8 Best Open-Back Headphones [2024]

The Warwick Acoustics Bravura earn this year's Editor's Pick badge.
The Warwick Acoustics Bravura earn this year’s Editor’s Pick badge.

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A curated list of some of the best open-back headphones in the world.

NameDriver TypeImpedanceSensitivityPrice
Warwick Acoustics Bravura Editor's ChoiceElectrostatic driver5 Gohms1350 V BUY
RAAL 1995 Immanis Strong Runner-UpRibbon driver0.057 ohmN/A BUY
HiFiMan HE-400se Best BudgetPlanar magnetic25 ohms93 dB/mWBUY
Final D7000 Best BassPlanar magnetic50 ohms89 dB/mW BUY
HiFiMan Arya Organic Best All-rounderPlanar magnetic driver16 ohms94 dB/mWBUY
Meze Empyrean II Best DesignPlanar magnetic32 ohms105 dB/mW BUY
RAAL-requisite SR1A Most UniqueRibbon0.6 ohms91 dB/W BUY
Sennheiser HE-1 The EndgameElectrostatic driverN/A114 dB/mW BUY

Open-back headphones are known for their natural staging and a more out-of-the-head presentation. Some even prefer open-back headphones over speakers for personal listening since you hear more detail without too much volume.

Yet, selecting open-back headphones can be difficult due to the compromises you have to make.

No worries, though! This highly curated list was made after thoroughly listening to most of the critically acclaimed headphones out there across a variety of price points.

Warwick Acoustics Bravura

Editor’s Choice
Close look at the Warwick Acoustics Bravura. (From: Warwick Acoustics)
Close look at the Warwick Acoustics Bravura. (From: Warwick Acoustics)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Electrostatic driver
    • HPEL diaphragm
  • Impedance: 5 Gigaohms
  • Bias Volage: 1350 Vdc
  • Weight: 403 g
  • Tonal Profile: Warm-neutral
  • Exceptional bass slam and dynamics
  • Lifelike vocals and instruments
  • Laser-sharp imaging, engulfing staging
  • Very comfortable and sturdy build
  • Exceedingly natural midrange reproduction

Warwick Acoustics’ “entry-level” headphone system, the Bravura, are perhaps the most affordable way to enter the coveted end-game territory.

Firstly, they have excellent build quality and the comfort is commendable.

Then comes the proprietary HPEL transducer that differs from the typical e-stat diaphragms in terms of implementation. This results in exceptional sub-bass slam and mid-bass punch, which is an area where most estat headphones suffer.

The voicing of the midrange is superb, expressing emotion and the subtlest nuances in vocals and strings. Energetic genres shine without ever getting into harsh or fatiguing territory.

When it comes to spatial qualities, the Bravura go neck-to-neck with the best in class, with their razor-sharp precision in terms of positioning.

We can say that instrument separation is superb enough that the listener can notice the “outline” of multiple instruments.

Treble is perhaps the one area where you may notice some improvements when moving into even more expensive options, such as our last year’s winner in this category,the Stax SR-X9000. Then again, the Bravura have a superior bass response, so you gain something in return.

Add to that the fact that to drive the SR-X9000, one needs to invest in an amp that’s likely as expensive, if not more, than the entire Bravura system. That is the biggest appeal of the Bravura – no fiddling with amps and cables, as everything is optimized from the get-go.

Ironically, this unique selling point has also turned into an Achilles Heel of sorts, as many have lamented the lack of flexibility of the Bravura with third-party DACs and energizers.

Even then, the Bravura remain the sole “buy and get done” option in the summit-fi range that do not demand further investment from the owner.


RAAL 1995 Immanis

Strong Runner-Up
Close look at the RAAL 1995 Immanis. (From: headphone.shop)
Close look at the RAAL 1995 Immanis. (From: headphone.shop)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Ribbon drivers
    • Triple full-range ribbon driver array
  • Impedance: 0.057 ohms
  • Sensitivity: N/A
  • Weight: 610 g
  • Tonal Profile: Warm-neutral
  • Class-leading timbre
  • Very “open” sense of staging
  • Addictive coloration to music
  • Striking design and build quality
  • Extremely fast transients

RAAL Requisite’s current flagship, the RAAL 1995 Immanis, offer one of the best and most natural sound that you can find in the TOTL space.

