Best Headphones that allow Ambient Sound – Top 6!

Let’s admit it, as much as we want to cut off all noise from our surroundings—we still need to be aware of them for our safety. Whether you go jogging often or commute to work, you must know the crowds and traffic coming from behind you. Luckily, you don’t need to take off your headphones or interrupt your music with the best headphones that allow ambient sound.

These let you focus on your tunes while ensuring your safety on the go. Each one offers a perfect balance of ambiance and quality audio.

Check out the six headphones below to see which one can keep up with your hectic routine!

 Our Top Pick! 
Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Headphones
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Beyerdynamic DT 990 Over Ear Headphones Check Price
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Overhead Headphones Check Price
Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Open-Air Headphones Check Price
SENNHEISER HD 559 Open Back Headphones Check Price
Philips SHP9600 Wired Over Ear Headphones Check Price

What Is Ambient Sound on Headphones? Weighing the Pros and Cons

Ambient sounds refer to the background noise you may hear besides your currently playing songs. These include environmental and external sounds from your surroundings. From barking dogs to revving cars, you might encounter all kinds of ambient sounds. 

Although most headphones block off these noises, this isn’t the best choice. After all, as annoying as ambient sounds can be, it can be dangerous to cut them off completely. And this is especially the case if you’re using your headphones outdoors. It gives you spatial awareness, allowing you to jam out and stay safe. 

So, even if it’s nice to immerse yourself in your music, prioritize your safety by getting headphones that allow ambient sound. If you’re still convinced, here are more of their benefits:

  • Spatial and situational awareness. Headphones that allow ambient sound let you hear what’s happening around you. Albeit not completely. Still, it promotes better spatial and situational awareness for your safety.
  • It lets you engage in conversations. Hearing what’s going around you allows you to pick up or engage in discussions even when there’s music blasting off. This is particularly crucial if you work in an office and need to talk to co-workers. 

But these headphones also have their downsides. Since they welcome outside noise, audio quality is bound to falter now and then. As a result, they might put some users out of focus. And in worse-case scenarios, the headphones will sound a bit echoey or distorted. 

Check out the six products below for balanced ambient sounds and audio quality!

Best Headphones that allow Ambient Sound – Our Top Picks!


OUR TOP PICK: Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Headphones

Product Name: Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Headphones

Product Description: My pick for the best headphones that allow ambient sound is the Sennheiser HD 600. They're a traditional favorite among audiophiles and sound engineers, revealing music dynamics clearly. And this is all thanks to the unit's superb natural, spatial, and precise sounds. Initially launched in 1997, the latest version features an open circumoral design. In other words, the HD 600 boast sports an open-back construction that allows ambient sounds in. Also, its diaphragm design cuts off standing waves—adding more clarity to your tracks. You get enough ambient noise without overwhelming your original audio source. Apart from that, the pair also highlights mid and deep bass and treble. For this reason, these headphones excel in music that's not too guitar-heavy. But I found the thick, colossal ear cups and its overall bulky design to be a hassle. Anyway, this shouldn't be a huge dealbreaker. After all, you can always adjust the headphones. Overall, Sennheiser's HD600 is what you need for perfect balanced sounds—and ambiance!

Offer price: $$$

Availability: InStock

  • Audio quality
  • Design
  • Durability
  • Ambient sound mode
  • Value for money


The latest version of Sennheiser’s famous HD 600 headphones have remastered high fidelity audio and ambiance setting. They offer the perfect balance of quality audio sound output and ambient sounds. With this, you may enjoy your favorite tracks while staying aware—and safe.

But the bulkiness of the headphones makes it highly challenging to store them. Plus, they can be suffocating with prolonged use. Anyway, this shouldn’t be a massive dealbreaker as you can adjust the pair to your heart’s content.


  • Superb sound quality.
  • It leaks in just enough ambient sounds.
  • Durable design.
  • Excellent mid-bass and treble.
  • Made by a trusted brand.


