Top 7 Budget Open-Back Headphones For Mixing & Mastering

Top 7 Open-Back Headphones Under 200$ For Mixing & Mastering | integraudio.com

In this article, we look at the top 7 open-back headphones under $200 for mixing and mastering. The over-ear headphones come in two distinct varieties. The open back headphones and the closed back headphones. Which one of these has the upper hand over the other has been an ongoing debate for a long time. 

However, truth be told, both headphones are quite different not just in their appearance but their functionality and purpose as well. Therefore, it is not a matter of being better than the other. Rather you first need to ask, “What do I need a pair of over-ear headphones for?” The answer will pretty much make the decision for you. 

The closed-back variation of the over-ear headphones is generally suitable if you’re looking to casually listen to your favorite band’s songs while traveling, doing your work, or taking a jog. The open-back headphones are more suitable for mixing/mastering in your soundproofed studio, which this article explains in detail while giving you some budget options to choose from.  

Top 7 Cheap Open-Back Studio Headphones Under 200$ For Mixing & Mastering

1. AKG K-702 (Great For Mixing & Mastering)

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AKG’s 700 series has some of the more popular headphones from AKG.

AKG has labeled the K-702 as “reference headphones.” This means that, unlike some headphones that may focus more on enhancing certain frequencies, with the K-702, you hear the same audio signal as intended by the sound source with little or no variation.

The design is simple but durable. Also, the materials used in manufacturing the AKG K-702 make it very light and easy on the head. This is especially good when you wear them for hours while you mix and master your sound. AKG specialize in providing some of the most comfortable headphones in the market.

Key Features:

  • Appearance
    The AKG K-702 has huge cups that sit nicely on the ears, covering them completely. These cups are padded with foam on the inside. The foam used here is like memory foam which slowly regains its original shape when pressed. Because of the foam, your ears won’t get sweaty like they might with headphones that offer leather insides. Instead of notches to adjust the headphones’ size, the adjustment mechanism includes an intelligent, genuine leather strap that adjusts automatically according to the wearer’s head. With the K-702, you also get a detachable cable that is 3 meters long. The headphones come in a combination of black and white, and a limited edition black and red coloring are also available in some stores. 
  • Weight
    The K-702 is light and weighs around 8.3 ounces without the detachable cable. The overall material used is plastic which makes the headphones durable and light. The weight is so negligible that you may forget that you’re wearing them at all.
  • Impedance
    Contrary to some of the more high-powered mixing and mastering headphones in the market, the K-702 has an impedance of 62Ω. This means you don’t need a headphone amplifier to get a good sound out of them. However, if you have a headphone amp on hand, you can get even better sound volume through the K-702. 
  • Frequency Range
    The AKG K-702 comes with a broad frequency range of 10 Hz – 39800 Hz, which is way beyond the audible range of the human ear. However, a similar range is found on most headphones of this category to ensure that all the necessary frequencies are there.
  • Character & Sound
    The AKG K-702 has a balanced and flat sound. The low-end frequencies are not muddy, the mid-level frequencies can also be heard, and the higher frequencies are not too sharp or piercing. Another interesting feature is that the sound stage is very wide. This means that the overall sound in both cups seems to come from wide sources. As a result, you may feel that you hear different instruments from different parts of the room. Also, there is a distinguishable separation of all the sounds you hear in both ears.

Pros:
These “reference headphones,” give you an accurate representation of the sound of your mics and line instruments during mixing. The wide sound stage provides sufficient separation of soundtracks to help you get the levels right. In addition, the K-702s come with a detachable cable, so you don’t need to discard or send the whole headphones for repair if there is a fault in the cable. You can get a new cable, and you’re all set. 

Cons: 
Since the K-702 are open-back headphones, there is a significant amount of sound leak, which may be a problem if you use them in a public space. This problem makes them less suitable for recording because some of the mics in your recording space might pick up the sound leakage. In addition, the leather strap may dig in on the heads of some users who are used to foam padded headbands.

