There are occasions where you got confused about closed back and open back headphones. Some opinions suggested that open back headphones are superior in sound quality and yet there are other experts who claimed that closed back headphones provide better noise isolation.
Without the right information, you may end up spending on a headphone that isn’t designed for your needs.
What Is A Closed Back Headphone?
Every headphone is equipped with a pair of drivers on both earcups. The drivers are electronic mechanisms that produce sounds by vibrating the diaphragm. The term ‘closed back’ refers to headphones where the driver is hidden from external view.
In a closed back headphone, the driver is covered by the enclosure and padding. This results in noise isolation as there are no openings between the inside of the earcup and the exterior. Most consumer headphones are usually closed back.
What Is An Open Back Headphone?
As the name implies, an open back headphone is one where the earcup is designed to expose the driver. The driver is seen as the enclosure is constructed around the driver rather than over it.
Due to its construct, air passes freely between the driver, from the exterior environment to the wearer’s ear. Naturally, this reduces the noise-isolating properties of an open back headphone as you will pick up environmental noise along with the audio.
Closed Back Vs Open Back Headphones
Both types of headphones are designed for different purposes and therefore, target different types of listeners. Here are how closed back and open back headphones differ from each other.
1. Sound Quality
If you’re using a closed-back headphone, the sound produced will sound more ‘confined’. It’s as if you’re listening to the music in a small room, as the sound produced has very little space to ‘move’.
On the contrary, open-back headphones have a hint of freedom on the sound quality. It creates the ‘soundstage’ experience which gives you the perception of enjoying a live performance of the music.
2. Noise Isolation
Open back headphones are poor noise-isolator. If you’re using an open back headphone in the subway, the music could be drowned by the chatters and surrounding noise. That’s the drawback of having superior sound quality.
Closed back headphones are naturally better in blocking noise thanks to the fully covered earcup and padding around the ear. Some closed back headphones are designed with ‘passive noise cancellation’ in mind, which greatly lowers the surrounding noise level.
3. Sound Leakage
Due to the construct of the open back headphone, the sound produced from the driver may experience leakage. This means that if you’re close to a person wearing an open back headphone, you can pick up the audio playing from it.
The closed back headphone does not suffer from sound leakage, as the enclosure effectively prevents the sound from leaking outwards. Sound leakage may cause loop-back if you’re using a headphone with a mic.
You’ll have to be extra careful with an open back headphone. Because there’s no protective enclosure over the driver, the headphone tends to be more fragile compared to its closed back counterpart.
Which Type Of Headphone Should You Pick?
If you’re an audiophile and sound quality is everything for you, you’ll want to go for the open back headphone. However, the catch is you’ll need to have a sufficiently quiet environment to enjoy the music.
In other words, the open back headphone seldom leaves the confine of your home. In a noisy environment, the sound quality will be degraded by external noise.
For gamers and professionals in office or commuting, the closed back headphone is a better choice. While you can’t enjoy the soundstage experience, the sound quality of closed back headphone is great in its own rights.
Using a closed back headphone creates a sense of privacy, which is helpful if you need some solitude while enjoying your music.
If you fancy having strong bass on a headphone, you should opt for the closed back type. As much as open back headphones can offer soundstage, it is lacking in bass quality.
There is no right choice where closed back and open back headphones are concerned. It all boils down to individual preferences and needs. Some people used both in different settings.
What’s important is you’re making an informed decision, rather than influenced by marketing hypes in favor of either type of headphones.