Blog

What is the Difference Between Open-Back & Closed-Back Headphones?

Whether you’re a music fanatic whose ears are constantly occupied with sweet sounds of your favorite tunes, or a professional sound engineer/DJ with high standards, choosing the right headphones can be a mind-boggling experience. Especially today in the 21st century when there are literally thousands of manufacturers, each offering a different set of headphones in various shapes and sizes. But let’s say that you’ve narrowed the list down to circumaural (over the-ear) headphones that are generally divided in two categories – open-back and closed-back, yet you still need can’t decide which will better suit your needs. Well, look no further, because this article is written with a sole purpose of helping an indecisive buyer.

What are open-back headphones?

Any set of over-the-ear headphones with perforations (or “grills”, as they call them in the trade) which allow the sound and air to flow freely in and out of the headphones cup, are
considered open-back headphones. This way the headphone sound is always mixing with other sounds in your surrounding, which may not seem like a good idea to someone who’s used to over-the-ear or in-ear headphones, but it’s actually a pretty neat addition while listening to rock bands jamming and similar live recordings.

Benefits

Open-back headphones give you that special effect of being aware of your environment,
while at the same time make you feel like you’re in a front row seat at a concert; the sound is
wider, deeper and feels more “alive”, yet it keeps you present in “the real world”. This effect is
known as “soundstage sensation” and is highly appreciated by music lovers. And that’s exactly
what makes open-back headphones great – they are designed to give you the goosebumps
each time you listen to your favorite artists. Also, the mentioned perforations on open-back
headphones will allow your ears to breathe at all times, so there won’t be unnecessary
moisture buildup inside the ear cups.

Downsides

Obviously, the sound is leaking from open-back headphones wherever you are, which
can be inappropriate and very annoying in quiet environment such as library, public
transportation, waiting room etc., especially if you like listening to music at full blast. Also,
open-back headphones allow you to hear almost everything from your external environment,
meaning unwanted city noise, barking dogs, nervous taxi drivers and so on. This is yet another
reason why open-back headphones are ideal for private spaces, where you can fully enjoy the
open sound of your favorite band, far from anyone who may be annoyed by it. The questions is:
are open-back headphones what you really need? Ask yourself how important is the “soundstage” effect to you and how often will you be able to use such sound-leaking piece of
equipment.

What about closed-back headphones?

These are headphones whose physical structure and design allow your ears to be covered by an insulated plastic shell, and therefore isolated from all external noise. Sounds great, right? And it is, because closed-back headphones provide around 10 dB of noise reduction, meaning you won’t hear a thing from the outside world while listening to your favorite music.

Benefits

The noise isolation effect is dampening the environmental sounds, pushing the music to
the front and making you feel like the band is playing inside your head, just for you. This way
you can hear every single sound like the band’s producer intended, minus all the unwanted
noise from your environment. Unlike open-back headphones, nobody can hear what you’re
listening to either, and that makes closed-back headphones ideal for (sometimes rare)
moments of solitude, no matter where you are. Noisy, crowded places such as airports, city
streets, or even factories won’t bother your ears whenever you put your closed-back
headphones on. Especially if the model you’re using has active-noise-cancelling technology, but
that’s a whole different article. Also, closed-back headphones are excellent choice for
professional sound designers and engineers doing studio work or recording live performances,
because they can really focus on technical aspects of the music.

Downsides

Sometimes too much noise isolation can be dangerous, especially when you need to be
careful and aware of your surrounding (e.g. while driving, crossing the street, operating heavy
machinery). Being completely cut off from the outside world is usually not a good idea in urban
environment, and it’s always better to balance the volume of music you’re listening to with
external sounds. In comparison to open-back headphones, there’s no “stage sound” effect and
the music might even become overwhelming and too loud. Depending on design
characteristics, the closed-back headphones’ enclosure might warp the sound, which is why
most manufacturers have to use anti-resonant materials (usually not the case with top rated,
expensive models on the market).

Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you should choose both types of
headphones depending on your needs and personal taste. But if we take long-term hearing
health into consideration, closed-back headphones seem to be a much wiser choice. Why?
Because 85 decibels is the world wide ceiling level considered to be safe for hearing, and
everything above it may cause permanent damage to your ears. Open-back headphones and
their leaking sound can make you crank the music while trying to mask the environment, which
can obviously lead to long term hearing damage. Needless to say, closed-back headphones by
design wouldn’t let this happen to you, as their insulated plastic shell isolates environmental
noise and prevents sound from leaking.

