Open Back or Closed Back Focal Headphones?

I have always used open back headphones. I have vision in only one eye and balance issues. I wonder if open back Focal headphones would be safer b/c they would provide some environmental auditory cues. Not sure.

I have no idea about headphones with particular medical conditions, but open back are generally regarded as giving better sound quality. That said, if/when I buy myself a pair (for music, as opposed to the Bose noise-cancelling ones I have for travelling) I would only consider closed back. My reasoning is that my headphone listening would either be when there is noise (TV, travel noise, etc) or if in a quiet place I’d likely be near someone else and I wouldn’t want to disturb ot annoy them with sound leakage outwards (I know how irritating that can be). The trouble is that decent ones that might get close in sound quality to my speakers are likely to be expensive, probably more than decent open back, and with such a variation in sound character and comfort between different models it requires substantial auditioning.


Ive had closed back headphones for many years to ensure no sound leakage problems effecting other people.
Started with B&W P7, then Beyerdynamic T5 Gen3 and now Focal Stellia which are excellent.
From a safety view point I dont think open backed headphones will help much wrt external noise response when listening to music.

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I have not ruled out the Clear MG either. I will talk to my dealer.

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You’ll have to try. In general, open backed let through nearly all external sound unimpeded.

But I guess the other question is, are you actually planning on walking around with them? Because open backed are fine for listening at home but they are very disruptive to others around you.

This is really a case of you needing to try with your specific medical state.

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@feeling_zen I am only planning to listen at home, in the living room or dining area, where my system is.

With no-one else in the room, and no other noise in the room?

I have both the Focal Utopia (open) and Stellia (closed), both of which are excellent and have different strengths. The Stellia don’t exclude absolutely all noise. As others have said: if you can, try before you buy. But equally, don’t forget you now have the option of active noise cancelling with the Bathys, which allows you to adjust how much noise gets through but also silences external sounds more. They’re not in quite the same class (after a brief non-comparative audition) but very good all the same and much more versatile. So I would say also well worth considering, though some have found the volume control steps on the large side.


If headphones is the preferred way of listening to music in general (over speakers or at least as much), then open back would have SQ advantages and the way to go, likely in a dedicated space where disruption is not an issue. I use headphones only quite occasionally and for me closed back make practical sense for all the good reasons mentioned.
This is my open back high end headphones (style) set up though, which I enjoy enormously and on most days.

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for many people, if bot worried abouts housemate hearing their headphones, ie purely choosing open v closed back based on audible traits FOR THEMSELF;

The Focal Clear have so much bass :open back with traits typical to’closed’(sealed) headphones.

many people do not want open backs due to making an unexciting headset for some genres of music (very generalised notions being true).
the clear/clear mg (and no doubt other focal open back) nail a great relatively open ish stage (typical of good closed backs) but whilst that is a constraint vs regular open back design benefits, they deliver a bass quality seldom seen in open back headwear.

That’s not a reason I’d heard before. But then I haven’t read about others’ reasons for choosing one headphone over another, my own thinking purely based on why/when I’d want to use headphones instead of the more natural room-filled experience of speakers, leading to the considerations I cited in my previous post. But it seems good closed backs are expensive and heavier than similar/better sound quality open backs. (Though of course a lot less expensive than good full range speakers, and possibly an alternative if only ever listening to music alone, when there could also be significant cost savings on amplification.)

I don’t think I need closed back headphones the purpose is to be able to listen to the stereo in the living room, while my husband is watching TV in our bedroom at the other end of our apartment. If we were both on the sofa or near each other in the dining area, that would be another story.

Unless there are real SQ advantages to close back models. Also, lighter is better.

My understanding, though only from reading not listening, is the other way round. That is where the challenge lies when the use of headphones will be in the proximity of others or in the presence of noise!

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