Best Closed Back Headphones in 2019

Over-ear headphones come in two main varieties: open back and closed back. Each have their own features, strengths, weaknesses, design differences, and situational advantages to consider when making a purchase. In this buying guide, we’ll look the advantages, disadvantages, and specific functions we’ll encounter when using closed back headphones, design choices that set the best apart from the rest, and finally go through a list of the best closed back headphones in 2019.

If you’re looking for closed back headphones specifically geared towards music production, take a look at this buying guide.

Full Disclosure: This is an affiliate review. Purchasing from the links or buttons below earns me sales commission.


Budget: NAD Viso HP50

The NAD Viso HP50s win top spot in the budget category on this list of the best closed back headphones. While they are over half a decade old, the HP50s still provide great value for their price. A lot of R&D went into developing their unique, spacious sound, and buyers say they sound like a mix between speakers and headphones. Response-wise, they have deep, tight bass and neutral treble and mids, making for a warm-sounding headphone.

Mid-range: V-MODA Crossfade M-100

The best mid-range closed back headphone goes to the V-MODA M-100. These are great for bass lovers and their customizability, accessories, and looks are hard to beat. Check em out below.

High-end: MrSpeakers Aeon Flow

The Aeon Flow from MrSpeakers are a world-class headphone in the audiophile world, and win 1st place in the high-end category. These use planar magentic drivers which allow them to reach very low bass notes with great accuracy and definition. They also use carbon fiber on the housings, adding to their lightweight nature. The Aeon Flows come with four tuning pads which can be inserted for a tailored frequency response.


If you’re still on the fence about making a purchase, don’t worry! The following sections are here to help you make an informed decision that will best suit your needs and budget. In order to understand why the best closed back headphones are the best, we first need to get an idea of what types of problems they solve, how they solve them, and how good they are at solving them.

Do I Need Closed Back Headphones?

Advantages

In general, all headphones can serve as as a second reference during the mixing and mastering phases of production. Closed back headphones specifically are great for recording because of their ability to block outside noise from reaching the wearer’s ears. They also have several other advantages that we should consider.

  • Both open & closed back headphones
    • Save room! They are much smaller than speakers.
    • Can be geared towards portability and mobility in some models
    • Relatively low noise when in use due to proximity to the listener and the inversely squared relationship between sound intensity and distance
    • Good for identifying flaws, clicks, and pops in your mixes if you’re a producer
  • Closed back headphones only
    • Forms an acoustic barrier between the listener and the surrounding environment.
    • Don’t need to worry about room acoustics and background noise as much
    • Eliminate feedback when recording
    • Better to use in noisy, public places

Disadvantages

When compared to speakers or studio monitors, headphones do have many disadvantages as well. These include poorer sound quality, poorer stereo imaging, relatively inaccurate frequency response, and discomfort.

  • Both open & closed back headphones
    • Harder to judge the loudness of percussive elements when compared to monitors
    • Harder to judge stereo width when compared to monitors
    • Not advised as a sole reference for an entire mix – headphones should be used with monitors to reference each other!
  • Closed back headphones only
    • Low-end response is generally less accurate when compared to studio monitors or open back headphones
    • Sound is “trapped” inside the ear cups, which also causes inaccuracies
    • Heat and sweat can build up during long sessions

Design Choices for the Best Closed Back Headphones

The decisions that engineers make while designing a pair of closed back headphones have a lot to do with how good they are, and how expensive, too! Below is a list of some of the design choices to consider in your search for the best closed back headphones for you and your needs.

Build Quality & Materials

Padding

The padding is a very important part of your headphones for two reasons: comfort and sound isolation. The best closed back headphones put a big emphasis on comfort and isolation. Below are some typical materials you’ll find that enhance the comfort and isolation of the padding:

  • Memory foam – denser is better for sound isolation
  • Leather – comes from the skin of livestock. Comfy but may become sticky when sweating happens.
  • Velour – a soft, knitted fabric or textile usually made of cotton
  • Alcantara – a soft, synthetic material developed in the 1970s in Japan. Sometimes found in automotive interiors as well
  • Lambskin – it’s soft, and it comes from lambs. Vegans, you’ve been warned!

