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Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones for Gaming – EarHugz®

Closed headphones: The type most peopleknow and use

The difference between “closed” and “open” headphones is in the way they’re constructed. Closed headphones contain a speaker with a hard, or closed-off, back. The vast majority of headphones are “closed” for a couple of reasons. The first is that by closing off the back of the headphones, they create a tighter “seal” around your ear.

That seal is what gives you punchier bass (especially with earbuds), because the sound can’t escape in all directions. The speaker in each side of your headphones is naturally directed toward your ear, but some of the sound waves will bounce off the back of of your headphones.  

Closed headphones also carry the benefit of not letting sound “leak” out, which makes them a lot more office- or commute-friendly. Because most people tend to listen to music in office environments, or through earbuds, closed headphones have become the de-facto standard in the headphone world.

Among my favorite closed headphones is this pair by Sony that has been in production for decades. The audio quality is phenomenal if you’re looking for a neutral-sounding pair of headphones, with my only gripe being its long cable.

Sony Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone, $79.99, available at Amazon


Over Ear vs On Ear Headphones

Over Ear  Headphones

 Closed back On Ear headphones
Closed back On Ear headphones

The ear cups of closed back over ear headphones are designed to cover your entire ear. These headphones can be quite large, and even heavy at times. It’s interesting to note that, the higher the quality, usually the heavier the headphones. That’s just to keep in mind. Certainly, many kinds of over ear closed back headphones were not meant for frequent pulling off and adjustments, but to be rested over your ears for considerable lengths of time without disturbances.

The benefits of a pair closed back over ear headphones is that they are more comfortable. If you have large ears, they will be able to fit around them, and really close around your head to give you the most immersive experience you can have from a pair of passive noise canceling headphones. For that reason they are also the most comfortable.

On Ear Headphones

Close back on ear headphones are designed to rest “on” your ears instead of around them. Usually these headphones are smaller, and therefore more compact and easy to carry. For that reason, they are often the go-to choice for DJs as well. That’s because they do a great job at blocking out the music and noise in the club or party, while being easy to pull off and adjust.

Drawbacks of On Ear Headphones

  • Can be uncomfortable pressing against ears for a long time
  • May not be as “accurate” for music production

But wait, there’s more!

There’s another kind of headphone that serves as a compromise between that open back and closed back headphones: Semi-open back headphones.

The Best Open-Back Headphones

Amazing spatial sound quality is only achievable by open-back headphones. Check our guide to find out which headphones are currently the best. 09.10.2020 | 8 min read

What are open back headphones?

 Open back headphones
Open back headphones

Open back headphones are physically constructed to allow sound to emit out the back of the ear cups.

For this reason, the sound is not “tight,” but rather “airy,” as if you were in a room listening to a pair of speakers (wrapped around your head, of course).

A good pair of open back headphones, then, will also generally sound more “relaxing.” Sure, you will disturb anyone who is in the same room with you, because of the open back — but that’s the trade off for a great open sound.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of a pair of open back headphones:

Advantages of Open back headphones

  • Spacious and airy sound
  • Lack of isolation keeps you aware of your environment
  • May minimize “listening fatigue”
  • Provides a more relaxing listening experience

Disadvantages of Open back headphones

  • Lack of isolation means noisy environments will disturb your listening
  • You will potentially disturb others in the same room with you

Some Recommendations

Regardless of your needs or preferences, there are plenty of models to choose from. Open-back designs tend to be more expensive, they are aimed at the professional and the audiophile market, but there are still models available that won’t break the bank.

Best headphones for recording

The best headphones for recording are definitely closed back headphones. They will provide the isolation that you need to stop the sound leaking from your headphones and into your microphone.

Also, if you’re planning on buying your first pair of headphones for your studio and you only intend to buy one pair. Then closed-back headphones will be the best choice to start with.

B] Closed-Back Headphones

1. What Are Closed-back Headphones?

Closed-back headphones are sealed around the back, unlike open-back headphones which are open. Closed-back headphones let you keep the outside noise out, and inside noise in more like the noise-cancelling feature. There may be an experience of undetectable echoes in bass notes, but that does not affect the sound.

Most people prefer closed-back headphones for travelling. With its concealed and enclosed design, you can hear your music on-the-go. It is also the most preferred choice for frequent fliers.

For sound recording purposes, closed-back headphones will let you hear your voice in the studio without the mic picking up more noise. Closed-back headphones are more for casual listening or long music playback. It is great for your desktop needs and commuting needs. It also serves the purpose of mixing audio, but that depends on the kind of music you need to mix.

2. Advantages of Closed-back Headphones

2. Advantages of Closed-back Headphones

  • Noise Isolation Feature

Noise isolation feature is the best part of closed-back headphones. It’s the clear difference between open and closed-back headphones. The feature gives you the ability to isolate from unwanted external noises so that you have immersive music experience. The closed ear cups, seal the user’s ears, thus reducing the sound that seeps in from the outer world. This makes the headphone more suitable for noisy environments and public places.

While you commute, there is so much noise around you that closed-back headphones, with its noise isolation feature, give you the much-required sound seal which helps preserve your music experience.

