Updated August 18, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

The 10 Best Closed Back Headphones

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Best High-End
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Best Inexpensive

If you're on the hunt for audiophile-level sound quality, take a look at the world of closed-back headphones. Their sealed design allows for greater frequency response, more accurate reproduction, and effective passive noise isolation that everyday over-ears can't always match. With options in every price range, a pair of these top-rated cans will suit almost anyone's needs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best closed back headphone on Amazon.

10. Superlux HD-685

9. Sony MDR-1A

8. Denon AH-D7200

7. Sennheiser HD280 Pro

6. Sony MDR-Z1R

5. Oppo PM-3

4. V-Moda Crossfade M-100

3. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

2. Astell & Kern T1p

1. Focal Listen

Closed Back Versus Open Back Headphones

Some people prefer this kind of experience as they don't feel completely cut off from the world when listening to music.

While many tech terms can be misleading, open back and closed back headphones actually describe exactly what the each headphone has. Closed back headphones have earcups which are completely sealed, while open back headphones have backs that are not completely sealed.

In nearly every mass produced pair of headphones, the tiny speaker driver inside emits sound in both directions, towards your ear and away from it. With open back headphones, that sound leaks out into the air potentially disturbing others around you. Closed back headphones almost completely block the sound leakage, providing roughly 10dB of noise reduction so nobody else has to hear what you are hearing.

This noise isolation also affects how music sounds to the headphones wearer. Since closed back headphones isolate you from the outside world, the music sounds almost like it is playing inside your head. No background noises will interfere with the music listening experience and the wearer will be able to hear every minute detail. This is why studio monitors nearly always have a closed back design and why sound engineers prefer them.

While this can be fantastic for audiophiles, it can be problematic when wearing the headphones while performing outside activities. If one is wearing a pair of closed back headphones they may not hear a car horn honk or somebody yelling out a warning. But if one truly wants to get lost in the music, closed back headphones are the best choice.

Open back headphones produce a larger sound stage kind of experience more akin to what you hear when listening to a pair of speakers in a room or at a concert. Some people prefer this kind of experience as they don't feel completely cut off from the world when listening to music. This also makes open back headphones safer when exercising outside. It also makes them a better choice if you were reading a book at the beach and wanted to hear the sounds of the waves crashing along with your music, or other similar situations where you want to hear the ambient noise intermingle with your music.

How To Pick The Perfect Pair Of Headphones

There is nothing better than finding that perfect pair of headphones that fits great, sounds even better, and handles the trials and tribulations you will be subjecting them too. Unfortunately this is easier said than done, mostly because the average consumer focuses on the wrong features when making their purchase decision.

If you cannot try them on, the best way to gauge their comfort is by looking at features like weight, earcup cushion material, size adjustability, and headband padding.

This may seem counter intuitive when trying to pick out a pair of headphones, but sound is actually one of the last things most buyers should focus on. Unless you are a die-hard audiophile, most won't notice much of a difference in sound between two pairs of high-end headphones. Now if one were to compare a pair of $15 headphones to a pair of $150 headphones, the sound difference would be obvious.

The first step is two determine a budget you are prepared to spend. This can be something like $50 to $100, or $300 to $400. Once you have a budget determined, you can start to compare some different models.

The main two considerations should be how compatible they are with your lifestyle needs and their comfort level. If you buy a pair that is not comfortable or don't conform to your needs, it doesn't matter how great they sound, you will most likely rarely wind up using them. Those that want a pair for traveling will need totally different features than those who will primarily be listening to headphones in their home. If you plan on using your headphones for on the go listening, make sure to consider their portability and build quality. You can determine their durability by looking at the materials they are made from. Look for aircraft-grade aluminum, carbon fiber, and other materials of similar strength.

Finding a pair of comfortable headphones is vital, especially if you plan on listening to them for more than twenty minutes at a time. If you cannot try them on, the best way to gauge their comfort is by looking at features like weight, earcup cushion material, size adjustability, and headband padding.

Sound Specs You Need To Know

It is easy to get confused by all of the complicated specifications and terms manufacturers use when describing their headphones, but there are only a couple you really need to understand regarding how they will sound.

Good headphone manufacturers have a THD of 1% or less, while the best have below 0.1%.

Most look to frequency response range first, but unless the manufacturer lists the frequency response range with ±3dB next to it, the spec is essentially useless. If they have ±3dB, which means they are telling you the frequency response while maintaining volume within a 3dB range, then you can pay attention to the spec and look for one rated at 20-20,000Hz, the lower number being the bass response cut-off and the higher number being the treble roll-off.

Total harmonic distortion (THD) is extremely important as this tells you how prone the headphones are to sound distortion at higher volumes. When headphones are played at high volumes, there is a chance that diaphragm may not be able to move fast enough, which results in sound distortion like popping and crackling. The lower the THD percentage, the less possibility of sound distortion at high volumes. Good headphone manufacturers have a THD of 1% or less, while the best have below 0.1%.

One should also look at the sound pressure level. This is a measurement that taken by playing a 1 kilohertz note at a power level of 1Vrms, and then recording the decibel level produced by the headphones. The higher the sound pressure level, the louder the headphones will be able to get with a particular audio source.

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Christopher Thomas
Last updated on August 18, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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