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Headphones with good sound stage - better with Dolby Headphone or no need for it?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I've read somewhere that if you have something like HD650s then there's no need for something like Dolby Headphone, and I'd like to get opinions on that from here.

Judging from the impressions on smyth virtual surround, I'm guessing simply having a great sound stage doesn't replace good surround headphones, so even if it's an HD800 it'd be better with the smyth system.

But Dolby Headphone isn't Smyth Virtual Surround, and this is where it gets more complicated. I'm pretty sure many here tried DH and several headphones, so hopefully there's a clear answer.
post #2 of 8
The headphones with the best soundstaging with dolby headphone I have (ultrasone Pro 900) is also the best without that one and for binaural recordings so yes you could probably just as well go with a headphone that works well without it.

I do preferr running with dolby headphone for movies but the results for tv series broadcasted in stereo is really quite impressive.

HD 650 didn´t work all to well with dolby headphone. But it´s soundstaging is so narrow to start with it make it hard to pinpoint sound from around you.

K701 is also quite good regarding soundstage but it´s not a headphone I would use for movies.
post #3 of 8
Dolby Headphone effectively tries to simulate speakers over headphones. It is designed to simulate both speaker placement and the listening environment. This can be summarised as space, direction and acoustic properties of the room. DH1 simulates a well damped room with nearfield speakers. DH2 simulates a normal listening room with acoustic reflections. DH3 simulates a larger room with acoustic reflections. Some equipment with Dolby Headphone only has one type, usually DH2.

I've found Dolby Headphone works best on headphones with good resolution and good, fast, tight control throughout the frequency range. Ideally the headphones' headstage should be as central as possible. If your headphones meet this criteria I think they can be successful in giving a near-field monitor like experience (either as stereo or 5.1) with DH1.

A wide (but central) headstage can work well with Dolby Headphone. It effectively makes the soundstage larger, without otherwise affecting it. However, headphones with a frontal (i.e. sounds in front of you) headstage should be regarded as incompatible with Dolby Headphone as this is part of the Dolby Headphone effect. Generally that means anything with angled drivers (which is a technique headphone manufacturers use to give more speaker like presentation) should be avoided.

In practice, angled drivers aren't completely disasterous with Dolby Headphonebut they're not ideal. In well mastered audio with an existing 3d soundstage intended for stereo speakers, the 'geometry' is altered and the soundstage affected.

For live music recordings, especially acoustic music, I'm not a fan of DH2 or DH3. They both add reverbarations that interfere with the acoustics captured in the recording. Similarly they can be quite unpleasant when paired with video games with reverb and echo already in the game audio. For drier, close miked, studio recordings they can be acceptable but I don't find them as convinding as being in an acutal room with speakers. Likewise, some headphones include internal reflectors or similar, which give a slight reverb or echo type effect (I'm looking at you HD555...), interfereing with note decay. Add this to DH2 or DH3 and it gets messy.

For music listening, Dolby Headphone works well on mid-fi headphones with a central headstage. IMO, DH1 can be regarded as approching Hi-Fi but the DH2 and DH3 reverberations are a rather lo-fi effect. IIRC there's a resolution limit to Dolby Headphone. It operates natively at up to 24/96 so if you're using anything higher it will degrade the signal. For truly great hi-fi headphones that already give a speaker-like presentation like the HD800s paired with a great source, Dolby Headphone would be pointless and only degrade the already excellent audio experience.

For movie watching on something like HD800 (which I should point out I've not heard), might I suggest that a virtual speaker technology combined with a little crossfeed would do the job better?

Edit: I did find HD600 and HD580 pretty good with Dolby Headphone but they were only on par with my Goldring NS1000s, which are clearly not as good a headphone overall.
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies. I have HD650, HD555, and a pair of AD700s are on the way. I'll be doing a lot of testing myself but generally which pair would you guys recommend? I'll only be using DH for games btw, maybe movies.

oqvist, HD650 sound stage is narrow? I'm not an audiophile so I bought these thinking they're the best in everything, disappointing really. I read some comments before saying they're muddy or whatever for gaming.

And about that notion saying a wide enough sound stage on good headphones means you can skip DH, I looked up that thread and I'm not sure I actually understood it well. The guy doesn't mention HD650s as being better alone than DH and I'm not sure if he's talking about good headphones with a stereo signal or ones with DH as opposed to '5.1 headphones', I'm going back to that thread and do more than scan it but this is confusing.