Headband

The headband should a thin band of strong, ductile metal, usually stainless steel. Stainless steel is corrosion resistant (will not rust when exposed to sweat) and can take quite a beating too. The headband should be lightly padded and covered with leather or some type of durable synthetic material like the ones mentioned above.

Connectors

Connectors should be designed to minimize stress at the point where the connector and cable conductor are soldered together. Usually, headphones for commercial and consumer audio purposes are the 3.5 mm TRS variety, and connectors for professional audio and broadcast are the 6.35 mm TRS variety, also called quarter inch connectors.

Some high-end headphones use 4-pin XLR connectors. The connectors should be gold or silver alloy plated to prevent corrosion that may eventually impede the signal.

Cable

The cables used in the best closed back headphones will be shielded and balanced. Why do these things matter? Well, shielding and balancing are two methods that engineers use to reduce or eliminate radio-frequency noise from distorting your audio signal.

Ever have your phone near a speaker and hear random clicks, pops, and static noise coming from the speaker just before a call or text? This is RF noise from your phone at play.

Magnets

The magnets are important because they provide the magnetic field that interacts with the voice coil. We want magnets with a high strength-to-weight ratio that will not lose their field strength over time. For this application, the best closed back headphones will have rare-earth magnets like neodymium or samarium-cobalt.

closed back headphones diagram

In this diagram, we can see the flat neodymium magnet tucked away between the diaphragm and frame (housing).

Housing & Frames

The housings are the parts that cover the headphone drivers and diaphragms. They should be made of a strong, corrosion resistant, and lightweight material like anodized aluminum or high-strength plastic. Some high-end models use wood as the housing material, which can reduce resonance and add unique sound characteristics to the headphone. They should also be thick enough so that they will not crack when run over by a steam roller, thrown out off an airplane, or sunk to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (not advised).

Voice coil

The voice coil is an important component because how responsive and agile it is is directly related to the accuracy of the audio that the headphones can reproduce. Agility, and hence weight reduction are key when it comes to voice coil design, as lighter coil weight means more precise movement and more accurate sound.

Engineers choose CCAW (copper-clad aluminum wire) for the voice coil conductor as a weight reduction measure since aluminum weighs significantly less than copper.

best headphones for music production copper-clad-aluminum-wire

Copper-clad aluminum wire

A second weight reduction method is the use of thinner (higher gauge) wires. This, however, will require more windings, which increases the impedance and usually necessitates a headphone amplifier to drive the coils. Some headphones use both of these weight reduction methods in conjunction with each other to create headphones with very high fidelity.

Impedance

We touched on this above, but electrical impedance is the resistance to current flow. Generally speaking, for headphones, higher impedance means higher fidelity because it is a direct result of weight reduction in the voice coil.

For all headphones used for casual listening mentioned here, the impedance ratings are relatively low. This means that the transducers can all be driven without problems by a mobile device like a smartphone. No need to worry about an amp unless you’re after an even more refined sound.

Frequency Response

The frequency response is like the “sonic personality” of the headphones. For instance, some of the best closed back headphones will have a higher bass response, meaning lower frequencies are slightly exaggerated, adding to the low-end thump found in hip hop and dance music.

There is no “best” frequency response curve. Some buyers will prefer a more tame low end and opt for a better treble response. And some like a completely flat, uncolored reproduction of their audio. This is all personal taste and will have a lot to do with what type of music or audio you listen to. Below is a typical V-shaped response you’ll find in a lot of headphones. If you can find the data, I highly suggest considering the frequency response before making a purchase.

best closed back headphones v-shaped response

Image Source: Headphonesty.com

There is also some debate out there on whether or not a frequency response range that exceeds human hearing (below 20 Hz, above 20 kHz) effects the sound or not. Some headphones have an upper limit of 30 kHz or more. This means they can reproduce audio in that range, but you can’t hear it.

My personal opinion is that the extended range is simply clever marketing aimed at uninformed buyers. While there is some reasoning behind up to 22 kHz (effects of roll-off), anything above that doesn’t make much sense.

