SoundGearLab-Team | Last Updated On September 8th, 2021 | This post may contain affiliate links.
Open-back headphones offer spacious soundstage and good imaging for an optimal gaming experience. With good open-back headphones, you should be able to pinpoint footsteps and gunshot location easily. Other factors such as comfort and overall sound quality should also be good for an immersive gaming session. In this post, we have tested and feature our best open-back headphones for gaming. Enjoy.
Driver Type: Dynamic Impedance: 30 ohms Sensitivity: 100 dB
Pros: Awesome bass, Comfortable for long periods, quality of build, Good soundstage, Easy to drive Cons: Slightly recessed mids
The Philips Fidelio X2HR sits at a very interesting space in the mid-priced open-headphones market. They are easy to drive and will sound well even from your computer’s motherboard. Alongside other headphones like the HE400s or HE400i, they are a bargain and a great bang for the buck. They are great for gaming and for people who want an elevated bass out of an open-back headphone. Let’s get deeper into the review below.
First, the construction of the headphone is pretty solid. The headphone does not creak and the earcups are made out of high-quality plastic which looks metal. The Fidelio X2HR overall materials like real leather, steel, velour earpads with memory foam make it feel and look very premium. The headband utilizes a hammock design made of dual metal tubing covered by a real leather strap. underneath leather strap is a self-adjusting hammock headband that rests on the head. The ear cups are big and have detachable pads. The X2HR features a removable cable with the cable port located on the left earcup.
The overall comfort of the headphone is great. Despite the headphone being a little heavier, you can wear them for several hours without fatigue. Memory foam pads which are thick and soft plus a self-adjusting headband make it very comfy to wear. The mesh padded headband does not create any hotspots on the head. The clamp is noticeable but does not get uncomfortable over time. Overall, the comfort is good.
The sound signature of the Philips Fidelio XH2R is a V-shape. They have a boosted bass and treble with a slightly recessed midrange. A V-shaped sound signature works well especially with movies, gaming, and bass-heavy music. The bass of the Fidelio X2HR is tight and has a good impact especially for an open-back headphone. The midrange is a little recessed but they are very coherent and detailed. The treble, though also dominant is well controlled and shows good balance. Soundstage width and depth is good. The soundstage and imaging are of the strongest parts of the X2HR’s sound.
The Philips Fidelio X2HR is a superb gaming headphone. The build quality, ergonomics, and comfort are all good. They are excellent for gaming, watching movies, and bass-oriented genres like Hip-hop or EDM. Paired with a boom mic, the Philips Fidelio X2HR will wipe most highly-priced gaming headsets.
Driver Type: Dynamic Impedance: 38 ohms Sensitivity: 100 dB
Pros: Very detailed sound, comfortable, good soundstage and separation, durable, lightweight Cons: Light bass, long non-detachable cable
The Audio Technica ATH-AD series currently features six headphones. They include the AD300, AD500, AD700, AD 900, AD 1000PRM, and the AD2000. The Audio Technica ATH-AD700 was the first AD-series headphone I tried out. It is easy to drive and has a spacious and open sound. I love the AD700 because it is least expensive and gives you a good experience of the overall AD series sound. Read on for an in-depth review.
The build quality of the ATH-AD700x is good. They are not indestructible like Beyerdynamic headphones, but they feel sturdy. The headphone is made out of plastic, which gives the headphone a cheap look. However, I think this is expected at this price range, and they are fairly durable. The earcups are covered with a soft velour material and joined with two metal wires. The wires and the earcups feel strong. The headband is a pair of two thinly padded plastic with a spring-loaded mechanism. When you put the headphone on, the tension of the headphone causes them to float.
Thanks to the lightweight design of the headphones, the thin padding on the headband is very sufficient. The overall comfort of the headphone is also good. The earpads are reasonably thick, and big to sit around the ears. The clamping pressure is very minimal, which makes them comfortable for even long sessions.
The overall sound quality of the Audio Technica ATH-AD700x is detailed and well balanced. The headphone is light on bass, the bass present is punchy and accurate. The bass does not get boomy or interfere with the mids at all. The mids are clear, detailed, and good separation. Vocals are clear and detailed. Female vocals shine while male vocals sound ok. The treble is a little bright but revealing such that small details are easily discernible.
The Audio Technica ATH-AD700x like most headphones in this list are not marketed for gaming. The massive soundstage, clarity, and revealing qualities in the sound make them good for gaming. Positional audio at this price is the best. You can hear and locate footsteps, gunshots, grenades, and even subtle movement sounds. Games like CS: GO, Doom, or Half-Life 2, you can notice some serious improvements from the AD700x’s.
