Have you ever wondered why more and more serious gamers are turning to open-backed headphones?
It’s totally understandable that you might be curious, with claims about how the best open-back headphones for gaming can really up anybody’s gameplay, as well as make the whole gaming experience more fun and enjoyable in many ways.
So today let’s look into the best open-back headphones for gamers, with a quick explanation of what they are and how they compare with their closed-back counterparts, why they are so great for gaming, and finally a list of our 9 (or so) top picks of open-backed headphones for gaming in 2023.
But if you need to get back to the game, and don’t have time for all the chatting, here is our top recommendation:
- Signature Sound Dynamics -Engineered For...
- Noise-Canceling Microphone - The Flexible...
- Open Acoustics - The Classic High-End Open...
- Quick Volume Adjusting – An Integrated...
- Open back design keeps head cool while...
Open-Back Headphones vs Closed-Back
What Are Open-Back Headphones?
Just as the name suggests, open-back headphones have a back that’s, well, open.
What does this really mean, though? Well, the outward-facing surface of these ‘phones – the surface that points away from the head – is not a solid sheet of material, like plastic, but instead a kind of open mesh.
As a result, music and sound will not just go into your ear canals, but also in the other direction and into the surrounding room (or annoy your fellow bus passengers – not the best option for commuters!).
Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, are solid and sealed on that outer plane and will create a kind of acoustical seal when you’re wearing them. They will not allow any sound or air to travel in that direction – only towards your ears.
If you want more details, we have a full article about this.
What Are the Advantages of Open-Back Headphones?
In addition to bugging those around you, open-backed headphones have lots of other advantages. They have very spacious, open, and precise imaging and soundstage, they have accurate and often disarmingly beautiful sound quality, they tend to be very low distortion and their dynamic energy can be astounding.
Open backs also tend to be very comfortable. They are often large but quite light, and their open design lets them breathe beautifully, letting you wear them for a long time without overheating or sweating, and without pain or discomfort.
Since lots of people use headphones for commuting, or in spaces with other people, open-backed designs may not be an option, and indeed closed-back systems are far more popular overall, but open backs are still the weapon of choice for so many audiophiles – and they are becoming a huge thing in gaming circles as well!
Why are Open-Back Headphones So Great for Gaming?
Really, for the same reasons we just mentioned:
- Imaging – a pair of open-back headphones will typically have much larger, more accurate, and precise imaging, offering a truly immersive and realistic soundstage and allowing for extremely precise placement of characters and all action – crucial for gaming at the highest levels
- Sound Quality – the best open-back headphones have ease and low distortion – brought about by the lack of pressure on the headphones’ sound diaphragm – that lets sounds come through with incredible detail and accuracy. All sounds – footsteps, triggers, different voices, or anything – are more quickly and easily heard, and can be immediately and correctly identified.
- Comfort – the way an open design allows air to flow in and out can be a big advantage for long gaming sessions – or even for short ones – in how it keeps your ears and head cooler and less sweaty. Open backs are lighter, too, and so they are not just more comfortable, and more enjoyable, but can increase concentration and energy.
There are a lot of other advantages as well, including the high standards of material and construction quality of open-backed headphones, which tend to be premium-level products (though not always that expensive).
But one of the most important things, for certain gamers at least, is that open-air headphones also make for the best music listening experience, with truly audiophile-level performance and often ravishingly beautiful sound.
Who Makes the Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming?
What are the best open-backs at various price levels?
Here at Speakergy we’ve tried a lot of different open-back headphones, and have a great idea of which offer the best performance, the best sound, the best material and build quality, and the best value.
We will offer our 9 top picks here in order of price, from the lowest to the highest, but whichever pair of open-back headphones you choose, I’m confident that you’ll absolutely love them – the way they sound, the way they feel, the way they improve your game and increase your enjoyment.
So yeah, let’s get into it, with our recommendations for the best open-back design headphones for gaming in 2023!
The Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming
Best Open-Back Gaming Headphones Around $50
- Professional studio Reference semi-open...
- Proprietary large 50mm drivers with rare...
- Circumaural, over-ear, design with velour...
- Self-adjusting headband for optimal fit
- 1/4" Stereo Adapter included
Let’s open this 2023 buyer’s guide for the best open-back gaming headset systems with an all-consuming question – can you find a good and recommendable pair of open-back headphones for gaming for under fifty dollars?
Sadly, no, not so much.
In fact, even if we expanded our scope, forgot about “best” and included junky, terrible-sounding pieces of refuse, could we find really any open-backed headphones for gaming under $50? Yeah, still no…
But don’t worry, because it’s Samson to the rescue! A brilliant pair of audio headphones, with a surprisingly high level of fit and finish real material quality and durability, and staggeringly good sound quality (and not just for this price), the Samson SR850 has become the darling of budget-minded audiophiles all around the world.
