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Headphones vs. 2.1 Speakers

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
As a avid jazz listener, I'd like to attain the highest quality equipment with which to listen to music yet remain within my budget constraints. From what I've gathered so far, the best mediums that can accomplish this task are either a good headphone set + decent amplifier or a 2 or 2.1 speaker system; namely, the Sennheiser HD600 or the VideoLogic Sirocco Pro 2.1 system.

I think most of the people here know of the performance of the HD600, but here's (just in case) a little primer of the Sirocco Pro:

"Anyone who wants to hear the music and sound effects in games like the musician and sound designer intended them to sound should seriously consider buying the Sirocco Pro...the Sirocco Pro is certainly not the best speaker system you can find but to get not only noticeable but significantly better audio quality you are having to look for systems in the $5 000-10 000 price range! I'm not saying that you won't find systems costing $2000-4000 that sounds better, because you will, it's just that I don't think they offer a significant step up while it's easy to find systems costing up to $10 000 offers a significant improvement. "
(From the 3dSoundSurge Sirocco Pro review)

The system is touted by the manufacturer as a professional active monitoring system that "delivers pro-quality performance,"
and has recieved outstanding reviews from virtually all of the sites that reviewed it.

I really don't know too much about hi-fi headphones (this site has so far been a real eye-opener to me), but I've read several reviews and opinions of the HD600 and have gotten a rough idea of its performance. Excessive loudness is not really an issue, but I'm still in the dark as to the advantages/disadvantages of buying a headphone set as opposed to a more expensive speaker system. Thanks for any comments in advance
post #2 of 22
Check out a big argument on this subject at the 3DSS forums...


Hey, where are those links that talk about headphone psychoacoustics and stuff?
post #3 of 22
I have been saying this for many eyars, SPEAKERS all the way. I like headphones too(for portable use) but so far nothing IMO has come close to the experience of listening to a good set of 1000 dollar speakers.

I must say an interesting debate over at 3Dsoundserge
post #4 of 22
Hmmmmm...this is interesting.

To me, I started with hifi headphones because I couldn't afford a nice speaker setup. Well, now that I've gone through SR125's, Music Series Pro's, RS-1's, V6's, and HD600's (still have the 600's), I've decided to move on to speakers. I'm always going to have a good pair of headphones, because I still think they can compete with nice speakers and for much less money.

However, IMO, speakers are the natural progression once you can afford them (and if your environment is suitable). I decided this after auditioning some Martin Logan Odyssey's. They sounded amazing, however, I feel like a nice headphone setup can compete with the sound for a much lower price. So neither is really better than the other, but to me, if you have the money, a nice speaker setup is easier, gives you more freedom (no cable if you wanna move around but keep the music going). On the other hand, I'm listening to my HD600's right now, and they sound amazing, I'm not bothering anyone that's asleep, and they cost a fraction of my speakers. Not bad
post #5 of 22
Well, to me even slightly loud is way too loud! (That is, where I live I can't have any speakers turned up at all without having the entire neighborhood complain about it.) As a result, the only speakers I am allowed to have (at least as long as I still live there) are those super-cheap, super-crappy 3-inch speakers with no tweeter, no woofer - and of course, no subwoofer...
post #6 of 22
I decided this after auditioning some Martin Logan Odyssey's
How can you afford those, damn your lucky.
post #7 of 22
Hey, is NO ONE gonna add anything to the thread on the other forums?
post #8 of 22

Sirocco Pro Owner

I am a proud owner of Sirocco Pros and I have to admit they are excellent speakers for the price. Most people tend to forget that these speakers come with a high quality 24bit/96hz DAC that to my ears are better than the $600 retail Marantz 6000 CDP's DAC and of course comes with a very nice 8" subwoofer to boot. Plus, the nice amp have loads of cool controls like monitoring which shuts off the subwoofer and tilt which can change the treble or bass frequency. I mainly leave it alone since I like the flat frequency. Overall, I have been extremely satisfied with them. Of course, if you don't want a DAC or a separate subwoofer, then perhaps you could get a better deal with a bookshelf setup....

