Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming in 2021

best open back headphones for gaming

So, you have finally got to know about open-back headphones but are wondering which one should you buy for gaming?

With the thousands of options available in the market, I don’t blame you therefore to make things easy for you I have done all the hard work.

This article will finally put your search for a great pair of open-back headphones for gaming to rest by providing you with the following information.

  • Buyer’s guide on how to pick the best the one
  • Why open-back headphones are the best for gaming
  • 10 best open-back headphones for gaming currently available in the market

So, are you ready to be called a cheater for knowing the position of all enemies? Well, I can see that smirk on your face so let’s begin, shall we.

In a Hurry? A Quick Look at Our Top Picks

Before diving into the more detailed reviews of each product here is a quick glance at all the amazing open-back headphones for gaming featured on our list.

How to Buy an Open Back Headphone for Gaming – The Buyer’s Guide

Just the list isn’t enough to help you pick the best headphone for your needs.

After all, how will you determine the headphone suited for you from the other 10 on the list? So here’s what we will do.

I will provide you with an in-depth buying guide. The guide will cover all the information you need to get the open-back headphone for gaming you are longing for.

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Are Open-Back Headphones the Best for Gaming?

Open-back headphones are named so because the earcups of these headphones are not closed off with a grill. Sound can therefore leak from drivers to the surroundings and this is defining characteristic of an open back headphone.

Now to answer the question at hand, for gaming, two important sound aspects need to be fulfilled for the most immersive gaming experience.

First, there is the imaging, or as we like to call it directional audio. This is the ability of a headphone to accurately place sounds in a given plane.

Then there is the soundstage which refers to the size of the plane in which a headphone can accurately place sound effects.

Since inherently the design of open-back headphones allows for sound to escape this leads to airy sound hence a much-enhanced soundstage.

On the other hand, since open-back headphones are tuned for precision most of the time they also contain much sharper imaging when compared to their closed-back peers.

With having these two characteristics in check we can pretty much conclude that open-back headphones are indeed the benchmark for gaming audio.

First Thing to Consider

Before you even begin searching for your desired headphone first evaluate the amount of money you can spend for the said thing and the sound output you are looking for.

This is crucial as it will not only narrow down your search and allow you to focus on products that matter but will also save a lot of time in the process.

Why the Best Is Not Always the Right Choice

It would have been so easy for me to just simply recommend AKG K712 Pro to everybody. After all, it is the benchmark for open-back headphones for gaming and none even comes close to the audio refinement AKG brings to the table.

But it doesn’t work that way. Many gamers are not willing to spend $600 for a headphone while the new console costs $500.

Even if you can spend that much on a headphone I hate to break it to you that you might even not enjoy listening to it.

This is because each headphone has different sound output. While the AKG K712 Pro might be the all-around champ but the Sennheiser HD 650 has it beat when it comes to the smoothness of the audio.

Likewise, Hifiman HE400SE provides much precise sound than the $600 AKG K712 Pro.

You get the gist of it, so how can I determine the best headphone for my needs Mr writer? Glad you asked.

Coming up next are certain aspects which define open-back headphones. From these aspects choose the headphone that best matches your description of the best headphone.

Sound

Chances are If you are stepping away from traditional gaming headsets and buying an open back headphone then you want better sound quality.

Well, a better sound quality you will get with open-back headphones so the more important question will be to determine the type of sound you need for your gaming needs.

You don’t want to end up regretting your purchase now, do you? In a simple and easy let’s divide sound based on two gaming categories.

  • Competitive Esports Games
  • Single-player story-driven games

The best suited open-back headphones for these two genres of games will have different sound characteristics. Therefore it is crucial to get the right sounding one for the game you play.