Cynical? Maybe. But this type of marketing hype happens a lot in both consumer and pro audio. Add in the subjectivity of human hearing and you have the perfect recipe for raging debates on everything from copper conductor purity to sample rate to frequency response.

Total Harmonic Distortion

THD, also known as total harmonic distortion, is a measurement of unwanted harmonic content in your audio signal. THD is a product of the circuitry of your amplifier and the headphones themselves, among other things, and increases as volume is turned up.

The key takeaway here is that higher THD means lower fidelity and lower accuracy when it comes to audio reproduction. High-end cans have a THD of less than 0.1%.

Driver Diameter

Driver diameter plays a big part in how your headphones will sound. Usually bigger means better. Larger drivers mean larger diaphragms, and this will effect the accuracy of the bass response of your headphones.

Specific Uses & Other Considerations

These are the more subjective items to consider when purchasing a pair of closed back headphones. Of course there is no “best” fitment size, or cable length, these are situational decisions you’ll need to think about to make a choice that best serves you.

  • Size – How big is is your head?
  • Foldability – Will you be carrying them from place to place, or mostly using them in a stationary studio?
  • Cable length – Will your connection point be far from you when you use them?
  • Amped or not amped – Depending on the impedance, you may or may not need to buy a separate amplifier for your headphones. This in turn will effect overall price of your purchase.
  • Price – What can you afford? What level of quality are you willing to pay for?

Some of these factors along with the prices and buyer’s reviews were accounted for while formulating this list of the best closed back headphones in 2019. Without further ado, let’s take a look.

10 of the Best Closed Back Headphones in 2019

NAD VISO HP50 (Best Closed Back Headphones – Budget)

NAD VISO HP50
NAD - VISO HP50 (Red)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  Replaceable leather earcups
♦  40 mm drivers
♦  1/8″ gold-plated TRS connector
♦  20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
♦  Foldable (swivel design)
♦  THD <1%
♦  32 Ω – No amplifier needed

First up are the NAD VISO HP50s. These headphones come in three finishes: black, red and white and also come with a detachable 3.5mm audio cable with in-line controls and microphone for use with mobile devices on the go. Also included are a carrying case, ribbon cable, 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter, and travel pouch. They have jacks on the left and right sides for some added versatility.

A lot of research went into developing the HP50s RoomFeel technology, which seeks to mimic the same type of frequency response that you’d experience from speakers in a room. They’ve aged well, originally making their debut appearance on the headphone market back in 2013. They are still a well-regarded set over half a decade later. The price of these has come down significantly and  they may very well be the best value on this list.

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Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 SonicPro

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 SonicPro
Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 SonicPro Over-Ear Headphones - (Black)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  Replaceable leather earcups
♦  45 mm drivers
♦  Three detachable cables: 1.2 m (3.9′) standard cable, 3.0 m (9.8′) standard cable, 1.2 m (3.9′) cable with in-line controls and omni mic
♦  1/8″ gold-plated TRS connector
♦  5 Hz – 40 kHz frequency response
♦  Foldable (swivel design)
♦  35 Ω – No amplifier needed

Next from Audio-Technica is the MSR7s. These budget closed back headphones also have a reputation as being great value for their price. Included are 3 cables with varying lengths and control features for added flexibility, and a protective pouch for safe transportation when on the go. These headphones can fold flat for comfort when worn around the neck and easy packing. They utilize lightweight aluminum to reduce weight, making them easier to wear for extended periods of time.

Users have also praised the MSR7s sonic clarity and stylish looks, but if you’re after a bass-boosted sound, the MSR7s may disappoint you as their bass response is pretty flat when compared to others. AT designed the response curve instead to follow the equal-loudness contour which adds to clarity by taking into account the sensitivity of the human ear.