How do they compare to headphones?
Well I do own a Headphone setup that retails for over $5000+ excluding CDP and cables so obviously my headphone setups blows it away in terms of detail and resolution.
But then why do I spend around half of my time listening to my speakers when I have a killer headphone system?
Easy! No matter how good a headphone system is, they can never match the spacious wide soundstage or perfect imaging a speaker can provide. Moreover, in terms of bass, headphones just can't offer the same bass a subwoofer can. Even my AKG1000 which has the best soundstage still does not match the same soundstage as my sirocco pros. Lastly, I like speakers because I just like the feeling of wearing nothing on my head

Overall, I agree with Flumpus 100%
I started off in headphones because I couldn't afford the expensive speakers that I want nor do I have the space (house) for it. As a result, I went the expensive headphone route which can easily compete with $10,000+ speakers in terms of detail. However, if I was rich and money was no problem, I would have gone for the Martin Logan's Statement E2 Since I am not, I am perfectly happy with my Sirocco Pros and current headphone setup.
post #9 of 22
Paradigm, I said audition, not buy
post #10 of 22
I'd recommend to comparing some decent active/powered monitor speakers for musicians/mixing, before you go for the Scirocco system - maybe Tannoy's Reveal or the JBL Control Media. I don't think, the Scirocco is so astonishing for the price. Or why not buy a nice integrated amp with good jack, passive speakers and a HD580?

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini
post #11 of 22
Some other studio monitor to compare the Sirocco Pros to:

A 2.1 set of Genelec 1029 and 1091 is very nice. I recommended it some time ago on headwize. kawai, some of you might still know him, auditioned them and was astonished. To put this into context kawai has a ER4S and a HD580 in his headphone list.
It's also around $1000.

I don't know if you can get them outside of europe but the Behringer Truth is also a very nice speaker, it's a low-cost clone of the Genelec 1031 and costs around $800 a pair.

Headphones vs. speakers:
Headphones are portabel which is a major plus for me. Anywhere and anytimes i can enjoy my music. With speakers you are very limited in listening times if you are living in a flat for example. And you can only listen at home. And you can easily disturb your family members with speakers which further limits listening times.

Headphones are cheaper, next plus. For compareable sound with speakers you have to spend at least twice as much.

Headphones are not influenced by the listening room like speakers, another plus. With speaker playback the room always adds it's own sonic signature to the music playing. This often destroys any feeling for the original recording room or the intended balance between ambience and direct sound. The IRT is currently researching the neccesary parameters to make the playback-room completely disappear to establish a new standard for high-quality studios. So there seems to be a general concensus about room influences beeing bad on the production-side of music.

On the other hand speakers have real imaging and a physical sensation of sound. This is why i want to buy some nice speakers sometimes during this year, right now the Mackie HR824 are my favourites. I am looking forward to some acoustic room treatment researches already

My personal 'cost is no object' favorite is currently this one:
click on 'Messkurven' for some very close to perfect graphs.
Unfortunatly the information about this speaker is not yet on the english website of K+H. A pair of these is around $12,000.
post #12 of 22

Opinions from a speaker and headphone guy

Whoops...I was typing away and my entire rant disappeared. Dang those moderators are fast! I will start over.

If you are setting this up around a computer, I would recommend the headphones. Trap was right in his assessment of room/boundary effects. The headphones will deliver better frequency response without any peakiness. I have a couple of subwoofer/satelite systems near computers, and lately I am plugging into the K-1000s at home (and I don't even have a good amp yet).

However, if this is going to be a nearfield settup without a desk/monitor in the vicinity, I would go with a speaker system. It will have a killer image and soundstage, if set up properly. I have never been able to convince myself that I am hearing a band in front of me with my headphones. It can get scarey real with a well set up speaker system.

I haven't listened to the Sirocco system, but I like the design. The Audax Aerogel drivers are one of my favorites, and I prefer tri-amped systems (because I am too lazy to tweak passive crossovers). I am not familiar with those tweeters, but I will look them up when I get a chance. The weak link is the "subwoofer". I have never found any driver that small which can produce honest, controlled, deep bass, even with room gain. Get two woofer modules, and add a real subwoofer later.

Trap, I found the solution to room effects a couple of years ago. After 20 years of trying to make the room go away, I got frustrated took some decent gear outside. It is wonderful! Better yet, with an external crossover and amps aplenty, I can experiment with modules to my heart's content! Now all I need to do is find the time to finish those 10 cubic foot weatherproof subwoofers that I started...

Cover your ears!
post #13 of 22
I have never been able to convince myself that I am hearing a band in front of me with my headphones. It can get scarey real with a well set up speaker system.
Yes, I finally know what you mean I closed my eyes today, and Dave Matthews was in front of me. It was so real. Amazing...back to listening
post #14 of 22
The posts in this thread are leaving out one very important element......the infamous WAF.......Wife Acceptance Factor. Headphones have a very high WAF (unless you tell her the price), while a speaker's WAF is dependent upon its size (#1 factor), and how loud it is played. The larger and louder, the lower the WAF. So, all you guys who are waxing ecstatic about the sound of speakers, I hope you take the WAF into account........if not now, you'll most assuredly be dealing with it in the future. Good luck!
post #15 of 22
And even that tiny 3-inch one-way speaker may have a downright unacceptable WAF! That is, even my girlfriend can't tolerate its really crappy sound!

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