Competitive gaming

If you are into competitive esports games then an open-back headphone with precise directional audio and clarity will fulfill your needs the best. For this purpose look into headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro and the DT 880 pro, Hifiman HE400SE, and the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700x

Casual Gaming

For relaxed immersive gaming, smoothness and refinement is the name of the game. Here you want headphones that have a balanced and natural sound signature. Preferably you are looking at Sennheiser HD 650, HarmonicDyne Zeus, and the AKG K612 Pro

Comfort

After sound comfort is the second core pillar of any headphone because if a headphone isn’t comfortable there is no point using it.

The comfort of a headphone is dependant on its design and the material used for padding.

Ideally, for maximum comfort you want loose clamping force, plenty of headband adjustability, and ample padding for the earpads and the headband.

The most comfortable headphone is the Philips SHP9500 with both the Beyerdynamics and the Sennheiser headphones coming in at a close second.

Ability to Attach a Microphone

Gamers need communication, this is a well-established fact at this point but unfortunately not many open-back headphones come with attached microphones.

The only decent option you have for the above said purpose is the Sennheiser Game One rest are either too expensive or lack the sound dynamics of a true open-back headphone.

So what do you do now? Well, try to get an open-back headphone in which you can easily attach inline or external microphones.

  • Inline Microphone

Installing inline microphones like the V-Moda Boom Pro is utterly simple. It is just a matter of buying the mic and sticking it in but unfortunately, not many headphones support it.

For installing inline microphones you need an open-back headphone that has a detachable 3.5mm cable. The only headphone that fits the bill on this list is the Philips SHP9500.

  • External Microphones

These are magnetic or clip-on microphones that you can attach to the side of your headphone. While relatively easy to install and use they do however are quite expensive.

The main advantage of external microphones is that they work on any open-back headphones. If you want my recommendation then get the mod mic for this purpose.

Build Quality

A flimsy headphone that creeks is not only unpleasant to use but will be more susceptible to wear in the long run.

To ensure that a headphone has good build quality a headphone needs to have metal construction especially around the hinges.

Plastic should be a red flag because in general, that material is not as tough as metal. Ideally, a metal frame, earcups, headband, and hinge are the way to go.

Although most of the headphones today have decent build quality but the one that especially stands out from the crowds is the HarmonicDyne Zeus.

10 Best Open Back Headphones for Gaming

Now that you have a firm grasp on the buyer’s guide and know how to pick the best headphone for your need, let’s get to the review of each headphone and see what it has to offer for a gamer.

Best Overall

1. AKG K712 Pro

AKG K712 Pro

Great sound, lightweight, comfortable, and with an easy-to-install microphone capability. What more do you want in a headphone? Well, one thing is for sure these open-back headphones outperform every other for the price tag when it comes to gaming.


Reasons to Buy

  • Very comfortable
  • Lightweight when compared to other headphones
  • Excellent soundstage and directional audio
  • A good amount of bass and treble present

Reasons to Avoid

  • Build Quality is subpar
  • The highs can sound too bright
  • Require an external amplifier for optimal sound

Kicking off the list with the AKG K712 Pro and starting with the build quality. These headphones are mainly constructed from plastic.

Due to this plastic construction, this headphone is very lightweight but suffers from minor creaks and rattles.

The earpad and headband material is velour which is very comfortable for long listening sessions.

The most striking part about this headphone is the sound stage and positional audio it provides.

This especially helps in competitive games where a faint sound of an approaching footstep can decide the outcome of the round.

The overall sound signature of these headphones is very lively and dynamic. As for the bass, mid, and treble, all frequencies are managed quite well.

The bass is tight and clean and never bleeds into other frequencies. The mids are also presented wonderfully and the treble range is masterfully done.

I might be nitpicking but the only slight negatives in the AKG K712 Pro include its ability to over brighten the treble range and the external amplifier requirement.

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Best Under $500

2. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

The most praised and beloved headphone in the audiophile community and rightfully so, with the proper amplification you can’t get much better sounding headphones than the Beyer dynamic DT 1990 Pro for under $500. Simply put these headphones are amazing. They are comfortable, have all the features that you would expect, and sound top-notch.


