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Headphones are great, but will never be speakers... - Page 2

post #16 of 179

 

Speakers are great, but will never be headphones... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by UtzY - 6/5/10 at 2:17pm
post #17 of 179

wow.. speakers being an overall completely different and satisfying experience than headphones..what a concept. I had no idea.

post #18 of 179
Thread Starter 

An interesting experience I had years ago, long before Head-fi existed, was in my local and favourite hi-fi shop with a pair of Paradigm bi-polar speakers.  The music selected was of a church organ as I recall, and, closing my eyes, I was there.  It was truly uncanny (and I was in a choir that sang in a church, among other places, around the time or not too long before).  A big part of this was that the store was, and still is, exceptionally good at system matching, which relates a lot to the post I quoted, as Golden Ears reckons he is very good at that.

 

For me, much of the reason I am sticking to headphones and not speakers is that, as well as it not being possible to listen with speakers as often as I'd like, it's not so practical for me to set them up well (at least until I get a bigger desk and experiment with near-field placement).  I think even then I'll be able to enjoy the best of both worlds -- headphones when I want to envelop myself in music, and speakers more when I want music on in the background, or when the family isn't home and I can crank it up a bit.

post #19 of 179

Hi Currawong, Thanks for liking my post… it made my day.

 

First off, I would like to preface this by stating in no way do I mean to offend anybody in the headphone or High Fidelity industry.

 

Also, it’s important to understand that if you are trying to reproduce the musical event–for the most part most consumer available audio that you would find in a Best Buy, or a local audio shop will not achieve that goal.

 

Sadly, the best audio equipment is expensive, but also interestingly the very best audio equipment typically is not the most expensive. But I preface the above paragraph as a caveat, because for a lot of people who may find themselves in areas that cannot support expensive audio equipment stores they may find that they have no exposure to hearing equipment that would convince most people that they were listening to the original musical event.

 

First off, there are bargains to be had, even in areas that cannot support a high end audio store. I cannot emphasize how important is to have a store as opposed to a mail order business. You can make your selections a lot quicker and with a lot more certainty in a store than through a mail order business.

 

Also, you will be able to tell right away if the salesman has opinions that agree with yours. So in regards to a near field powered monitor–that is relatively inexpensive and has a reasonable set of trade-offs as well is being widely available and affordable–for those of you living in the United States, you could go to Guitar Center and listen to Adam Audio A7 powered loudspeakers. They are small, are widely available, and Guitar Center has a very liberal financing policy (hello...$42 a month???). Realistically I think these are some small loudspeakers that can be used in small rooms (yes the tweeter is a bit glarey but can be tamped- they image well)  and will always be enjoyable–and at some later point in your life they could be used in a home theater system. Other than that, there are certainly some bargains to be had in vintage audio. I put together systems for people all the time costing less than $600 that put many $2500 systems to shame, of course those components for the most part are purchased used. If you spend a little more, you certainly can come close to audio nirvana.

 

One of the great pieces of advice that I did not take, came from Lenny, the current owner of Lyric hi-fi in New York City. At age 14 I came into the store, and asked what $2600 would buy me in terms of a complete sound system. Lenny put together a very simple system with a reasonable turntable, a nice pair of B&W DM7 Mark2 loudspeakers, and a clean sounding amplifier. He said to me “this will do fine for the next 25 to 30 years, you shouldn’t get anything more than this.” I could have taken his advice...been in ignorant blissful happiness- and been a bit richer. But curiosity  got the best of me.

 

I asked him after hearing them, and agreeing that they did sound quite good– "What are those pyramid shaped speakers in the back room?” Lenny replied, “Oh, you DEFINTELY don’t want to go back there.” Those speakers were Pyramid Metronome 3's, a Dick Sequerra design with ribbon tweeters. I heard a song by the Doors- “Soft parade” and Jim Morrison was not only in the room- but the cathedral seemed to be in the room as well. I was hooked- even though they had tremendous trade offs- I had heard what great audio could do- there was no going backwards..I was after the real Musical event.

 

Currently, a few things have changed my portable setup since that post. I noticed that there can be too much of a good thing, and the jumbo cryro dock cable was too thick and as a result the low frequencies were too pronounced and upset the balance of my system when used with an Imod.

 

So I then got an ALO 22 gauge LOD IMOD cable from Headphone Addict at the Rocky Mountain Audio fest- with this cool charging cable...which since then..has broken and I can not get a replacement (SAD SAD SAD>>>>) and that when coupled with my TTVJ Portable Millet Hybrid Tube amp, Ultrasone Edition 9’s with APS V3 cable upgrade  is my current rig- which is now shelved until I can get a replacement IMOD LOD 22 gauge cable with charger.. anyone got one???

