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Rank the Headphones that You Own. - Page 274

post #4096 of 5735

Here's another way to look at comparisons of each of the 12 most-frequency-ranked headphones' ranking to each of the remaining headphones... a simplified way of showing the information detailed in my figure above.


In this matrix, each headphone appears as the label of both a column and a row.  At each intersection BELOW the black boxes forming a diagonal, each dot at a row-column intersection indicates how many times the headphone that is the COLUMN heading was ranked ABOVE the headphone that is the ROW heading (this is the BLUE section).  For example, the LCD-2.2 was ranked by four people as higher than the HE-500 (red box at lower left points to this).


Similarly, for each intersection ABOVE the black-box diagonal (the yellow section), each dot shows an instance of the headphone labeling the ROW as being ranked above the headphone labeling the column.  For example, using the second red pointer-box, one person ranked the HE-500 above the LCD-2.2.


So for example, no one ranked any headphone (of these 12) above the HD 800, so the HD 800 column has all the dots and the HD 800 row has no dots.


Exercise for the student... which headphone is ranked overall higher, the HD 650 or the HD 600? Explain.


Each dot indicates one time that the headphone type at the top of the

column was ranked above another headphone at the left of a row (click

to enlarge).

Edited by ruthieandjohn - 5/7/14 at 7:22pm
post #4097 of 5735

At the moment, with the stuff I have laying about in my dorm:


ZMF x Vibro

Audio Technica AD2000

Hifiman RE600

Grado SR325is


V-Moda XS

Beyerdynamic DT480

Grado SR80 (yeah...I have two pairs of Grados here. I don't really know why)

Brainwavz HM5

Beats Pro

Narmoo R1M

Sennheiser HD201


I have too many headphones in this freaking room.


^^^When I had the HD650 and HD580, I preferred the HD580. I think what your analysis shows is what most of us here know: we all have pretty different preferences. While the HD800 happened to not be ranked below anything else in the previous posts, there are definitely people who would rank the LCD-2 above the HD800, like me in certain situations.

Edited by Ishcabible - 5/7/14 at 7:34pm
post #4098 of 5735


Did you also take into account that some people had only a small amount of headphones, so that a "lame"/"crappy" HP got a "good" rating because of that ?

post #4099 of 5735

1. AKG K240S

2. The newest Apple earbuds.

2. Sony MDR -NC7

3. Sony MDRZX300


The rest are broken. I wish I was joking about the bottom three.

post #4100 of 5735
Originally Posted by KlarkKentThe3rd View Post

1. AKG K240S
2. The newest Apple earbuds.
2. Sony MDR -NC7
3. Sony MDRZX300

The rest are broken. I wish I was joking about the bottom three.

Funny! Is that 240S a sextett? If so, that makes up for the others :-)
post #4101 of 5735

I cannot believe the time I spent trying  to "Rank the Headphones That (I) Own,"  but here goes:


Rankings (Sound and Non-Sound) and Criteria:


Based on sound quality, from top to bottom (see below for detailed comparisons):


  • Stax SR-5 (with Stax SRD-06 transformer);
  • Grado PS500;
  • Sennheiser CX300II earbuds (yes, really!);
  • Sennheiser HD598;
  • NAD VISO hp50;
  • Beats Pro;
  • Beats Studio 2013 (active noise cancelling);
  • Beats Studio 2013 Wireless (blue tooth with active noise cancellation);
  • Parrot Zik (blue tooth with active noise cancellation and iPod app for equalization and sound stage control);
  • Apple In Ear (the $79 ones with two dynamic drivers, NOT the ones that come with iPhone);
  • Klipsch S4i in-ear;
  • Apple Earpod (these ARE the ones that come with the current iPhone);
  • Sennheiser PXC 310 BT (folding noise-cancelling blue tooth).


I find I use these the most:


  • Sennheiser CX300II;
  • Sennheiser HD 598;
  • Beats Pro;
  • Beats Studio 2013 Wireless.


What I enjoy in a headphone, which drives these ratings and determines which of the headphones I actually use the most, includes:


  • High frequency capability, manifested as like-live snare drum hits, the ability to tell the pitch of even the lowest bass notes due to preserving its harmonics, and the impression of looking at the music through an open window rather than frosted glass or felt;
  • Great sound stage with good positional imaging;
  • The ability for sub bass to be felt as well as heard (hard to do while preserving the treble fidelity I just mentioned);
  • Convenience for portable (iPod) use - light short cord with remote, comfortable to wear but stays on during motion; plug that fits into my iPhone despite the iPhone case;
  • Good looks (or at least a unique character, e.g., the retro Grados).