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V-MODA Crossfade M-100 (Best Closed Back Headphones – Mid range)

V-MODA Crossfade M-100
V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal Headphone (Matte Black Metal)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  50 mm drivers
♦  1/8″ gold-plated TRS connector
♦  5 Hz – 30 kHz frequency response
♦  Customizable side shields
♦  32 Ω – No amplifier needed
♦  Lots more – see their website

The V-MODA M-100s are perhaps the most well rounded pair on this list, receiving praise from audiophiles, casual listeners, producers, gamers, and DJs. They have a nice balance of features, style, sound quality, and accessories that make them one of the best in the budget category.

The M-100s use a dual diaphragm design which aids in separation between mids and lows for a clean low-end response. Bass is definitely exaggerated in these headphones, with the response curve somewhat resembling the V-shape as the name suggests. This pair isn’t for everyone, and some users do report that the bass is overwhelming. That being said, the features, add-ons, and cusomizability  are endless. Check em out on Amazon.

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Sennheiser Momentum 2.0

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 for Apple Devices - Ivory
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  Leather & foam ear cups
♦  1.4 m detachable 1/8″ TRS cable with in-line controls & omni mic
♦  Stainless steel housing and headband
♦  Foldable
♦  16 Hz – 22 kHz frequency response
♦  THD <0.5%
♦  18 Ω – No amplifier needed

No headphone buying guide would be complete without a pair of Sennies. Up next is the Sennheiser Momentum M2. The M2s come in two colors – black and ivory, and are compatible with several smartphone manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, HTC, and LG. These headphones have a very low impedance, making them even better for use with mobile devices.

Bass and mids response are pretty good for these, but independent testing has shown the treble is lacking slightly. As far as isolation goes, these do well at keeping sound from escaping to the surrounding environment.

Some user’s report that there are counterfeits of these headphones being sold online. Make sure you do your due diligence and know where you’re buying them from. I wouldn’t buy them used unless you know for sure where the previous owner got them. Also be sure to select the right pair for the device you’ll be using them with the most.

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Sony MDR-1A

Sony MDR-1A
Sony MDR-1A Headphone - Black (International Version U.S. Warranty May not Apply)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  40 mm drivers
♦  Neodymium magnets
♦  4 ft detachable 1/8″ gold-plated balanced TRRS cable
♦  3 Hz – 100,000 kHz frequency response
♦  Foldable (swivel design)
♦  24 Ω – No amplifier needed

Apart from sporty aesthetics, the Sony MDR-1As have much to offer in the budget-to-mid-range category of the best closed back headphones. These cans come with a balanced four-conductor TRRS audio cable that allows each driver to have it’s own ground, which reduces signal distortion. The frequency response range is insane on these, ranging from 3 – 100,000 Hz. But if you remember from earlier, we can really only hear between 20 and 20,000 Hz so roughly 80% of this range is kind of irrelevant.

Response wise, the 1As have a distinct V-shape – a slight bump in bass and treble and slightly recessed area in the middle. Users report that the bass is tight and clean, and would be ideal for bass-heavy music like dance, rap, and hip hop. Have a look.

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Fostex AMS-TH-610

Fostex AMS-TH-610
Fostex AMS-TH-610 Premium 1 Tesla Stereo Headphones
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  Neodymium magnets
♦  50 mm drivers
♦  Wooden housing
♦  3 m detachable Y-type cable 2-pin cable w/1/4″ TRS connector
♦  5 Hz – 45 kHz frequency response
♦  25 Ω – No amplifier needed

Up next are the AMS-TH-610s from Fostex. These mid-range closed backs are unique in that they use black walnut wood as the housing material. They are pretty nice to look at. Worth talking about is the cable. This is a 2-pin Y-type cable that terminates in a quarter inch TRS connector. If you plan on using these with a mobile device, you’ll need an adapter. The impedance, however, is low enough to use with a smartphone without issues.

Like the V-MODAs we covered earlier, these use a dual diaphragm that makes for a nice bass and mids response. Overall, the reviews are positive and the TH-610s are generally received as a very good sounding closed back headphone.