  • Amazing Portability

With the advantage of noise cancellation/isolation, most brands design closed-back headphones for regular use. When you buy a headphone, you consider many factors. Portability is the basic one.

Closed-back headphones are portable and can be carried along with you in a small case or bag. Some headphones’ are also available in foldable options, giving you complete flexibility. You can choose rugged design elements in closed-back headphones, as that’ll also be comfortable to carry along.

  • Bass Support

Though the sound quality of open-back headphones is good, closed-back wins easily in bass support. By trapping the air in the confined space, the headphone can create a better impact. For most people, bass support is important and is also a major selling point for companies.

A deeper impact of bass means a great sounding headphone. As bass lies in the base of listening capability or the low end of the normal audio frequency range, the headphone picks up the right sound. If you enjoy listening to a wide range of music, then you’ll enjoy the bass support that is offered by most closed-back headphones.

  • No Sound Disturbance

Apart from having the noise isolation feature, closed-back headphones offer you a closed-back feel. As it helps to block the external noise from coming in, it prevents music from leaking out. The closed-back headphone is ideal for when you need to listen to music without any disturbance around you. The headphones can be carried along while travelling in your car or plane.

You can put it on in a library or any public place to enjoy your music with privacy. Even if you hear your music loudly, no one would be able to hear your song. In open back vs closed-back models, closed-back scores high in privacy feature.

Closed-Back Headphones Pros and Cons

  • Best isolation for noisier environments.

  • Can be enjoyed at lower volume levels.

  • Music isn't easily heard by others nearby.

  • Enhancement of lower-level frequencies.

  • Readily available in a range of prices.

Disadvantages Overall clarity and accuracy can be diminished. The soundstage seems less open and airy. Music is more inside your head. Ears can become hot with long periods of use.

Most of the headphones found online or in retail stores are closed-back headphones. Although open-back headphones have been growing in popularity, there currently aren’t as many models available (by comparison). Typically, you can visually identify closed-back headphones by how the ear cups are designed (the cups lack vents, perforations, or see-through mesh). Since this isn’t always the case, the best way to tell (other than checking the product specifications and features) is to put on the headphones and listen.

Sound Isolation

Closed-back headphones offer the maximum amount of isolation. When the headphone cushions create a complete seal on or around the ears, there's no airflow in or out. With closed-back headphones, most exterior noise is dampened or muffled. The amount that reaches the ears depends on the quality and density of the cup and ear cushion materials. This is ideal if you want a quieter listening environment to enjoy music in busy places, such as airports, shopping malls, bus stops, and train stations. Minimizing external sounds makes it easier to hear the smaller and quieter sonic details within music tracks, especially at lower and safer volume levels.

Closed-back headphones block outside noise from coming in and prevent music from leaking out. This is ideal when you want to listen without disturbing those around you, such as in a library, bus, or room where others watch TV or read.

Closed-back headphones also offer privacy, since no one knows what you're listening to or how loud you have the volume turned up, even if they're sitting next to you.

Low-Frequency Performance

Another advantage of closed-back headphones is an enhancement to lower-level frequencies. The nature of the enclosed space acts like a stereo speaker cabinet, which results in more intense and punchy bass. Think of closed-back headphones like having a vehicle’s windows rolled up while driving down the street, where all the sound and pressure is contained. Some manufacturers leverage this aspect when designing headphones to develop signature sounds and enhance specific ranges of frequencies.

Smaller, Less Airy Soundstage

But there are trade-offs for using closed-back headphones. Sound waves (and the associated energies) enclosed in the small spaces have nowhere to go. This affects how music is heard when compared to the experience of open-back headphones. Music can seem somewhat colored with closed-back headphones because the sound waves reflect off the materials used to create the ear cups (many manufacturers minimize this with anti-resonant materials). These small little reflections can also work against overall clarity and accuracy.

The soundstage—the perceived depth and width of the audio performance—of closed-back headphones seems smaller, less airy, and more cloistered than open-back headphones. The music you hear also feels like it comes from inside your head, rather than flowing past your ears. This effect ranges from subtle to more pronounced, depending on the headphones.

Doubles as Earmuffs

Physically, closed-back headphones trap more heat and moisture due to the lack of airflow. Still, having headphones double as earmuffs is an easy bonus during cold weather months. However, if you don't like that hot and claustrophobic feeling around your ears, use closed-back headphones less often during warmer periods of the year. Or, take frequent breaks to cool off.


We hope that we’ve cleared up a few questions that you may have had about closed and open-back headphones. Ultimately, our aim at Andertons is to make the shopping experience as easy as possible for our customers! So if you still have any burning questions, make sure to use our contact us form and a member of the team will get back to you.

As a whole, we’d argue that closed-back headphones are far more versatile than their open-back counterparts. They are constructed to heavily reduce background noise and provide you with an uninterrupted, isolated listening experience – making them more adaptable for everyday use. However, if you’re looking for a set of cans to conduct detailed mixing work with and nothing else – open-back headphones are practically unmatched!

Want to Learn More?

Interested in finding out more about music gear and expanding your knowledge? Click here to view all of our Labs articles! For more information on the other topics mentioned in this guide, check out our related articles: