Nov 17, 2018183 views

Why do people like open-backed headphones?

It just seems to me that closed designs are better since they have better noise isolation and generally are less breakable.

Open backs only struggle with some bass but open backs are better for everything else when it comes to soundstage, inoffensive treble and tonal balance.
The real question is, why are places like this obsessed with headphones first and foremost, opposed to speakers?
Some people can't have a loud system whether its a space problem, WAF or live in apartments.
I live in a NYC apartment. Sound absorbing material truly works miracles! That and near or mid field listening.
Open sounding
I'm sure this has been answered by some of the more knowledgeable people down below, but I'll put in my two cents here. The answer to this generally depends on use case. If you're looking to not disturb your significant other while they're sleeping, then yes, the closed-backs offer superior noise isolation and will let them sleep in peace. I've found that open-backs, even when not played loudly, can leak out quite a bit of sound even when played quietly (and I tend to listen at relatively soft volumes). They also have the advantage of having better bass response due to the fact that the sound is contained within the earcups. However, the downside is that the sound bouncing around in the earcups can cause unwanted distortion of the driver and can also muddy frequencies produced by the headphone. Also, they trap heat much more easily, tend to be heavier, and definitely suffer from the "in-your-skull" sound that is a (legitimate) criticism of headphone listening. If you're in an environment where you won't disturb others (or the other people don't care), then open-backs offer superior soundstage, a much more natural sound, tend to be lighter, and trap way less heat. With the majority of my open-back headphones, I can keep them on for long periods of time and not really notice any discomfort due to heat. That being said, the drawback is that they not only leak out sound to everyone around you (basically, don't use these if you want a private session with some 'adult' material), they also let all sound in. Which means that you'll hear everything around you at the same time, making them generally unsuitable for outside use. However, some people (like me) find this trait to actually be beneficial, as I maintain awareness of when cars pass by when I walk. Also, they can have less bass due to the fact that none of the sound bounces back. One design is not inherently "better" than the other. The really important thing is do they sound good to you? If the answer is yes, who cares what their design is?
Turn on some tunes from your speaker setup. Get two cups and hold them over your ears leaving a gap at the front so that whatever you're listening to can get in. Compare that to what you hear with no cups. Which do you prefer? The sealed ear cups trap unwanted sounds and form resonance chambers since there's nowhere for the excess sound pressure to escape. The result is cramped, closed-in, sound. Open back cans alleviate much more of these effects. I'll caveat this with saying that there are certainly manufacturers out there that go to the effort to damp the insides of the cups to reduce the "trapped" sound of their sealed cans. Honestly though, if I'm looking for isolation, I generally reach for IEMs since they won't have as many of the negative affects of full sized sealed headphones, but I have yet to find a set of those that I really like (fingers crossed on the Massdrop Plus that's shipping to me currently).
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Yeah, just read the policies VERY carefully. Moon sucks with returns in general and if they do take it back, there will be at min a 10% restock fee. Campfire is 15 days in new condition, otherwise they start to charge restocking fees depending on use/wear amount, if any. I have plenty of extra pads, tips, and cables for gear so I try my best not to open more than what I need in anything I might return. I've been doing this for some years now and have never had an issue. I also do the same on Amazon from time-to-time since they give you 30 days. Just be weary though if you return too much too often to Amazon they will flag you. Just an FYI.
Amazon "open box" is often a good way to get brand new headphones as well. When the condition is "good" or better, and is an amazon warehouse deal, it tends to just be a damaged box and still has the 30 day return policy.
Closed-back has noise isolation but they sacrifice sound quality. Open back is meant to be used in the comfort and quiet of your home as UtaWing says, not to be taken with you. Sound no longer sounds trapped, it sounds far more airy and open and natural and three dimensional.
For the uninitiated (like myself) who have only ever used budget IEMs, will the quality difference between open and closed back be annoying at all? Also, are there any pairs that are open but with a "lid"? In general, what would you recommend to someone who will probably only pay under £100/150 for a pair of headphones and would be used on a standard PC motherboard and a Galaxy S9?
If you plan to take the headphones with you on the go for use with your S9, definitely some closed headphones. There are headphones that can be configured to be open or closed back, but not many and none of them are particularly popular to my knowledge (HiFiMan has one). I'd just get a Sennheiser HD 598 Cs and call it a day, it sounds good out of anything and is closed back.
Because the soundstage is often louder, and they usually sound more realistic. People don't bring open-backed headphones on the bus, but they do use it in their own silent room, where there isn't a lot of noise. There's more stuff to it than that, of course, so here's MKBHD's video explaining it.