The proprietary triple full-range ribbon array offers something unique in the headphone space, where the three drivers have different resonant frequencies, and the idea is to nullify or diminish the frequency of one driver by utilizing the other one.

Moreover, to make driving these extremely tricky headphones (due to their absurdly low impedance), RAAL has designed a transformer that’s shipped alongside the headphones which can be plugged into the headphone output of any regular amp.

As long as the amp can push 2W into 32ohms (most mid-range amps nowadays match or exceed this), the 1995 Immanis should be properly driven. Tricky source requirement – solved.

The mids are beautiful, and so is the bass response which breaks no sweat even in complex basslines. The staging and imaging are the party tricks, as part of the earcup is opened up to allow for some natural “cross-feed”, which makes the sound form in front of you instead of on the sides.

The treble has some coloration, but it’s a pleasant one to my ears and may depend upon the amp you pair them with. Add the beautiful build with the rest, and you have one of the most remarkable headphones around.

Unfortunately, there is a big hurdle that keeps the 1995 Immanis below the Bravura: the price tag.

The Immanis are nearly twice the price of the Bravura, and you have to factor in the price of the DAC and Amp you need to pair them with.

Moreover, the treble coloration may not be to everyone’s preferences and will vary given the rest of the components in the source chain.

Fine margins indeed, but at this summit-fi level, splitting hairs is often the norm.


HiFiMan HE400se

Best Budget
Close look at the HiFiMan HE400se. (From: Amazon)
Close look at the HiFiMan HE400se. (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic driver
    • Stealth magnet array
  • Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB/mW
  • Weight: 260 g
  • Tonal Profile: Neutral
  • Exquisite midrange
  • Reference tuning
  • Very durable, time-tested build

HiFiMan HE400se have aged gracefully. What was once seen as a “beginner-friendly starter” in the budget planar realm has really grown in cult status over the years.

The current revision utilize Stealth magnets that further smoothen the treble response. Moreover, the stock cable has been upgraded in the current ones to something that doesn’t require immediate replacement.

Most importantly, the price cuts mean that the HE400se can be had for under USD$100 during sales, which happens frequently over the year.

All that would mean little if the sound quality is not up to par. Fortunately, the HE400se sound very good, once you do a few simple mods. Even without mods, they are nice, but the mods open up the stage and elevate the sub-bass.

The staging isn’t spectacular, but the imaging is quite good. Amp requirements used to be challenging for these headphones when on a budget, but modern budget amps offer plenty of power and should drive them properly.

The overall tuning is neutral, with some emphasis on the upper-mids. But the low distortion driver means the HE400se are quite flexible when using EQ.

To get planar bass and resolution at such a budget is commendable, and as such, the HE400se become our new pick in the budget range.


Also good: Koss Porta Pro

Close look at the Koss Porta Pro. (From: Amazon)
Close look at the Koss Porta Pro. (From: Amazon)

Koss have a long history with headphones, as they were the first brand to popularize portable headphones. The Porta Pros were originally released back in 1984 and later went through a driver update.

The modern iteration of the Porta Pros are still relevant and have set standards in the ultra-budget range. They have a V-shaped tuning, meaning the bass and treble are at the forefront of the signature. Despite the bass focus the mids are not too recessed and vocals come through fairly well.

The area where they exceed expectations is the soundstage.

These have a natural, open stage that often makes you forget that you are wearing headphones. Comfort is also excellent with the lightweight and adjustable clamp force. While the stock cable is very thin and the general build quality is fragile, aftermarket parts are readily available, and Koss offers a limited lifetime warranty.

Unfortunately, these won’t be as resolving in the mids and treble as the HD650s as they don’t have the same level of build quality, and the Porta Pros tend to distort at very high volumes, unlike the HD650s.

However, they have enough perks to make them a very enticing purchase, especially at the budget asking price.


Final D7000

Best Bass
Close look at the Final D7000. (From: Final)
Close look at the Final D7000. (From: Final)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
    • Air Film Damping System (ADFS)
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 89 dB/mW
  • Weight: 437 g
  • Tonal Profile: Warm
  • Superb industrial design
  • Visceral bass response with excellent speed and tactility of bass notes
  • Laid-back, warm midrange
  • Excellent staging and imaging

Final D7000 balance bass quality with quantity in a manner that is very hard to find among open-back headphones. The driver is improved over the predecessor D8000, and the weight has also been lowered.