  • Bulky design. 
  • It can be hard to wear, especially for those who wear glasses, as its ear cups are very thick. 


Beyerdynamic DT 990 Over Ear Headphones
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Over Ear Best Headphones that allow ambient sound

If you’re looking for headphones with a tight budget, check out Beyerdynamic’s DT 990. These are benchmark-setting headphones made for the pros, boasting detailed and transparent sounds.

The unit’s mid and highs provide in-depth detail matching its typical airy sound. And due to the DT 990’s open-back design, this unit has impeccable spaciousness. In other words, these headphones balance quality audio and ambiance quite well.

Apart from that, the DT 990’s broad stereo image and 3D sound reproduction are no joke! The headphones can achieve great tonal depth, perceiving the slightest movements when mixing. Plus, the circumoral and open-back design help add in more bass. And it doesn’t overstate the bass, adding a powerful boost without sounding sharp.

No wonder these headphones remained a loyal companion for audiophiles and pros alike! Not only is the DT 990 an affordable unit, but it’s also become a reliable tool for all sound enthusiasts.

Sound performance aside, the DT 990’s single-sided cable allows you to put it on and take it off quickly. It prevents the wire from getting tangled. Besides that, these headphones feature adjustable ear cups and headbands for further comfort.

Overall, the DT 990 is the perfect pick if you’re looking for headphones that offer detailed sounds while letting you hear your surroundings.

But like most open-back headphones, Beyerdynamic’s DT 990 is quite bulky. However, this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker as it’s fully adjustable.

  • Affordable.
  • Available in two colors.
  • Great sound quality.
  • Decent ambient sound mode.
  • Premium construction.
  • Bulky design.
  • Wired connection only.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Overhead Headphones
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Overhead Headphones

Sony’s WH-1000XM4 is famous for its noise cancellation. But few know of its ambient sound mode.

These headphones are among the industry leaders in noise-canceling technology. They have the perfect mix of practicality, style, and convenience! But outside of its infamous noise cancellation, the XM4 features ambient sound mode.

You can switch between modes to get the perfect balance of ambiance and quality sounds. And if the ambient sound mode isn’t doing it for you, you may adjust them via Sony’s Headphones Connect App. Simply download it, and connect!

Aside from sound performance and ambient sound mode, these headphones boast other features. This unit has touch sensor controls that let you adjust everything from its ear cups. From skipping soundtracks to answering phone calls—the XM4 makes everything more convenient!

Best of all, you get to enjoy all these for 30 hours straight! Besides its amazing 30-hour playback time, the XM4 also boasts fast-charging capabilities. Each 10-minute charge gives you around 5 hours of playback time.

Overall, with its dual noise sensor technology, the XM4 is easily one of the best headphones available. However, it’ll take some time to adjust to the tiny touch buttons on the unit. Besides this, Sony’s XM4 has just about everything you need in a pair of headphones.

  • Wireless connectivity.
  • It comes with an ambient sound mode.
  • 30-hour battery life.
  • Available in three colors.
  • The headphones use touch sensor controls for easy use.
  • A little expensive.
  • Its takes some time to get used to its tiny touch buttons.

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Open-Air Headphones
Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Open-Air Headphones

Are you looking for no-frills headphones from a trusted brand? Look no further than Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD700X Open-Air Headphones.

It uses 53 mm drivers to quickly produce clear midrange and treble, balancing highs and lows. These also come with bobbin-wound CCAW voice coils, delivering spacious audio. And with this combination, you get a pair that boasts superior power handling.

Aside from that, its broad 5 Hz to 30,000 Hz frequency response makes it one of the most flexible headphones around. Hence, it’s not surprising that they’re a popular pick among music lovers and professionals.

Moreover, its honeycomb aluminum casing adds excellent acoustic properties to the unit. Plus, since it features a full open-air design, it adds no sense of pressure on your ears. And this results in an entirely natural sensation.

