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Best Open-back Headphone for Mixing & Mastering (2020)

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One thing about mixing & mastering a song or audio is you need the right tools/musical equipment to better judge your mixes as accurate and transparent as possible.

A headphone is an example of tools you would find in every musical studio and even more common among bedroom producers.

I guess you’ll have to agree with me that open-back headphones are the standard among audio professionals for mixing & mastering audio due to their transparent/superior sound reproduction, which could be used to make better mixing decisions and achieve a good quality audio mix.

Also, if you are interested in high-fidelity sound, then open-back is a fantastic option, they sound natural, precise and have this very live sound, think of your home speaker, they are open, and they resonate with the air, unlike a closed-back headphone that has a somewhat unnatural bass response.

On top of that, an open-back headphone is less expensive, which is good if you are on a budget, and you are interested in hi-fi sound.

Let’s take a look at the best open-back headphone for mixing and mastering in the studio, in your bedroom and on top of the roof, 😉

Quick Overview: Our Best 3 Picks

Product

Features

Editor's Score

Go-to Website

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Lightweight and an adjustable ear cup
  • Soft, replaceable velour ear pads for exceptional wearing comfort
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 35,000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 80 ohms / 250 ohms
Check DT 990 Pro Price at Amazon

Sennheiser HD 650

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Lightweight aluminum voice coils
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Nominal Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 103dB
Check Sennheiser HD 650 Price at Amazon

Philip Fidelio X2HR

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Layered motion control driver
  • Self-adjustable hammock & an Ear shell that tilt to fit your ear's natural geometry
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 40,000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 30 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB/mW
Check Fidelio X2HR Price at Amazon

1) Sennheiser HD 650

Do you know what hurts about mixing audio? It is when your mix sounds good on your pair of studio speakers/headphone, and terrible on other speakers / other headphones, which could be due to a bad mix or mixing on a poor system.

With Sennheiser HD-650, you will not only experience a truly unique transparent sound but a balanced sound. When I say balanced sound, it means the audio output doesn’t favour one frequency over the other, e.g. a badly tuned headphone might enhance the bass to sound somewhat different, which you don’t want when you are mixing a song, all you need is properly tuned headphone that won’t compromise any frequency range.

The impedance of Sennheiser HD-650 is somewhat not discussed in headphone review guides, ignoring this might not lead to any danger per se but may limit the quality in sound quality and headphone compatibility.

Sennheiser HD-650 has a nominal impedance of 300 ohms, which is considered to be a higher impedance headphone, this kind of headphone doesn’t work well when plugged into low voltage devices without an amp, e.g. a laptop, smartphone. A laptop won’t be able to put enough power to drive the Sennheiser HD-650 to a loud volume level, so, if you are using an external amp or DAC with your laptop, make sure you check the manufacturers’ specification for the recommended headphone impedance range.

Another important specification is the headphone sensitivity. The sensitivity would determine how loud the headphone would play for a given power. I’ll try to avoid any technical details to make it easily digestible. The sensitivity of the Sennheiser Hd 650 is 103dB SPL, which is considered loud enough given that your source (amp) can power this. I only use a sensitivity between 95db – 105 dB.

If you want to read more on sensitivity, then this link may be helpful: More Power

Another good improvement about HD 650 is the improve frequency response: 10 –  39500 Hz, this is the range of the frequency it can reproduce, and to sum it up, it features incredibly lightweight aluminum voice coils to ensure excellent transient response + a sleek High-quality titanium/silver finish.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Lightweight aluminum voice coils
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Frequency Response: 10 – 39500 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 103dB

Check Sennheiser HD 650 Price at Amazon

2) Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile

The ATH-AD700X features newly designed 53 mm drivers, which reproduces a clear treble and midrange, and on top of that, it is a fully open back type headphone, which is a fully natural sensation headphone with no pressure on the ears.

One of the most frustrating drawbacks of a wired headphone is tangling (in a situation where you have to move around while listening to audio from your headphone).

What if you can prevent tangles!

With ATH-AD700X, you don’t have to worry about tangling, as it has a highly conductive OFC single-sided cord with elastic TPE sheath to prevent tangles.

Another feature I find interesting is the 3D wing support, which could automatically adjust your head size for a comfortable listening experience and minimizes pressure. On top of that,  the fabric earpads are flexible, which in turn offers excellent wearing comfort and durability.

