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Epos h6pro feature 1

Open-Back vs. Closed-Back Headphones: Buyer’s Guide

The differences between open and closed-back headphones seem to be a question on everyone’s mind these days. While the space has seemingly been reserved for audiophile-grade studio headphones in the past, streaming and casual gamers are looking to venture into the open back world for superior acoustics and sound stage. The idea can be a little confusing and daunting if you’re not a veteran audiophile, so when we were offered the chance to test open-back versus closed-back headphones from EPOS we thought it would be the perfect time to explain the differences.

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Epos h6pro open back headphones

Image: EPOS

What are Open-Back Headphones?

Offering the perfect balance between quality acoustics and natural clear tones, open-back headphones are perfect for at-home listening. In our tests, we put the new EPOS H6PRO open acoustic gaming headset up against its closed counterpart and found a few critical differences in audio quality and accuracy.

By design, an open-back headset allows air to pass through the ear cups at the rear of the driver – evident by the mesh grille. The result is less resonance and low-frequency harmonics, excess frequency is dispelled rather than trapped and the sound no longer suffers from poor mixing or blending. While we are by no means testing the absolute best audiophile-grade headphones on the market here (which are almost exclusively open-back and cost thousands of dollars), the new EPOS H6PRO offers all the benefits of an open-backed headset at a reasonable price – gamer or home office worker.

Benefits of Open-Back Headphones

  • Natural sound stage
  • Cooler for extended use
  • Ideal for quiet environments
  • Lighter than closed-back options

In our testing of the new EPOS H6PRO, we found a number of benefits in its open-back configuration when comparing them to the closed-back counterpart in the lineup. In its open-back configuration, the EPOS H6PRO offers a limitless soundstage with natural audio. You won’t find the thumping vibrations that some listeners enjoy with these (maybe for the better). Instead, you’ll find an accurate and detailed tone that allows you to take in the best of the sound on offer.

We tested these open-back headphones in the best and worst possible conditions. When you’re in a quiet space such as a gaming room or studio the open-back headset makes the most sense. The perfect choice for the person who likes to be aware of their surroundings – including streamers who need to hear notifications – they don’t block out the noise around you. You’ll hear pretty much everything that is going on, which can be an inconvenience for those who live in noisy neighbourhoods and office workers who look to block out the chatter from their colleagues. The open-back design also means everyone will be able to hear the music that you’re listening to whether you (or they) like it or not.

Outside of the sound itself, the headphones are a little lighter in the open-back configuration which we enjoyed – coming in at 309 grams (13 grams lighter than closed-back). Surprisingly, while we are used to gaming headsets getting a little hot during extended use, the open-back configuration prevented heat from building up within the earcups. We also found ourselves mitigating our personal voice volumes far greater as you can hear yourself speak much better, something that would be perfect for streamers.

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Epos h6pro closed back feature

Image: EPOS

What are Closed-Back Headphones?

Closed-back headphones are what you probably own right now. They’re completely sealed around the driver and earcup meaning less sound leakage and an isolated experience from the outside world. As the drivers are sealed inside the closed compartments, the audio is less ‘natural-sounding’ and more controlled in terms of frequency. You’ll hear a lot more at either end of the audio spectrum with deeper basslines and harsher highs as less sound escape from the earcups.

Before you go a write-off the closed-back headphones, it’s worth mentioning that this style does suit some listeners. Those who enjoy bass-heavy music, as well as those who enjoy genres such as hardstyle, house and other EDM might actually prefer the more intense listening experience that closed-back headphones offer. So let’s check out the benefits.

Benefits of Closed-Back Headphones

  • Commuting
  • Noise isolation
  • The sound stage is more pronounced but less natural.
  • Perfect for office workers

Perfect for scenarios where sound leakage might be of concern, closed-back headphones are best suited for the listener who doesn’t have access to a perfectly quiet space. In our testing of the EPOS H6PRO in closed back configuration the sound was accurately described as being slightly more pronounced in the upper and lower ends of the frequency range, not a problem for us personally as we’re big fans of hip-hop and RnB music, however, slightly less enjoyable when gaming and playing sports games such as NBA 2K22 where the crowd felt far more ‘alive’ with the open-back option.

Thanks to a detachable boom arm the EPOS H6PRO can be used as simply a pair of headphones when you leave the house for the day. If commuting to work is part of your daily agenda then the closed-back option is your only logical choice. Noise isolation prevents sound from the outside from getting in, as well as music leaking from the headphones themselves to other people nearby. It’s worth noting that the earcups of the H6PRO are extremely comfortable, but they also trap a little bit of heat and can get uncomfortable during extended listening sessions.

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Epos h6pro verdict

Image: EPOS

Open-Back vs. Closed-Back Headphones Verdict

In practice, unless you’re using your headphones in a quiet space you’ll have no choice but to opt for a pair of closed-back headphones – and that’s far from a bad thing. Our tests revealed that under most applications we actually preferred the sound coming from the closed-back version of the EPOS H6PRO as we’re not lucky enough to be afforded a completely silent space when gaming and listening to music. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t prefer the open-back headset, however, it’s completely situational and that’s the main thing to consider when deciding between the two.

We suggest you consider the specific scenarios you will be using the headphones before committing. If they’re going to sit next to your computer or gaming console in a quiet room of the house we’d highly recommend opting for the open-back EPOS H6PRO, however, if you plan on detaching the boom mic and gaming or listening to music on the go the closed-back is the only logical option. Both pairs offer great audio quality, so don’t feel like you’re missing out in that respect as each can only perform to its maximum if given the right circumstances.

Check it out (Open-Back) Check it out (Closed-Back)

Epos h6pro open back expanded

Image: EPOS

What We Tested

In our testing, we compared two identical models. This allowed us to accurately compare the sound capabilities between the two configurations. We chose the new EPOS H6PRO line, a gaming headset that is offered in a closed-back and open-back setup. All information below is provided thanks to EPOS.

Model
259 AUD
Studio-quality microphone
Noise cancellation
Lift-to-mute
Detachable mic boom
Elongated (optimal voice pick-up)
Studio-quality microphone
Noise cancellation
Lift-to-mute
Detachable mic boom
Elongated (optimal voice pick-up)
Comfortability and Fit
Colour Options

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About the author

About the author
STAFF WRITER

Ben McKimm

Ben lives in Sydney, Australia. He has a Bachelor's Degree (Media, Technology and the Law) from Macquarie University (2020). Outside of his studies, he has spent the last decade heavily involved in the sneaker, automotive, technology and fashion world. Turning his passion and expertise into a Staff Writers role at Man of Many where he continues to write about everything that interests the modern man. Conducting car reviews on both the road and track, hands-on reviews of cutting-edge technology and employs a vast knowledge in the space of fashion and sneakers to his work. One day he hopes to own his own brand.