Closed-back headphones are good for casual listening, listening at the office, for use when commuting, and recording/mixing audio. The primary benefit of closed headphones is their noise isolation. They are also good when you want to listen to music without bothering those around you. In this post, we have rounded up our best closed-back headphones. Also, check out our buying advice below.
Your choice of going for an open-back or closed-back headphone will depend on several factors. Headphones come in a variety of designs, sizes, and different technologies. However, one thing that affects the sound reproduction in headphones is the design of the earcup. Open or Closed headphones are the most popular headphones earcup designs in the market. A lesser-known design, semi-open-back, tries to bring the best of both closed and open headphones designs. We have an in-depth view of closed vs open headphones on this site. However, let’s go over some quick take away points you should consider.
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Open-back headphones have an open earcup design. They are usually vented or have holes or perforations which allow sound and air to pass through. Because of the open design, they have a different sound signature compared to closed headphones. They sound more natural, have a wider/deeper soundstage, and open/airy. These qualities make listening to music via open-back headphones seem more immersive and realistic. If you want to know how loud is the sound leakage from open back headphones, you can read here.
Open-back headphones are good if you want an accurate and immersive representation of audio. However, because they are open, they lack the hard-hitting bass usually associated with closed-back headphones. Other than the bass, they will also leak sound and will also not isolate against any noise. Because of this, they are best used indoors or in isolated environments. See our best open-back headphones.
Closed-back headphones are have sealed earcups that prevent sound from leaking out or noise from seeping into the headphone. They are a common headphone design and one that most people own or buy. The main advantage of closed headphones is sound isolation. You can use them outside or in busy places such as shopping malls, bus stops, airports, etc without distractions from outside noise. because they also do not leak, they are great to use without disturbing people around you.
MEZE 99 CLASSICS CLOSED-BACK HEADPHONES
Soundwise, closed-back headphones tend to like towards enhancement in the lower frequencies. The much bass is punchy because the sound and pressure are contained and have nowhere to go. The music of closed-back headphones also may seem colored because of sound waves reflecting off the earcups. The use of anti-resonant materials by some manufacturers tries to minimize this effect, which can work against the accuracy/clarity of sound reproduced.
If you want a versatile headphone, which can be used outdoors and indoors, closed headphones are the best pick. They have better isolation and some like the Sony WH-1000XM3 have active noise cancellation which enhances their noise blocking abilities.
Over-ear headphones have larger earcup pads that fully cover the ears. In this article, almost all of the headphones are over-ear models. Over-ear headphones are good if you want a comfortable headphone you can spend time with. Though they are comfortable, some might come off as heavy, but the design is usually to blame if they get uncomfortable. Some of the heavy Audeze planar headphones are very comfortable to wear because of their headband and overall headphone design. Over-the-ear headphones will also provide better isolation if they are closed-back. The portability of over-ear headphones can be a grey area. Some can be folded into compact designs that make great travel headphones while others are huge and only good for use at home.
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On-ear headphones sit on the ear and to be honest, they do not have many advantages over both over-ear and in-ear headphones. However, that is not to say they are a bad choice. If you are looking for a compact headphone good for moving around, on-ear headphones are a good choice. They are good for working out and also for traveling. The comfort of on-ear headphones is subjective and a matter of personal preference. The sound quality of on-ear headphones we have found is largely dependent on the product. However, most on-ear headphones offer sub-par sound.
SONY MDR-7506 FOLDS INTO A COMPACT DESIGN
In-ear headphones can be referred to as earphones, earbuds, IEMs, and even CIEMs. They are a common type of headphone and have the smallest form factor. Because of their size, they are very portable and can easily fit into a pocket. If you do not like something sticking into your ear, the comfort of in-ear headphones is not going to be good for you. We’ve found some can be very comfortable while others will become painful after a few minutes. Isolation of in-ear headphones is good but will vary depending on the type you choose. The sound of in-ear headphones will also vary depending on the drivers, price range, and the brand. See our best IEMs.
Read our in-depth article on in-ear vs on-ear vs over-ear headphones, or our guide on IEMs vs Earbuds, or Headphones vs Earbuds.
Active noise cancellation or ANC is a technology that uses an extra circuitry and microphone in a headphone to cancel background noise. The microphone picks up noise and other unwanted sounds. The sounds are passed through the ANC circuitry that analyzes and generates an opposite wave that cancels out the noise.
Noise isolation is also known as passive noise cancellation and will be dependent on the headphone’s ability to block out noise. The Materials and design of a headphone will influence how effective a headphone will block out ambient noise.
STATUS AUDIO CB-1
Both ANC and noise isolation headphones will have their pros and cons. First, the design and portability of the headphone are affected. ANC headphones will be heavier plus they will depend on a battery to power the ANC circuitry. The effects on sound quality are discernible, especially in cheap ANC headphones. You can hear a hissing noise that is faint when using the headphone. The downside of noise-isolating headphones is the clamp. To get a perfect seal, it must press on the sides of your head, which over time degrades the comfort.
Read an in-depth post of active noise canceling vs noise-isolating headphones.
Wired and wireless headphones are always being compared, and we have a post dedicated to this topic (Wired vs wireless headphones). However, let’s touch on the elephant in the room, the sound quality. Wireless headphones have long been considered to have inferior sound reproduction. However, with technology evolving, the sound quality of wireless headphones has also improved.
SONY WIRELESS NOISE CANCELING WH-1000XM3
The likes of the Sony WH-1000XM3 in this list sound good and can be compared to the best headphones in the wired world. However, the price range also plays a big part in the quality of wireless headphones. Cheaper priced models have a poor sound quality and cannot be even compared to similar priced wired headphones. Overall, the sound quality of wireless headphones will improve as you go higher the price ladder.
If you are looking for a pair of studio headphones, and your budget is tight, a closed-back headphone offers better versatility compared to an open-back headphone. In this list, the Sennheiser HD 280, which is also one of our best studio headphones, is a headphone we recommend you get. You can also not go wrong by getting the Sony MDR-7506 or the Status Audio CB-1, which is a very budget-friendly studio headphone.