Table of Contents
- Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – Comparison Table
- 7 Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming in 2021
- 1. Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming Under $150 – Sennheiser Game One
- 2. The Most Customizable Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – ASTRO Gaming A40 TR X-Edition
- 3. Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1X Open Air High-Fidelity Gaming Headset
- 4. Sennheiser GSP 500 Wired Open Acoustic Gaming Headset
- 5. Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming Under $100 – Audio Technica ATH-PDG1
- 6. Best for Mixed Usage – Philips Fidelio L2
- 7. Best High-End Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – Audeze LCD-GX
Closed-back gaming headphones and gaming headsets are much more popular among gamers than open-back gaming headsets. The gamers say that’s mostly because of the noise isolation or more immersive experience. We can agree that closed-back headphones/headsets, by design, offer much better isolation and also don’t leak as much sound as open-back gaming headsets. That’s what makes them better when playing games in a group and when you don’t want to disturb others. However, if you have a dedicated gaming room and you don’t have to worry about disturbing other family members, you can as well go for open-back headphones for gaming.
Open-back gaming headsets have their advantages, too. The open-back design may have a negative effect on noise isolation and sound leakage but it also makes the soundstage much wider and airier. And it improves imaging, which allows you to locate where the footsteps or gunshots are coming from or where your enemy is hiding. This kind of design also improves the breathability, which makes the headphones comfier for long gaming sessions.
Our article about 7 best open-back headphones for gaming in 2021 is here to present to you some of our favorite open-back models and to answer all the questions you may have about open-back gaming headphones. Hopefully, it will help you find the right model for you.
Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – Comparison Table
|Open-Back Headphones for Gaming||Rating||Price||Review|
|Sennheiser Game One||4.2||Check Amazon|
|ASTRO Gaming A40||4.3||Check Amazon|
|Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1X||3.7||Check Amazon|
|Sennheiser GSP 500||4.0||Check Amazon|
|Audio Technica ATH-PDG1||3.7||Check Amazon|
|Philips Fidelio L2||4.6||Check Amazon|
|Audeze LCD-GX||4.4||Check Amazon|
As always, we did our research and tested some of the most popular models. The research didn’t take long since this segment of the market is not very rich and only a few brands are making open-back headphones for gaming. Unlike some other reviewers, we’ve decided not to include all kinds of open-back headphones into our selection. Our focus was only on the open-back headphones for gaming (those with microphones, whether internal or external boom mics). The following models are our top picks.
7 Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming in 2021
1. Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming Under $150 – Sennheiser Game One
Game One is probably the most popular and highest-rated open-back (or rather semi-open) gaming headset on the market. We like it for its performance, versatility, ease of use, and comfort. One thing that can be improved is the mic – it’s simply too sensitive. The headset is priced under $150. We can’t say it’s extremely expensive but it’s also not cheap.
Things we like
Sennheiser Game One has an attractive red/black color scheme. There’s also a white/red/black version. The build is not quite premium but the headphones feel fairly durable. Two detachable cables are included in the package – one 1.2m long cable with 3.5mm connector and one 3m long cable with dual 3.5mm connectors (for PC/Mac).
One of the best things about Game One is comfort. They are not too heavy (10.5oz). The earcups have perforated covers that make the soundstage bigger and allow your ears to breathe. The paddings on the cups and headband have soft velvet finish. They are not too thick but still are very comfy.
The control scheme is very convenient and easy to use. On the left cup, you have a flexible boom mic. You can mute it by flipping it upwards. The mic is not detachable. On the left cup, you have a convenient and easily reachable volume dial.
These open-back headphones for gaming are compatible with any PC, Mac, and gaming console with a 3.5mm audio output. It’s also compatible with smartphones and tablets.
Game One has 50Ω impedance and it’s not incredibly hard to drive but, if you want the best possible performance, it’s recommended to get an amp. Sennheiser recommends using GSX 1000 gaming amp.
