Welcome to our roundup of the 10 best open back headphones available in 2023. Open back headphones provide an open, spacious soundstage that makes music feel more natural and immersive. If you’re looking for the ultimate listening experience, open back headphones are the way to go.
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In this buyer’s guide, we’ll take you through the top 10 open back headphones across various price points and styles. We’ve tested and reviewed dozens of models to bring you our picks for the very best open back headphones you can buy in 2023.
What Are Open Back Headphones?
Before we get to the top 10 list, let’s briefly go over what exactly open back headphones are and what makes them different from closed back models.
Open back headphones have earcups with perforations or grills that allow sound to freely pass in and out. This gives the headphones an open, spacious sound. It also allows for a more natural soundstage, which can make music feel like you’re in the room with the musicians.
The downside is that open back models leak sound in and out. This makes them unsuitable for use in noisy environments. However, the open design is preferred by many audiophiles and critical listeners who want the most natural and realistic sound when listening in quiet environments.
The Benefits of Open Back Headphones
Here are some of the key benefits that open back headphones provide compared to closed back models:
- More natural, spacious soundstage
- Increased sense of depth, space and imaging in music
- Allows your ears to breathe, reducing ear fatigue during long listening sessions
- Generally provides more detail and clarity in sound
- Sound leakage can give a sense of blending your environment into the music experience
For critical listening in quiet environments, open back headphones are typically preferable. Now let’s get into the top 10 open back headphones you can buy in 2023.
1. Focal Utopia
- Handmade in France using premium materials like leather, carbon fiber and aluminum
- Proprietary 40mm Beryllium drivers offer stunning clarity and detail
- Amazing soundstage with pinpoint imaging – you can hear every nuance and detail
- Comfortable memory foam earpads provide a luxurious listening experience
- Includes interchangeable earpads, cables and an elegant carrying case
The Focal Utopia open back headphones sit at the very top of our list, offering simply the best sound quality money can buy. Hand crafted in France using the finest materials, the Utopias are built to be a no-compromise listening experience.
Reviewers and audiophiles consistently rank the Utopia as one of the absolute best high-end headphones in the world. The 40mm Beryllium drivers deliver sparkling highs, rich midrange and deep, powerful bass. Every minute detail in your music will be revealed with stunning clarity and imaging.
While the Utopia headphones don’t come cheap, for those looking for the ultimate open back listening experience, the Focal Utopias stand in a class of their own. Expect to be amazed.
2. Grado SR80x
- Handmade in Brooklyn, New York using classic design
- Dynamic open back earcups with Handcrafted Mahogany housings
- Detailed sound with tight bass and crisp highs
- Excellent price-to-performance value
- Comfortable foam earpads
For those looking for an open back headphone on a budget, the Grado SR80x is a fantastic choice. Handmade in Brooklyn, New York, the SR80x continues Grado’s decades-long heritage of making affordable, high-performance headphones.
The open back earcups are crafted from Mahogany and provide an intimate, lively sound. Reviewers praise the SR80x for its tight bass impact and crisp, detailed highs. The soundstage is very nice for the price, with good width and depth.
Comfort is also surprisingly good thanks to the foam earpads. Overall, it’s tough to find open back headphones that sound this good at this price point. If you want natural, detailed sound on a budget, grab the Grado SR80x.
3. Sennheiser HD 800 S
- Large open-back earcups with advanced driver technology
- Incredibly spacious, three-dimensional soundstage -Detailed resolution across the frequency range -Lightweight and comfortable open circumaural design -Includes balanced XLR and unbalanced cables
The HD 800 S are Sennheiser’s flagship open back dynamic headphone. They feature an advanced 56mm ring radiator transducer for remarkably clear and detailed sound.
One of the first things you’ll notice listening to the HD 800 S is the extremely spacious soundstage. Instruments are positioned with pinpoint accuracy across a wide, three-dimensional space. This creates an incredibly immersive listening experience.
While the original HD 800 had a slightly shrill treble, the HD 800 S smoothes out the frequency response for superb listening. Reviewers say both male and female vocals sound full and natural. If you want expansive sound from an open back design, the HD 800 S is tough to beat.
