Recently, I’ve become more interested in having the best gaming experience possible. The first thing I bought was a nice pair of headphones, and they have really improved the way I experience gaming.
Full disclosure: there’s nothing quite like hearing Leeroy Jenkins’s battle cry through crystal clear audio. 🎧 ✨
Completely logical reason to want quality sound aside, open-back headphones have been growing in popularity over the best gaming headset options for their comfort, quality audio, immersive experience, and wearability for long sessions at the screen.
Their design lets air and sound in and out of the earcups, taking the sound from being completely in your head to surrounding you with it. The goal is to feel more connected to the game by feeling like you’re actually in its world.
To help you find the perfect pair of open-back gaming headphones for your specific setup and goals, we’ve rounded up five of our favorites that emphasize quality audio, comfort, durability, and value for an elevated gaming experience.
Top 5 Open Back Gaming Headphones
When choosing the best open-back headphones for gaming below, we took a lot of possibilities into consideration. However, the main factors we used to pick our top 5 were a combination of audio, comfort, durability, and value (as described above) and how each pair could meet the goals for different gamers with different budgets and needs.
To boot, all of the selections are compatible with PC and can be used as PlayStation 4 headsets, Xbox One headsets, and for Nintendo Switch as well. Therefore, the options below include the all-around best recommendation, the best pair based on quality, the best pair based on value, the best wireless pair, and the best pair for players on a budget.
Best Choice: beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
Pros & Cons
- Elite sound quality
- Prioritizes comfort while resting firmly on the head
- Sleek, open-construction design
- Affordable pricing for high-quality gaming headphones
- The sound may leak at high volumes
- More intense sound impact with higher and lower notes
- The impedance of 250 Ohm
- Frequency Response of 5 to 35,000 Hz
- Steel headband for a secure fit
- Velour earpads for maximum comfort
- Weight – 1.3 lbs
- Cable Length – 3 meters
- Jack Plug – 3.5mm (6.3 mm adaptor included)
- Color – Black frame with gray ear pads
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Review
If you’re looking for quality open-back headphones at a reasonable price, and you want something eye-catching and sharp that still feels comfortable, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO headphones are a great choice.
These headphones are known for being worn by the likes of Fortnite streamer Ninja and YouTuber jacksepticeye, and for good reason. In particular, the open construction design and silver velour earcups make this set have a really sharp aesthetic.
The aesthetic isn’t the only sharp thing about these, though. Beyerdynamic is known for making comfortable and high-quality headphones, and the DT 990 PRO are no exception. One of the best things about this set is the price. For what you’re getting, $139 is beyond reasonable.
Naturally, there are a few cons here. The first to be aware of is that, because of the open-air design, your sound will leak at higher volumes, so you wouldn’t be able to use these on the bus, and certainly not at the library. If you are around other people a lot, I would recommend looking at some of the best noise canceling headphones instead (for sanity purposes).
Secondly, these babies are powerful, to a point where the really high and really low notes will sound sharper and deeper, respectively, than what you might be used to. However, for many, this doesn’t take too long to adjust to. In conclusion, if you have an average budget and are fine with getting great quality, but not the best available, this set really seems to do the trick.
Premium Pick: Sennheiser HD 650
Pros & Cons
- Extraordinary Sound Quality
- High Transient Response Promises an Immersive Gaming Experience
- Comes with a Free 2-Year Warranty
- Lightweight and Comfortable
- High Quality is Reflected in the Price
- More Quality than Necessary for the Casual Gamer
- The impedance of 300 Ohm
- Frequency Response 10 to 39,500 Hz
- Total Harmonic Distortion of 0.05%
- Lightweight aluminum voice coils for high-quality transient response
- Weight – 0.57 lbs
- Cable Length – 3 meters
- Jack Plug – 3.5 mm (6.3 mm adaptor included)
- Color – Titanium/Silver
Sennheiser HD 650 Review
The long and the short of it is that Sennheiser headphones are often the best open-back headphones available on the market– hence, the HD 650 being our choice for the highest-quality pair.
Sennheiser totes this set as “a true audiophile headphone”, which is pretty hard to disagree with. The HD 650 headphones have very little handling noise, about as low of a total harmonic distortion percentage as possible, and an impedance of 300 Ohm with a massive range of Hz frequency response.
A pretty special feature of note is the aluminum voice coils used to achieve a quick transient response, which means really clear, snappy sound in relation to the time it takes to produce it.
So, what’s not to love? Honestly, the worst thing about this pair, if you haven’t guessed it already, is that they’re spendy. As of 2020, the HD 650 is priced at $319, a little under $200 more than our “best choice” option.
However, a lot of headphones this high-quality might run you four figures, so although the HD 650 is over $300, its close cousins cost well over $1,000. You are getting a huge bang for your buck.
Also, the quality is so high that it may feel jarring to gamers who haven’t experienced this level of audio. It’s intense, sharp, and will make you feel like you’re in the world of your game. This is all great, but at first, it may be overwhelming. If you’re jumping from a crappy pair of earbuds to these, it’s sort of like going from the junker car you buy at 16 versus a Rolls Royce.
