Whether it’s in a studio setting, cruising on the subway to work or enjoying music in the comfort of your own home, headphones have become a fixture in the audio universe over the years. Once a luxury designated to engineers behind the board, headphones eventually became an accessory and, in a sense, necessity for people everywhere.
You’ll find that headphones come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, names, specifications and brands. For the sake of this article, let’s hone in on open-back headphones. While we’re at it, we’ll also dive into the way they differ from closed-back headphones, and get you up-to-speed with some audio jargon that we audio nerds at Sam Ash talk about excessively.
Open-back headphones are constructed with an over-the-ear design, which is a stark contrast to the little earbuds you bring to the gym every morning. “Over-the-ear” headphones, for what it’s worth, are considered full-size and encase your ears in their entirety. You may see them referred to as circumaural headphones. These are go-to options for sound engineers and music producers, as you get a well-rounded sound for critical listening and mixing.
A pair of open-back headphones contains sound-generating drivers open to the outside world, presenting pros and cons to be discussed shortly.
Now that you’re up to date with some basic headphone lingo (please don’t try to impress women at the bar with this newfound knowledge), let’s analyze why someone would use a pair of open-backs.
First and foremost, a quality pair of this type of headphones will offer optimal comfort for your ears. Because of their design, your ears will be able to breathe a bit better, without excess moisture and heat soaking up the earcup cushions. While we always recommend taking breaks and avoiding ear fatigue, you can rest assured knowing you won’t get uncomfortable or sticky with a pair of open-back headphones atop your cranium for extended periods of time.
Going back to our note about sound engineers and their affinity for open-back headphones, the reason this love affair exists is because your music will sound considerably bigger and wider on a quality pair. Engineers and musicians refer to this concept as the “soundstage” – you’ll receive true depth and stereo excellence to bring your mix to life. Even if you aren’t an engineer or producing the next EDM-anthem, casual listeners who want a new music experience will absolutely enjoy kicking back and letting a pair of open-back headphones immerse them in a sonic wonderland.
The Other Side
As is the case with any gear you get your hands on, there are pros and cons with open-back headphones. One of the biggest you’ll quickly discover is listening in public. They may not be the best choice if you’re sharing your office with someone, in mixed company at the library or listening to death metal while your roommate is trying to sleep. Because of their open design, there’s a chance others will hear your music depending on how loud it is. It’s also worth noting that you won’t be completely isolated from your outside environments, either. You’ll still hear city construction, mid-day traffic, café conversations and whatever else accompanies your daily life’s soundtrack.
Closed-back headphones, conversely, leave you completely isolated with your music. This is particularly beneficial if you frequent busy or loud public spaces, without any outside noise taking away from your listening experience. They’ll also prevent your music from leaking out in quiet, contained spaces as well. With all of this being said, closed-back headphones don’t offer that same “soundstage” sensation. Instead, you’ll get a tighter, more compact sound in what feels like a much smaller listening atmosphere.
Now that you have this handy-dandy reference, you’ll be prepared to find out which open-back headphones fit your style, comfort needs or production habits. Take full advantage of the series of options to explore with just the click of a button. Don’t sell yourself (or your ears) short. Here are a few options to get the ball rolling:
Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones: Designed for mastering purposes and critical mix analysis, the SRH1480 headphones pack a punch with pinpoint bass and well-defined highs. A premium-padded headband with a steel frame offers optimal comfort for those long mix sessions, and its naturally-wide stereo image lets you hear music in ways that explore the entire acoustic spectrum.
AKG K 702 Reference Class Open Back Headphones: Take on your mixes with confidence and maximum sonic detail. The AKG K 702s are the world’s first pair with flat-wire coils, resulting in unparalleled signal-tracking accuracy. With legendary pedigree and unparalleled frequency response, you’ll be wishing you made the switch to open-back years ago.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO Open Back Studio Reference Headphones: Considered a favorite amongst many in the production industry, the DT 1990 reference headphones are well-balanced, high-quality and offer maximum comfort. Enjoy dynamic range and excellent stereo image courtesy of high-resolution Tesla drivers.
Let us guide you to headphone success here at SamAsh.com.