People probably do not know much about open-back headphones, and their benefits which outweigh the cons. So in this article, we will tell why you should buy the best open-back headphones for gaming in 2021.
First of all, some people might not know, but there are two kinds of headphones out there. Closed-back headphones are common in the gaming industry, with most manufacturers opting for a closed-back design.
There are plenty of reasons for that, the majority of the chances are, you have closed-back headphones. But that does not mean that open-back headphones are not good enough to be used for gaming purposes. In fact, for some people, it might be the opposite and they prefer open-backs for their gaming purposes.
There are plenty of reasons why you should choose open-back headsets over closed-back ones. If these reasons appeal to you, you can try to find one for yourself in our list of the best open-back headphones for gaming below.
But before we dive into the list itself, a small buyer’s guide to understand the differences between open-back and closed-back headphones.
An open-back design means that the back of the speaker of the headset is exposed. Some companies use a mesh design to achieve that, others put on cutouts that also have aesthetic purposes for design.
While a closed-back design means the speakers are only facing towards your ears and the back is closed. This isolates the sound and you only hear the sound of the speakers.
But some of the benefits of open-back headphones make them worth buying.
So with the speaker exposed from both sides, you have an open acoustic system. This creates the effect that you are in open surroundings. These headsets shine the brightest in open-world games, where you can feel like part of the surroundings. These headsets have an expansive sound, that can feel really good for your ears.
Real-time Surrounding Awareness
Another benefit of having an open-back design is, since the back of the headset is open, you are aware of your surroundings better in real-time as well. Like for instance if your phone or doorbell rings, you can hear that.
But if you wear closed-back headphones, chances are your ears are totally isolated from any noise outside. This can be really troublesome if you are home alone and have to answer the phone and door yourself.
Unless you are not expecting any calls or any visitors, you should opt for open-back headphones. We personally prefer these as well, because it is good to have awareness of your surroundings.
But on the downside, if there is too much noise in the surroundings, then you might get annoyed. This can be especially annoying if you have an apartment near a busy road or if there is a construction site nearby.
You will hear all the horns and the hammering of the tools from these headphones if they are loud enough. Small noises will not annoy you as much, but being aware of your surroundings can be really beneficial.
Cool Headed Gaming
Lastly, the open-back headphones have really good ventilation thanks to the cutouts on the back. Fresh air can dissipate the heat build-up in your ears from prolonged use of headphones.
Many closed-back headphones try to achieve this by infusing the headphones with cooling-gel. They also use breathable material in the ear cushion to make it easier for them to cool down. But it still cannot achieve it fully as there is not a lot of ventilation going on in the cushion which is pressed against your ears.
But an open-back design means the air can come from the back where the speakers are exposed. These will allow for a more cool-headed gaming experience. Some companies take it a step further and put velour ear cushions which is a more breathable material.
This way, any heat build-up in the ears can dissipate easily.
Minor Cons of Open-back design
The cons of open-back headphones are actually outweighed by their benefits. Since there is no isolation, outside noise can easily reach your ears. If you do live in a noisy neighborhood, chances are you need a good acoustic solution for the room itself. Headphones being closed-back design will not save you from the noise while you are sleeping or doing something else.
Another problem, which is also non-existent if you prefer solo gaming, is noise-leaking. Since the speakers are exposed from the back as well, the noise will leak out of the headphones. If you are gaming alone, that is not a problem, but when you are gaming with your friends, they can hear you on the mic.
But that is also a problem only when your headset microphone is really sensitive and can pick up noises easily. But otherwise, this problem is almost non-existent for most open-back headset designs.
Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming Reviewed
Sennheiser has mostly pioneered the open-back design in gaming headsets. The Game One and especially the GSP 500 are some of the best open-back headphones for gaming in the market.
So, we know Sennheiser mostly for their amazing studio headphones. The German-based company focuses purely on audio technology and provides some of the best products we have known in the audio industry.
The GSP 500 is an odd-looking headset, the design is something that might not be to everyone’s taste. Some though might like the look of the open-back headphone more than others. But everyone will agree on how good these headphones sound.