4. HiFiMan Sundara 2020
- Planar magnetic drivers with advanced nanometer diaphragm
- Fast transient response and tight bass
- Wide soundstage with precise imaging
- Lightweight headband & earcups for long listening comfort
- Detachable cables and energetic, lively sound
HiFiMan has made a name for themselves by producing premium planar magnetic headphones at more affordable prices. The Sundara 2020 is one of their most popular models, delivering superb sound quality for the money.
The planar drivers offer excellent transient response for tight, articulate bass and crystal clear treble. The soundstage is wide with nicely defined imaging. Both male and female vocals sound clear and realistic.
While the build quality doesn’t quite match more expensive planar magnetic headphones, the Sundara impresses with its lively, spacious sound. For an immersive listening experience without breaking the bank, the HiFiMan Sundara is easy to recommend.
5. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
- Open back design with well-extended bass and treble
- Comes with two sets of earpads for variable sound
- Excellent imaging and spacious soundstage
- Robust metal construction built to last
- Great for mixing, mastering and analytical listening
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro offers an analytical listening experience perfect for audio production and critical listening. They have an extremely open, three-dimensional soundstage with precise imaging.
A unique feature of the DT 1990 Pro is they come with two sets of earpads. The “A” earpads provide sparkling treble energy while the “B” pads have greater bass presence. This lets you customize the sound signature a bit.
With remarkable clarity across the frequency range, the DT 1990 Pro excels at revealing the smallest details in a recording. The imaging is good enough to pinpoint exact instrument locations. If you want a durable set of open back headphones for critical listening, the DT 1990 Pro is a superb choice.
6. Philips SHP9500
- Affordable open back headphone great for gaming & music
- 50mm neodymium drivers provide detailed, spacious sound
- Comfortable memory foam earpads and headband
- V-shaped sound signature emphasizes bass and treble
- Detachable cable and sturdy construction
The Philips SHP9500 offer phenomenal value, providing open back sound quality for a very affordable price. They utilize 50mm neodymium drivers to deliver a detailed, immersive listening experience.
Many reviewers praise the SHP9500 for their V-shaped sound signature that emphasizes bass and treble. This makes them great for pop, rock and hip hop. The ears remain comfortable during long listening sessions thanks to the breathable earpads.
Considering their low price, the Philips SHP9500 punch well above their weight. If you want to dip your toes into quality open back sound on a budget, these Philips headphones are ideal.
7. Fostex TH900 Mk2
- Hand-assembled 50mm dynamic drivers with bio-cellulose diaphragms
- Improved sound with warm, detailed bass and smooth extended highs
- Premium Japanese design using exotic woods and leathers
- Circumaural earcups provide excellent noise isolation
- Includes extra cable and accessories for premium unboxing experience
If you want gorgeous looking headphones to match their spectacular sound, check out the Fostex TH900 Mk2. Handcrafted in Japan using exotic woods and leathers, the TH900 Mk2 screams luxury.
Under the hood, the 50mm dynamic drivers deliver powerful yet detailed bass along with pristine highs. The midrange has a slight dip but sounds very natural with most music.
Every aspect of the TH900 Mk2 exudes high-end quality. From the removable premium cables to the stunning wood grain cups, these headphones look and sound incredible. Be prepared to pay for the privilege however. For those seeking luxury, the Fostex TH900 Mk2 deliver.
8. Sennheiser HD 660 S
- Advanced 150 ohm transducers for detailed, natural sound
- Improved bass response compared to HD 600/650 models
- Open back design with expansive soundstage
- Premium build quality with metal grills
- Works well without needing a headphone amp
The Sennheiser HD 660 S bring many of the benefits of the legendary HD 600 and HD 650 but improve on the overall package. The 150 ohm transducers deliver pinpoint imaging and lifelike clarity across the frequency range.
Bass response has been enhanced compared to previous models, able to reach 10 Hz compared to 14 Hz on the HD 650. The result is deeper low-frequency extension that better complements the detailed mids and smooth highs.