The love of bass is an acquired taste. Some listeners abhor even a hint of emphasis on the bass. Then there are those bass heads who are not satisfied until they feel the thump of the lows on their chest.

Tuning the bass thus becomes more of an art, as several factors can affect the perception of bass quality including the driver type used, the design of the housing, the existence of passive radiators, etc.

The D7000 treat bass notes as first-class citizens, with excellent mid-bass punch and dense, rumbling sub-bass that can reach the lowest octaves. The sense of slam and impact are addictive. These maintain the rhythm and speed needed to keep up with complex bass lines.

Final’s further improved Air Film Damping System (ADFS) mechanism is the secret behind such a unique bass response. It’s not all about the bass though, as the D7000 have a natural midrange (despite the recession in the upper mids) and sparkly, airy treble.

The D700 are not perfect, with the upper-mid recession masking some of the details in the midrange. There is also some unevenness in the treble. If you love high-quality bass though, the Final D7000 are hard to beat.


Also good: Focal Utopia 2022

Close look at the Focal Utopia 2022. (From: Focal)
Close look at the Focal Utopia 2022. (From: Focal)

Focal Utopia 2022 is a refresh of the original Utopia, offering some improvements in the driver tech and a slight uptick in performance over the predecessors.

For those preferring quality over quantity, the Utopia 2022’s bass would be just right. Very tight and punchy bass that slams hard and moves effortlessly between bass notes. What’s not to like?

Perhaps the TOTL price tag and less “volume” in the bass can be the only objections for some.

The quantity issue can be easily fixed via some EQ, as the Utopia’s driver is very low distortion and should handle a moderate sub-bass boost without sounding distorted.

Other than that, Utopia 2022 excel in imaging and separation of instruments. Even the most complex tracks can be dissected without fuss. Somewhat average stage width is counter-balanced by exceptional stage depth.

It seems that you get what you pay for with the Utopia 2022 – phenomenal headphones that can offer some of the richest bass notes out there.


HiFiMan Arya Organic

Best All-Rounder
Close look at the HiFiMan Arya Organic. (From: HiFiMan)
Close look at the HiFiMan Arya Organic. (From: HiFiMan)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
    • Stealth magnets
  • Impedance: 16 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 94 dB/mW
  • Weight: 440 g
  • Tonal Profile: Neutral
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Highly resolving signature without any harshness
  • Excellent soundstage and imaging
  • Easy to drive, fairly flexible with amps

HiFiMan Arya Organic are TOTL gatekeepers of sorts. Any pair of headphones demanding a higher price tag must prove their superiority over the Arya Organic, and rest assured, that would be a daunting task.

The Arya Organic do a lot of things well, and very few headphones can make that claim.

The bass is fast, punchy, and ruler-flat. The mids are mostly neutral, with a slight lift in the upper mids that puts the vocals front and center. The treble has excellent extension without a hint of grain or splashiness.

Staging is great, with the stage height and depth allowing the listener to get ensconced in the music. Imaging is razor-sharp, as you can pinpoint the instruments in the mix.

To top it all off, the Arya Organic are very comfortable to wear, and aftermarket parts are readily available via HiFiMan’s website.

Another bonus feature is the easy-to-power driver specifications. At 16 ohms of resistance and 94 dB/mW of sensitivity, the Arya Organic are in the sweet spot for most portable DAC-Amps.

In short, these are headphones that work well across a variety of genres and tasks, making them truly versatile for the end user.

If you want to buy just one pair of headphones at the flagship level without going into summit-fi territory, the Arya Organic should be a top contender.


Also good: Sennheiser HD 800S

Close look at the Sennheiser HD 800S. (From: Sennheiser)
Close look at the Sennheiser HD 800S. (From: Sennheiser)

Sennheiser HD 800S remain a staple in the TOTL realm, despite it being over a decade since their release. The ring-radiator dynamic driver design is still unique in the personal audio space and gives a competitive edge to the HD 800S regarding resolution.

Staging and imaging are another highlight, with the 800S reigning supreme in spatial qualities. Furthermore, the agile bass response adds a bit of warmth and character to an otherwise reference pair of headphones.

Some are still averse to the presence region peak that the HD 800S may showcase on some tracks, but this emphasis also helps identify mastering flaws, so it’s not all a bad thing.

As an aside, the HD 800S are lightweight and a breeze to wear throughout the day if needed.


