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The Difference Between Open-Backed And Closed-Back Headphones

Are you planning on building your own home recording studio? Well, that would need some planning and a decent budget if you wish to gain your very own quality home recording studio. First thing you should be aware of is that there are two types of studio headphones to choose from. There is the open-backed and closed-backed headphone.

Based on the name of each it is quite easy to differentiate the two. Open-backed headphones have an open design that leaves the outer part of the ear open with the help of horizontal cut outs. Closed-back headphones on the other hand cover the entirety of the ear with a cup-like design. Open-backed headphones have a couple of openings while the closed-back headphone has a bowl shaped design with no openings.

Now, it is important to point out that the differences between the two are not merely just aesthetics. There are several advantages and disadvantages for using each and it is best to understand what type of headphone to use on particular environment or activity. With that in mind, let us take a closer look between the two different headphone designs.

Closed-Back Headphones

best studio headphones close-back

Just the fact that it encloses the whole ear is an effective and basic way to cancel ambient noise. While some closed-back headphones do feature active noise cancellation, the design itself offers more than adequate capabilities in terms of blocking out outside noise from interfering in your listening experience. The large soft padding helps cup and seal off and openings while the insulated bowl shaped plastic cup assists in further sealing any opening.

The standard closed-back headphone will provide users with at least 10dB noise reduction by default. This natural noise cancellation is a great feature to have as once you plug in the headphone and start cranking up the music you will notice that about 80% to 90% of outside noise is blocked and you will be able to enjoy listening to music clearly and without distractions.

This is the biggest advantage of using closed-back headphones. Its ability to naturally dampen outside noise is a huge plus especially if you are going to use it in an open space with lots of ambient sound. This is also the reason why this type of headphone is recommended for DJs as it aids them to focus on key audios and sound from their equipment in the midst of the loud thumping sound and noise from audiences.

As for the quality or music experience, you will feel the music is coming from within your head. Artistically speaking, the experience is akin to that of being enveloped by a wave of music that surrounds you from the inside out.

That focused listening experience is great for those who really want to enjoy their music but it is also perfect for those who want to really focus on the sounds for mixing, mastering and monitoring audio files.

Audio engineers will find closed-back headphones truly advantageous to their craft as they will have a better chance of isolating key sound cues that would normally get past your ears. If you are mixing and monitoring some recordings then a closed-back headphone is your best bet to get the best results. Closed-back headphones also have little to no sound leakage so you don’t have to worry about the music distracting or bothering other people in the room. If you plan on listening to your music in an area where silence is valued then closed-back headphones will give you the privacy to enjoy your favorite music.

Another advantage of using closed-back headphones is if you are planning to use a microphone alongside it. You will be able to avoid nasty audio feedbacks when gaming or during online conferences as there is barely any sound leakage that will be picked up by your microphone.

Open-Backed Headphones

The open-back headphone delivers the complete opposite of what the closed-back designed headphones deliver. The openings and grills found on the ear cup of open-backed headphones allows air and ambient sound to pass through the headphone ear cups. But what benefits does this feature deliver?

The main advantage of this design is that it changes the listening experience significantly from the feeling of the music resonating from in your head (closed-back headphones) to that of a feeling of being surrounded by music (open-backed headphones). To take this into further perspective let us say you are on a porch in a park. If you are using closed-back headphones you will feel as if the whole world is pushed out and that will deliver a feeling of isolation with you enjoying the music in its purest form.

On the other side of the coin, an open-backed headphone will allow ambient sound to seep into your listening experience and blending the music to everyday sound such as cars, birds and the wind rustling the trees.

The idea of sound leakage might actually be viewed as a downside by audiophiles, especially sound engineers and they are right about that considering how they apply headphones but it does have certain positive traits. For example, open-backed headphones deliver a sense of space when listening to music. Instead of feeling like you are in an enclosed space you feel more like the music is blending into the environment. This is why open-backed headphones are more ideal for audiophiles who simply wish to maximize the enjoyment of listening to their favorite albums in the comfort of their own home.
Final Thoughts

If you plan on listening to your favorite music outside and wish to enjoy it without any outside noise or maybe you have a home studio and wish to mix and monitor sound files then closed-back headphones is your best bet. If you simply wish to enjoy music from the comfort of your own home or outdoors the open-backed headphone might just be your cup of tea. Try both and see which fits your taste, both have their own strength and weaknesses and it all comes down to how you will apply the headphone.