10 Best Closed Back Headphones in 2020 for Audiophiles
It’s amazing how much of a difference in sound quality a specific headphone design can make. Sometimes it can be as drastic as switching from laptop speakers to a 5.1 audio system.
Audiophile-grade closed back headphones are often referenced in studio equipment review articles. But are they really that limited in what they can do? – They may seem that way if you don’t understand how sound projection works and what different sound frequencies have to offer.
Although audiophiles know their nuances, closed back headphones are an acquired taste for casual listeners.
10 Best Closed Back Headphones - Top Picks
Check out my top picks in this category and familiarize yourself with what makes the closed back design so special.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Closed Back Headphones - Top Picks
- Open Back vs. Closed Back Headphones?
- Manage Your Expectations
- Picking Headphones for Specific Tasks
- Wireless vs. Wired Headphones
- How Much Emphasis Should You Put on Brands?
- Accessories and Other Features to Look For
If you’re looking for something to help with mixing and production, or just something to help cancel out the buzz on your commute to work, the ATH-M50x might just meet all the requirements.
These closed back headphones have great sound isolation. They are equipped with plush padding which reduces the amount of ear pressure. But the level of comfort is not the only thing that makes them great while on the move. The ATH-M50x are also foldable headphones.
The ATH-M50x has an interesting soundstage. They have superior definition at high frequencies. This makes them ideal for classical music. But the vocal definition is also impressive. The mids are loud and detailed and may sometimes even escape the confines of your headphones.
The bass definition is good at this price range. The low frequencies are clear but not over-emphasized, which some may call neutral and accurate. If you’re a purist and listen to a wide range of genres, this feature should appeal to you the most. There is such a thing as too much bass unless you’re only listening to the hottest and newest club mixes.
The headphones don’t look too shabby either. They’re quite stylish. The swiveling ear cups also help with one-ear monitoring, which makes them even more versatile. In the end, the balance between audio quality and comfort is spot-on, which for some people may be all that matters.
The DT 770 Pro headphones come in three different impedances: 32, 80, and 250ohm. With that being said, the 250ohm model is one of the best audiophile headphones and that's the one I would recommend to serious listeners. It’s less prone to damage from blasting music at loud levels and it has a better soundstage and superior bass definition.
The projected sound is rather balanced. But, there are certain nuances that you simply can’t overlook. The highs frequencies are vibrant and crisp while the midrange frequencies seem very detailed. The bass has amazing definition, but the richness of the overall tone is not reliant on the low frequencies.
This all means the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro offers arguably most bang for your buck. The noise cancellation is rather good in both directions. The soundstage is fine-tuned for professional studio work. The level of depth allows you to nitpick recordings of any genre with ease.
But there’s also something to be said about the level of comfort. Thick padding is used on both cups and covered in a very silky material. The ear pressure is almost unnoticeable even after hours of using the headphones.
The HD 569 headphones are very different from the original Sennheiser HD 500 series of headphones like the 598. These headphones have a closed back design with solid passive noise isolation. On top of that, the level of comfort is very impressive at this price range.
The fabric around the ear pads is very soft and quite dense, making the headphones very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The padding on the headband is simple, but because the headphones are light, there’s no need for any extras. The quality of the leather, stitching, and overall design point more towards a pair of high-end audiophile headphones than a mid-range pair.
The ear pads are also very large, which makes the HD 569 headphones an easy fit. In terms of sound, the headphones excel at medium and high frequencies. Compared to Sennheiser's open back models, these offer a deeper bass that you can really feel.
The headphones sound great when plugged into a PC, monitor, TV, or even a smartphone, thanks to the low 23 Ω impedance. The soundstage is well-balanced and gives you a greater spatial awareness. This is due to the E.A.R transducer configuration which can be found in all Sennheiser HD 500 series of headphones.
In terms of accessories, you get a 3m studio cable and a standard 1.2m cable with a 3.5mm jack. The standard cable comes with an inline mic, which is a nice bonus.
4. Sony MDR7506
If you’re anticipating a lot of recording and mixing projects in your future then a pair of heavy-duty headphones might be the best choice for you.
If you’re looking for great value for your money, the Sony MDR7506 headphones have you covered. Starting with comfort, the frame is made entirely of plastic. Working long hours shouldn’t be an issue. This is surprising since there isn’t a lot of high-end padding to speak of.
Too many studio headphones emphasize low frequencies more than they should. The MDR7506 do it right by offering more definition in the midrange and high frequencies. This creates a rich and natural tone even though the lower frequencies may sound rather flat.
