After comparing ten of the best open-back headphones we found Sennheiser HD 800 S to deliver unmatched audio quality with an exquisite amount of details.

We’ve spent over 30 hours researching, testing, and collecting feedback from users all over the internet to shortlist the top 10 open-back headphones on the market in different price ranges.

As most refined examples of headphone craftsmanship happen to have an open-back design it has become a go-to choice for many audiophiles. Some argue that they are the pinnacle of sound purity as they deliver sound that is closest to natural.

We have reviewed the top open-back headphones 2018 has available. We have categorized best headphones for gaming, movies, mixing, studio and critical listening

To achieve an authentic sound experience the open-back headphones almost entirely remove the sound isolation between the environment and your ears. The soundstage produced by the open-back design is also typically more spacious compared to closed-back headphones. They intend to create an ‘all-around’ audio experience that tries to mimic open spaces such as concert halls and stadiums.

At the same time, given all the accolades the open-back headphones are not for everyone. They tend to leak sound and potentially cost more. If you want to discover the best open-back headphones in different price ranges, – read on to find a pair that matches your budget!

Image Frequency / Driver Size / Impedance / WeightTop 10 Best Open-back Headphones

Best Premium – Sennheiser HD 800 S

Best Premium – Sennheiser HD 800 S

The pinnacle of open-back headphones. Close to perfect sound balance and clarity. They do, however, come with a hefty price tag.

4Hz-51kHz 56 mm 300 Ohm 330 g

Best Cheap – Samson SR850

Best Cheap – Samson SR850

Unparalleled audio quality for the asking price. One of the best budget open back headphones under $50 you can buy.

10Hz-30kHz 50 mm 32 Ohm 276 g

Best Under $500 – Sennheiser HD 660 S

Best Under $500 – Sennheiser HD 660 S

Pure and detailed sound with stunning midrange reproduction. A true reference pair of headphones icon, the best you can find under $500.

10Hz-41kHz 38 mm 150 Ohm 260 g

Best Under $300 – Grado SR325x (Editor’s Choice)

Best Under $300 – Grado SR325x (Editor’s Choice)

Depth, sparkling details, and crystal clear audio is part of the Grado’s sound signature. The best open back headphones under $300, unless you are a bass lover.

18Hz-24kHz 44 mm 38 Ohm 440 g

Best Under $200 – Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Best Under $200 – Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Time tested classic pair of open-back headphones ideal for audio producers and music lovers looking to spend under $200. The most comfortable pair of cans in our review.

5Hz-35kHz 45 mm 250 Ohm 250 g

Best Under $150 – AKG K 240 Studio MKII

Best Under $150 – AKG K 240 Studio MKII

Strong mids, and smooth sound reproduction. Good fit for studio engineers looking for headphones for tracking, mixing or editing. One of the best open back headphones under $150 around.

15Hz-25kHz 30 mm 55 Ohm 240 g

Best Under $100 – Audio Technica ATH-AD700X

Best Under $100 – Audio Technica ATH-AD700X

Incredibly wide and airy soundstage that does not have a match under $100. Detailed and clear sound. One of the lightest open back headphones with a flexible fit in our review.

5Hz-30kHz 53 mm 38 Ohm 265 g

Best for PC Gaming – Philips X2HR (Editor’s Choice)

Best for PC Gaming – Philips X2HR (Editor’s Choice)

Great level of comfort and close to no ear fatigue make X2HR’s one of the best open-back headphones for gaming. One of not many open back cans with emphasized lows.

5Hz-40kHz 50 mm 30 Ohm 380 g

Best Budget for Gaming – Philips SHP9500S

Best Budget Gaming Headset – Philips SHP9500S

The closest you can get to open back audiophile-grade sound quality for under $100. One of the most versatile headphones for any home use.

6Hz-35kHz 50 mm 32 Ohm 330 g

Top Value – HiFiMan HE-400i (Editor’s Choice)

Top Value – HiFiMan HE-400i (Editor’s Choice)

Solid build quality with great attention to detail. Not cheap, but for hi-end audiophile-grade cans, they pack an incredible amount of value.

20Hz-35kHz 60 mm 35 Ohms 370 g

1. Best Open Back Headphones Ever – Sennheiser HD 800 S

Sennheiser HD 800 S is an exquisite piece of open-back headphone engineering, there is no other way to put it.

They are hand-assembled in Germany and represent an evolution of the original Sennheiser HD 800 model released around 10 years ago.

We do not usually review items and headphones in this price range, but due to the very well-executed press release campaign and many big promises made by Sennheiser – it was hard to discard them.

The HD 800 S is the Sennheiser’s most expensive headset available to the public. There is also a $55,000 Orpheus, but it is not something you can buy off-the-shelf.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Design & Build Quality

Although the Sennheiser HD 800 S has not changed much visually compared to the original, the quality of the headphones including materials and build has jumped to a new level.

The frame is made from a high-grade, lightweight yet very durable polymer. Conversely, on the inside, premium Alcantara material is used.

The ear cup design is really ‘open’ as you can see the driver and almost touch it. The back is well protected, but you may still want to keep them indoors to ensure they are not exposed to dirt, sand, water, or any other debris.

Unlike its predecessor, the Sennheiser HD 800 S comes with an XLR jack cable. The cable design works well for balance connectors and amplifiers. A very welcome addition of a handy feature that costs a couple of hundred dollars on its own.


Sennheiser HD 800 are relatively big, as they would easily cover almost any ear size. At the same time, due to the high-quality materials used in construction – they are also quite lightweight.

The earpads feature a very comfortable design and manage to distribute the pressure around your ears and the ear perimeter evenly and consistently.

The inside ear padding and the headband are made of Alcantara, which makes the headphones ultra-soft and comfortable to wear. In fact, they are one of the most comfortable full-size pair of headphones we have ever tested.

Sound Quality

Knowing the performance of the original Sennheiser HD 800, we were ready for the new model to blow us away. And it did. Again.