The headphones are one of the best ones in general, regardless of the open-back or closed-back design. The microphone on the headset is superb and the sound is second to none.
What we loved about the headphones was, when we put them on, they were incredibly comfortable. We really appreciated the fact that Sennheiser went through the trouble of providing levers for adjusting the clamping force.
This way when you feel like the clamping force of the headphones has started to make them uncomfortable to wear, just loosen the clamping force by adjusting the levels on the top of the headband.
This is a really nice touch, so comfort-wise it looks like Sennheiser has really outdone most headphones. But this is also a way to compensate for the unique design as well. As to our understanding, it is because of the design the clamping force feels too tight.
Though, either way, the headphones are superbly comfortable and we really enjoyed the experience of wearing them. But comfort is secondary, headphones are supposed to be about the audio.
When we say the audio is something to experience, we mean it! When playing open-world games with a lot of environmental sounds, like water streams, these headphones shine the brightest. We tried playing The Witcher 3, we were quite blown away by how good these headphones sound.
So our audio experience with the Sennheiser GSP 500 was nothing short of excellent. We highly recommend these headsets to anyone who likes playing such games alone for the maximum immersive audio experience.
Now, the price, these headsets cost around $180 on Amazon, so the price does seem a bit expensive. But our experience with these headphones have made us believe, they are worth their money.
The Audio-Technica brand has been introducing some really decent gaming headsets in both the open-back and closed-back category. The ATH-ADG1X High-Fidelity gaming headset is not a new name for audio tech enthusiasts.
The Japan-based Audio-Technica brand mostly focuses on studio audio equipment, much like Sennheiser. But since the gaming industry has such a financial potential, it would be stupid not to put a stake in it.
Audio-Technica understands that and is thriving in the gaming market with its own amazing gaming headsets. The company has both, open-back and closed-back models of headsets available for those who need either of them.
But we are here to look at the open-back versions of the ATH-ADG1X by Audio-Technica. These headphones are light but sturdy, they are really breathable as well. While wearing them, we could barely feel that we were wearing headsets.
The sound is also very clear, we really loved the range on these, it has a wider range of sound than most headphones. Although these headphones are kind of old, they use a 50mm driver which is standard in modern gaming headsets.
The audio is nothing to scoff at, the highs and the lows were incredibly clear on these headsets. These are pretty expensive, so this much was expected of them, but it was still a great experience using these headsets for gaming.
The open-back design and the breathable ear-cushions allowed us to game for longer without fatigue. In fact, our ears were not getting as warm as they get while playing games on other headphones which is pretty neat.
This means you can game longer on these headphones without having to adjust them or take them off. The Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1X shines the brightest in closed rooms, where you can experience the rich sounds from the games.
We played one of our favorite open-world RPG games, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with these headphones on. The soundtracks and the ambient sounds just gave us a totally different experience of playing the game.
The Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1X cost around $299 on Amazon, which is a hefty price to pay. But these headphones will make you believe that you really are paying the price these headphones are worth for.
While the best premium Audio-Technica headsets were pretty much focused on quality alone, these headsets seem to be working a bit on aesthetics as well.
The Audio-Technica brand does not seem to be focusing much on the aesthetic point of view that gamers look for in headsets. They are mostly driven to release quality audio sound rather than giving something that looks good.
But the ATHPDG1 model of headphones by the brand does seem to have a bit of gamer aesthetics to it. The silver, black and red color and a really good looking design makes it feel like these headsets are truly meant for gaming.
So aesthetic wise, these headphones are really great, the top headband is black with a red Audio-Technica logo. The headband cushion is red in color, and the mesh on the earpieces is silver.
The wire connecting the earpieces is also red which adds into the aesthetics of the headset as well. We really appreciate the gamer look the brand has introduced with these models of headsets.
The ATHPDG1 headphones are pretty light, maybe it is an open-back thing. They are made of plastic, with a steel-reinforced headband and adjustable slider. But when we tested them we did not hear any creaking sounds from the plastic whatsoever.
This makes us believe Audio-Technica did not cheapen out while making the ATHPDG1 headphones. Since the plastic quality seems to be top-grade, something we expect from an audio-focused brand.