Edit: you know I never searched properly for gaming headphones here, just did that and there's a huge amount of threads waiting for me now.
post #5 of 8
I'd go with the HD650s. What are you planning to use for Dolby Headphone and amping?

Where people say the HD650s were muddy for gaming, I'm pretty certain that they weren't amping them properly.

On the other hand, they might be a little less flattering to poorly recorded sounds and bad effects than some of the usual gaming headphones.

For movies and games DH is a big plus. It works well and sounds a lot more natural than the dedicated multiple driver 5.1 headsets (with the possible exception of that Psycho Audio thing).
post #6 of 8
HD 650 is very flattering for poorly recorded music I would say that is a strong point not a weak point in this case.
post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by ear8dmg View Post

Dolby Headphone effectively tries to simulate speakers over headphones. It is designed to simulate both speaker placement and the listening environment. This can be summarised as space, direction and acoustic properties of the room. DH1 simulates a well damped room with nearfield speakers. DH2 simulates a normal listening room with acoustic reflections. DH3 simulates a larger room with acoustic reflections. Some equipment with Dolby Headphone only has one type, usually DH2.


I've found Dolby Headphone works best on headphones with good resolution and good, fast, tight control throughout the frequency range. Ideally the headphones' headstage should be as central as possible. If your headphones meet this criteria I think they can be successful in giving a near-field monitor like experience (either as stereo or 5.1) with DH1.


A wide (but central) headstage can work well with Dolby Headphone. It effectively makes the soundstage larger, without otherwise affecting it. However, headphones with a frontal (i.e. sounds in front of you) headstage should be regarded as incompatible with Dolby Headphone as this is part of the Dolby Headphone effect. Generally that means anything with angled drivers (which is a technique headphone manufacturers use to give more speaker like presentation) should be avoided.


In practice, angled drivers aren't completely disasterous with Dolby Headphonebut they're not ideal. In well mastered audio with an existing 3d soundstage intended for stereo speakers, the 'geometry' is altered and the soundstage affected.


For live music recordings, especially acoustic music, I'm not a fan of DH2 or DH3. They both add reverbarations that interfere with the acoustics captured in the recording. Similarly they can be quite unpleasant when paired with video games with reverb and echo already in the game audio. For drier, close miked, studio recordings they can be acceptable but I don't find them as convinding as being in an acutal room with speakers. Likewise, some headphones include internal reflectors or similar, which give a slight reverb or echo type effect (I'm looking at you HD555...), interfereing with note decay. Add this to DH2 or DH3 and it gets messy.


For music listening, Dolby Headphone works well on mid-fi headphones with a central headstage. IMO, DH1 can be regarded as approching Hi-Fi but the DH2 and DH3 reverberations are a rather lo-fi effect. IIRC there's a resolution limit to Dolby Headphone. It operates natively at up to 24/96 so if you're using anything higher it will degrade the signal. For truly great hi-fi headphones that already give a speaker-like presentation like the HD800s paired with a great source, Dolby Headphone would be pointless and only degrade the already excellent audio experience.


For movie watching on something like HD800 (which I should point out I've not heard), might I suggest that a virtual speaker technology combined with a little crossfeed would do the job better?


Edit: I did find HD600 and HD580 pretty good with Dolby Headphone but they were only on par with my Goldring NS1000s, which are clearly not as good a headphone overall.

I cant agree more. i just bought sony ma 900 which has angled drivers and I have ended up disabling dd 5.1 on my ps3 and have my turtlebach dss on bypass for dh. Dolby heaphone messes up my ma900 soundtage. I find stereo 10 times better for music movies and gaming. The difference is night and day and I can still get positional cues on stereo even in cod and the sound is so natural and clean.
post #8 of 8

Given how most games don't include binaural/HRTF mixing of any sort and treat headphones as one-dimensional left/right panning devices, playing in stereo for a 3D game is effectively handicapping yourself if virtual surround mixes of any sort work for you. Just having front/rear positional cues is a big game changer.

 

Yes, the overall sound quality gets degraded somewhat...but in a game, you're usually spending less time admiring the sound samples and more time trying to figure out where the people trying to kill you are so you can get the jump on them first. You might even catch someone trying to be sneaky and stab you in the back, only to whip around and punish him.

 

Hearing sounds from all around your head instead of just directly off to the sides is also a big immersion booster in and of itself. It really puts your head in the game, so to speak.

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