Driver Type: Dynamic Impedance: 62 ohms Sensitivity: 103 dB
Pros: Wide soundstage, accuracy, high level of detail, transparency, good comfort for long sessions Cons: Bass response is not great
The AKG K702 is basically an improved version of the much-loved K701. AKG claims that the K702 is unique and uses a flat wire technology along with a Varimotion 2-layer diaphragm patented technology driven by neodymium magnets. However, not these claims seem to touch on how the sound is affected. One good feature in the K702 is the removable cable, which will allow for customizations and change as needed. For gaming, the AKG K702 is a great option, Let’s learn more in the in-depth review below.
The build quality is not the best. The headphone features mostly plastic in the build. The earcups and headphone slides are plastic, however, they seem durable and of good quality. The headband is self-adjusting and utilizes two wires and a leather headband that is attached to elastic threads that auto-adjust. The leather is soft but the auto-adjusting headband might not be good for people with large heads. The earcups are well-padded and covered with velour. They are angled and hit the ear in a more natural position.
Though the earcups are not deep, they are very comfortable to use even in long sessions. The K702 has good space, breathable velour plus very good ventilation of the earcups avoid heat build-up even on hot days. The earpads are easily removable to enable easier cleaning and replacement when the need arises. The clamping force is relaxed and does not press hard on the sides of the head. Overall, the K702 has a good amount of comfort. The lightweight design also helps in improving comfort.
Going by the overall sound performance, the AKG K702 has a higher ability in terms of accuracy, detail retrieval, transparency, soundstage, and imaging. The bass is present but lacks impact. If your genre or choice does not involve bassy music, this is a good headphone, for gaming the bass is great. The midrange is neutral and transparent, while the treble is airy and clear. Overall, The K702 pays more focus on the mids and high-end.
The soundstage is airy and wide with good separation and full of details. The imaging is also great with accurately positioned instruments. For competitive gaming, the AKG K702 should be a good bet at the price. You can clearly distinguish footsteps, gunshots, or other sounds about what players are doing. Though the lack of bass makes the AKG K702 less immersive, but if you want the highest level of competitiveness, this headphone is the best choice.
Driver Type: Dynamic Impedance: 250 ohms Sensitivity: 96 dB
Pros: Plenty of bass, clarity, wide soundstage, comfort, build quality Cons: Non-removable cable, Recessed midrange, Treble can get harsh at high volume
If you are looking for good headphones, you’ve most probably heard of German professional audio electronics manufacturer Beyerdynamic. They have been in the business since 1924 and are synonymous with hi-fi audio. It’s no surprise that when you set out to find new headphones, Beyerdynamic headphones are one of the most recommended. For gaming, the Beyerdynamic DT990 PRO is one of the most recommended headphones, let’s find out why below.
The build quality of Beyerdynamic headphones is one to love. The DT 990 Pro is built like a tank. Save for the headband and the yorks holding the earcups, most of the headphone is made out of plastic. The plastic in the earcups is thick and will get through accidental drops. The headband is made of spring steel. It is well padded and covered with a pleather type material. The Headband is held in place by four clasp-buttons which makes it removable. Overall, the build quality is great. The only gripes I have with Beyerdynamic DT series headphones would be the exposed cables from the earcups. The DT 990 PRO comes with a 3-meters coiled non-detachable cable which can get problematic in case of a damaged cable.
Beyerdynamic is known for its velour earpads. This the best of their headphones apart aside from the build and sound quality. The DT 990 PRO is well padded and the pads have plenty of space for your ears. The headband adjustments are fine and can extend to fit almost any head size. The headphone can be a little tight especially if you have a wide head. However, the headband is made of spring steel, so do not be afraid to bend it a little to loosen up the clamp.
Now for the sound quality. Overall the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO has a slightly V-shaped sound. The bass is present and hits hard. It is not boomy or authoritative like in closed headphones but it is good. The midrange is not the best, but it is clear and transparent. The high-end can get a get harsh at a high volume especially when playing songs with instruments like saxophones or violins.
For gaming, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO is a solid choice. The soundstage and imaging are good giving accurate footsteps and positioning, The bass is also solid for an open-back headphone. The elevated treble response though troublesome in treble centric music is great and will make you feel the gunshots and explosions. The DT 990 PRO is also a solid choice for watching movies. You will also require a DAC/Amp to get the best out of these headphones.
