replaceable when required.
- Secure And Comfortable – A firm yet comfortable fit ensures these won’t slide off your head. Padding is just right to provide breathability and comfort.
- Dull Appearance – Uninspired and ordinary design that won’t win any beauty awards. A case of function over aesthetics.
Sennheiser delivers another stunning pair of open-back headphones. The detailed sound is a highlight that will appeal to professionals.
But even beyond the studio, these headphones offer an immersive sound experience. Great for a range of musical genres. Especially ones where clarity is paramount like classical music.
These over-ear headphones might not seem the most comfortable at first glance. But you can easily spend hours with these on without noticing.
High-quality materials and excellent sound quality. This combination makes these among the best open-back headphones you can buy today.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 600 review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 600
AKG K701 Review
Best Audiophile Open Back Headphones
- Reliable Sound – If you demand high accuracy you’ve come to the right place. Super detailed, ultra-clear, and neutral across the frequency range.
- Self Adjusting Headband – The headband doesn’t offer any padding but since it auto-adjusts you’ll never feel like you are missing out. Great comfort.
- Attractive Design – Stylish appearance that does away with the generic black and opts for distinct white. Plus the attractive cradle is a bonus.
- Good Quality – Lightweight without feeling like these will break easily. Component quality is also up there with the best.
- Hardwired Cable – Detachable cables are more convenient and provide flexibility. With these, you’ll have to always use the one dedicated cable.
For music lovers, the AKG K701 is a near-perfect set of open-back headphones. The bass is good, the mid-range offers excellent definition and breadth. Plus the treble range isn’t harsh or overly bright.
These are headphones for long relaxing sessions listening to your favorite music. The neutral sound will allow you to hear the music in its purest form. A must for any audiophile.
The dynamic drivers feature revolutionary flat-wire voice coil technology. Plus a patented AKG Varimotion ultra-precision two-layer diaphragm. High quality throughout.
With a stylish appearance and included dock, these are among the best open-back headphones for audiophiles.
Read our full AKG K701 review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 800 S Review
- High Definition – Superb clarity without a hint of distortion. These studio headphones offer all the transparency you need to make accurate decisions.
- Truthful Response – The frequency range is broad with a very generous top end. Impressive performance across the full spectrum. Natural sound and neutral.
- Intelligent Ergonomics – Despite a bulky appearance and a high weight these are very comfortable. Precise and thoughtful design ensures good weight balance.
- Resilient Build – Component quality is among the best in the business. Rigid and dependable frame and precision-engineered elements throughout.
- Mild Bass – Bass is natural and pleasant but lacking in the sub-bass regions.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is another premium pair of open-back headphones. Playing music through these is a delight. Super clear with fantastic neutrality. Equally capable of serious studio work and casual listening.
The natural sound is just the beginning. Low harmonic distortion along with a super-wide frequency range. This is an open-back headphone that delivers on its promise of impeccable sound quality.
These are a little odd in appearance but there is a thoughtful approach and reasoning here. Weight distribution is perfect for a comfortable fit all day long. Plus the uniquely shaped earcups house impressive driver technology.
High-end open-back headphones are the pinnacle of audio technology. And these are exactly that. One of the best open-back headphones on the market.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 800 S review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 800 S
Neumann NDH 30 Review
- Linear Sound Balance – The NDH 30 offers a very pure sound that will highlight intricate details. A solid choice for serious studio work.
- Light Clamping Force – Unlike the NDH 20 the clamping force of these headphones is a lot lighter. A good comfort level for long sessions in the studio.
- Stylish And Tough – Modern approach in design that gives these headphones plenty of character. Plus tough and reliable construction for longevity.
- Foldable Design – Unlike most open-back headphones these collapse into a portable size. Great for travel.
- Forward Mids – With a distinct focus on studio work these present mids a little forward. Whether this will be a benefit or a drawback will depend on what you intend to use these headphones for. Good for the studio but perhaps not ideal for day-to-day listening.
Legendary microphone manufacturer Neumann follows up the super popular NDH 20 with the NDH 30. And it isn’t as simple as opening up the cups and calling it a day.
These present a very different sound profile. An open and spacious soundstage was something I was expecting. But the shift in tonal balance was a surprise. These are highly detailed and ultra-accurate. A little mid-heavy but that is great for mixing and mastering.
Comfort is also a highlight with soft ear padding and a more relaxed clamping force. An open-back headphone that is well suited to long stints in the studio.
The NDH 30 is another impressive outing from Neumann. Fantastic over-ear open-back headphones.
Read our full Neumann NDH 30 review for more detailed information.
Neumann NDH 30
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Review
- Meticulous Detail – These open-back headphones offer excellent clarity. Easy to pinpoint details no matter what music genre you are listening to.
- Wing System – The unique self-adjusting wing system provides high stability and comfort. No pressure on the top of your head.
- Lightweight – A bit bulky and heavy but you’ll never feel it. High-quality headphone design that takes advantage of good engineering.
