Best Closed-Back Headphones 2021 – Top 10

SoundGearLab-Team | Last Updated On August 31st, 2021 | This post may contain affiliate links.

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.

HEADPHONES IMPEDANCE SENSITIVITY DRIVERS DRIVER TYPE WEIGHT
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250 ohms 98 dB 45 mm Dynamic 10.05 oz.
Meze 99 Classics 35 ohms 103 dB 40 mm Dynamic 9.2 oz.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro 64 ohms 102 dB Dynamic 7.84 oz.
Sony WH-1000XM3 47 ohms 104.5 dB /101 dB 40 mm Dynamic 8.99 oz.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x 38 ohms 99 dB 45 mm Dynamic 10 oz.
Sony MDR-7506 64 ohms 106 dB 40 mm Dynamic 8 oz.
Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 35 ohms 100 dB 45 mm Dynamic 10.22 oz.
Shure SRH1540 46 ohms 99 dB 40 mm Dynamic 10.1 oz.
V-MODA Crossfade M-100 32 ohms 103 dB 50 mm Dynamic 9.87 oz.
Status Audio CB-1 32 ohms 97 dB +/- 3 dB 50 mm Dynamic 13.2 oz

1. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO – Our Best Closed-Back Headphone

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 250 ohms
Sensitivity: 98 dB

PROS: Build quality and fit, deep and tight bass response, isolation, soundstage, very comfortable
CONS: Non-removable cable, slightly recessed midrange

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is one of our most recommended headphones here at Sound Gear Lab. Though these are by no means the perfect headphones, their price, build quality, and overall sound make them one of the best headphones you can buy at this price. This short review covers the DT 770 Pro 250 ohms. If you have a good source to bring out their full potential, these are worth every penny.

The build of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO is good, and you can tell they are built to last. If we were to give star ratings on the build, the DT 770 Pro would get all of them. It is made of plastic and metal. The earcups are plastic which is thick and has a high quality “thud” sound when you hit them. The earcups are attached to the headband bu metal yokes that can be adjusted up or down. The headband is made of metal strips covered by leather that can be removed. Apart from the headphones cable and maybe the drivers, every part is moldable.

Being a closed-back headphone, the DT 770 Pro does get warm, but never to the point that you feel you are sweating. The earcups are huge and the padding is great and plentiful. They fit well over-the-ear without causing discomfort. Even for someone with glasses, this is a comfortable headphone. The headband also has sufficient padding and can be adjusted to fit most head sizes. The clamping force is felt a little especially when the headphone is new. However, it lessens over time.

The DT 770 Pro has good isolation without sacrificing the build and comfort of the headphone. They offer good isolation considering you get breathable velour pads that aren’t very isolating. They also do not leak out sound to the environment. If you are looking for both comfort and isolation, these should be top on your mind.

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is fun to listen to. The bass is deep, has a tight response, and is well extended. The treble sounds fine and there is no hint of sibilance. The midrange is a little recessed, but with a lovely separation of instruments. The headphone is very musical and does a very good job of reproducing music. The soundstage is not very wide, but music does not seem like it’s emanating from your head.

Everything from the build down to the sound quality, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro does a very good job. All things considered, you get a better value with the DT 770 Pro. It sure has some shortcomings, however, for the price, do not let the cons deter you from this amazing headphone

See the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

2. Meze 99 Classics – For Home and Portable Use

meze classics 99

Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 35 ohms
Sensitivity: 103 dB

PROS: Serviceable build, lightweight, comfortable. fun to listen
CONS: Earpads can get a little warm

The 99 Classics are one of the best headphones Meze has to offer. A lot has been said about the Meze 99 Classics. In this mini-review, we will try to not focus on how good they are and reveal other aspects of the headphone that a potential customer or buyer can take into account before spending his/her hard-earned money.

First, let’s start with the build quality. Wood and metal feature prominently in the design of the headphone. The earcups are walnut wood. They are made by a CNC machine and have a well-polished and smooth finish. A spring steel band attaches the earcups to the headband and features a simple yet effective headband with a swing mechanism, that allows adjustments for an easier fit. The headband is broad and does a good job of balancing the headphone on the head. The earpads are plush and covered by poly-urethane synthetic leather, which feels good and has qualities of real leather. The best thing about the Classics is the fact that everything can be disassembled and replaced should anything go wrong.