Meze Empyrean II

Best Design
Close look at the Meze Empyrean II. (From: mezeaudio)
Close look at the Meze Empyrean II. (From: mezeaudio)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
    • Isodynamic hybrid magnet array
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB/mW
  • Weight: 385 g
  • Tonal Profile: Warm-neutral
  • Gorgeous design
  • Warm-neutral tuning that is inoffensive
  • Good staging and imaging

Meze Audio is known for the design of its headphones and earphones, and the Meze Empyrean II take design supremacy up another notch.

The Empyrean IIs might even pass as art pieces due to the craftsmanship Meze has put into them.

The new Carbon-Black color scheme is my personal favorite. The grille design has intricate detailing, and the carbon-fiber headband seamlessly blends form and function.

The Empyrean are not all about design, though; they have a rich, captivating tuning that is excellent for laid-back listening. The sense of resolution has also been improved over the first gen Empyrean with revised tuning. Finally, the soundstage is good, and so is the imaging.

The Empyrean II are one of the most beautiful pieces of gear you will come across in audiophilia, and deserve this spot as a work of art.


Also good: ZMF Atrium 2024

Close look at the ZMF Atrium 2024. (From: ZMF Headphones)
Close look at the ZMF Atrium 2024. (From: ZMF Headphones)

ZMF’s latest co-flagship, the Atrium 2024, sports a revamped bio-cellulose dynamic driver and a proprietary damping system. The technical aspects of these headphones are impressive indeed, but what grabs immediate attention is their design.

Wood and metal– these materials are prevalent in all of the ZMF headphones, and the Atrium 2024 are no different. The grille design is stunning, with a Gothic architecture-inspired pattern. The leather headband and earpads, the sandblasted, machined-aluminum yokes, and the gorgeous cherry-wood cups give them a timeless demeanor.

When it comes to sound, the Atrium 2024 are no slouch, with a punchy bass that envelops the mids in a gentle warmth.

Treble has a good extension with a sense of airiness rarely found in warm tunings. Staging is spacious and open, with precise instrument positioning. In this particular aspect, the Atrium is better than any of the previous ZMF dynamic driver releases from my experience.

The primary caveats are the somewhat recessed upper mids and the lower treble emphasis which can be jarring at times. The Atrium are also not as resolving as some planar-magnetic and electrostatic headphones in this price bracket. They are gorgeous, though, and exude an undeniable charm.


RAAL-requisite SR1A

Most Unique
Close look at the RAAL-requisite SR1A, (From: RAAL-requisite)
Close look at the RAAL-requisite SR1A, (From: RAAL-requisite)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Ribbon
  • Impedance: 0.2 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 91 dB/W
  • Weight: 425 g
  • Tonal Profile: Analytical
  • Perhaps the best staging and imaging in headphones
  • Highly resolving
  • Exceptional treble rendition

RAAL-requisite is based in Serbia and the SR1A are the only headphones they have on offer at the time of this writing. These headphones are an anomaly compared to nearly every other headphone on the market.

First up are the amplification needs. If you look at the specs carefully, you will notice the incredibly low impedance of 0.2 ohms and a sensitivity of 91 dB per Watt.

That makes the SR1A some ridiculously power-hungry headphones, requiring specific speaker amps to perform well. Also, the earcups can be rotated to vary the seal, which can alter the sound signature.

Finally, the deal-breaker for many would be the bass response, which rolls off drastically in the sub-bass region. As a result, modern pop and hip-hop tracks are likely off the plate.

For all those sacrifices, you get probably the most open-sounding headphones in the world with a panel-speaker-like sound.

The treble is extremely resolving with lightning-fast transients, and the mids are revealing mastering flaws.

The design alone can be a conversation starter, and coupled with the proprietary driver technology and unique acoustic design, the SR1A are truly one-of-a-kind.


Sennheiser HE-1

The Endgame
Close look at the Sennheiser HE-1. (From: Sennheiser)
Close look at the Sennheiser HE-1. (From: Sennheiser)

Key features

  • Driver Type: Electrostatic driver
  • Impedance: N/A
  • Sensitivity: 114 dB/mW
  • Weight: 550 g
  • Tonal Profile: Neutral
  • The best sounding headphones in the world
  • Lifelike timbre and tonality
  • Comes as a complete system with matching energizer and DAC

Sennheiser’s money-no-object headphones are considered the best of the best in the world of audiophilia. The HE-1 are the stuff of legends. In every audio show, they attract a sizable audience, all pining for a 10 minute audition of a headphone system that is out of reach for most.

