In 2021 you will find some of the best open-back headphones, without a doubt. Thanks to advancements in technology, headphones are getting better and better as the years go by. This year has already brought a steady stream of great-quality headphones and now it’s time to put some of the newer open-back models in the spotlight. Keep reading for reviews of the best open-back headphones available in 2021.
Here are the best open-back headphones 2021:
- Sennheiser HD 800 S
- Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee
- HIFIMAN HE1000 V2
- Koss UR40
- Grado Labs GW100
- Astro A40 TR
- HIFIMAN Edition S
- AKG K240 MkII
- Sennheiser HD 660 S
- Samson SR850
1. Sennheiser HD 800 S
The best open-back headphones for mixing
Sennheiser is an audio company that always stays creating great products, especially headphones. The Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones are an open-back, over-ear pair of headphones and are some of the most expensive headphones on this list. That being said, they are well worth it.
Being reference class headphones, the HD 800 S headphones deliver ridiculously natural and accurate sound reproduction, even more so than their predecessor, the HD 800.
Upon first glance, these headphones look bulky and unsophisticated, but when you put them on they’re extremely comfortable and sound absolutely amazing. This is thanks to many features and design elements that Sennheiser incorporated into this upgrade. The biggest transducers that have been used in headphones to date are in these cans in a stainless steel casing and give them a full sound and lots of durability.
The frequency response range of these headphones is a whopping 4 Hz to 51 kHz, which means these headphones will duplicate and catch every single detail in audio. With this frequency response range you get a natural sound with rich lows, full and thick mids, and crisp highs.
Sennheiser integrated their Absorber Technology to eliminate the masking effect so that you get clear highs no matter how loud your volume is. You won’t get any coloration from these headphones as they have some of the lowest distortion of all.
As for the design of the HD 800 S, they are a bit bulky due to the ear cups being so large, but the headband is lightweight and ergonomic. You’ll be surprised to find that they’re not as heavy as they look and are very light on the head, so you’ll be able to wear them for hours without any irritation.
|Image credit: Sennheiser Check Amazon||
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are a fantastic, high-quality open-back pair of headphones that are comfortable enough for recording or mixing sessions that take up long hours. Audiophiles and radio DJs will also enjoy these headphones as they provide such natural audio. I don’t recommend these for users who like to listen to music while commuting as they leak audio.
2. Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee
The best open-back headphones under $200
The Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee headphones are a collaboration between Massdrop (now known just as Drop) and Sennheiser to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of Sennheiser’s much-loved series of audiophile headphones that started with the HD 580 Precision. They are an open-back, over the ear pair. Being the anniversary model, the HD 58X Jubilee is based on the HD 580 Precision.
The HD 58X Jubilee features 150 ohm drivers from Sennheiser, which require less amplification than other Sennheiser models, so you can use these headphones with your phone or computer without an amp and still get top-quality.
The overall sound of the HD 58X Jubilees can be described as clear, lively, and dynamic, and holds a similar sound to Sennheiser’s HD 600 and HD 650 models. The bass is extended and still clean (maybe almost clearer and cleaner than the HD 6XX models), and mids and highs remain crisp. The frequency response range of the HD 58X Jubilee is a generous 12 Hz to 38.5 kHz, allowing for the capture of detail and plenty of little nuances.
As for the design, in honor of the Sennheiser HD 580 headphones, the HD 58X Jubilee has a black headband and grey cans. The ear cups are oval shaped rather than being circular, which is a nice deviation from the more traditional ear cup shape. Both the headband and the ear cups are heavily padded, making them super comfortable. The ear pads are also replaceable if you need to change them out.
|Image credit: Drop / Sennheiser Check Drop||
The Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee open-back headphones are a really good choice if you want something a little cheaper. They’re tuned to sound good rather than for accuracy, so if you’re an audiophile or you just listen to a lot of music, these will be great for casual listening, and gamers will enjoy them too.
They would be nice to wear while recording podcasts, but I don’t suggest them for use in the recording studio while recording or mixing. I would consider the Jubilees to be one of the best value headphones for the money.
3. HIFIMAN HE1000 V2
Perhaps the world’s best open-back headphones
HIFIMAN is known for making some extremely high-end headphones, and the HE1000 V2 might just be the best-sounding open-back headphones in the world. The HE1000 V2 are an open-back, over the ear pair of headphones.
The HE1000 V2 is the next upgrade after the original high-end HE1000 and has many improved features. These features are mainly focused on the design and include a largely improved headband to fit more head sizes, a slimmer ear cup size, less weight for even less irritation, and thicker, beveled ear pads.