In terms of comfort and fit, the 9 Classics are very comfortable. A self-adjusting headband that distributes the weight perfectly and an overall weight of headphones is also low. The earpads are plush and soft. The overall clamping force is just enough to hold the headphones in place without squeezing on your temples. The earpads are not big that they envelop your ears. However, they sit perfectly and we had no comfort issues other than the headphone getting a little warm after long sessions.

Isolation is also pretty good on the 99 Classics. They are not good like IEMs, but they are about average. They do block out a good amount of external noise, which should be suitable for most situations including home or office use. They do not leak much either making them good where a closed-back headphone is required.

The most important thing apart from the comfort and looks is the sound quality. The Meze 99 Classics does not disappoint, they sound good and detailed. Starting with the bass, it is light and not overpowering. overall it feels well defined and controlled. The mids have a very natural reproduction with vocals sounding a bit forward. The treble has great details with good extension without ever being sibilant or harsh. For a closed-back headphone, they have good soundstage that gives immersive depth and the imaging is also superb.

Overall, the Mexe Classics 99 are attractive, lightweight, portable, comfortable, and are enjoyable to listen to. They are fun to listen to and will also give you details. They are easy to drive and sound good from a smartphone, which improves their overall portability. Maybe the Meze team knew these had a special place in the headphone community when they named them the Classics. They essentially have become that in their own right.

See the Meze 99 Classics

3. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro – Best for Studio Use

HD 280 Pro

Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 64 ohms
Sensitivity: 102 dB

PROS: Lightweight, transparent sound, isolation, good studio headphones
CONS: clamp is strong, non-removable cable

If you are looking for a headphone that fits most of a home studio needs, a closed-back headphone is a good option to start with. The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is one such headphone. These were made primarily for studio and have a very classic look to them.

The headphone is built from only plastics. From the earcups to the headband, nothing is fancy about them. However, we’ve been using this headphone for a while now and can attest to its durability. The headphone is huge but also folds to a very compact size. The earcups are big and fit well around the ears. Both the headband and earcups are covered with a pleather which is of low quality. Over time, we’ve noticed it starts to peel off which sucks.

These are light headphones, but with a strong clamp. You can use them for like one hour before they start getting uncomfortable. Taking short breaks between sessions should work well, especially during long sessions. The headband is padded at the point where it rests on the head, which is not thick, but add to the comfort. The earcups are fit well over the ears and are deep enough that the ears do not touch the headphone drivers.

Isolation is one of the best qualities of the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro. Even when not playing music, you will appreciate how they block out ambient noise. This is probably dues to the clamp of the headphone, which is quite strong. Pleather earcups also help in creating an airtight seal around the ears.

Now for the most important part, how do they sound? The HD 280 Pro has a good bass response where the bass is present. They do not boost the bass in any way, which is good is you want to get an accurate presentation. The midrange is present, but it is not the main factor of the sound signature. The treble goes high, it is clear and with good separation. However, the overall sound is just not exiting.

If you are looking for a good studio headphone, the HD 280 Pro is a good choice. They also offer good isolation than most headphones in this list. If you are looking for a fun headphone to listen to music, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro or the Audio Technica ATH-M50x will be good for you.

See the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

4. Sony WH-1000XM3 – Best Wireless Option

Sony WH-1000XM3

Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 47 ohms
Sensitivity: 104.5 dB /101 dB

PROS: Good enough sound for most people, great carrying case, battery life, comfort
CONS: Equaliser reduces sound quality, could be built better

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are good headphones for most uses, but largely best for travel and commute. Their excellent battery performance, noise-canceling, and overall sleek design make them one of the best wireless headphones you can get for yourself. The features packed in the WH-1000XM3 make them easy to customize according to user preferences. Let’s get into the review.

The first thing about the Sony WH-1000XM3 is its weight. Regarding all the technology Sony has stuffed in this headphone, you will be surprised by its low weight. Though they are lightweight, they do not feel fragile. The headphone is all plastic and faux leather, which could have been improved in this price range. However, they do not look cheap at all. The earcups are big and fit well over the ears. The padding is thick enough to prevent the ears from touching the drivers.