Comparing Sound Quality:


I've ranked my headphones by conducting a systematic regimen of 10 listening tests for various threesomes of these headphones, in which I rate each headphone as better or worse than the other two on each test (or sometimes, tied!), leading to a rank order position for each test (1st, 2nd, 3rd).


I use an iPod 5th Generation source from its headphone output, except for the Stax, which I drove with the speaker output of a stereo rack system to its SRD-6 transformer, as is proper.  No amplifier (other than for Stax) was used (in separate tests, I had convinced myself that the Fiio E-12 Mont Blanc amplifier, using uncompressed high-quality Chesky songs, made no difference).  I used Apple AAC format (256 kb/sec variable bit rate), for which again, separate listening tests convinced me that I could not distinguish from original CD-based full-bit-rate playing.


I used four songs:


  1. "You're Going To Miss Me When I'm Gone," by Band of Heathens, from their album One Foot In The Ether (used for fidelity of drum sound, positional resolution of two vocalists, and ability to discern pitch of string bass passages);
  2. "Spanish Harlem," by Rebecca Pidgeon, on The Ultimate Demonstration Disc of Chesky records (used to assess female vocals, transparency, the attack of finger on bass string, and high resolution discrimination of differences in shaker shakes);
  3. "Symphony No. 3 in C Minor Op. 78 (Organ Symphony) - IV" by Camille Saint Saens played by Lorin Maazel and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (used to assess the "ripping" sound of well-rendered lower brass and organ reed pipes, and the ability to hear a very small entrance amidst a bombastic chord of orchestra and organ at full tilt);
  4. "Throwback" by B.o.B. on Underground Luxury (used to assess ability of a bass tone, specifically lowest C on piano at about 32 Hz, to pick me up by the throat and shake me!)


The 10 tests were as follows:


  1. Transparency:  What is between me and the music?  A felt cloth?  A "Sennheiser veil?" A frosted window?  Dirty window?  Clear Saran wrap?  or nothing?  At its best, makes me forget I am listening on headphones and am in room with musicians.
  2. Width of sound stage:  How far to the left and to the right, (yes, AND up and down in best cases) does it seem the musical sources are arranged?
  3. Positional resolution:  Can I distinguish a difference in position of two singers in Song 1?
  4. Bass visceral:  Does the bass in third verse of Song 3 actually shake me? Or do I just hear it?
  5. Drum "twang":  At start of Song 1, do the bass and tom tom drumhead have a tone and a pitch, rather than just a thump?
  6. Bass pitch perception:  For the complicated bass runs in Song 1, do I hear a pitch with sufficient accuracy to sing or transcribe the part?
  7. Bass finger pluck:  Do I hear the actual impact of fingers on the bass string just before hearing its sound on Song 2?
  8. Shaker variation:  In Song 2, verse 3, do the various shaker shakes sound a bit different from each other, as they should?
  9. "Ripping" of organ / brass:  In Song 3, is there the sensation of hearing each vibration of the French horn and low organ reed tones (sort of the tonal counterpart to hearing a "pitch" from a drumhead in Test 5);
  10. Discern added chord:  About 1:38 into Song 3, after the full orchestra and organ hold a chord at the top of a passage, can I hear a small number of orchestra instruments join in, as sort of an echo, in the second measure of that chord?


Headphones were compared in groups of three for each test (even though I am ranking 13 headphones, my small mind could only compare three at a time).  For each test, one of the headphones would perform better than the other two, and I would score it with three points.  The second best headphone received two points, and the worst received 1.  In the event of a tie, I would award two headphones the same score, but would adjust the score so that they still totaled 1 + 2 + 3 = 6 across the three headphones (this sometimes led to scores like 2.5).  The scores of each headphone were added up for the 10 tests to provide a total score, which was highest for the "best" sounding headphone of the three.


This test was not without its problems.  By basing the score of each headphone on its rank order position, I tended to overemphasize small differences in performance and deemphasize large differences.  Hence, in comparing the vast soundstage of the Sennheiser HD 598 to the tiny soundstage of an IEM, there could at most be a two point difference, just as if I compared the vast HD 598 soundstage to the big-but-not-vast soundstage of say the Grado PS500.  However, I feel that trying to assign an absolute score to each criterion (great, OK, not good, for example) would be even more fraught with error.