Good For:
If you’re looking for a pair of headphones to listen to your favorite songs, then AKG’s K-702 is probably not a good choice. Because the 702s are reference headphones, they are much more suitable for mixing and mastering. In addition, the audio stage is exceptionally wide, which gives each track perspective in terms of the overall mix and helps you adjust your levels effectively. 

2. OneOdio Monitor 80 (Budget Option)

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The OneOdio Monitor 80 is the enhanced version of the Monitor 60s.

As the name suggests, the Monitor 80 are made primarily for monitoring sound while mixing. The headphones come with useful accessories, making the overall package a good value for money. In addition, the build is sturdy, and the headphones are lightweight, which makes them suitable for extended wear.

You get a few different connectivity options that add to the convenience and keep you well prepared for any situation in your mixing and mastering journey. The sound you get is mostly balanced throughout the frequency range, so you can have a true picture while setting the EQ.

Key Features:

  • Appearance
    The OneOdio Monitor 80 headphones are made of plastic with a headband that has synthetic leather padding for comfort. The build quality is strong, and the headphones can withstand quite a lot of abuse and still function perfectly. There are metallic notches on either side leading to the earcups allowing you to adjust the size. The earcups are made of soft velour-covered padding and are very soft to the touch. The material doesn’t trap too much heat, so you can wear the headphones for longer periods without any discomfort. The Monitor 80 comes in a combination of black (body) and silver (earcups).
  • Collapsible Design
    There are several joints along the body of the OneOdio Monitor 80 to give a comfortable fit to any head size. The joints also give mobility to both earcups. In addition, the monitor 80 is collapsible, meaning that its earcups fold up inwards and fit very snuggly into the hardcover that comes with the headphones. 
  • Connection Ports and Cables
    The earcups on the Monitor 80 have a connection port each. You have the option to connect a 3.5mm jack on one side and a 6.25mm jack on the other. So you can have plenty of connectivity options with these headphones. You get 2 different cables with the Monitor 80. A 3.5-meter-long coiled cable with a 3.5mm jack on one end and a 6.35 jack on the other. The second one is a straight 3-meter-long auxiliary cable with 3.5mm connectors on both ends. 
  • Headphone to Headphone Connectivity
    Having dual connection ports also gives way to another unique feature. You can connect another pair of headphones to your Monitor 80 and have someone else share what you’re listening to, which is a handy feature if you have a bandmate in the studio who wants to hear what you’re mixing/mastering.
  • Impedance
    The OneOdio Monitor 80 comes with a high impedance level of 250Ω. Unfortunately, this means that you must have a headphone amplifier with a high gain setting in your studio to get the maximum benefit from these headphones. 
  • Character & Sound
    The Monitor 80s have a balanced sound with a slight boost in the lower frequency range to give the sound some warmth. The mid frequencies are distinguishable nicely and sound natural. The higher end also has a lot of character but isn’t harsh on the ear. The sound stage on these headphones is also wide, and you can feel adequate separation in all the different sounds being played. The frequency range these headphones offer is 10 Hz to 40,000 Hz. 

Pros:
The mid and treble frequencies sound good on this unit. You get a hard case with the headphones, which protect it from dust and wear and tear. In addition, you get an option to connect the headphones with a 3.5mm or 6.35mm jack, and both types of cables come with the headphones. You can also connect a pair of headphones with the Monitor 80s.

Cons: 
Since these are open-back headphones, you will get significant audio leakage. Because of all the joints around the earcups, you may hear creaking when adjusting the cups. You may notice slight distortion while boosting the low-end frequencies.

Good For:
The Monitor 80s are good for monitoring the tracks in your mix. You get a wide sound stage to hear each track’s contribution to the overall mix and how the tracks sound separately. The sound characteristics make it especially suitable for vocal mixing and mastering.

3. Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro (Great Dynamics for Mixing Instruments)

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The Beyerdynamic DT-990 comes in two variants.

