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Home » Tech Roundup » Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – 2021 Edition

Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – 2021 Edition

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I was looking for some of the latest and best open-back headphones that are not only good for listening to music but are also great for gaming as well. I noticed that most of the pages or top search results have similar suggestions or recommendations; feels like “copy-paste”. Not only that, I felt that whoever wrote those lists of best open-back gaming headphones for gaming have no idea how those headphones sound like. So, I decided to write this article and list down the open-back headphones that I can comfortably recommend for gaming or general use. If you’re in the market for an open-back headphone for gaming, media consumption / entertainment, or for music listening; stick around and continue reading below.

Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming

What Are The Best Open-Back Headphones For Gaming?

Like I said earlier, I will only list the headphones that I can comfortably recommend. I own and use some of these; while others I have listened or tried before. There are literally a lot of open-back headphones in the market; from various brands, with various sound signature and characteristics and different price range. It’s like a rabbit hole and even audiophiles can’t even unanimously agree on what is the “end-game” headphone.

So, I’m not saying that my recommended open-back headphones are the only and definitive headphones to choose from. There are a lot of good sounding to great sounding headphones that I may not include in this list. There are also a lot of headphones in the same price range. But I won’t be adding them simply because I no idea how they sound like, or doesn’t have a good build quality, or is not comfortable, and so on.

Audio is very subjective; we have different ears and most importantly different preference. But at the same time, it can also be technical as well. There are headphones on the market that generally sound warm, and there are headphones that sound neutral, and some sounds bright or too analytical. We definitely do not want those bright sounding ones. We want something that sounds fun but at the same time clean, clear and detailed.

Personally, for a gaming headphone, I would go for something that sounds a bit warm. Neutral and natural sounding headphones are good as well. As long as they can reach the lows with a good punchy, clean and satisfying bass that doesn’t bleed. I don’t like bassy headphones or headphones with a bloated bass that overpowers the mid-range.

I also think that open-back headphones with a bit of forward leaning mid-range or something that is not laid back or veiled is good for gaming. And finally, we want something that is not too bright, sibilant or ear-piercing; but still have the enough treble extension so that we can clearly hear the (small) details and nuances in the game or audio in general.

Why Open-Back Headphones? Why Not Gaming Headphones?

Open-back headphones have an open ear cup design. This gives the headphone the ability to have a better imaging, layering and broader soundstage compared to closed back headphones. As a result, you get a 3D-like presentation in a natural way; without needing any artificial digital signal processing or fake surround effect. This is something that is difficult to achieve in a closed-back setup.

Also, open-back headphones are typically the type of headphones that are hi-res / hi-fi or headphones that are usually geared towards audiophiles. They usually have a much better sound quality compared to gaming headphones or headsets.

The first time I tried and tested an audiophile-grade open-back headphone, it was difficult for me to go back and use a typical gaming headset. The sound quality is just miles apart. The only time I am able to use a gaming headset is when I test them and audition them for review purposes. Or when I need a headphone that won’t leak sound.

Cons of an Open-Back Headphones

One obvious disadvantage of using an open-back headphone is they tend to leak sound, due to their design. This means that the person next to you or near you may hear some sounds coming from the headphone. Also, you will hear the noise coming from your environment or surroundings.

Forget noise-cancelling; it’s basically non-existent in open-back headphones. On the brighter side, if you want to play and want to hear or be aware of your surroundings at the same time, well this is one scenario were open-back headphones would be useful. However, in my years of experience using an open-back headphone; once the sound or volume is high, it’s a bit difficult to hear noise coming from my surroundings already.

Another disadvantage or “weakness” of an open-back headphone is they tend of have weaker bass punch or slam compared to closed-back headphones. Bass is usually not that impactful on open-back headphone but it doesn’t mean they can’t go low or deep into sub-bass.

Finally, most of the open-back headphones I am about to recommend doesn’t come with a (built-in) mic; except for the LCD-GX. You will have to get an external mic; like the HyperX QuadCast or the Blue Yeti USB mic. Since you are aiming for better output sound quality, you may want to have a better input sound quality as well.

TL;DR – Best Open-Back Headphones For Gaming

Here are my recommended open-back headphones. After the table below, you’ll find a brief description of each headphones.