The exorbitant price-tag is matched by the sheer exclusivity of these headphones, as each pair is built upon order with a considerable backlog in place and requires specialized installation on-site.

Once you go through that ordeal, you get in your hands (or on your ears) the most natural-sounding headphones one can acquire. The mids are breathtakingly realistic, and the lifelike timbre is intoxicating. It’s hard to judge the technical merits of these headphones, like staging, imaging, etc., as the music itself becomes the centerpiece.

The HE-1 are hard to describe in words; they are even harder to encapsulate as a value proposition.

If there exists a pair of legit end-of-the-road headphones, the HE-1 would probably be it. The pinnacle, the end-game of an otherwise arduous hobby.


Also good: Warwick Acoustics Aperio

Close look at the Warwick Acoustics Aperio. (From: Warwick Acoustics)
Close look at the Warwick Acoustics Aperio. (From: Warwick Acoustics)

Warwick Acoustics is primarily known for its all-in-one headphone systems. The brand has a singular focus and offers only two products in their current “headphones systems” lineup: the Bravura, and the flagship Aperio.

The Aperio is, in many ways, the HE-1 with some of their “barriers” removed.

The price is noticeably lower (even though they are still beyond the typical summit-fi pricing). They do not demand a long waiting time after ordering. The DAC-Amp system is far more “svelte” and requires less upkeep.

Most importantly, they sound remarkable, so much so that upon a quick listen, they might just edge out the HE-1 in terms of treble. Staging is as engulfing as headphones can get, while imaging and general dynamics leave little to be desired.

Upon longer listening, the treble on the HE-1 sounds more natural, and the rounded notes create a more tactile, natural reproduction of tones.

Then again, these are mostly preferential biases. The Aperio are engineering marvels and demand an audition from those who are looking for that mythical endgame without the demands and oddities of the more popular Sennheiser offerings.


How to Pick the Right Open-Back Headphones for You

Let’s look at the factors that influenced us the most in picking the winners.


A well-designed headphone will enable hours of carefree listening without ever feeling the need of taking them off. However, determining the comfortability of headphones depend on a combination of factors.

Headphones with heavy magnet assemblies may weigh down on your head and lead to discomfort in the long term. On the flip side, headphones with inadequate padding on the headband, poorly designed earcups, and high clamp force may even cause physical pain.

Even the best-sounding headphones can become a chore to listen to if they are not comfortable or ergonomically compromised. As such, comfort becomes one of the key factors when choosing a pair of open-back headphones.

Driver type

Open-back headphones utilize different driver types, with each driver type bringing something new to the table.

Check out our article on driver types to learn more.

Choosing the driver to go with depends highly on the user’s preferences.

Some people like the richness of tone and bass impact of dynamic drivers, while others may like the slam of planar magnetic drivers or the speed of electrostatic membranes.

The driver type may not be a big factor in the purchase decision, but it does represent some characteristics that one may expect from the headphones.

Tonal profile

A pair of open-back headphones are only as good as they sound, and that is where personal preferences and pet peeves come into play.

The idea of a “neutral” sound often varies across manufacturers, and the tuners might add their own flavor to the frequency response to attain a specific “house sound”.

Too-bassy or too-bright headphones hide the details in the midrange and can get fatiguing to listen for long hours—something to be wary of during purchase.

Technical prowess

Technicalities’ is a catch-all term we use here to explain the soundstage, imaging, and general resolution of the open-back headphones in question.

The better a pair of headphones does in this regard, the more information you can pick up in your music. A wide, deep soundstage can give you the feeling of being in a mini-concert hall, so these factors are taken into account as well.

Amplification requirements

So, now that you’ve got the right pair of headphones after hours of research, how do you power them?

Do they have drivers requiring high voltage swing, or are they sporting low-impedance, low-sensitivity planar-magnetic drivers that need high-current amplifiers?

Then there are the exotic driver types, e.g. electrostatic or ribbon drivers, that require very different amplification topologies. Factoring in the cost and availability of amplifiers can easily become a concern.

Check out our Headphone Power Calculator to know how well your open-back headphones will work with your devices.

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