And the 850s are also becoming more and more recognized and used by gamers as well, especially since their open-back design gives them just what they want and need – wide-open soundstage and solid, stable, and precise imaging, an excellent representation of movement, superior dynamics, and changes in the levels of energy and volume, powerful deep bass, smooth, extended highs and amazing accuracy in the all-important middle frequencies.
But let’s face the cold, hard facts: These are just a touch under fifty bucks, but they do not include a microphone, and by the time you throw one in they are a bit above our theoretical budget.
They are, though, truly superb headphones for music and for gaming, and the brilliant Fifine USB Condenser Microphone, or even the slightly cooler Blue Snowball, is one of the best values we’ve ever seen.
Best Open-Back Gaming Headphones Around $100
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- Durable Connections The headphone’s drivers...
- The HE400SE’s high sensitivity makes it the...
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Funny thing – with a ton of good and even great headphones in this meaty around-one-hundred-dollar price range, the best gamers by far are not even designed for gaming!
The HiFiMan HE400se open-back headphones are, rather, designed and perfectly tuned for music, and are considered by so many to be the best true audiophile ‘phones by far at this level, and an almost unbelievable bargain.
And these same attributes that have made these big, beautiful cans such a legend among budget audiophiles make them perfect for gaming – superbly open and accurate soundstage and hyper-precise imaging and motion, incredible detail and accuracy, and realistic reproduction of all sounds, real dynamic energy, deep, powerful bass and tonal beauty all the way up and down their wide frequency range.
Ok, if you throw in a decent mic, like the fantastic and cheap Fifine USB Condenser Microphone (see our Bonus Section below), you are a good bit over a hundred dollars, but you will end up with a truly superb gaming setup and one of the best values for imaginable.
As a smart alternative at a very slightly lower price, you may also want to consider the award-winning Philips SHP9600, with a brighter overall character which can make hearing smaller and more subtle sounds easier for some people, and which many prefer for music as well. Not as refined or sweetly musical, perhaps, as the HiFiMan, but another real legend among value-seeking hi-fi enthusiasts and music lovers.
The 9600 also comes without a really usable microphone, and while you can find bundles on Amazon and elsewhere which include an attachable boom mic, you would do much better with something like the same Fifine USB Condenser Microphone we recommend for the HE400SE.
Best Open-Back Gaming Headphones Around $150
- Note : If the size of the earbud tips does...
I have been lucky enough to use a couple of different generations of the beloved Astro A40 gaming headphones pretty extensively, and I have to say that their wonderful combination of clarity and accuracy, incredible spatial representation, and comfort make them a real joy to use, and seems to lead every time to successful gaming – well, maybe not every time, but I can’t really put that on the ‘phones…
The Astro Gaming A40 TR X-Edition gaming headphones have a brilliant and, as far as I know, unique feature that allows you to convert them from open back to closed-back design, using the A40 TR Mod Kit (optional and sold separately). With their backs open they exhibit all of the traits that we love, and that is so perfect for gaming: huge, wide open, and highly precise imaging and sound field, high levels of accurate and realistic detail, effortless and exciting dynamic energy, and the kind of comfort closed backs can’t come close to.
But if you are in a noisy environment, or can’t be too noisy yourself (is it just me, or do more and more of our gaming buds suddenly have a baby sleeping in the next room?), you can close the backs with the optional kit. You will lose some of the size and openness of imaging, and the sound does kind of tighten up a bit, but you will get a little more volume with the same power, and arguably a slight increase in bass energy (if not bass extension) as well.
Either way, you go, these are amazing gaming headphones for the money – clearly made by gamers for gaming, accurate, dynamic and exciting, comfortable, durable, and very well made and easy recommendation!
Our Favorite Open-Back Gaming Headphones
- Signature Sound Dynamics -Engineered For...
- Noise-Canceling Microphone - The Flexible...
- Open Acoustics - The Classic High-End Open...
- Quick Volume Adjusting – An Integrated...
- Open back design keeps head cool while...
When people ask my recommendation for the best gaming headset unless they absolutely have to have a closed-back system I always go to the Game One.
Yeah, I am a bit of a Sennheiser man, and I have to admit that I find the warm and sweet nature of most Sennheiser cans not only delicious for music listening, but ideal as well for long gaming sessions without fatigue or discomfort – of course, as we’ve mentioned, and with these Epos Game Ones, in particular, the open design also greatly helps in this regard.