But what stood out about this unit is its self-adjusting wing support. This feature lets the headphones automatically adjust to your head size. It further reduces pressure on the ears, making them more comfortable than ever.

Either way, all you need to do is wear the headphones—and press play!

Overall, with Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD700X, you get a reliable pair with quality audio and spatial awareness. So, invest and enjoy an unbeatable natural listening experience every time! These are the perfect companion for listening sessions on the go!

  • Very affordable.
  • Great fit and design.
  • Open-air ear cups for added comfort.
  • Superior power handling.
  • Self-adjusting 3D wing support.
  • Wired connection only.
  • It’s not the most appealing headphones.
  • Only available in one color.

SENNHEISER HD 559 Open Back Headphones
SENNHEISER HD 559 Open Back Headphones

Another pick from Sennheiser is the HD 559 Open Back Headphones. These are the perfect companion for those seeking unbeatable value.

The headphones’ open-back and around-ear design deliver natural tonal balance with superb spatial performance! Moreover, it allows airflow to go through through the headphones. And this, in turn, prevents excess heat and moisture build-up. These make the entire thing more natural, recreating an open environment with clearer, balanced, and realistic sounds.

And thanks to Sennheiser’s transducer technology, these headphones stand out among the other brands. These transducers maintain quality audio with the help of aluminum voice coils. And with these, the headphones can keep excellent dynamics at low distortion!

Besides that, Sennheiser’s transducers also feature the Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement (E.A.R) design. It produces an in-room listening experience.

Sound performance aside, these headphones boast a luxurious build despite being modestly priced. Not to mention, it’s pretty sturdy. And you can enjoy hours of listening to your favorite tracks thanks to the HD 559’s padded headband and covered ear cushions.

  • Very affordable.
  • Luxurious build.
  • Superb sound quality.
  • Ambient sound mode via open-back design.
  • Sleek and lightweight construction.
  • Wired connection only.
  • Continual use wears out the headphones fast.

Philips SHP9600 Wired Over Ear Headphones
Philips SHP9600 Wired Over Ear Best Headphones that Allow Ambient Sound

My last but definitely the not least pick for the best headphones that allow ambient sound is the Philips SHP9600 Over-Ear Headphones. These boast the perfect mix of performance, comfort, and overall quality!

Its open-back design offers a perfect balance of quality and spacious audio. Ideal for daily listening at home and on the go!

But since it’s an open-back unit, the headphones aren’t the best for blocking noises. And this can be annoying, especially if you’re looking to listen to higher volumes. Hence, you’ll notice some distortion when blasting off tunes at high volume levels.

Also, everyone near you will be able to hear what you’re listening to!

Besides that, these headphones are very bulky, which can be uncomfortable over time. Luckily, they come with padded headbands and ear cups, making them more bearable. Not to mention its open-back design prevents sweating—and promotes better breathability.

Open-back design aide, these headphones come with 50 mm drivers that help deliver better sound quality. These help in producing crisp, detailed bass alongside balanced mid and highs.

Finally, these headphones are some of the most flexible I’ve tried. You can virtually connect the SHP9600 to any source, ranging from smartphones to PCs.

  • Very affordable.
  • Durable.
  • Bluetooth connection is available.
  • 50 mm drivers produces crisp, detailed bass.
  • Comfortable fit.
  • Bulky design.
  • It might feel uncomfortable after prolonged use.
  • Sound might distort at high volume levels.

How to Choose the Best Headphones that allow Ambient Sound

If you’re looking for the best headphones that allow ambient sound, there’s a lot to cycle through. For this reason, I’ve listed some factors to consider to speed up your search—and help you find the best pair for you

Keep these in mind to find the best headphones that free you from your auditory bubble and keep you safe on the go:

🎧 Type of Headphones

Many brands let in ambient sounds via intricate design or technical upgrades. With the category being this diverse, picking a type of headphone can be tricky. But for those that allow ambient sounds, here are the two you must focus on:

✔️ Open-back Headphones

Open-back headphones have uncovered earcups. Hence, their name. These headphones let you hear your surroundings better without advanced technology. After all, they rely on their open-back design, welcoming ambient sounds openly. 