The soundstage produced by Sennheiser HD 800 S is quite simply – second to none, best sounding open can headphones you can buy. Playing with perfection, the headphones redefine what a clear, well-balanced, and detailed sound is. Their wide frequency response goes well beyond what the human ear can register.

The sound landscape is pushing the limits of what the headphones can physically produce. It is expansive, with fantastic breadth and detail where you are able to hear and feel every single instrument down to its every single note.

The treble range is a lot more natural sounding yet still prominent compared to its predecessor, which was slightly overwhelming and piercing. At the same time, they deliver a consistent listening experience across the volume range and any type of music genres you put them through.

Bass output is slightly highlighted, but not enough for the bass enthusiasts to enjoy. If you are one of them, you may need to play around with EQ levels to get more of it. At the end of the day, Sennheiser has pursued sound authenticity, clarity, and audio fidelity with this headset and they have definitely done it. The result is superior sound to almost any pair of open backs we have ever tested.

With close to perfect sound balance across the frequency range, the headphones manage to keep their composure even at the maximum volume. No matter which soundtrack we threw at Sennheiser HD 800 S and no matter how busy or loud it was, the sound remained distortion and resonance-free.

Bottom Line

Sennheiser HD 800 S is simply an epic pair of professional headphones for studio applications. Their soundstage is huge and wide, the sound is almost perfectly balanced and clear. If you are an audiophile searching for a true sound fidelity, purity, and perfection, it does not get any better. These are the best open-back headphones in the world, period.

We rarely ever buy or recommend luxury items, but Sennheiser has made it easy for us this time. Just keep in mind that an audio amplifier is required in order to get the best out of this masterpiece of audio engineering.

  • Design & Build 90% 90%
  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Sound 100% 100%
  • Value 90% 90%
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Expansive soundstage
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed The most authentic, detailed and balanced sound for most demanding audio enthusiasts
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Lightweight and comfortable ear design
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested XLR jack cable comes in the box
True professinal level bar has been set Expensive

2. Best Budget Open Back Headphones – Samson SR850

We have heard many good things about Samson SR850 headphones. In fact, perhaps too many, considering they sit well within the $50 price point.

The plethora of positive feedback has made us very curious and we have decided to give these budget headphones a good run for their money.

The headphones have reasonably plain, cheap, and fairly boring packaging.

In the box, except for the headphones, you get a 1/4 jack adapter and that is pretty much it. Not much to be excited about so far…

Design & Build Quality

Visually, you may notice some resemblance with AKG K240 studios (which we have also reviewed below) as they both share the dual metal band design.

The material quality does not blow you away, yet is good enough and feels durable and sturdy both wearing and holding them in hands. They are also surprisingly lightweight, which is not typical for a pair of headphones of this size and level of ruggedness.

The semi-open style Samson SR850 features a semi-open-back design which is ultimately a compromise between a closed back and open back type headphones. This means that they do block some ambient sound, yet not as much as closed-back headphones.

The good news is that the headphones have been designed to work with portable devices. They have a low level of impedance, hence you do not need an expensive headphone amplifier to drive them.


Wearing at first feels a little tight. It does ease off over time, yet if you want to speed up the process, you can bend the metal frame somewhat to reduce the pressure on the ears. The leather headband can be used to adjust the height to make sure a secure and comfortable fit around your ears.

Once you get your band tightness sorted, the earpieces and ear cups with velour padding feel quite comfortable. You can comfortably wear them over extended periods of time, which is particularly surprising given the headphone’s price point.

Sound Quality

The quality of the sound? This is where Samson SR850 excels compared to the competition in its price point. The headphones immediately surprise you with a wide and generous soundstage. Not the widest and not the most immersive we have ever experienced, but definitely our top pick for the best open-back headphones in the price range.

The headphones are capable of producing frequency response from 10Hz to 30kHz range which is great for headphones with 50mm drivers. The sound is mostly balanced and detailed across the frequency spectrum. The highs may come across as too bright for some, as we feel they are slightly overemphasized.

Overall, the audio quality is unmatched within the given price point. We found that some headphones that are double the price find it hard to match the audio performance of Samson SR850, which is quite remarkable.

Speaking of the drawbacks, it is hard to complain, especially since SR850 are the cheapest consumer headphones in our review. Yet, if we had to be picky, we think the sound is missing some ‘depth’ and the headphones come across as somewhat blunt at times.

Bottom Line

Samson SR850 are extremely affordable pair of headphones that sit amongst the best budget open back headphones on the market. Yes, visually they are pretty plain and borderline boring. At the same time, the sound they manage to create will leave some of the middle range headphone jealous.

  • Design & Build 70% 70%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Sound 80% 80%
  • Value 100% 100%
immersive experience Extraordinary sound quality for the price
semi-open comfortable ear pads Comfortable to wear over long periods
semi-open design sounds great Best value open back headphones we’ve tested
durability of the headphones is lacking Slightly lacking sound depth
fast transient response is not that fast Trebble may come across a bit sibilant

3. Best Open Back Headphones Under $500 – Sennheiser HD 660 S

Sennheiser HD 660 S is the latest pair of high-end open-back headphones from Sennheiser.

They have been released to replace the current headphones in the HD 6xx line, Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 650.

Bold move, as the former line-up has demonstrated some serious staying power. It was recognized by passionate audiophiles searching for the most open and dynamic audio profile.

So given its illustrious pedigree, the HD 660 S have many tough expectations to live up to. Let’s see if they have.

HD 660 are replacing the previous audiophile headphones Sennheiser hd 600 in the line up

Design and Build Quality

The design is very similar and at times identical to the older representatives of the HD 6xx line-up. In fact, the design goes all the way back to 1997 when the original Sennheiser HD 600 was released. Since then, only some minor changes have been made to the headphone design.

The built represents a high-quality matt plastic that does not leave stains or fingerprints. The open metal mesh grills on the outside have the Sennheiser logo engraved into it on each side. Overall, the all-black look feels classy and more premium than the earlier models.

Although the back is quite open and you can see the driver design mounting through the grill, they have a solid and sturdy feel.

