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As opposed to closed-back headphones (which create a seal around your ears to isolate the sound and block out external noises), open-back or open-acoustic headphones purposely allow sound to pass through the cups. This not only improves the quality of the sound, but also widens the soundstage, so you can better determine which “direction” sounds are coming from. However, the best open-back headphones are often made for mixing, mastering, and editing music in the studio, you won’t see a lot of your go-to gaming equipment brands here. But according to some Reddit users, open-acoustic headphones seriously improve your gaming experience and you’ll never go back so long as you game in a quiet environment.
What to look for when shopping for open-back headphones
In a lot of other ways, the shopping experience for open-back headphones is similar to any other type: You’ll want to consider the overall sound quality, which, if you’re really into tech, might include specs like drivers, ohms, and impedance. (Drivers convert electrical signals into sound, but the type and size will differ depending on the price point and model; impedance is measured in ohms, and while 32 is standard, 64 or above is considered ideal for audiophiles.)
Just keep in mind that unlike the gaming headsets most people are used to, some of these headphones won’t include a microphone. (In that instance, a mod mic — like the one featured below — could help you to complete your setup; just be sure that it’s compatible with your headphones of choice before you make any purchases.)
Last but definitely not least, you’ll also want to consider the compatibility. Be sure that your headphones of choice are not only suitable for your operating system or console, but also designed with the right plugs/adapters for your needs.
Shop the best open-acoustic headphones
In a hurry? Here are the top gaming-friendly picks for open headphones.
- The overall best open-back gaming headset for Windows: Epos I Sennheiser Game One headset
- The best value: Samson Technologies SR850 Semi-open-back headphones
- The best sound quality, according to reviewers: Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro over-ear headphones
- A comfortable headset for PC & consoles: Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3BK open-back gaming headset
- A wide-compatibility headphone with a noise-cancelling mic: Drop + Sennheiser PC38X gaming headset
- Also great: Antlion Audio Modmic wireless boom microphone
1. The overall best open-back gaming headset for Windows
- Open acoustics designed for accurate, high-fidelity sound
- Noise-canceling, flip-to-mute microphone
- Comfortable, lightweight frame
- On-device volume controls
- Only advertised as compatible with Windows
The EPOS I Sennheiser Game One headset has tons of qualities gamers love, including clear, high-fidelity sound, integrated volume control on the right cup, a lightweight frame with plush velour ear pads, and a noise-canceling mic with a flip-to-mute function. That said, like quality studio headphones, it also features an open-back design for improved breathability and directional accuracy. Currently, it has a 4.5-star rating from over 3,500 reviews.
One reviewer wrote: “These blow all of those out of the water in terms of sound quality and mic quality. Without a single doubt, Sennheiser makes THE best microphone on a headset, period. Nothing even comes close. Now, for the sound, I love the open-back design of these. It allows for a much more robust soundstage, and a really unique experience if you’re coming from only using closed-back headsets like I did.”
Compatible with: Windows | Connector type: 3.5 mm jack | Impedance: 50 ohms | Microphone: yes
2. The best value
- Superb sound quality
- Semi-open-back that strikes a balance between noise-canceling and a wide soundscape
- Costs less than $50
- No mic
They don’t have a built-in mic, and they’re technically semi-open-back, but according to a reviewer, these Samson Technologies Studio Reference headphones offer a “superb sound at a great price.” Even though they cost less than $50, the 50 millimeter high-sensitivity drivers and impedance of 32 ohms allow for both deep bass and clear highs. The over-ear design is also breathable and comfortable enough for hours of gameplay.
One reviewer wrote: “Awesome sound clarity for the price. I use these for gaming on my Xbox one plugged in with a 3.5 mm mic adapter. These sound so much better than any other gaming headset I have heard(and that is a lot). An immersed sound that pulls me into the action giving me situational sounds like footsteps and explosions.”