Focusing more on the design, the headband is leather and metal (for durability and reliability) and has an ergonomic design that doesn’t apply pressure to the head. The ear pads are thick and very plush, making them durable and comfortable.
The headphones have a metal casing called the Window Shade System that protects all the internal components while still remaining open-back. Special, ultra-thin materials were used to protect the drivers while allowing audio to escape, making for a very natural and accurate sound.
As for the sound, it’s extremely accurately reproduced; everything from live performances to songs recorded in the studio sound amazingly clear, transparent, and accurate. HIFIMAN uses their Advanced Asymmetrical Magnetic Circuit to allow perfect reproduction. The frequency response range of the headphones is an incredibly large 8 Hz to 65 kHz, so you won’t be missing out on any frequencies and details.
I personally love these headphones and would consider buying them if I ever had the money to spend on new headphones as expensive as the HE1000 V2s.
|Image credit: HIFIMAN Check Amazon||
The HIFIMAN HE1000 V2 open-back headphones are definitely an amazing top-end choice for audio referencing. They are easily the best available headphones on the market and if you have the money for them and are extremely passionate about accurately reproduced audio, these are a great choice.
While they might not be the best headphones for the studio or for recording due to the open back, they excel when used while mixing music. If you are an audiophile you will also love these headphones since they are so clear and reveal so much detail.
4. Koss UR40
The best open-back headphones under $100
Koss is a very reliable audio solutions company and has come out with some amazing headphones over the years. They manage to stay pretty affordable while offering top-quality products. The Koss UR40 open-back, over-ear headphones are a great example of this.
The UR40s are based on a lightweight hybrid design, combining the best elements of both closed-back and open-back headphones. Closed leatherette ear cushions are used to help form a tight seal around your ears to help keep background noise out and enhance bass frequencies, while the ear cups have the traditional screen that you find on open-back headphones.
The design of these headphones results in a clean sound with full frequencies and pretty good audio reproduction accuracy. Distortion is kept at a minimum to further ensure that accurate sound is reproduced. The frequency response range of these headphones is pretty good, with it being from 15 Hz to 22 kHz. This frequency response range will allow you to hear plenty of details in a large variety of music.
The UR40s don’t require much power to fully operate, so you can use them without an external headphone amplifier and they will still sound great regardless of whether or not you’re plugged into a smartphone or other device with a not so powerful amp.
The design is very lightweight due to being made of mostly plastic with a mesh headband. It’s quite comfortable but the headband and ear pads wear out a bit quickly, especially if you use them a lot. The UR40s are also collapsible for easy storage.
|Image credit: Koss Check Amazon||
The Koss UR40 headphones are the best budget option for an open-back pair of headphones if you don’t have a very large amount of money that you can spend. They can very easily hold their own against other open-back headphones priced up to $200.
In my opinion, the UR40s deserve to have a higher price tag based on audio quality, but not so much based on the structural design and durability. These headphones would be a good choice for someone who is a beginner audiophile or who wants a cheap everyday pair for casual listening.
5. Grado Labs GW100
The best wireless open-back headphones under $300
Grado Labs is quite a well-known audiophile-quality headphone manufacturer that is popular among both music producers and audiophiles. The Grado Labs GW100 is a pair of open-back, on-ear Bluetooth headphones and is the first of its kind. Closed-back headphones tend to be the go-to choose for manufacturers who make wireless headphones, but open-back wireless headphones bring a completely different listening experience.
The GW100 is packed with awesome features. It boasts a very impressive 40-hour battery life from one full charge (tested with volume playing at 50%). It also has a mic and remote on the left ear cup for controlling smartphone audio and talking on the phone hands free. It also comes with a detachable cable if you prefer to use it wired or with an external amplifier.
As for the audio, the frequency response range is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Personally this disappointed me a bit as Grado Labs usually makes headphones with much larger frequency response ranges and that’s what I was expecting, but an average-sized frequency response range is not something that is detrimental to the listening experience unless your ear is well trained or you have very sensitive hearing.
The audio sounds really great – clear, natural, and bright, yet still rich and smooth. While these are open-back headphones, Grado Labs managed to reduce sound leakage by 60%, so these headphones won’t leak as much sound as other open-back models do.
As for the design, they are quite lightweight as they’re made primarily of plastic, but they’re also very durable and comfortable. The headband is padded with leather and the ear pads are not too thick or thin.
|Image credit: Grado Labs Check Amazon||
The Grado Labs GW100 wireless open-back headphones are an amazing addition to your headphone collection but just as great of a purchase for casual listening at home or on the go. You won’t be able to mix music on them because of the Bluetooth feature, and I don’t suggest them for recording either. However, music lovers will enjoy simply listening to music hands free with these. Give these headphones a shot!
