Open vs. Closed Headphones

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Geek 2.0, Dec 5, 2008.

  1. Geek 2.0 macrumors member

    Mar 28, 2007
    I'm looking into getting some nice headphones. I've narrowed it down between Sennheiser HD485 and Sennheiser HD555. Both fit my price range, but with some research, I found out that both are open headphones, whereas I originally thought HD485 was not. One question that bugs me about open headphones is how much ambient noise they produce. Is it enough to disturb people around you? How bad is the problem of ambient noise coming into the headphones? Also, if anyone has an opinion on which of the two headphones above is better, please tell. Or a suggestion for another pair preferably less than $100.
  2. whatisthe macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2008
    I have the Senn 650s which are open and the Audiotechnica ath-w5000's which are closed. The 650s definitely allow in ambient noise so you really shouldnt be listening to them in a noisy environment. It's fine if it's just in your home though, it's nice to be able to hear if someone calls your name rather than being unaware of your surroundings. It may disturb people around you if they are in close proximity and you are listening at loud levels. I really like the 650's but don't usually use them with other people around and use them indoors. I haven't tried the two models you mentioned so I can't really offer advice on which is better.

    For more information you may want to check out the forums at head-fi, it's where I get all my headphone related info before I make any purchases and they are really friendly to people asking questions.
  3. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I love open cans. Screw other people; just care about how good the sound is to yourself! :D
  4. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    In case of purely domestic-use closed phones like the Audio-Technica W5000 vs open phones like the HD650 as in the example mentioned above, the relative level of 'isolation' involved doesn't actually make that much difference in terms of what you hear of the outside - it's a few db's at the most and definitely under ten.

    The real difference is what is happening outside of your head. Many open phones have sound leakage to the outside world that can be easily heard in a very quiet environment e.g. in the next room. Closed phones generally speaking don't leak sound.

    The actual relative level of external acoustic decoupling of say an Audio-Technica ATH-W5000 while playing music is barely different from an HD650 if you are in a regular, reasonably quiet domestic environment. For late-night listening however, in the same domestic environment it may be necessary to use closed phones to keep from disturbing anyone else.

    Personally, I prefer open phones at home because I don't need any acoustic decoupling and I don't therefore need to make any sonic compromises. It also happens to be that the best headphone I've been able to procure is open, so there's no way of changing that.
  5. OptyCT macrumors 6502

    Nov 9, 2008
    I think the better question to ask your self, when debating whether to buy open or closed headphones, is what sonic quality do you value most and in what sort of environment will you be using them. If a more natural sound, larger soundstage, better imaging, and better bass is what you're after, then you should get the open ones. If you're looking for compromised sound, but better isolation, then the closed ones are for you. Personally, I own both an older pair of Grado SR-100's (open) and Westone UM-1's (in ear canal). I use each one quite a bit, depending on the circumstance. If I'm lying in bed next to my wife and she's trying to go to sleep, I use the Westone's. If I'm walking through the streets of a city with a lot of ambient noise, I use the Westone's. If I'm sitting on the couch in my family room, I use the Grado's. I prefer to use the Grado's whenever I can. However, given the situation, it isn't always practical to do so.

    I'm not sure if this helps, but my recommendation would be to increase your budget a little and buy both an open and isolation type headphone. Something like the Grado SR-60 can be purchased for $69, while the Westone UM-1's can be had for ~$100. This way, you'll always have a quality headphone for all occasions. Or, if your budget is limited, I would pick up the Grado SR-60's right now for $69. Sonically, the SR-60's will destroy the HD-485's and will more than stack up to the HD-555's, at a lower pricepoint. Take that savings and, when you put some additional scratch together, buy a quality in-ear isolating headphone (like the Westone, Etyomic, Shure, etc.).

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