If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best open back headphones are, then we recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 990 as the best one.
It is very rare to see DJs rocking a pair of open back headphones. The very nature of DJing requires the isolation that comes from closed back headphones. Yet, open back headphones still play a critical role in a DJs life. Music is at the heart and soul of a DJs daily life and when reviewing new music or creating new music the best open back headphones can come into their own.
In this article, we’re going to review the following open back headphones:
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to open back headphones. So before we jump into the reviews for the best open back headphones for mixing let’s cover some of the core things to look out for when buying.
What Are Open Back Headphones?
We’ll start with the most obvious question that is often asked. There is a difference between closed back and open back headphones that is worth covering.
Closed back headphones are aimed at reducing external noise. They stop that noise from interfering with your listening experience. From a DJs perspective this is critical when cueing up and beatmatching your next track. The closed nature can result in sound quality that doesn’t feel as natural. There is also the risk of the low-end frequencies building up within the headphone further impacting the sound.
Open back headphones have vents or grills on the outside of the drivers to allow the passage of air. This allows the sound to breathe. This creates a more natural-sounding representation of the music. It also means that external noise can find its way in. Likewise what you are listening to can be heard by those around you.
There are also semi open back headphones. This design tries to be the best of both worlds. We haven’t included the best semi-open headphones in this lineup. Open back headphones serve a very specific purpose which these semi-open options don’t cover well.
The argument for open back headphones vs closed is rather complicated. If you want to learn more about closed back vs open back headphones you can check out our detailed guide here.
Why You Should Own a Pair of Open Back Headphones
You may be wondering if open backed headphones are affected by exterior noise why you would need a pair. There are several instances where a pair of good open back headphones will improve your listening experience.
Open back headphones allow air to escape which results in better sound quality.
If you do create music having that accurate representation of the music is critical to be able to properly mix and master your creations. This has made them a popular choice for sound engineers. The best open back headphones for mixing will allow you to spot the areas you need to fix in your final mixdown. If you are recording live instruments or vocals you need to stick to closed back headphones for monitoring. You don’t want the sound escaping from your open back headphones to find their way into your recording.
Open back headphones also offer a better listening experience. This is great if you are in your home DJ studio reviewing the latest music. You’ll be able to more clearly hear the various components and get an accurate representation of what the music will sound like in your DJ sets.
It’s also a great way to sit back and listen to the DJ mixes you have recorded. You’ll be able to hear your successes as well as your shortcomings especially when it comes to how you EQ your transitions.
If you like to DJ at home but don’t have the music playing loudly you can enjoy your mix live through your headphones. Many people ask how loud are open back headphones and thankfully many of the options we cover can deliver impressive volume. This is another case where the better sound quality from open back headphones would enhance your time on the decks.
The Headphone Market
Before we get into the reviews it’s worth discussing the scope of the headphone market. Since professional open back headphones are used in production environments there is a large range of price points. You can get budget open back headphones all the way up to spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on high-end headphones.
While price can often dictate quality you don’t need to take out a second mortgage to buy a pair of headphones. The headphones we have reviewed have been selected to be the best budget open back headphones you can buy without skimping on quality. It’s always worth investing in a quality pair of headphones as opposed to settling for cheap and inferior options. While the headphones we cover are considered budget they are not cheap. To be honest, when it comes to the best cheap open back headphones there are not many good choices out there. Luckily there is still a lot of good options within a reasonable price for aspiring DJs or music producers.
Do I Need a Headphone Amp and DAC?
Since we are in the realm of production gear there is another thing to consider. Some headphones will work best when running through a headphone amp. This becomes even more evident with more expensive headphones with a high impedance rating. The higher the impedance the more voltage the headphones need to reach a quality sound level. 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. If you want to learn more about impedance check out this video:
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. We’ve tried to select 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. The majority of your budget should be focused on getting a quality pair of headphones with an eye at 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.
Things To Look Out For
When selecting headphones there are a few things to take notice of. Sound quality is paramount. You want a flat neutral sound that represents the music in the purest way possible.
Comfort is the next most important thing to consider. It doesn’t matter how great a pair of headphones sound if they are noticeably uncomfortable. You’ll quickly find yourself focusing on the irritation over what you are listening to.
Connection options are also worth considering when selecting the best studio headphones. Detachable cables are great. They make it easy to replace if they get damaged and give you flexibility in choice when it comes to lengths and styles. In this list, we don’t cover the best wireless open back headphones. We have decided to stick to traditional corded options.
