Best Open-Back Headphones in 2023 – Excellent Picks For Every Budget

Best Studio Headphones Under 50 - Best Open-Back Headphones

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Open-back headphones are highly regarded in the audio community because of their natural and good-quality sound. They’re a must-have for professionals, such as audio engineers, producers, or anyone in the same industry. If you’re new to the hobby or if you’re looking to become a professional, then you may want to consider getting a pair as well.

Editor’s Pick
Sennheiser HD 800 S

With its wide soundstage, impressive detail retrieval, and excellent clarity, the Sennheiser HD 800 S is one of the best open-back headphones out there. Even at a steep price point and though it was released several years ago, it can still compete with newer models and more affordable models because of its overall quality.

There are many options for open-back headphones in the current market and it can get overwhelming quickly. This is why we created a list of the best open-back headphones while considering different budgets. 

This list is based on personal preference after testing, so take this with a grain of salt as some descriptions may not fit with your experience with some of these headphones on the list.

What Are Open-Back Headphones?

For those who aren’t entirely familiar with them, open-back headphones are headphones with an “open” design. Their shell has an opening that allows air to pass through onto the ear cups and the drivers. This removes deep-frequency build-up, allowing for a more natural and balanced sound.

The way these headphones interact with air mimics how speakers or studio monitors push air in a room, resulting in a similar experience that you can get from studio monitors.

Open-back headphones are known to be of higher quality. They’re also generally more expensive because they have an edge over other headphone types when it comes to sound quality and performance. 

This is why many audiophiles and professionals invest a lot of money in open-back headphones. Their job or hobby requires a high level of fidelity, which these headphones can surely deliver.

Headphone ModelDriverFrequency RangePrice
Sennheiser HD 800 S56mm Ring Radiator Dynamic Drivers4 – 51,000 Hz$$$
Focal Utopia40mm Pure Beryllium M-Shape Dome5 – 50,000 Hz$$$$
HIFIMAN Sundara80mm Planar Magnetic Drivers6 – 75,000 Hz$$
Beyerdyanamic DT 990 Pro45mm Drivers5 – 35,000 Hz$$
Philips SHP960050mm Neodymium Drivers6 – 35,000 Hz$

Best Open-Back Headphones in 2023 Reviewed

Sennheiser HD 800 S

Best Overall

4.5/5
Price Range: $$$$
Brand: Sennheiser
Sennheiser HD 800 S - Best Open-Back Headphones

The Download

The HD 800 S is one of Sennheiser’s popular flagship open-back headphones. Being part of the brand’s audiophile HD series, these headphones have gained immense popularity throughout the years due to their unmatched performance for the price. 

Most well-known for its wide soundstage, high level of detail retrieval, and overall clarity in presentation, the Sennheiser HD 800 S is an excellent option for audio professionals. Yes, it’s pricey but if you work in the audio industry, then it’s a worthy investment.

Even though it was initially released in late 2015, these headphones can comfortably go toe-to-toe with much newer and far more advanced models, and with no sign of stopping just yet. The Sennheiser HD800 S has proven its capability to produce its famously wide soundstage and unmatched clarity, making it relevant to this day and earning its spot on our list of the best open-back headphones this year.

Whether you’re relatively new to the hobby or just looking to upgrade your setup and want to breach through the high-end budget range, you can’t go wrong with the Sennheiser HD 800 S.

The Specs

  • Driver:  56mm Ring Radiator Dynamic Drivers
  • Frequency Response:  4 – 51,000 Hz
  • Impedance:  300Ω
  • Sensitivity:  103dB at 1 kHz, 1V
  • Weight:  330 grams (11.6 ounces), without cable

Stuff I like

  • Excellent clarity and detail retrieval
  • Relatively lightweight and comfortable
  • Great texture on the low-end

Stuff I like less

  • Bright signature can be fatiguing
  • Mids might come off as harsh
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Focal Utopia

Best Premium Option

5/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: Focal
Focal Utopia - Best Open-Back Headphones

The Download

Next is the the Focal Utopia, which has been regarded as an icon in the audiophile community because of its unmatched performance and sound that many people love. First released in 2016, these headphones were reintroduced in 2022 with some changes in their look and a bit of performance update.

The Focal Utopia is a true example of a high-end and high-performing pair of headphones, and along with that comes a hefty price tag of around $5000. It’s quite easy to be shocked by how much it costs, especially for those who aren’t that familiar with the brand but I assure you, once you get the chance to try these headphones out, you’ll be longing for its sound right after.

Some may think that it’s overpriced but that’s subjective. These headphones’ performance, sound, reputation, and build quality speak volumes about why they’re worth the premium price tag.

So, if you have that kind of money, the Focal Utopia is a solid option for your endgame audiophile needs. Also, these headphones would benefit significantly if your setup is suitable to power them so they can reach their potential, allowing you to have the best listening experience.

