Which Headphones Are Right for You?

Which Headphones Are Right for You?
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Which Headphones Are Right for You?

The world of headphones can be a complicated place, there are so many variations, brands, contrasting reviews and ways to use them that it can be hard to know where to go and what to choose. It's time to cut through all the noise and find out which headphones are best for you and most importantly why. 

Whether you are a studio professional, podcaster, content creator, voiceover artist or an avid music listener having the right pair of headphones is crucial to hearing all the intricacies of the music and less noise. 

One of the most important and frequently asked questions is what the difference is between closed back and open back headphones and if one is truly better than the other. However, there are many more things you need to consider. 


What Are Monitor Headphones?  

Monitor Headphones can be open, closed or both and are often used in studio applications as they have a flatter frequency response resulting in a brighter sound, closer to the original recording than standard headphones. They are also made with comfort in mind because producers, engineers and musicians often spend hours in the studio. 


What Are Closed Back Headphones?  

Closed back headphones such as the LAH-220 Professional Monitor Headphones by Lambden Audio are possibly the most common type of headphones available in wireless and wired varieties. They are designed to cup completely over your ear, sending the sound source directly to your ear.  

Closed back headphones are particularly good for musicians recording vocals or low volume instruments but are also great for casual listening, listening to audio in an office environment and even when you are commuting.  

This is because the closed back design reduces the chance of audio leaking out of the earpieces, meaning you can record without the audio from your headphones spilling onto your track and you can be immersed in the audio when listening to music.


What Are Open Back Headphones?  

Open-back headphones are built with an open structure like the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones with the cups either not attached to the headband or featuring perforation on the back of the cup. This design allows the build-up of low frequencies associated with closed back headphones to pass through creating a more natural and accurate listening experience.  

Open back headphones are particularly good for critical listening (listening for frequency response, dynamic range, tone etc.) when mixing and mastering audio as the audio is more accurately reproduced from its original state. They are also great for enjoying high quality audio content alone as other people will be able to hear what you are listening to.  

The open back design sounds clearer and more spacious because the audio passes through the headphones, which is often more comfortable for longer listening sessions. 


Closed Back Vs Open Back 

Obviously, closed back headphones and open back headphones are aesthetically different, but the main difference lies in their application and why they are the best fit for that purpose.  

Closed back headphones are much better for recording because they isolate the audio you are listening to, ensuring it does not spill into your tracks. Say you are singing into a microphone, and you need to hear yourself and the music, closed back headphones allow you to do this without the condenser microphone picking it up. 

Open back headphones are usually better for producing or mastering as typically provide a more spacious and natural soundstage. They can often offer a more immersive and realistic listening experience more closely aligned with a real Hi-Fi speaker system. This is what you need when producing or mastering as you need to hear exactly what the audio will sound like when it is played by other people. 

Closed back headphones can often get uncomfortable if worn for long periods of time because the cup is closed around your ear which can lead to a build-up of heat. The airy nature of open back headphones means that they can be used for a longer time as air is able to pass through more easily. 

Closed back headphones are generally better for your ears as they are noise cancelling by design which means you can listen to audio through them at a lower volume, whereas open back headphones’ design means you will need to listen to them at higher volume in a noisy listening environment. 

When it comes to gaming, comfortability is typically what you would be looking for as gamers usually play for hours on end, so open back headphones would be best. However, it also depends on your environment, if for instance you do not want to disturb other people closed back headphones would be best. 

As evidenced above there are many pros and many cons as to why and where you would use closed back and open back headphones. One is not better than the other, it is more about where and what you will be using them for that determines which is best for you.  

Before you buy you next pair of headphones you need to think about your environment, the application, the length of time they will be used for and the volume you will be using them at. 


Can I Use Wireless or Bluetooth Headphones in the Studio? 

Although it is feasible to use Bluetooth headphones for some music production tasks, the latency which occurs makes it difficult to record. This is because everything your record be it a note on a midi keyboard or word which you sing will arrive in your headphones at nearly a fifth of a second late. 

This is also the case with Apple Air Pods as the latency makes it nigh-on impossible to record two things at the same time. What they may come in use for is to test the final mix of your track but even then, to hear more of the detail it is advised to use monitor headphones. 


The Best Closed Back Headphone Picks 



Neumann NDH 20 Closed-Back Studio Headphones- £534 

The Neumann NDH 20 are closed-back headphones combining excellent isolation with the carefully balanced sound image and outstanding resolution you’d expect from a Neumann product. The NDH 20 is thus ideally suited to monitoring and mixing tasks, even in loud and noisy environments. Circumaural memory foam ear pads offer high long-term comfort. 



Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Headphones (80 Ohms)- £123 

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Closed-Back Headphones deliver a crisp, articulate sound that has a defined low-end. These lightweight headphones are engineered to deliver a superior sound experience and optimum listening quality in situations where open headphones would be inappropriate. They're designed for critical music and sound monitoring in an open environment. 



RODE NTH-100 Headphones - £99 

The RODE NTH-100s are professional over-ear headphones that deliver exceptional sonic performance and superior comfort for critical listening and monitoring. You won't get tired of wearing them, especially during those long days in the studio or late nights tweaking your mix. 



LAH-220 Professional Monitor Headphones by Lambden Audio- £69 

The LAH-220 Professional Monitor Headphones by Lambden Audio - Unrivalled Clarity, Unmatched Comfort, Unbelievable Value - Experience Every Detail of Your Sound. The LAH-220 closed-back, over-ear headphones are crafted to deliver an immersive audio experience, blending high-fidelity sound and a wide frequency response with a comfortable, user-friendly design. 


The Best Open Back Headphone Picks 



Neumann NDH 30 Open Back Studio Headphones- £539 

The perfect headphones for editing, mixing and mastering, the NDH 30 are circumaural, open-back headphones with outstanding detail resolution and high-precision stereo imaging with razor-sharp localization. Its linear soundstage and superior transient response recommend it for the most demanding applications. 



Austrian Audio Hi-X65 Professional Headphones- £380 

Austrian Audio have created their new Hi-X65 open-back headphones with mixing and mastering in mind. They’re built to satisfy the need for close, precise listening at these critical stages of the audio production process. The same qualities that make them great for professional audio production also make them perfect for audiophiles who appreciate hearing every shade of nuance in the music they love. 



Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones (250 Ohms)- £123 

The DT 990's open diffuse-field system allows the user to be aware of ambient sounds, creating an open spatial feel – important for professionals who require clinically accurate high and midrange reproduction. Due to a weight reduction of the diaphragm an excellent sound reproduction quality is achieved. Its rugged design with a spring steel headband ensures a secure fit and withstands all demands. Soft headband and ear cushioning systems ensure high comfort over long periods of time. 



AKG K240 MkII Headphones- £78 

The semi-open design provides the airiness of open headphones with the powerful bass response of closed designs. For more than three decades, professional engineers and musicians have made the K240 the most widely used headphones in studios and at live consoles around the world.