Open-Back Vs. Closed-Back Headphones: What’s the Difference? is a participant in Amazon Associate Program and is supported by the readers. The qualifying purchase you make through our links may get us some commission and doesn't cost you an extra penny.


Headphones usually come in different designs that are meant to satisfy the diverse needs of the gamer or audiophile. The most common types of headphones include the open-back and closed-back headphones. While it may seem self-explanatory, these two terms are quite confusing, especially for first-time buyers.

Apparently, quite a number of people have been disappointed after purchasing one of these, confusing it for the other, just because of lack of correct information. Some have purchased open-back headphones thinking that they will let all the ambient noise in, and have been disappointed to discover that only a little of the sound is allowed in. On the other hand, some people have purchased closed-back headphones and found out that they do not really work as they thought before.

Since most gamers have a tough time bargaining on these two when deciding how to choose the best gaming headphones, this comprehensive comparison will act as a guide on exactly what each of these headphones has to offer.

Difference Between Open-Back Headphones and Closed-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones and closed-back headphones are loved all over the world, and it rolls back to a matter of personal preferences. Most people may not be able to differentiate between these two, but with the clarification on the differences that are described below, it will become easier for you to pick the exact model and design that will cater for your gaming or audiophile needs.

Open-back headphones feature earpieces with the backs of their outer shells perforated or meshed. This allows some external sounds to get into the headphones while some of the sounds from the headphones escape into the surrounding environment. On the other hand, closed-back headphones have the outer shells of the earpieces fully enclosed at the back, preventing any sound from getting into or out of the headphones.

-Noise Cancellation
Open-back headphones offer very little noise cancellation. Actually, they are particularly designed to promote interaction of headphone sounds and ambient noise, thanks to their perforated backs. If you ever want total noise cancellation, then closed-back headphones should be your first choice. Since their earpieces are completely covered at the back, there is no infiltration of ambient sounds from the surroundings. This ensures that all foreign noise and sounds are annulled completely.

-Sound Quality
As much as the judgement of sound quality depends entirely upon the user, there is an obvious difference in how the sounds are transmitted and heard. Open-back headphones offer a more natural sound quality that incorporates ambient noise. This can be described as listening to music or audio just the way it would be if you were listening to music from an external speaker. On the other hand, closed-back headphones offer a more boxed in sound, making you feel like the music is originating from your head. Due to the high level of noise isolation, these headphones usually produce clearer and crispier sounds. However, it is the only the user who can determine which one is better depending on their specific needs.

Open-Back Headphones
People who want to listen to audio but stay aware of whatever is happening in their surroundings often prefer open-back headphones. However, you have to consider the fact that people around you will also be able to listen to whatever audio you are listening to when using open-back headphones. Therefore, as much as you would love to use it at the office, it could cause a distraction to your coworkers. These headsets are ideal for listening to high-quality sounds and audio files, critical listening and listening at home. If you plan to use them while travelling by train, air or in a public vehicle, then you might have to consider buying closed-back models. Open-back headphones come with a couple of advantages and disadvantages, and these are detailed below.


1. Natural sounds
Since open-back headphones allow mixing of ambient noise and sounds from the headphones, the quality of the sound will be more natural. Using these headphones feels like listening to music from an external speaker.

2. Awareness of the surrounding
These headphones allow the user to listen to audio from the headphones and sounds from their surrounding environment simultaneously. This may be useful when working in areas that need you to concentrate on whatever is happening around you such as when walking on roads with busy traffic.

3. Better aeration.
The best open-back headphones are those that cover the entire ear, and since they are open, they offer better breathability. There is improved flow of air and moisture, thus no moisture, heat and sweat buildup within the earcups after long periods of use.


1. Poor noise cancellation
As much as the sounds you hear from these headphones will be natural, if you are using them in a noisy place, the sound quality will be greatly reduced by the external noise getting into the earpieces. In addition to that, people next to you will be able to hear whatever you are listening to.

2. Less protection to internal parts
By being open-back, the headset’s connecting cables and speakers are more exposed to destructive elements within the environment. These parts are susceptible to damage from moisture and physical invasion.

Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones are definitely for people who want to completely lose themselves in whatever they are listening to. Given the impeccable noise isolation offered by these headphones, you won’t need to worry about ambient noise distracting your headphone sounds, neither will other people find themselves singing along to the songs you are listening to. This makes them perfect for use in public places, such as when commuting via subway trains, public vehicles and planes. They will also come in handy if you want to listen to music at the park, in the office or other public spaces. Closed-back headphones are also commonly used in studios when recording and mixing audio as they offer clearer and crispier sounds.


1. Crispier and clearer sounds
Closed-back headphones do not allow ambient noise to get into the earcups when you are listening to audio. This makes any sound that comes from the earpieces very clear and crispy like it’s coming from your own head.

2. Perfect noise cancellation
Having no ambient noise get into the headphones and no audio sounds get out of the headphones ensures no distraction of either the headphone user or the people around her. This is because the user of the headphones will only hear sounds from them and the people around will not catch any of it, which makes it incredible for crowded places.

3. Secures inner electric parts
Having a closed-back design ensures that all the electric components such as speakers and connecting cables are encapsulated safely within the earcups. This ensures that they are not exposed to moisture, physical invasion and direct heat among other factors that may destroy them.

4. Safer volumes
Listening to audio via closed-back headphones do not require extremely high volumes, as it is already clear at lower volumes. This ensures that your ears cannot be damaged by listening to very high volume levels that may damage the user’s ears.


1. Little awareness of the surroundings
With closed-back headphones, you cannot depend on your hearing to know whatever is happening around you. Due to their great noise cancelling properties, using them in busy areas such as while walking in busy traffic may pose dangers to you. For instance, you won’t be able to hear horns and other sounds from oncoming vehicles, which may cause accidents.

2. Poor breathability
Closed-back headphones cannot allow free flow of air and moisture. This causes an imbalance in heat and moisture, which lead to hot and sweaty earcups after a long period of use. This is particularly most uncomfortable during the hot season.

Final Verdict

As we can see from this, each of these headphone models has their own advantages and disadvantages. While one user may prefer one of their properties, it may not be great for another, as they say; one man’s meat is another man’s poison. This is why the choice of headphones to invest in lies solely upon the user. Depending on their needs, both the open-back and closed-back headphone models are readily available for all budgets. All you need to know are the differences between these two, as well as their benefits and limitations before finally investing in them.

Author: Brendon Roun


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