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Here, the outer casing has no holes or vents and the entire structure is built to cup your ear. (The part that touches your face and seals the space between your ears and the outside world is, of course, a soft, cushiony material of some sort.) And the drivers are seated in the ear cup in a way that sends (or points) all sound solely to your ears. This is the most common design found in all types of headphones (over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear headphones).
The net effect: Close your eyes and you have an orchestra playing live inside your head. Meanwhile, the person next to you hears nothing. (Well, technically, nothing is 100% leakproof when it comes to audio, but you get the idea.) Bottom line: under closed-back cardboard vr box, you’re in your own world. Just add noise-canceling tech, and your world will seem far, far away from the real one.
Open-back headphones. See the vents and holes? With the drivers exposed to the outside world (as opposed to seated in the ear cups), sound gets through and lets air flow in and out of the ear. This creates more spacious sound (or soundstage) and the illusion of a regular stereo. Some say this is a more natural, less contrived way to hear music. And if we stick with our “like listening to an orchestra” analogy, this time you are in the conductor’s seat, on stage among the musicians.
The only caveat: Everyone around you will hear the music you’re listening to as a result, so they’re not ideal for public areas like a plane or train. The best places to listen to open-back headphones: at home or in the office (next to very understanding co-workers, of course.)
So now, hopefully, you know your preferred headphone type, and whether or not you want closed or open backed. So let’s keep going… the good stuff is next.