The Best Open Back Headphones Under $200
This one's for the audiophiles on a budget
A quality pair of headphones to an audiophile is like a light saber to a jedi, there are somethings that just complete you. And with money being as tight for most of us as it is, finding the best open back headphones under $200 is a necessity!
Thankfully since there's been a flood of competition in the headphones industry, there's been a significant decrease in prices due to competition. However, just 'cause they're cheaper like retro behind the neck headphones doesn't mean they're the same as the HiFi Man HE400s.
Which is why we've done the research to save you the hastle of testing and wasting your time. So let us show you what we've found.
What Are Open Back Headphones?
The name of these headphones has taken away some of the mental strain of determining what they are. Open back headphones are headphones that drive the music both to your ears and in the opposite direction. This allows your music to mix with your surroundings, creating a melting pot of synthetic and natural sounds that make you feel like you're actually there. (source)
It takes a serious audiophile to really appreciate these types of headphones.
They're best utilized when listening to tracks that were recorded live. And if you want to amplify (literally) the effects of these headphones with musical instruments, you can plug them directly into a standalone amp for guitars, bass, etc.. That way you can know what you're guitar would sound like in this environment if you cranked it up, but not having to actually crank it up. (source)
You would of course need a special headphone jack to do this.
Benefits Of Open Back Headphones
Open back headphones do what they're supposed to do, in that they don't contain the sound and drive it into your head. It's more of a free flowing sound that's spacious, natural, with just enough bass that it's not over powering.
These are a great choice if you have a sound system at home that might be too high level for other headphones, or you feel like the volume falls off in some areas. In our testing we found that these were however not a good option for use around other people for the same reasons, they can hear your music. (source)
So if you're a sound engineer who works in a sound proof box then these are a blessing for you, but if you're taking the train/tube everywhere then for the sake of those around you, don't get these.
The Best Open Back Headphones Under $200
Fostex T50RP mk3
If you're looking for a fully customizable pair of headphones, then you need look no further friend! And with a family history that stretches back to 1978, the quality of these cans is beyond compare for the dedicated audiophile. However, since it is such an easily customizable set of headphones, what you get out of the box is not the best they're ever going to be.
It's like a build your own adventure story with audio!
One of the most amazing aspects of these headphone's sound quality is the sparkling highs that are beyond on point. If you're listening to mostly Rock, Rap and EDM you're going to be pleasantly surprised. Everything else is just crisp and clean. When it comes to sound stage, they're much better than they look! Most people seem to think that the Fostex T50RP mk3s are very similar to HD600s.
If you're one of those folks who's looking to bring back planar magnetic headphones, then you're probably one of Fostex's mascots already. The planar magnetic capabilities provide a full rich sound in mid ranges making for incredibly smooth sound! This with the fact that they're semi open feature gives some conveniences of closed back, with the added benefit of improved sound stage from the semi open back headphone.
stock earpads suck, 1540 pads recommended. Other than that these headphones have pretty good comfort across the headband, and with the adjustable wire-frame instead of a preset click headband tightener, customization comes easy!
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Audio Technica ATH-AD900X
If you've read our site at all, you'll know that we fan-boy a bit over anything ATH! However, this pair of open back headphones left us a bit confused, not that they were bad at all, but just, different. If you get them from Amazon though, you get a bit of a package deal with a headphone stand and carrying case. Not a bad bargain at all!
One thing that stands out right away is the amazing openness of the sound from the ATH-AD900x. Obviously any open back headphone is going to make sound stage and spacious listening easy to achieve, but these had a much more natural/warm sound to the openness. Vocals come across precise and clear with no distortion even in the upper registers. One peril for these cans is the lack of "umph" in the bass area. You'll certainly be left wanting if you're looking for earth shattering bass.
Again, if you purchase these through Amazon you're going to get a bit more bang for your buck. Between the aux adapter, headphone stand, and case it's a really good deal for less than $200. However, the headphones themselves don't offer much in the way of features or extra tricks.
Which is how a great pair of headphones should be.
But there's no inline remote, bass/treble boosting or any fancy switches. Just a really great pair of cans!
One thing that puts these cans head and shoulders above any other open back headphone at this price is their comfort! These bad mama jamas even come with "wings" built in to keep the cups positioned over your ears and not keeping your head in a vice to keep them on. The light weight also helps to wear them for LONG periods of time. 4 hours later the ATH - AD900x still feel like they're not even there.
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Beyerdynamic DT-900 Pro-250
These would probably be considered the economical class of headphones of the Beyerdynamic line, with Beyerdynamic being comparable to Mercedes. What's more is that it's not just hype (looking at you Beats) that has made these headphones popular, but their resolution to quality gives the consumer the assurance that the money they're spending is worth it!
These headphones are nothing if not almost perfectly balanced! The mids come across crystal clear with no distortion at all. Meaning you can use these cans to listen to everything from Classical Music to Reggae Hip-Hop. What's even more impressive is that you can get this drastic range without using a booster of any kind!
The only downside is that these are labeled as "studio" headphones, which usually means you'll be doing some kind of mixing or engineering, but we honestly wouldn't recommend a quality open back headphone like these for mixing/studio use. They're much better suited to be a great pair of jam session cans.
Another thing that makes these great is the lack of features on these guys. With the lower budget you're not able to pack much more on these aside from their awesome sound, so don't expect too much in the area of frills.
Their best feature seems to be their customizable parts. You're able to change out the drivers, cables, ear cups, almost the whole thing to make them all your own!
If it looks like you're sliding a pillow onto your ears when you put these on, you're not too far off! The suede ear cups on the DT-900 make listening for long hours pretty easy on your ears. However, the headband could use a bit of work. They tend to squeeze pretty tight to the top of your head.
Other than that these are a very very comfortable set of cans!
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