Reasons to Buy

  • Good build quality
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Removable cable
  • Good bass
  • Excellent clarity and directional audio

Reasons to Avoid

  • Hefty weight
  • Mini-XLR connection
  • Require an amp for optimal performance
  • Treble can be bright

Beyerdynamic is known for producing well-built products and it is no different here. DT 1990 pro has a very solid and robust build quality.

The mainframe and earcups are made from metal. The headband adjustment is also neat and precise.

The headband and earpads have soft velour padding. This makes the headphones extremely comfortable to use if you can ignore the rather hefty weight of the headphones.

The headphones do however use mini-XLR input for connection which can be a bit annoying if you are not familiar with the connection.

Before we move to the sound quality, we have to mention the one main drawback associated with these types of open-back audio headphones.

DT 1990 Pro requires a good external amplifier to unleash its true capability.

Coming to the sound quality. This is truly where this open-back headphone shines. It has nicely done bass and mid-frequency but the treble can get a little harsh.

The detail present in the sound however is next to none. This headphone will have no problem whatsoever in providing clear directional audio in games.

The sound of the headphones is also amazing for competitive gaming where the audio of just a faint footstep coming from a certain direction can decide the outcome of the round.

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Best Value

3. HarmonicDyne Zeus

HarmonicDyne Zeus

There is always that one product that comes out of nowhere and blows everything out of the water. Well, the HarmonicDyne Zeus is one such headphone. Truth be told for $350 you cannot do better sound for gaming than provided by this headphone.


Reasons to Buy

  • Exquisite build quality
  • Detachable cable
  • Terrific sound quality
  • Best-in-class positional audio
  • Warm and non-fatiguing to listen to

Reasons to Avoid

  • Hard to find an inline boom microphone for these headphones

No list is complete without an enthusiast open-back headphone option and I bet you haven’t heard about HarmonicDyne Zeus before.

Well, be prepared to be shocked by how good this open-back headphone is.

It all starts with the craftsmanship and the HarmonicDyne Zeus has an exquisite touch to it. The carefully carved out metal driver plate and the wooden inlay around the earpads scream luxury.

Due to the use of premium materials, the headphone is not only built well but is also very comfortable to wear.

The looks aren’t all this headphone has to show for. It stands out more with its sound than its looks.

The sound produced by this headphone has a warmth to it making it enjoyable to listen to. All the frequencies are balanced and get delivered in a clear and precise manner.

The detail retrieval and positional audio capability of these headphones however are unworldly for the price. You can exactly pinpoint the position of each sound effect with accuracy.

This makes the headphone great for FPS games like Cod WarZone, Apex Legends, CSGO, Valorant, and Rainbow Six Siege.

The wide soundstage also makes it that you don’t get fatigued even when pulling an all-nighter with the boys.

In the negative department, I don’t have much to say except that getting a microphone for this headphone can be challenging because it uses 3.5mm connectors on each earcup.

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Best Under $300

4. Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro

Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro

For under $300 the Beyerdynamic DT 880 pro semi open-back headphone delivers exceptional sound quality and has comfort and build that is hard to beat for the price. Strictly for gaming, it is a great choice due to the very detailed sound and the sharp directional audio capability.


Reasons to Buy

  • Good build quality
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Top-notch directional audio
  • Clear and detailed sound
  • Clean vocals

Reasons to Avoid

  • Non-removable cable
  • Lacking bass response
  • Treble can be bright and somewhat sibilant
  • Requires a high-end external amplifier to perform

Kicking off with the build quality, this headphone has a good build quality. The mainframe and the headband are made from metal and they feel very solid.

The headband and earpads have a premium and supple padding and the clamping force is also moderate making them extremely comfortable.

Comfort is however a minute part of the equation and sound will always remain king. Happy to report that the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro also sounds fantastic

To extract this glorious sound however you will need a high-end external amplifier.  

