7 Best Open-Back Headphones [2022] – Headphonesty

a curated list of some of the best open-back headphones in the world.

how to choose the right open-back headphones for you

Open-back headphones are coveted for their natural staging and more off-the-head presentation. They’re often even preferred over speakers for listening in person, since you can turn up the volume without waking up your neighbors.

Reading: Headphone open back

All of that said, there are numerous options at every price point, so choosing the right open-back headphones can often be a chore. As a result, you could end up with something less than ideal for your specific needs.

Also, there are often compromises along the way. the most tonally balanced headphones may not have the best soundstage or imaging. on the other hand, a pair of headphones with spectacular resolution may require a significantly more expensive amplifier to power them.

There’s a second assumption at every step, and that’s saying things sparingly.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! This highly curated list was put together after extensive listening to the most critically acclaimed headphones out there at a variety of price points.

But before we get to the actual list, let’s look at the factors that influenced us the most when choosing the winner.

hifiman susvara

Our top pick: The HiFiMan Susvara (From: Amazon)

Our top pick: The HiFiMan Susvara (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • driver type: planar magnetic
    • nano-grade diaphragm
    • invisible magnet assembly

    hifiman’s flagship planar magnetic earphones, the hifiman susvara, offer some of the best, most natural sound you can find in the totl space. the patented nano-grade gold-plated planar magnetic diaphragm offers class-leading timbre and highly pleasing tuning. these don’t skimp on the technical stuff, as the staging, visuals, and overall resolution are all top notch.

    Susvara have a class-leading midrange that is very transparent and resolves without a hint of grit or shouting. voices are placed right in front of you with abundant clarity as even the smallest nuances can be picked up. acoustic guitars sound sublime, every note is delivered with precision.

    Bass and treble performance isn’t class-leading like the mids, but even then those frequencies aren’t reduced or masked in any way. add to this the high level of comfort and it’s easy to see why the susvara have become some of the most popular flagship headphones.

    The Susvara are difficult to drive and some even use speaker amps to power them to their full potential.

    The Susvara are difficult to drive and some even use speaker amps to power them to their full potential.

    Are the Hifiman Susvaras perfect? Of course not, nothing is. They need a high current amplifier, with many owners pairing these to speaker amps. Let that sink in for a while.

    Also, the overall build quality, fit and finish don’t reflect the astronomical price tag. the wooden inserts on the earpiece look cheap, while the headband quickly loses its shine.

    Add to that the horrible standard cable, which is the worst of all the headphones on this entire list, and suddenly there are some compromises to be made.

    Fortunately, these issues are not a deal breaker for us, especially with its sound quality; so hifiman susvara deserves the editor’s choice award.

    See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

    see latest price on amazon

    also good:

    final d8000 pro

    The D8000 Pro strike a great balance between tonality and technicalities.

    The D8000 Pro strike a great balance between tonality and technicalities. (From: Amazon)

    Final’s flagship headphones, the D8000 Pro, offer a revamped orthodynamic driver design which was inspired by the Yamaha planar magnetic headphones in the 80s. They have a distinct design language and the build quality is as good as it gets across any price point. Comfort is also good though the heavy earcups coupled with the heavy stock cable may lead to some discomfort after long usage.

    sound-wise, these are almost neutral in tone with a slight recession in the mid-highs. In terms of treble and bass performance, the d8000 pro are very competitive with other totl headphones in this price range.

    The industrial design of the D8000 Pro makes them immediately recognizable.

    The industrial design of the D8000 Pro makes them immediately recognizable.

    It’s the midrange that takes a back seat compared to our first choice Susvara. These are fine margins though and when taking into account the significantly lower retail price against the Susvara, the D8000 Pro become a viable second choice.

    See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

    see latest price on amazon

    sennheiser hd650

    Sennheiser

    Sennheiser’s midrange open-back headphones are legendary in their own rights. (From: Amazon)

    Key features

    • driver type: dynamic driver
      • 40mm drivers

      sennheiser hd650 has been on the market for almost 20 years and they are still loved and recommended by many in the audiophile circle.

