Acoustic Design: Closed, Open, or Semi-Open

Unleash the symphony of sound with open back headphones or dive deep into a private audio oasis with closed back headphones—decide your audio destiny
Choosing the Right Headphone Acoustic Design: Closed, Open, or Semi-Open

Types of acoustic design Advantages and disadvantages of different types of headphone acoustic design [Open vs. Closed vs. Semi-Open].The sound character of each type of headphone and how to choose the right type of acoustic design for headphones Results

The battle between audiophiles is eternal: some confidently champion fully closed headphones, while others argue that half-open or open-back headphones are better. All this is called acoustic design, and we decided to figure out how all these types differ in practice.

Types of Acoustic Design

Headphone Acoustic Design: Closed vs. Open vs. Semi-Open

The acoustic design of headphones is a design and housing feature that affects the ability of air to escape from the speakers. Based on the type of design, headphones are divided into three groups: closed, open, and an intermediate option – half-closed or half-open.

Closed :

the rear speaker cup is sealed and prevents the passage of air. This creates an acoustic chamber: the volume of air inside acts as a load for the speaker. The ear pads of such headphones in the enveloping type of design fit tightly to the listener’s head and fit around the ear.

Open :

the rear ear cup has holes, and slots or is made in the form of a mesh, allowing air and, accordingly, sound to freely leave the headphone body. With this design of headphones, there are no resonating elements in their bowl and there is no need for them to fit tightly on the listener’s ears.

Headphone Acoustic Design: Closed vs. Open vs. Semi-Open


is a compromise option that combines the advantages of open and closed designs. Depending on the number of holes for air passage, this type of headphones can be closer in performance to both closed-back and open-back models.

There is no direct connection between the type of headphone design and its acoustic design. Even in-channel models can have an open type of acoustic design, having a mesh on the back side of the body.

If you look at the models of headphones available for sale, you will notice that most of them are closed type, much less are open type, and a very small number of models are semi-open type.

Headphone Acoustic Design: Closed vs. Open vs. Semi-Open

Advantages and disadvantages of different types of headphone acoustic design

Headphone Acoustic Design: Closed vs. Open vs. Semi-Open

Each type of headphone acoustic design is imperfect and has both pros and cons.

Closed-type headphones almost completely cut you off from external sounds, which is not always acceptable, especially when walking in the city, where “deafness” can be unsafe. When made in an enveloping type of design, they are usually larger in size and weight than open-type models – a tight fit on the head can cause discomfort due to excessive pressure, and when worn for several hours, the ears can hurt. However, high sound pressure puts your hearing at risk when listening to music at high volumes.

The advantages of such models are excellent isolation from external noise, a huge selection of models of different prices and sound quality, and protection of the internal parts of the headphones from dust and precipitation when worn outdoors.

Headphone Acoustic Design: Closed vs. Open vs. Semi-Open

Open-type headphones are the most comfortable for long-term wearing; they are usually lighter and do not put pressure on the head and ears. But such models have low soundproofing properties, which is why external noise will disturb you, and people next to you will hear your music. The disadvantages include a less wide selection of similar models.

Headphone Acoustic Design: Closed vs. Open vs. Semi-Open

Semi-open headphones take the best features of both types – they have good sound insulation and do not completely cut you off from extraneous sounds. They are more comfortable when worn for a long time, but the choice of such models is small.

The sound character of each type of headphones

Naturally, all these innovations were not for noise reduction, but for sound. Headphones of different types of acoustic designs have their own characteristics of sound transmission.

Closed-type models do not have a very wide stereo base and stage depth, but they provide dense, rich, and “pumping” sound with bass. They are great for fans of rock, metal, drum and bass, and other bass-heavy genres. It should be taken into account that if there is insufficient volume in the bowl and if the ear pads do not fit tightly, a decline in the low-frequency region of the sound may be felt, and the closed volume of air inside the bowl can cause re-reflection of the sound, felt as a slight echo.


Open-back headphones do an excellent job of reproducing music with a predominance of high and mid frequencies; they lack body resonance. Such models have excellent stereo response and stage depth, and a clear and natural sound, which makes them the optimal choice for listening to classical music and playing video games due to the presence effect. In addition, the lack of noise insulation costs allows open-back headphones to achieve higher-quality sound compared to closed-back models in the same price category.

Semi-open headphones do not have such pronounced sound features and will be a universal option, suitable for different types of music.

How to choose the right type of acoustic design for headphones

When choosing headphones, you should first decide what type of design is right for you, a large article will help you with this.

And then you need to consider the conditions in which you will use the headphones, which is very important when choosing the type of acoustic design.

Closed-type models provide maximum isolation:

From external noise, and your music will not be heard by others.

They are perfect for those who want to listen to music, watch movies, or play on a PC at home, disconnecting from the noise of household members or neighbor’s renovations.

Such headphones will be the best choice for use in noisy transport, and streamers with a sensitive microphone will also need good sound insulation so that viewers do not hear sounds from the headphones.

Closed-type headphones with good noise insulation:

Are used when recording vocals by musicians, where it is unacceptable for the sound from the headphones to be picked up by a microphone.

In particularly noisy places, such as the subway or airplane, sometimes there is not enough structural noise insulation, and in this case, it is worth paying attention to models with active noise reduction.

Active noise reduction technology does a good job of cutting out noise in a certain low-frequency range, from about 25 to 500 Hz. However, it is not yet able to cope with high-frequency noise.

The open type of headphones is well suited for long-term wearing, which is important for gamers who play on a PC for a long time, work involving long conversations in instant messengers, or for long periods of listening to music at home when you will not be disturbed by extraneous sounds.

The fact that such models do not completely cut you off from the sounds of the outside world makes them ideal for walking or playing sports on the street, because you need to be especially careful at a pedestrian crossing and, especially, at a railway crossing.

Such models are also suitable for vehicle drivers, giving them the opportunity to hear the signals of other drivers.

Semi-open headphones represent the golden mean:

They are comfortable for long-term wearing, do not completely cut you off from external sounds, and at the same time, you will not disturb others in transport.


Choosing the right headphones is not an easy task and you need to take into account many factors in order not to make a mistake. In the table below we summarize the main advantages of different types of headphones and common scenarios for their use.


The main advantage is good sound insulation. It is worth choosing for traveling on public transport, using noisy places, recording vocals, and streaming with a sensitive microphone.


The main advantage is comfort during long-term wearing and the ability to hear surrounding sounds. It is worth choosing for sports, long games and streams on a PC, driving a car, and long-term communication in instant messengers.


A compromise option for noise insulation and comfort during long-term wearing. Particularly good for long games and streams on a PC, and sports.

It is almost impossible to find universal models suitable for any conditions, and the simplest solution to the problem is to have a pair of headphones of different types.

Posted By:

Muhammad Tahir

A sound product specialist with a passion for helping others make informed decisions about audio equipment. With years of experience in identifying quality products and their features, I'm excited to share my honest experiences and recommendations with you. Let's connect and get started on your audio journey today!


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