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Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H6 Over-Ear Headphones - Black
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  Lambskin ear pads
♦  Lightweight aluminum housing
♦  1.2 m detachable 1/8″ gold-plated TRS cable with in-line controls and omni mic
♦  5 Hz – 22 kHz frequency response
♦  Foldable (swivel design)
♦  Daisy chain functionality
♦  No amp needed (no exact impedance spec was available)

The B&O H6s are next in our list. Build quality and aesthetics were not skimped on when B&O designed these. They use a nice lambskin leather on the ear cups, memory foam, and anodized aluminum for weight reduction.

Some users report the cable that comes with the H6s is sub-par, and even recommend going with an aftermarket audio cable to enhance the sound and loudness.They also do not include a carrying case. Frequency-wise they tend to be a bit brighter than usual, which can be nice if that’s what you’re after. But overall, a well balanced headphone.

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Audio-Technica ATH-W5000

Audio-Technica ATH-W5000
Audio Technica ATH-W5000 | Dynamic Headphones (Japan Import)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  53 mm drivers
♦  Magnesium alloy frames
♦  Lambskin leather ear cup material
♦  3 meter 1/4″ gold-plated quad-core TRS cable
♦  5 Hz – 45 kHz frequency response
♦  Not foldable
♦  40 Ω – No amp needed

Up next and breaking into the mid-to-high-end category of the best closed back headphones are the ATH-W5000s from Audio-Technica. Like the Fostex’s above, these have wooden housings which AT claims changes the sound quality in a positive way by reducing resonance. The also come with a hard case and cable storage bag.

Sonically, you’d think a massive bass response is in store due to their large 53 mm drivers, but users say they actually have a more reserved low-end. They sound great with vocals due to their detailed mid response. One negative that needs to be considered here is the fitment. The headband is not adjustable and won’t fit everyone.

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MrSpeakers Aeon Flow (Best Closed Back Headphones – High-end)

MrSpeaker Aeon Flow
ÆON Flow Closed Back Headphone
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  Planar magnetic drivers
♦  Carbon fiber housing components
♦  Frequency response: yes
♦  14 Ω – No amp needed

Also in the mid-to-high end category lie the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow planar magnetic headphones. These come with the option to use 4-pin XLR mini cables or the standard 1/4″ or 1/8″ TRS connections. They also come with tuning pads that supposedly alter the frequency response depending on the material used, and a hard case.

The cup design is unique on these, with a memorable D-shape that can’t be found anywhere else. Couple that with some carbon fiber and you have the Lamborghini of closed backs. Response-wise, these headphones have a tight sub-bass reproduction.

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Fostex TH900 Mk2

Fostex TH900 Mk2
Fostex TH-900mk2 Premium 1.5 Tesla Stereo Headphones
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Features

♦  51 mm drivers
♦  Neodymium magnets
♦  Japanese cherry birch housings
♦  Protein leather ear pads
♦  Gold-plated mini stereo jack (1/8″) & 1/4″ adapter
♦  5 Hz – 45 kHz frequency response
♦  25 Ω – Amp not required

Last but definitely not least are the TH900s by Fostex. These ones have an immersive soundstage and great stereo imaging for a closed back headphone. Crystal clear audio reproduction is accompanied by a V-shaped response that adds treble shimmer and rich bass.

On the negative side, some buyers report the treble, specifically sibilants, are a bit too intense, and even irritating at times. But this all boils down to personal preference and what you’re listening to. Each headphone has it’s own character.

As far as materials go, the TH-900s use 51 mm drivers inside nice Japanese cherry birch housings, which are delicately manufactured in Japan. Check out this very interesting “How It’s Made” style video below.

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Best Closed Back Headphones: Concluding Remarks

We can see plainly that the best closed back headphones can vary wildly in price, from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. So, ultimately, your decision here will mostly be based on price. Cost-wise, it’s what level of quality you’re willing to pay for. As we’ve seen, there is a wide range of capabilities across the board. The list we covered is really just a snapshot of what’s out there. If you want even more choices, here is a list of some other honorable mentions:

Best Closed Back Headphones – Honorable Mentions

Have a pair of closed back headphones I missed? Let me know in the comments. But for now, that wraps it up for this buying guide. Thank you for reading, and I hope this list helps you make a great choice for your closed back headphone purchase!

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