Driver Type: Planar Magnetic Impedance: 50 ohms Sensitivity: 96 dB
Pros: Wide soundstage, low-end response, and impact, easy to drive Cons: Build quality is not great
Planar magnetic headphones have seen a drop in price in recent years. The HE400i and the HE400s are the best examples of planar headphones that have drastically reduced prices since they entered the market. The Monolith M1060 has also been hyped in recent years as a very affordable planar magnetic headphone. A few revisions of the M1060 such as a thicker wood enclosure and a switch to the 2.5mm headphone port has improved it. Let’s get deeper into the review.
The Monolith M1060 has a decent build. It is not built like a tank and you should take care of these like babies. Monolith is constantly trying to improve the headphones by incorporating user reviews and experiences on the headphone’s build. I think this deserves a special mention because the company listens to its customers. The M1060 features metal in most of its build. The headband is a metal strip with a leather strap that sits on the head. The outer headphone grids are also well-designed metals. The M1060 also features a wooden ring around the headphone drivers that adds to the aesthetics of the headphone. The headphone uses a detachable cable and has 2.5mm connectors on each earcup.
The earcups are huge and thickly padded. These fit very well and are comfortable even for long sessions. Though the build quality might be a miss, the comfort and fit are good. They are covered by pleather which is soft and they are deep enough to ensure the ears do not touch the grills. The headband has little bumps on it that help in distributing the headphone’s weight evenly. The bumps can, however, get uncomfortable after a long session.
As far as the sound quality goes, the Monolith M1060 has a good bass response that goes low enough and also has a good impact and presence. The midrange is a little misbalanced and comes out as overpowering. For music fans, this will give a more revealing and dynamic listening experience. The treble is a little laid back but with plenty of details and resolution.
The imaging is accurate and the soundstage has a good perception of left and right but little depth. For gaming, explosions and shots sound amazing. The bass impact and speed of the Monolith M1060 adds realism to the game. Revisiting BF1 (BattleField 1), Martini Henry shots have a tight and fast punch that makes you feel the power and recoil. BF1 soundtrack is also a joy to listen to out of the M1060 planar headphone.
Driver Type: Dynamic Impedance: 32 ohms Sensitivity: 101 dB
Pros: Comfort, Soundstage, Mids, Detachable cable, cheap, immersive, gamer-friendly Cons: Bass can be somewhat lean, Earcup depth
If you are looking for a cheap open-back headphone for gaming, the Philips SHP9500 is a solid choice you should pick. This is the perfect excuse to treat yourself. The SHP9500 with a combination of a V-MODA BoomPro microphone should give you incredible sound and a cheap gaming headset experience. Still not convinced? Let’s get deeper into the review.
The build quality of the Philips SHP9500 is moderate with extensive use of plastic in the headphone’s construction. The plastic is to be expected at this price range but it does not feel flimsy or easy to break. The headband is plastic with foam padding underneath. The padding snaps off the mainframe which allows for handwashing when needed. Large “L” and “R” painted in white on the metal grills and earpads identify the left and right sides. The earpads are huge and should be an easy fit even for folks with large ears. They are made from the same mesh material as the headband. The earpads are not user-replaceable.
The comfort of the headphone is good. The clamp is very little and you should not have any issues with it. The headband allows for a number of adjustments that make it a great fit. The headphone is light and the headband padding seems to a great job of sitting comfortably on the head. The earcups are huge and should fit around even large ears with ease. The earpads are not deep and depending on the headphone’s position your ears might touch the headphone drivers.
For the sound quality, the bass is present but does not have a hard effect. For bass heads, you might have to look elsewhere. The midrange is well balanced with vocals and instruments. The mids are comparable to the HD 600 but a tad less refined. The high-end at high volumes might come out with a few distortions but it is overall clear. For the price, the soundstage is wide and they also have good imaging. It might not be amazing, but it is good for games helping in immersion or hear enemies in competitive gaming.
If you are used to shitty gaming headsets, the Philips SHP9500 is a worthwhile upgrade for a low price. They have decent clarity, soundstage, and imaging for gaming. You can be able to separate footsteps from other sounds pretty well. The headphone also does not make for a congested gaming experience.
The Sennheiser HD 599 is the top headphones in the Sennheiser HD 5*9 range that targets entry-level audiophiles. There are two versions of the HD 599, which are the ivory and black variants (HD 599SE). Apart from the color scheme of the two headphones, there seems to be no difference between the HD 599SE and HD 599. The Ivory and brown design might appease some people while others will go with the all-black design.
The build of the HD 599 is entirely plastic. For the price, that’s a bummer, but they seem to be sturdy. While to some people this might be a sign to keep off these headphones, overall they seem well built. The plastic seems tough and is very durable. Because of the plastic, the headphone is very light which adds to the overall comfort. The headband is covered by a well-padded soft leatherette for a painless listening experience. The earcups are huge and go around the ears. The left earcup features the 3.5 mm headphone port. The headphone comes with a removable cable and you get two 3-meter cables in the package.