- Open Soundstage – Broad and generous soundstage. An open and airy delivery that makes listening to music engaging and enjoyable.
- Very High Impedance – At 470 ohms these will struggle with lower-powered devices. A good quality amp is a must.
Audio-Technica is perhaps better known for its range of DJ-friendly headphones. But they are equally capable of producing high-quality studio headphones.
The ATH-R70x displays all the characteristics you want from open-back headphones. Generous and wide soundstage along with high precision in the audio profile.
Wearing headphones for long periods can be uncomfortable. But with a unique wing system and comfortable padding, the ATH-R70x offers fantastic comfort. Though the ear cup opening is a little on the smaller side.
If you want a comfortable and capable pair of open-back headphones these should be on your list of options.
Read our full Audio-Technica ATH-R70x review for more detailed information.
Mackie MC-450 Review
Open Back Headphones With Good Bass
- Marvelous Balance – The MC-450 has a balanced sound profile that is capable of serious studio work. Tight performance that punches well above its price point.
- Punchy Low End – Open-back headphones sometimes feel a little lifeless at the low-end. But that’s not the case here. The MC-450 offers punchy, satisfying, yet neutral bass.
- Memory Foam Ear Pads – The thick ear pads offer a good level of comfort. Just enough flexibility to adjust to your head shape while maintaining a secure fit.
- Great Case – The textured hard case is fantastic. Plenty of room for your headphones along with a dedicated smaller case for your cables.
- Lots of Plastic – At this price, I’d have liked to see some more metal components. But the plastic is tough and durable so it isn’t a deal-breaker.
The MC-450 is the top-of-the-line open-back headphone option from Mackie. And it lives up to that status with amazing sound and features.
The bass response is rich and dynamic. Ideal for bass lovers. The midrange retains precision and balance. The highs also don’t present any harshness.
Despite the abundance of plastic, the build quality is high. Plus the range of accessories adds to the value proposition.
If you want a little extra definition in the low end these are a great choice. One of the best open-back headphones in this price range.
Read our full Mackie MC-450 review for more detailed information.
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X Review
- Exceptionally Transparent – The audio fidelity is fantastic. Super refined and accurate. Plus no fatigue over long listening sessions.
- Soft Padding – These feature the supreme comfort of Beyerdynamic earpads. One of the most comfortable headphones you can buy today.
- Reasonable Price – If the high price point of the DT 1990 Pro is too much these are a reasonably-priced alternative.
- Dependable Assembly – Build quality is very good with a high level of attention to detail. Replaceable components are also a great feature.
- Exposed Wires – The connecting wires stick out quite a bit. Possibility of catching these on something that will lead to damage.
The Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X is a popular pair of open-back headphones. The combination of approachable price and excellent sound performance is hard to beat.
The listening experience is a highlight where even the faintest sound is audible. The newly developed STELLAR.45 drivers provide excellent sound quality. Spacious soundstage and good imaging.
As with all Beyerdynamic headphones the comfort level is superb. Inviting padding on both the ear cups and headband. And a secure fit that doesn’t apply excess pressure on your head.
Other headphones have a hard time balancing price and function. But Beyerdynamic has succeeded where others have failed. One of the best open-back headphones you can buy.
Read our full Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X review for more detailed information.
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
Shure SRH1840 Review
- High-Quality Sound – These offer a generous range that retains a good level of accuracy. The upper mids and treble in particular are very impressive.
- Monitor-Esque Profile – The open profile and precise tuning result in a surprisingly broad delivery. Very much like a pair of studio monitors.
- Oustanding Build – From the dependable headband to the solid ear cups these offer a high level of quality.
- Ear Cup Padding – The padding is soft and embracing. The velour pads offer high levels of breathability. Great for warmer climates where heat buildup can be an issue.
- Some Distortion – The SRH1840 does display a little bit of distortion in the lower regions. Not uncommon among headphones but rather noticeable here.
The Shure SRH1840 is a great pair of open-back headphones. The sound quality is quite good with only a few issues in the lower end.
The middle range is clear and accurate and the highs are also impressive. Bass enthusiasts might need to look elsewhere but for most people, these will be great.
The supreme comfort is another highlight. The clamping force is not aggressive, yet firm enough for a secure fit.
When you factor in the metal frame and high component quality these are enticing. Whilst not perfect they are still among the best open-back headphones available.
Read our full Shure SRH1840 review for more detailed information.
The Best Budget Open Back Headphones
Most open-back headphones tend to be on the expensive side. But there are a few gems that offer a low price tag. Below are our top two picks if you are looking for inexpensive open-back headphones.
Yamaha HPH-150B Review
- Sonic Integrity – These cheap open-back headphones offer an impressive sound profile. Quite neutral making them a good choice for electronic instruments and studio work.
- Cheap Price – One of the cheapest open-back headphones out there. Excellent value for money.
- Detachable Cable – The straight cable detaches. A feature normally reserved for more expensive headphones.