Either way, choosing the right headphones can help to make mixing and editing audio
more accurate, as well as listening to music much more enjoyable. Don’t be surprised if you end
up buying different sets of headphones for different purposes. That may the best solution after
all, because this way you can choose what you really need for every occasion. And don’t worry
about the prices either; good, reliable open and closed-back headphones can be bought for as
little as $40. From our personal experience, some of the major brands with affordable
headphones you should keep an eye on are definitely Shure and Sennheiser. But first, try visiting
a local audio shop whose friendly salesman will let you try a couple of models before you
choose your perfect fit.

How to Clean Your Headphones

How often do we use our headphones and when was the last time we thought of cleaning them? If we realize that we can’t remember the last time they were given a good clean and yet we use them on a daily basis maybe it’s time we know a few of the reasons behind why we should be sanitizing our devices.

There are several reasons why we should have our headphones clean, besides the most obvious being that their appearance can be somewhat gross. Apart from this we all like when our devices work at their most optimal performance and bad management of our headphones can cause poorer quality of audio feedback. The sounds can be in some cases slightly muffled or lacking in bass. As well as this although less common, if unclean there is the possibility of infecting your ears if shared amongst others, as they do spread germs.

The Next Question is How?

There are various techniques we can use for this process and none of them should scare you. Both in terms of their expense or their difficulty. Depending on what kind of headphones you have the process may vary slightly, but in general the idea is quite consistent throughout.

Just make sure that at the start, the headphones are not plugged into any other device as this could cause damage to them and/or the device.

So let’s begin with your classic overhead set of headphones. Headphones come in different shapes and sizes, some may have a band on top to cushion the pressure on your head. This band may also require cleaning as well and we’ll find out how shortly. Firstly if there are any fabric meshes or removable fabrics covering the earpiece and can be removed do so before beginning.

To begin the process of cleaning we are going to need the following:

  • A cloth or a piece of soft fabric and some cotton
  • A brush with soft bristles ( an old toothbrush will suffice )
  • A bowl and some warm water ( about body temperature )
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Paper Towel or just some tissue paper
  • Or for a slightly more expensive alternative a headset cleaner (optional)
  • Hydrogen peroxide or pure alcohol (again optional)
  1. Once we have collected all the necessary parts and before we have begin, we want to mix a few drops of the dishwashing liquid into the our bowl of warm water. We don’t need too much so we should avoid copious amounts of foam from showing up. Once this is done we get our cloth or piece of soft fabric nice and damp. Optionally we can pour this mix into a bottle with a spray attachment and use it to spray the contents over the cloth, whilst mindful not to overdo it. Once done we thoroughly rinse the cloth out so that it is just barely damp as we want to avoid getting any water inside the earpieces. There is a lot of circuitry and electronics that could be damaged if this were to happen. So by all means avoid placing the headphones directly into the water as this would not create the desired effect.
  2. Now we can take our removable meshes and fabric covers and clean them off first ( if our headphones have these removable parts, some don’t ). We want to wipe them down using the cloth as hard as we can without damaging the fabric, being careful not to tear it but enough to get the debris or earwax off. Start off gently and slowly proceed to applying more pressure, testing the durability of the material before going all out.
  3. The next part will take us back to the headphones. As mentioned the idea is quite consistent throughout. We want to take our dampened cloth and wipe away at the headphones. This does not require a lot of pressure at all and can be achieved with gentle strokes. Once satisfied we can move onto the soft brush to get between the harder to reach places. We then pass over the headphones once more with the cloth to make sure all the debris is gone. This process can be repeated as seen fit.
  4. Finally, we want to grab our paper towel or really any form of dry fabric that can soak up any remaining moisture and wipe over the previously cleaned surfaces. Making sure that everything is nice and dry. Once the removable meshes and fabrics have dried we can then place them back onto our headphones.
  5. (Optional) If we want to take an extra precautionary measure to ensure a complete wipe of any bacteria we can use the hydrogen peroxide or headset cleaner on a piece of cotton or soft fabric and give the whole thing one more run through, leaving it to dry after. Another optional choice is to clean the band for your head with the damp cloth, making sure to get all the grime off.

Ear-buds follow the same requirement of contents for the cleaning process. The steps are very similar for those of cleaning the headphones. Only the ear pieces for these devices are smaller so a damp cloth could obstruct our field of vision and/or apply too much liquid, rather, we can use small cotton swabs.

  1. This step is the same as for the headphones except here instead of putting the mixture of water and dishwashing liquid onto a cloth we drip a bit onto a small cotton swab.
  2. Ear-buds have removable pieces ( plastic tips ) as well and if so should be removed before getting to the earpieces themselves. We don’t need to worry as much about applying pressure on them and thus can use a damp cloth and a bit of pressure to wipe away.
  3. When we get to the earpieces themselves, we want to gently dab or stroke at them being careful not to crush them in the process. Again we can use our brush to reach the harder spots and repeating dabbing and stoking with the cotton swab.
  4. Finally we dry the ear-buds with a paper towel or similar and place the plastic tips back on.
  5. (Optional) We apply a bit of hydrogen peroxide onto the cotton and pass over everything again making sure not to overdo it with the application of the fluid.

