Last Updated on January 27, 2023.
While open-back headphones aren’t some new fad or craze, they’re often highly recommended by mix and mastering engineers, bedroom producers, and audiophiles for critical listening over long periods of time.
So, if you’ve heard of, been recommended, or are simply interested in open-back headphones for your listening purposes, look no further, because, in this article, we’ll go over the differences between open-back and closed-back headphones, what makes a good pair of open-back headphones, and the best open-back headphones under $200 on the market. Stay tuned!
Open-back vs Closed-back headphones
Open-back headphones are known for allowing air to pass through their ear cups to eliminate resonances and low-frequency build-up that can be problematic over long periods of listening.
They reduce ear fatigue over time by letting the sound pass through the ear cups, which also allows outside noise to be more easily heard. For this reason, they aren’t great headphones for listening in loud or busy environments. Overall, open-back headphones are great for mixing and mastering music, critical listening, high-fidelity audio files, and at-home listening.
Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, are geared more for video games, streaming, listening both indoors and outdoors, exercising, and basically any scenario besides mixing, mastering, and critical listening.
List of the Best open-back Headphones under $200
Let’s kick things off with the pair that I consider to be the absolute best headphones under $200, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
Best overall open-back headphones under $200!
Beyerdynamic is one of the best sound companies in the world. They’ve been manufacturing headphones, mics, and amplifiers since about 1940.
Everything about the DT990 headphones is quality. The ear-padding feels like a compact pillow, the plastic and metal work together to make something that is sturdy but lightweight. The cable is like the opposite of an iPhone cable that you just Know is going to split open at some point in the next 1-2 years, it’s durable!
It also comes with a nice pleather carrying case.
Overall, these headphones are geared more for studio professionals and bedroom musicians rather than commercial users. They top this list by a clear margin for their ability to produce high quality at a cheap price.
Sound Quality: The audio quality of the DT 990 pro headphones is top-notch because they’re the only headphones under $200 that have 250 ohms. This ultimately means that they will have an improved sound quality compared to the other headphones on this list, which all have 50 ohms or less. While the differences aren’t going to be major, it’s definitely an improvement.
The frequency response will be unlike any closed-ear headphones you’ll hear because of the flatter sound signature and because of the concentration of all of the sound being more focused in a mono area of the headphones.
Comfort: The Beyerdynamic DT 990 pro headphones are very comfortable and lightweight for their large size. These durable headphones will fit any sized head with their flexibility and size of ear pads. They come with a large grey padding that looks awesome, but, it’s worth noting that the ear pads start to look damaged and old over time as you use them.
- Transducer Type: 45mm
- Impedance: 250 ohms
- Frequency Response: 5 – 35.000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 96 dB
- Weight: 250g
- Wireless/Wired: Wired
- Price: $159
You can get the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro here: Amazon, Sweetwater.
Philips Fidelio X2HR
Headphones with the Best bass response!
The Philips Fidelio X2HR headphones are a solid pair of headphones and excel in many different categories.
First of all, the design is very sleek and “new-age” which makes them look more expensive than they actually are.
The build quality is great, too: These headphones feel sturdy like they aren’t going to break on you any time soon.
The Philips Fidelio X2HR headphones will serve a variety of different purposes including music production, mix engineering, gaming, and home listening.
Sound Quality: The Philips Fidelio X2HR are an outstanding pair of open-back headphones for neutral sound listening. The sound profile is well-balanced, which makes them suitable for a broad range of different use cases, although some may find them a bit bland on certain tracks.
The bass is one of the major selling points: It’s punchy, tight, and lacks muddiness, and it goes to about 55 Hz until the roll-off begins. At around 50 Hz it’s -1dB per normal, at 40 Hz it’s about 4dB under, and at 30 Hz it’s about 7 dB under.
The midrange is quite good and well-balanced despite being slightly recessed. The treble, on the other hand, is subpar in its response. It’s fairly uneven with dips and a peak at around 10k. As is expected, since these are open-back headphones, they don’t really block out background noise, making them only really useful in quiet places.
Comfort: With large memory foam ear pads and an automatically adjusting headband, they’re comfortable to wear over extended periods of time. They’re also very flexible for a wide range of people.
- Transducer Type: 50mm Dynamic
- Impedance: 30 Ohm
- Frequency Response: 5 – 40,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 100dB / mW
- Weight: 380g
- Wireless/Wired: Wired
You can get the Phillips Fidelio X2HR here: Amazon.
Headphones with the Best soundstage!
The Roland RH-A30 headphones are a well-built pair of open-back headphones that look the least like open-back headphones out of all of the other ones on this list. Everything is noticeably well-connected and sturdy with these headphones and it also comes with a carrying pouch.
Sound Quality: The soundstage is immersive and high quality. The mids and treble are both smooth and fairly flat in their response, while the bass comes with a sub-bass extension.
At 50 Hz and below, the bass has an extended frequency response with a roll-off that is not drastic, but definitely present. The bass sounds tight, too, so it may sound better for genres like trance, hip-hop, and electronic music.
Comfort: The Roland RH-A30 over-ear headphones have soft velour ear pads, are medium-sized, and are very lightweight in comparison to most open-back alternatives. While they don’t have quite the flexibility in terms of fitting a variety of different head and ear types, they do a great job at keeping everything snug and tight.
- Transducer Type: 45 mm Dynamic
- Impedance: 40 ohms
- Frequency Response: 10 -25,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 95.5 dB / mW
- Weight: 250g, 9 oz.
