Are Open-Back Headphones Better for Your Ears?

Open-back headphones are now less popular for modern earbud users. However, this style also has several advantages over traditional closed models. But is being better for your ears one of their many perks?

Open-back headphones are better for your ears because their design reduces the intensity of the sound sent, making them safer for long-term use. Open-back headphones also decrease the likelihood of damaging your eardrums from high volumes, lowering the risk of ear canal issues and heat rash too.

In this article, we will explain the reasons why open-back headphones are better for your ears. Also, we will describe the key differences between open headphones and closed headphones, including which headphone style you should choose.

Open back headphones

Why Are Open-Back Headphones Better for Your Ears?

Open-back headphones allow for lower volumes of sound to be sent directly through the earpiece, which is better for your hearing because it reduces the risk of loud music damage. 

Most users praise the headphones for distributing music throughout the room instead of concentrating solely on their ears, in part due to the open-back headphones’ design.

An open-back construction has the rear of each earpiece opened up. The grills located on each muff allow the sound to escape through the headphones and into your environment. When in use, the audio is sent toward your ears and out through the exposed grill. This openness allows for a full range of sounds without harming your ear at the same time.

Admittedly, their design does not make them noise-canceling, and some users make the mistake of turning the headphones up too loud to drown out ambient noises in the background. In that case, the earpieces can be harmful for your ears.

Open-Back Headphones vs. Closed Headphones

Open-back headphones have several benefits that closed headphones simply cannot offer. 

Firstly, they have a richer sound quality than closed headphones. Although there are closed models with a sound comparable to lower-end open-back headphones, the audio experience cannot compete with the high-quality open pieces. This advantage is due to the vents that allow the passage of air around the dynamic drivers.

In addition to this, open-ear headphones limit ear sweat. The headphones allow your ears to remain cool by distributing the heat build-up into their surroundings. With this, you do not have to remove your headphones to achieve breathability. This also reduces the risk of: 

Besides reducing sweat and having a better sound, open-back models are lighter than closed headphones. Closed models have filler material to enhance the noise-canceling effects. These additional pieces add weight, causing them to be more uncomfortable for long periods.

In contrast, open-back headphones don’t need this extra material, plus the grills often have a noticeably light-weight design. These traits make the headphones lighter on your head and more comfortable to wear overall.

Lastly, open-back models have more advanced driver options, including:

  • Planar magnetic drivers
  • Hybrid drivers
  • Superior dynamic drivers

Closed-back headphones rely heavily on the dynamic driver format, while open models have diverse hardware with varying benefits. 

Notably, manufacturers have been updating closed models to reach a larger target audience. But as it stands, there are still more options available for open-back headphones.

The Cons of Open-Back Headphones

It goes without saying — open-back headphones aren’t perfect. The main downside is that everyone around you can hear the audio as well, meaning they’re reserved for at-home listening.

Indeed, the sound will not be as loud to the people at the mall as it is to you, but they can still hear it. Therefore, one of the biggest perks that closed headphones has over open models is that they offer more privacy.

However, if you listen to audiotapes alone, then the excess noise from open-back headphones will not be a problem.

Besides others hearing your music, another disadvantage is that they allow environmental sounds to be heard. Unlike closed models, open-back headphones do not block out ambient noise. However, this is not very noticeable, especially if you crank the volume up louder than usual.

Moreover, closed headphones are universal as long as the appropriate software drivers are available on the device you link. They are also more traditional, cheaper, and you can find them almost everywhere. Open-back designs are more challenging to find, especially if you’re looking for a budget option.

Finally, open-back pieces often offer less of a bass presence. The bass leaks out through the grills, decreasing its power and effect. If you prefer powerful bass sounds while listening to tunes, open headphones may not be the best choice. However, there are ways to adjust this setting so that you can feel every beat!

Are Open-Back Headphones Worth It?

Open-back headphones are among the more sophisticated styles of listening material. Therefore, these options tend to be pricier than closed models. But they are worth it due to their:

  • Safety
  • Longevity
  • Sound quality
  • User experience

Potential buyers may be concerned about the lack of noise-canceling effects. However, this can be beneficial to homeowners that need to be alert to their surroundings even when listening to music or tapes. For example, parents will find this design ideal because they can zone into their audio while staying aware of their kids’ activities in the next room!

Before purchasing a pair of open-back headphones, consider your living situation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you looking for studio-like sound quality?
  • Do you listen to audio alone?
  • Is it mandatory for you to be able to hear your environment?

If your answers to any of these are “yes,” then open-back pieces are worth the investment.

Are Open-Back Headphones Better for Gaming?

Sound Gear Lab agrees that open-back headphones are better for gaming because the design is more comfortable and offers a natural sound. 

Other features such as a spacious soundstage and optimal imaging will improve your overall gaming experience. Additionally, the earpieces are breathable, which is especially useful if you’re known for playing hours on end.

Particularly for role-playing games, open-back users can hear footsteps more efficiently and use this to their advantage when planning attacks or avoiding enemies.

A high-quality pair of open-back headphones can improve your gameplay because of their richness. We recommend the EPOS Sennheiser Game One Headphones for gamers because they offer maximum audio clarity and are compatible with all consoles.

Do Open-Back Headphones Need a Headphone Amplifier?

Unlike noise-canceling headphones, open-back models will work well with a headphone amplifier. However, you don’t need one for a solid listening experience.

Headphone amplifiers push advanced headphones to their maximum potential, so if your open headphones meet these criteria, consider adding an amplifier for superior sound quality:

These are all indicators of luxury headphones; thus, an amplifier would be the right choice.

How To Avoid Damaging Your Ears When Using Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones are safer on your ears when used correctly. It is best to follow these tips from nhs.uk when using your headphones to avoid damaging your ears:

  • Avoid turning the volume too loud. Sounds above 85dB will hurt your ears.
  • Do not use headphones for more than one hour at a time.
  • Stop using the headphones for two days if your ears start to ring.
  • Never listen to music at more than 60% of the highest volume of your device.
  • Take frequent breaks while using your headphones. You should spend five minutes away from your earpieces every hour.

Final Thoughts

Open-back headphones can be better for your ears, especially if you like to use headphones for long periods. Although they are more expensive than closed headphones, audiophiles still recommend them for their sound quality and stylish designs.

If you want to learn more about this headphone style, Marques Brownlee has a video explaining their benefits and how they work: