Some users like to listen to music via their headphones and speak over microphones simultaneously. If their headphones leak sound and their mics pick it up, the recorded sound quality will suffer. So, you may wonder if open-back headphones leak sound into the mic.
Open-back headphones leak sound into mics because they have a ventilated design on their backs that bleed sound, and the mic may pick it up. However, if the sound volume and the mic sensitivity are low and you keep the mic at a long distance from the headphone, you can reduce and even eliminate this leakage.
This article covers different factors that cause sound to leak from open-back headphones into microphones and how you can minimize this leakage.
Sound Leakage in Open-Back Headphones
Sound leakage is a common issue in almost all types of headphones, but some are more susceptible due to their design. Headphone placement relative to the ear canal greatly affects the amount of leakage.
As a result, in-ear headphones are less likely to bleed sound than over-ear types. Similarly, on-ear headphones, which are more compact and rest on the ears more tightly, are less prone to sound leakage.
Over-ear and on-ear headphones tend to leak sound because they have larger drivers than in-ear types. As a result, the signals are much bigger, and since the seal is less tight than in-ear headphones, the leak is more significant.
The biggest reason for sound leakage from open-back headphones is the grilles on the back of the cups, allowing sound to get in and out more easily.
While this feature helps these headphones have an airy sound and a wider soundstage, it doesn’t give the headphone the noise-isolating abilities that closed-back models have.
In addition, the type of drivers also affects the amount of sound leakage in open-back headphones. Planar magnetic drivers have the highest leakage as they cause the sound to bleed from the grilles and the paddings at the same time.
That’s why you’re more likely to hear outside noise when you’re listening to music on an open-back headphone, or others hear your music, especially if you’re playing the music on high volumes. That’s a trade-off you need to make if you want to hear the sounds around you while listening to music.
Open-Back Headphones and Microphones
Since open-back headphones leak sound, they’re not suitable for situations where extreme concentration is required. They’re also not a great choice for places where you want to listen to loud music, but there are many people around you.
In some cases, you need to use a microphone while listening to sound on an open-back headphone. For example, when you’re streaming to the web or playing a game, the sound leaks out of the headphone, and the microphone will pick it up.
In these cases, people can hear their own or other people’s voices and get confused.
Sound leakage from the headphone to the microphone is serious if you record sound in a studio.
The click from the headphones can be picked by the mic and ruin the final result.
An open-back headphone is probably not the right choice for you in such cases. Instead, you need to get headphones with noise-isolating capabilities, like closed-back headphones.
However, if you’re bent on getting an open-back headphone and you have to use it for recording something, you can tweak a few parameters to practically eliminate the issue:
The Sound Volume
Unless you play your music really loud, there’s a little chance of it getting leaked into the mic. Since open-back headphones leak sound primarily through the grilles on their backs, the sound signals should bounce off your face and reach the microphone.
So, reducing the volume can significantly lower this leakage.
The more sensitive your microphone is, the more strongly it picks up ambient noise, headphone leakage included. You could switch to a less sensitive microphone to reduce the sound picked up by the gear.
Some microphones have options to adjust their sensitivity. So, you can lower the sensitivity to a value that doesn’t pick up any sound from the headphone.
Some microphones come with software that allows you to adjust their sensitivity. You could also connect it to your computer and adjust it there.
If you have a desk mic, the distance between the microphone and the headphone also plays a crucial role in the sound leaked into the mic.
If possible, put the microphone at a distance from the headphone that allows you to comfortably speak without sacrificing sound quality.
The farther you stand from the mic, the less sound will leak into the mic. And if you have a small personal mic, putting the mic in front of your mouth and far from the headphone cups should significantly reduce the sound leaked into the mic.
How To Reduce Sound Leakage From Open-Back Headphone to Microphone
The sound volume, the mic’s pickup patterns, and the distance from headphone to the mic are the most significant factors affecting sound leakage from headphone to mic.
If you want to record something in a home studio or play an online game with others, closed-back headphones are the way to go.
However, if you must use a pair of open-back headphones when using a mic, you can try some of these methods to reduce the leakage.
Change Your Microphone
As mentioned, your microphone’s features play a crucial role in blocking or picking up the sound leaking from headphones. If changing the sensitivity levels on your mic doesn’t work, you could invest in a unidirectional microphone.
Unlike omnidirectional microphones, these mics pick up sound from just one direction, only capturing the sounds close to the mic. And your best bet will be a boom microphone that’s also unidirectional. It curves around the face, sitting close to your mouth, minimizing ambient noise picked up by the mic.
Change the Mic Settings
In addition to sensitivity, some other mic features can reduce noise pickup. For example, microphone gain is a feature that takes the input signals and amplifies them to make them sound louder for the receiver on the other side.
If you have an active microphone or a condenser mic with a built-in amplifier or a standalone microphone amplifier, you can adjust the mic gain. If you can reduce the gain, the mic doesn’t amplify the signals received from the headphone and doesn’t transfer them to the other side.
Reduce Noise From the Source
If your microphone picks up sound from your headphone, you could cut it off from the source. The sound leakage mostly comes from the vents on the back of the headphone, so you could cover them to block sound from bleeding.
Note that muffling the speaker grilles isn’t generally a good idea as it can affect the sound quality because it blocks ambient noise. So, only go down this route if the sound quality transferred by your microphone is more important than the sound quality you listen to.
Open-back headphones are known for a sound bleed because of their design. They have grilles on their backs that leak sound while allowing for an airy and crisp listening experience.
However, if you have a very sensitive microphone or place them too close to each other, the mic may pick up the leaked sound. So, you can solve this problem by lowering the sound volume, placing them far from each other, and lowering the mic’s sensitivity.