What is the difference between open and closed headphones?

Open and closed headphones

Do you know the main differences between open and closed headphones? Should you buy headphones open or closed? Surely you’ve been told a lot of times about the two main types of headphones you can find, the usual big fight: open headphones vs closed headphones, and you’ve never been clear about what’s the best musical choice for you and your songs: Don’t know what kind of headphones are best for listening to rock, metal, classical music, Jazz, Dance or Pop? Let’s try to answer your questions.

We have already talked about the different types of headphones depending on their shape or functionalities: Types of headphones: Pros and cons of in-ear, over-ear, on-ear, wireless, noise-cancelling headphones, etc… but each of those types of headphones can also be opened to closed… Things get complicated…

Not only do you have to choose a headset based on its connectivity, shape, sound quality or functionalities… we also need to know if we prefer them open or closed.

And you have to have one thing clear: there are more options besides AirPods Pro or AirPods Max. There are many brands of headphones with a great track record behind, such as Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, which have excellent options with a great sound… and much cheaper.

Eye! The good thing about when Apple gets into some business is that the other brands put on their batteries and get better products. In the end, it benefits us all, but we don’t have to fall into the trend and leave us a lot of money on Apple products for no good reason.


Headphones open or closed

Open Headphones:

  • The air comes in and out of the headphones, implying that our music can be heard “outside” the headset and that we can hear the external sounds.
  • High-end headphones, those that offer HI-FI sound in Hi-Res are usually of this type (although lately, they are turning the turns). Sound is more natural.
  • They are usually more delicate headphones and need to be treated with love. Electronics are more out in the open.
  • They give a tremendous boost to the sharpness and clarity of the music. The “soundstage” is higher. Classical music or jazz enjoys these headphones.
  • They tend to be more comfortable and lighter.

Headphones closed:

  • The closed headphones are completely insulated from the outside. You don’t hear anything from outside, and the others don’t listen to your music.
  • The sound is not as natural as in the open, and the atmosphere can be warmed in your ears being more closed.
  • They usually provide more powerful basses.
  • They are handy headphones for DJs, music production or to carry in public transport.
  • In recent years, companies such as Focal, Audeze or Sennheiser have created high-end closed models (e.g. Sennheiser HD820).
  • They are perfect headphones for rock, metal, dance and even Pop music


When is it best to use open and closed headphones?

If you’ve looked closely at the above features, it’s sure to be pretty clear to you what each one serves.

Headphones closed

The closed headphones, having a solid outer cover that covers the entire ear without perforations of any kind, isolate you perfectly from the outside. There’s no noise bothering you. You listen to your songs and nothing else.

  • You get the sound “inside your head.”

If you use them with caution, they are perfect to go by public transport, to isolate yourself in your home from noises of neighbours, the barking of your dogs or the screams of your children. And you don’t bother anyone with your music. You keep it all to yourself.

Just worry about buying good headphones that represent the sound of your music well.

A good example of this type of headphones? The Sony MDR7506, a closed headband headset we recommend for working at home or the ATH-M50x Audio Technica, one of our recommendations as a DJ headset.

You can also go to Sennheiser’s precisely cheap top of the range, the Sennheiser HD 820, one of the most in-demand audiophile headphones.


Headphones open

On the other hand, open headphones have a perforated outer cover in some way, possibly with horizontal cuts, and the air (and sound) can enter and exit them.

  • You get the sound around you.

Your music surrounds you, surrounds you. It is the main difference with the previous ones… and you’ll get to enjoy your music if there’s silence around you. The sound achieved in these models is usually neutral. You can’t take them on the bus or the subway; you can’t listen to your songs with your dog barking or your child screaming. You need peace to enjoy them.

With this type of headphones, which are usually all mid-range or high-end, you will get to appreciate everything that the music producer wanted to express with his music. It’s like you’re in the music studio and you can get into the musician’s head.

You can already imagine that these headphones can become very expensive.

You can start with the Beyerdynamic DT- 990 or move directly to the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro or Sennheiser HD 660s. Their prices are high but still affordable. Or you can also switch to the Sennheiser HD 800 S, one of the best headphones of all time (with permission of the Sennheiser HD 800), a classic to appreciate in all its breadth the best “soundstage” of your music themes.


What about the semi-open headphones?

Well, the truth is, they’re neither. The semi-open headphones are at an intermediate point.

The semi-open headphones have an open back, though not completely. Despite this, they have good insulation in both ways (no sound escapes and no external noises enter or at least not as much as in the open).

Eye! Do not single them as much as the closed headphones.

  • Sound? They offer a wide “soundstage” but not as much as the open ones. The “soundstage” tells us the ability of the headphones to give us a realistic and attractive sound. Good bass but not as low as in the completely closed.

This leaves us with great doubt: When is it convenient to use this type of headset? Well, probably when you want to use them both at home and to go to work when you move from quiet environments to noisy environments and want to have some of the features of open and closed headphones. It’s a compromise solution.

A good example of semi-open headphones? The Beyerdynamic DT 880 or the AKG K240 Studio, especially the first. They have excellent reviews and a pretty elegant and successful design. They have a neutral sound, relatively spacious and with a deep bass but smaller than in the DT 990 PRO.


Conclusion: Headphones open or closed

I’m sure you have a good idea what kind of headset you’re most interested in. A few more little tips:

Think about where you’re going to use your headphones and what devices mainly. If you’re going to be home quiet and without external noise, open headphones may be the best choice. If you’re going to have a lot of fuss around you, the closed headphones earn a lot of points.

Then you have to keep in mind what kind of sound you want on your headphones:

Do you want a sound with powerful bass to listen to rock music to the full? Closed ones may be a better option, although with open ones you can also fight all kinds of music if you have an amplifier or a good equalizer on your computer than colour your songs.

Do you want to listen to classical music, jazz or blues and appreciate all the nuances and almost play each instrument? Open headphones are a good choice.

That said, the question of better or worse headphones is a very subjective subject that also depends on the hearing capacity and sound sensitivity of each. It is best to try them in advance in some music store and see what sound we fall in love with. And what headphones we can afford, which is not a cheap hobby.

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