Top 5 Best Open Back Headphones Under $500 Of 2021


Open-back headphones have perforated earcups and are often preferred over closed-back models in audio professional and audiophile situations. Reason being that open-back headphones offer a wider, more open and realistic response to the audio being played (at the expense of spilling noise into the environment). The open-back form factor can house several types of transducers, making open-back headphones very diverse.

Any article discussing the “best” of anything is inherently subjective. That being said, I’m sure that with a $500 USD cap, the open-back headphones listed here would be, at the very least, top contenders for a pro’s top 5.

The top 5 best open-back headphones under $500 are:

The headphones listed above are comfortable and at the top of their price class in terms of sonic performance. $500 USD is a good amount of money, and these headphones are well worth the investment!

Since we’re having a discussion within the context of a price cap, I figure I should leave a link to a related My New Microphone article: Are Expensive Headphones (Or Cheap Headphones) Worth It?


What Makes A Great Open-Back Headphone?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list the criteria used to determine what makes a great pair of open-back headphones.

  • Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any headphone. Though highly subjective, specifications such as weight; contact pressure; earpad shape/material; stiffness, and the overall dimension play a role in comfort. We should also consider the amount of heat that could get trapped around the ears during longer listening sessions.
  • Impedance/device compatibility: compatibility with different audio devices is important. Choose a pair of high-end circumaural headphones that will be easily incorporated into your set up whether that’s a mobile device or a professional studio. Impedance and sensitivity ratings come into play when determining compatibility.
  • Frequency response: a great pair of headphones should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity.

Wireless (especially Bluetooth) capabilities are also seen as a benefit since they further improve the functionality and general comfort of the headphones.

To learn more about open-back headphones, be sure to check out my article: The Complete Guide To Open-Back & Closed-Back Headphones.

With that, let’s get into our top 5 best open-back headphones for under $500!


Related articles:

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Audeze LCD-1

We’ll begin our list of the best open-back headphones under $500 with the American-made Audeze LCD-1 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Audeze LCD-1

The Audeze LCD-1 is an expertly designed open-back planar magnetic headphone from the well-respected American manufacturer Audeze.

The Audeze LCD-1 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 5 Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $500.

The LCD-1 offers premium sound quality, made possible with powerful 90mm planar magnetic drivers with single-sided Fluxor magnet arrays and Neodymium N50 magnets. The ultra-thin Uniforce diaphragms are incredibly responsive to transient information and help tremendously in getting the LCD-1 its large dynamic range and low-distortion specs.

The open-back earcups allow for a wonderfully wide yet natural stereo image. The planar magnetic drivers reproduce audio with remarkable accuracy across the headphone’s extended frequency response of 10 Hz to 50,000 Hz.

The LCD-1 is designed for audiophile listening and professional applications. We can hear that when we put we put these headphones on. Expect accurate and transparent sound for enjoyment and critical listening alike.

To learn more about planar magnetic headphones, check out my article The Complete Guide To Planar Magnetic Headphones (With Examples).

The Audeze headphone has a rated nominal impedance of 16 Ω. Therefore, these headphones can be accurately driven by mobile devices. However, by the nature of the planar magnetic design, they will certainly benefit from a dedicated headphone amplifier.

The high-quality tangle-free cable is detachable and has 3.5mm plugs. A 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter is included to easily connect to 1/4″ (6.35mm) headphone jacks. This cable has reversible connectors, so the LCD-1 will always deliver the correct left and right channel information.

To learn more about headphone cables, check out my article An In-Depth Look Into How Headphone Cables Carry Audio.

Audeze utilizes patented engineering techniques and state-of-the-art laser-etching technology to manufacture this lightweight headphone. The earpads and headband are made from robust memory foam for extended comfort during long listening sessions.

The foldable design makes the LCD-1 perfect for high-quality studio and on-the-go listening.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 90mm Planar Drivers (Single-sided Fluxor magnet array) Neodymium N50
  • Impedance: 16 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 50,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB/1mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 250g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

To learn more about headphone specifications, be sure to read my article Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples.

Audeze is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.


Sennheiser HD 600

The world-renowned audio equipment manufacturer Sennheiser gets a spot on the list with their Sennheiser HD 600 (link to check the price on Amazon) open-back headphones.

Sennheiser HD 600

The Sennheiser HD 600 is engineered specifically for the audiophile/Hi-Fi market.

The headphone’s expertly designed dynamic drivers are built with computer-optimized neodymium magnets and aluminum voice coils. The advanced diaphragm design eliminates standing waves in the diaphragm material and offers a superior transient response.