The sound characteristics of DT-990 and DT-990 Pros are very similar as both make use of the same internal hardware. The DT-990s have been made for regular use and lack some of the design features that the Dt-990 Pros have . They have a softer headband and come with a straight cable.

The DT-990 Pros have been made for studio usage and fit on the head of the user more snugly. The cable you get with the DT-990 Pros is coiled so that it doesn’t get in your way during mixing and mastering. The headphones are durable and built for the long haul.

Key Features:

  • Appearance
    The DT-990 Pro headphones are made of a combination of plastic and metal. The band and cups are made of plastic, while the cup holders are made of metal. The headband is heavily padded with foam held in place by some studs that can be undone to replace the foam if required. The earcups are nicely padded and surround the ears of the wearer. After extensive use, if the earcups get worn out due to sweat and dirt, there is an option to take them off and replace them with new ones. The construction is such that the cups get a slight horizontal rotation but can swivel vertically to conform to the shape of your head. The headphone size can be adjusted by extending or shortening the sides. The headphones come in black (headband) and grey (earcups). They also have an all-black limited-edition version.
  • Headphone Cable
    The headphones have a non-detachable coiled cable with a 6.35mm jack. The quarter-inch connector can be unscrewed to reveal a 3.5mm jack inside. The cable is 3 meters long and helps you freely move around your audio interface/mixer without the headphones getting yanked off your head.
  • Impedance
    The Beyerdynamic DT-990s come with a high impedance of 250Ω. You may use them on their own but be prepared to experience substantially diminished sound compared to when connected to an audio interface or an amp to power them. That is when you observe the full potential of the 990s.
  • Character & Sound
    You get a frequency range of 5 Hz to 35,000 Hz with the DT-990 headphones. The overall sound is detailed and uncolored. You get a true representation of the low and mid frequencies; however, there is a slight boost in the higher frequencies. The headphones are engineered such that the sound seems to come from all around you, and you can hear your sounds distinctly regardless of which frequency shelf they reside in. 
  • Dynamics
    Another key characteristic of the DT-990s is the dynamic response. The headphones are especially good at picking up the intensity with which an instrument is being played, like a rim shot, the pressure-sensitive keys of the piano, or palm muting on a guitar, which makes it an effective tool for the mixing and mastering process.

Pros:
All major parts on these headphones, including the padding on the headband and the velour pads on your cups, can be taken off and replaced. You get a nice pouch with a name tag to store the 990s. The sound is wide and uncolored apart from the slight treble boost.

Cons: 
The treble frequencies get a boost in the DT-990s to a point where they may become sharp and uncomfortable to hear. Also, the lack of a detachable cable means you’ll need to spend a few extra bucks if the cable gets busted. The high impedance will cost you a headphone amp.

Good For:
Because of the width of sound, these headphones are popular in mixing and gaming circles as they provide good clarity on the many layers in the mix. In addition, there is a natural bass representation on these, so your ears will remain relaxed and won’t tire very soon.

4. AKG K-612 Pro (Great for Starters)

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The AKG K-612 Pro is a close relative of the K-702 in terms of features and looks.

K-612 Pros are also labeled “reference headphones” and promise to provide uncolored sound without boosting audible frequencies, much like the K-702 headphones. Again, this is a testament to the fact that the ear cups have neodymium magnets that provide balanced sound.

The 612 also steals several design elements from its cousin, the AKG K-702, as they both look almost identical with minor differences. The same durability is there, and the materials used are also the same contributing to their light weight. For the same reason, the K-612 is also as comfortable as the 702.

