I think you’re totally right in point A. And it gets at things both about how our ears perceive headphone audio vs. audio in a room, and the subjective nature of listening.

Humans, on the whole, tend to find bass more “impressive” than treble. It’s why fun sound signatures need to have a little bass kick. It’s also really hard to achieve a good sub-bass response in a pair of headphones compared to a subwoofer in a nicely balanced room. And yes, you’re right, room gain naturally enhances bass frequencies, especially those coming from non-directional subwoofers that are designed to just bounce sound around a room.

The best bass headphones in terms of accuracy, believe it or not…are ANC headphones like the Bose QC35 and the Sony 1000X models. That’s based both off my own personal experience and some of the science behind it too. ANC headphones are the best at cancelling out low droning sounds, which coincidentally also makes them really good at delivering clean distortion-and-noise-free bass inside the ear cups.

The treble goes all sorts of haywire of course, but that’s the price you pay with active technology. And it’s getting better all the time.

I’m jealous of your story in point B.

I do my “Real job” in a home studio inside my apartment, but since I don’t want any sound to leak into the mic, and since my apartment has loud air conditioning/fans and also other people that live in it, I’m mostly stuck using closed headphones there. And I do my secondary writing job most often out at coffee shops, just for a change of scenery. Where again, closed headphones are preferable for their isolation.

So I’ve spent years and years using closed headphones, and rarely having a moment where I can use open ones. I think that these environmental factors have lead to my preferences. I’ve just gotten used to the way they feel and the heat buildup over the years.

I’ve also seen it mentioned that open headphones are less fatiguing. That’s one of their advertised strengths. The open backs help heat to get out, and the free flow of air and room noise gives them a listening experience closer to speakers in a room…at least, closer than closed backs often provide.

I’m not even going to argue against these benefits. If I could, I’d probably wear open backs all the time, most likely some made by Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic that actually have the bass response I enjoy. It’s really tough to get open-backed headphones to produce bass frequencies.

The one legendary open back that I’ve never personally owned is the Sennheiser HD600. I’m familiar with it, and know a few people who have a pair, but I should probably add one to my collection some day. And then I’ll break it out when no one is home and it’s cold enough that the air con doesn’t have to be on, hahaha.

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I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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