The sonic performance is surprisingly good. The sound is powerful and immersive. The soundstage is very wide and helps you hear your enemies before they hear you. The imaging is very accurate.
The mic is pretty good. It picks up your voice very well, especially in quiet environments.
Things we don’t like
The mic is maybe a bit too sensitive. It picks up a substantial amount of the surrounding sounds. And it’s also not removable.
The headset works fine without an amp but it gets even better (and louder) with an amp. The amp is sold separately and it can raise the overall price significantly.
2. The Most Customizable Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – ASTRO Gaming A40 TR X-Edition
A40 TR X-Edition is a special gaming headset released in honor of the Astro Gaming’s 10th anniversary. It’s a versatile and very attractive headset with replaceable/swappable earcup covers, headbands, earpads, and mics. The only we liked better than the available number of customization options is the sonic performance of this gaming headset.
Things we like
The headset looks interesting and quite eye-catching. The original color scheme is red/black but the good news is that you can customize the scheme and appearance in many different ways. You can either buy the whole mod kit (earcup covers, boom mic, headband, and earpads) or you can design your own earcup covers (aka speaker tags) or the whole headset. Almost everything on this gaming headset is replaceable/swappable. The build is not exactly premium and it feels a bit plasticky but still sturdy enough for everyday use.
The headset comes with one undetachable 2m long audio cable with inline controls (volume and mic mute) and one extension cable with two 3.5mm connectors for connecting the headset to your PC/laptop/Mac.
The comfort is satisfying but there’s some room for improvement. The good thing is that you can improve the airflow by removing the earcup covers. Also, the earpads are soft and plushy. The headband is a little bit narrow but it’s well-padded and doesn’t cause any excessive pressure.
The audio cable attaches to the left cup, while the boom mic can be connected to either left or right cup. The cable ends with a 3.5mm connector and it’s compatible with any PC or gaming console with a standard AUX output.
The mic is located on a flexible arm. It’s a unidirectional mic with great noise canceling abilities. The mic can be muted by pressing the mute switch on the audio cable but it doesn’t mute when you flip it up. The mic performance is not flawless but it’s still very good for the price. It’s a little bit focused on the mids (on vocals).
A40 TR X-Edition delivers a pretty great sound performance. The sound is very clear and almost perfectly balanced. The midrange is detailed and sweet. The bass is powerful. The whole listening/gaming experience is very immersive. When you remove the earcup covers, the soundstage becomes much larger and creates a great sense of space.
Things we don’t like
The headset weighs 13.3oz which is a little bit heavier than average and the headband is a little bit narrow. Making it wider would’ve allowed better weight distribution.
The mic doesn’t mute when you flip it up – you have to press that inline mic-mute switch to mute it.
The earcup covers (speaker tags) are not sold separately – you have to buy the whole mod kit, even if you just want other earcup covers.
3. Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1X Open Air High-Fidelity Gaming Headset
Audio-Technica is probably better-known for its DJ headphones, their studio monitors, and Bluetooth headphones, but they also make gaming headsets. ATH-ADG1X is a pretty great-sounding pair of open-back headphones for gaming but it’s a little bit overpriced. You can probably get similar performance and feature set at a more affordable price. However, if you are a fan of Audio-Technica headphones or if you like this specific headphone model, you won’t be disappointed.
Things we like
ATH-ADG1X is a simple but stylish pair of cans. If there was no boom mic, they would look like a regular pair of studio monitors. The build quality is quite premium – the headphones look and feel sturdy and durable.
The headphones come with an undetachable 1.2m long audio cable and one 2m long extension cable for connecting the headphones to PC/Mac (it has two 3.5mm connectors).
The comfort is better than average. The headphones are light, the cups are nicely padded, and the headband size is adjustable. Instead of the headband padding, ATH-ADG1X headphones have an unconventional self-adjusting 3D wing support. It adapts to the user’s head and provides a very good fit, stability, and comfort.
The control scheme is fairly simple. There are no on-cup controls but there’s a tinny inline volume controller with a mic-mute switch on the audio cable.