The most significant update to mention is the new neodymium iron boron drivers. Sennheiser has halved the original impedance from 300 Ohm to 150 Ohm in an attempt to make the headphones more portable device friendly. I would, however, refrain from using mobile devices to power HD 660 S as 150 Ohm is still too much to ask. At the same time, if you are serious about using these on the go, a portable amplifier is highly recommended.


The earpads are now slightly softer and deeper. This makes them more comfortable for extended use compared to the earlier models.

The headphones clamp firmly around the head with sufficient force to sit tightly and securely without affecting the comfort or falling off.

Sound Quality

The Sennheiser HD 660 S have a medium-wide soundstage, second to only the mighty HD 800 S we have reviewed earlier. The instruments sound very detailed, distinct, and precisely positioned. They are clearly separated allowing you to catch individual notes with relative ease.

The new model comes with a number of improvements to address some of the week points of Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 650. They no longer appear to have the rattling in the midbass department as the sound comes out a lot clearer now. With the help of a computer-optimized magnet system, Sennheiser has addressed the harmonic and intermodulation distortion which has now greatly diminished. In addition, the lightweight voice coils made of aluminum help to improve transient response.

Overall, the headphones deliver a more dynamic sound making the transients quicker, clearer, and more refined. There is now more energy at high frequencies, and the low-mid range department comes out rich and full.

Just like with the earlier models, the mid-range frequencies are the highlight of HD 660 S. Although the mids are not as ‘in front’ as with the previous models, they are still quite prominent. It makes the overall sound great with more balance and clarity. Vocals and violin come across so clear, natural sounding, and distinct that it gives you goosebumps. Overall, those are among the top mids you can buy under $500. In addition, those headphones have been rated as one of the best headphones for guitar amp due to their precise and natural sound.

The sub-bass, however, feels slightly unfulfilled at times, which is a trait on most open-back pairs of headphones including all HD 6xx headphones, so not much has changed in this department.

Bottom Line

If you are a sound purist looking for the most natural sound experience you may want to consider other options, such as Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro. They have a slightly wider soundstage, more warmth, balance, and more neutral sound. However, if you are looking for reference headphone perfection with the most detailed sound and simply stunning mids – the Sennheiser HD 660 S is one of the best open-back headphones under $500 on the market.

  • Design & Build 90% 90%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Sound 80% 80%
  • Value 80% 80%
reduce the weight by using unique materials compared to sennheiser hd 600 Wide, open and immersive soundstage
the headphone set packs some powerful bass and mids and highs Dynamic high definition sound
technology has improved compared to the previous model Solid build quality
great studio headphones, similart to sennheiser hd 600 Very comfortable
sound clarity is superb of this headphone set Detachable kevlar-reinforced OFC copper cable
Needs a headphone amp Weakish bass output
non collapsible design Not perfect tonal neutrality

4. Best Open Back Headphones Under $300 – Grado Prestige Series SR325x

Grado SR325x is a flagship model in the Prestige Series line up replacing the previously successful SR325e known for its excellent audio quality.

There is probably no need to introduce Grado, as the company has been hand-crafting headphones in Brooklyn, New York since 1953.

They are family owned and run business that takes pride in high-quality audio, traditions, and their three-generation-long heritage.

The external design of SR325x has not changed over the last 50+ years and still carries proud family traits.

high quality build, construction and sound has always been Grado's signature

Design & Build Quality

Grado is very proud of its iconic Prestige Series design from the mid last century. It has not changed for a very long time, and as expected, it has not changed for SR325x.

In fact, we found that the Grado unique design tends to polarize people as some love the retro look whereas others quite openly dislike it. We fall into the former category as we believe it adds a certain charm to headphones.

The build quality is exceptional as it feels solid, sturdy, and composed.

it is worth mentioning that the ear cups can rotate 360-degrees. At first, we did not think it was a noteworthy feature, but later we have discovered it to be handy when wearing the headphones around the neck.


One of the distinct features of SR325x are memory foam earpads, which are plain and perfectly round. Grado has confirmed that those earpads contribute to the overall Grado’s signature sound and their heritage.

It may well be so, but in our experience, it comes at the expense of comfort. We found that it does not fit all ear types perfectly due to not being big enough to cover the whole ear and not small enough to rest comfortably on the ear. Besides, the extended use tends to tire the ears a little bit. Nothing major, just not as good as other headphones have it.

Despite the metal ear cups, the SR325x feel reasonably lightweight on the head. The grip is good but not too tight as the headphones feel well secured even when turning your head quickly. The headband can be easily adjusted to get a better fit.

Sound Quality

Grado’s heritage is their distinct sound signature which is notable across the product range. They are not about a punching bass, warmth, or exquisite highs. The company has spent decades perfecting what they believe in – dynamic and detailed sound.

If you have not heard of Grados before, it is worth trying and most likely buying. The amount of details the 4th generation Grado drivers can reproduce is simply incredible.

SR325x reproduce any music genre beautifully (perhaps except hip-hop), but they like classical music and instrumental music the most. Musical instruments come out in a delicate, sharp, and perfectly imaged manner. The sound is deep, clear, and as precise as it ever gets creating a truly amazing pure sound fidelity.

Conversely, the low-end is the area where SR325x lacks the most. At the same time, we have heard Grados before, and the lack of performance in the bass department was somewhat expected. The bass emphasis is simply not part of the Grado’s house sound pedigree. Don’t get me wrong, the bass is present, but it lacks a punch.

Bottom Line

Grado SR325x is an exceptional piece of sound engineering. If you are looking for sparkling details, crystal clear sound and beautiful depth, look no further. Unless you are a bass lover, these are the best open back headphones under $300 by a country mile. In fact, they can easily challenge other headphones that cost twice as much.