But if it were just sweet musicality, or the lack of headache and/or sweaty ears, well, that’s not really enough, is it? But with the Epos Sennheiser Game One, you get a pair of headphones that are unmatched at this price level for the retrieval and accurate reproduction of all sounds, allowing for incredibly easy and confident identification of game cues and action. If you have ever been confused by what a sound is, or might be, or even missed important game cues entirely, be ready to enter a whole new world!
Speaking of detail, accuracy, and confident identification, the super clear and detailed microphone that comes with the Ones, with great voice pickup and rejection of spurious noises, and amazing dynamic range, is a real bonus – but then Sennheiser has been as well known for mics as for headphones over the last almost 80 (!!) years.
But back to the headphones themselves, the soundstage is stunning – not just big and wide, and etched with almost holographic clarity and accuracy, but so believable and so easy to fall into – thanks in large part to that famous Sennheiser accuracy and low distortion, but also in the way not just space, but movement in that space, is so effortlessly represented.
I have played with much more expensive headphones, both closed and open back, and often from very famous and highly regarded companies, and an amazing number of them don’t really come close to these very affordable Epos Sennheiser Game One. Even if your budget is a little lower, and these are a bit of a stretch, you will never regret it!
Incredible Sound, Incredible Value – A Hidden Gem!
- Frequency Response - 20 Hz - 20.000 Hz and...
- Connector type: Mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm...
- Headphones Form Factor: Full size
- Connectivity technology Wired | Detachable
A bit of an overlooked classic in the gaming world, the Audio Technica ATHPDG1 is actually one of the most enjoyable sets of headphones we’ve ever tried. They have a bright, lively sound that is really fun and engaging, and they present all game cues and sounds loud and clear, making everything very easy to notice and recognize.
With its deep and powerful bass, the ATHPDG1 is also a bit of an intense listen and can make games and gaming a lot more exciting. Add to this the fully immersive nature of their huge and uncannily accurate soundstage, with razor-sharp imaging and impeccable sense of time and motion, and these Audio-Technica let you fall into the game more deeply – and more successfully – than almost anything else in this range.
And you can stay there as long as you want – the strong and rigid frame, real leather pads and ultra-plush padding, and especially the open-backed design, let you forget the headphones and play for hours and hours without fatigue or discomfort.
Throw in a superb boom microphone (which they do), that has excellent pick-up and noise rejection, can handle even the loudest outbursts, and offers sound as clear and accurate as of the ‘phones themselves, and it all adds up to one of our favorite gaming headphones period, and an easy pick for the best open-back gaming headset at this price!
Best Open-Back Gaming Headphones Around $250
- Headphones with Excellent space and balanced...
- Large diaphragm Microphone with integrated...
- Two gain settings for different source...
- Exceptional comfort headphone.Velour ear pads...
- Both products are made with high quality...
With the beyerdynamic Team Tygr bundle, which includes both the Tygr 300R headphones and the Fox microphone, we find a setup that is suitable for even the highest level gaming, and which represents one of the greatest values on the market.
Although they can sound fantastic with music, especially with their slamming deep bass and incredible dynamic energy, the Tygr is actually optimized for gameplay, with incredible levels of detail and a bright, clear sound that makes any and all action – even the softest and most subtle sounds – almost spookily easy to hear and identify.
The Tygr is also ultra-comfortable for long gaming sessions, with its light, open architecture, velour earpads, and perfectly designed heavily padded band. Even the soundstage is enhanced to make placing and following game sounds easier and more accurate, and action more engaging and realistic – it’s actually pretty amazing how they not only up to your game but make the game much more fun as well.
And it should not go without saying that the Fox mic is also really top tier, with superb sound, very low distortion, reliable and highly accurate pickup, incredible dynamic range (and the ability to easily handle even the most intense rants and raves), and real material quality and durability.
Maybe not the best headphones for audiophiles, but with their bright signature and enhanced imaging, the Tygrs actually sound amazing with electronica, rap, hip hop, rock, pop, and all kinds of dance music. But they are really all about the game, and at this price level, they are the best we’ve ever used!
Best Open-Back Gaming Headphones Around $500
- Reference class open back, dynamic headphone...
- Transducers are hand selected for precise (1...
- 150 ohm nominal impedance allows direct...
- Para aramid reinforced, detachable cables...
- Supplied with two connection cables: One with...
The king of audiophile headphones, the Sennheiser HD660 is the latest iteration in what is surely the most popular and successful line of headphones for audio purists. They are pricey, yes, but represent one of the great headphone values on the market today, and are truly loved by anybody lucky enough to have a pair.
But what is just starting to occur to lots of us is that they are also an ideal set of high-end gaming headphones – not absurdly expensive, but premium enough that performance, engineering and design, materials and build quality can be expected to be at the very highest levels.
And they are, with a fully immersive sound stage that is absolutely enormous, incredibly accurate and perfectly proportioned, and an infallible sense of both placement and movement. Tonal accuracy is also first-rate and allows gamers to always hear and identify things without any delay or excess processing.