HeadphoneDriver TypeDriver SizeFrequency rangeSensitivityImpedanceWeightWTB
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRODynamic45mm5 - 35,000 Hz96 dB80 Ohm / 250 Ohms250 gAmazon here
Philips Fidelio X2HRDynamic50mm5 - 40,000 Hz100 dB30 Ohm380 gAmazon here
Philips Fidelio X3Dynamic50mm5 - 40 000 Hz100 dB30 Ohm340 gAmazon here
Sennheiser HD 600Dynamic40mm12 - 40,500 Hz97 dB300 Ohms260 gAmazon here
HiFiMAN SundaraPlanar60mm6 - 75,000 Hz94 dB37 Ohm372 gAmazon here
Audeze LCD-1Planar90mm10 - 50,000 Hz99 dB16 Ohms250 gAmazon here
Audeze LCD-GXPlanar100mm10 - 50,000 Hz100 dB20 Ohm460 gAmazon here
MrSpeakers Ether FlowPlanar71x45mm~96 dB23 Ohm385 gAmazon here
Sennheiser HD 800 SDynamic56mm4 - 51,000 Hz102 db300 Ohm330 gAmazon here

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO open-back headphone for gaming

The first open-back headphone on this list is the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO; since it’s the cheapest in this list. This is also one of the most popular thanks to some (popular) gamers using this headphone whenever they stream or play.

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO is basically an open-back studio headphone that is ideal for mixing and mastering. It has a transparent and detailed sound, with good amount of bass. It has a clear sounding mids, and doesn’t sound cluttered thanks to its open-back design. It basically sounds balanced, from bass to the treble region.

There are two types of DT 990 PRO, the 80 Ohm version and the 250 Ohm version. The 80 Ohm is easier to drive since it’s more efficient compared to the 250 Ohm. With the 250 Ohm you may need an external amplifier to get the best out of it. Also, note that this doesn’t have a datable cable; and it has a (3m) coiled cable attached to one side of the headphone.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO is available on here.

Philips Fidelio X2HR

Philips Fidelio X2HR  open-back headphone for gaming

If you want a warmer sounding headphone, or has a “punchy” bass; the Philips Fidelio X2HR might be your next option. This is one of the more comfortable headphones to wear, despite its size. This is thanks to its suspension system that distributes the weight across the user’s head.

The Philips Fidelio X2HR has a V-shape sound signature, more or less. The mids is not its strong point, but it doesn’t mean it sounds bad. Just not balanced overall. The bass region is a bit emphasized, it is a warm and fun sounding headphone; giving listeners that rumble or “boom” when you play games.

The treble frequency is good as well, not overly extended or sibilant. However, this doesn’t have a (very) wide sound stage compared to the other headphones in this list. This is the only open-back headphone that I feel like it’s more of a close-back even though it has an open design.

Philips Fidelio X2HR is available on here.

Philips Fidelio X3

philips fidelio x3 open back headphones

The Fidelio X3 open-back headphone from Philips is the successor to the popular Fidelio X2. As you can see it features a new and stylish design. It is powered by the same 50mm dynamic driver and most of its specs are similar to its predecessor. However, the Fidelio X3 has different tuning or sound characteristics than the X2.

The Fidelio X3 has a “weaker” bass response. It doesn’t handle the sub-bass as well as the X2. It doesn’t sound as punchy as the X2, and it sounds a bit leaner. Some people might find it a bit bright for their preference. Nevertheless, it is still quite a detailed headphone. The sound stage is quite good, not as wide compared to the Sundara, but it is good.

Overall, if you find the X3 to be a bit bassy or too thick-sounding for your taste, the Fidelio X3 might fit your preference. It doesn’t have any grills exposed, but the ear cups are covered with a cloth. It still has that same headband suspension design; so comfort-wise, it’s similar to the X2.

Philips Fidelio X3 is available on here.

Sennheiser HD 600

Sennheiser HD 600  open-back headphone

Moving up the ladder, my next recommended open-back headphone is the Sennheiser HD 600. This has been around for several years and was recently revised by the company. It is a tested and proven headphone; one of the best mid-fi headphones in the market. Some audiophiles call the HD 600 as the “king of the mids”; because the mids is the forte of this headphone.

The Sennheiser HD 600 has a very good vocal sound reproduction. It sounds (very) transparent and natural. Sound stage and imaging are great as well. I like this headphone for games that have a lot of dialogue or games with open-world environment. Basically, RPG or similar type of games.

However, the bass region is not its strong point. The bass rolls off and you don’t get that rich punchy and satisfying bass. Sound stage is there but not very wide or 3D like. Another thing to note is that the HD 600 is not a very efficient headphone. It has an impedance of 300 Ohms, meaning you will need a good (DAC) amplifier to make it sing.

Sennheiser HD 600 is available on here.

HiFiMAN Sundara

HiFiMAN Sundara  open-back headphone for gaming

If you prefer a more efficient headphone, something that is easy to drive; then let’s explore Planar magnetic headphones. The HiFiMan Sundara is a mid-fi planar headphone offering a neutral tonality, balanced mid-range with a bit of emphasis on the upper mids to lower treble.