  • Design & Bild 100% 100%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 90% 90%
k240 studio is a budget version of these One of the most detailed and dynamic sound reproductions we have ever experienced
flat frequency response just like on grado sr80e prestige series Sturdy and robust
best headphones for music and stereo imaging Amazing tonal balance and open sound
rugged construction Hand-build quality
best headphones for mobile and other types or portable devices Can be used with a mobile phone
advanced diaphragm design Underwhelming bass
best listening experience achieved in a closed space Not perfect tonal neutrality

5. Best Open Back Headphones Under $200 – Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

The original version of Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro was released more than a decade ago, in 2004.

Some may think the headphones are dated, but we believe that having them stick around for so long means a great deal.

They have been purposefully built for professional studio mixing and mastering, yet they are just as great for home use.

Although Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro are the second most expensive open back pairs of headphones in Beyerdynamic’s line up, they represent a staggering value.

DT 990 Pro from Beyerdynamic DT are one of the most popular studio use headphones out there

Design & Build Quality

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro studio monitors are built predominantly using plastic, except the metal headband that holds them together. Although it does handle bending fine, they don’t instill the ruggedness we would like to see.

In addition, the wire connecting the headphone cups is exposed in an old-school way. Be careful not to hinge it on something by accident as it can get damaged.

The headband has super soft padding wrapped around it which is secured with two bolts at each end.

Overall, the two-color scheme design is minimalistic featuring a truly retro/classic design.


The ear cups are relatively large which should fit around most users’ ears. Unlike many other headphones, DT 999 Pro has memory foam ear pads  that are wrapped in velour material which makes them very soft and plush. The combination of memory foam, velour earpads, and padded leatherette headband, creates an amazing feeling of comfort allowing you to wear the headphones over long listening or recording sessions with ease.

Despite the above-average clamping force and tightness to deliver a secure fit, the DT 990 Pro is great at providing long-lasting comfort. In fact, they are the most comfortable headphones in our review, by quite some margin.

Sound Quality

The audio profile is what makes DT 990 Pro truly special. In fact, it is the sole reason the headphones have stayed around for so long.

The lows are present, but not emphasized, which is typical for most open-back headphones. Some audiophiles may argue that the headphones have insufficient bass, others think there is too much of it. We believe that it depends on the soundtrack. If the soundtrack has lower frequencies, they will get reproduced.

The mids are great, yet sound slightly emphasized on all the soundtracks we have played. The vocals are clear and detailed, and the musical instruments are nicely separated. This is partly due to not having overpowered lows or highs, keeping the sound well-balanced across the sound profile.

The highs are also well present, perhaps slightly elevated, but not excessively. They are delivered consistently across the volume range with no distortion observed.

The headphones have an impressive dynamic range that makes them very capable of reproducing detailed sounds at both low and high volumes. This is one of the main reasons that put DT 990 Pro among the best open-back headphones for mixing and studio monitoring.

Bottom Line

DT 990 Pro are the most comfortable over-ear studio monitors in our review by a long shot which makes them ideal for long listening. They were originally designed for studio use, but we found that they work at home just as well. The headphones deliver a well-balanced, clean and precise sound across the sound profile making them the best open-back headphones under $200. However, keep in mind that with a relatively high impedance level, you need an amplifier to make them truly shine.

  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Comfort 85% 85%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 95% 95%
beyerdynamic dt are light and comfortable as most of their audio equipment Light and comfortable
dt 990 pro beyerdynamic dt are fine for music listening Detailed and dynamic sound
beyerdynamic dt 990 pro with string instruments Amazing tonal balance and open sound
beyerdynamic dt have a replacement cable in the box Wide soundstage
high resolution sounding headphones reviews benefits, pros, advantages or upside Unbeatable value
one of the best over-ear headphones Expected a better german build quality
optimum sensitivity Need a good amp to power them

6. Best Open Back Headphones Under $150 – AKG K 240 MKII

AKG K 240 MKII are the professional semi-open studio headphones that have been released to replace the aging predecessor AKG K 240.

Although the previous model had its issues it was widely used by many top recording studios for many years.

The headphones still represent the most successful example of the K series in AKG’s range. It sells the best and has created the heritage the company is known for.

Let’s see if the updated version is a worthy update and how it stacks up to the modern competition.

Design & Build Quality

The design of AKG K240 MKII stays true to K series roots and has not changed a great deal over the last 40 years.

The materials used are of an average quality which is a little disappointing. At the same time, headphones feel sturdy, and given the price point, it is more than reasonable.

In the box, you will find two cords that are 3 and 5 meters long and coiled. The cords are easily interchangeable thanks to the quick-release mechanism integrated into the left cup.

The headphones are relatively large, but surprisingly light, which works well over long sessions. The ear cups are still circular, and the headband still uses a retro style slider.

To accommodate most users, AKG has included two pairs of earpads. The earpads that come fitted are made from vinyl and are relatively firm. The second pair features a bigger size and softer texture as the outside is made of velvet.


Most of the complaints with the original model were related to the comfort level and fit. The new model aims to address those issues and mainly succeeds at it.

The comfort has been improved with better quality earpads and an additional pair of softer and larger earpads being included in the box. The headband has a self-adjusting wing system and naturally follows the contour of your head.

The fit remains an issue to a certain extent. The earcups still feature an exactly round shape which does not perfectly align with all ear shapes. Most of the time, we found the earpads to be either too big or too small for the ears.

Sound Quality

The overall sound performance can be described as smooth and well-balanced whereas the frequency response is clear and flat.

The highs are bright and sharp on most tracks which are delivered in a refined but slightly brittle manner. You cannot escape a feeling that the highs are walking too close to the ‘harsh’ territory’, yet they never end up crossing it.

If we had to pick where AKG K240 MKII stands out it would be the mids. They come out rich, thick yet very smooth and deliver a natural listening experience. Instrument sounds are delivered separated, detailed, and they don’t step on each other even when the scene gets busy. The vocals reproduction is reasonably detailed which should be sufficient to please most critical listeners.

The bass department is lacking drive and punch which is our main concern with AKG K240 studios. Although we are far from being bass lovers, the entire low-frequency range comes across as too subtle.