Nevertheless, if your number one concern is quality, this is a great pair to take a look at– you really won’t find anything better under $500. And if you’re an audiophile AND a gamer, this is truly the best of the best.
Best Value: AKG K240STUDIO
Pros & Cons
- Incredible value for a lower price
- Stylish design with gold accents
- Comfortable and lightweight
- Highly durable
- Potential sound leakage
- Lack of sub-bass
- The impedance of 55 Ohm
- Frequency Response 15 to 25,000 Hz
- XXL Transducers
- Self-Adjusting Steel Headband
- Weight – 9.6 oz
- Cable Length – 3m (replaceable)
- Jack Plug – 3.5 mm (6.3mm adaptor included)
- Color – Black and Gold
AKG K240STUDIO Review
Just because you have a small budget doesn’t mean you can’t get a great, stylish, comfortable and durable pair of headphones. The AKG K240STUDIO is a gorgeous set that can compete with other headphones that are $100 or more, even though they’re $63 as of 2020.
The first thing you’re probably going to notice about these is that they look. So. Dang. Cool. These headphones are the audio equivalent of the cool kid in school who somehow didn’t look ridiculous in a leather jacket and shades on a sunny day.
But there’s so much more to this set than just looks– for the price or otherwise, it has really good specs, and it’s still lightweight and comfortable. In fact, this set features a self-adjusting steel headband which will keep the boss battle music coming for however many hours you’re crying about Dark Souls because it’s “rigged” (I hear you).
In contrast with the other pairs featured in this list, the AKG K240STUDIO is only semi-open, so it doesn’t have a fully open back experience. However, you still need to watch out for sound bleeding with this set, unless you want to change the mercy of strangers sitting near you.
This set also doesn’t have much appeal to bass heads, as it doesn’t get the deep, rumbling bass notes, which are crucial to some gamers– especially people who play anything with high-intensity battles, where the bass is prominent. However, the lack of deep sub-bass may be a bonus to some players who get sound fatigue more easily, or who don’t like the rumbling of the sound.
Further, it’s important to stress that these are a great value, but quality-wise, they’re not going to compete with higher Hz frequency ranges and higher Ohm impedance sets. Ultimately, these headphones are a great choice for the gamer who wants quality audio without the quality price tag.
Best Wireless: Sennheiser RS120
Pros & Cons
- Comfortable and versatile
- Competitive price point
- Charging cradle and NiMH batteries included
- Long battery life
- Not fitted to head
- May be sensitive to feedback
- The impedance of 24 Ohm
- Frequency Response 22 to 19500 Hz
- 926 MHz Radio Frequency (Not Bluetooth)
- Range Not Hindered by Walls or Outside Interference
- Weight – 7 oz
- Range – 300 ft
- Battery Life – 20 hours
- Color – Black
Sennheiser RS120 Wireless Review
For a lot of people, the convenience in gaming with wireless headphones is not having to take them off, and not having that annoying wire that is constantly on the wrong place on your arm. We wanted to include a wireless set for the versatility and found a set that aces our other factors as well.
The Sennheiser RS120 is a rarity in being both open back and wireless; however, this set was still made to compete. The set comes with a charging cradle and NiMH batteries, as well as a 2-year warranty.
As far as wireless headphones are concerned, the RS120 has a great battery life of up to 20 hours. It’s also comfortable enough for hours at the screen, but versatile enough to switch from gaming to listening to the radio while you clean the house.
As of 2020, the set is only $79 to boot, which is really reasonable for a set that serves so many purposes. However, the RS120 has its flaws. In particular, it’s not specially fitted to your head, so it’s more likely to slip than the other sets listed.
It’s also important to note that, because of the way audio technology works, this set is more likely to experience issues with feedback. Also, it isn’t Bluetooth– instead, the RS120 has a radio frequency of 926MHz.
There are a ton of other wireless headphone options that would be great for gaming, so if these don’t quite do it for you, check our guide on the best wireless headphones.
If you want a pair of true blue gaming headphones, this may not be the set for you. However, if you need a pair of headphones that can work well in nearly any situation, the Sennheiser RS120 is a wonderful choice.
Best Cheap Pick: Samson SR850
Pros & Cons
- Immersive soundstage
- Affordable for any level of gamer
- Versatility despite the low price
- A great introduction to quality audio
- Sound leakage
- May need stretching to lower clamping force
- Cable not removable
- The impedance of 32 Ohm
- Frequency Response 10 to 30,000 Hz
- 50 mm Drivers
- Self-Adjusting Headband
- Weight – 1.05 lbs
- Cable Length – Unspecified
- Jack Plug – 3.5 mm (6.3mm adaptor included)
- Color – Black
Samson SR850 Review
For the frugal gamer, the Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Headphones is a sound choice, with an impedance and frequency response capable of competing with much pricier headphones. As of 2020, this set is only $40 on Amazon.
