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What is The Difference between Open-Back & Closed-Back Headphones?

There are two basic types of headphone designs currently available: Open-Back and Closed-Back designs.
Once you discover what type of sound you prefer, you’ll start to get lost inside your music as you discover subtle nuances that you may have never before noticed were part of that recording.

Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones are the most common type of headphone.

This type of headphone utilizes an exterior shell which blocks air from being moved into the ear cup chamber, leading to their sound leakage protection and noise isolation qualities.

If you’re looking for closed-back headphone with a spacious sound signature, you’re not going to have as easy of a time finding it as you would if you were looking for an open pair. However, there are more than a few strikingly vast sounding closed-back headphones that can compete with the airy presentations most open-back headphones provide.

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Some closed-back models include vented ports that are strung along the ear cups, which may cause some audible noise leakage to those sitting near you.

Sound waves and air bounce off the inside-rear plate of the ear cup and end up redirected back towards your head; this is due to the fact that air is not being moved efficiently through the driver itself.

This can be bad news for some, as those ports don’t just leak sound out- they can leak it in as well. If you’re looking for headphones that don’t leak sound, you’ll want to find a pair that don’t have ventilation, like the Denon AHD1100, B&W P7 or, if you’re looking to go super high-end, the Audeze LCD-XC.

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Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones are the complete reverse of closed-back designs.

Here, there is no rear driver plate or shell-like exterior. Air freely moves from the outside and into the driver housing in one smooth, fluid motion.

Often open headphones allow you to see straight through their innards. These types of headphones tend to offer a more aired out, spacious sound signature.

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With open-back, there is no sound leakage protection, nor any noise isolation qualities.
Sound staging, or the physical size and vastness of the audio experience, is a quality that most open headphones exude in abundance.

The expansiveness of the sound image is different on every headphone: some sound very congested, while others can portray a concert hall effect with incredible separation qualities between instruments.

Open designs help strengthen this quality and generally allow the listener to experience a more spacious feel than with other design options.

Some perennial favourites in this category are the full Grado line, starting with the SR60e, all the way up to the Audeze LCD3.

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