      The 40mm dynamic drivers are of a relatively old design and the earphones themselves look utilitarian. the old controller design is not a problem as the hd650s still perform well in measurements, and the simple look makes them perfect for professional use.

      what sets them apart from the rest is their mid-range performance. the hd650’s mids are stunningly beautiful. every subtle articulation of the vocals, the strum of the acoustic guitars, the nuances of the piano keys, are presented in all their glory.

      the treble relaxes while maintaining a feeling of lightness and extension. nothing is forced on the listener, rather most of the details are there for the listener to take in at their own pace. For the asking price, this level of performance is incredible.

      The HD650 shine on good amps.

      The HD650 shine on good amps.

      Sadly, the bass response falls short of the stellar midrange performance. Mid-bass takes the front seat as the bass rolls-off drastically in the sub-bass regions. As a result, the HD650 have little to no sub-bass rumble and won’t give you a sense of slam and impact. The staging is also narrow whereas the imaging lacks absolute precision. They also require a decent amplifier given the high impedance of 300 ohms.

      However, none of these caveats tarnish the allure of the hd650 once you hear it on a good amp. their comfortable fit, durable construction, and reference-grade tuning make them indispensable to this day. add to that the drop version (called hd6xx) which is priced lower than the regular hd650 and you have a bargain.

      See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

      see latest price on amazon

      also good:

      porta pro koss

      The porta pro have a retro design.

      The porta pro have a retro design. (From: Amazon)

      Koss have a long history with headphones and they were the first brand to popularize portable headphones. The Porta Pros were originally released back in 1984 and later went through a driver update.

      the modern iteration of porta pros is still relevant and has set standards in the ultra budget range. they have a v-shaped tuning, which means that the bass and treble are at the forefront of the signature. despite the focus on bass, the mids aren’t too sunken and vocals come through quite well.

      Koss Porta Pro have an exceptional soundstage for a pair of budget headphones.

      Koss Porta Pro have an exceptional soundstage for a pair of budget headphones.

      The area where they exceed expectations is soundstage.

      These have a natural, open setting that often makes you forget you’re wearing headphones. comfort is also great with the lightweight, adjustable clamping force. While the original cable is very thin and the overall build quality is fragile, aftermarket parts are readily available and Koss offers a limited lifetime warranty.

      Unfortunately these won’t have as much resolution in the mids and highs as the hd650’s as they don’t have the same level of build quality and pro carriers tend to clip at very high volumes unlike the hd650’s. however, they have enough advantages to make them a very tempting purchase, especially for the cheap asking price.

      See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

      see latest price on amazon

      end d8000

      Final D8000 got some of the most textured, dense, and articulated bass response.

      Final D8000 got some of the most textured, dense, and articulated bass response. (From: Amazon)

      Key features

      • driver type: planar magnetic
        • air film damping system (adfs)

        a love of bass is very much an acquired taste. some listeners don’t like a touch of bass emphasis. then there are those bassheads who aren’t satisfied until they feel the bass hit their chests.

        therefore, tuning the bass becomes more of an art, as several factors can affect the perception of bass quality, including the type of driver used, the case design, the existence of passive radiators, etc

        The D8000 and D8000 Pro share a similar design but different tuning.

        The D8000 and D8000 Pro share a similar design but different tuning.

        Final D8000 balances bass quality with quantity in a manner that is very hard to find among open-back headphones. These treat bass notes as first-class citizens with excellent mid-bass punch and a dense, rumbling sub-bass that can reach to the lowest octaves. The sense of slam and impact are addictive. These maintain the rhythm and speed needed to keep up with complex bass-lines.

        are not perfect, as heavy helmets cause long term fatigue and recession of the upper mids masks some of the mid details. there are also some irregularities in the treble. however, if you love high quality bass, the final d8000 is worth a try.

        See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

        see latest price on amazon

        also good:

        audeze lcd-2

        Audeze LCD-2 can be equalized into a basshead

        Audeze LCD-2 can be equalized into a basshead’s delight. (From: Amazon)

        The Audeze LCD-2 are some of their most popular models and have gained a following thanks to their warm, laid-back tuning and a solid bass response. Their full potential is unlocked via EQ, however, as they have very low-distortion 106mm planar magnetic drivers.