- Ultra-Light – Lightweight and slimline. But these also don’t feel cheap and flimsy. A nice change from the large and bulky options out there.
- On-Ear Design – Depending on the shape of your ears you may find the on-ear design uncomfortable. Thankfully the clamping force is not excessive.
Audio gear juggernaut Yamaha presents a super affordable pair of open headphones. Ideally suited to keyboards and other instruments. But equally capable for light studio work.
These well-constructed headphones also offer some swivel in the cups to help find a comfortable fit. Something critical for on-ear headphones.
Component quality is also better than the price indicates. These are cheap but don’t feel cheap. An excellent balance between features and price.
More expensive headphones will offer more. But these punch well above their price point. An impressive pair of budget open-back headphones.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Review
- Neutral Delivery – These headphones provide a natural sound profile with plenty of integrity. Impressive for headphones in this price range.
- Nice Low End – An open back headphone with enough warmth and depth to not make bass feel lifeless.
- Satisfying Fit – Ergonomics is high with this pair of headphones. Excellent padding on the ear cups and headband. Plus a relaxed fit.
- Good Price Point – One of the cheapest open-back headphones that still retain a high level of quality.
- Attached Cable – The attached coiled cable is a little heavy. No option to switch to another cable.
Beyerdynamic makes the list again with the reasonably priced DT 990 Pro. There is a good balance between functionality and price here that is very appealing.
The sound quality is better than you would expect at this price point. Very neutral while having enough depth to be satisfying. A solid option for a producer on a budget.
These also inherit some of the excellent design decisions of their more expensive counterparts. Mainly the high comfort level. Fantastic padding and a relaxed fit combine perfectly.
If you are a beginner on a budget these are among the best out there.
Read our full Beyerdynamic DT 990 review for more detailed information.
Beyerdynamic DT 990
Our Expert Buying Guide
Below we tackle a couple of key items you should be aware of when buying open-back headphones.
Open Back Design
Open headphones allow the passage of air from the driver to the outside. This results in a more natural audio profile and also increases the soundstage and imaging. Likewise, these headphones tend to more accurately reflect the source material.
But with this design does come a few things you need to be aware of. You will not have any sound isolation. Sound will easily make its way to your ears. If you are in a loud environment you’ll have problems with external noise. If you need noise isolation you’ll be better off with a closed pair of cans.
Open back headphones allow air to escape which results in better sound quality.
And as much as ambient sound can get in you’ll also have sound leakage. Whatever you are listening to will be audible to people around you. Sound leaks in the same way as background noise get in. If you don’t want to disturb people around you or you are recording you’ll have to look at closed headphones that don’t leak sound.
But if these things are not a problem you’ll get to enjoy the absolute best sound available. When it comes to clarity and precision nothing compares to a quality pair of open headphones.
Should You Buy A Headphone Amp?
Many open-back headphones have a high impedance rating. The higher the impedance the more voltage the headphones need to reach a quality sound level. This is also the reason you won’t see wireless open back options. They require too much power and are not well suited to Bluetooth.
Plugging these headphones into a poor-quality sound system or your smartphone will not give you the best performance. You’ll also lose out on sound quality.
This is where headphone amps come in. They provide the appropriate amount of power to drive your cans. You can learn more about impedance in the video below.
Some headphone amps will come with a built-in DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). These are important if you listen to music via your computer, laptop, or tablet. It converts the digital signal into analog for the best sound experience.
For headphone amps that don’t have it built-in, you’ll need to invest in a separate component. The DAC will then connect from your computer to your headphone amp and you’ll plug your headphones into the amp.
If all this sounds a bit much don’t be too concerned. In the list above we have selected some headphones that will perform reasonably without a headphone amp.
Keep in mind you can pick up an affordable headphone amp or DAC down the line. You should focus the majority of your budget on getting a quality pair of headphones with an eye to acquiring a headphone amp soon.
If you do have the extra funds available then feel free to pick up the best headphone amp you can afford. You certainly won’t regret it.
Why Do People Like Open Back Headphones?
Open-back headphones provide a crisp, detailed and accurate representation of music. This is why many people prefer them. They are great for casual listening but also ideal for a professional studio environment.
Are Open Back Headphones Healthier?
Open-back headphones are better for your ears. They allow the passage of air which increases breathability. This prevents heat build-up. They also disperse sound so that there is less pressure on your eardrums.
Which One Should You Buy?
You’ve made it this far. Congratulations! As you can probably tell by now there are some amazing options out there. Open-back headphones have a reputation for clear, natural, and inviting sound. And while all the above have their strengths there is one that stands out.
The Focal Clear MG Pro is our pick for the best open-back pair of headphones you can buy today. Looking past the stunning design and appearance unveils supreme quality. Both in sonic execution and components. These are remarkable headphones that are a joy to use. They are expensive but worth it and deserve all the praise they get.
Focal Clear MG Pro