Coming to the actual sound. In the bass department, these headphones lack thumping chords. This is a small price to pay for the gorgeous mid and treble range.

Overall, the headphone sounds natural and detailed. The sense of layering and directional audio is also excellent in this.

Owing to the extremely detailed and relatively non-fatiguing sound the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro makes for an excellent gaming headphone.

In terms of the negatives, there is not a whole lot wrong with these headphones. Most of the negative aspects of this headphone will perpetuate from the user’s sound needs.

Since these headphones lack bass and have an elevated treble some gamers can find them unpleasant especially if you are accustomed to bass-heavy headphones.

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Best Under $400

5. Sennheiser HD 650

Sennheiser-HD-650

Sennheiser HD 650 is a classic open-back headphone that has amassed quite a following since its release. Can’t blame folks for liking this headphone because it has one of the sweetest sound signatures to date. With the Sennheiser HD 650, you feel like you are the center of the sound and everything is happening right in front of you.


Reasons to Buy

  • Excellent comfort
  • Relaxing sound signature
  • Good soundstage
  • Good details and clarity

Reasons to Avoid

  • Plastic can feel flimsy
  • Lack Bass response
  • Needs adequate amping to perform best

Let’s start by talking about the legendary comfort this headphone is known for.

Due to the supple velour padding on the earpads and the headband and the lack of any excessive headband tension this headphone is one of the most comfortable ones you can own.

The build quality however is not up to the mark. The plastic construction feels flimsy but at least the hinge is well reinforced which is quite reassuring.

These headphones also use 6.35mm connectors on each headphone so using them can be a hassle because you will need to carry that 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter with you everywhere.

Despite these minor inconveniences the Sennheiser HD 650 occupies a place in this list because of its sound.

The sound of these headphones can be summarized as being dark and smooth.

These headphones do not have a good chunk of bass rather its very flat. The mids on these are wonderfully done.

This is the area where Sennheiser sweetness comes into the play and my of my do the vocals sound terrific.

These headphones despite being smooth deliver exceptional soundstage and positional audio.

Although they cannot compete with some other headphones in razer sharp precision they do provide you a great sense of directionality in games.

These headphones are best suited for games like Forza Horizon, Red Dead Redemption, GTA 5, Witcher 3, and other similar titles that rely on immersive sound rather than razor-sharp positional audio.

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Best Under $200

6. AKG K612 Pro

AKG K612 Pro

The sound signature of the best open-back headphone in a more budget-friendly package. AKG K612 Pro delivers a similar detailed and precise sound like its bigger brother the AKG K702 Pro but is a lot more affordable coming in at under $200.


Reasons to Buy

  • Good build quality
  • Good bass response
  • Smooth non-fatiguing sound signature
  • Good spatial and directional sound

Reasons to Avoid

  • Earpads take time to break-in
  • Non-removable cable
  • Needs a good amplifier

For a sub $200 headphone the AKG K612 Pro punches way above its weight which you will find out why.

Start with the build quality and in this department, AKG K612 Pro does not disappoint. This headphone incorporates a metal mainframe which gives it a rigid and solid feel.

The cable coming out of the earcup however is not removable which is a big negative.

The earpads themselves on the other hand have a very smooth velour padding that although quite hard at first gets soft with each successive wearing. Overall, the headphone is solid, robust, and comfortable.

Before moving on to the sound beware that to reach the maximum potential of these headphones you need a good external amplifier.

With that out of the way let me start by saying that the AKG K612 Pro has a thick bass response.

Yay that, the deep bass put these among the few open-back headphones that have an impactful bass response.

The other frequencies are also very well done treble in this headphone.

Throughout the sound, there is a great amount of clarity and detail. The spacing and the layering are also great here making these headphones very good for directional audio.

On the whole, these are a great pair of headphones if you want open-back headphones with a thumpy bass response with good directional audio.