In the category of comfort, The WH-1000XM3 earns some good points. The headband and earpads are soft and also well padded. The headband fits well around the head, while the earcups have large earpads that envelope the ears. The headphone is also light, which makes it comfortable to wear longer. Our comparison of the XM3 to the Bose QC35II gives the Bose an upper hand on the comfort, but Sony is also quite comfortable.

Without active noise cancellation, isolation of the Sony WH-1000XM3 is not one of its strongholds. Sony has a bass boost function to countermeasure this, however, it does not help much. to properly block out noise, you have to turn on active noise cancellation. Sony’s active noise cancellation works well with noise from engines, HVAC systems, and other persistent sounds. However, you will still be able to hear people speaking especially if they are near you.

The sound quality of the Sony WH-1000XM3 is V-shaped and is aimed towards most consumers. The bass and treble are boosted while the mids take a back seat. This sound character makes the headphone suitable for electronic music and hip hop genres. The headphone is more focused on easy and fun listening than on hi-fi grade performance. An equalizer that comes with the headphone’s application gives a user better customization of the sound.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is good for casual listening and offer a good sound quality for the general population. Commuters and travelers will like its battery capacity and active noise cancellation offered by these headphones. At the price, the Sony WH-1000XM3 does well in terms of comfort, usability, and noise canceling. Read our in-depth comparison of the Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Bose QuietComfort II.

See the Sony WH-1000XM3

5. Audio Technica ATH-M50x – Fun & Engaging

ATH-M50x

Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 38 ohms
Sensitivity: 99 dB

PROS: Punchy bass, cable selection, better than average portability. consumer-friendly sound signature
CONS: earpads may be too small for larger ears, a little lacking in clarity

The Audio Technica ATH-M50x and the ATH-M50 before it have long been a go-to recommendation in the under $200 headphone category. It has not taken long before we saw why this was the case. The design, portability, and fun sound of these headphones make them a value purchase for most people. Let’s delve into the review below.

For the ATH-M50x, Audio Technica went with a simple design. The M50x is mostly made of plastic, but a few metal parts in the rocker and headband can be seen. The headphone does creak a little in the hinges from time to time. The pads on the earcups are soft and made of protein leather, which like most headphones we have tried will likely degrade over time. However, they are user replaceable and you can get replacement pads online. The M50x has also upgraded to a removable cable, which was a long-awaited feature.

The comfort of the ATH-M50x at first is not good, especially because the clamp is high and the headphone presses on the temples. However, after a few days of wearing them for longer periods, they seem to be very comfortable. The earpads are subpar and a little more padding could have worked better for the comfort. They are a little thin and not breathable, but soft. They get hot after long hours and might cause sweating and get uncomfortable. The headband has nice adjustments and extends to fit most head sizes. It also lacks thick padding and requires regular adjustment to prevent it from digging into your head.

The ATH-M50x does have above-average noise isolation. They block out and also do not leak much. They are good for use in noisy environments, but you will require a decent amount of volume to properly isolate. Getting a proper fit over-the-ears will also affect how well they isolate ambient noise.

The Audio Technica sound is fun and engaging. This is far from their ‘studio monitor’ name that they bear. The bass is punchy and is also good for traveling around. Works great with bass-oriented genres, but people with different musical tastes might feel it is overpowering. The mids are laid back, and although the clarity is taken back, these should be enjoyable for long sessions if the comfort allows. The treble is present but subpar. They are well distinguished like the bass but sound artificial, and a get a bit uncontrolled. The imaging is nothing special, but it’s somewhat outside your head.

Overall, we would recommend the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x to anyone looking for headphones that work well with bass-centric music. They are not the perfect sounding headphones, but they are enjoyable to listen to, and they are also a huge step from most “consumer” headphones that have flooded the market. Read our full in-depth review of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.

See the Audio Technica ATH-M50x

6. Sony MDR-7506 – Suitable For Live Sound Applications

Sony MDR-7506

Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 63 ohms
Sensitivity: 106 dB

PROS: Good build quality, decent sound performance, good for live sound monitoring
CONS: non-removable cable, exposed wires

There is a reason the Sony MDR-7506 can be found in most studios and professional live sound use. They are affordable, have a flat response, isolate well and they are probably one of the best in this price range. We would recommend the 7506 for live sound professional use, but they are also good for musical enjoyment.