Let’s Talk Sound
There is one last point I’d like to cover. Sound is very subjective and when talking about headphones and sound quality everyone has a different opinion. There are some serious audiophiles out there that obsess over the sound quality of their headphones.
There is nothing wrong with being passionate about sound quality. But an understanding that people are different is also needed. For example, what may be considered comfortable to one person may be uncomfortable for another.
When compiling these reviews we have tried to be impartial. We also tried to consider as many different perspectives as possible. If your favorite pair of headphones isn’t on this list that doesn’t mean they are bad headphones. There are so many choices out there that it becomes impossible to cover them all. What we have done is curated a list of the best open back headphones at a reasonable price that we are confident will please most DJs.
Best Open Ear Headphones
Now that we have gone over some of the things to keep in mind let’s get stuck into the reviews of the best open headphones.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Review (4.5 Stars)
Beyerdynamic has an impressive history of creating quality headphones. The DT 990 follows this tradition and it offers a lot of impressive features considering the price. The main draw from a DJs perspective is the slightly greater emphasis on the bass. This makes them excellent for studio referencing and the best headphones for EDM in the open back range of headphones.
- Impressive Sound Quality – With an airy and spacious soundstage, the overall sound quality is fantastic. Good balance between all frequency ranges.
- Super Comfortable – The plush ear pads feel fantastic on your ears. While the head grip may be a bit tight for some I found them very comfortable.
- Durable Construction – Good quality materials have been used. While plastic still plays a big part you can tell it is a harder more solid style of plastic compared to other headphones.
- Solid Bass – The part which was the most pleasing to me was the bass. Not overemphasized but also not as bland as other headphones in this space.
- Could Use Better Accessories – A simple bag and thick cable are included. While useful I would have loved to see a fabric-lined cable or hardshell case.
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Grado SR325e Review (4 Stars)
Offering a distinctive industrial-inspired design, the Grado SR325e headphones are an impressive addition to our recommendations. The sound quality in the mids and highs was very impressive. The lack of bass did let me down. While likely a specific design decision it still detracted from my experience. I’ve found these to be one of the best headphones for music production. Even without the bass, these offer unique qualities that still make these a great choice.
- Sturdy Design – Rugged and simple design. These feel solid and can last the distance. The addition of 360-degree rotating ear cups is also a nice addition over other brands.
- Precise Sound – Clear precise sound that really highlights certain aspects of music. Vocals sound amazing. Any detailed sound recording will shine with these headphones.
- On-Ear Alternative – The only headphones on this list that offer an on-ear design rather than an over-ear design. Great to allow your ears a bit more breathing room. However, this design does mean they are not the most comfortable.
- Runs Well Without An Amp – The low impedance level means these will work comfortably with your devices. Not having to buy an amp can save you money.
- Lacking In Bass – From a DJs perspective this is is where the SR325e falls a bit short. I don’t expect thumping bass from open back headphones. I was disappointed when listening to certain genres of music.
- Non-Replaceable Cable – You can’t detach the cable. If the cable was of better quality I might not have minded as much.
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Sennheiser HD 650 Review (4 Stars)
Sennheiser really doesn’t need an introduction. They have been a constant in the audiophile world. Sennheiser open back headphones have garnered many a favorable review. All for good reason as well. High-quality materials and an impressive soundscape. They offer outstanding value for money. However, they still have a few slight flaws.
- Excellent Soundstage – Vibrant, clear and well defined. When it comes to delivering natural sound the HD 650s do not disappoint.
- Comfortable – As a DJ you’ll spend a lot of time with headphones on. These offer a very comfortable yet firm fit which lends itself well to long listening sessions.
- Detachable Cables – Replaceable parts always get a huge tick from me. Having the option to replace the cables without buying new headphones can save you a lot of money down the track. Do note that they come with specific cables which are slightly expensive.
- Shines in the Mids – While offering a good overall soundscape the mids are the real winners. If you mix music that has a heavy emphasis on the mids you’ll appreciate the depth and clarity.
- Dated Design – Design is very subjective but at first glance, these are not the most attractive pair of headphones. If you value how your headphones look there are better options.
- Disappointing Bass – While still accurate they are a bit flat on the bass. If you listen to a lot of bass-heavy music you may be a bit disappointed.