As for the comfort, the overall lightweight design and the soft, well-padded headband make the headphone very comfortable to wear. The headband has several size adjustments to offer a comfortable fit for most people. The earcups are big and cover the ears very well. This is a perfect example of an over-ear headphone. They are also deep and the ears do not touch the headphone drivers. The earpads are covered by soft breathable velour. Clamping force is light and these feel like they float around your head.
The sound quality is where the Sennheiser HD 599 speaks for itself. The bass is deep and hits hard but there is no thump or rumble. The midrange, particularly the lower mids are forward while the higher mids are a little recessed. This gives sound more volume. instruments can be heard well but vocals are not forward. The treble is well extended but has a slight hint of sibilance.
Both soundstage and imaging are excellent on the Sennheiser HD 599. They are very open and soundstage is also reasonably wide. The HD 599 is one of the solid performers on the soundstage. Imaging is also decent and has a good amount of details, which makes HD 599 an excellent option for competitive gamers. Overall, HD599 is a great and solid option for gamers. The warm and spacious sound, excellent comfort, plus they are easy to drive even from your PC’s motherboard.
Driver Type: Planar Magnetic Impedance: 35 ohms Sensitivity: 93 dB
Pros: Price/performance and value, Comfortable, good highs and mids, imaging Cons: Bass lacks punch/rumble
The HiFIMAN is an entry-level headphone from HiFiMAN Planar magnetic line. It is largely viewed as the successor of the HE-400. The HIFIMAN HE-400I, which has drastically reduced in price is now one of the cheapest planar magnetic headphones available in the market. The HE-400i is not new to gaming. Over the years I have spotted several gamers using it. How does it perform you ask? let delve deeper into the review.
First, the build quality. The build is a mix of plastic and metal. The earcups are plastic, which has a shiny metallic appearance. The black grills are metal and can be removed to be modified, which what some people have been doing. The headphone yokes too are plastic. The top headband is a metal tension bar that does not look anything special. Underneath it, the suspended pleather headband is a little thin but does a very good job of spreading the weight across the top of the head without any hotspots. The FocusPad earpads are a combo of velour and pleather. They are thick and feel very soft to the skin. The earpads are removable. The headphone cable is also removable.
The HE-400i is quite flexible and can be easily adjusted on your head (even if you’re a gamer with a big head). The headband and earpads contribute so much to the overall comfort of this headphone. FocusPads are soft, well-padded, and the fit over-the-ears is good. The headband sits well on top of the head and has a good amount of adjustment available. The clamp pressure might get uncomfortable on initial use but they get more comfortable after a few days of use. At 370 grams, the HIFIMAN HE400I is a light planar headphone, which also largely contributes to the overall comfort.
The bass on the HIFIMAN HE-400I is decent but not great, It lacks the thump or rumble which is especially noticeable when playing bass-heavy music. The midrange and treble are where this headphone shine. Vocals and instruments are detailed and presented in a very good way. The treble response is clear, natural, and lively-sounding. It might sound bright or a little sibilant depending on what you give it, but overall the HE-400i seems just perfect. Apart from bass-heavy music, the HE-400i should work with a wide variety of genres.
The soundstage on the HE400i is not that wide but the imaging is impressive. Though the soundstage width is not exceptional, it feels realistic and natural. For gaming, the HE-400I has good positional/directional accuracy. Separation is also good, which improves imaging, and micro-details also emerge. Overall, taking into account the sound quality, price to performance ratio, and the level of comfort, the HiFiMAN HE-400I is one of the headphones you should own.
The debate on whether to go for closed-back or open-back headphones for gaming is a long one and depends on several factors. Which should you choose? Let’s start with the basics.
The main physical difference between open-back and closed-back headphones is in their earcup enclosure. Open-backs allow sound and air to pass through the back whereas closed-back headphones are sealed. Apart from the physical differences, both open and closed headphones have differences in their overall sound reproduction. For gaming, both these two designs have their advantages and disadvantages.
Philips Fidelio X2HR
First, let’s start with open-back headphones. The main advantage of open headphones is sound quality. Compared to closed headphones, they have linear, clear, and transparent reproduction with high details. The soundstage and imaging on open-back headphones are particularly good compared to closed-back headphones. Because they are open, comfort is also improved because they provide better ventilation for the ears. This helps in avoiding the accumulation of heat for a longer comfortable experience. The open design also comes with its fair share of challenges. The major disadvantage is the lack of isolation. This makes gaming in noisy places problematic. Sound leakage is also a problem, especially when used in quiet places.