        As a result, you can boost the bass to the proper bass head levels without any distortion.

        When equipped, the LCD-2 punches and punches harder than most headsets in its price range, while maintaining the speed and precision expected from planar drivers. the texture and depth of bass response on the lcd-2 is exemplary, especially when considering the price.

        There are drawbacks as usual, as the 595g weight is a constant reminder that you’re wearing something substantial. they also require a good quality amp to perform at their best, especially if you plan to equip them.

        See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

        see latest price on amazon

        sennheiser hd800s

        The HD800 S are great all-rounders.

        The HD800 S are great all-rounders. (From: Amazon)

        Key features

        • controller type: dynamic controller
          • annular radiator controller

          Sennheiser’s consumer-grade flagship, the open hd800s are jacks of all trades and masters of a few. probably the most mundane about them is their bass response, which is fine. the treble also has some emphasis on the presence region which may sound tiring to some.

          Mids have excellent intonation with natural voice and an impressive interpretation of acoustic instruments. the treble, despite the bright slant, extends, shines and can convey a sense of lightness difficult to find in headphones with a dynamic driver. these are achieved because the ring radiator driver helps with ultra-fast transients and very low distortion.

          To top it off, the hd800s are very comfortable to use and aftermarket parts are readily available.

          However, the most outstanding feature is its sound stage and images. The HD800s have an almost speaker-like presentation where the sound appears to originate from in front of the listener. their spatial qualities differentiate them from the rest of the competition.

          In summary: very few weaknesses and a pair of headphones that work well in a variety of genres and tasks, making them truly versatile for the end user. If you want to buy just a flagship-level pair of headphones without going into peak-fi territory, the HD800 should be a top contender.

          See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

          see latest price on amazon

          also good:

          focal light mg

          Focal

          Focal’s TOTL open-back headphones have few weak points. (From: Amazon)

          Focal’s successor to the very well-received Clear are the Clear Mg. Their prime differences are the earpads and the driver-dome material which is Magnesium on the Clear Mg compared to Al-Mg alloy on the Clears. The Clear Mg also sound warmer in tone which is more pleasant for long listening sessions.

          They tick almost all the boxes, with a beautiful design, great comfort, low amplification needs and a highly responsive signature. bass hits harder than hd800 and has even better bass texture and speed.

          See also: Sennheiser HDV 820 review | What Hi-Fi?

          Where our top picks fall short is in midrange voicing and the width and depth of the soundstage, where the hd800s come out dramatically. replacement pads for the clear mg are also quite expensive, making the hd 800 cheaper to run in the long run.

          See also: Star Lord Headphones Props from Guardians of the Galaxy – Best By Xcoser

          see latest price on amazon

          empyreal meze

          The Meze Empyrean have a stunning design and meticulous attention to detail.

          The Meze Empyrean have a stunning design and meticulous attention to detail. (From: MezeAudio)

          Key features

          • controller type: planar magnetic
            • isodynamic hybrid magnet array

            meze audio is known for the design of their headphones and earphones, and their empyrean meze takes design supremacy to another level. empyreans could even pass as pieces of art due to the craftsmanship that meze has put into them.

            the copper-black color scheme is my personal favorite. the grill design is intricately detailed and the carbon fiber headband seamlessly blends form and function.

            however, empyreans aren’t all about design, they have a rich, warm tuning that’s great for relaxed listening. they lack a bit in the “bite” department, as things sound mellowed due to the emphasis on mid-bass, which hurts the sense of resolution. the soundstage is good for a change, as are the visuals.

            the empyrean are not the highest resolution headphones in their price class, but they are one of the most beautiful pieces of equipment you will find in audiophile.

            check the latest price on the official website

            See also: How To Record Audio With Headphones Plugged In?(Easy Guide!)

            also good:

            atrium zmf

            ZMF

            ZMF’s latest creation have a vintage, classy styling. (From: ZMFHeadphones)

            ZMF’s latest co-flagship, the Atrium, sports a revamped bio-cellulose dynamic driver and a proprietary damping system. The technical aspects of these headphones are impressive indeed, but what grabs immediate attention is their design.

            wood, metal: these materials are prevalent in all zmf headsets and the atrium is no different. the grille design is impressive with a pattern inspired by gothic architecture. the leather headband and earpads, the sandblasted and machined aluminum yokes and the gorgeous cherry wood cups give them a timeless look.