The ear cushions are velour and the headphones feel really breathable. The audio is also very great, they also have a good semblance of bass in them while most open-back headphones have a complaint of not having much in terms of bass and low notes.
Another thing we really like about these headphones is the microphone, the microphone quality is amazing. The microphone tests we performed were super clear, something we expect from high-end headsets with microphones.
Now, these headsets are kind of old, they initially retailed at around $160. Today you can find them on their official site and Amazon for around $129. Being old, they sport a 40mm driver, which is below than 50mm standard that we see in most headsets.
But overall, we were not disappointed by the quality of these headsets whatsoever.
The GAME ONE from EPOS & Sennheiser is some of the best headsets we have seen and reviewed. EPOS was a joint project by Demant and Sennheiser, which is now an independent company. For these headsets, it seems both EPOS and Sennheiser poured out their best ideas.
The GAME ONE comes with the GAME ZERO, a closed-back headphone model, both of them extremely superb. If you put Sennheiser’s amazing drivers in a gaming headset enclosure and attach a microphone on it, you get the GAME ONE headphones.
We cannot recommend the microphone itself for anything like streaming or podcasting though. The quality of the microphone is alright for gaming, it has a noise-canceling feature in it. The microphone is best suited for game chat and that is all we will recommend it for as well.
We really love the sound of the GAME ONE, it feels like Sennheiser is really reliable when it comes to headphones. Any model of headphones that you choose from them, the audio on them is superb. The GAME ONE or the GAME ZERO, both have a really decent sound.
The open-back design does some really good things for the headset, we really recommend these headphones for gaming. The soundtracks of the game were really pronounced and to be honest, we were mesmerized by them.
The market of Whiterun or Riftin from Skyrim really did feel like we were in a market. The lows and the highs were pretty pronounced in the headphones.
Do we recommend them for the price? Yes, we do. Should you buy these for the microphone, absolutely not. These headphones will cost you around $160 on Amazon.
If you want something that falls under the open-back and closed-back headphone category, then ASTRO A40 TR is what you want. These headphones come with a magnetic closed-back cover plate that can make these headphones closed-back easily.
If you want an open-back experience, just take the cover off and you are good to go. The good part about it is, that you can mod the headphones to look stylish as well by purchasing different mods from ASTRO.
So you are not only getting good sound but also amazing aesthetics with an open-back and closed-back benefit. There are not many unique headphones like this out there.
Originally though, these are closed-back headsets, but they can turn into open-back which is pretty unique. We felt like this deserved to be reviewed as well, and honestly, we were not wrong in the least.
We love the sound, the bass is amazing, the sound is loud and when paired with the Mix AMP Pro by ASTRO, these things are gorgeous. The microphone is removable and can be attached to either side of the headsets.
So if you want your microphone on the left side instead of the right, just take it out and do so. The backplate is also swappable so you can take the left one with the microphone hole and put it on the right.
Customization seems to be the key feature of the ASTRO A40 TR headphones. These headphones themselves aren’t as costly as when you purchase them with the Mix AMP Pro. But it is a worthwhile investment if you ask us.
6 – HIFIMAN Ananda
HIFIMAN Ananda can be considered one of the best open-back headphones in the market. With crisp sound quality and some impressive features, HIFIMAN Ananda is here to make an impact.
HIFIMAN Ananda is a lightweight open-back headphone that delivers as advertised. It has a spectacular ‘Windows Shade Grill’ design giving it a modern feel. Ear cups are asymmetrical and comfortable. You can enjoy music or gaming for longer sessions without having your ears hurting.
Speaking of gaming, Ananda outshines other open-back headphones in the gaming department. The immersive audio quality brings the best out of your games and not missing even a single footstep sound.
The Ananda delivers amazing frequency response. Using the ultra-thin diaphragm and high sensitivity, Ananda delivers unparalleled audio performance. Being lightweight and having detachable cord connectivity, the Ananda is easily portable and can be your audio partner on the go.
While Ananda can benefit from a microphone and on-headset volume controls, it makes up for them with everything else it has to offer considering the price. For a premium and immersive sound experience, HIFIMAN Ananda is the open-back headphone to be taken into consideration.