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7. Hifiman HE400se

Hifiman HE400se

Planar magnetic headphones for $150? Yes please, the price tag makes Hifiman HE400se the best entry-level planar magnetic headphones you can buy. The sound these headphones produce is unlike any other traditional headphones with the main emphasis here being on positional audio.


Reasons to Buy

  • Good build quality
  • Comfortable for long gaming sessions
  • Excellent price for an entry-level planar headphone
  • Detachable cable
  • Fantastic directional audio
  • Neutral sound signature
  • Precise and crisp sound

Reasons to Avoid

  • Hard to find an inline boom microphone for these headphones
  • Can get fatiguing during long gaming sessions

Hifiman is a big name in the planar magnetic headphone industry, and they have recently come up with this HD400SE at a price point which I can finally recommend buying entry-level planar headphones at.

If you aren’t unaware of what planar magnetic headphones are then basically without much jargon it means headphones that use magnetic inducers to produce sound.

Besides the planar technology, this headphone is just like any other run-of-the-mill audio can.

It features a metal frame with large oval earcups that can facilitate most head types. The padding on both the earpads and the headband is generous. All in all, the Hifiman He400se has a good build and comfort.

Where things take a turn is when to comes to sound. Due to the planar magnetic drivers, these headphones produce razor-sharp and precise sound.

Therefore, positional audio is the greatest asset of these headphones. When using these for gaming you will be able to figure out the exact location of every faint sound with ease.

Overall, the sound of these headphones is quite balanced with the low-end quite well extended leading to a very immersive and enjoyable sound signature for gaming.

These headphones aren’t all good though and there are nitpicks I would like to point out.

The first being that the Hifiman HE400SE requires an external amp for the best output and the second being that the sound of these headphones is not for everyone.

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8. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700x is a great all-around headphone. It is comfortable, has a relaxed sound signature, and delivers good positional audio. It covers all the basics that a gaming headphone needs to have.


Reasons to Buy

  • Good build quality
  • Lightweight construction
  • Good detail and clarity
  • Great soundstage

Reasons to Avoid

  • non-removable cable which is of subpar quality
  • Lack bass response

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700x is the most mainstream open-back headphone that is used for gaming. Gamers cherish it because it is a great value to money headphones.

Starting with the build quality and these headphones are well built. The plastic construction of the headphone feels solid and sturdy and exhibits no rattles.

The headband system of the ATH-AD700x is not the most adaptable and flexible which hurts its comfort a bit.

Overall, they are comfortable but the comfort depends on the size and shape of the user’s head.

Another design I am not keen on it is the non-removable cable for this headphone. It will not only be difficult to attach an inline microphone to these headphones but the cable itself is low quality and susceptible to wear over time.

The headphones however redeem themselves in the sound quality department.

For the sound, ATH-AD700x has a very clear and neutral sound signature. The bass is very light. The mids are detail and transparent and the treble is also detailed and clear.

The thing that differentiates ATH-AD700x from other open-back headphones in the price range is their detail retrieval characteristic.

Minute details that other headphones fail to produce are present here. This sound makes them a great pair of open-back headphones for competitive esports gaming.

From explosions to faint footsteps everything is displayed well here and it never gets to the point where the sound is overly sharp and tiring.

Overall, great headphones if you are into games like Rainbow Six Siege, VALORANT, and CSGO.

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9. EPOS Sennheiser GAME ONE

Sennheiser Game One

This headphone from Sennheiser was from the ground up made for gaming meaning it has an integrated mic for all you folks who like to hang in discord and TeamSpeak. Being a Sennheiser open-back headphone the sound quality here is better than most other gaming headsets.


Reasons to Buy

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Good build quality
  • Good quality microphone
  • Good soundstage

Reasons to Avoid

  • Lacking bass
  • Details in the sound are drowned out during chaotic moments

Despite being a gamer branded headphone Sennheiser still retains the high quality which is to be expected with them.