As you’d expect from a high-end Sennheiser headphone, the open back design delivers spectacular soundstage and imaging. If you want open back sound without needing a dedicated headphone amp, the HD 660 S is an excellent choice.
9. Audeze LCD-5
- Planar magnetic drivers offer incredible resolution and speed
- Deep, highly detailed bass extension
- Spacious soundstage with superb imaging
- Buttery smooth midrange and pristine highs
- Open back design provides an immersive listening experience
The Audeze LCD-5 makes use of the company’s advanced planar magnetic driver technology to deliver breath-taking sound. With a fast, detailed sound combined with deep bass extension, the LCD-5s are a thrill to listen to.
Many reviewers have called the LCD-5 the best headphone Audeze has ever made. They have an extremely open, spacious soundstage that makes music come to life. The midrange is lush and pure, with pristine highs floating above.
For genres like jazz, classical and a coustic, the LCD-5 may be the perfect open back headphone. The level of resolution and imaging allows you to hear every subtle detail in a recording. If you want some of the best sound quality from an open back headphone, the Audeze LCD-5 is easy to recommend.
What To Consider When Buying Open Back Headphones
Now that you’re familiar with the top open back headphones available, let’s go over some key factors to consider when making your buying choice:
- Sound Quality – Make sure any headphone excels in terms of frequency response, detail, soundstage, and imaging. These all contribute to lifelike immersive sound.
- Comfort – You’ll be wearing these for extended periods, so comfort is essential. Seek out soft earpads, adjustable headbands and low clamping force.
- Drivers – The driver design directly affects the sound. Dynamic and planar magnetic drivers are most common. Electrostatic headphones also exist at the high end.
- Impedance – Higher impedance headphones like 150+ ohms may require a headphone amp to reach full listening volume and power.
- Open vs Closed – If you’ll use your headphones in noisy environments, you’ll likely want closed back. Open back is preferred for critical listening in quiet places.
- Budget – Determine how much you can reasonably spend. You can get excellent open back models between $100-$500. Above that unlocks premium materials and tech.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Open Back Headphones
Here are answers to some of the most common questions regarding open back headphones:
Are open back headphones good for gaming?
Yes, open back headphones are excellent for gaming. Their spacious soundstage helps create a very immersive experience. You can easily pinpoint directional noises like footsteps around you. Just make sure you game in a quiet environment.
Should I use an amplifier with open back headphones?
You don’t necessarily need an amp, but one can help headphones reach their full potential. Look at headphone impedance and sensitivity to gauge amplifier needs. Amps are more important for high impedance headphones.
What genres of music are open back headphones best for?
Open back headphones excel with most music genres. Their spacious presentation suites rock, pop, classical, acoustic and jazz very well. EDM and hip hop listeners may prefer a bit more bass punch from closed back models.
Can open back headphones be used outdoors or in noisy places?
Generally open back headphones are designed for use in quiet indoor places. Their sound leakage makes them less suitable for outdoor or high ambient noise environments. There are exceptions like the Grado GW100 headphones.
Are open back headphones better for mixing and mastering?
Yes, recording engineers often prefer open back headphones for mixing and mastering. Their better soundstage helps identify spatial positioning of instruments. The open design also reduces ear fatigue over long sessions.
The Best Open Back Headphones – Final Thoughts
That wraps up our guide to the top open back headphones available in 2023. Open back models provide an incredibly immersive listening experience. Their spacious, natural presentation makes music float around you with lifelike realism.
We recommend considering your budget, sound signature preferences, amplifier requirements and intended use environment. This will help you select the ideal open back headphone to suit your needs.
Any model in our top 10 list will provide amazing open back sound. The Focal Utopia stands at the pinnacle for those seeking the ultimate listening experience. But excellent models exist even at lower price points like the Grado SR80x.
Open back headphones may cost a bit more than closed back varieties, but they deliver a special listening journey that makes your favorite tunes shine. We hope this guide has helped highlight the best open back headphones you can buy this year. Enjoy your personal audio odyssey.