Open-back vs Closed-back Headphones: Which is Better in 2023

open-back vs closed-back

Confused between Open-back vs Closed-back headphones? Not sure which one to pick, when you visit headphones stores. Don’t worry this guide you will assist you better in choosing the right one for you.

In reality, they don’t seem very distinct from one another, so someone who doesn’t know the difference might end up with the wrong choice.

Though they look pretty similar in appearance but there is a small difference that gives certain disparity in your audio experience.

Open-back headphones have unsealed ear-cups with perforated covers, having enough room for airflow.

Closed-back headphones have completely sealed ear-cups with plastic or metal covering, having no room for air to escape.

Let’s dig it deep to know the difference in detail for audiophiles (matter’s a lot).

Open-back Vs Closed-back Headphones Detailed Comparison

Now, we’ll have a detailed look in every department between these two headphones. So, that you will have a clear understanding which one suits you better (as per your preference).

Open-back vs Closed-back: Sound

sound quality

1. Sound Isolation

Closed-back headphones have better noise isolation than Open-back headphones.

It is due to the sealed earcups of Closed-back headphones that block out all ambient noise of high frequencies (up to 30dB). They also allow air to flow in so the sound reverberates.

Open-back headphones ain’t as good in this aspect. They are not entirely sealed, but rather perforated, so they do not block out the ambient noise (some models may provide noise reduction but it’s insignificant). They allow air flow so there’s no echo.

2. Sound Leakage

Closed-back headphones do a better job of reducing sound leakage.

The airtight earcups of the Closed-back headphones prevent others from hearing what you’re listening to, enabling you to get immersed in your world of music without any disturbances.

The sound leakage system is poor in Open-back headphones so they aren’t so convenient in places with many people around.

3. Soundstage

Soundstage is a feature in headphones that lets you locate the musical instruments at different stage levels when you listen to different music notes.

This is one aspect where Open-back headphones do a far better job than closed-back headphones.

It is because of their “unsealed” design that allows a more natural, open sound production (like you’re in a music studio).

In the case of the Closed-back headphones, although they do not offer such “realistic” sound, they provide more depth to the sound due to the sealed design (feels like the music is playing inside your head).

4. Bass

Closed-back headphones have better bass than Open-back ones because it does not allow any external sound to mix with the music so the bass is more defined and deeper.

The Open-back headphones do not have such impactful bass but it does feel more realistic which the audiophiles, who enjoy more precise and rhythmic bass, may not prefer.

Overall, Closed-back headphones are best when you wanna drown out all noises and completely get lost in your head through music.

Open-back vs Closed-back: Comfort

woman enjoying music

When it comes to comfort, Open-back headphones are the ones to beat.

The Open-back headphones are made of softer and more breathable materials and also have the space to provide ventilation, thus, they do not cause sweating and are more comfortable to use for longer listening sessions.

The Closed-back headphones are heavier ‘cause they have more material in them which aren’t as soft and breathable as open-back ones. They may also cause your ears to heat up when used for long.

Theoretically, open-back headphones are more comfortable to use for longer listening periods.

However, comfort is a subjective matter so it totally depends on the user’s choice. Different models come with different paddings, fabrics, cushions, etc. so you can choose a comfortable pair of headphones (both open-back and closed-back) based on your needs.

Open-back vs Closed-back: Convenience

The Closed-back headphones are more convenient in crowded places or places with a lot of noise around. Whereas the Open-back headphones are better for indoor use where there is very less external noise.

Although, if you do not mind ambient noise mixing with your music, you may not face any inconvenience with open-back headphones in crowded places.

Pro’s And Con’s [Open-back Vs Closed-back Headphones]

We’ve covered all the major differences between Open-back and Closed-back headphones, let’s have a quick look on the pros and cons to quickly know which headphones you are looking for.

Open-back Headphones

open-back headphones

Closed-back Headphones

closed-back headphones

Which Suits You Better (Open or Closed Headphones)- Quick Analysis

If you still can’t judge yourself even after going through pros and cons section, here are the recommendations for the headphones based on usage type. You will definitely make a choice continue reading…

Open-back headphones

  • Mixing and mastering because they offer more realistic sound.
  • Gaming if you play in a room where there’s no external noise that disrupts your game.
  • Casual home listening where sound isolation is not required and sound leakage doesn’t really matter.

Closed-back headphones

  • Recording requires the utmost isolation so closed-back ones are the best choice.
  • Gaming if you play in a noisy environment where you need a superior noise isolation system.
  • Outdoor listening, especially in crowded places where there are a lot of people around so you need to prevent sound leakage and also block out external noise.

Semi Open-back Headphones

semi open-back headphones

The Semi Open-back headphones are more like closed-back headphones except they do not have completely sealed earcups, letting some air pass. Such headphones do not block out external noise and also leak sound BUT not as much as Open-back headphones. They are good for casual listening (at home or in places with very less external noise).


Are open-back better than semi-back headphones?

They both are similar except open-back headphones have poorer noise isolation and leak more sound. So, technically, semi open-back headphones are better than open-back but some listeners might beg to differ.

Do open-back headphones block out noise?

No, they do not block out external noise. They’re useful when you do not want to get detached from the world.

Why are open-back headphones better for mixing?

They produce more accurate, realistic sound than closed-back headphones which is important for mixing.


Now that you know all the differences, pros, and cons of both Open-back and Closed-back headphones, you can choose which one to get based on your needs and preferences.

Yes, it may seem closed-back headphones are better than the open-back ones but it’s not always the case. Each suits different situations and environments so it totally depends on your needs.

And before making a purchase decision, I’ll suggest you to also go through On-Ear vs Over-Ear Headphones guide so you should know exactly which type of headphone you need.