You’ve probably been told a lot about the two main types of headphones you can find, the usual big fight: open vs. closed headphones, and you’ve never been clear about which is the best musical option for you and your songs.
We have already talked about the different types of headphones depending on their shape or functionality: Types of headphones: Pros and cons of in-ear, over-ear, on-ear, wireless, noise-canceling headphones, etc… but it is that each of these types of headphones can also be open to closed… the thing is complicated…
Not only do you have to choose a headset based on its connectivity, shape, sound quality or functionality… you also have to know whether you prefer them open or closed.
What is the main difference between open and closed headphones?
- The air goes in and out of the headphones, which means that our music can be heard “outside” the headphone and that we can hear the external sounds.
- The high-end headphones, the ones that offer HI-FI sound in Hi-Res are usually of this type (although lately they are turning the tables). The sound is more natural.
- They tend to be more delicate headphones and should be treated with care. The electronics are more exposed.
- They give a tremendous boost to the clarity and sharpness of the music. The “soundstage” is greater. Classical music or jazz is enjoyed in these headphones.
- They are usually more comfortable and lighter.
- Closed headphones are completely isolated from the outside. You don’t hear anything from the outside and others don’t hear your music.
- The sound is not as natural as in open earphones, and the environment can become hotter in your ears when they are closed.
- They tend to provide more powerful bass.
- They’re useful headphones for DJs, music production or simply to wear on public transport.
- In recent years, companies such as Focal, Audeze, and Sennheiser have created high-end closed models (e.g. the Sennheiser HD820).
When is it better to use open headphones and when closed headphones?
If you’ve looked closely at the above features, you’ll probably be pretty clear on what each one is for.
The closed headphones, with a solid outer shell that covers the entire ear without any holes, isolate you perfectly from the outside. There’s no noise to disturb you. You listen to your songs and nothing else.
You get the sound “inside your head”.
If you use them carefully, they are perfect for public transportation, to isolate you in your home from the noise of neighbors, the barking of your dogs or the screams of your children. And you don’t disturb anyone with your music. You keep it all to yourself.
All you have to worry about is buying good headphones that represent the sound of your music well.
A good example of this type of headset? The Sony MDR7506, a closed headset that we recommend for working at home or the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, one of our recommendations as a DJ headset.
You can also go to Sennheiser’s top-of-the-range, not-so-cheap, Sennheiser HD 820, one of the most popular audiophile headphones.
On the other hand, open headphones have an outer shell that is perforated in some way, possibly with horizontal cuts, and air (and sound) can get in and out of them.
You get the sound around you.
Your music surrounds you, envelops you. That’s the main difference with the previous ones… and you get to enjoy your music if there is silence around you. The sound achieved in these models is usually neutral. You can’t take them on the bus or the subway, you can’t hear your songs with your dog barking or your child screaming. You need peace and quiet to enjoy them.
With this type of headphones, which are usually all mid or high range, you will be able to appreciate everything that the music producer wanted to express with his music. It’s like you’re in the music studio and you can get inside the musician’s head.
You can imagine that these headphones can be very expensive.
You can start with the Beyerdynamic DT- 990 or go directly to the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro or the Sennheiser HD 660s. Their prices are high but still affordable. Or you can upgrade to the Sennheiser HD 800 S, one of the best headphones of all time (with permission of the Sennheiser HD 800), a classic to appreciate the full extent of the best “soundstage” of your music.
Do you already know which headphones to choose?
I’m sure you already have a good idea of what kind of headphones you are most interested in. A few more little tips:
Think about where you will mainly use your headphones and with which devices. If you’re going to be at home quietly and without outside noise, an open headset may be the best choice. If you’re going to have a lot of noise around you, closed headphones gain a lot of points.
Then you have to consider what kind of sound you want in your headphones:
Do you want a sound with powerful bass to listen to rock music at its best? Maybe closed headphones are a better option, but with open headphones, you can also fight all kinds of music if you have an amplifier or a good equalizer in your computer that gives color to your songs.
Do you want to listen to classical, jazz, or blues music and appreciate all the nuances and almost play every instrument? Open earphones are a good choice.
That said, the question of better or worse headphones is a very subjective issue that also depends on one’s hearing ability and sound sensitivity. The best thing is to try them out beforehand in a music store and see what sound we fall in love with. And what headphones we can afford, which is not a cheap hobby.