Compatible with: anything with a 3.5mm headphone jack | Connector type: 3.5mm jack and 1/4″ stereo adapter | Impedance: 32 ohms | Microphone: no
3. The best sound quality, according to reviewers
- Incredible sound
- Have over 14,000 reviews and a 4.7-star rating
- No mic
It’s an investment, especially considering you’ll need to purchase a separate mic to use them for in-game communication, but according to reviewers, these Beyerdynamic studio headphones are “one of the best sounding headsets you will ever purchase” and “worth every penny.” The velour ear pads are soft, comfortable, and replaceable, while the frame and interiors are super durable. Finally, the 80 ohms allow you to hear every detail with crystal-clear accuracy. (You can get them in your choice of gray or black, as well as 250 ohms, but most gamers seem to agree that’s more than you need.)
One reviewer wrote: “Bought this for gaming and was replacing my Astro A40. I had just gotten a microphone with arm setup and no longer needed a headset. After doing some research I came across this as a lot of big streamers like ninja and other gaming communities were praising it.It was all true. Not only is this as comfortable as my Astros (I did not think possible) but they have incredible sound quality. I am hearing people in FPS games so early on that I am able to react a lot faster. It’s improved my gameplay on many levels!”
Compatible with: anything with a 3.5mm headphone jack | Connector type: 3.5mm jack and 1/4″ adapter | Impedance: 80 or 250 ohms | Microphone: no
4. A comfortable headset for PC & consoles
- Lightweight and breathable
- Reviewers report that they’re comfortable, even for those with glasses
- Detachable microphone with clear, directional pickup
- Not the best sound quality (and ohms unavailable)
Especially for those with glasses or large heads, the Audio-Technica gaming headset is praised for its comfort levels. It weighs less than 220 grams (about 0.5 pounds), but it still offers a flexible, detachable boom mic, cushy earpads, and a replaceable headpad, so you can wear it for hours on end. It also offers easy on-device volume and microphone controls. It comes with two detachable cable adapters so you can use it for both PCs and gaming consoles. While not the most impressive on this list, the large-diameter 45 millimeter drivers still create a clear sound.
One reviewer wrote: “What sold me was the comfort and lightness of the headset. As someone who suffers from migraine and ear infection, I am completely satisfied how this headset was made. I also wear glasses and the muffs don’t even seemed to apply any uncomfortable pressure. The air holes on the outside doesn’t help with noise cancellation but it does seem to help with air circulation so your ears don’t get sweaty and damp. Wore it for 8+ hours for gaming/music/movies and no discomfort.”
Compatible with: PC and consoles | Connector type: 3.5 mm cable and 3.5mm TRRS| Impedance: N/A | Microphone: yes
5. A wide-compatibility headphone with a noise-cancelling mic
- Wide compatibility
- Noise-canceling mic
- Angled drivers for improved locational accuracy
- Comfortable velour earpads
The Drop + Sennheiser PC38X gaming headset is praised on Amazon for its wide versatility and incredible sound quality. Angled drivers and two detachable cables provide clear sound (with locational accuracy) as well as ambiance-free communication for both PC and a wide range of consoles. The noise-canceling microphone also mutes when you flip it upwards, while the volume control dial is convenient and accessible. Get this pair in yellow or black.
One reviewer wrote: “This is hands down the best headset I’ve ever owned for gaming. After reading tons of reviews and researching forums I kept coming across these. The DROP+Sennheiser PC38X. 180 dollars seems steep for a wired headset but it is 100% worth it IMO[…] They will work on any controller with an audio port, switch, PS4/5, Xbox, laptops, PC, whatever.”
Compatible with: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox, Mac, and more | Connector type: 3.5 mm jack | Impedance: 28 ohms | Microphone: yes
Also great: This magnetic mod mic
Over 1,000 reviewers have successfully modded their open-back headphones with this Antlion Audio ModMic, which is a wireless microphone system that attaches magnetically to your set. Simply plug the USB receiver into your computer and pair via Bluetooth. You’ll then be able to use it alongside Windows, Mac, Linux, or PlayStation 4 — no drivers necessary. It features a 12-hour battery and a built-in mute toggle.
One reviewer wrote: “There’s absolutely no reason why you should buy a Logitech, SteelSeries or any other wireless gaming headset now that this thing exists. Seriously, just get a quality pair of open-back wireless headphones […], attach the Wireless ModMic to it, and have the best sounding wireless gaming headset, and the best sounding headset mic in a relatively inexpensive pairing that you can’t get anywhere else.”