The SR850 is a fan favorite as well, featuring comfort, versatility, top-tier soundstage, a self-adjusting headband, and staying fairly lightweight through all of it.
This set does have some sound bleeding, so it’s probably not the best choice for someone who wants to bring their headphones “on the road” with them. It also has a somewhat high clamping force when it arrives, so it’s important to stretch out before wearing them for maximum comfort.
The cable isn’t removable either, which means it’s important to take good care of the set so it can have as much longevity as possible. However, just keeping the set in a safe place will do most of the work for you.
For gamers who are just getting into the audio world, this is a great “starter set” to have. You will probably want to graduate later, although a lot of audiophiles still use this set. The quality is definitely there, but it’s not as elite as the other pairs of headphones mentioned previously.
Ultimately, if you’re an audio snob, this might not be your first choice. However, if you’re looking for a pair of headphones that can get you a better gaming experience for less cash, the Samson RS850 has all the bang for your buck you could ask for.
Open Back Gaming Headphones: Buying Guide
So you’ve decided that open back gaming headphones are the right style for your playtime. However, there’s a lot of technical languages that’s important to understand so that you make the right choice (although it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the candidates listed above). To make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for, we’ve created this buying guide for open back gaming headphones.
Soundstage: The Difference Between “Good” and “Immersive” Audio
A lot of headphones brag about having a quality soundstage– however, that doesn’t mean anything if you have no clue what it is. Surprisingly enough, it’s simpler than it sounds. A soundstage is the “room” around you when you listen to your audio– a good soundstage has directional quality so that you can imagine where in the room an instrument or sound effect would be coming from.
Nothing quite optimizes a gaming experience like directional audio, so when you’re reading through reviews discussing soundstage quality, a great soundstage should be one of the top factors you’re considering.
Ergonomics: Lasting Comfort for Gamers
You’ve probably heard the word ‘ergonomics’ thrown around a lot, but maybe you don’t have a concrete definition for it yet. Unfortunately, it varies from industry to industry and person to person, but in general, ergonomic headphones are headphones that try to make wearing them more comfortable and better for the human body.
Emphasizing ergonomics when choosing open back gaming headphones is important, especially if you have long play sessions. Ergonomic headphones will reduce sound fatigue, encourage healthy posture, and feel comfortable around the ears and head.
Durability: Make the Most of Your Headphone Purchase
The basics of durability in open-back headphones, gaming or otherwise, is a pair that can withstand a lot of use and be resistant to wear and breaking. Durability usually indicates materials like plastic and metal as opposed to the wooden or ceramic material.
Durability is important to look for in a pair of headphones because the more durable your headphones are, the longer you’ll be able to use them, and the more you’ll be able to stretch your dollar. Further, it’s nice to have a durable pair of headphones if you have children or animals in the house that could find a way to get to them, though the best practice is to stow them safely away when not in use.
Best Open Back Gaming Headphones: FAQ
Are open-back headphones better?
Honestly, it’s not possible to objectively say open back or closed-back headphones are better than the other. A lot of the answer depends on your personal preferences. Open-back headphones usually have a better soundstage and can be more comfortable, but sound bleeding is an issue, whereas closed design headphones don’t bleed, but may sacrifice soundstage and comfort.
What is the point of open-back headphones?
Open-back headphones promote a more natural, more realistic sound experience, where the audio feels more “around you” than trapped in your head. Another benefit is relief from ear fatigue, so listeners can listen for longer without repercussions. Because of the benefits of the open-air design, many of the best headphone companies produce open-back headphones for the best listening experience.
Are audiophile quality headphones good for gaming?
Absolutely! In fact, audiophiles and gamers sometimes mix. Being able to hear the world of the game crystal clear and, naturally, paired with similar factors both audiophiles and gamers consider when purchasing headphones, make audiophile-centric headphones great for gaming.
However, if you’re not as invested in hearing every little note down to a finite point, high-end headphones may feel overwhelming. It depends on what you want to feel when you’re gaming.
Which headphones have the best soundstage?
Now that you know the importance of soundstage to gaming, you can probably assume that some of the best are on this list. You assume correctly! All of the options listed have excellent soundstage, but if high-quality soundstage is a deciding factor, I would recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO, the Sennheiser HD 650, or the AKG K240STUDIO.
Which Sennheiser headphones are best for gaming?
Honestly, it’s difficult to go wrong with any of the core Sennheiser lines for open back gaming headphones. However, I would argue that, because of the open back design, the Sennheiser 650 HD is the best headphone set for gaming from Sennheiser in a price range below $1,000. If you’re looking for the best quality Sennheiser available, you might want to read about in our guide on the best headphones.
There are plenty of excellent headphones to choose from, in a countless number of designs and specifications. However, open-back headphones are really something special, and they’re a great purchase for audiophiles and gamers alike.
The most important thing when looking for headphones is to prioritize your specific needs and choose the best pair within your budget. Remember to look for open-back headphones with high durability, a quality soundstage, and an ergonomic fit. Game on!