The sensitivity of the Audio Technica ATH-AD700X is 117.76 dB/V SPL by the voltage and 103.74 dB/mW SPL by power, where dB means decibels, decibels is measurement of how powerful a sound is, the dB/V or dB/mW is just a standard used in measuring decibels, the international standard used the mW, while newer method uses dB/V.

There is low to zero chance you will need an amplifier to reach a louder volume with this kind of headphone because it has a lower impedance (40 ohms) and higher sensitivity compared to Sennheiser HD 650, which has higher impedance.

If you feel you are not reaching your preferred loud volume with the ATH-AD700X, then you can try with an amplifier, but I doubt you will need any.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • 3D Wing Support
  • Great comfort with the aid of the flexible raised-fabric earpads
  • Frequency Response: 20 – 20000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 40 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 117.76 dB/V SPL

Check ATH-AD700X Price at Amazon

3) Sennheiser HD 559

This is an open back over-ear type design powered by the improved Sennheiser 38 millimeter driver, which delivers excellent dynamics and low inaudible distortion.

One of the features I love about the HD 599 is the astonishing E.A.R Technology (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement), which is designed to improve the headphone experience by tailoring the audio directly into your ears producing a more ‘in-room’ like listening experience.

Comfort is of the utmost importance when it comes to working with headphones, which is another reason why circumaural open-back headphones would always be the standard among mixing and mastering engineers. Sennheiser HD 599 is lightweight and has a soft, replaceable ear pad for exceptional wearing comfort and long listening sessions.

The Sennheiser HD 599 has a sensitivity of 106 dB per milliWatt of power and an impedance of 50 Ohms, which is considered lower impedance.

If you are a bedroom producer and you are looking for headphones to use with your laptop without any dedicated amp, then I’ll recommend you stick to the range of 16 – 80 ohms with a sensitivity of at least 95 dB/mW, there aren’t any hard rules but generally, the lower the impedance, the better the match with battery-powered devices, e.g. Laptop.

Sennheiser HD 599 can work fine without an amplifier. Again, if you feel you aren’t reaching the desired volume level, then you can add an amplifier, always remember to check the recommended ohms by your source amplifier.

Note: It comes bundled with a 3-meter detachable cable and a 6.3-millimeter jack.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • E.A.R Technology (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement)
  • Lightweight
  • Soft, replaceable ear pad for exceptional wearing comfort
  • Frequency Response: 14 – 26,000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/mW

Check Sennheiser HD 599 Price at Amazon

4)Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro


DT 990 Pro is a perfect over-ear headphone for professional mixing, mastering or use in your bedroom studio. It delivers a spacious, transparent and unmatched quality in sound reproduction.

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro comes in two different flavors, the first one comes with an impedance of 80 ohms, which is ideal for universal studio usage, and you can as well go without an amplifier if plugged directly to your laptop, if you feel you aren’t satisfied with the volume level (not loud enough), you can pair with a source/DAC that supports this impedance.

The second flavor of the DT 990 Pro comes with a higher impedance of 250 ohms, which is suitable for professional end devices

Additionally, the DT 990 Pro open design has a super spacious in that. It gives an ‘in-room’ like listening experience without being overbearing and a well-tailored overall frequency.

One thing is for a headphone to sound as transparent as possible. Another is the level of comforts. The DT 990 Pro doesn’t stand behind in comfort; it is extra lightweight, has adjustable ear cups. On top of that, the sturdy steel headband gives the headset a secure fit.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Lightweight and an adjustable ear cup
  • Soft, replaceable velour ear pads for exceptional wearing comfort
  • Frequency Response: 5 – 35,000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 80 ohms / 250 ohms

Check DT 990 Pro Price at Amazon

5) Philips Fidelio X2HR


Fidelio X2HR is equipped with 50mm high power drivers, which utilizes a high power neodymium magnets to accurately reproduce all musical frequencies, from a precise audio dynamics to a well balanced crisp bass, and pristine high frequencies.

Also, with the help of an acoustic open-back architecture, the Fidelio X2HR eliminates air pressure build-up behind the driver, unlike a closed-back where air presser build-up behind the driver, which result in a not so transparent sound, with open back design type, it allows the diaphragm ample free movement, which results in transparent and natural sound.