6. Astro A40 TR
The best open-back headphones for gaming under $150
The Astro A40 TR is a headset with open-back ear cups meant to be used for gaming. It is compatible with many different gaming consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, etc) as well as PC and Mac, and even smartphones. It’s considered a premium gaming headset and was developed alongside gamers who compete in eSports, content developers, and live streamers to come up with a product that works perfectly for gamers.
The A40 TR was released to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Astro Gaming providing great headphones and headsets to gamers and more. Getting into the sound aspect of these headphones, the A40 TR uses Astro Audio V2 for tuning. Astro Audio V2 provides a clear, natural, neutral sound and very accurately reproduces audio from games, including sound effects, voices, and music.
The frequency response range of these headphones is 20 Hz to 20 kHz which is more than reasonable for a gaming headset. They sound very good for being pretty much the best open-back headphones for gaming. The A40 TR has a unidirectional boom mic that can be removed or switched around. It cancels out background noise well and is highly sensitive.
Focusing on the design of the headphones, they are extremely lightweight and pretty durable. The ear cups and headband are padded with cloth and leather for comfortability. Although the A40 TR is an open-back pair of headphones, you can choose to swap the headset microphone in and out as well as transform them into closed-back headphones with a Mod Kit.
Speaker Tags cover the headphone cup grills and can be customized, changed, put on or taken off with the Mod Kit to achieve your desired outcome. Astro Gaming also makes an external amp to be used with the A40 TR: the MixAmp.
|Image credit: Astro Check Amazon||
The Astro A40 TR open-back gaming headphones are one of the absolute best choices for headphones for gaming. They last long, feel great, and don’t cause any unwanted pressure on the head, so if you’re a glasses wearer like myself, I highly recommend them. Amateur podcasters will also enjoy these headphones. They are just a solid pair of open-back headphones.
7. HIFIMAN Edition S
Premium headphones with a low price
HIFIMAN may be one of the most expensive headphone manufacturers, but they also offer some cheaper options that won’t take thousands of bucks out of your pocket while still providing you with an incredible sound. A great example of that is HIFIMAN’s Edition S.
The Edition S is a pair of open-back, on-ear headphones. Similarly, to the Astro A40 TR headset, the Edition S has reattachable ear cup covers that transform the headphones from open-back to closed-back for a different listening experience and sound stage. It features 50 mm dynamic drivers that bring you the classic HIFIMAN sound that you’d get from a substantially more expensive model like the HE1000 or Edition X.
The frequency response range of the Edition S is 15 Hz to 22 kHz, which is plenty generous for a lower-priced model of audiophile-quality open-back headphones. The sound of the Edition S can be described as being natural, clear, and clean. These headphones have very high accuracy when it comes to reproducing sounds, and they don’t require much power to operate, so you can get a good sound even if you’re just using a mobile device that has a low-powered amplifier.
As for the design, the Edition S is made with hard plastic and has asymmetrical ear cups that make it really easy to wear them for a long time without any skin irritation. The headphones are very lightweight and also fold up for easy storage or travel. The headband is padded a bit, and the ear pads are quite thick for the Edition S being an on-ear pair of headphones.
Additionally, the headphones have a remote and microphone built into the cable for easy hands-free controlling of music and talking on the phone.
|Image credit: HIFIMAN Check Amazon||
The HIFIMAN Edition S is yet another suitable lower to mid-range priced pair of open-back headphones. If you want flexibility, great sound, and premium quality without spending too much money, these are the headphones for you.
I definitely recommend these ones if you enjoy listening to music on your commute to work or even while gaming or podcasting. They would also be suitable for music production, composing, and mixing.
8. AKG K240 MkII
A standard in recording studio settings
AKG is another pretty popular brand for audio gear, mainly microphones, but they also have some headphones that have become the standard in many music studios around the world. A prime example of this is the AKG K240 MkII. The K240 MkIIs are a pair of semi-open-back, over-ear headphones and are a follow-up model to one of AKG’s benchmark headphones, the K240 Studio.
Getting into the hardware aspect, the K240 MkIIs are outfitted with 30 mm XXL transducers with Varimotion diaphragms to provide you with a large sound stage, wide dynamic range, high volume levels, and increased transient sensitivity. The semi-open design gives you the best of both worlds: the powerful bass of closed-back headphones and the airy, crisp, natural highs of open-back headphones.
They are very accurate when it comes to audio reproduction which is why they are such a standard in today’s studios. The frequency response range of the K420 MkII is 15 Hz to 25 kHz which is about normal for a lower-priced pair of headphones.