The onboard mic is flexible but it cannot be detached. It’s a unidirectional mic with good noise canceling abilities. The mic performance is very good – it allows perfectly clear communication with your teammates and isolates most of the ambient noise.
The sound reproduction is accurate, detailed, and almost perfectly balanced. The soundstage is very spacious and airy and the imaging is close to perfect.
Things we don’t like
Considering all the features and performance, ATH-ADG1X headphones are maybe a bit too pricey. You can get similar performance at a more affordable price.
The boom mic offers above-average performance but it’s not detachable/replaceable. The same goes for the audio cable. There are numerous cheaper Audio Technica wired headphones with detachable cables. We don’t know why they decided to make the cable undetachable on these.
A hard carrying case is not included in the package – if you want it, you have to buy it separately.
4. Sennheiser GSP 500 Wired Open Acoustic Gaming Headset
GSP 500 is the second pair of Sennheiser cans on our list of 7 best open-back headphones for gaming in 2021. The headphones sound great, they are versatile, and the mic allows clear communication. They are also very easy to drive and don’t require any amplification. Comfort is a mixture of good and bad. The price could also be an issue for some people – they are priced around $160.
Things we like
The headphones look quite unusual but still attractive, at least from a gamers’ point of view. The frame and the earcups are entirely made of plastic, but they still look very rugged, very durable. We have no complaints regarding the build or design.
The headphones come with two detachable audio cables. The cables are braided and feel very premium. You have one 1.2m long cable with 3.5mm connector for consoles and one longer cable with two 3.5mm connectors for connecting the headphones to your PC/Mac and other devices with separate mic and speaker outputs/inputs.
The comfort is somewhat problematic. The good things are that the earpads are nicely padded and have some kind of suede-like finish. Also, the earcups are open which enables better air circulation and prevents ear sweating. The headband is adjustable and has holes in it which also improves the airflow and allows you to stay cool. You can read about bad things in the following section.
The controls are simple and intuitive. On the right cup, there’s a large volume dial. If you want to mute the mic, you just have to flip it up.
The headphones have 28Ω impedance which makes them very easy to drive. You will get great sonic performance, even if you connect them to your phone or tablet.
The boom mic with a flexible arm is located on the left cup, just like the audio connector for the cable. The mic is unidirectional, it’s fairly sensitive, it doesn’t muffle your voice, and it isolates a decent amount of ambient noise.
The sonic performance is almost flawless. It’s even better than the price implies. The soundstage is huge and the imaging is accurate. The whole gaming experience is so vivid and immersive.
Things we don’t like
As mentioned, the comfort is not perfect. The bad things are the weight and clamping force. The headphones are heavier than average (12.6oz) which is not the biggest issue. Clamping force is a much bigger problem. If you have a larger head, Sennheiser GSP-500 is probably not the best choice.
5. Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming Under $100 – Audio Technica ATH-PDG1
ATH-PDG1 is a much cheaper model than all the previously reviewed headphones and it’s our top choice when it comes to open-back gaming headsets/headphones under $100. These are not as capable as the previous models, especially when it comes to bass response and sound detail. On the other hand, they are a great choice if you need something for mixed usage (gaming, conference calls, casual music listening, etc.).
Things we like
ATH-PDG1 headphones are not very unique in terms of design. You have probably seen something like this in the past. You have circular cups connected to the headband with plastic yokes. The entire headband is padded and the headband frame is made of metal. The build doesn’t feel premium but it’s still sturdy enough for everyday use.
The headphones come with three detachable cables. There’s one 1.2m long AUX cable for gaming with volume and mic-mute controls, one 1.2m smartphone cable with inline controls and a built-in mic, and one 2m long extension cable for PC use (splitter cable with two 3.5mm connectors).
The comfort is pretty great. The velour pads are soft and plushy. The headband is pretty good, too and the weight of the headphones is equally distributed across the head. Also, the open-back design provides more air to your ears and reduces sweating. Overall, this is a comfy headset.
