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looking for headphones

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hi, I'm a newbie when it comes to headphones and I just came across this forums for help in making my decision.

These are the things that I need to meet my needs:

Usage: I will use it to transcribe and arrange music. Knowing how important it is for me to hear every note clearly, I need headphones that are recommended for an arranger. I don't just "listen" to music, I "transcribe" music.

Location:My audio source will be my laptop with an expresscard sound card to it (express card is the newer version from the pcmcia and there is no expresscard sound card as of this moment guess I'm gonna have to wait). all of this will be located where my Digital Piano is (yamaha cvp-307), no where else.

Cord Length: well it has to be long, how long? Picture this... Im sitting on my piano bench and it has to come around Behind my back, to the floor and under the bench, all the way to the back of the piano (its a digital, not an acoustic grand) across the floor, up the back of the piano, and to the laptop thats sitting on top of my piano from behind... with a few extra lengths of course. Straight cable, non-coiled. optional: coming from one side of the earphone (usually the left).

how long will I use it: As you know, Im an arranger and I will use it for HOURS and I mean hours. need headphones that are comfortable to wear for prolonged use.

Durability: I need headphones that also will last me a long time and is resistant to wear and tear. If it has earcups, does it come out easily?

misc.:Our brains are very well at interpreting the midrange of the frequency spectrum (we can even hum the tune), but when it comes to higher and lower frequencies, we hear it, but we can't interpret the frequencies at that range for most people. As an arranger, I MUST be able to interpret those frequencies. I have to write the notes for the bass instruments and I can't even hear it well with these not-so-high quality headphones. So that means high and low frequencies (as well as background music) is an important factor. I also heard about "being in the audience" and "center stage". I prefer center stage. I also am looking for headphones that can "differentiate" instruments pretty well.

questions are welcome to narrow the criteria.
post #2 of 28
Couple of questions:

1. How much are you looking to spend?

2. Would you be willing to purchase an amplifier for your headphones?
post #3 of 28
hmmm. intersting demands.
few questions though, how much money do you intend on spending,
have you ever used in-ear monitors and what are your thoughts on them, and how much do you plan on moving your digital piano?

To not just pass by though and throw some ideas in for ye, I'll throw some from personal experience and what I have been told by a friend who works in recording.

1. Sennheiser HD595 is recommended as probably the best all-around studio reference headphone for the money. It has pretty good instrument separation and differentiation, boasts a frequency response of up to 38 khz, and goes lower than your hearing threshold. All the notes on the keyboard are loud and clear, the treble roll-off does not begin until very high up into harmonics. As far as comfort goes - this is considered to be one of the most comfortable headphones around, I've worn these for 14 hours on end back when I was an obsessive gamer, and had no problems at all, can even start to forget they are on. They have open design, which means you can hear sounds around you somewhat, but I'd imagine you sit in quiet places in the first place, and the volume of what you are listening too will probably drown out all the noises there. These also do not really require headphone amplification to sound well easily. Currently cost around $150, I think I saw them for 125 on amazon.com at certain point.

2. Beyerdynamic DT880/DT990 - I have no personal experience with these at all, but they are popular around here. They have very good highs to boast, which allows to easily tell apart instruments with complex sound signatures, even tenor/alto saxes which you know sound very much alike. The company also runs a proffesional/studio line of most of their headphones, which should be more analytical. Beyerdynamics are also some of the most comfortable headphones around, and can boast the least weight of all circumaural headphones. These can be acquired for sub-$200 too, which is a great deal.

3. As I mentioned IEMs (in-ear monitors), here is a bit of a note on them. IEMs usually boast a very flat frequency responce all the way through 18khz, which is extremely good for analyzing recordings. Some of them are more analytical, while others are more musical as they are oriented for different types of people. I personally own altec lansing im716 and v-moda vibe. I would say I have no problems hearing and telling apart notes on either one, I have actually used both to monitor my own classical guitar recordings, althoguh my setup leaves to wish for better. They provided me with easily good enough sound where I could tell in which position was the note played. (guitar can play many notes in various places on the fretboard as I am sure you are aware). The most loved headphones in this category are UM-10s (ultimate ears flagship headphone) and Westone ES-2, where the latter comes with molds custom-made to your ear which maximize clarity. ES-2 is probably one of the clearest headphones you can get with great instrument separation, but it also comes with a $650 price tag. Lower end very analytical IEMs that would be great for this purpose also would be etymotic e4r series, with ~300 pricetag, and first thing that seems to come to mind of the users here is how analytical they are. That is all kind of surface information though. All iems have varying comfort and not all users can find them cofmortable. V-moda Vibe I use is absolutely great and can be worn for prolonged times, but first few days with any iem are still painful to the ears. Its a bit of a trade-off, as the design that makes the flat freq-curve possible demands good seal to the ear, and that seal can be uncomfortable.

There is a number of other great headphones here, and there are more neutral phones like sennheiser hd600, but hd600 might cause you problems when it comes to certain types of music, as they tend to give you the 'listener' position, and are not very bright, while the brightness helps working with brass/percussion.

Also, alot of headphones need to definitely have a good amp to be at their clearest, and I am not perfectly sure what to recommend you here, depending on your budget. Very likely you would be better off getting a usb-amp like Total Bithead instead of the pci-express audiocard, considering that you can afford one ($199) and can also be used as an amplifier for your keyboard, although keyboard should have a very powerful out of its own so that you would not need an amp there. The bithead is perfectly good for hearing instruments loud and clear, so long that you are not being an audiophile and not desiring the best you can get out of your phones. (in that situation price of the amp will skyrocket immediately).

