Every single pair of headphones is different — there are wired headphones, wireless headphones, noise cancelling headphones, and so on. All headphones, however, also fall into one of two categories — open-back headphones and closed-back headphones.

But what’s the difference between an open-back pair of headphones and a closed-back pair of headphones? And why should you care? Read on to find out.

Open-back headphones

Grado SR125e Design

Open-back headphones are designed to make your music sound a little more realistic. How does it do this? Well, by letting in some noise from outside your headphones and letting out some noise from inside your headphones. In other words, the sound is more like listening to speakers in a room than listening to a pair of closed headphones that isolate you from the rest of the world.

So what’s the advantage of this? Apart from letting sound mingle a little more with your environment, open headphones tend to offer a little more clarity than closed-back headphones — although that depends, to an extent, on the type of music you listen to.

Of course, there are disadvantages to open-back headphones. As mentioned, they let outside noise in and inside noise out — so if you plan on using your headphones on the bus, for example, for the sake of everyone else steer clear of open-back headphones. Open-back headphones are generally only best for those listening to music at home by themselves.

Here are a few open-back headphone reviews:

Closed-back headphones

Audeze Sine Design

While open-back headphones let your music mingle with your environment, closed-back headphones do they opposite — in fact, a lot of the time, they aim specifically to keep outside noise out, and inside noise in, such as in the case of noise-canceling headphones.

That can be a good thing in many situations. In fact, for the sake of convenience, most people are going to prefer closed-back headphones over open-back headphones — for example, if you want a pair of headphones to take on public transportation, or to listen to music around other people, then closed back headphones are for you. In some cases, there could be a slight loss of audio quality, although in some cases there is also a little more bass.

Here are a few closed back headphone reviews:

So what should you get?

If you’re looking for headphone to take with you or to use to listen to music around other people, then you’ll need a pair of closed-back headphones. If, however, you’re an audiophile that listens to music alone at home, then perhaps give open-back headphones a shot — they could be a nice surprise.