The figure below consists of seven tables of 3-way rankings of headphones on each of the 10 tests.  Several headphones occur multiple times, and the color scheme assigns the same color to that headphone each time it appears in one of the seven trios (Sennheiser HD 598 is always green, for example).  These repeated headphones form anchor points to help merge the various lists of three into one long rank order list.


The final panel, in blue at the lower right, lists the headphones in descending order of sound quality as indicated by the seven three-way tests.  It is the same as the list that starts this post, but it also includes the nature of the headphone (e.g., open vs. closed, dynamic vs. electrostatic, etc.) and provides a price (usually on amazon.com, but in the case of the Stax, only available used on eBay).


Seven three-way comparisons of headphones (four top panels and three left-most

lower panels), with color indicating same headphone, and final overall ranking (blue).

A score of "3" is given to the headphone that is the best of the three on a feature.


Summary of Each Headphone:


Like children, each of my headphones is dear, treasured, unique, and can be sold on eBay if it misbehaves!  Here is a quick bit on each one:


Stax SR-5 / SRD-6: I have been carrying these around since 1978, when I got them for professional use, completed their use, then set them aside.  They predate any audiophile headphone interest I had by decades!  They have far and away the best of the "treble-related" features I listed as my criteria above, and though their bass is weak (drops off by 8 dB sloping from 60 Hz down to 20 Hz), they are so good at preserving harmonics of the bass that you still both sense it and can characterize it.... you just can't feel it.


Grado PS500:  Wonderful, treble-accurate headphones with better bass than Stax (but not impactful bass).  They have transparency, drum and other impulse impact accuracy, and are fabulous to listen to.  Unfortunately, their on-ear design limits the time I can wear them (there are "G-cushions" that can be added that change them to over ear, but I find I prefer their sound with the original on-ear cushions).  Thought they do not benefit from a separate amplifier (I tried it!), they are not friendly to portable audio... their UHPLC copper wires and plug converter weigh TWICE as much as my iPod that I plug them into!


Sennheiser CX300II:  These IEMs were another rediscovery.  I had bought them for my Kindle, not wanting to have the fuss of a non-working inline remote provided by my Apple IEMs.  I set them aside, only using them on occasion, until I started comparing things for this post.  Then I found that they had both great treble features and great bass impact, both at the same time (very poor sound stage though).  As a result, I use them a LOT now.


Sennheiser HD 598:  These were my first venture into top-quality headphones, and they set the direction for my expectations now.  They opened up the idea of crystal clarity in high frequencies and the joys of a vast sound stage.  The purchase of the Grado PS500 was as a result of trying to get even more of the advantage that the HD 598s introduced me to.  They are still my single favorite headphone, if I could have only one. They have great sound, great comfort, great looks, and a great price on Amazon!


NAD VISO hp:  These are probably the best combination of great sound, convenience for portability (they DO have in-line remote for iPod and iPhone), and comfort.  They are very highly rated, at the top of their class, yet cost the same as Beats Studio 2013.  However, they are closed, and I find I like the Sennheiser HD 598 open sound better.  In fact, despite their great quality, I hardly ever use these!


Beats Pro:  I love these headphones! They have the strong grab-your-throat-and-shake-you bass but still have a reasonable amount of treble clarity. Their construction is wonderfully durable, they are comfortable, and they look great.  They even have a swing-up arm on each ear to move that one side off your ear when needed.  Their plug fits into my iPhone despite the fact that I have the leather iPhone case which requires special attention for the plug to fit into the headphone jack.


Beats Studio 2013:  These are redesigned from the original Beats Studio and are better in sound, comfort, quality, and looks.  They have active noise cancellation (two levels, with the strongest in operation when you do not have music playing) and have an in-line Apple remote.  They too have grab-you-by-the-throat bass, but do not have quite the treble clarity of the Beats Pro (perhaps due to the active noise cancellation, which impacts upper frequency response).  They require active noise cancellation (and a charged battery) to operate.  They are made of plastic, but it is a soft plastic that bends rather than breaking, and are quite satisfactory in durability.


Beats Studio 2013 Wireless:  As near as I can tell, these are identical in sound quality to the Beats Studio 2013 (wired) listed above.  They can be operated with or without a wire.  The left earpiece of the headphone has a rocker disc that you push to perform the Apple remote functions of volume, pause, song skip/repeat, as well as to reconnect the Bluetooth.  They too are active noise cancellation that is always on.  These are my favorite wireless headphones, and they are light enough to stay on the head even while performing repetitive motions such as vacuuming.