The Philip Fidelio X2HR headphone not only features a 50mm driver but a layered motion control driver, which forms a flexible boundary and absorbs and dampens any exaggerated frequencies, which in turn results in a smooth, natural and a pristine high-frequency sound.

What about a headphone with greater comfort? This circumaural open-back headphone features a self-adjustable hammock, which is breathable and ensures a perfect fit. On top of that, X2HR is equipped with ear shells that are engineered to tilt at 15 degrees, fitting your ear’s natural geometry and pleasing sound performance.

The Fidelio X2HR has a sensitivity of 100 dB per milliWatt of power and an impedance of 30 Ohms, which is considered lower impedance and somewhat higher sensitivity. So, you should be fine without an amplifier.

Note: It comes bundled with a 3.5mm (mini-jack) detachable cable (3-meter) 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm adapter and cable management clip included.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Layered motion control driver
  • Self-adjustable hammock & an Ear shell that tilt to fit your ear’s natural geometry
  • Frequency Response: 5 – 40,000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 30 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB/mW

Check Fidelio X2HR Price at Amazon

6) Sennheiser HD 599 SE


This is not so different from the ordinary Sennheiser HD 559 recommended above, The HD 559 SE is powered by an exceptional Sennheiser 39millimeter driver, and it, in turn, delivers a clear crisp and dynamic sound.

The ordinary HD 599 comes with a 6.3 millimeters jack, which makes it difficult to work with a mini-jack.

On the other hand, the special edition is equipped with two detachable cables; 6.3 millimeters/quarter-inch jack, which is 3 meters long and a mini-jack/3.5 millimeters jack, that is 1.2 meters long.

The quarter-inch jack is a perfect fit for studio uses, while the latter could be used with your laptops.

This is a perfect over-ear headphone for mixing and mastering engineer that is looking for a lightweight design and a luxurious velour covered ear cushions that deliver exceptional wearing comfort for long listening sessions.

The Sennheiser HD 599SE has a sensitivity of 106 dB per milliWatt of power and an impedance of 50 Ohms, which is considered lower impedance.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • E.A.R Technology (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement)
  • Two detachable cables; 6.3 millimeters and 3.5 millimeters jack
  • Soft, replaceable ear pad for exceptional wearing comfort
  • Frequency Response: 14 – 26,000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/mW

Check Sennheiser HD 599SE Price at Amazon

7) Philips SHP9500

Philips SHP9500 is equipped with a 50mm high power neodymium driver, which reproduces all the entire music dynamics, and delivers a well-tailored crisp bass, transparent sound and to sum it up, pristine high frequencies.

At under 65 bucks, this is perhaps the best open-back over-ear headphone you can get at this range.

The SHP9500 is similar to the Fidelio X2HR headphone in that it has a precisely angled driver that is engineered to fit the ear’s natural geometry, which in turn leads to a more dynamic and authentic listening experience.

I have said this before, and I will be repeating it, any headphone that sounds great with no comfort is a pain in the ass. Fortunately, the SHP9500 is equipped with a comfortable double layered headband cushion, which is soft, breathable and can be used for a more extended period.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • A precisely angled driver that is engineered to fit the ear’s natural geometry
  • Double layered headband cushion
  • Frequency Response: 12 – 35 000Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 101 dB/mW

Check Philips SHP9500 Price at Amazon

8) LyxPro OEH-10


The LyxPro 0EH-10 is an open back over-ear headphone that is suitable for mixing engineers, music engineers, music producers and anyone willing to enjoy a natural/transparent sound.

At under 60 bucks, this headphone is designed to be lightweight and delivers a true natural dynamics of a sound, which is a good option if you are under a low budget and you want something of a pristine quality for mixing songs.

One of the features I love about this headphone is the interchangeable ear pads and plush, which let you enjoy your listening experience with great comfort even if worn for a more extended period.

LyxPro 0EH-10 has an impedance of 54 ohms with a sensitivity of 95 dB, which makes them easily driven by lower voltage devices.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Interchangeable ear pads and plush
  • Lightweight and delivers true dynamic sound
  • Frequency Response: 15 – 30 000Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 54 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 95 dB/mW

Check LyxPro 0EH-10 Price at Amazon

9) GRADO SR80e Prestige Series


Next on our list is an open-back on-ear headphone that utilizes a four-conductor cable and larger ear cushions for a more open and natural stage sound.