Sennheiser did a fantastic job with the open-back housing to reduce resonances even further. High-quality metal mesh earpiece covers work in tandem with the overall design for a near-perfect sound.

Such an intricate design and high-quality materials result in a fully transparent sound with a beautifully natural stereo image. From 12 Hz to 40,500 Hz, the HD 600 will reproduce powerful bass, clean mids and non-fatiguing highs with incredible detail and clarity.

For more info on frequency response, check out my article What Is Headphone Frequency Response & What Is A Good Range?

The detachable OFC copper cable keeps the signal clean as it travels to the headphones, ensuring the high-quality headphones get the audio quality they deserve to reproduce. A 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter is included to ensure compatibility between different headphone jacks.

With a nominal impedance of 300 ohms, the HD 600 will require a dedicated headphone amplifier to sound the way it should. Driving the headphones with low-level mobile or consumer-grade headphone jack amps/DACs will produce a weak result.

To learn how headphone amplifiers work, check out my article What Is A Headphone Amplifier & Are Headphone Amps Worth It?

The HD 600 can be connected directly to hi-fi systems of the highest quality, particularly DAT, DVD, MD and CD players. The headphones are also an ideal choice for professional recording engineers that specialize in recording classical music.

This lightweight headphone sits securely on the listener’s head without applying an uncomfortable amount of pressure over the ears. Sennheiser makes enjoying the sonic purity of the HD 600 easy with such an ergonomic design.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic Driver
  • Impedance: 300 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 12 Hz – 40,500 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 102 dB SPL/V
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 260g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Sennheiser is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World
Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use
Top 11 Best Soundbar Brands On The Market


HiFiMan Sundara

At spot number 3 are the HiFiMan Sundara (link to check the price on Amazon) headphones.

HiFiMan Sundara

The HiFiMan Sundara is a super open-back planar magnetic headphone with an incredibly high performance-to-cost ratio.

HiFiMan designed the Sundara with NEO “supernano” diaphragms (NsD). These diaphragms measure between 1 and 2 microns thick and give the headphone their amazing transient response.

The result of great transducers and a high-quality open-back for factor is an articulate sound from the deep bass range all the way to the upper limits of human hearing and beyond.

Like all planar magnetic headphones, the Sundara can be made to sound its best with a dedicated headphone amplifier. However, with a low nominal impedance of 37 ohms, the headphones can also be driven successfully by mobile and consumer-grade devices.

To learn more about headphone impedance, check out my article The Complete Guide To Understanding Headphone Impedance.

HiFiMan suggests using the slimline SuperMini (link to check the price on Amazon) high-res portable player for optimal results. It’s a high-performance audio player with a headphone amplifier that will suit the Sundara perfectly.

This durable headphone has a headband made of aluminum for a lightweight and durable form factor. A weight-dispersing strap is added to Sundara’s headband to keep the headphones comfortable during long listening sessions.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Planar Magnetic
  • Impedance: 37 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 6 Hz – 75,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 94 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 372g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

The second last on the list is the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (link to check the price on Amazon) headphones from the Japanese company Audio-Technica.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is an excellent open-back headphone tuned for mixing and mastering. It’s the first pair of professional open-back headphones from Audio-Technica, and the company really made a great first impression with the R70x.

These reference headphones feature specially-designed 45mm dynamic drivers and acoustically transparent housings fashioned from aluminum honeycomb mesh to provide an accurate and natural open-back sound.

To learn more about dynamic drivers and driver size, check out my articles The Complete Illustrated Guide To Moving-Coil Dynamic Headphones and What Is A Good Driver Size For Headphones? respectively.

The drivers utilize high-efficiency magnets and pure alloy magnetic circuits to reproduce sonically clear audio with low distortion and extended high-end response.

Along with its excellent frequency response (5 Hz – 40,000 Hz) and wide dynamic range, the R70x portrays a beautifully accurate transient response to really represent the audio signals as they were intended to be heard.

The acoustically transparent aluminum honeycomb-mesh housings provide a natural and spacious open-back sound.

With a nominal impedance of 470 ohms, the HD 600 will require a dedicated headphone amplifier to sound the way it should. Attempting to drive the headphones with low-level mobile or consumer-grade headphone jack amps/DACs will lead to lacklustre sound.