The controls can’t be any simpler. They are easily reachable and very responsive. The gaming cable has the mic-mute and volume controls. The smartphone cable has a built-in mic, one multifunction control button (for answering phone calls and playing/pausing the music), and a volume wheel.
The boom mic that comes with the headphones is detachable. It’s a unidirectional noise-canceling mic. It performs very well – the voice is loud and clear on the other end.
The sonic performance is on par with the price. The bass is not exactly powerful or extended but it’s tight, accurate, and punchy. The mids are clear and detailed. The high end is a little bit sharper. The soundstage is pretty big, significantly bigger than with closed-back headphones. The imaging is precise. All in all, the sound is on par with the price.
Things we don’t like
When you try to adjust the volume on the gaming cable, the controls tend to make the left side quieter than the right one for a second. After that, the right and left volume levels become equal.
There’s one quirk about this headset you should be aware of. The only way to completely mute the mic and stop sending any sound to the person you’re communicating with is to use the mic-mute switch on the cable. If you mute the mic on your computer, the computer won’t send your voice but it will send whatever audio your computer is producing. For example, if you are listening to something on YouTube and you mute the mic on your computer, the person on the other end will hear the YouTube audio.
6. Best for Mixed Usage – Philips Fidelio L2
Philips Fidelio L2 headphones are primarily made for casual listening at home but can also be used on-the-go or for gaming. The headphones are attractive, the build is quite premium, and the sonic performance is pretty great, especially considering the price. The mic performance is only average and the comfort will depend on the size of your head and ears.
Things we like
Fidelio L2 is quite stylish, quite an attractive pair of cans. The padding on the headband has nice orange stitching around the edges. A lot of metal was used for the frame and everything feels very premium and durable.
The headphones come with one 1.2m long detachable audio cable with inline mic and one control button (no volume controls and no mic-mute button). 6.25mm adapter is also included.
The headphones have 30Ω impedance and are relatively easy to drive. You don’t need an amp to drive them.
Comfort is not bad but there’s room for improvements. The earpads are thick and soft. The headband is adjustable. The cups can swivel and rotate a little bit.
The inline mic is designed for call answering but can be used for gaming, too. It’s not the clearest or the most sensitive but it does the job. The mic’s noise handling abilities are also mediocre.
The sound reproduction is, without a doubt, the best thing about Fidelio L2. The sound is very detailed and accurate. If you are one of those people who like heavy bass, these are not the headphones for you. If you, on the other hand, prefer a balanced sound with a nice but not overwhelming bass extension, clear mids, and fairly consistent highs, you are going to love these. L2 headphones are not on par with high-end audiophile headphones but, considering the price, their sonic performance is above-average.
Things we don’t like
The headband padding is quite thin, almost nonexistent and the clamping force is a bit too tight. If you have a large head or large ears, Fidelio L2 headphones may not be the most comfortable option.
7. Best High-End Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – Audeze LCD-GX
Looking for high-end headphones that can be used for both gaming and critical listening (mixing, editing, etc.)? Our top choice is the Audeze LCD-GX. These are audiophile-grade planar magnetic headphones offering unparalleled sound quality, resolution, soundstage, and imaging. The only thing we can complain about is the price. The price varies between $900 and $1,100 which makes them one of the most expensive gaming headphones on the market.
Things we like
The headphones feature that recognizable old-school look with a tension band and large earcups. The whole frame is made of magnesium alloy and feels very durable.
The headphones come with two detachable cables – one for gaming with a boom mic and one standard LCD cable. The gaming cable has a standard 3.5mm connector and is compatible with all the gaming consoles and PCs/Macs with 3.5mm outputs. Splitter cable with one 3.5mm input and two 3.5mm outputs (separate mic and headphone connectors), is also included in the package. On top of that, the headphones come with a great-looking carrying case.
The gaming cable has only the mic-mute button. You won’t find any volume controls on the headphones or on the cable.
