5 Best Open Back Headphones in 2020

Most people don’t know which type of headphones they’re using, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their awareness of how certain types of headphones are more suitable for particular applications than others is minimal. If you listen to music mostly when you’re alone at home or somewhere else where there isn’t too much noise to distract you from the listening experience, open-back headphones can give you the best bang for your buck, and we know which are worth your money the most.

ProductBrandNamePrice
Sennheiser Pro AudioSennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional HeadphoneCheck Price on Amazon
GRADOGRADO GS1000e Statement Series Wired Open-Back Stereo HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon
beyerdynamicbeyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Over-Ear Studio HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon
Audio-TechnicaAudio-Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile Open-Air HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon
Samson TechnologiesSamson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Reference HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon

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1. Sennheiser HD 660 S

Since its foundation in 1945, Sennheiser has become synonymous with precise sound reproduction and impeccable attention to every detail. The Sennheiser HD 660 S were released in 2017 to replace the highly praised HD 650 headphones, and it takes just one look at their user reviews to know that the family-owned company has managed to create yet another hit product.

Featuring special acoustic materials and a brand-new transducer design, the HD 660 S are characterized by their low harmonic distortion and fantastic tonal precision. Headphones like these work best when connected to a home Hi-Fi system, but their low impedance makes it possible to listen to audio coming from mobile devices without experiencing any noteworthy loss of audio quality.

If you’ve never owned a pair of audiophile-grade open-back headphones before, you shouldn’t come expecting explosive bass. While the Sennheiser HD 660 S certainly have no problem with even the lowest of low frequencies, they are clearly not basshead-oriented. Just like most other headphones from Sennheiser, the HD 660 S, are all about precision, which means that bass is delivered in precisely measured doses and when called for, opening room for crystal-clear highs and enjoyably forward mids.

When it comes to comfort and build quality, you have absolutely nothing to be worried about because Sennheiser has had more than enough time to perfect the design and construction of its high-end headphones. The HD 660 S not only look good but also feel great on the head, even when worn for multiple hours without a break.

The only thing you may not like about these headphones is their price, which hovers around $500 depending on what kind of deal you manage to get. Amazon currently has the headphones for $424, making the original price much more palatable. That said, we don’t know how long the price will last, so you better hurry up if you want to save nearly $100.

2. Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Do you aspire to become a music producer or audio engineer? Even if not, you probably still need the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO in your life. These studio headphones have been engineered with one goal in mind: to set a new standard for reference headphones.

The DT 990 PRO sit at the very top of Beyerdynamic’s classic range—DT 770/880/990 PRO—offering extremely detailed resolution and very transparent sound. Thanks to their outstanding tonal depth, it’s possible to hear even the smallest details in the positioning of acoustic sources when mixing. Similarly, it’s possible to enjoy music the way it was intended to be enjoyed, without any distortion or artificial coloring of the sound.

Some say that headphones from Beyerdynamic tend to look outdated and clunky, but we completely disagree. The DT 990 PRO have timeless design, featuring soft, amply padded earcups and robust spring steel headband wrapped in artificial leather. Their comfort is outstanding, and because the headphones are handcrafted in Germany, you can be sure that they’ll last you a long time.

3. Grado GS1000e

Costing nearly $1,000, the Grado GS1000e are not even remotely affordable. They are, however, extraordinary in virtually every way. Their large chambers are designed to enclose your ears from all sides, creating your own private listening booth and allowing you to appreciate your favorite music with all of its nuances and imperfections.

Two materials dominate the construction of the headphones: Mahogany tone-woods, which were hand-matched for their acoustic qualities, and leather, which wraps around the stainless-steel headband and gives the headphones their handmade look. Of course, leather and wood alone are not enough to produce the dynamic sound with full-bodied vocals, warm harmonic colors, and ultra-smooth top end that is so characteristics for these headphones.

That’s where Grado’s 50mm dynamic transducers and the new 12 conductor cable design come in.  Unlike other open-back headphones featured in this article, the Grado GS1000e have surprisingly ripe extended bass, making them the rock and roll star of the audiophile world of open-back headphones.

4. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

So far, we’ve talked only about high-end open-back headphones, making it seem as if audiophile-grade sound quality wasn’t attainable for less than a few hundred dollars. The Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X demonstrate that one doesn’t have to spend much more than $100 to enjoy a completely natural listening experience with superior highs and mids.

Featuring the company’s newly designed 53 mm drivers with bobbin-wound CCAW voice coils, the ATH-AD700X very bright and detailed headphones that work great with orchestral music, bringing each and every instrument to life. They also are a boon to all fans of female vocals. Just put on the headphones and play some Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Adele, Alicia Keys, or any other talented female vocalist, and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

The only downside of the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X is their lack of bass. We estimate that the sub-bass is rolled off somewhere between 10 dB and 15 dB. Needless to say that listening to bass-heavy music genres is far from enjoyable with these headphones, which is why we can recommend them mostly to fans of orchestral music.

5. Samson SR850

If you’re willing to sacrifice some listening comfort to get studio-grade audio quality at an irresistibly low price, the Samson SR850 are just the right headphones for you. Costing only around $50, these mostly plastic open-back headphones may not look like much, but their sound is comparable to many headphones that cost two, three, or even four times as much.

It’s a shame that the excellent listening experience is somewhat ruined by excessive clamping force and sweat-inducing pleather earpads, but both of these issues are fixable. The former by stretching out the headphones overnight using a few books, and the latter with after-market earpads.

The only thing that’s not fixable are the harsh highs, which can be quite fatiguing after a while. Yes, equalization helps to some extent, but it doesn’t eliminate the harshness completely, at least not without affecting the mids.

ProductBrandNamePrice
Sennheiser Pro AudioSennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional HeadphoneCheck Price on Amazon
GRADOGRADO GS1000e Statement Series Wired Open-Back Stereo HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon
beyerdynamicbeyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Over-Ear Studio HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon
Audio-TechnicaAudio-Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile Open-Air HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon
Samson TechnologiesSamson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Reference HeadphonesCheck Price on Amazon

* If you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. For more details, please visit our Privacy policy page.