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Open Headphones vs. Home Speakers

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

If one had $1000-$4000 of disposable income.  Does it make sense in your opinion to put that into Open Headphones as opposed to Home Speakers?  No wrong answers just curiosity about people's priorities, preferences and reasoning.

post #2 of 9

Speakers and headphones offer different audio "experiences".  Headphones are more intimate, speakers are more visceral.  If you had $4K, you can get some killer speakers used that will beat just about any headphone.  If you have to buy an integrated amp or separates in addition to speakers, the money is better spent on headphones. 

post #3 of 9

$1,000 to $4,000, that's a huge difference in range.  If you have a room with the acoustics and isolation, you might as well just set your budget to $4,000 and go speakers.  It's easier to find deals on them then on headphone setups, where the prices of components are pretty much fixed.  These sales happen all the time, companies just wait for holidays. 




Receiver is on sale for $380



surround Speakers:   $140-160    you'll need 4 of these




center speaker:   $120



subwoofer on sale for $270



And that's just finding deals, bottom of the barrel, not color matching the components, wiring, etc.  So, if your budget is less than $1,500, then get decent headphones, a good headphone amp, etc.  If it's above $2,000 then get yourself speakers, that you can share with friends, guests, etc.  As mentioned before, give a more realistic budget.

post #4 of 9
It depends on what your goals are. If you need the isolation and don't want to share music with others, headphones are an excellent route. If you can play music on speakers, however, they offer a better sonic experience. My speaker rig ran about $2,000 (Conrad-Johnson PV-2 and MV-52 into Quad ESL-63 speakers, all used) and I prefer it to any headphone rig I've heard.

I still listen to and love my headphones, no question. But the bang-for-buck and overall sonic experience is very much in the speaker realm these days. Assuming you buy used, of course.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Anyone else wanna share?

post #6 of 9

It very much depends on the available environment for listening.


Open headphones leak sound, but not to the extend that people in the next room or appartment would complain. Headphones, amps and most sources are compact, tranportable and can be used at any reasonably quiet location. Headphones are cheap. But to which extend you can bear the feel of a headphone, namely clamping force by supra- or circumaural cushions and "hot ears" under the earcups? Headphones provide superior resolution and detail, but a restricted soundstage which is moving when turning the head.


(Home) speakers are sensitive to room acoustics. In many rooms you may not be able to get optimum sound without rearranging furniture. Yes, "bookshelf" speakers fit in a bookshelf and many put them there, but this is far from optimum. Ideal speaker placement, away from corners and walls, consumes a lot of space. Still, you may get problems with "standing waves" that delete or overemphasise frequencies, and with family or neighbours in next room or appartment.


My personal compromise are nearfield studio monitors which are cheaper than equivalent "hifi" speakers. Speakers and my armchair are placed far away from walls, minimising room interference. A subwoofer provides the low bass frequencies. Advertisement for cheap surround sets promises that subwoofer placement is irrelevant which is not true. You can locate the source of frequencies above 80Hz, so that is the very minimum requirement for the satellite speakers. Still, the subwoofer should be placed in between or right from the satellite speakers (location of bass drums etc. in symphony orchestra). There is however some flexibility. Use that to choose optimum subwoofer position with regard to standing waves. That and the lower price compared to a pair of larger speakers with equivalent frequency range is the main advantage of a satellite-subwoofer combo.

Edited by zappp - 7/4/10 at 12:35am
post #7 of 9

Lifestyle's a big part. With that kind of budget you probably need a acoustically set up room. Even if not, you probably want a decent sized lounge area. For me, with property prices around the cities I've lived in, and the wages I get paid, that's not going to happen. Plus, I'm young and mobile, even a typical amp-dac-hp setup is easier to move around than 2 floorstanders and power amplifiers. 


Loudspeakers do, importantly, allow for more hairstyles. 

post #8 of 9

I agree about lifestyle and add in sheer practicality. My traditional hifi of source amp and speakers worked great in my batchelor flat. It could dominate the living room with perfectly positioned speakers and listening chair.


Then I had to share my space with wife and child and we moved twice to houses where the speakers ended up in odd corners. When I discovered head-fi properly (I already had an Musical Fidelity X-CANV2 and SR80s as part of my setup) it seemed like the ideal solution. Then another house move meant that I could, instead of figuring out where to put speakers find a corner for me and my head-fi........




The headphone rail has been filling up nicely over the past two years, such that I will need another rail which will go in the spare bedroom. I have closed backed to give me peace from the TV. Leakless when my wife is in the room and open backed when I am alone.


Neither wife or child are that into music, so I am left in peace and until I get my outdoor office/shed as my listening room there will be no speakers. So if I had £3000 to spend it would be on that outdoor office/shed.

post #9 of 9

if i had that budget sitting id prob blow it on speakers even though id know it to be a waste of money.  if you dont have the room for it or neighbours or family members to piss off then speakers will sit unused.


this is why i use headphones

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