Compared to most similarly priced studio headphones, the MDR7506 headphones have a great track record and versatility when it comes to dealing with a wide range of musical genres. If you’re looking for something that allows you to hear the nuances in every recording, you really can’t do any better in this price range.
In terms of fancy modern features, the new HD 280 Pro doesn’t have a lot to show. However, the improvements made in the audio department as well as comfort are hard to miss. This pair of headphones has a medium impedance.
This extends their utility beyond that of their intended design as a pair of studio headphones. The sound is as balanced as it can be. The bass is clean yet less aggressive so it blends well in the mix. The mids are the bread and butter of these headphones.
The definition is highly detailed. The soundstage is natural and wide and presents good separation between left and right speakers. The noise isolation is pretty good too given the budget-friendly nature of the headphones.
The new headband design adds a lot of comfort. There’s no more head pressure like with the original itteration of the HD 280 Pro headphones. The padding looks and feels the same but the ear cups are slightly larger which should make them a better fit for a wide range of users.
If you want quality sound but you can’t go out of your way to buy even a pair of entry-level headphones from the major brands, the Edifier H840 might be an alternative worth considering. There aren’t that many compromises made to lower the cost, except the place of manufacture, and for general use, the H840 performs well above its price point.
Comfort is not an issue as these are over-ear headphones. They weigh 7oz which is almost nothing. This also means that the clamping force is greatly reduced, making them great for travel and long listening sessions. The padding is minimal on the headband and on the ear cups, but the large ear cups balance things out.
The H840 has an impedance of 32 Ohm. Not exactly ideal for your smartphone, tablet, computer, or gaming console if you play loud, in which case you might have to invest in an outboard amplifier. The 40mm drivers are powerful enough for a wide range of styles and settings.
The frequency response range is 20Hz to 20kHz, which is the human hearing range, and the sound is surprisingly dynamic. The midrange frequencies don’t overpower the bass or the other way around, yet you can hear the nuances of complex musical genres.
The V-Moda Crossfade M-100 isn’t the cheapest closed back headphones I’ve reviewed but they’re among the most interesting ones, to say the least. What’s even more surprising is the level of overall quality coming from such a small label.
The 50mm drivers are responsible for creating a nice separation between the bass and the higher frequencies. The responsiveness is very good on the low end. The mids and highs are crisp and clear, which helps enhance vocals.
The noise cancellation is as good as it gets. At moderate levels, it’s easy to tune out everything from the outside world. And, if you turn them up even higher, they may just be the best headphones you can wear if you’re a frequent flyer.
The build quality is as durable as it gets. The hexagonal ear cups are an acquired taste but the thick padding makes things easier. The look is also stylish if you consider the overused rounded ear cup design.
The Crossfade M-100 is a pair of, for lack of a better term, military-grade consumer headphones. While they may not be among the best closed back headphones for audiophiles in terms of sound quality alone, casual listeners would be hard-pressed to find something better and more reliable in the long term.
The Status Audio CB-1 headphones are equipped with 50mm drivers. They are capable of delivering a neutral sound signature, and at a fair price at that. There are some noise cancelation properties to the CB-1 headphones, enough to keep you comfortable and let you keep to yourself.
However, some sound may still blend with the mix, which might just give a more live quality to whatever song you’re listening to. With that in mind, I find that you can squeeze more out of the CB-1 if you use them as recording headphones.
Largely in part due to the very comfortable and large ear pads. While the build quality is nothing overly impressive, it’s important to note that the headphones come with detachable cables that have a twist-lock function. This almost ensures the longevity of the jack port.
If you’re interested in taking the headphones on the road with you, the foldable design should appeal to you as it significantly reduces their footprint while also giving them a bit of extra protection. Last but not least, the frequency response range (15Hz to 30KHz) is very good if you’re looking for extra bass definition without compromising the mid and high registers.
The LyxPro HAS-30 is a refreshing pair of closed back headphones that’s affordable too. The design is reminiscent of most professional recording headphones, which is why I also like them as DJ or studio monitoring headphones.
These aren’t as bass heavy as you may think, although there is sufficient extension on the lower register to cater to most up and coming DJs. Perhaps best-suited for home entertainment, the HAS-30 headphones are also quite comfortable to wear.
The HAS-30 features a leather headband and thick well-padded ear cups. There should be a limited amount of head pressure to worry about, just enough to prevent some outside noise from blending with the audio.
Some of the technical specifications include 50mm drivers, 15Hz to 26KHz frequency response range, and 100dB sensitivity. This all translates into a rich and clean sound signature even at higher levels. Also nice to see is the inclusion of two detachable cables, one coiled and one straight.
