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Assuming Ableton is giving me a metronome playing through headphones, and I'm performing a live-looping session live, I need to be able to hear both the metronome as well as the music I'm making.

I believe these are called monitoring headphones. Should I get open back or closed back ones?

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Generally, open-back headphones are better for mixing purposes. There are multiple reasons for this, you accumulate too much of the sub-region in closed-back and you don't hear the sound as clear, you get ear fatigue faster with closed, and the small subtle details of a sound stand out much more with open-backs. Some of the more expensive pairs are in the same class as expensive kickers.

Closed-back headphones are good for recording solo parts if you're playing an instrument or singing.

One thing that can't be ignored however is crowd noise. Open-back headphones do not fair well unless you are in an isolated environment where external sound won't interfere with your sound quality. For that reason, it's almost always better to wear closed-back headphones when playing a set. There's just too much crowd noise and you won't hear the subtle changes you look for when wearing open-backs to justify it.

Try leaving them on your head and uncup one from your ear.

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I'm not sure it really matters. If you are going to spend money on headphones, it won't be just to listen to a metronome. Closed-back and open-back headphones have a different frequency response and are generally used for different applications.

If you decide on closed-back headphones, most artists in this situation will simply use one-ear-off and one-ear-on technique so that you can hear both the material coming from the cue and the material generated in the room.

If your main application is on-stage performance, where you need to hear a click track, you should also consider In-Ear-Monitors - IEM's which may give you a better result with the cue track.

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