Written by Lisette

What is the difference between open and closed headphones?

When you're in the market for a new par of headphones, you need to decide between an open design, a closed design, or a semi-open design. A closed design blocks both sound from the outside and inside, while an open design allows sound to pass through. That's why a closed design is more suitable for use in a noisy environment, while an open design is more suitable for use at home and the studio. A semi-open design combines both the advantages and disadvantages of both other models. You can read all about it in this article.

The different designs

Closed design

Closed design

The most headphones, by far, feature a closed design. This closed design ensures that you're blocked off from all outside sound. They also work the other way around: sound can't make its way outside of the headphones. This way, you can fully immerse yourself in your music without bothering anyone. A headset with a closed design is especially useful when you're listening to music in noisy surroundings, on the street, in public transport, or in the office. In a closed design, it's easier to build pressure compared to an open design, which leads to a better bass. The disadvantage of a closed design is that your ears might start aching faster, while the music sounds less spacious.

Open design

Open design

Headsets with an open design allow both internal and external sound to pass through. This is why they aren't suitable for noisy environments. Instead, headsets with an open design are suitable for use at home or in the studio. Sound engineers often use headsets with an open design because they produce a sound that's closest to the sound produced by speakers. It sounds true to nature and spacious without an exaggerated bass. When you're recording vocals in the studio, it's best to choose a closed design. This prevents any sound from leaking towards the microphone. Nevertheless, an open design prevents pressure from building up on your ears, so you wear it longer.

Semi-open design

Semi-open design

A headset with a semi-open design combines the advantages of an open and closed design. With a semi-open design, you're not fully closed off from the outside world, while the music still sounds true to nature, without any exaggerated frequencies. This is why semi-open headphones are suitable for use in the studio. When you're recording drums or a guitar in the studio, a semi-open design can be convenient because you'll be able to hear your own music.


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