Bottom Line

AKG K240 MKII are great and they have a lot to offer in the mid-range department. The headphones are suited to audiophiles looking for a smooth and tranquil sound. It will also suit studio sound engineers using the headphones for tracking, mixing and editing. Overall, the headphones are well-priced making them one of the best open back headphones under $150.

  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Sound 80% 80%
  • Value 80% 80%
aluminum voice coils Very comfortable if the fit is right for you
high-frequency response with decent mids and highs Amazing mid-frequency texture
monitor headphones Detachable cable
lack of bass Lacking bass
slightly uncomfortable Not for listeners looking for the most detailed and dynamic sound

7. Best Open Back Headphones Under $100 – Audio Technica ATH-AD700X

ATH AD700X is Audio Technica’s representative in the budget open back headphones range.

If you are looking for the best open-back headphones under $100, then ATH AD700X should be surely on your shortlist.

The headphones are designed and marketed for audiophiles but predominantly target home users.

They come with a two-year limited end-user warranty in the package for additional peace of mind.

But has this pair of budget headphones managed to deliver the above budget results? Let’s find out.

Design & Build Quality

The first thing you notice is how big the headphones are. The ear cups are big and circular featuring metallic mesh grills on the outside making the headphones almost entirely open-air.

The casing is made of lightweight aluminum, which reduces weight and slightly improves the sound quality.

The highlight design feature is the two self-adjusting 3D support paddles. Those flaps replace the classic leather or fabric strap usually found on other over-ear headphones.

Apart from the 3D paddles, the ATH AD700X looks dull and a little boring. If you are looking for eye-catching headphones, these are probably not the headphones for you. If the looks are not that important to you, keep reading, better things are coming.


Thanks to self-adjusting 3D wing support paddles, the headphones feel light and generate a relatively small clamping force. In fact, this lightness creates a false sense of fit insecurity, making you excessively cautious with your head movement until you get used to it.

The paddles allow tailoring a good fit for most head shapes with ease. In conjunction with the low clamping pressure, headphones are comfortable to wear over long listening sessions.

To further improve comfort, Audio Technica ATH-AD700X feature super soft cushions with additional padding. Despite the large ear cup size, the padding takes a fair bit of space which means that people with bigger ears may not have a perfect fit.

Sound Quality

The ATH AD700X features the newly designed 53mm drivers coupled with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils. This combination creates a truly unique and vivid sound experience. The soundstage width is exceptional, unlike anything in this price range.

The vocal and musical instrument separation is excellent and can rival the headphones that are two or three times the price.

The overall frequency response range is mostly neutral. The lows are present but are missing a punch. The highs are detailed but at times may come across slightly piercing depending on the soundtrack. At the same time, this is likely to improve with the longer running-in times. Mids are reproduced slightly emphasized with vocals being clear and present.

Bottom Line

Overall, Audio Technica ATH-AD700X are great over-ear headphones for any type of home listening. Their selling point is an amazingly wide and airy soundstage which does not have a competition at this price point. The headphones manage to reproduce soundtracks with amazing fidelity making them one of the best open back headphones under $100 to buy.

  • Design & Build 70% 70%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Sound 80% 80%
  • Value 90% 90%
great performance Incredibly open and spacious soundstage
one of the headphones on the market Clear and detailed sound reproduction
audio technical are well built with comfort and durability Great build quality
detail and clarity Comfortable and lightweight
instruments and vocals Weak low end
fully open-back product reviews Slightly brash treble range

8. Top-Rated Cinematic Headphones – Philips X2HR

The Philips Fidelio X2HR is an updated version of a well known over-ear headphones Philips X2, which was, in its turn, a replacement of the legendary X1.

Fidelio X2HR have received some fairly subtle updates this time around. In fact, some audiophiles even fail to hear the differences in how sound gets reproduced between X2 and X2HR.

The problem is that Philips did not disclose the changes made, but according to our testing and research, the changes are limited to the headband and the earpads.

The headband now features super soft padding for improved comfort. Also, the earpads are now more breathable but can no longer be replaced as they are glued to the cup.

Philips Fidelio x2hr are not noise cancelling but best sounding in its price range

Design & Build Quality

The headphones feature an all-black design that looks classy and sleek. The adjustable headband now features real leather giving it a slightly premium feel.

The build quality is solid, and the materials used are top-notch. The frame feels rugged and composed which gives it a good level of resistance to physical damage.

The cups are positioned at a 15-degree angle to ensure that the sound is projected directly into your eardrums.

Staying true to the true traditions of the Fidelio X line, the headphones feature 50mm, drivers, with a layered motion control diaphragm. The diaphragm hosts a special layer of gel designed to dampen the overstated frequencies. It ensures a smoother, more refined, and authentic sound experience across the sound range.

The headphones have been designed with a broad range of playback devices in mind. With their low level of impedance (i.e., 30 Ohm), the Fidelio X2HR can be powered by almost all modern mobile devices.


Comfort and fit are some of the strongest areas of X2HR. The updated earpads are made of memory foam wrapped in soft velour. The new material makes cushions highly breathable and helps with even pressure distribution as well as heat dissipation.

The headband features a self-adjusting headband suspension mechanism that stretches out the headband for you. With headphones weighing around 380g, the headband does a great job distributing the pressure evenly and comfortably. Overall, they feel very comfortable to wear over longer periods of time.

Sound Quality

The X2HR are great at creating a spacious sound and open soundstage. They give you an authentic feel of standing in front of the speakers rather than wearing headphones. The guitars, piano, and wind instruments come out very separated with plenty of distance between them.

The midrange is very dynamic as it can smoothly and promptly transition to higher or lower frequencies with ease. It is slightly recessed, but it does not affect the sound profile too much as it still feels well-balanced.

With mids being pushed back slightly, the vocals sound a little further away than usual. Nevertheless, they are very clear and carry a true sense of realism.

As advertised, the treble is transparent, and although slightly emphasized, it is not piercing and does not fatigue the ears. The highs come out detailed keeping a good and consistent composure even at higher volumes.

