Headphone choice can have a major impact on the user’s gaming experience.
Closed-back headphones are the most common choice whereas open-back headphones are less popular, but both have their advantages. Closed-back headphones offer isolated sound in a private listening environment. Open-back headphones don’t confine the sound and have a more realistic experience.
The difference between open-back headphones and closed-back headphones is down to audio quality. Open-back headphones lack the plastic cover on the back of the earpiece and allow for more airflow. This changes the way music, games, and voice chat sound. With closed-back headphones, the sound is trapped and directed at the wearer’s ear. Open-back headphones lack that protective shell. Listings describe them as having a more realistic listening experience.
The downside to a more open, in-the-room listening experience is sound leaking. Closed-headphones keep the audio personal and limited to the listener. Open-back headphones will broadcast your game and voice chat to the entire room. This isn’t a problem if you’re alone, but if you live with other people, this may be an issue. Depending on your microphone setup, it may also pick up any leaked sound.
Open-back headsets tend to be marketed towards audiophiles and music lovers, not gamers. As the gaming world expands to all audiences, more open-back headphones for gamers will appear. Finding quality open-back headphones that also come with a microphone proved to be rare, and most lack microphones. There are a small handful of options with microphones, but most will pair nicely with a standing mic if necessary.
Here are the best open-back headphones for gaming in 2020.
Audio-Technica makes quality headphones. The ATH-AD500X is a lower-priced pair of open-back headphones. The pair has lightweight, honeycomb casting with an open-air back to eliminate pressure on the ears. The headphones have 53mm drivers with CCAW voice coils to produce natural sound and bass. It doesn’t come with a microphone, however, so those looking to enter voice chat will need another alternative.
A higher-end pair of headphones from Audio Technica is the ATH-R70x. The R70x is professional quality, bumping the price up significantly. The headphones use aluminum honeycomb mesh for a weightless open-back sound. The rest of the headphones use carbon composite resin for lightweight strength. Combined, it weighs 210 grams without the cable. Lightweight and open-back options reduce strain and fatigue from daily wear, making these a great option. It is compatible with an attachable boom microphone, but does not come with one.
Beyerdynamic is a German company specializing in professional-level headphones. The company produces various styles: open-back, semi-open, and closed-back. The DT 990 Pro is a professional open-back pair of headphones designed mixing, mastering, and editing audio.
That’s not to say it is only for them, however. The price is roughly about what higher-end gaming headsets cost. It doesn’t have a microphone so players looking to communicate with teammates may need a standing microphone. According to reviews, the headphones require a lot of power and may need an amplifier for the best sound quality.
Sennheiser is another popular headphone company among audiophiles. Unlike others listed, this is an open-back headset marketed towards gamers. It features an open back for “classic high-end open acoustic gaming” and provides “natural, spatial sound” as a result. It is designed to create a dynamic and realistic feel to the game’s audio. It is lightweight for lengthy sessions. The Game One is compatible with multiple platforms including PC, Mac, consoles, mobile platforms, and tablets that use a 3.5mm input.
Open-back headsets rarely come with a microphone, but the Game One headset has that covered. The microphone is attached to the headset but does not extend. It can be flipped up and down to activate. If flipped up, it quickly mutes the microphone.
The GRADO SR80e is a moderate to high-priced pair of headphones. The brand isn’t as prevalent as Beyerdynamic or Sennheiser, but is a quality mid-level for those seeking good, open-back headphones without the price. As with previous models listed, the headphones do not come with a built-in microphone. If you already have a standing microphone, such as Yeti, the lack of microphone isn’t an issue. Alternatively, players may not need a microphone if they aren’t playing competitive, team-based games, in which case, the missing microphone is nothing to worry about. The SR80e comes with the standard cable and adapter.
Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X
This is an unusual headset. A combination of Massdrop and Sennheiser, the PC37X is an open-back headset with a built-in microphone. The headset takes the best of Sennheiser and Massdrop to make the result even better.
It has angled drivers to maximize natural sound reproduction. The positioning adds more clarity in games and music. The headset also boasts locational accuracy thanks to those angled drivers. Enemies’ locations will sound clearer and more accurate, giving you an edge over your competition. Since open-back headsets can suffer from sound leakage, the built-in microphone has noise-cancelling. It also features the same flip-to-mute feature. Raising the microphone arm upright will quickly mute the microphone, saving you time and effort.
Most people recognize the name Philips when it comes to audio technology. The company established itself generations before gaming became as wide-reaching as it is today. The Philips Fidelio X3 is an expensive, quality option.
The listing has many options to choose from, some change the model entirely. The wired open-back headset comes with two styles: old or new drivers and design. The old style is considerably less expensive than its newer version. The new design features transparent Kvadrat speaker fabric over the back of the headphones, forgoing any hard mesh or plastic. The fabric eliminates air pressure build-up to allow for immersive and spacious sound. The headphones are Hi-Res certified, providing lifelike performance and high resolution with every note.
If you’re looking to save some money, the older X2HR is still worth buying. The headset uses mesh, leather, and replaceable memory foam ear-pads.
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