Parrot Zik:  These are wonderful, clever headphones with a designer flair (Phillipe Starck, who also designs speakers).  Both wireless and active noise cancelling, they have a touch panel on the side of one earpiece to control song transport and volume.  They automatically sense when taken off and pause your music.  Sound is very good... only when I compared it to the Beats Studio 2013 Wireless did I realize that it could be better.  It includes an iPhone / iPod app that allows you to set equalization (seven presets plus one user-specified contour), reverberation level, and angle subtended by the sound stage.  Neat!  A bit heavy though... mine have fallen off of my head several times during active use.


Apple In Ear Headphones:  These are the optional upgrade to the white ear pods sold with Apple products.  They are two-driver dynamic transducers and have good bass and treble sound as a result (but not the bass strength of the Sennheiser CS 300 II mentioned above).  They come in a clever wrap-around triangular case with a variety of ear cushions. 


Apple Earpods:  These are the newer earbuds introduced with Apple iPhone 4G a couple of years ago.  They have quite good sound and are very easy to put in (though since they hang in your earway, they feel like they are about to fall out).  Many articles have been written about the sophistication of design that these show.  They sound good!


Sennheiser PXC 310 BT: This was my first introduction to the simultaneous world of wireless Bluetooth and active noise cancellation.  These headphones, though at the bottom of my sound quality list, still sound very good.  Better yet, they actually fold up so small as to fit (admittedly tightly) into your shirt pocket, making them a good alternative to earbuds for portability.  They have good sound, but their active noise cancellation, which can be switched off or on, is not as great as the Beats or Parrot.  They are on-ear not over ear, which also admits noise.


So this was a rather lengthy treatise on the very short question of "Rank the Headphones That You Own."  I hope it provides some good comparison data on various headphones.


P.S.  As  you might suspect, I can turn even the simplest question into the most complicated.  I have to look at a thermometer to answer the simple question "Are you cold?" 


And when my wife sends me to the store to get fish, I have to take that problem back to its fundamentals, as shown here...


Edited by ruthieandjohn - 5/8/14 at 11:39am
post #4102 of 5735
Originally Posted by waynes world View Post
Originally Posted by KlarkKentThe3rd View Post

1. AKG K240S
2. The newest Apple earbuds.
2. Sony MDR -NC7
3. Sony MDRZX300

The rest are broken. I wish I was joking about the bottom three.

Funny! Is that 240S a sextett? If so, that makes up for the others :-)

No. K240S == K240 Studio, which is nowhere near the level of the Sextett. I used to own it.

Edited by takato14 - 5/8/14 at 8:46am
post #4103 of 5735
Originally Posted by waynes world View Post

Funny! Is that 240S a sextett? If so, that makes up for the others :-)

S = Studio.

post #4104 of 5735


Sorry can't choose between them. All completely different, for different purposes. All great

post #4105 of 5735
1. X1 Fidelio
2. Westone 3
3. D600
4. Mad dog 3.2
5. C751
post #4106 of 5735

1.) Grado RS-1i (tape-modded) = The Love of my Life!

2.) Grado SR-80 (shortened Cable for mobile use/ perfect for the Bike.)

3.) Beyer Dynamic 770 pro 80ohm (great for Audio Dramas or Movies)

4.) AKG 401 (my 20 years old first good Can)

5.) Audio Technica ATH pro700 mk2 (for DJ-Jobs or Bus)

6.) Turtle Beach X41 wireless 7.1 Headset (Gaming)

Edited by ollehumpen - 5/15/14 at 5:15pm
post #4107 of 5735
1. SoundMAGIC HP100
2. AKG Q701
3. Fidelio X1
4. Meelec A161p
5. Noontec Zoro HD
6. Brainwavz R3
post #4108 of 5735

you prefer the HP100 over the Q701? so you really need to try the DT880...

post #4109 of 5735
Originally Posted by headphones1999 View Post

you prefer the HP100 over the Q701? so you really need to try the DT880...

It's more versatile and detailed than the Q701 imo.  I still prefer the Q701 for jazz due to the soundstage.


I might save up and go for the HE-560 which sounds like a more neutral Q701 with better imaging.

post #4110 of 5735

dont really remember how my HP100 sounded, but i had the Q701 and the hp100 in the same time, and i sold the hp100 only because my Q701 was much better in everything (to my opinion)

interesting that you prefer the soundmagic over the q701...


you heard the DT880?

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