Another good set of closed back headphones is the Shure SRH440. These headphones offer good noise cancelation properties for the money and come with excellent build reliability courtesy of Shure’s experience in manufacturing audio equipment.
Are these headphones something that you’d want to wear while going to school or chilling on the beach? – Not exactly. But, for listening to music at home, tuning out coworkers at the office, and doing amateur studio mixing, they’re quite good.
The comfort level is above average. The padding is fairly thick and plush on the ear cups but the entire frame is rather rigid. On the other hand, this also indicates that the frame is sturdy and can handle long-term abuse.
When it comes to sound, the mid and high frequencies take center stage. The level of detail is very pleasing. The definition on the low end is not bad but the bass is flat and less emphasized. Still, if you’re looking for treble detail and enhanced vocals, SRH440 delivers more than it’s to be expected at this price.
The sound isolation is very good both ways. The headphones cancel out interference in loud environments while also leaking a minimum amount of sound in enclosed spaces at medium to high volume settings.
Open Back vs. Closed Back Headphones?
Closed back headphones are all about sound isolation and noise cancellation. They’re designed to block out most of the outside interference. They also prevent sound from leaking out and disturbing the people around you.
As you can tell by now, closed back headphones are not just for outdoor use. In an office setting, classroom, or in a dorm room, they allow you to keep to yourself. And, let’s not forget that music production wouldn’t be what it is today without the closed back design.
Open back headphones purportedly favor a more natural sound. That’s because outside noise blends in with the mix. But, there is a common misconception that closed back headphones favor heavy bass definition.
That’s not always the case. The majority of musical genres actually favor medium and high frequencies because of the variety of instruments used.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Each design has its own benefits and drawbacks. It ultimately comes down to your own preference when it comes to sound.
Manage Your Expectations
Don’t be surprised if some outside noises are still noticeable when using your headphones on low or medium volume settings. Voices tend to go through a lot easier than traffic noise.
Therefore, it’s not feasible to block out everything without putting too much pressure on your eardrums by turning up the volume.
Picking Headphones for Specific Tasks
You have to be very specific about your requirements in order to get the best closed back headphones for your money. If you’re a DJ then you need superior bass definition. And, swiveling ear cups may also be a deciding factor.
If you just want to tune out the outside world when traveling, then looking for the best noise cancellation properties should be good enough.
How long do you usually wear your headphones? – You’ll notice closed back headphones can vary a lot in weight. If you’re not worried about structural damage, you may want to consider ultra-lightweight headphones. They don’t have much clamping power and don’t cause a lot of head pressure.
Wireless vs. Wired Headphones
This is an age-old question for anyone who's not an audiophile. It’s no secret that anything wireless is appealing due to how much range of motion you can get and how neat your workspace looks without any cable clutter.
That being said, wireless headphones are not always ideal. If you’re shooting for audio perfection, Bluetooth technology is not there yet. The differences between some high-end premium wireless headphones and their wired counterparts may be too little to notice for the untrained ear.
But, true audiophiles and professionals in audio recording and mixing industry will be able to spot them. It’s also worth remembering that wireless headphones don’t always come with great autonomy. They might be just as useful as their batteries or their ability to minimize signal loss.
How Much Emphasis Should You Put on Brands?
Generally speaking, reputable mass market audio brands like Sony, Audio-Technica, and the like offer decent affordable headphones. And then you have the specialty audio brands like Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser and Grado.
It’s not always easy to maintain both build quality and sound quality while also catering to all budgets. If you’re a casual listener, you shouldn’t be afraid to try out either an older model from a top brand or a new model from a less popular manufacturer.
Accessories and Other Features to Look For
If you want to buy something affordable, you shouldn’t look at wireless headphones and advanced control interfaces.
However, for me, detachable cables are always worth the extra buck. Getting two cables with a pair of headphones is even better if you want to buy one pair for both home use and studio work.
The impedance is also important but only if you’re a true audiophile. For casual listeners, the difference between impedances shouldn’t be the cause of sleepless nights.
For example, even though high impedance headphones aren’t great for small audio devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) it doesn’t mean they won’t do a decent job at lower volumes.
Change Things Up with a Noise-Free Listening Experience
By now you should have enough know-how to pick your favorite pair of closed back headphones from this list. If you know when and where you want to use it and you understand the concept of this design, then comparing headphones becomes a walk in the park.
Closed back headphones will offer a unique experience of listening to your favorite tunes, gaming past your bedtime, or mixing high-quality songs in a home studio.