 

I sold the 6th Gen Ipod as the Imod had better resolving power but only when combined with the 22 gauge Imod Cryro dock.

 

My home rig has changed again. I sold my RS1’a Infinities and my Wadia 860, and my Bryston 4b amps, my Apt Holman pre amp.

 

And after trying many different combos- and hearing loudspeaker systems at the 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest costing between $6,000- $75,000, and hearing all sorts of DACs costing many thousands of dollars..including hearing the newest Wadia separates what new system did I get?

 

(2) sets of Infinity Reference Standard RS1’bs (in near museum quality condition) , A Wadia 860x (does 24/96) with USB input upgrade and Great Northern Sound Statement upgrade (holy crap this thing is amazing!), I’m going to do dual woofer towers with one set of high end panels to give me effortless bass equivalent to the Infinity IRS V! Looks like it will  be Bryston 28sst mono blocks 1000 watts each on the bottom and Some very esoteric 400 watt monoblock amps on top.

 

I had bought a Audio Research VS 110 and had it upgraded by Steve Huntley of Great Northern Sound to his reference level- supposedly he claims it surpasses the current VS 115's resolution and tonality by a good margin. Steve Huntley is a good man, and when I found it did not have enough oomph (as in raw current) as a top end amp- he took it back. The amp sounds great at moderate volumes but does not let the speakers reproduce an orchestral crescendo. So the hunt continues. But I only have amps to fill in...should be easy.

 

SOOOOO...I am once again in Audio Nirvana. But realistically I could have been very happy with my old set up too. But the USB upgrade gives me easy computer streaming with USB error correction and low jitter. I moved to Venice, CA- beachfront…and yes….my condo neighbors hate me….and I haven’t even blasted it yet… we might get a house again next year.

 

Also- an inexpensive used set up… And yes it is very close to audio nirvana…

1. Used Apogee Mini Dac ($400 or finance new from guitar center- make sure it has Firewire!) or an Imod

2. Macbook Pro (preferably with solid state hard drive- also can be financed cheap through guitar center)

3. Audio research VT 100 Mk2 100 wpc tube amp ($2000 used)

4. Magneplanar Tympani 1-d ($400-800 used)

5. Wireworld Oasis XLR cable.

 

This will image- but not nearfield. Instead of 5th row (like with my RS1’bs) you get 15th row or further back but a convincing 15th row! You’ll get amazing "unified wave launch" and coherence. And it will give you a Super involving soundstage. There will be bass, much more than you would expect from a planar speaker. It is fast and has slam. It’s a “big wow system”. Play Enigma MCMMX a. D through it… you’ll be floating through space. Play Led Zeppelin through it and you are in Madison Square Garden’s upper deck in the 1970’s trying to see the Page and Plant through the pot smoke. It does Jazz, classical piano, just about any small ensemble too. Wow- that’s a fun system that you would have to spend about $50,000 in new gear to beat it! And it even sounds great for home theater too.

 

But you’ll really have to work with speaker positioning and not have anything in front of the speakers for at least 8 feet. Tilt the high end panels inwards and the two bass panels have to be “v’ed” in towards each other with the bisector of the “v” going off between a 15- 25 degree angle from the front line. And yes..an inch or two off and the image is lost. So Expect to tweek it for a few hours. Start with 70 Inches between the tweeters and move inwards or outwards about 3-4 inches off of that. At least 25- 38 inches off the rear wall.

 

Want to do super cheap great sound… like a 1980’s 100wpc $250 integrated amp (with an enormous torroidal transformer- with timeless styling) and a pair of great $200 speakers… drop me PM..I don’t want to tell too many people because I am always buying that set up for friends.. off of ebay.

 

If I had to do IEMS I’d likely do the JH –16s…planning on buying a pair soon. As I said before "you can't get there from here" but I at least will have headphones I can use when it is hot out.


Edited by Golden Ears - 9/22/10 at 10:10pm
post #20 of 179
Thanks for the great posts, Golden Ears! Funny what dipoles to to people, isn't it?
post #21 of 179

post #22 of 179

Am I broken if I prefer to listen to headphones because of their more intimate experience?  I've walked into my share of boutique audiophile stores with buku bucks rigs in calibrated rooms only to find that I still prefer the comfort of my humble at home rig.

 

Maybe I just haven't heard the right setup yet!


Edited by Mr.Sneis - 9/23/10 at 3:11pm
post #23 of 179
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Sneis View Post

Am I broken if I prefer to listen to headphones because of their more intimate experience?  I've walked into my share of boutique audiophile stores with buku bucks rigs in calibrated rooms only to find that I still prefer the comfort of my humble at home rig.

 

Maybe I just haven't heard the right setup yet!