The Specs

  • Driver:  40mm Pure Beryllium M-Shape Dome
  • Frequency Response:  5 – 50,000 Hz
  • Impedance:  80Ω
  • Sensitivity:  104dB SPL/1mW @1kHz
  • Weight:  490g (17.28 ounces)

Stuff I like

  • Sounds like no other
  • Excellent build quality
  • Great aesthetics and design
  • Well-balanced sound signature

Stuff I like less

  • Very expensive
  • Requires a suitable setup to power it
  • Small soundstage
Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

HIFIMAN Sundara

Best Mid-Range Option

4.5/5
Price Range: $$
Brand: HIFIMAN
HIFIMAN Sundara - Best Open-Back Headphones

The Download

If you’re looking for a great mid-range option, then look no further than the HIFIMAN Sundara as it makes it to this list of the best open-back headphones in 2023. For around $300, you get these planar magnetic headphones with a high price-to-performance ratio, a well-balanced sound, impressive technicalities, a decent bass and treble response, and, well, the list goes on.

Since the HiFiMan Sundara comes at a much more accessible price than the previously mentioned models, I’d say it’s ideal for those who want to get the most out of their money. These headphones have excellent build quality with a sleek and modern design. 

However, like with many planar headphones, the Sundara is also plagued with a certain issue: they require an excellent source to power them, so your regular DAC dongle won’t suffice. If you’re planning to get these headphones, then you should consider getting a DAC amp to help power it so you can get the most out of its performance. 

Despite this drawback, the HIFIMAN Sundara is a solid pick, whether you’re looking to get your first pair of open-backs or you just want to add to your collection. It has a well-deserved status, being a crowd favorite with an impressive performance to match the claims.

The Specs

  • Driver:  80mm Planar Magnetic Drivers
  • Frequency Response:  6 – 75,000 Hz
  • Impedance:  32Ω
  • Sensitivity:  94dB
  • Weight:  355 grams (12.52 ounces)

Stuff I like

  • Excellent price-to-performance ratio
  • Well-balanced
  • Good bass and treble texture
  • Decent build quality and design

Stuff I like less

  • Requires a decent power source, which may add up to the cost
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Best Audiophile Entry-Level

4.5/5
Price Range: $$
Brand: beyerdynamic
beyerdyanamic DT 990 Pro

The Download

Next on this list of the best open-back headphones is the beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, which is a staple for critical audio listening. Built for the studio, these headphones have also broken through the gaming scene through streamers and YouTubers like Ninja.

At around $200, these headphones offer an outstanding performance for their price. They produce excellent clarity, detail retrieval, and a slightly more prominent bass to add texture to the presentation. 

The beyerdymanic DT 990 Pro has a solid build yet it’s very lightweight. It’s also one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve tried and it’s all thanks to its included velour ear pads. However, its cable is non-detachable which hinders you from replacing it once it shows signs of wear and tear.

If you’re just starting in the audiophile hobby, then the beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is a great option. Its performance is simply one of the best in the sub-$200 price range.

The Specs

  • Driver:  45mm Drivers
  • Frequency Response:  5 – 35,000 Hz
  • Impedance:  250Ω
  • Sensitivity:  96dB
  • Weight:  250 grams (8.82 ounces), without cable

Stuff I like

  • Fit and comfort is unmatched for its price
  • Excellent sound and performance
  • Affordable price

Stuff I like less

  • Non-detachable cable
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Philips SHP9600

Best Budget Option

4.5/5
Price Range: $
Brand: Philips
Philips SHP9600

The Download

The Philips SHP9600 is the successor to the famous SHP9500 and it didn’t disappoint. These headphones have a reworked design, which was nicely executed, resulting in a much more sleek and modern look.

The sound was also improved as these headphones shave a much more refined and improved treble extension, which is quite impressive for a pair of open-back headphones. Like the previous model, the SHP9600 has a relatively low power requirement, as you can easily plug it into your computer and even directly into a smartphone with no problems whatsoever.

The included 3m cable isn’t well-built, which can be expected with headphones at this price but the good thing is that it’s detachable, meaning you can swap it out if it starts to break.

Overall, the Philips SHP9600 is a much more refined update to a classic pair of headphones. For its price of under $70, it has excellent performance and sound quality, earning its spot on this list of the best open-back headphones. 

The Specs

  • Driver:  50mm Neodymium Drivers
  • Frequency Response:  6 – 35,000 Hz
  • Impedance:  32Ω
  • Sensitivity:  102dB @1K Hz
  • Weight:  330 grams (11.64 ounces)

Stuff I like

  • Low power requirement
  • Very affordable price
  • Decent bass extension

Stuff I like less

  • Lacks clarity
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Final Thoughts

The first thing to consider is your budget when purchasing new open-back headphones. Your budget will help dictate your selections in the vast array of headphones on the market. 

With so many models being released by different brands, there are options in every price range, concentrating on important aspects like build quality, materials used, and sound quality. And even with a tight budget, you’ll find a pair that will perfectly suit your needs and preferences.

While more reasonably priced headphones strive to deliver good sound and comfort without going over budget, more expensive headphones frequently use higher-end materials and cutting-edge technologies. 

Before making a purchase, take your time in researching the different headphone options that fit your budget. Make sure to read reviews online regarding performance and try out the headphones to ensure an excellent fit with no discomfort. 

Getting good quality sound doesn’t have to break the bank. It’s all about doing your homework so that you end up with a pair that meets your needs and preferences. 

A man of many interests, Querho is passionate about discovering new things that stimulate the mind. When he is not writing about the things he is passionate about, Querho can be found making music at his home studio.

This post was last updated on 2024-02-29 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.


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