A final optional choice for both headphones and ear-buds is to run through the cord of the headphones with a damp cloth by holding the bottom of the cord, wrapping your cloth around it and moving down whilst holding the cloth firm between the cord.

Once these steps are completed you should be standing next to a clean pair of headphones or ear-buds ready to play your favorite tunes!

How to Choose the Best Wireless Headphones for TV?

Headphones as a device are an extremely useful tool for directing sound to the user without being a nuisance to other individuals in the vicinity and with almost no detriment to quality of sound as oppose to your regular TV speakers. This is the exact reason why using headphones is such a popular method of watching your late night or even everyday TV. A vast array of different types of headphones can get you well on your way to watching that late night TV show that you’ve been meaning to watch at max volume with no worries about what your neighbors might say.

The best part is that a vast majority of headphones will have no problem connecting to the TV due to the constant modernization of electronics and home entertainment systems. A majority of wireless headphones connect to a simple USB port which is usually located on the side or on the back of the TV set.

Does Sound Quality Diminish When Being Broadcasted From the TV?

A very common issue that people are concerned with is whether or not the quality of sound that you receive from the headphones is better than the sound from the television. But people don’t understand that headphones can be a very intricate device with all these things being accounted for. Sound quality is perhaps even better on the headphones as it gives you a much more immersive experience, you get a sense of being inside the TV show rather than just watching something in your room.

How are the Headphones Charged? Do They Need Batteries?

When it comes to wireless headphones for TV they come with a base for charging, so there is no need to purchase any batteries, which is very convenient for the user.

Why Not Buy Headphones With Cables?

The key feature of these headphones is that they are wireless. The biggest problem that we face when it comes to any types of headphones or even earphones is the cabling. After prolonged use of any headphones the most noticeable wear and tear is seen with the cabling. It can become extremely frustrating to have your favorite pair of headphones stop working because the cables have lost contact.

Now that we know that wireless headphones are our safest bet, we need to know which type to get.

When choosing the best headphones for your TV set most of it comes down to personal preference. Some may want to have a headphone set which has a dominant treble sound and weaker bass tones but another user may want a really crisp bass sound with little regard for treble. A good tip is to always listen to the pair of headphones in the store before buying them; even your perception of famous brands may change after having a listen. Is it a good idea to buy the most expensive headphones? This is a question that we frequently ask ourselves about all products on the market. There is no doubt that products that have a greater cost will have better quality than their cheaper counterparts, whether it be build quality or simply just better sound. But when buying headphones, one must realize that at one point the increase in sound quality is merely incremental and that you would be paying a much larger sum of money in exchange for only a minor, unnoticeable change in sound quality. If money isn’t an issue then I would recommend getting more expensive headphones because it is unlikely that there would be any problems with it and they would likely last a very long time with no fluctuation of quality and they usually come with a much longer warranty.

With all this said, here is my Top 5 list of headphone sets for TV. I have categorized them in such a way that you get the best quality of sound for the lowest cost.

Top 5 Headphones for TV use:

  1. Sony MDRRF985RK Wireless RF Headset – Most would agree that this is truly a quality choice of headphones at a very reasonable price; they boast great sound quality and can be a long distance away from the television with little to no noise disruption.
  2. Sennheiser RS120 – This pair of Sennheiser headphones is also a great buy in terms of quality and cost, they produce a very high quality sound and are a very resistant pair of headphones.
  3. Sennheiser RS175 Digital System – The Sennheiser RS175 digital system is a bit higher up in the cost spectrum, but with a higher cost, the functionality of the device also expands. They have a feature which is called Automatic Level control which automatically controls the volume levels to further extend your enjoyment while listening, without having to manually change the volume of the thing you are watching.
  4. Sennheiser RS185 Digital System – This system is intended for people who want to maximize their experience while watching TV. It has an extremely vast range of frequencies and dynamic bass tones which make it a great choice for people who want to spend an extra buck to get the best experience.
  5. Power Acoustik farenheit HP 902 RFT – These are the only headphones on the list which require batteries for use, and that’s why they are last place. But with this flaw also comes a drastic reduction of price. Even though they lack the functionality of having a charging kit, they make up for it in quality sound and extremely low cost. Due to this low cost they become the best quality product for the lowest sum of money.