Also, if you need a longer cable for headphones, don't try to pick headphones by this criteria, just get an extension cable separately. You will save yourself alot of trouble. If you are really desiring to have that long cable though, sennheisers and beyerdynamics seem to come with humongous cables. When using sennheiser hd595 I can easily walk around the room without taking em off.


And on tangent - the best headphones for all the purposes you are looking for are made by Stax, at the moment probably the sr 404, but those with their amplification are very immobile and expensive ;-). Plus you would end-up loving music more than doing your job with em...


Edit: (I need to read more carefully).
Ok, most headphones we recommend here come with the cable actually going from the left can, so you should be safe with that. (except for iems).
We also have love here for headphones lasting for a while, just as you, so you should be absolutely fine with all recommendations. All companies come with extensive warranties, and repair their headphones after the warranty is over. Most likely if the headphone is bound to break, it will do so quickly, especially with usage you are planning on. I broke my hd595 in 4 months by tripping over the cable for no reason repeatedly, sennheiser replaced them completely, even though the driver was the only thing damaged. You can expect same kind of service from most companies of this level.
In short, try to look for headphones that people tag on a title 'analytical' here, and you might want to aim at brighter sounding headphones with your demand for instrument differentiation. Also there is love for grados here, but I am pretty sure they would be torublesome for your job, especially given how they are worn around your ears and how flat their soundstage is. Soundstage should be rather important for you to tell apart instruments especially in orchestral/ensemble settings.
post #4 of 28
Did I just write all that? Why can't audio be the subject for my research papers...
post #5 of 28
Yeah, I was thinking the Beyerdynamic DT880 might work out well. It's a little to the bright side of neutral, but the detail is incredible as is the instrument separation. If I want to listen deeply into a recording, these are the headphones. They are probably the most comfortable headphones I have, too. Thing is, they need an amp to sound their best.

I was also thinking that the Sennheiser HD-600 might be a good choice. Very comfortable, and I've heard that many people use them for mixdowns and other studio work. More neutral than the HD-650, as well. But, again, they need an amp to sound their best.

If you're interested in an amp, I'd probably go with a solid state desktop model. Portables are good, but if you're going to leave it on all day, you're going to spend a lot on batteries. Maybe a Gilmore Lite, but something like the Corda Aria would be good because of the internal DAC. No soundcard would be necessary.
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info. I'm looking at a price range of $200 or less. the amp sounds like a good idea. better than a soundcard?

Ok so its either senn. HD595 or Beyerdynamic DT880/DT990
post #7 of 28
total bithead would be great, much better than a soundcard you could get for a laptop. Thing is, it costs 200 dollars by itself, but if you do not have the budget at the moment, you could just get it later, headphones can work fine without an amp from the default jack of your laptop.

I also think you would be better off with one of the dt models as they are more analytical than hd595, hd595 might be a little bit to laid back for what you do. dt880 is prolly the most analytical, its been praised for its reproduction of classical on these forums, and classical requires neutrality of the headphones.
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Ok, now it's narrowed down to either DT880 or DT990. Im guessing the DT990? but having the latest model does not necessarly mean better headphones. What's your pick?
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by VG Pianist View Post
Thanks for the info. I'm looking at a price range of $200 or less. the amp sounds like a good idea. better than a soundcard?

Ok so its either senn. HD595 or Beyerdynamic DT880/DT990
For the pprice mentioned, the HD595 is pretty good, and works quite well from any source I use it with, even withOUT an amp, if that is not in your budget until later.
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by VG Pianist View Post
Ok, now it's narrowed down to either DT880 or DT990. Im guessing the DT990? but having the latest model does not necessarly mean better headphones. What's your pick?
Both those headphones are the same age, and both have come out in various versions over the years. The difference is the DT880 is a bit brighter and more analytical, while the DT990 is typically considered more "fun". It sounds like you'd be more interested in the DT880. Comfort will not be an issue for you with these.

But as has been said above, you might want to upgrade your amp/source in time. I wouldn't buy a bithead, though: a usb sound controller like a TBAAM will do the dac part just as well, and a portable amp like a Go-Vibe, Xenos OHA, or even just a LDM+ would cover the amp side at least as well as the bithead. Total price for dac and amp: ca. $100.
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
Im gonna purchase Dt 880 at B&H Photos. I like the included extras that come with it.
post #12 of 28
Let us know how you enjoy them with the piano. I am currently using the ATH A900 for the piano ^^
post #13 of 28
what extras do they come with at b&h?
post #14 of 28
This guy comes right in and makes a decision. You are supposed to let us argue a lot longer before you buy something.

A word of caution: Most of us use our gear for recreation and we still spend a ton of money. Since you will actually use yours for your job, you may spend millions.
post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 
Detachable 1/4" Stereo Phone Plug, 16' (5 m) Extension Cable, Storage Box, 2 Year Warranty. It's a standard that comes with it. you'll find it at various online stores. although I dont know if there's more extras that b&h doesn't mention. Has anyone bought these at b&h? it would help me a lot if someone would provide me answers from their experience.
btw, is the cable straight or coiled at b&h?

nevermind, found the right thread http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/showt...ight=880+b%26h
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