Key Features:

  • Appearance
    The AKG K-612 comes in black and silver. Appearance-wise, the main difference you may observe when comparing the K-612 to the K-702 is that the aforementioned K-612 has a 3-meter-long non-detachable cable with a quarter-inch jack at the end of it. You will find a 3.5mm connector underneath when you unscrew the 6.35mm jack attached to the headphones out of the box. The cups are the same, and so is the material used for padding. The automatically adjustable head strap with the AKG branding returns as well. 
  • Weight
    The K-612 weighs 238 grams or 8.4 ounces. The headphones have a plastic body with airbrushed plastic on the sides made to look like metal. The construction makes the headband flexible and difficult to break. It also ensures that the headphones are very light.
  • Impedance
    Contrary to the lower impedance of just 62Ω on the K-702, the AKG K-612 has a much higher resistance at 120Ω. The higher impedance takes the K-612 into headphone amp territory. If you wish to provide enough juice for your beloved 612s to shine, you will need a good amp with enough gain by your side.
  • Frequency Range
    The AKG K-612 offers a frequency range of 12 Hz – 39500 Hz, almost identical to what the K-702 offers. Such a wide frequency response ensures that no frequencies in the audible range and beyond get ignored. All AKGs offer a similar range.
  • Character & Sound
    The overall sound seems to be flat. The bass frequencies seem tight and lack a bit of warmth. There seems to be a slight treble boost around the 2,000 Hz frequency range, so if you play around with the EQ and adjust the frequency around that level, you can overcome the boost. The sound may also seem a bit dry, which enhances the sounds of some stringed instruments in your mix. Like on all AKG headphones, the width of the sound cannot be understated. You get a feel of being in the center of a room with audio tracks playing around you. 

Pros:
The AKG K-612 is at the lower end of the price scale, unlike some of the other headphones offered by AKG. In terms of comfort, the 612 outshines most of the competition. The sound is realistic, and the slight treble boost combined with dryness makes your stringed instruments stand out.

Cons: 
The K-612s comes with a captive cable meaning that any fault in the cable will result in a high cost of repair or replacement of the unit altogether. The headphones leak sound, as is the case with most open-back headphones. You’ll need an amp to power them significantly due to high impedance.

Good For:
The AKG K-612s are suitable for beginner-level sound engineers as they are not too heavy on the wallet and cover all the basics well. The sound separation is good, and the lows, mids, and highs seem more or less balanced. The slight treble boosts enhance vocal audio so you could use these to mix and master vocals.

5. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 X (Great For Vocals & Strings)

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Compared to Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD700, the ATH-AD 700 X has similar audio characteristics.

The headphones are light, and sometimes you may forget that you have them on, which is a trait that mixing headphones must have, considering the time the whole process takes. The “AD” in the AD 700 X stands for “Air Dynamic,” signifying that these are open-back headphones. 

What sets apart the ATH-AD 700 X is its design. Contrary to how most headphones adjust to the head of the wearer, the 700 X has an adjustment apparatus many may not have seen before.  Audio-Technica is popular among audiophiles and gamers alike because of their tonal qualities.

Key Features:

  • Appearance
    The ATH-AD 700 X is made predominantly of plastic with an aluminum mesh outside the earcups. The open design helps to eliminate any hot spots on the user’s head. You get a non-detachable cable that is 3 meters in length. The cable has a 3.5mm jack with a quarter-inch connector right out of the box. The earcups are foam covered and padded well for comfort. The slightly curved design of the cups ensures that your ears do not touch the drivers. The headphone comes in black (headband) and silver (earcups).
  • 3D Wings
    The feature that stands out the most is how the ATH-AD 700 X attempts to adjust to the head size of the user. Under the headband, two adjustment attachments look like 3D wings. When the user wears the headphones, these automatically adjust and hold the AD 700 X in place.
  • Impedance
    The ATH-AD 700 X has a very low impedance level. With a resistance level of a mere 38Ω which is close to being the lowest as compared to the rest of the headphones discussed here. you can plug these directly into your computer, tablet, or smartphone, and you’ll still be able to get the maximum benefit out of them. 
  • Character & Sound
    The frequency response on these headphones ranges from 5 Hz to 30,000 Hz. Regarding sound characteristics, the ATH-AD 700 X responds differently to each frequency range. The higher frequencies can sound sharp and piercing. However, this quality does enhance the sound of our stringed instruments quite well. The bass frequencies sometimes sound low and hard to pick up from the mix. However, the ATH-AD 700 X does justice to the lower and higher mid-levels. Your vocals will generally sound good. The wide sound stage will give you a surround sound feel, and all tracks and layers can be picked distinctly. 
  • Powering through an Amp
    Although you don’t need an amp due to the headphone’s low impedance level, connecting your AD 700 X with a headphone amp transforms the sound. Adjusting the EQ to bring down the treble frequencies and boosting the bass a little improves the overall sound quality substantially.