An on-ear headphone shouldn’t be mistaken for an over-ear headphone, so be careful when choosing as some prefer the portability of on-ear cans, while some don’t like the on-ear cans due to the direct pressure on the ear area, depends on the manufacturer though.

With Grado SR80e, the ear pads are nice, and not pushy, which makes them comfortable, and not too heavy. The Grado SR80e has an improved bass resonance, which enhances the overall frequency.

Features:

  • Open-Back, On-ear
  • An improved bass resonance
  • Larger ear cushions for a transparent/natural stage sound

Check Grado SR80e Price at Amazon

10) Massdrop x AKG K7XX

The Massdrop x AKG K7XX is inspired by the AKG K702 65th-anniversary edition, while the anniversary edition is great, this newly designed open-back headphone features added features in the sound and comfort section and the same dynamic driver technology.

This edition has an improved frequency response of 10 – 39,800 Hz, a tweaked overall frequency that puts you closer to every possible detail when mixing and arranging audio tracks.

One of the features I dig about this headphone is the self-adjusting leather headband and memory-foam earpads, which helps eliminate fatigue, and you can finally rest assured on a better comfort even if worn for longer sessions. On top of that, you also have a 10-foot detachable cable and can be easily replaced if and only if the need arises.

To sum it up, the Massdrop x AKG K7XX has a lower impedance of 62 ohms and a sensitivity of 105 dB, which makes them work well without an amplifier. You can add an amp to take things further when working on mixes, and you feel you need to listen loud enough.

Features:

  • Open-Back, Over-ear
  • Self-adjusting leather headband and memory-foam earpads
  • 10-foot detachable cable
  • Frequency Response: 10 – 39 800Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 62 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB/mW

Check AKG K7XX Price at Amazon

Open Back Headphones Guide

Factors To Consider When Buying An Open Back Headphone For Mixing & Mastering

Mixing is quite a complex topic; it involves a lot of variables and can be daunting if not taken seriously. Selecting the best tools when mixing and or mastering is one of the topics to consider, it’s not quite that black a white, e.g. if you select a badly tuned headphone, you might face a series of unbalanced frequencies; a muddy bass, harsh high ends, e.t.c., which can lead to unwanted decision when mixing, or editing audio.

Before jumping into the selecting of a good quality studio headphone, here are some factors to consider:

Good Sound Quality:

Come to think it, if your headphone isn’t able to reproduce a natural/transparent sound. There is a 100 percent chance that you’ll always end up making the wrong decision when mixing and mastering, which is why you have to be careful when selecting a good studio headphone.

When making a selection of a good pair of a headphone, you have to avoid headphones that have enhanced frequency or sweetened, e.g. an enhanced bass that makes the lower frequency sound a little better. For monitoring mix, you don’t want anything like that, but instead, a flat frequency response (meaning what comes in is what goes out) that lets you listen to the actual frequency in other of making better mix decisions/ set levels precisely.

Comfort:

If comfort isn’t available, then that defeats the purpose of good sound quality. The lightweight headphones with foam pads are recommended for not only greater comfort but a more extended listening session.

Some headphone recommended in this buyer’s guide has a rotating and an adjustable ear cup, while some are equipped with ear shells that are engineered to tilt to fit the ear’s natural geometry. This is an example of a headphone designed with comfort in mind, so, you just don’t consider the sound quality, you should also consider the pleasure and ease of use of the using the headphone.

Durability:

Durability is of utmost importance, and this greatly depends on the material they are made from, e.g. some ear pads can cause sweating due to fake leathers or sometimes heavy usage, in this case, an easy replacement of the cushions or the pads would suffice. The quick damage of headphones is mostly caused by the headphone user due to low to no care, by employing proper storage; properly storing in the case would help avoid dust or damaging material when they are not in use.

General Tips:

Specs aren’t everything, it only tells part of the story and makes it is easier to distinguish Headphone A from B, say the impedance, the frequency response the headphone can capture, the sensitivity and the likes, sometimes the only way to judge a product is to test it yourself.

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