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Monolith M1060 Review (4 Stars)
When these hit the scene they were the most talked-about pair of open back headphones. Delivering advanced driver technology that was normally only for more expensive models. The advanced drivers do deliver a great soundscape but these headphones aren’t without a few minor flaws.
- Planar Drivers – With a big 106mm driver the sound quality these magnetic planar drivers put out is impressive. A nice spacious airy sound that would be perfect if not for the slightly disappointing mids.
- Unique Design – These headphones are a statement piece if I’ve ever seen one. The distinct exterior grille is eye-catching. So if the walnut looking finish giving these a unique personality.
- Quality Cables – A fabric coated cable is included that is one of the most resistant options to prevent your cable from getting tangled.
- Hard Shell Case Included – It’s always good to see a hardshell case included in the box. Excellent for protecting your investment.
- Bulky – There is denying these things are huge. These are not designed to be worn out and about but it is something to consider. The bulky design also means these are on the heavier side making them not the most comfortable open back headphones.
- Scratchy Mids – While the overall sound quality is very good the mids can be a little scratchy. Vocals, in particular, don’t sound as good as other headphones in this price range.
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|>> FULL MONOLITH M1060 REVIEW <<|
Sennheiser HD 599 Review (3.5 Stars)
The Sennheiser HD 599 is another popular choice among audiophiles that are on a tighter budget. With such a strong reputation it is no surprise that two Sennheiser headphones have made our recommended list. Backed by years of experience you certainly get a high-quality pair of headphones for the price.
- Good Mids and Highs – Really solid in the mids and highs. This does make monitoring easier. Vocals are rather crisp which is an added bonus if you listen to a lot of music that is vocal-heavy.
- Very Comfortable – It’s hard to explain but these just feel right. The plush velour earpads ratchet up the comfort level. The fit isn’t overly firm which people with larger heads will appreciate.
- Stylish – While still holding to the traditional oval shape that Sennheiser is known for they look a bit more refined than other models. Normally all plastic headphones can look a little cheap but I don’t feel that is the case here.
- Good Value – There is something to be said about function at a reasonable price. You can get better headphones but you will also have to pay a lot more. A good balance between price and function.
- Uninterested Low End – It’s common for open back headphones to suffer in the low end. However, this issue seems to be even more pronounced in these. For bass lovers, these may not be a good choice.
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AKG K702 Review (3.5 Stars)
The range of AKG open back headphones also offers some good choices. One of the standout options is the K702 headphones. Offering excellent sound quality that is well suited to critical listening. If you have a large collection of high-quality audio files you’ll appreciate how much these headphones do them justice. Despite the excellent sound, a few other features prevent these from achieving greatness.
- Balanced Sound – These sound fantastic. Excellent representation across all frequency ranges. If you want a quality representation of your music you won’t be disappointed.
- Comfortable Fit – These headphones offer a super comfortable fit. For long listening sessions, you’ll appreciate the soft earpads and forgiving headband.
- Affordable – Reasonably priced especially considering the quality of the sound. It becomes obvious where corners were cut but still good value for money.
- Attractive Design – The overall design is quite modern without pushing style boundaries. The large circular earcups are a nice change from the design other brands offer.
- Not The Most Durable – These are almost entirely plastic. Without the addition of metal components, it will be a matter of time before these will break by accident or from heavy consistent use.
- Best Used With an Amp – All open back headphones benefit from a headphone amp. These seem even more noticeable especially when plugged into everyday electronics like smartphones.
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I have to admit it is a tricky situation to be in when recommending the top open back headphones. Their primary use for sound referencing can sometimes make it a bit awkward from a DJs perspective.
All the headphones reviewed offer some fantastic features yet all also come with some drawbacks. It is to be expected when looking at the best open-air headphones within an affordable price range. There is a reason after all that some open back headphones become increasingly expensive.
My personal favorite is the Beyerdynamic DT 990. It’s not the most stylish of headphones but the performance was the winning factor. The increased emphasis on bass without losing the overall balance made me consistently want to use these when listening to electronic music. I also found them to be the best headphones for mixing.
If the bass is not as important for you the Grado SR325e is another solid choice due to how well they run without a headphone amp and the precise sound. If your budget is also a concern they are certainly worth looking into.
As mentioned earlier sound is subjective. Your experience and engagement with your music can sway you in various directions. With so many options it really does come down to personal preferences.
Either way, it is worth investing in a good pair of open back headphones to add to your home DJ studio. Having the versatility of both a closed back and open back option for various scenarios makes them a valuable addition to your lineup of DJ gear.