Pros:
The ATH-AD 700 X is a good choice for those users who like a good response in the mid-range frequencies. The low impedance means you don’t need an amp to power them. The headband is airy and lightweight, which is always good for extended usage.

Cons: 

The 3D wings mechanism is weak and unreliable as it doesn’t grip every head type well, causing slipping and sliding issues. The ATH-AD 700 X doesn’t come with a detachable cable. The trebles are too bright, while the bass is too quiet.  

Good For:
The ATH-AD 700 X is a nice budget headphone for beginner-level sound engineers. The sound stage represents your tracks well, and once you power them with an amp and adjust the EQs, the vocals and your stringed instruments shine through the mix. The 700 X is a popular choice for mixing as well as gaming.

6. AKG K245 (Budget Option 2)

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The AKG K-245 is one of the more budget-friendly models of the K series.

All the AKG models on this list look similar in design and appearance, and the K-245 is no exception. Expect the K-245 to be flexible but solid in construction. However, several positive and negative aspects set its sound apart from some of the other K-series headphones.

AKG’s K-245s have a more rugged feel due to a combination of metal and plastic used for its construction. However, the usage of metal has added slightly more weight to the K-245 as compared to the higher-end K-612 and K-702. Considering the features that are on offer, the K-245 is very cost-effective and gives good value for money.

Key Features:

  • Appearance
    Most of the AKG K series headphones look quite similar in design. You get the same adjustable strap and an open headband with ear cups on either side. The cups come with 50mm drivers and have a padded memory foam finish. In addition, the headphones have joints that allow you to rotate the earcups fully. In terms of weight, these are the heaviest of the AKG headphones discussed here and weigh in at 294 g or 10.4 ounces. The AKG K-245 comes in all black with white branding on the headband and cups.
  • Foldable Design
    The K-245 is a member of AKG’s foldable headphones series, including the K-175 and K-371. This is a somewhat unique feature and adds to the portability of the AKG K-245 headphones. Like most foldable headphones, you get a string pouch to carry them.
  • Impedance
    Don’t have a headphone amp? Not a problem. The AKG K-245 comes with an impedance lower than any of the headphones on this list. The resistance level on these headphones is just 32Ω. So connecting them to your mobile device and getting a good sound response is guaranteed.   
  • Character & Sound
    Much like the K-612, the sound coming from the K-245 is flat and uncolored. Surprisingly the sound stage is quite narrow on these headphones compared to its elder brothers, the K-702 and K-612. The mids and higher frequencies are managed quite well. The headphones succeed in bringing out the vocals in a mix. The detail is there, and the K-245 manages sibilance quite well too. However, the bass frequencies lack warmth and clarity and might need some EQ adjustments. The frequency response on these headphones is 15 Hz to 25,000 Hz.
  • Replaceable Parts
    The AKG K-245 comes with a detachable coiled cable that is exceptionally long and can be extended up to 5 meters. You get a 3.5mm connector on the end of the cable and a 6.35mm adapter. If anything happens to the cable, you have the option to replace it. The earcups are also replaceable, and if you find yours have worn out or become sweaty, you can pop them off easily and get new ones.

Pros:
The low impedance ensures that an amp is not required. The headphone’s response to mid and higher frequencies is impressive.  The AKG K-245s are collapsible and become very compact when folded. All AKG headphones boast comfort, and the K-245 is no exception.

Cons:
In terms of frequency response, the K-245 lacks in the bass department. So if you like your bass boosted, these are not the headphones for you. Although the K-245 belongs to the AKG family of wide-sounding headphones, the soundstage on this unit is narrow and sound separation is lacking because of it. 