Comfort is always problematic when it comes to planar magnetic headphones, mostly because of their size and weight. LCD-GX headphones weigh more than 16oz. The manufacturer did everything to make them as comfortable as possible – the earpads are thickly padded, perforated leather tension band enables very good weight distribution, and the open-back design prevents your ears from sweating. Still, we can’t say that LCD-GX is the most comfortable gaming headset, especially for long sessions. Resting your ears and your head after a few hours of gaming is highly recommended.
The gaming cable comes with a noise-attenuating boom mic. The mic is located on the end of the flexible gooseneck arm. The mic performance is almost flawless. The recording quality is excellent. The mic can isolate a great chunk of ambient noise.
As you would expect, the sound reproduction is on par with other similarly priced audiophile headphones. The bass response is extended, detailed, and powerful. The midrange clarity is impressive. In this aspect, LCD-GX headphones are better than any other open-back headphones for gaming. The soundstage is incredibly large and the resolution and imaging are outstanding. The headphones provide excellent gaming experience but are also great for audio editing, mixing, studio monitoring, etc.
Things we don’t like
The only thing we don’t like is the price. And maybe the comfort. Now, we’re not trying to say that these headphones are not worth it. We’re only saying that $1,000 headphones are not for everyone. Compared to other high-end headphones, the performance that LCD-GX delivers completely justifies the price tag.
This is the end of our list of 7 best open-back headphones for gaming in 2021. If you have any questions about choosing the right model or you want to share your experience with headphones for gaming, you can read our FAQs section or leave a comment below.
Q: Are open-back headphones better for gaming?
A: Yes and no. Both open-back and closed-back headphones have their advantages and disadvantages.
Closed-back headphones provide you with more privacy since they isolate ambient noise much better and don’t leak that much sound. They usually have punchier bass reproduction, too. Some gamers say that the closed-back headphones make the whole gaming experience more immersive because you can’t hear anything else but the game.
On the other hand, open-back headphones are more natural-sounding. They deliver more open soundstage and enable more accurate imaging. Also, they allow your ears to breathe, which makes them more comfortable for long sessions.
Q: Do open back-headphones sound better?
A: Well, that depends on your personal taste in music and sound. Some people prefer a bassy sound signature, even boomy bass, while others prefer more balanced sound with accurate and tight bass reproduction. In general, open-back headphones sound more natural, more refined, more audiophile-like. But not all people are audiophiles – some people, we can even say the majority of people like bass-heavy sound. If that’s your case, closed-back headphones are probably a better option.
Q: What are the best headphones for gaming?
A: Well, there are numerous great headphones for gaming. If you are looking for open-back headphones, you can find all the best performers in our list of 7 best open-back headphones for gaming in 2021. In general, our recommendation is to stick to reputable brands – Sennheiser, ASTRO gaming, Turtle Beach, HyperX, SteelSeries, Razer, etc. Logitech is also a fine option if you need something really cheap. Or even SADES.
One brand we would like to highlight is the Audeze. They are maybe new to the gaming headset market but they already have a lot of experience when it comes to audiophile-grade headphones. At the moment, there are two gaming headsets made by Audeze – Audeze MOBIUS (closed-back) and Audeze LCD-GX (open-back).
Q: Should I get open-back or closed-back headphones?
A: We have already explained all the advantages/disadvantages of both types. Your choice depends entirely on your preferences and the conditions in which you are going to use the headphones. Open-back headphones are simply made for private listening/gaming sessions. They are not a great choice for commuting, traveling, or playing games in a group.
Q: What headset do most pro gamers use?
A: Most pro gamers use closed-back gaming headsets. The most reputable gamers usually have contracts with different gaming equipment manufacturers and use not only the headsets made by these manufacturers but also their gaming chairs, their keyboards and mice, their joysticks, etc. The most popular brands among pro gamers are Steel Series, Sennheiser, HyperX, Razer, Turtle Beach, etc.
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.