            The Gothic cathedral inspired grille design is a highlight of the Atrium.

            The Gothic cathedral inspired grille design is a highlight of the Atrium.

            When it comes to sound, the Atrium are no slouch with a punchy bass that envelops the mids in a gentle warmth.

            the treble has good extension with a light feel rarely found in warm tunings. the stage is spacious and open with precise positioning of the instruments. in this particular aspect, atrium is better than any of the previous versions of zmf in my experience.

            The main caveats are the somewhat sunken upper mids and the low treble emphasis which can be jarring at times. The Atrium also doesn’t have as much resolution as some planar electrostatic and magnetic headphones in this price range. however, they are beautiful and exude an undeniable charm.

            check the latest price on the official website

            See also: How To Record Audio With Headphones Plugged In?(Easy Guide!)

            raal-requirement sr1a

            RAAL-requisite

            RAAL-requisite’s SR1A are unlike anything out there in the market. (From: RAALRequisite)

            Key features

            • driver type: ribbon
            • impedance: 0.2 ohms
            • sensitivity: 91 db/w
            • weight: 425 g
            • tone profile: analytical
            • perhaps the best staging and imaging on headphones
            • high resolution
            • exceptional treble rendition

            raal-requisite is based in serbia and the sr1a are the only headsets they have on sale at the time of writing. these headphones are an anomaly compared to almost every other headphone on the market.

            that makes the sr1a ridiculously power hungry headphones, requiring specific speaker amps to work well. additionally, the earcups can be rotated to vary the seal, which can alter the sound signature.

            Finally, the deciding factor for many would be the bass response, which is drastically reduced in the sub-bass region. as a result, modern pop and hip-hop tracks are likely to be ruled out.

            for all those sacrifices, you get probably the most open sounding headphones in the world with a sound similar to that of a speaker panel.

            highs are extremely resolved with very fast transients, and mids reveal mastering flaws. The design alone can be a talking point, and coupled with the proprietary driver technology and unique acoustic design, the SR1A is truly one of a kind.

            check the latest price on the official website

            See also: How To Record Audio With Headphones Plugged In?(Easy Guide!)

            sennheiser he-1

            Sennheiser

            Sennheiser’s unobtanium, the HE-1, are true endgames in this hobby. (From: Sennheiser)

            Key features

            • driver type: electrostatic drive
            • impedance: n/a
            • sensitivity: 114 db/mw
            • weight: 550 g
            • tone profile: neutral
            • the world’s best sounding headphones
            • realistic timbre and tonality
            • comes as a complete system with matching energizer and dac

            Sennheiser’s no-money headphones are considered the best of the best in the audiophile world. he-1s are the stuff of legends. at each audio show, they draw a sizable audience, all eager for a 10-minute listen from a headphone system that’s out of reach for most.

            The exorbitant price is matched by the sheer exclusivity of these headphones, aseach pair is made to order with considerable delay and requires specialist on-site installation. .

            once you go through that ordeal, you get in your hand (or in your ears) the most natural sounding headphones one can buy. the mids are amazingly realistic and the actual timbre is intoxicating. it’s hard to judge the technical merits of these headphones, such as staging, visuals, etc., as the music itself becomes the centerpiece.

            he-1s are hard to describe in words, they are even harder to encapsulate as a value proposition.

            if there’s a legit pair of headphones down the road, it’s probably the he-1. the pinnacle, the end game of an arduous pastime.

            check the latest price on the official website

            See also: How To Record Audio With Headphones Plugged In?(Easy Guide!)

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