Durability is a crucial aspect of any headphone. With the Sony MDR-7506, the build quality of one of their best aspect. We can say without hesitation, these are built to last. Their design is simple and features metal, plastic, and pleather. The headband and overall frame is metal that easily flexes. The earcups are big, but the earpads are not very thick or wide, which affects the overall comfort. The earpads are covered with pleather, which has started to peels off after a few years of use. They are replaceable. The headphones cable is long and coiled, but cannot be replaced.

The comfort of the MDR-7506 is ok. The headband is good, not heavily padded, but does a good job of balancing the headphone on top of the head. The earpads are not also heavily padded and are shallow. The design of this headphone, though over-ear, tends to lean a little bit on the on-ear side. The earpads sit on the ear instead of covering them. The clamp is good, which helps especially if the headphone sits on the ear. The 7506 is lightweight and does well when using them for long sessions with small breaks. The overall comfort seems ok, with no praise to point out.

These are good for use as isolating headphones as long the volume is at a reasonable level. Getting a better fit will also help in getting better isolation. Overall, We would say they have decent noise isolation.

The bass is detail and tight. it is also not overwhelming, which gives an accurate representation of other frequencies. The midrange is balanced and most of all wonderful. It does not sound congested and is not affected by the bass. The treble is decent but slightly emphasized, which emphasizes vocals and lead instruments. The soundstage is small, but imaging is good

The Sony MDR-7506 has a strong set of features that can appeal to both audiophilic, and professional users alike. For us, here at Soundgearlab, the MDR-7506 ticks most boxes, minus comfort, for live sound applications. They should withstand daily abuse with their solid build.

See the Sony MDR-7506

7. Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7

Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 35 ohms
Sensitivity: 100 dB

PROS: Excellent refined sound, well-controlled and good bass quantity, cables, build quality
CONS: Forward treble and mid can be fatiguing for some, the headband can be a little uncomfortable

Sound quality is not always about the bass. If you are looking for undistorted sound, great bass that does not overpower other frequencies in a closed-back headphone, the ATH-MSR7 is a solid choice. A good and cheaper alternative of the ATH-MSR7 is the ATH-M40x. However, the M40x is uncomfortable, which makes the MSR7 a well-rounded headphone. Read more below.

The build quality of the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 is sturdy and the headphone feels very premium. The headphones feature plastic, metal, and leather in its build. The earcups have aluminum backs, which help in the overall sound quality. The earpads are plush and very well padded. They have decent openings that should fit most ears out there. The headband is padded but could have been better with more padding to help with comfort issues. The headphone features a removable cable and Audio Technica supplies three cables in the package.

The clamping pressure of the headphone is high at first. however, with repeated use, it lessens The headband gets uncomfortable after long sessions, but moving it or taking breaks should help. The earcups opening is good and fits well over-the-ears. The headband adjustments are also good and should fit most heads.

Large earcups, metal housing, and a high clamp, all make the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 above average on noise isolation. They muffle outside noise and the leakage is not much. They are much better than the Sony WH-1000XM3. We feel the noise isolation could have been better, especially considering the clamp and size of the headphone.

The Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 is overall, a bright sound headphone. These are not headphones for bass-heads either. however, if you are looking for bass quality, the MSR7 excels at this. The bass is well controlled and accurately produced, but the headphone lacks the bass-heavy thrills you get with other headphones like the M50X. The mids are clear, while the treble is forward, which gives the headphone a bright sound signature. The sound soundstage is not great, but the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 does a good job in imaging, which gives the sound a clear sense of direction.

Overall, the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 offers the best value in terms of the build quality and overall sound. They are light on bass, but the treble can be too much for some people. If you are on the market for a detailed, accurate, and well-balanced headphone, The MSR7 should be among your final choices. Read our in-depth review of the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7.

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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.

ATH-M50x Headphones in SL-HP-01 Case

ATH-M50x Headphones in SL-HP-01 Case

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.

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

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.

Beyerdynamic DT-770 250 ohms

Beyerdynamic DT-770 250 ohms

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

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

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

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 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.

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