- Wireless/Wired: Wired
You can get the Roland RH-a30 here: Amazon.
GRADO SR80x Prestige
Best For Casual At-Home Listening!
The Grado Labs SR80x are an idiosyncratic pair of open-back headphones with a smaller overall size, a studio-grade frequency response, and a market intended for casual listening in quiet environments.
They are lightweight, easy to power, and can work reliably in a wide variety of settings; from casual listening to sculpting particular professional sounds.
Overall, these things look cool and offer a high-quality sound.
Sound Quality: One thing that stands out with the Grado SR80x prestige headphones is the substantially wide, cinematic soundstage.
With these headphones, the highs are a bit loud, but not harsh, while the bass and the mids are well-balanced. You’re definitely going to be getting a brighter sound with these headphones than with the rest on this list.
Comfort: The Grado SR80x headphones are very easy to wear because of their lightweight design.
They’re much smaller than the other over-ear headphones on this list, and they come with a thick foam material to pad the ears cups which are very comfortable.
In addition, they’ve got a plush headband and a braided cable that give you even more comfort and style.
- Transducer Type: 52mm Dynamic
- Impedance: 38 Ohms
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20 kHz
- Sensitivity: 98 dB / mW
- Weight: 280g
- Wireless/Wired: Wired
You can get the Grado SR80x Prestige here: Amazon.
Most Flexible Fitting WIRED Headphones!
The Audio-Technica ATH-AD700x headphones are open-back headphones that offer a spacious, open sound, a lightweight build, a flexible fit, and good dynamics.
They’re not casual headphones, rather, they’re made for studio or home use.
The overall design is not as aesthetic as you’d hope, and the sound quality isn’t anything more than average or slightly above average, but the headphones are still one of the top open-back headphones you can find, especially when considering their price since they are the cheapest ones on this list.
Sound Quality: The ATH-AD700X headphones slightly overemphasize the mids and they’re not as well-balanced as some of the higher-end open-back headphones on this list.
The treble can be slightly harsh at times and the bass can be a bit too thin. But overall, they reproduce tracks with above-average fidelity and create a satisfactory soundstage for neutral listening.
Comfort: The ATH-AD700x headphones come with what Audio Technica calls “self-adjusting 3D Wing Support,” which are little flaps that come under the headband that are flexible enough to adjust to any head shape.
Overall, the headphones are very large, but they still give you that tight-fit feeling you would hope for. The ear pads are very soft, comfy, and made of quality material, also.
- Impedance: 38 ohms
- Frequency Response: 5 -30,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 100 dB / MW
- Weight: 265 g
- Wireless/Wired: Wired
- Price: $159
You can get the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700x here: Amazon.
Honorable Mention: – AKG K240 Semi-Open Headphones
The AKG K240 are a great pair of semi-open headphones if you are on a budget.
At only $55, they give you a nice value for the money.
While not as comfortable or durable as the other headphones on this list, they still provide ample durability and comfort.
Although they are on the lower spectrum of sound quality in comparison to the other headphones on this list, they still provide a solid level of sound quality.
Lastly, with less than 50 ohms and a 3.5mm cable, these wired headphones can connect to a wide range of different audio devices.
You can get the AKG K240 here: Amazon, Sweetwater.
Our top recommendation is definitively the Beyerdynamic DT 990 pro headphones.
These headphones give you by far the best impedance at 250 ohms, which will help deliver a slightly better overall sound.
On top of this, they’re super durable and comfortable, fitting on just about anybody snugly.
The frequency response is generally pretty flat which works great for mix engineers who are looking to get an accurate sound.
Overall, these headphones stand above the rest!
What Makes A Good Open-back Headphone
When choosing a new pair of headphones, especially high-quality ones that you’ll be using for mixing music, I think it’s worth going over the characteristics you should be looking for in order to get the ones that suit your needs.
Neutral Sound & Overall Frequency Response
Depending on what you’re using them for, one of the major appeals of open-back headphones is being able to get a generally flat frequency response that is different from most other headphones.
Many music producers and mix engineers buy open-back headphones so that they can get an accurate and unbiased frequency response. What you want in a good pair of open-back headphones is a generally flat frequency response if you’re mix/mastering engineering or simply a quality frequency response if not.
Buying a pair of open-back headphones with a good bass frequency response and one without many dips in the mids and highs will also go a long way to ensuring a quality sound.
It’s worth noting, however, that headphones, no matter what kind, are not really designed to be flat-sounding like some of the higher-end studio monitors.
Most people who use open-back headphones will use them for long listening sessions. If you’re using them for music production or mix engineering, you not only want your headphones to have a tight fit, you want them to feel comfortable the whole way through. Making sure the ear pads are the right size and made of quality material is very important.
Users obviously want their studio headphones to connect well with their playback devices. A lot of this, with open-back headphones, has to do with impedance.
If you’re using an audio interface or a preamp, then you should be fine connecting to the Beyerdynamic DT 990 pro headphones, for example, which are 250 Ohms. But if you want to connect straight to your laptop, 250 Ohms will be too much. Something below 35-50 Ohms is more suitable for direct listening to a laptop or phone.
If you don’t have a high-quality audio interface or preamp, you likely won’t be able to use these kinds of headphones properly. Ensuring that you have the right impedance (Ohms) and connector is crucial with open-back headphones.