How to Choose a Closed-Back Headphone – An In-depth Look At What You Should Consider

Closed-back headphones are the most common type of headphones. With their full sound and great bass response, they appeal to electronic, rock, and hip-hop music fans. But there’s more to this type than just great sound.

They come in various styles and forms, each with its own benefits. There’s an abundance of options for closed-back headphones, but it isn’t enough to just choose based on the look or sound. This article offers advice on how to buy the closed-back headphones that best match your needs.

What to Look for When Buying a Closed-Back Headphone

Besides the things that you should consider when buying any regular pair of headphones, closed-back headphones also have some unique considerations.

When buying a closed-back headphone, you’ll want to pay close attention to the following:

Noise level isolation

Noise level isolation is tough to assess without testing the headphones, but websites like RTings offer databases with information on the level of noise attenuation provided by closed-back headphones.

With higher noise attenuation headphones, you’re less likely to hear your surrounding and the sound of your music leaking through to the outside world, but that’s not all.

A fully insulated closed-back headset means an air tight seal and protection from hearing damage from loud external noises, and, as the sounds are absorbed by the material of the earpads, more heat is generated.

Earpad material

The material that covers the earcups plays a crucial role in the fit and comfort of headphones. Not all ear cushions are created equal, and some materials may be more desirable to you, depending on your needs. A variety of materials can be used, including leather, synthetic leather, fabric, velvet, etc.

The result is better sound insulation, comfort and wears out slower, meaning they don’t become uncomfortable as quickly due to the density of the foam.

Some people prefer velour earpads because they can breathe better and have a softer feel, but those are much better on open-back headphones. On the other hand, leather earpads tend to get hotter but provide fuller sound quality and a superior acoustic seal.

Headband style

A simple headband is a slick way to finish off a set of headphones. However, padded headbands aren’t the only types of headbands that can provide comfort.

  • Self-adjustable headbands are a great way to ensure evenly balanced weight distribution for maximum comfort.
  • A dual headband similar to the Sennheiser HD 25 II is a great way to get the best of both worlds for those who do a lot of DJ mixing with closed-back headphones and don’t like self-adjusting headbands.

The material used to make the headband is another important factor. Plastic, metal, leather, and fabric are common materials used to make headbands.

But the frame is usually made of plastic or metal. The function of the frame is to provide support for the headband when the headphones are supported and worn.

Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages, so choosing what is best for you depends on your style preferences, comfort levels, and usage is important.

Metal tends to be more durable, but sometimes this comes at the expense of weight. Plastic is usually lighter than metal but can creak if not well-made.

Comfort and aesthetics

You should also be comfortable with the headphone’s comfort (headband size and ear pads) and if they fit your lifestyle and aesthetic requirements.

The comfort level is determined by the headphone's weight, clamping force, sealing, and weight distribution.

Closed-back headphones with large, round earpads like the DT 770 Pro are incredibly comfortable as they have more surface area and a natural shape that fits the average ear.

However, people with smaller ears might find the pads a bit too large and not offer a good seal. On-ear headphones like the JBL Tune 500BT or Marshall Major II are more adequate in that case.

Don’t forget compatibility with your device’s audio jack: wired or wireless!

Bluetooth codecs include "SBC," "AAC," and the newest supported codec is the "aptX." The aptX codec uses less CPU power as it does not require audio data decoding. 

The same thing goes for wired headphones; closed-back studio headphones with 6.3 mm connectors are commonly compatible with home audio equipment, DJ equipment, and professional sound production but won’t work with day-to-day devices without an adapter.

If you’re looking for headphones that will work with your day-to-day device, then look for headphones that have a 3.5 mm or 2.5 mm connector. If you want to use your headphones for personal audio or video recording, consider closed-back headphones with a 1/4″ connector.

Other Aspects to Take into Consideration When Purchasing a Pair of Closed Headphones

What’s your budget?

If you’re looking for a cheap, decent-sounding pair of headphones, don’t pick up any old ones from your local mall or electronics store. You’ll be stuck with bad sound quality and poor design for most of their lifespan.

No matter the price, closed-back headphones deserve every penny. They're more affordable than open-back as they're more heavily produced, lack the grills that let air in and out, and the extra processing.

Still, you don’t have to stick with the cheapest pair on the shelves to get good-quality closed headphones. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 32 Ohm for around $100 and ATH-M20X for around $50 are among the best all-around closed-back studio headphones in the industry for professional activities and music listening at home.