Good For:
The AKG K-245s come with a lower price tag and is suitable for beginners who don’t have a reference point and want to buy their first headphones. The 245s are ideal for vocal mixing and podcasts related work. However, you may avoid using them for genres that require a good bass response. 

7. SennheiserHD 559 (Budget Option 3)

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The HD 559 is low-cost but does not shy away from delivering promising features.

The Sennheiser name tickles the fancy of sound engineers and gamers alike. Their open-back headphones’ respond well to different frequencies of the sound spectrum and have a wide sound stage which has helped Sennheiser gain significant popularity and the HD 559 is a good example of that.

The HD 559 claims to have an uncolored natural sound. However, there are some frequencies that 559 tends to enhance. In addition, the design is minimal and light, so the headphones don’t look very bulky when worn. Also, regardless of being an open-back pair, the bass response on these headphones may surprise you.

Key Features:

  • Appearance
    The Sennheiser HD 559 is completely made of good quality plastic. The build quality is solid. The headband’s underside is heavily padded with foam for comfort. The earcups are large and completely cover your ears. The velour padding is easy on the ears, and if you ever want to replace the earpads with new ones, you have the option to do so. The open back earcups have a cloth mesh covering on the outside. The sides have notches that can be adjusted to fit any head size. The HD 559s come in all black.
  • Comfort
    The headphones are very lightweight and have better comfort than most high-end options in the market. The headband has a slightly tighter clamp effect on the head, giving you a snug fit. Once you wear the HD 559s, they won’t slide off or need readjustment. 
  • Connectivity
    The HD 559s come with a 3-meter long straight cable with a 3.5mm jack on one end and a quarter-inch jack on the other. A groove around the 3.5mm jack allows the cable to be plugged in the headphones and then twisted, locking it in place to avoid getting yanked out by accident. You also get a quarter-inch to 3.5mm conversion adapter.  
  • Impedance
    The HD 559s have a resistance level of just 50Ω. As you may have guessed, you can plug these directly into any sound or mobile device to enjoy their sound. A headphone amp can get an enhanced response out of the 559s, but it is not necessary to use them. 
  • Character & Sound:
    The HD 559s sounds very warm. The bass has a lot of character. So much so that it may distract you from the mid and higher frequencies in the mix depending on the type of music you’re dealing with. The mid frequencies sound a bit forward and slightly a bit more aggressive than neutral. This makes your distorted sounds a bit more pronounced in the mix. The treble seems a bit bright but not to the point where it gets annoying. Of course, all these issues can be overcome through some EQ adjustments. The frequency response on this model is 14 Hz to 26,000 Hz. The audio stage is wide, and you get a taste of all the tracks in the mix with good clarity and separation.

Pros:
The HD 559s cost less but give you good value for money in terms of sound, build quality, replacement of parts, and comfort. The width of the sound stage is adequate and responds well to leveling and panning different tracks during mixing.

Cons: 
Connecting the 599s to a high impedance mic will make the bass sound disturbing and distorted. Like most open-back headphones, these leak a lot of sounds, so you’re better off wearing them when you’re alone and not near any mics. 

Good For:
There is a slight coloration in the sound, which is too subtle to be noticed by an untrained ear. For this reason, they have a low price tag, making them suitable for beginners. In addition, the 599s do justice to distortions and other guitar sounds, so they can be a good option for mixing sounds from the rock genre. They’re also popular among gamers.  

Bonus

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The AKG K-701 is the twin brother of the K-702 as they look almost identical.

The K-701 is also labeled as “Reference Headphones,” which means that they intend to produce uncolored and unaltered sound so that any flaws or deficiencies can be identified and fixed during the mixing process. These reference headphones are gaining widespread acceptance in the world of mixing and mastering as they are feature rich and have a low price tag.

When buying a pair of AKGs, you can always be certain that you’re getting very light, open-designed headphones that provide great comfort, and the AKG K-701 reinforces that fact quite effectively. The overall look, presentation, and color combination give a more premium feel which is different from the other AKG headphones on the list.