The low end is the area where headphones genuinely shine. Moreover, it may well be Fidelio X2HR’s calling card. If you’ve read other reviews, you may have noticed that open-back headphones are notoriously weak in the bass department as it is technically tricky to create an open, airy soundstage and have a prominent bass response.

The bass gets delivered with immaculate precision and a perfect punchiness. It is tight, detailed but does not feel overpowering and blends in with the rest of the frequency range nicely. The taut bass adds a level of enjoyment to the overall precise and accurate sound reproduction. It is probably not enough to make the bass heads happy, but for the ones who welcome that extra touch of lows or likes gaming – Philips Fidelio X2HR are almost perfect.

Bottom Line

Phillips X2HR are one of the most comfortable headphones we have ever tested. They offer a solid build quality and an amazing all-black look. They generate an incredibly wide sound stage which gives an amazing sense of varying depth an width. The frequency response is geared towards a general use with mids being slightly recessed and lows somewhat elevated.

Overall, the unique sound characteristics make Phillips Fidelio X2HR perfect for general use and definitely one of the best open back headphones for gaming.

  • Design & Build 90% 90%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 90% 90%
fidelio x2hr have a great sound separation Great sound separation
philips fidelio x2hr has amazing quality sound Prominent and punchy bass
headphones designed to be beautiful and robust Premium build quality and design
Provide a top notch gaming experience Extremely comfortable
fidelio x2hr are stong in value for money Amazing value
powerful amp is required to get full potential Not for midrange lovers

9. Best Budget Gaming Open Back Headphones – Phillips SHP9500S

Philips SHP9500S is a smaller brother of the mighty over-ear X2HR headphones we’ve reviewed earlier.

The headphones share a similar design, build quality and looks.

The SHP9500S is positioned as a budget alternative for audiophiles and critical listeners.

The headphones are designed for general use including gaming, movies, music and pretty much anything as long as you are using them indoors.

With a low price tag well below $100 – what can you expect from SHP9500S? Let’s find out!

Philips shp9500s - one of the best open back design sound profile in the budget range. A perfect choice in gaming headsets.

Design & Build Quality

The first thing you notice is a solid build quality which you do not generally see in a budget headphone range. Perhaps the earpad padding is the only thing that looks and feels slightly out of place in terms of quality.

Despite their reasonably large size, the headphones feel sturdy and lightweight. The headband is made of steel and holds the cups firmly together giving a good sense of ruggedness. Overall, they are somewhat bulky and lack a carrying case to help protect them when not in use.

The headphones are powered by 50-millimeter high-precision neodymium speaker drivers designed to deliver a balanced, HI-FI sound across the frequency reproduction.

The cups are really big, even for full-size, over-the-ear headphones. They let plenty of air through, keeping the ears ventilated and cool.


Not often do you get budget headphones with premium comfort qualities and SHP9500S has done precisely that.

The headband is extremely comfortable around your ears thanks to the double-layered soft padding. It features a self-adjusting wing system that provides an even clamping force distribution and remains comfortable over long gaming sessions.

Although the earcups are not made of the same quality material as the rest of the headphone, it fits the purpose well. The cushions are breathable and super soft helping to distribute the pressure around the ears evenly.

Overall, the comfort that SHP9500S manages to create is second to none in its class. Moreover, they can easily rival more premium models which are three times the price.

Sound Quality

The soundstage delivered by SHP9500S is decent given the price point as it is quite wide and spacious. It features a very clean and accurate musical instrument separation.

The overall sound can be considered as somewhat midrange-centric. The vocals are placed slightly forward sharing the stage with other instruments, yet keeping a fair distance. The mids are reproduced clearly without any sibilance.

Like most other open-back headphones, the SHP9500S lack a sub-bass part of the low-frequency range. At the same time, they lack it a lot less than most of the competition. The lows are reproduced in a balanced and detailed way, making the bass and the thump of a kick drum present and textured. The slight downside is that the bass reproduction is not very consistent sometimes leaving you wondering – is it the soundtrack or the headphones?

Lastly, the treble is doing an average job. The highs may come across as slightly piercing and sharp at times. They are also a bit over-emphasized. The good news is that the treble can be adjusted using the EQ and the headphones respond well to those changes.

Bottom Line

Philips SHP9500S are truly amazing. In fact, this is the closest you will ever get to true audiophile headphones under $100. They are one of the most versatile open-back headphones in our review as long as you stick to home applications. As far as gaming is concerned, the mighty X2HRs are still the best, yet if you want a cheaper alternative, the SHP9500S are the best budget open-back gaming headsets you will find.

  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 90% 90%
well built construction with lightweight aluminum voice coils Sturdy build
headphones sound come with flat frequency response Comfortable lightweight design
Philips shp9500s feature neodymium drivers that work great with all kinds of music Detailed, clear and well-balanced sound
Philips shp9500 are packed with gaming headphones value Unmatched value
sound output product reviews The highs could be too bright for some

10. Best Value Open Back Headphones – HiFiMan HE-400i

The HiFiMan HE-400i is an updated model of a hugely successful over ear HE-400s which were the best selling headphones in the history of the brand.

The original HE-400 audiophile-grade, planar magnetic headphones were released in 2012.

They have created a lot of excitement when they came out and now, half a decade later, are due for a makeover.

Has HiFiMan managed to improve their iconic headphones? The short answer is ‘yes’ and they have managed to do it in every respect.

HiFiMan HE-400i is an updated model featuring outstanding value and an amazing price to value

Design & Build Quality

Just like the original model, the HE-400i houses single-sided ‘planar magnetic‘ flat drivers. This innovation had caused a stir when the original HE-400 came out. The new drivers have been designed from scratch with the objective to improve the low end and provide a better sound image overall.

The headphones have been designed for home and general use including watching movies, playing games, or listening to music. It also means that the receiver or an amplifier was assumed to drive the headphones. This is not to say that mobile devices cannot drive HE-400i since they can. However, if you want to uncover the full potential of this remarkable pair of headphones, an external amp would be highly recommended.

