Best Closed-Back Headphones In 2020
Headphones are considered by many to be some of the most important pieces of audio equipment used in the communications and entertainment industry. Professionals such as sound engineers, audio technicians, musical directors, DJ’s and even recording artists make use of them on a regular basis. Studio headphones are instrumental in the production of most, if not all the sounds that we here today on popular media.
But not all headphones are cut out for professional studio use. Earbuds and other in-ear type headphones are great for listening to the tracks on your iPod, but they really have no place being in the recording booth. You can find both on-ear and over-ear type studio headphones, but knowing whether to choose open-back or the best closed-back headphones depends on what you intend to use them for.
Table of Contents
Open-back or the Best Closed-back headphones?
Whether you’re a budding audiophile, or an amateur DJ who’s only just beginning to find his sound, the right pair of headphones can help you reach your goals. You know you want headphones that are comfortable to wear and can give you great audio quality, but with so many brands and any number of products out there, how do you which pair to get? You’d be surprised to see just how many options you have.
There are closed-back and open-back headphones. But before you go out to buy a new pair, you need to know the difference between the two, so that you can make an informed decision on which design type to go for. Both have their own set of pro’s and con’s, and knowing which design type works best for what you need them for can significantly help narrow down your search.
If you want a pair of headphones that have accurate tonal balance and sound great when you use them in a quiet environment, then open-back is the way to go. This design lends itself to producing a more spacious stereo imaging. Because the audio coming from the headphone drivers radiate in open space, what you get is a more vibrant and more natural sound. At certain price ranges, open-back headphones sound a lot better than their closed-back counterparts. Unless you prefer to hear more bass in your tunes, that is. Open-back headphones prevent the build-up of bass frequencies inside the ear cups, thus giving you a flatter and more accurate sound. If you plan on doing some mixing and mastering professionally or from inside your home studio, then you would be better off getting a pair of open-back headphones.
On the other hand, closed-back headphones have sealed ear cups that prevent sound from leaking out into the environment. The result is you get more bass and better sound isolation. Closed-back headphones are ideal for when you want to listen to your tunes on the bus or the subway, or any other noisy environment. Unlike open-back headphones, the closed-back design allows you to direct your attention to the sounds that are coming from the headphones and not so much on the ambient noise. However, sound isolation is inversely proportional to audio quality. The better a pair of headphones are at isolating sound, the worse its audio quality usually gets. Closed-back types are preferred in the recording studio because they prevent the sound from the headphones from leaking into the microphone and getting picked up on the recording.
5 of the Best Closed-Back Headphones on the Market Today
Offering a more natural sound and decent build quality, the ATH-M30 from Japanese audio tech company Audio-Technica stakes its claim as one of the top closed-back headphones in its price range. Retailing for around $60, the ATH-M30 performs well and is arguably one of the more comfortable pair of over-ear headphones to come out of the Audio-Technica. It has softly cushioned ear cups that swivel for a more custom fit, and the padded headband is sleek and relatively flexible. The closed-back design does a decent job of reducing and isolating background noise, resulting in a deeper and richer range of frequencies. For its price, the ATH-M30 performs almost as well as some of the more expensive studio headphones in its class.
From one of the most successful audio tech brands in the world comes the sleek and ergonomically designed Sennheiser HD 280. These highly versatile closed-back headphones are great for recording because of they deliver clear, linear audio while simultaneously blocking out ambient noise. It has a robust and durable construction, and offers a fair degree of portability thanks to its collapsible design. The HD 280 also has cushioned ear cups on a swivel, and its padded headband makes it extremely comfortable to wear. Both ear pads, as well as the coiled audio cable are replaceable. Because they are closed-back headphones, the HD 280 has a very low frequency response, which gives you a noticeably bigger bass sound. If you can afford to spend $100 on a new pair of closed-back headphones, then the Sennheiser HD 280 is definitely worth checking out.
Another Audio-Technica product makes it onto this list of the best closed-back headphones on the market today. Unlike the ATH-M30 that uses passive noise cancellation in delivering good audio reproduction, the ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint takes a more active approach. Instead of relying on the physical construction of the ear cups in order to shield your ears from outside noise, the ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint makes use of active noise cancellation. Microphones sample any outside noise, then an integrated processor analyzes the sample and generates an equal but opposite signal that cancels the outside noise completely. This allows the ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint to deliver precise audio, with little to no distortion. The ergonomic design and generously padded ear cups make for a snug fit, and the rigid metal headband gives it a secure hold. With its excellent sound quality and effective noise cancellation, the ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint is well worth its retail price of $120.
You know a pair of headphones are good when the manufacturer continues to sell them for more than 20 years after they were first made. First sold in 1991, the Sony MDR-7506 has withstood the tests of time and continues to be one of the most popular pair of over-ear headphones that you can find today. The sound quality on the MDR-7506 is outstanding, thanks to its effective noise reduction feature. Its 40mm drivers also deliver powerful bass sounds, and its treble range is accentuated. The MDR-7506 also folds neatly for easy storage, and the near 10-foot audio cord terminates in a gold-plated audio jack. With so many audio professionals relying on these headphones, it is almost difficult to imagine passing up the opportunity to try them out for yourself. The MDR-7506 retails for around $80.
German audio equipment specialist Sennheiser comes in with yet another entry in this list of the best closed-back headphones, the HD 65 TV. Designed with more than just music in mind, the HD 65 TV has inline, independent left and right volume controls that work well with stereo TV audio. Watching your favorite movies and television shows will be a much better experience with the HD 65 TV because of its powerful sound reproduction and enhanced speech intelligibility. And while portability gives way to a sleek ultramodern design, the HD 65 TV does do a great job at isolating noise. It also has a low frequency response that gives it a strong bass, ideal for watching car chases or listening to rock music. Although the HD 65 TV may not be the lightest and most mobile-friendly pair of headphones out there, its audio quality, effective sound isolation, low frequency response, and independent volume controls make it an excellent option to look into. The HD 65 TV retails between $50 and $70 in the consumer electronics market.