Combined with deep, powerful bass, palpable mids, extended high frequencies, and superior reproduction of detail and dynamics, no headphones anywhere near this price bring you more into the game or sound better doing so.
For focus, game performance, long-term comfort, and even enjoyment, the Sennheiser HD660 headphones are as good as it gets and receives our highest recommendation.
And for music? Well, in truth many audiophiles who have tried these and, for example, the two uber-spendy models below, actually prefer the Sennheisers, which have a warm, sweet musicality that always sounds just perfect, and has made them a true hi-fi legend.
Best Open-Back Gaming Headphones Around $1000
- The reissue of our vintage original model,...
- Incredible bass response due to the 100mm...
- Our exclusive glass-infused nylon rings are...
- Comes with our new steel suspension headband...
- Hand crafted in California: Every LCD-X...
A slightly less insane alternative to the best-of-the-best Focal Clear below, these Audeze LCD-2 headphones are known for their incredibly crisp, clear, and bright sound and their perfect retrieval and presentation of detail and micro-detail. And the open architecture is so perfectly engineered and designed, and so perfectly physically realized, that the sense of space and the immersive sound world is markedly superior to even the best less expensive ‘phones.
For immediate, confident, and accurate recognition and identification of all sounds and game cues, and for being able to instantly locate and follow those sounds with absolute precision and, again, absolute confidence, the Audeze LCD-2 may be on the same level as the Focals.
Yes, the hyper-expensive Focal Clear do have a more lovely sound for music listening, but that’s debatable, and lots of ardent audiophiles who prefer a crisper and brighter sound signature swear by these still quite pricey LCD-2, or their bigger brother, the astonishing LCD-X, calling them the best and most accurate headphones you can buy – and even (remember, we audiophiles are a little crazy) an amazing value!
Best Open-Back Gaming Headphones Overall
- Perforated microfibre earpads: extended...
- Headband covered with leather and microfibre
- 'M'-shaped grille following the curve of the...
- Solid aluminum yoke which molds to your face...
- Honeycomb grille for even more open sound
The finest and best-sounding headphones on our list, and surely among the best audiophile gear of any kind on the market today, the Focal Clear offer unparalleled tonal accuracy and beauty.
But while the musical beauty is breathtaking, for our purposes as gamers the accuracy is even more important – to hear the faintest sounds and immediately know exactly what they are, and whether to react or ignore them. No gaming headphone we’ve ever tried is even close, and certainly, none can bring any gamer to this level of confidence and success.
The imaging and the sense of time and space are also at a whole different level with these Focal Clear open-back headphones, which cast a huge and perfectly scaled sound field with absolute precision, and portray motion as correctly and convincingly as position. Indeed, the sense of actual physical movement and placement is surreal, and can at times be a bit trippy – even distracting until you get used to it, at which point it offers what could almost be considered an unfair advantage.
An expensive bit of gear, with superb materials and construction quality and an absolutely beautiful look and feel, the Focal Clear is legendary for accuracy as much as musicality. Sure, it’s hard to justify such an investment, unless you are a top-tier professional streamer (or simply demand the finest), but there is no question that these Clears, coupled with a great mic like the HyperX QuadCast USB Condenser Gaming Microphone, are the best of the best!
Bonus Section – Best Microphones for Gaming, and the Best of Both Worlds!
Some of our top pics for the best gaming headsets with open-back designs are actually designed for music, and so they don’t have microphones built-in. They are such outstanding products for gaming, though, and also incredible for music listening, so we definitely needed to include them.
But yeah, no microphones.
And for sure, gaming microphones should get their own buyer’s guide – or a few different buyer’s guides, maybe – but we’d still like to mention a few outstanding models to go with those particular headphones.
This way you can get truly top-notch gaming performance and a stunning musical listening experience, and have a mic that is just as good – for gaming and for, you know, bragging about your new headphones…
So here are the lucky seven top choices, from most to least expensive – not in order of preference, necessarily, but – of course – we all know the HyperX QuadCast rules all!
- HyperX QuadCast USB Condenser Gaming Microphone
- Blue Yeti USB Microphone
- Razer Seiren X USB Streaming Microphone
- HyperX SoloCast USB Condenser Gaming Microphone
- Razer Seiren Mini USB Streaming Microphone
- Blue Snowball iCE Plug ‘n Play USB Microphone
- UFifine USB Metal Condenser Recording Microphone
Thanks for reading our latest article – Best Open Back Headphones For Gaming: A Full Buyer’s Guide for 2023 – and make sure to check out the Speakergy website for lots of other great buyer’s guides, tutorials, and informational articles.