The cord is now shorter, reduced from 3 to 1.5 meters but it comes with gold-plated 3.5mm connectors. It features a Y shape end with detachable connectors. It means that both cups need to be connected to the cord, unlike other models where the drivers are interconnected via the wire hidden in the headband.

Although HE-400i are mostly made of plastic, they have a good feel, and the overall headphone construction appears to be rugged.


Comfort has greatly improved compared to original headphones. They are now 30% lighter making them more comfortable to wear over long listening sessions.

The headphones feature a brand new headband design which also improves the overall fit. They clamp consistently around the head evenly distributing pressure and practically eliminating fatigue. Some listeners, however, may find the clamping force slightly excessive.

The earpads have also been updated with better, softer, and more refined materials such as high-quality artificial leather and velour.

Sound Quality

HE-400i produces audio output that is more refined and balanced compared to the predecessor. Thanks to the planar magnetic drivers, the sound carries a great deal of clarity and transparency.

The middle range tends to be placed slightly forward and is delivered with an incredible amount of details. The vocals are crystal clear and subtle making the mid-range reproduction one of the most realistic in our review.

The treble is not very pronounced and perhaps slightly over-extended as it gives too much room to the mid-range. Nevertheless, it is quite precise and detailed, yet more like sitting at the back.

The lows are well defined, but like most open-back headphones, they lack some punch. The bass is reproduced quite consistently, yet slightly more sub-bass would have made the sound great, more ‘full body’. The lows are well separated and would work for almost any listener except the bass lovers.

Bottom Line
The newly released HiFiMan HE-400i are definitely an improvement over the original model in every respect and represent great value for money. They are not cheap, but if you are looking for an audiophile-grade, high-end quality, HiFiMan HE-400i packs an incredible amount of value. Sterling sound reproduction, great build quality, comfortable fit, and good looks make them one of the best value open-back headphones out there for casual listening or even professional use.
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 90% 90%
string instruments are clear and ultra detailed Clear and detailed sound
Open back headphone reviews benefits, pros, advantages or upside Wide soundstage
comfortable over ears for listening experience and for home recording Very comfortable
Top open planar magnetic headphones for music Excellent build quality
Most accessible audiophile headphones on the market Most accessible audiophile headphones on the market
Not as comfortable listening as I hought it woudl be Some may find clamping force excessive
headphones sound bass light A little bit more bass would go a long way

Top Rated Open Back Headphones – Specification Comparison

Freq. range Impedance THD Driver size Max input power
Sennheiser HD 800 S 4Hz - 51kHz 300 ohms 0.02% 56 mm 500 mW
Samson SR850 10Hz – 30kHz 32 ohms 0.3% 50 mm 200 mW
Sennheiser HD 660 S 9Hz – 41,5kHz 150 ohms 0,04% 38 mm 500 mW
Grado SR325x 18Hz - 24kHz 38 ohms N/A 44 mm N/A
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO 5Hz - 35kHz 250 ohms 0.2% 45 mm 100 mW
AKG K 240 Studio MKII 15Hz - 25kHz 55 ohms 0.3% 30 mm 200 mW
Audio Technica ATH-AD700X 5Hz – 30kHz 38 ohms 0.2 % 53 mm 700 mW
Philips X2HR 5Hz - 40kHz 30 ohms 0.1% 50 mm 500 mW
Philips SHP9500S 6 Hz - 35 kHz 32 ohm 0.2% 50 mm 200 mW
HiFiMan HE-400i 20Hz - 35kHz 35 ohm N/A 60 mm 93 mW

Open-Back Vs. Closed-Back

Whether buying headphones that are open-back or closed-back, a good set of headphones may set you back a tiny fortune. Since most of us don’t buy high-end over-the-ear headphones every week, you want to make sure your new pair fits the purpose in the most optimal way possible.

There is a lot of audio jargon out there, and it is easy to get lost, or even give up trying to understand what it all means. The good news is that you only need to know a couple of terms to ensure an excellent fit for your needs and the headphone type (open-back and closed-back) is one of them.

Knowing the difference between closed and open back headphone design is essential as the audio experience that they deliver are substantially different. One is not better than the other; they are simply different and serve two separate purposes.

What are Closed-back headphones?

As the name rightly suggests, they have their cups completely enclosed around the back. The purpose is to have the cups sealed on the outside to ensure that the sound produced by the drivers only travels one way – into your ears.

Closed back headphones are great for noise isolation, private listening and boosted frequency levels.This is not exactly natural, as the sound the driver creates, that is supposed to go outwards into the world, bounces of the sealed cup and gets redirected into your ear.

On the flip side, having your headphone cups sealed blocks a lot of the ambient noise and reduces sound leaks that could impact your listening experience.

It also allows to build up in the noise cancellation capabilities to completely control the external sound.

Depending on the purpose, this could be an essential factor to consider.

Lastly, due to the lack of air ventilation, the closed-back headphones may create some warmth in your ears. This is very personal and may discomfort some people more than others.

Overall, headphones with closed-back emit a lot more targeted sound creating a ‘sound in your head’ type of experience, but isolate you from external noise.

Here are some great applications for closed-back headphones:

  • When traveling or commuting
  • At work or in the office
  • When mixing or recording music

What are Open Back Headphones?

Most open-back design headphones are mostly over ears, hence are larger in size. The have no sealed cup that allows the air to pass from outside to the headphone driver freely. Since there is no hard enclosure, the dynamic drivers are not able to create pressure within the headphone cup resulting in a natural listening experience and open soundstage.

Open back headphones have sound leakage but are great for private use in a quite space. A real dream for an audiophile!In the absence of a sealed cup, the speaker elements emit the sound in both directions. That is, into your ear as well as into the surrounding environment. This allows people around you to hear what you’re listening to.

With no obstacles for the sound waves, the open-air design tends to deliver brighter, crisper, more organic, and closer to real-life sound.

On the contrary, open-back design allows the sound to escape making the headphones sound less punchy and less bass-rich. In addition, the hollow back makes the headphones more susceptible to damage.