Nah, a lot of personal preference.  Some prefer IEMs for their presentation.  It's like choosing transportation.  Is their a 'correct' way to get from A to B?  Nope.

post #24 of 179
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Sneis View Post

Am I broken if I prefer to listen to headphones because of their more intimate experience?  I've walked into my share of boutique audiophile stores with buku bucks rigs in calibrated rooms only to find that I still prefer the comfort of my humble at home rig.

 

Maybe I just haven't heard the right setup yet!

 

 



You probably haven't and you don't need "buku bucks" to get that experience.

High End hi-fi in the 70s and 80s wasn't like it is now (or the crazy 90s) where the $$ to SQ ratio is/went seriously out of wack.

While (unfortunately) many manufacturers from the 70s/80s have gone the way of the dodo, there are still a few of them around that are still putting out products that are great value for money today. e.g. Magnaplanar, Eminent Technology, Audible illusions, RAM labs, Quicksilver, SOTA, Rega, B&K to name a few.

 

One can also purchase used examples of the products these manufacturers used to make for a fraction of their initial retail price. e.g. Apogee ribbon speakers, 80s Krell amps

So it is possible to put together a very high end system, both in build and sound quality on a very modest budget that will blow any away headphone rig in terms of imaging and soundstaging alone (binaural sources and the Smythe system excepted).

 

Once you have experienced the sonic "reality" that an optimised and synergistic 2 channel stereo system can reproduce, you'll understand why a headphone rig cannot come close.  (binaural sources and the Smythe system excepted).

 

 


Edited by triode12 - 9/23/10 at 4:29pm
post #25 of 179

I'm also irrevocably hooked on dipole "arrays" and loads of amp juice (triamping with an active Xover rather than the speaker xovers is a must). It's funny the panal arrays I have are often referred to as the poormans Infinity Reference system ...I also have a sub tower (3 x 12 inch sealed and tuned to 23hz) handling the 20-50 hz range with the panels taking over from there..

 

I'd love to hear Golden Ears latest rig.....thanks for sharing all the great panel placement tips among other notable tidbits GE !!!

 

Peete.


Edited by Pricklely Peete - 11/11/10 at 7:07pm
post #26 of 179

Interesting post... Agreed! I´ve noticed something interesting lately after I got my Audio-gd rig fully running: I haven´t been listening to headphones at all. I had two old Genelec 8020B studio monitors that I decided to try the Phoenix preamp output mode with. Well, after using these almost exclusively for a week I can highly recommend anyone who is into headphone sound intimacy to consider doing some research on nearfield monitors. The basic idea with nearfields: you place the monitors quite close (1 meter or so) to you, so that the two monitors and you form a diamond shape (monitors angled at you, so at 45 degrees). With nearfield monitors the room accoustics is minimized (ie, one of the reasons why music is mastered on these). 

 

The sound signature has very strong stereo imaging and exceptional clarity that defeats any headphones I´ve so far used (including HD 800). The soundstage is quite an interesting compromise between hifi speakers and headphones: the sound is a 3d image (with a good DAC) floating between the monitors, extending to the sides. Volume levels don´t need to be so high as you are sitting very close to the monitors.

 

This (compared to high end headphones) fairly cheap combo of two Genelec 8020B´s destroys any headphones rig I´ve had the pleasure to try, including my own. And the bonus with the Phoenix is that you still have a great headphone amp you can use when you don´t want to annoy others in the flat etc. To be honest I am considering selling the HD 800 right now not to buy the LCD-2 as I originally envisioned, but to buy better active monitors and move to cheaper headphones like the HD 650 as I will end up using my "studio rig" much more :)

 

Oh and not to mention any decent nearfield monitors will destroy any headphone in neutrality except maybe the LCD-2. As extremely neutral gear, they can easily be paired with high end sources and will reveal all their glory.


Edited by vrln - 11/30/10 at 12:17pm
post #27 of 179

Interesting thread, especially as I've been wondering about the merits of headphones recently (don't worry, that isn't a prelude to a blasphemous tirade :-) ). What struck me is that different headphones are recommended for different genres. I don't know if speakers differ to the same extent. Cost and practicality aside, would the same advice hold? Which brings me to the cost advantage of headphones. While it may true that equivalent quality speakers (criteria unspecified) could be 2-3x the cost of heaphones, if you end up buying three pairs of headphones, that advantage is gone.

Assuming speakers are technically superior and perform equally well across genres (you tell me), that suggests there's something wrong with all the genre-specific headphones (is it as simple as neutrality, which literally is in the ear of the beholder?). However, what you may be left with is a better musical system.