For connectivity, the R70x comes with a Unique, dual-sided detachable locking cable that automatically maintains proper stereo orientation, no matter how it’s attached. The cable ends with a typical 3.5mm stereo plug but comes with a 6.35mm adapter to easily accommodate larger 1/4″ headphone jacks.

To learn more about 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone plugs/jacks, check out my article The Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks.

These headphones feel great when worn as well. First off, they’re super lightweight at only 210 grams (without the cable). Second, the 3D wing support system ensures a comfortable fit and the breathable fabric earpads, combined with the open-back design, keep the head contact soft and the ears cool.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 45 mm Dynamic
  • Impedance: 470 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 40,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 210 g (7.4 oz), without cable and connector
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Audio-Technica is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use
Top 11 Best Turntable/Record Player Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Phono Cartridge Brands In The World


Monoprice Monolith M1060

The Monoprice Monolith M1060 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a fairly popular headphone and gets the fifth and final mention in this article.

Monoprice Monolith M1060

The Monoprice Monolith M1060 is another superb open-back planar magnetic headphone with a circumaural design and a price tag under $500.

The Monoprice Monolith M1060 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 5 Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $500.

The M1060 reproduces a balanced sound with low distortion across the entire audible range (and beyond). The 106mm planar magnetic drivers are designed with linear symmetry Neodymium magnets. Combining these high-quality transducers with the superb open-back design, the M1060 achieves its incredibly natural, full-of-life sound.

These planar magnetic headphones, like all planar magnetic headphones, would benefit from a dedicated headphone amplifier. However, with a nominal impedance of only 50 ohms, these headphones can also be driven successfully by mobile and consumer-grade devices.

The M1060 comes with a detachable cable with 2.5mm TR (phono plug) connections at each earcup and a typical 3.5mm TRS plug at the device end.

Monoprice designed the Monolith M1060 to be ultra-comfortable for extended listening sessions. The large, comfortable earpads are made of faux leather for an ergonomic and secure fit around the ears. The padded headband keeps the entire unit secure without drawing attention to itself.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 106mm Planar Magnetic with Neodymium magnets
  • Impedance: 50 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 50,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 96dB / 1mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumarual/Open-back
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs (500g)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Monoprice is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 7 Best MIDI Cable Brands In The World.


Honourable Mentions

There are plenty of excellent open-back headphones on the market. Let’s have a look at 5 additional models, any of which could have easily been part of this top 5 list:

And here are 5 extra open-back models that cost above our cap of $500 USD:

  1. HiFiMan HE1000 V2 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  2. Focal Clear (link to check the price on Amazon)
  3. Audeze LCD-X (link to check the price on Amazon)
  4. Sennheiser HD 800 S (link to check the price on Amazon)
  5. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro (link to check the price on Amazon)

Choosing the right headphones or earphones for your applications and budget can be a challenging task. For this reason, I’ve created My New Microphone’s Comprehensive Headphones/Earphones Buyer’s Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next headphones/earphones purchase.


Other Top Headphones/Earphones Articles

Here are additional My New Microphone articles regarding the best headphones/earphones by type, application, and price:
Top 5 Best Balanced Armature In-Ear Monitors
Top 5 Best Balanced Armature In-Ear Monitors Under $500
Top 5 Best Bone Conduction Headphones
Top 5 Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $200

Top 5 Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $500
Top 5 Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200
Top 5 Best Earphones For Sleeping Under $250
Top 3 Best Earphones For Swimming Under $200
Top 5 Best Electrostatic Headphones
Top 10 Best Headphones/Earphones For Hiking
Top 5 Best Headphones Under $50
Top 5 Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $100
Top 5 Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $200
Top 5 Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $200
Top 5 Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $500
Top 5 Best Noise Cancelling Earphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Noise Cancelling Earphones Under $200
Top 5 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $200
Top 5 Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $500
Top 5 Best Open-Back Headphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Open-Back Headphones Under $200
Top 5 Best Planar Magnetic Headphones
Top 5 Best Supra-Aural (On-Ear) Headphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Supra-Aural (On-Ear) Headphones Under $250
Top 5 Best Supra-Aural (On-Ear) Headphones Under $500
Top 5 Best Wireless Earphones/Earbuds Under $100
Top 5 Best Wireless Earphones/Earbuds Under $200
Top 5 Best Wireless Earphones For Running Under $50
Top 5 Best Wireless Earphones For Running Under $100
Top 5 Best Wireless Earphones For Running Under $200
Top 5 Best Wireless Headphones Under $100
Top 5 Best Wireless Headphones Under $200
Top 5 Best Wireless Headphones Under $500


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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