Headphone Basics: Open Back vs. Closed Back


closed-vs-open-back-headphonesA pair of stereo headphones might seem like a pretty simple thing. You plug them in to a computer or iPod and you listen to music: what else is there to know?

The truth is that there’s a lot more to headphones than you might think. At a broad level there are earbuds, on-ear headphones, and over-ear headphones. Within each of these types, there are different quality levels and price points designed for different types of listening. A pair of headphones that a DJ or musician uses might be very different from the kind a recording engineer uses or a commuter uses while riding public transit to work.

Today I want to talk about over-ear headphones such as Beats by Dre, Skullcandy Hesh, and the AudioSpice Force headphones by US Digital Media. These type of headphones fall into two categories: open back and closed back. What is the difference between the two and why should you care? Read on to find out.

Closed-back headphones have the speaker driver contained in a solid earcup, which directs the sound into your ears and prevents any external sounds from passing through. These type of headphones isolate the listener from their environment, providing a private listening experience.

Open-back headphones have the speaker driver mounted in a perforated earcup that allows outside air to pass through. This changes the dynamics of the headphones and gives them a more open, airy sound. However, these type of headphones will pick up sounds from your environment and can be heard by other people within earshot.

It’s important to pick the right type of headphones for your listening needs. Closed-back headphones would be a good choice for riding a bus or train to work, or for listening in an office or an airplane seat as they will not disturb the people around you. Open back headphones are a good choice for sound recording engineers in a studio and for audiophiles listening at home who want a more natural sound.

I hope this article has been helpful in explaining the difference between open back vs. closed back headphones!

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