Key Features:

  • The Presentation
    The overall presentation of the boxed K-701 is quite impressive. The box has a large viewing window through which the headphones can be seen standing vertically on a plastic stand with the AKG branding. This is the only pair of headphones on this list with which you get a stand. 
  • Appearance
    Apart from that, all popular design features of the AKG series return with the AKG K-701. The automatically adjustable head strap with the AKG branding is there. At just 8.3 ounces, the headphones are ideal for extended use. The cable on these is a non-detachable straight cable that is 3 meters long and has a quarter-inch jack at the end of it. You also get a 6.35 mm to 3.5 mm adapter in the box. The AKG K-701 comes in a combination of maroon, white, and grey, which gives the headphones an impressive look. 
  • Earcups
    The large “3D form” earcups cover your ears completely, and the foam is designed, so drivers don’t touch the ear. The foam used is a bit firm and holds its shape, unlike other models of the AKG family that use memory foam on the cups. Each earcup has a 50mm driver inside like the K-245.
  • Impedance
    The AKG K-701s have an impedance of 62Ω. Therefore, your mobile device and iPod can get decent results from your K-701. In addition, the low resistance level saves you from the hassle and expense of purchasing a headphone amp. 
  • Character & Sound
    The sound is not as colorless as you might expect with a pair of reference headphones. The bass on the K-701 is a bit on the leaner side. The texture is smooth, but you’ll hear it slightly in the back of the mix. These AKGs favor the mid-range frequencies, and you can hear a boost. This brings out the vocals and guitars more in the mix. Some distorted sounds, however, tend to be a bit sharp and annoying if the guitar tracks are positioned slightly above the overall mix. The treble is detailed and gentle. There is no sharpness to it which may send you running to EQ the sound. The soundstage, like most AKG headphones, is massive. You’ll get adequate clarity of each track in the mix, and the left/right panning is quite evident.  

Pros:
Due to the low resistance, you don’t need to power the headphones with an amp. The sound stage is wide and immersive. The different tracks in the mix can be visualized with good clarity. The mids and highs show great character and tonal qualities.  You also get a headphone stand with them.  

Cons: 
Like the K-245, the K-701 also lacks in terms of bass response. The phones are bulky, and the open design makes them a bad choice for outdoor or public use. There is no detachable cable with this unit. Also, the 3-meter-long cable is straight, not coiled, and may get in the way.

Good For:
The AKG K-701s are more suitable for intermediate-level users. The mids and highs are very articulate, so if you’re mixing vocal tracks or voiceovers, the K-701 becomes a good choice. Of course, your guitars (clean or distorted) and other stringed instruments will get a good response too.

Open-Back Vs Closed-Back: What’s The Difference?

The main difference between open-back and closed-back headphones is the material used to line the outsides of the earcups. Most open-back headphones have a mesh on the outer side of the earcups, while closed-back headphones have a solid covering on the outsides of the cups.

Open-back headphones allow air to pass through the earcups, which results in the production of sound that has a natural tonality. Contrarily, the drivers on closed-back headphones send the sound directly to the ear without letting it escape in any other direction, so the sound you get has comparatively different characteristics.

Are Open-Back Headphones Better For Ears?

Open-back headphones are better for the internal as well as external well-being of your ears. They allow plenty of air to pass through the earcups preventing the build-up of any hot spots. Consequently, your ears stay well ventilated and stay sweat-free. 

The open design allows some sound to escape from the mesh eliminating any sound build-up. So you can safely use open-back headphones for longer periods without worrying about your ears getting damaged internally. 

Are Open-Back Headphones More Accurate?

The earcups on a pair of open-back headphones are covered by a plastic/aluminum or cloth mesh, allowing air and sound to escape. This inability to trap sound inside makes the open backs more natural sounding compared to their closed-back counterparts, where sound buildup cannot be avoided. 

