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Why do people have such different opinions about headphones?

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I was typing up a super-rant in the hd-600vs cd-3000 thread, and decided to cut it out and start a new thread... i didn't know where to put it, but this seems like the most logical place to put it (jude-feel free to move it if i'm wrong )

Anyways, as you read all of these headphone reviews and comparasons on headwize/head-fi/anywhere else, you notice that many people come to totally different conclusions about a pair of headphones. If this was a speaker forum, people would instantly say "its the room that's causing the differnece"... But one advantage of headphones is that it eliminates the room, and anyone can get perfect sound. Or so marketers say... So when people disagree about headphone sound, they usually atribute it to the source/amp, different music tastes, or big flame wars start up where each person tries to seem more credible and experienced....

Ithink that the largest reason that different people have such different opinions in headphones has nothing to do with differences in music taste. differences in source equipment, or even differences in hearing between different people. Instead, i think that its how well each pair of headphones fits the person's head, causing differences in the distance between the driver and the ear cannal. From my experience, you can totally change the way a headphone sounds by changing this distance very slightly. When the driver is close to the ear, the middle frequencies get emphisized (including mid bass and mid-treble). When the driver is moved farther back, the extremes get emphizsed, particularly deep bass and the high frequencies. So when someone says the headphone is too bright, it could be because the headphone is too far away. When a headphone sounds too muddy, it could be because the driver is too close to the ear... I think this is the reason that changing pads on Grado's affects the sound so much- the tiny bit of foam in the earpad can't have too much of an effect on the sound, but it does reposition the earcup by a few millimeters, drastically changing the frequency response....I was able to substantially improve the sound of Koss Sportapros using very thick radioshack pads that positioned the drivers the ideal distance from the ear (thx skippy)

even the break-in effect could be a result of the earcups/headband fitting the person better, thereby improving the sound....

So, now that i;m done my rant, i'm wondering what you guy's think....
post #2 of 31
It's redundant I know, but to save myself a lot of typing, I'll simply quote myself from the thread you mentioned.

"According to the "experts" who used to write for me, headphones are engineered to NOT produce a flat frequency response....this is to adjust for the loss of outer ear reflections which changes the sound before it reaches our eardrums under normal (non-headphone) listening conditions.

Headphones in fact are intentionally made to be non-flat, but to fit within a desired frequency envelope which has been pre-determined based on the "average ear's" hearing response. Loudspeakers on the other hand, because we listen to them as we do most sounds (using the outer ear) do strive for a flat frequency response. ( at least the manufacturers which are trying to be accurate do)

bakhtiar is correct in saying that each of us hears slightly diferently. Some of that difference is due to differences in the size and shape of our outer ears. Headphones, which are trying to compensate for the loss of outer ear influences by adjusting their frequency output, can only approximate what the final result will be......based on a hypothetical, typical outer ear effect. This "compromised adjustment" works to varying degrees with different people.

That's one of the reasons some people think headphone "A" has too much bass, others think too little, and others think it's perfect.

Age, hearing damage, an individual's genetic make-up, personal preferences, and pre-conception are other reasons.


Thomas may indeed be correct when he cites "distance between headphone driver and ear" as possibly the strongest reason. The slightest shift in distance does create quite noticable shifts in the sound of any given headphone.
post #3 of 31
What I thinks is....

Do everyone have SAME size and shape of ears and also same sensivity of hearing? Even if we had SAME ears; do we have the SAME taste of sounds/musics?....

IF Sens HD600 suits to my TASTE, it might be my BEST cans. I might love HD600 more than others, even I had tried Staxs Omega, Sens Orpheous, Sony MDR-R10 or other high ends.
post #4 of 31
Why do different people like different kinds of music? Some people think opera is the highest form of music. Some people (like me) wouldn't listen to it if you paid me.

Different people's brains are wired differently and get off on differeent kinds of sounds. Of course there's the effect of culture, age of exposure to certain kinds of music.....

post #5 of 31

Why do people.......?

Why do people have different taste in food? Clothing? Political affiliation? Religion? WOMEN/MEN? Sexual position? Color? Favorite car? Favorite tv show? Favorite movie? And everything else that comes in more than one variety? BECAUSE WE'RE ALL DIFFERENT! We like different things. We perceive our shared world DIFFERENTLY! Otherwise, there would need to be only one product in each category
post #6 of 31
And if that was true, there would be no need for places like this, which would be a shame.
post #7 of 31
Originally posted by dhwilkin
And if that was true, there would be no need for places like this, which would be a shame.
... but would do wonders for workplace productivity
post #8 of 31
It's simple actually, as every person has different tastes and everyone hears differently. Also, everyone has differently shaped ears and heads. Also, different people may have different levels of hearing, such as one person's hearing may be better than another person's hearing. Then, there are those people with trained ears. Humm, maybe it's not that simple actually
post #9 of 31

Trained ears

I'm happy to be "one of those people with trained ears". Don't believe it? Just watch. Sit Ears, SIT! GOOD EARS! Now roll over.....
post #10 of 31
What about Etymotics? Is there more of a consensensus there?
I suppose even there width, depth & shape of ear canal has
an effect.
post #11 of 31
Having a trained ear simply means you know what to hear for, it's not some magical super hyper golden ear legend type of thing.