The problem is that the driver, cone, and electronics are less protected from dust, moisture, and accidental physical damage.

You also need to pay more attention to your environment as due to no sound isolation there is plenty of sound leakages allowing background noises to enter your ear freely. It also goes the other way – whatever you can hear in your ears, the people around you can hear too.

The most common application of open-back headphones are:

  • Any application when you are alone
  • When you want to experience the most natural sound of the real world, there is

In conclusion, open-back headphones are not for everyone, and the experience they deliver is hard to explain. Before deciding to buy a set of headphones, it is recommended to experience them for real.

If you are looking for something casual and general-purpose, then closed-back headphones are what you are after. On the other hand, if you are an audiophile who likes pushing the boundaries of a close to real-life sound and do not mind sound leakage, the open-back headphones should be definitely on your list to try. But be careful, you may decide never to go back to closed-back headphones again.

Alternatively, there is something in between, which is referred to as semi-open headphones or semi-open back headphones. They are a sweet spot and a great compromise for someone who finds open-back design too ‘airy’ and closed-back design too ‘enclosed’.

How Do We Test?

When we were testing some of the best-rated open-back headphones you can buy in 2021, we try to be as objective as possible, like with all audio gear and everything we review. At the same time, we understand that it can be like colors – you like red, but I like blue. So, in order to stay as impartial as possible – we test, read, research, and challenge headphones until we are convinced and only then we put it on paper.

We have analyzed and researched dozens of open-back headphones in each price category. We have noticed that the type of research information available online greatly varies depending on the headphone price point. This proved to be a challenging task as you need to balance the quality and quantity of information for all open-back headphones in each price category.

Premium open backend headphones tend to have online reviews that are mostly positive and very little actual user feedback. On the other hand, the more affordable open-back headphones had plenty of user feedback but were lacking professional and expert reviews.

Nevertheless, when testing, we stuck to the following main principles, which we believe are important to any user:

  • Sound Quality – it consists of collecting data from two separate sources. Those are expert product reviews and real, hands-on end users. The cumulative approach allows us to create an objective picture of the performance of the particular set of headphones, its benefits, and its weaknesses.
  • Price – we do understand that to get a better sound, most of the time you are required to pay more money and we are perfectly fine with that. What we do assess as part of this criteria is the relevance of the price and the sound fidelity. In other words – it is worth the asking price?
  • Practical usage – as part of this criteria, we research and learn what the real users are saying. Consuming vast amounts of information we try and identify patterns, week spots, and even repeating defects.
  • Comfort level – the more comfortable your cinematic or reference headphones are, the longer you can wear them.

It is important to note that most fully open-back headphones, especially audiophile headphones in this product review require a bigger power source than a phone to drive them. You can still use your iPhone with most of them and get a high-quality sound. At the same time, if you really want to uncover its full potential in terms of sound purity and volume, an amplifier is a must.

Nevertheless, testing the headphone’s sound performance both ways is essential. On the one hand, not all of us have digital amplifiers. On the other hand, we all have mobile phones, yet most of us probably would not use open-back headphones with them.

How Much Should I Spend on Headphones?

The question is common as it pops up from many of our readers. Unfortunately, you are the only person who knows the answer to it.

It all comes down to your passion for audio quality, how much of an audiophile you are, and maybe how are you planning to use them. Are you using it for studio applications or perhaps with your favorite pocket radio?

Generally, there is a big gap between headphones that cost $100 and the ones that cost $200. The same cannot be said comparing HiFi headphones for $800 and $900. In other words, the further you get on the audio performance ladder, the sound fidelity increments become smaller, whereas their cost exponentially increases.

It also comes down to your budget and how much you are willing to spend. As you will see in our headphones reviews, there are very decent options almost across the entire purchase price range. This means, that if the budget is small, but the need for the sound is big, there is an option for you.

To put the above into perspective and more so into practice, there a couple of practical steps you can take. They will help you gauge your level of urge for audio perfection and set an educated budget for your new set of open-back headphones.

First, test as many headphones as you can at your local retail outlets and audio shops.

Second, attend audio shows and fest like Canjam Global where the latest and greatest headphones like premium and limited edition Sennheiser are demonstrated and can be tested.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is impedance?

Impedance is a fairly technical term that is pretty tricky to explain in plain English. It measures the level of resistance of an electric circuit to the electric current when the voltage is applied.

In practical and simple terms, the higher the impedance, the more current your source device needs to supply in order for the headphones to generate sound.

This makes the audio source device important when choosing the top pick for the best open-back headphones.

Generally speaking, if you are mainly using your mobile phone or other portable devices to power your headphones sound, then impedance below 50 Ohms is recommended.

Alternatively, if using a mixer or amplifier then higher impedance makes the headphones more prone to overloading and generally makes them last longer.

What is soundstage?
Soundstage refers to the placement of vocals, musical instruments and other sounds in a soundtrack. Talking about headphones – a wide soundstage would typically mean that the headphones are able to reproduce the distance between all the sounds in a convincing and realistic manner.
Do I need an amp to run open back headphones?

There is no right answer to this question as it depends on the headphone. Some headphones get to benefit from the amplifier at 30 Ohm, whereas others work perfectly fine from the mobile at 50 Ohm.

Given that you have bought a good, quality pair of headphones anything up to 50 Ohm should be reproduced with decent quality and sufficient volume. For headphones with greater impedance levels, an amplifier would be recommended.

Why the frequency range is important?

The frequency response is important as it determines the sound generation capabilities of a device.

In general, a human’s ear is capable of registering sounds between 20 and 20 000 Hz. At the same time, the hearing range greatly depends on individuals as there are some that exceed that range and others who are well within it.

In simple terms, you want your pairs of headphones to be able to reproduce the sounds you can hear, so it has to cover your hearing range.

What is sub bass?

Sub-bass is represented by the lowest frequencies humans can hear. Those frequencies typically range between 20 and 60 Hz. In practice, the sounds that fall under that frequency range are bass drum, bass guitar, and drum machines.