Open Back Vs. Closed Back Headphones

You’ll come across the open-back and closed-back headphones when searching for a new earbud to purchase. 

Although these headphones allow you to listen to good sounds, they differ in application and sound delivery.

Open-back headphones come with perforated outer shell coverings, while closed-back headphones don’t have any perforations at all. 

While the terminology speaks purely of the physical design of the headphones, it falls short of describing how well these headphones perform in terms of listening experience. 

Want to learn more about the best headphones to buy? Then stay glued to this article.

What are open-back headphones?

Open-back headphones consist of open earcups, which give room for airflow. The earcups are designed facing upwards, and they allow sound to escape both into and out of your ears.

They produce more natural and clearer sounds and are perfect for audiophiles and anyone interested in experimenting with audio.

However, these headphones have a poor sound isolation property and may not be suitable for use in places like a library or an office. 

Why? Other people will hear your music from the background. 

819YXXKF2cL. AC SL1500

New Philips Over-Ear Open-back headphones

All new Philips SHP9600 with the perfect blend of performance, comfort, and quality.

What are closed-back headphones?

Closed-back headphones are designed with sealed earcups. They restrict airflow so that no sound escapes while listening to music. 

This means you can enjoy your music in isolation without having to worry about background sounds.

However, note that wearing closed-back headphones for extended periods can make your ears a bit warm. 

Closed-back headphones are an excellent choice for anyone interested in commuting, listening to music at the office, and recording audio.

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SENNHEISER HD 569 Closed Back Headphone

The HD 569 is a closed-back for those needing noise isolation with outstanding sound quality. 

Open-Back vs. Closed-Back Headphones

Regardless of the headphone you choose, you will get a solid connection across most devices. 

However, let’s look at how open and closed-back headphones compare to each other in terms of performance and listening experience.

Sound Quality

Open-back headphones are typically considered superior to closed-back headphones in terms of sound quality. 

Open-back headphones support airflow in and out of their earcups, delivering better and more realistic sounds in the process. 

Furthermore, the unrestricted airflow means that an open-back headphone has less air pressure to contend with. 

As a result, the earcups’ drivers respond to changes in the audio signal more efficiently and swiftly. 

However, the earcups contain all the sound and pressure inside closed headphones.

When the closed earcups trap sound waves, the sound loses clarity or becomes somewhat colored.

To solve this issue, most manufacturers try to incorporate an anti-resonant material into closed-back headphones to absorb sound waves and reduce reflection.

Sound Isolation

If you are looking forward to enjoying some music with minimum disturbance, then a closed-back headphone is the answer you seek. 

Closed-back headphones have a significant advantage over open-back headphones in sound isolation. 

The seals around the earcups prevent air and background sound from coming in.

Closed headphones are perfect for anyone interested in enjoying music in crowded places like shopping malls, train stations, and airports. 

Also, most professional DJs and audio mixers prefer the closed earcups style of headphones because they allow for better concentration and isolation.

Besides sound isolation, closed-back headphones also do an incredible job of reducing sound leakage. 

Overall, closed-back headphones offer a better way to enjoy your music privately and without disturbance.

On the other hand, open headphones have poor sound isolation properties and may not give you the privacy you desire. 

But, if you are not overly concerned about background noise interfering with your music, an open-back headphone may not be a bad idea.

Lastly, open-back headphones have poor sound leakage properties. If you like to read and listen to music simultaneously, then going to a library may be a challenge as these headphones will leak out the sound of your music.


Soundstage is the ability of a device to identify the depth and location of instruments and speakers. 

The soundstage is another area where an open-back headphone does a far better job than a closed-back headphone. 

The earcups of an open-back headphone support deeper, wider, and more open sound production.

Listening to music through the soundstage of an open headphone can be compared to the feeling of listening to music through a well-placed sound system. 

Open headphones offer a better musical experience with a greater sense of immersion and electrifying presence.

On the other hand, closed-back headphones offer more of an “in-your-head” music experience. 

Since sound doesn’t flow out, all of the sound and thrills happen in your head.


A portable headphone is one that you can carry and move around with ease.

Closed-back headphones are far more portable and versatile, and they offer better sound isolation. 

Closed-back headphones don’t leak sounds, making them usable in any environment.

On the other hand, open-back headphones are best suited for indoor use and are not ideal for every environment. 

Open or Closed headphones – Which to buy?

Now you’ve learned about the differences between open-back and closed-back headphones. 

If you are still unsure about which headphones to buy, here’s a tip to help you.

If your primary concern is affordability, a better base, and sound isolation, then a closed-back headphone is what you need.

However, if you want something lightweight, comfortable, and has more outstanding sound quality, open-back headphones are the best.


Closed-back headphones are designed with closed or sealed earcups, while open-back headphones are designed with open earcups. 

The main difference between these two headphones is that an open earcup supports airflow while a closed earcup does not. 

Closed-back headphones are best suited for people who want to enjoy some music in isolation, without the interference of background noises. 

On the other hand, open-back headphones have poor sound leakage properties, but they score high in providing better soundstage and sound quality.

Jude is a music and headphone lover. He has tested and reviewed several audio listening devices and enjoys writing helpful tips and information for readers like you.