HiFiMAN HE 400i
For gaming, I see most people using closed-back headphones or headsets. The main advantage of a closed headphone is the passive noise cancelation. Several factors which include the clamping pressure, earpad thickness and material work to prove very high isolation. Most gamers appreciate better isolation because it enables them to delve deeper into the game without distractions from the outside. The sound quality of a closed-back headphone most of the time emphasizes the bass. They have a punchy bass with deep reproduction. The soundstage is however not great with most offering a tight stereo image. This is common in closed headphones but it can be minimized by headphone manufacturers for improved performance. One disadvantage of closed headphones is the build-up of trapped heat. Though this is also influenced by the material quality, closed-back headphones are more prone to trap heat than open backs.
Headphone & Mic vs Gaming Headset
Deciding whether to get a gaming headset or a mic and headphone is a tough decision some of us have to make. There are several things you can weigh to help you decide which is better for you. We have an article on Gaming Headset vs. Headphones and Mic, which has an in-depth view on this topic.
However, let’s have a summary of some of the factors you need to consider. First up is the purpose. A gaming headset is great if you are into gaming only. However, if you want versatility, a headphone and mic is the best option. The cost is also one of the things you should factors when making a decision. Gaming headsets come with other features such as a mic, RGB, lighting synergy, software for EQ settings, and fancy looks that make them expensive. However, compared to headphones, those features do not justify their high price tag.
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro
For sound quality, headphones made by big brands, think Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, AKG, etc have better sound compared to same price gaming headsets. However, if you need a mic it will add up to the cost of a headphone and mic combo. Overall, the sound is always better on headphones compared to headsets.
ModMic/Boom Mic Explained
A ModMic also called a boom mic is a microphone that attaches onto or plugs into headphones and plugs into a computer, laptop, or gaming console. The advantage of a ModMic is that it can easily be removed when not in use to permit the use of headphones for other activities such as listening to music.
While a decent gaming headset might range from $100, for that price you can get a good cheap headphone like the Philips SH9500 and a ModMic attachment microphone. Plug the ModMic while gaming and unplug it while listening to music. A ModMic is also a great addition if you already have a good headphone. In that case, you do not need to spend more money on a gaming headset. Modmics offer a simple and great solution of ditching poor audio and poor mics of a majority of gaming headset in favor of your favorite headphone.
The two ModMics/boom mics We would recommend include the Antlion Audio ModMic which comes in USB and 3.5mm inputs or the V-Moda BoomPro Microphone, which works very well with headphones that have a removable cable.
Wired vs Wireless Gaming Headphones
The question of wireless or wired gaming headphones will depend on several factors.
Wired headphones are good because they require no battery. This means you can use the headphones for long sessions without worrying about taking a break to plug the headphone to power when the battery dies. The longevity of wireless headphones is also an issue. Battery degradation over time might cause the headphone to die early. Wired headphones are also compatible with multiple systems. You can use the headphone via phone, desktop, laptop or PS4 wither through USB, AUX, or other connections.
Wireless gaming headphones also come with their advantages. The main one is freedom of movement. Tangled wires and a limited range of movement make wireless headphones a preferred option if you need to move around.
The sound quality of either wired or wireless is the first thing that pops up when comparing the two. Though the sound will depend on several factors, generally, wired headphones sound better than wireless headphones. However, with the leaps made in technology, wireless technology is getting better with time. A good pair of wireless headphones will likely sound better than a wired pair of headphones, but you will have to spend more.
Sensitivity & Impedance
A headphone’s impedance and sensitivity values are some of the specs you need to look out when shopping for a new headphone. These values help you know if your headphone will sound good when using them with your smartphone, PC, and in some cases, you might require a dedicated headphone amplifier.
Headphone impedance is the resistance to the audio signal passing through the headphone. To overcome impedance, headphones need amplification. Amplifiers are present even in smartphones, computers, or even MP3 players. Most headphones can easily be powered with in-built amplifiers. However, as the impedance rating goes higher, you will require dedicated amplifiers to get the headphone to sound good. A high impedance headphone powered from a smartphone will not sound loud enough.
Sensitivity may not as helpful as headphone impedance when choosing a headphone but it helps. Sensitivity is measured in dB and indicates how loud a headphone will be at a given power level. If headphone A has the same impedance as headphone B, but the sensitivity values are different, the headphone with higher sensitivity will be easier to drive. Read more about headphone sensitivity.