The design of the K240 MkII is quite similar to that of the Samson Technology SR850s that are on this list, with hard plastic construction and a strap style headband. The headphones have circular ear cups with thick velour cushions for lots of comfort when in the studio for long hours. The headband adjusts by itself or you can adjust it manually yourself. Since it’s just a strap it’s really lightweight and doesn’t apply pressure to the head.
Overall, the K240 MkIIs are quite comfortable and very durable while still remaining lightweight enough for you to wear for several hours.
|Image credit: AKG Check Amazon||
The AKG K240 MkII semi-open headphones are yet another great sounding, lower-priced pair of headphones that will help you achieve a great mix in the studio. While primarily used in recording studios, I think audiophiles and casual listeners who prefer a more accurate and flat sound will like them as well. They’re a good all-around headphone pair if you like the sound of (or even prefer) semi-open-backs.
9. Sennheiser HD 660 S
The best open-back headphones under $500
Sennheiser’s open-back audiophile headphones are some of the best open-back headphones for music production, and the Sennheiser HD 660 S is their best model that you’ll find for under $500. The HD 660 S is an open-back, over-ear model and an upgrade to the legendary model, the HD 650.
The 660 S has improved performance and an even better sound. The HD 660 S has lower impedance than the HD 650, which means that you can use it with mobile devices, and it will still sound great without an external amp if you don’t have one.
Diving into the features of this set of headphones, thanks to its upgraded transducers, you get an amazing sound with smooth bass, rich mids, and natural sounding highs. The frequency response of the HD 660 S is 9 Hz to 41.5 kHz, which is extremely extended, causing the headphones to be very accurate in terms of audio reproduction and always transparent.
These upgraded transducers improve the control of the diaphragm movements thanks to steel fabric. This also helps with reducing distortion at high volume levels. Aluminum voice coils also help to ensure that you’re getting the highest quality audio.
As for the design, it’s made of hard plastic and remains lightweight yet sturdy. The ear cups are oval shaped for a better listening experience and the ear cups have really thick cushions that make it easy to wear the HD 660 S for a long time. The headband is generously padded and doesn’t apply negative pressure to your head. They’re very comfortable without being bulky.
|Image credit: Sennheiser Check Amazon||
The Sennheiser HD 660 S is a fantastic open-back headphone under $500 that will provide you with hours upon hours of high-fidelity audio playback. I would say this is one of the best mid-priced open-back headphones for music production. The accuracy and natural sound are something that producers and audio engineers will especially appreciate. If you’re an audiophile, you will also love these headphones.
I suggest you check them out before trying out more expensive Sennheiser models as the differences in audio quality aren’t that big unless you’re comparing a $400 pair with a $4,000 pair.
10. Samson SR850
The best budget open-back headphones under $50
The SR850 by Samson Technologies is an impressively good pair of headphones for being well under $100. As the heading states, the SR850 is a semi-open, over-ear pair of headphones. That means that while there is a grill for sound to escape from, it’s a lot smaller than grills on other headphone models.
This semi-open design gives you a nice blend of the benefits of both closed and open-back headphones, so you’re getting a pretty open and natural sound stage but also a good amount of audio isolation from background noise.
As for the details of these headphones, the SR850s have large 50 mm dynamic drivers made with rare earth magnets to give you a fast-transient response, high fidelity audio, and low distortion. The frequency response range of the SR850s is 10 Hz to 30 kHz which is quite impressive considering the extremely low price of these headphones. They sound transparent and produce airy highs, full mids, and rich bass. They also give you a greater sense of depth with the sound stage. Many people say these headphones have a similar sound to Sennheiser headphones.
As for the design, they are made of hard plastic and appear to be a bit bulky. The headband is made of two wires and a synthetic material strap rather than being padded, but they’re still quite comfortable. The ear cushions are very big and made of velour so you shouldn’t get any irritation even from wearing them for hours on end.
|Image credit: Samson Check Amazon||
The Samson SR850 semi-open headphones are a great budget option if you need to save money but don’t want to skimp on audio quality. Since they’re semi-open-back headphones, they leak less audio, so they’re more ideal for recording than a lot of other open-back models.
If you’re a music producer, these headphones will fit well with your workflow whether you’re in a professional studio or a bedroom studio and are suitable for mixing and monitoring. The SR850s would also be an enjoyable option for those who make podcasts or livestream while gaming.
With all these fantastic options for the best open-back headphones for everything from music production to casual listening, you’re bound to find something you love. If you fall in love with a more expensive model but can’t afford it, don’t forget to look for used headphones. Newer models are always being made so there’s always something to look into if you have a hard time finding headphones you like. Check back often for more reviews and guides on the best music gear and production techniques.