To address the topic directly, I'm not sure many people claim headphones are better in an absolute sense, more a cost and practical sense. Which segues into practically. The sentence that struck me in particular was that of reproducing the music a live levels. I'd argue that for many (many) people doing this just isn't practical, if not downright antisocial. I don't care how good your system is, I don't want to listen to your music muffled through the wall. Or indeed at all. I'm sure you don't want to listen to mine! Admittedly, headphones aren't much use for multiple people but in general those social occasions don't require a top notch system.

As an aside, from the previous post, near-field monitors sound as though they could be worth exploring.


 

post #28 of 179
Quote:
Originally Posted by anoobis View Post

Interesting thread, especially as I've been wondering about the merits of headphones recently (don't worry, that isn't a prelude to a blasphemous tirade :-) ). What struck me is that different headphones are recommended for different genres. I don't know if speakers differ to the same extent. Cost and practicality aside, would the same advice hold? Which brings me to the cost advantage of headphones. While it may true that equivalent quality speakers (criteria unspecified) could be 2-3x the cost of heaphones, if you end up buying three pairs of headphones, that advantage is gone.

Assuming speakers are technically superior and perform equally well across genres (you tell me), that suggests there's something wrong with all the genre-specific headphones (is it as simple as neutrality, which literally is in the ear of the beholder?). However, what you may be left with is a better musical system.

To address the topic directly, I'm not sure many people claim headphones are better in an absolute sense, more a cost and practical sense. Which segues into practically. The sentence that struck me in particular was that of reproducing the music a live levels. I'd argue that for many (many) people doing this just isn't practical, if not downright antisocial. I don't care how good your system is, I don't want to listen to your music muffled through the wall. Or indeed at all. I'm sure you don't want to listen to mine! Admittedly, headphones aren't much use for multiple people but in general those social occasions don't require a top notch system.

As an aside, from the previous post, near-field monitors sound as though they could be worth exploring.


 


Some speakers are genre specific, just like some headphones are genre specific.  There are speakers that do great on rock but don't resolve well enough for classical, and there are speakers that do great on classical and jazz but don't have the impact for rock.  Then there are speakers which are equally bad at everything.  wink_face.gif

 

I have mixed feeling on nearfield monitors.  (I own two pairs BTW and have owned many others in the past.)  Nearfields, in most cases, have extremely resolving treble, and have better detail and do more things "right" than other speakers at the same price point.  But IMO nearfields, for all their massive detail, sound artificial.  There is no way someone could mistake a pair of nearfields for a live musician being in the room.  Also, nearfields are often artificially bright.  If you measure them with white noise and a spectrum analyzer, they often measure high in the treble.  This is a symptom of room response actually; if placed perfectly and measured in an anechoic chamber, they would measure flat.  But at home they will generally be bright.

 

To replicate the feeling of "being there", I greatly prefer either planars or high efficiency wideband drivers to nearfields.  Planars are the Maggies and Martin Logans of the world.  Wideband drivers are made by companies like Zu Audio, Gallo Acoustics, Aurasound, classic Fostex, etc.  If you are comparing just the ability to hear detail, nearfields are nice.  But if "realism" instead refers to emotional connection and sounding similar to a live performance, planars or widebands are much better choice IMO.

 

Note that this is just my opinion.  We can argue the best approach to speakers in just as much detail as what everyone's favorite headphones are.  (And probably will. tongue_smile.gif )

 

 

On another topic, I tend to go through "moods" that move me back and forth between primarily a headphone listener to primarily a speaker listener.  For the last month or so I've been in a speaker mood.  But I was in a headphone mood for a probably a year before that.

post #29 of 179
Thread Starter 

I just realised that there were replies from September that I'd missed.

 

Golden Ears: I had been thinking to ask you for recommendations.  I think your points about both knowing what it's possible to achieve, and how much cheaper it can be done by buying second-hand are most important.  It's interesting for me to compare the cost of a rig I had dreamed about many years ago with what it would probably cost me to build now (well, maybe without the $40k Piegas).

post #30 of 179
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrln View Post

Interesting post... Agreed! I´ve noticed something interesting lately after I got my Audio-gd rig fully running: I haven´t been listening to headphones at all. I had two old Genelec 8020B studio monitors that I decided to try the Phoenix preamp output mode with. 

Oh and not to mention any decent nearfield monitors will destroy any headphone in neutrality except maybe the LCD-2. As extremely neutral gear, they can easily be paired with high end sources and will reveal all their glory.

 

Funny.. I own Genelec S30d studio monitors.  I use them for DJ remixing.. quite impressive and 122db output.. My infinities leave them in the dust for detai and staging and presence.. (please note..most of the other infinities are not good AT ALL for SQ except the Infinity Betas, RS1-(a) and all the IRS series IRS I, IRS II IRS III and IRS V- there was no IRS IV as some Asian cultures think the number 4 is bad luck and many large format speakers are sold to Asia- so they skipped 4.)

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