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Open or Closed Back? - How to Choose the Right Headphones

"Depending on how you want to use the headphones, you can either go with a closed back or an open back model. With this article, we'd like to help those in trouble choosing the right one for their needs. "

Looking for a new pair of headphones can be very confusing, there are so many to choose from – how do you know you are getting the best for your money?

There are lots of things you can look at when deciding, but the main place to start is whether you will benefit from Open or Closed Back. It's easy for some people to say that one is better then the other, but this isn't the case – it really depends on how you will use them. If you are looking for a pair of headphones to commute to work with then an open back design won't be ideal, unless you want the whole carriage to listen to your guilty pleasures. So here is a quick run down on the differences between Open and Closed back headphones.

Closed Back

The main benefit you get from a closed back headphone is sound isolation, this reduces the amount of sound that leaks out for others to hear and it also helps block outside noises so they won't interfere with your listening. This is something that is very important when using headphones in public e.g. commute to work, travelling or even at home with other people in the room. Generally closed back headphones have a narrower soundstage (compared to open back) but you get a punchier sound with heavier bass. One downside of closed back headphones is that your ears can get warm very easily, especially compared to open backed headphones – Using velour earpads instead of leather can reduce this but this will reduce the amount of sound that is isolated.

Open Back

These headphones certainly don't isolate sound, being open back the sounds comes out from them like mini speakers – some more than others. They will also allow you to hear what's going on around you, so this won't be ideal for noisy environments. The benefit from this is that you get a very natural sound, your ears will keep cool due to the air flow and they give a wide soundstage - this is particularly good for live recordings as you really feel like you're right there. Being open backed you will notice a loss of bass compared to a closed back alternative, the bass has a more natural feel to it because the driver housing is vented so the sound can breathe.

How To Choose

The best question to ask yourself first is 'how will I use these headphones?' and from there you will know whether to go for open or closed back. So if you're using them at home and there won't be anyone else around then open back will be a good place to look, but if there is a chance that you will also want to use them on the odd commute to work then overall closed back will be the most suitable.

About Shaun Gostelow

Shaun is co-founder of hifiheadphones.co.uk and spends most of his time dealing with the business side of running the store, but still loves listening to music with headphones just the same as ever.
Follow Shaun on Google+
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