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Open Headphones vs. Closed Headphones?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
It seems that most of the high end popular headphone models on the market are open. I have never used headphones which are not closed. (I currently use the ATH-A900).

Besides the obvious advantage in Closed Headphones of isolation for both you and those around you, what are the other advantages/disadvantages of having a closed phone vs open phones.

I am looking longterm at buying an elite headphone, and I am curious how headphones like the AD2000 and W1000/5000 would differ, if one is accepted as sounding "better" (unlikely I know). Any explanation is great. Thanks.
post #2 of 16
I could well be wrong here but i think open headphone are aimed at clarity rather than closed. Im sure there is pages and pages of evidence to differ the two, but it all boils down to what you listen to.
Seems to me that closed phones are a lot heavier and darker and better for similar types of music,
vocals, classical etc your better off with open headphones, changed my way of listening when i first listened to a pair of hd600's after living with the a900's. Went strait out and bought a pair of k-701's and must say haven't touched the a900's much since (bear in mind reputation difference between the two)

Get out there and try some phones out and see the difference for yourself!!
post #3 of 16
Bit hard to put it into words, i think i know what im talking about , so i would be interested in other explanations also
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
There's really like no place to just try out headphones anymore unfortunately. There's one local place which does Photo, Video, and Audio, but they only had one set of real headphones (the HD485) which was nice but not as nice as the A900s. Just lacked clarity at the high end, and didn't have much separation of sound. Of course, that's probably because they are cheaper headphones.
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fetou View Post
There's really like no place to just try out headphones anymore unfortunately. There's one local place which does Photo, Video, and Audio, but they only had one set of real headphones (the HD485) which was nice but not as nice as the A900s. Just lacked clarity at the high end, and didn't have much separation of sound. Of course, that's probably because they are cheaper headphones.
In America? I know places like Japan have hundreds of stores dedicated to headphones and audio and your welcome to try a combo of almost any amp with and phones you want.
Though it was much the same in the US
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
If there are places they are probably mom and pop stores and they are very scattered. Most high end technology is only accessible via internet.
post #7 of 16
well closed headphones + clamping makes me uneeezy
post #8 of 16
Comfort for one. The three most comfortable phones I've tryed have all been open design (hd600, dt880, sa5000). Some closed phones can make your eardrums throb.

Another thing I've noticed is the closed phones seem to be going for the isolation, so the pads tend to be more leather or plastic sealing type of materials (which tend to make you sweat after a long period of time). Many open phones use a feltlike or open cell foam materials which I find much less fatiguing.
post #9 of 16
Coming from someone who's been into loudspeaker design for several years.. I often prefer open baffle loudspeakers. Often times, the best thing you can do with a mid is to simply put it on an open baffle, free from any resonances and box colorations, etc. I tend to look at headphones much the same way, except even more so.. since it's right on your ear and everything is so much more sensitive and delicate. And since obtaining low frequencies isn't so much of a problem with headphones that aren't enclosed, as it is with loudspeakers, I don't really see any positive benefits associated with a closed headphone, other than isolation.

I hate taking a loudspeaker driver, especially a midrange, and mounting it in a resonant box.
..Why the hell would I buy a headphone with those same characteristics?

..Just my $0.02.

edit: Also, aside from the pressures forced upon a loudspeaker transducer's cone and the resonances created by putting it in an enclosure, open baffle loudspeaker systems tend to offer a MUCH better sense of realism, bring a lot more depth and 3D space. In my experience, I've found that this same characteristic applies to headphone design. All of the closed headphones I've tried sounded like just that.. closed headphones. In fact, I find it kind of interesting just how similar the effects of open versus closed headphone designs correlates to open baffle versus enclosed loudspeaker designs.
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fetou View Post
It seems that most of the high end popular headphone models on the market are open. I have never used headphones which are not closed. (I currently use the ATH-A900).

Besides the obvious advantage in Closed Headphones of isolation for both you and those around you, what are the other advantages/disadvantages of having a closed phone vs open phones.

I am looking longterm at buying an elite headphone, and I am curious how headphones like the AD2000 and W1000/5000 would differ, if one is accepted as sounding "better" (unlikely I know). Any explanation is great. Thanks.
I can't comment on the phones you are looking at but the design differences between open and closed are the reason that the high-end headphones are always open. This is because the open design ensures that resonance is eliminated by allowing air to freely flow around the driver etc. This is not the case with closed headphones whereby certain frequencies (headphone dependant) may be subject to distortion as a result of resonance. Likely areas would be low frequency ranges (bass and mid-bass) ---- a good analogy would be when you place tower speakers with woofers (or subwoofers) too close to walls they become "boomy". A good reference paper on this phenomenon is available at Harman Kardon's Website by Dr. Toole entitled "Science in the Service of Art".

Hope this helps. Cheers.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
I see. What about headphones like the W5000... I have to imagine they are pretty high end.
post #12 of 16
Sure. And for the price, they should be. Just like there's a lot of good sounding conventional box loudspeakers out there as well (too many, imo.. and thousands that sound like crap, too.. even when price would lead you to think otherwise). They can still sound good and do many things well, while still being a monopole loudspeaker. However, their sound can probably be easily distinguished as such, as it'll lack most of the pleasing characteristics that dipoles tend to provide. As for open baffle loudspeakers, with the exception of planars and electrostatics, there's really not very many available in the mainstream market. Which is probably mainly due to size and aesthetics, on top of the fact that when the average consumer now thinks of a high end audio system, they most likely think of several little boxes around a room for multichannel audio in a home theater setup, which is far from ideal for strictly music.

The design of a loudspeaker is nothing but a matter of trade offs. Which of those trade offs are chosen depends on needs, preferences, and goals for the design. I would assume that a lot of the same holds true for headphone design, although things seem to be a lot more straight forward and less complicated, due to the fact that there's much less involved.. like enclosures, room interaction, crossovers, multiple drivers, etc. As such, I think a large portion of a great headphone design is highly dependent only on its drivers and the things surrounding it (earpads, etc).

Most people don't even realize that when the first conventional dynamic loudspeaker drivers first came about many decades ago, they weren't mounted on anything at all. It wasn't until the realization that low frequencies could be reinforced by cramming it in a box that it became a standard. And, of course, that brought with it some trade-offs.
post #13 of 16

wait are the shure 440s open or closed and how can i tell?

post #14 of 16

I believe that the 440's are closed.  If you own them and they isolate then they're most likely closed.  Also, if people next to you can't hear sound from your headphones while you're listening to them then they're also probably closed.

post #15 of 16

So there's something I haven't been able to figure out (most likely due to limited experience).  I get that open means the back side of the driver is open to the surrounding air and closed is the opposite.  But what about the front side of the driver?

 

I own a pair of Fischer FA-011s, which are sometimes described as "semi-open." The backs are wide open, but the inside seems to still be sealed off from the surrounding air.  That is to say, when I'm wearing them, air does not circulate from my ears to the outside (except through the foam and cloth ear pads).  Is that normal for open headphones?  Or do others allow air to circulate unobstructed around the driver when they're being worn?

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