Page 1 – Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones
Page 2 – In-Ear, On-Ear and Over-The-Ear Headphones
Page 3 – Active Noise Cancellation and Wireless Headphones
Page 4 – About Headphone Impedance, Amplifiers and DACs
It’s important to choose a headphone based on your preferences and your actual use of them.
Start by asking yourself these three basic questions and I want you to remember the answers while you continue to read further.
- Where am I mostly going to use them?
- Will I be in a noisy environment?
- Will there be other people in my near surroundings?
Alright, let’s start with the difference between open back vs closed back headphones.
Most headphones you’ll see are closed-back. This means that the outer part of the cups are completely closed. These are the kind you see people wearing outdoors. The biggest reason for this is that they don’t leak the sound to the outside environment. But also keep the sound from coming in. This makes them excellent while being on the bus, sitting in a coffee shop, or even doing the lawn. In some circumstances, they are recommended over active noise cancellation headphones.
General sound signature
Because the sound reflects inside the earcups, stereo imaging is not always as good as with open-back headphones. Also, they tend to have a smaller soundstage which gives them a more intimate or “in the head” sound. Don’t get me wrong. This does not mean they sound awful. On the contrary, there are great closed-back headphones like the Sennheiser Momentum and Sennheiser Urbanite. There’s even the $1800 Audeze LCD-XC, but that’s another story.
Excellent for daily commuters or if you want to isolate yourself and don’t want to disturb others.
Not recommended when you need to be aware of your surroundings!
In contrast to closed-back, these have the outer part of the cups perforated instead of closed. The biggest difference is that these will leak out the sound and also let the outside sound come in. They are not ideal for use on the bus or in a place where you would disturb other people. For outdoor activities, they are useful, for example with jogging and biking, but there are better options for this kind of activities. See In-ear Headphones. As a general rule, open-back headphones are best suited for indoors.
General sound signature
Because the sound can escape through the outside of the earcups they tend to have a more spatial stereo imaging and a wider soundstage. What this means is that with the right music, you’ll be able to separate and place the different kinds of instruments in the song. This makes them excellent for live music, classical, soundtracks and even movies.
If you mostly listen in quiet surroundings and don’t need noise isolation, then these are the best choice.
Not recommended in public places or if you mostly listen near other members of the family.