Closed-Back vs. Open-Back Gaming Headphones – Know the Difference
When most gamers go shopping for gaming headphones, their focus is only on over-the-ear headphones. But wait, there’s more!
Over-the-ear headphones are further split into two; open-back and closed back, each with its advantages and disadvantages when gaming. Before settling for either of them, make sure it is going to suit your gaming conditions.
However, for most gamers, discerning the difference in performance between open-back and closed-back is the elephant in the room. For this reason, we have decided to review these two types of headphones to help you know which type will suit you best. So, without wasting any more time, let’s get down to business.
These types of headphones are the most common, and as the name suggests, they have a solid outer shell that locks air in the ear cup. The most notable aspect of these headphones is noise isolation.
The closed architecture gives it excellent isolation power that creates a quiet listening environment free from any background noise interference. Please note that the isolation we are talking about here is different from noise-cancellation technology.
Most closed-back headphones can provide up to 10dB noise reduction. With closed-back headphones, you can clearly hear low-level sounds, and this is the primary reason why these headphones are a number one choice for studios and even DJs. Besides, the cup cushions provide a tight air seal that allows no air in or out.
Another great thing about this type of headphones is that it guarantees very low or no leakage at all. This means that whatever you are listening to can’t leak outside of the ear cups. This is another reason why closed-back headphones are the favorite choice of studios to ensure whatever the artist is listening to is not captured by the mic. This feature also gives you privacy and is also ideal if you don’t want to disturb those around you.
If you love bass, then closed-back headphones will be best for you. If you know the science behind woofers, then you know what I’m talking about. The sound drivers and tight air volume of the ear cups guarantee high-quality, low-frequency reproduction.
What’s more? These headphones also offer more room for advanced driver options. For example, Oppo and Audeze are now engineering their headphones with a planar magnetic driver which provides reliable performance. An excellent choice of closed-back headphones is the VersionTech G2000; a bestseller on Amazon. If you are a hardcore audiophile, then the Sennheiser GAME ONE will be a great buy even though it is quite expensive!
However, if you live in hot areas, closed-back headphones can be quite uncomfortable because of sweating. This is because there is no ventilation or any form of air circulation around your ears. Closed-back headphones are also heavier, and this puts a lot of pressure on your ears.
- Delivers clear sound even in areas with high background noise
- Delivers deep and clear bass
- Maintains high levels of privacy; those around won’t hear what you are listening to
- Offers room for advanced drivers
- The tight enclosure with no air circulation triggers sweating
- Quite heavy design making listening for long hours cumbersome
In as much as closed-back headphones are more popular, open-back headphones are catching up. Unlike the former, open back headphones have some form of perforations or grill to allow air and sound to freely pass in and out.
Even though this may be quite a shortcoming for listeners who use them in commuting, in the library or other silent environments with other people, it delivers a more natural sound. This is courtesy of the less standing waves and reflections which reduce sound coloration compared to closed-back architecture.
Another great thing about open-back headphones is that they have better transient response compared to their counterparts. Transient response is all about how fast the driver responds to the slightest changes in the source material.
From the fact that there is less air pressure on the sound driver’s rear, the driver reacts faster to signal changes thus improving accuracy even when listening to low-level sounds. To put it into perspective, these headphones deliver theater-like sound.
The last and most worthy talking point on open-back headphones is their comfort. One thing that makes this headphone comfortable is their weight. Unlike most closed-back headphones, this type has lesser components thus making it lightweight.
It has less pressure on your ears making it possible to use them for longer without getting fatigued. Besides the lightweight design, it is well ventilated to allow air circulation. For this reason, you won’t worry about sweating. Some of the best headphones in the market like Sennheiser HD800S, Audio Technica AUD ATHAD500X, and HIFIMAN HE 4001 are all open-back.
However, just like the two sides of a coin, open-back headphones also have some shortcomings. First, they are not ideal for use in a noisy environment because they lack noise isolation. Besides, they don’t have privacy as those near you will definitely hear the sound too.
- Delivers more natural sound with no coloration
- Better situational awareness
- Lightweight design
- Reduces sweating courtesy of the ventilation
- Not ideal for use in noisy environment
- Lacks privacy as anyone can hear what you’re listening too
Closed-Back vs. Open-Back Headphones – What’s Best for Gaming?
To get the best gaming experience as far as sound is concerned, you need to choose a good gaming headphone. However, time and again, you will find gaming enthusiasts asking which is the best type of headphones for gaming. For me, I would say it all depends on the gaming environment and most importantly, the games you play.
For those who run commercial gaming lounges, I would highly recommend closed-back headphones courtesy of their noise isolation properties. Typical gaming lounges are ever busy with lots of background noises either from other gamers on the next slot or spectators.
Also, from the fact that they are in commercial hotspots, there’s background noise from other businesses, vehicles, among others. However, if you have soundproof walls, you can still get closed-back headphones because at least you will have eliminated noise.
If you are an avid gamer who plays in silent environments, I highly recommend that you get open-back headphones. This is especially if you like titles like Call of Duty, GTA, FIFA, and so on. Personally, I like FIFA, and I’m ever impressed by the chants and player calls that you can’t hear when using closed back headphones.
If you want the best gameplay that will arouse all your primal instincts, then open-back headphones will be best for you. Together with the best graphics, they offer a more real and immersive gaming experience courtesy of the more natural sound that hits all tones!