The HiFiMan Sundara has a fast and controlled bass; with great resolution, transparency and imaging. I’m personally a huge fan of planar headphones, as they are easy to drive and usually have a balanced tonality across the audio spectrum. They are also more “EQ-friendly” compared to headphones with dynamic drivers.

The only problem I can point with HiFiMan headphones is they tend to have “questionable” build quality. They do feel a bit cheap compared to the other headphones in this list. Another thing to note is that the company released a silent revision; newer Sundara are better than the earlier versions.

HiFiMAN Sundara is available on here.

Audeze LCD-1

Audeze LCD-1 open-back headphone

Another planar headphone I can recommend is the Audeze LCD-1. This one however is a bit different compared to the other open-back headphones in this list. It’s the company’s entry level planar magnetic headphone and it is primarily design for studio and sound engineers on the go.

The Audeze LCD-1 has a somewhat reference sound signature. It’s mids is also a bit forward sounding; and it doesn’t have a huge and punchy bass but it can go low. It’s also a bit analytical but not sibilant or too bright. It has an open back design but it doesn’t have a wide sound stage compared to the others.

However, the LCD-1 is very easy to drive; it’s also foldable and light-weight. On the flip side, its body is mostly made of plastic, making it feel cheap-ish. This isn’t really on my top list for gaming, but if you need portability and something that is generally okay for all-around, the LCD-1 isn’t a bad option.

Audeze LCD-1 is available on here.

Audeze LCD-GX

Audeze LCD-GX open-back gaming headphone

Let’s get more serious now. The Audeze LCD-GX is the only open-back planar magnetic headphone in this list that is primarily designed for gaming. The company actually calls the LCD-GX as the “audiophile gaming headphone”. It’s also the only open-back headphone in this list that comes with an optional microphone.

The Audeze LCD-GX is big and quite heavy, but it also has a wide sound stage, and a fantastic 3D-like audio reproduction. The mids are clear and transparent as well, and well-extended treble without being sibilant. However, it doesn’t have a punchy hard-hitting bass, but it can definitely hit sub-bass region. I use the LCD-GX not only for gaming, but for watching movies and series as well.

Build quality is top-notch and it feels really premium; not to mention it comes in a hard-carrying case. On the flip side, it’s heavy and it is also a pricey planar headphone.

Audeze LCD-GX is available on here.

MrSpeakers Ether Flow

MrSpeakers Ether Flow open-back headphone

Up next is the MrSpeakers Ether Flow planar magnetic headphone. This has been in the market for quite some time and I consider this as one of the best open-back planar headphones in the market. There is an Ether Flow 2 already, but I haven’t tried that one yet.

The drivers on the MrSpeakers Ether Flow are big, but thanks to the unique NiTinol metal headband and suspension, it is very comfortable to wear and doesn’t feel heavy at all. Unlike the LCD-GX, the Ether Flow has an impactful and punchy bass. It is also very detailed and balanced across the audio spectrum. But it is leaning towards the warm side and overall a fun-sounding headphone.

The Ether Flow doesn’t have a (very) wide sound stage like the LCD-GX; soundstage is decent to say the least. But the advantage of the Ether Flow over the GX is that the Ether Flow sounds richer and fuller overall. It also feels premium with leather head strap and ear pads; something you don’t see on (cheap) gaming headsets.

MrSpeakers Ether Flow is available on here.

Sennheiser HD 800 S

Sennheiser HD 800 S open-back headphone

Last, but definitely not the least; actually, the most expensive in this list, is the Sennheiser HD 800 S. This one is actually a headphone for audiophiles. But any audiophile headphone is also great for gaming and entertainment purposes as well.

The Sennheiser HD 800 S has a fantastic sound stage, great imaging, and basically an excellent sounding headphone that is ideal for critical listening. It has a phenomenal clarity and rich tones. It simply raises the bar on each aspect of the audio spectrum.

However, aside from being quite expensive, I recommend that you need a really good DAC and AMP to power this headphone. Since this is a very transparent and revealing headphone, it will not sound as good if you have a poor or mediocre source.

Sennheiser HD 600 S is available on here.

A word if ever you are planning to get a planar magnetic headphone. These planar headphones are usually efficient, meaning they are easy to drive. You don’t need a powerful amplifier to drive them. However, if you have a (really) good DAC, it would bring out the best in these planar headphones.

There you have it! These are some of the open-back headphones I can recommend for gaming use as well. All of these headphones sound great or good in their own way. But each has its own focus, strengths or sound characteristics. Sound is also subjective; your preferred sound signature may not be the same with me.

What’s important is you enjoy the audio or sound of your game and get a better and immersive gaming experience with one of these open-back headphones.

If you find my recommendations helpful, kindly share this best open-back headphones for gaming with your friends.

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A PC enthusiast and a gamer, and my eyes eat frames for breakfast, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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