Aside from that, open-back headphones also provide better ear ventilation. As a result, you enjoy your tunes and increase awareness in comfort! No wonder open-back models are more popular among audiophiles and audio engineers. 

✔️ Open-ear Headphones

If you’re looking for something you can use on the go, on-ear units are your best bet. These are easier to carry around, store, and use. 

🎧 Audio Quality

When finding the best headphones that allow ambient sound, remember—audio quality still matters! After all, you’d still want to ensure superb performance for music, podcasts, or movies.

🎧 Noise Cancellation

For children or individuals with hearing impairments, noise cancellation is a must! Although it might sound ridiculous since we’re looking for headphones that let ambient sounds in, trust me, you need this. It provides an additional protective layer, reducing just enough background noise. 

🎧 Durability

Since you’re likely using the headphones outdoors, picking a sturdy pair makes sense. After all, you wouldn’t want to waste your money! So, carefully validate each unit. Ideally, durable and robust wires should be enough.

🎧 Water-resistance

Durability aside, water resistance is also crucial for headphones that allow ambient sound. After all, you’re likely going to use the device outdoors. And with the different elements out there, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

🎧 Compatibility

Ensure that the headphones you pick are compatible with your other audio source. After all, there’s no use in getting a pair if they can’t even work with your smartphone, tablet, or other devices. So, make sure to confirm compatibility before buying anything.

🎧 Battery Life

If you choose wireless headphones, ensure they have a decent battery life, so they don’t die on you mid-song. Ideally, the headphones should be able to run at least 24 hours of playback time on a single charge. 

🎧 Comfort

The last thing anyone would want is uncomfortable headphones. After all, who would want to get stuck with suffocating headphones? So, it’s best to consider headphone features such as fit, size, and extra features like memory foam. This way, you’ll find the best pair for you soon!

Regardless, you must ensure that the headphones are comfortable enough for prolonged usage. 

🎧 Price

Price is the last thing to consider when choosing headphones that let in ambient sound. After all, you don’t need to spend a lot with the numerous brands and models available. Check out the different prices of each pair before you decide. This way, you can get the best bang for your buck!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does the ambient sound mode do on headphones? 

A: Ambient sound mode lets you hear your surroundings while wearing the headphones. It gives you a little more awareness of the area, making it safer and more immersive. But this doesn’t completely let you hear all the noise around you.

Q: Can my headphones pick up background noises?

A: Headphones pick up ambient noises through their backside microphones. But the electronics within the device’s circuitry focus on the audio source’s sounds. And this, in turn, reduces background noise by up to 75%. That means you’ll be able to hear some ambient sounds—but not all. 

Q: What’s the difference between ambient and background sounds?

A: Background sounds refer to purposefully created noises. You can find them either through instruments or digital means. On the other hand, ambient sounds refer to environmental pitches. And these include any noise you’d hear outdoors. From highway traffic to revving engines—you can consider these ambient sounds. 

Q: Are ambient sounds good?

A: Ambient noises are great for ensuring the listener is aware of their surroundings. It allows you to jam out on your favorites tunes in public while keeping you safe. But this shouldn’t be the only reason to buy the best headphones that allow ambient sound. After all, it can add a unique touch to different soundtracks. 

Q: Is ambient sound mode the same as noise-canceling?

A: Ambient sound mode lets your headphones pick up a few surrounding sounds. So, it’s entirely different from the noise-canceling feature. But in terms of headphone modes, it’s just like any other noise cancellation mode you’ll encounter. 

Final Words

Enjoy your tunes and stay safe outdoors with the best headphones that allow ambient sound. These help you listen to music, podcasts, or meetings while keeping you aware outside. Each listed product offers a perfect balance of ambiance and the actual sounds played. So, whether it’s for your safety or simply getting a better feel of your surroundings, these headphones can help!

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