Studio headphones are fantastic for recording and provide great quality for the money for casual users. The best of all, you don’t have to spend a fortune on them to get good sound quality.

Still, if you’re in the market for a pair of high-fidelity closed-back headphones, there are plenty of options. But not all of them offer excellent performance for the money, which is why we suggest you read our article on the best audiophile headphones under $1000.

What size and shape of headphones do you prefer?

There are three types of headphones: on-ear, over-ear, and in-ear. Compared to in-ear headphones, over-ear headphones provide better noise isolation and comfort as they have large ear cups. This, however, might not be a good choice if you don’t want to block out the entire world around you.

Do any of the headsets come with different types of earpads or cushions?

Another critical feature to consider is if the headphones come with multiple types of earpads. Some headphone models come with a pair of leatherette and velour earpads for the consumer to choose from, but most only offer one type of earpad.

When buying closed-back headphones, you’re likely interested in their ability to block out ambient noise. You might be interested in a good pair of closed-back headphones with leather on the ear pads as they provide better sound acoustic isolation, comfort, and durability.

Will you be using your headphones for gaming or listening to music?

If you’re going to use your headphones for gaming, choose closed-back headsets as they do a better job of blocking out ambient noise than open-back models. However, keep in mind that not all closed gaming headsets provide a similar level of sound insulation.

Closed-back in-ear gaming headphones offer an additional advantage as they isolate even better than their over-ear counterparts, but they might not be the best option for music. And for gaming, while the latency is lower, you might experience some interruptions at times.

Do you plan on using your headphones for travel?

If you plan on traveling with your headphones, then wireless models with a closed design are the best option. These headphones block out ambient noise and may have an active function for noise reduction called Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), but most importantly, they provide a comfortable fit for long flights, train, or bus rides.

A good example of wireless ANC headphones is the Bose QuietComfort 35, which are by far some of the most lightweight and comfortable headphones that use noise cancellation that is actually effective, eliminating unwanted ambient noises in the mid-range; people talking near you, the engine of a plane, and so on will be less audible.

Buying Closed-Back Headphones FAQ

How do closed headphones isolate the listener from outside noise?

According to the principle of acoustics, a closed headphone stops the transmission of sound waves from the outside to the inside of the headphone through acoustic insulation materials. The level of sound attenuation depends entirely on the properties of the material used to make it and its thickness. A good seal is also important to achieve isolation from external noise.

What is a good seal?

The seal of the ear cups is an essential factor in the comfort and sound quality of closed-back headphones. A good seal provides better sound isolation and reproduces music with the optimal sound response for which the headphones have been tuned.

Should I buy a closed-back headset for comfort or sound quality?

Both. The comfort of closed-back headphones is often a deciding factor, as they are generally more comfortable to wear on your ears than on-ear headphones, which, despite the weight differences, tend to get tight on your ears after a while.
Comfort alone is a good reason to buy closed-back headphones. Still, the sound is even more important, as closed-back headphones are better and offer a vibrant sound with more body, which is better for enjoying modern music and anything that requires punchy bass.

What’s the difference between closed-back and open-back headphones?

There are two major differences between closed-back headphones and open-back headphones: First, an open-back headset allows air to flow freely in and out of the earcups. Second, open-back headphones generally weigh less than their closed-back counterparts because they contain less material.

Are there closed-back in-ear monitors or headphones?

Sure, some in-ear monitors have vents that allow some air to pass through. Their purpose is to reduce the sensation of sound pressure in exchange for a more natural sound and deeper bass. Still, some models don’t employ the vents, and they are sold as sound isolating in-ear headphones. In addition, the seal offered by closed-back in-ear headphones is generally better than that offered by its on-ear counterpart, mainly because the seal is formed by the ear canal and not the ear cups.

Conclusion

Headphones are the most personal piece of equipment that we have. They can either make or break our listening experience. Closed-back headphones, however, are the best option for most of us as they offer the best sound isolation and durability in their respective category.

There are many options available in the market for headphones. The best advice is to narrow down your preferences and decide what you want most for your purchase. We hope that this guide has helped you along the way.

In the end, buying the right closed-back headphone may be a personal preference. But there are times when we want to wear headphones, whether it’s the gym, on the train, or even during sleep-time. If you’re in the market for closed-back headphones that provide comfort and sound quality, consider these tips when choosing your new headphones.

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