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30. Final Announcement
post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 
i probably should have worded the title differently, and use the word "observations" rather than the word "opinion" there... anyways, i think all of you totally misunderstood my point. I'm not saying that people can't have different tastes, but when people come to totally different conclusions about the same headphone, i think there's more to it than just differences in "tastes"...

i'm not saying that differnt people can have different tastes in music/headphones/frequency response. However, that can't explain why differnet people find totaly different observations about the a pair of headphones

for example, a while back, several people claimed on headwize that the Sennheiser HD-600 had a somewhat closed in sound. most others would say that they have a very open sound. I don't think this has anything to do with personal preference, experience (everyone that posted there knew what they were talking about) or even differences in hearing.

Back when the koss a/200's were available, there was a huge debate going on. Some people thought it was an amazing bargin, and the headphone was extremely fast, detailed, and had excellent soundstage, definately worth several times its selling price. On the other hand, others thought it was pure garbage, and it was shrill, thin, and was being sold at that price for a reason. Now, i seriously doubt that you can explain all of these observations by saying "different people have different tastes" or any of those other claims people often use. No one likes shrill thin cans, no one would totally dislike a detailed, accurate headphone. and since i own these phones, i have been able to get them to match both of the above descriptions, simply by moving the earcups a few mm in or out. So if everyone got these headphones to sound there best, then differences in personal taste can come into play, some might like that type of sound, some may prefer a warmer sound. But personal taste only goes so far, you can't possibly attribute those widely differing conclusions as "personal taste"

And any of you can try this, try repositioning the drivers slightly, and you will notice a huge change in the sound. If you can notice such a large change in sound, then differences between different people, who have totally different headshapes/sizes, would be even more drastic. So to frankclone, yes i definately think headshapes affects the sound. By saying that there aren't that wide 'differences in hearing between different people", i meant that we all percieve sound in the same or very similar way. I don't buy the argument that red to me is blue to you, and even if that was true, it still couldn't explain those widely differening observations people get
post #13 of 31

It's no mystery

It's really no mystery why some people find the same headphone "open" sounding, and others find it "closed in". They come to their observations from different reference points!

As an extreme example, if the best 'phones I'd ever heard, and the ones with which I had the most experience were the Koss TD-61s, I would likely have completely different observations about the Sennheiser HD-600 than if I had previously listened only to the Orpheus (or a high end Stax model, if you prefer).

Our opinions are intimately tied to our experiences, and perceptions! They can't be separated!

Why do some people find red cars sexy, while others find them distasteful? "Closed in", "colored", etc...these are entirely SUBJECTIVE, as is liking, or hating the same exact color. Want to get a unanimous answer? Then ask both (red haters and red lovers) what color the car is. "Red" they'll both answer. That is OBJECTIVE. "How does it look/sound to you?" is completely SUBjective

"Can the particular headphone cleanly reproduce a 20hz signal?" This can be measured, and established as fact. "How does the bass SOUND on this headphone?" can never be measured, or quantified. It is entirely SUBjective! Getting the "right" answer is all in asking the "right" question!
post #14 of 31
mike walker??? was that you keeping things short and too the point?? And there at the end you went off on a tangent, I was previously so hopefull.

And oh yeah, the perception of color is also quite SUBJECTIVE. In fact discerning color is one of the least objective opinons you can get from one of a human beings 5 senses. The most objective is usually smell. The perception of color is dependent on mood, gender, whether it's sunny or cloudy, the type of lighting. Also different personality types tend to gravitate towards different colors. And then there are the color blind and in the world of sound the tone deaf. People are often subjected to color perception tests in order to gather information on their state of mind. Aka whether they are stable or not. Perception of color is a wholly unique thing, infact many theorize that what I see as blue you may as well see as red or any other color. It simply wouldn't matter because the colors we see would b different but the names we use to describe those different colors the same. For example if I say the coke bottle is red, I may actually see red, but you might see blue and simply be of the mind that i see the blue that you call red as well. The sky might be firey red and the grass a cool blue if I were to see the world through your eyes. There really is no telling. We are all in blind agreement as to what a color is percieved as.
post #15 of 31
Oh, yes, there are many factors: the combination of different pieces of equipment, experience with other equipment, individual body (shape of ear - I get no bass on the mdr-ex70, for example...), taste of sound & music - and individual perception, which has a lot to do with the training of the brain. Just think of associations: I might say "table" and think of a round one, whereas the rest of you might hear "table" and think of an oblong one. I think, it would make sense to assume, that we might differ in our music associations, too. And with music associations I mean, that we all might associate different kinds of favourite "sound settings" with different kinds of music - maybe based on personal experience from a live concert or whatever...

So in the end, of course, everone has to trust one's own ears. Nevertheless, there can be an agreement. But it has to be achieved by compiling and comparing other opinions and impressions to one's own. And that's why we have to discuss a lot here - it's fun, though, so: Why not?

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini
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