Sennheiser Game one has a solid build quality. The construction of the earpads and the headband feels premium.

They not only feel solid but the dense and soft velvet padding also provides a good amount of comfort.

The mic attached to the left earcup has an auto muting function. When the mic is moved upwards in the upright position it automatically gets muted.

Despite not being infinitely adjustable the quality of the mic is quite outstanding. It picks up the voice naturally and also has some background noise cancellation capability baked into it.

The major advantage of buying a Sennheiser branded headset is the sound quality.

This headset has a warm sound signature which although makes for a smooth sound can hide minute details in the background. The bass is present and sounds natural. Sennheiser here has gone to great lengths for a very neutral response.

Luckily they haven’t comprised the detail in the search for neutrality. Every minute detail in the sound is present and the directional audio is also great.

The headphone also has good sound separation. This is reflected during explosions in FPS games. The sound of the explosions does not overshadow the micro details within the audio which is a great characteristic to have.

As you can see there are not a lot of negatives with the Sennheiser Game One. Therefore if you just want to experiment with an open-back headphone for gaming this can be your safest bet.

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Budget Pick

10. Philips SHP9500

Philips SHP9500

Philips SHP9500 is the crown jewel of budget open-back headphones. The low price is just a bonus for the sweet sound quality and the amazing comfort which these headphones have to offer. Seriously, for $75 these headphones are a steal.


Reasons to Buy

  • Extremely comfortable to wear
  • Can accommodate very large heads
  • Negligible ear tension makes them great for users with eyeglasses
  • Detachable 3.5mm cable
  • Natural and detailed sound
  • Excellent clarity in the sound
  • Great for positional audio

Reasons to Avoid

  • Earpads are not detachable
  • The includes 3.5mm cable is cheap and flimsy

These are the open-back headphones you want when your ears are to be wrapped in cushy pillows. Perhaps it won’t be wrong to say that these $75 Philips might be the most comfortable headphone on this list.

The headphones are also designed in a way where headband tension is left to a minimum so all you folks with eyeglasses say goodbye to sore ears and skin marks.

Besides hammering down the comfort part, the Philips SHP9500 also sounds great for a budget headphone.

These headphones have fantastic clarity and sound resolution. For the price, the bass, treble, and the mid-range of the Philips SHP9500 are mind-blowing.

The sound here is very detail and precise. When gaming you can pinpoint each and every faint sound and the direction from where it is coming from and yes that includes footsteps as well.

But wait, before you go all gaga over them let me tell you that these are $75 open-back headphones so indeed to achieve the comfort and the terrific sound Philips had to cut costs on a few aspects.

This includes the inclusion of a cheap wire, earpads that are not detachable, build quality that is a little flimsy you know just your basics.

That said though these negatives don’t impact daily usage of the headphones and on top of that, at least the 3.5mm cable is removable.

Therefore, attach a boom microphone to these puppies and now you have a $100 headset that will surely get people mad in online competitive gaming lobbies.

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Conclusion

Now it is time to close the article and to quickly sum it all up open-back headphones will in fact provide you a far superior experience to closed-back gaming headsets granted you get the right product for your need.

For reference, if you are someone who plays games casually and is fond of listening to music, then look for smooth headphones something like the HarmonicDyne Zeus or the Sennheiser HD 650.

On the contrary, if you are someone who games competitively then choose the open back headphone with a wide soundstage and good directional audio like the AKG K712 Pro.

AKG K712 Pro is not only the best all-around headphone but the one you need for competitive gaming. Alternatively, a cheaper option can be Hifiman HE400SE which has amazing soundstage and imaging

In the end, I would like to iterate hard on the fact that never fall into the audiophile jargon trap and base your decisions on your needs and wants.

With that said it is time for me to sign off but before you go let us know down in the comments which headphone you liked the best from the list and which category of open-back headphones do you want to see more off.

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