Furthermore, the drivers in open-back headphones are designed in such a way that they produce uncolored sound. As a result, there is ideally no boost in any of the frequencies, and you get a balanced sound which is a true representation of the signal coming in from your mics and instruments.

Why Do Open Back Headphones Have Less Bass?

Since the earcups on open-back headphones have an open mesh design, part of the sound does escape through. Therefore, the open backs seem to have less impactful bass as the sound is not confined between the driver and the ear to produce the typical “thump” or “punchy” bass feel.

In closed-back headphones, you get a better bass response because the sound is unidirectional, and the low-end frequencies have more impact. Some manufacturers of open-back headphones may compensate for this deficiency by offering a slight boost in the lower frequency range.

Do Open Back Headphones Leak to Mic?

Unfortunately, the answer to that is yes. Since the earcups are open from the back, the sounds from the driver can easily escape into your mic. This is why most sound engineers do not prefer to use open backs for the recording aspect of music production.

However, there are ways to minimize or eliminate this issue. Usually, reducing headphone volume and mic sensitivity can overcome this problem to some extent. You could also increase the distance between the headphones and the mic to prevent the sound leak from affecting the recorded track.

Do Open Back Headphones Cancel Noise?

Just as sound can freely leak out of open back headphones, outer sounds and noise can be heard through the earcups, causing interference. This is primarily why open-backs are mostly used in studio setups and cannot be used outside or in an environment with elevated sound levels.

The closed earcups of the closed-back headphones create a barrier with the outside world that prevents sound to bleed out or enter the ears of the wearer. That is why you get better noise cancellation on this category of headphones. 

Are Open Back Headphones Better For Mixing & Mastering?

Open-back headphones are specifically designed for mixing and mastering because they have the ability to produce a natural sound. The open-backs have a flat response across all frequency levels as the sound is purposely kept uncolored and close to how it was intended to be heard.

Also, the soundstage on these headphones can be very wide and provides the sound engineer a vivid sound image and substantial clarity along all the tracks in the mix for accurate Eq-ing and mastering

Verdict

Now that we have given you a brief overview of all the open-back headphones under the $200 mark, you can decide for yourself which one of these you’re most interested in. 

You know now that sound leakage is an unavoidable flaw of open-back headphones, thanks to their construction. So if you’re buying any of the headphones on this list just for listening to music at your office or while commuting to and from work, you’ll find that you were better off using a closed-back pair because of the noise cancellation and no bleed qualities they possess. 

As with buying most things, the price may be the first thing some users consider. The AKG K-245, Sennheiser HD 559, and OneOdio Monitor 80 are three of the most economical pairs of headphones on this list.

Apart from the monetary aspect, there are other areas that matter just as much. How a pair of headphones sound is of the utmost importance. If you want to mix and master vocals for a voiceover or podcast, the Audio Technica ATH-AD 700 X, AKG K-612, and AKG K-701 all respond to vocals exceptionally well. The mids and highs on these will also give you a good response while mixing stringed instruments.

If you’re big on choosing headphones that pick sound dynamics well and identify with clarity the intensity with which an instrument is being played, the Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro is the way to go. In addition, it has dual connection ports and can be connected to an additional set of headphones which is an option only the 990 offers from the list.

The mixing and mastering process takes hours of concentration and hard work. So, comfort becomes an automatic prerequisite that the chosen headphones must have. The AKG headphones get some great reviews in this area. The unique automatically adjustable strap provides a great fit, and the plastic construction keeps a considerable weight off your head. Take your pick: AKG K- 245, AKG K-612, AKG K-701, AKG K-702.

Furthermore, if you don’t have a headphone amp and don’t intend to make such an investment in the near future, there are a few headphones you could go for that serve the purpose without requiring the added juice an amp could provide. Apart from the OneOdio Monitor 80 and Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, all other open backs on the list are self-sufficient and can be used independently.

As you would expect, there isn’t any pair of headphones that can be the best fit for every audiophile or sound engineer out there. It is all a matter of personal preference, taste in music, and requirement.

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