Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › Why are high end dynamics/orthos still being created?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Why are high end dynamics/orthos still being created?

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

I'm not here to dismiss both ortho and dynamic headphones straight out - they're both great alternatives. However, when it comes to the high end: why bother?

 The elementary standard for all modern, professional microphones is the electrostatic design; sometimes requiring a phantom power, plug in power, or having a permanent charge (electret). There are still dynamic microphones being made - but they are largely inferior in quality (and outright regarded as such). It's odd, when electrostatic microphone capsules can cost as little as $1.50. Most major companies have also abandoned ribbon design; although they share a cult following for their timbre.

 

However, for some reason, headphones seem to have a massive divide between dynamic, electrostat, and ortho. Until recently, many ortho users were looking for a cheap middle-ground between stat and dynamic; this is still true in many ways, though the "cheap" aspect is often removed. Dynamic users often complain about weak bass impact from the electrostat camp (I won't bother going into the flaws of this statement).

 Is market size the reason? I'm sure you can market $500 headphones to just about anyone (beats by dre), and I suppose that attaching a "by the way, you need to have an amplifier to use this" is not exactly going to sit well with everyone. But it's not at all hard to integrate, most portable recording devices provide either phantom power (48v bias) or plug in power (5-12V iirc). Couple this with the fact that electrostats are extremely cheap to make (see: just about any DIY electrostat thread)

Additonally, why are there so few electrostatic canalphones? This one truly baffles me; there are electrostatic mic capsules with diaphragms that range from 5mm to 10mm: all of which have been used in "high end" measuring microphones (STO-2, earthworks, etc).

Maybe there's a factor I'm missing; but for some reason it seems that headphone technology seems hellbent on what is widely-accepted inferior, outdated technology.

I might try use some stat mics as canalphones, and see how it goes.
 

 

post #2 of 46
Thread Starter 

Oh, and FYI, I'm aware there are some very popular dynamic mics (SM57 comes to mind), but I am talking about well designed, true-to-source microphones, not "here's a wiggly line response curve that gives you a more powerful voice!"

post #3 of 46

This is a good question. Every single dynamic headphone I have tried seems flawed. If Electrostats were cheaper I would buy them. It just seems like a much better technology to me. Maybe it's not as cheap to make as a dynamic speaker but I had always thought of dynamics being easily broken due to the way they are made. I hope to try an Electrostat one day.


Edited by bcasey25raptor - 8/1/11 at 4:08pm
post #4 of 46

I'd pose the same question to you though, why bother with electrostatics?

 

If we look at distortion headphones in general are dismal (often below 1% THD).  Even if they reached 3% in bass it would be of questionable audibility all around unless doing test signals.  Furthermore, while electrostatics presumably do well in say square wave tests their FR isn't exactly flat either.  Many argue you need to spend obscene amounts of money to get a good amplifier for them - more expensive than a comparable dynamic one.

 

Having owned a pair of SR-202 and compared them to my K601 - I do think bass is a problem on some of them.  Some roll-off too soon.  While you can say this is true of any headphone type, to get an electrostatic with bass is much more expensive than finding a dynamic with one.  I felt the SR202 sounded neutered when compared to my K601.  They sounded equal on everything but bass, and that's because it almost was non-existent on the SR-202.  The K702 has more bass than the SR-202, and it gets criticized regularly for its bass roll-off.  So we can say some electrostatics may very well have bass, but they're substantially more expensive.

 

Ultimately the question is going to be are they really any more accurate than dynamics.  I'd say they fall into the same position as some new Orthos - amazing square wave response with roll-off at one end or the other.  They aren't simply a matter of fact superior.

post #5 of 46
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shike View Post

I'd pose the same question to you though, why bother with electrostatics?


Why is every measurement microphone in existence a condenser (electrostat)? Many of them are electret, though.

Regardless any "additional detail" is probably NOT the reason they are so often used in studio settings either (not for vocalists, who typically opt for wavy lines), since it is common practise to apply a pad which worses the SNR as well.

I don't have a K601 graph handy, but chances are it has boosted bass, like just about every headphone in existence (I have no idea why since physically speaking, it is unnecessary. Perhaps it has to do with the illusion of "bigger" or more air being moved). It doesn't seem as hard to make a perfectly neutral headphone as some companies make out

 

It was probably hasty of me to dismiss physical difference between speakers and microphones; one has a magnet exerting force. The other has a magnet transferring current. Obviously, a lighter membrane has different implications for microphones, but anyway.

 

I'd love to hear any companies take on why they chose a particular design in favour of electrostat. Ortho I can certainly understand, both it and stats seem to lend themselves to graphene


Edited by MrGreen - 8/1/11 at 6:15pm
post #6 of 46

cheap Chinese neodymium magnets, higher temperature membranes, glues all  may have something to do with Orthodynamics being resurrected - new materials may change engineering tradeoff equations - and it can take much longer than you realize for new materials to mature enough to enter the market - price, performance, distribution all have to happen

 

also shear novelty can drive some sales - certainly not all the models of headphones being made today are worthy on performance grounds alone

post #7 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrGreen View Post

I don't have a K601 graph handy, but chances are it has boosted bass, like just about every headphone in existence (I have no idea why since physically speaking, it is unnecessary. Perhaps it has to do with the illusion of "bigger" or more air being moved). It doesn't seem as hard to make a perfectly neutral headphone as some companies make out


Headroom uses DF EQ right?  Wasn't that your favorite?

 

925f2235_0053.jpg
 

post #8 of 46

Although the question is more about high end headphones, perhaps even for the high end market there is a "good enough" factor at play. If the current state of dynamic and ortho headphones are good enough for the market, then there isn't incentive for manufacturers to switch over their R&D, production lines and marketing efforts into electrostatics.

 

Furthermore, are we asking the question on the basis of electrostatic headphones being more accurate/neutral? (I do not know if this is true) Granting which, we'd be assuming that the market for high end headphones want neutrality--is this true?

 

Finally, perhaps the amps that work for dynamic and orthos are incompatible with electrostatic headphones; if this were the case then the existing market would have a disincentive to switch over to electrostatic.

post #9 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrGreen View Post

I don't have a K601 graph handy, but chances are it has boosted bass, like just about every headphone in existence (I have no idea why since physically speaking, it is unnecessary. Perhaps it has to do with the illusion of "bigger" or more air being moved). It doesn't seem as hard to make a perfectly neutral headphone as some companies make out


See maverickronin's post, I purchased the K601 due to specifically how flat it was DF equalized -- flatter than the HD800 even.  You're right about it not being that hard though, since the K601 is only around $200.  The only thing I can say is some electrostatics have "fun" traits, but if that's all we're looking at there's just as many orthos and dynamics (cheap and overpriced) that do the same thing. 

 

Not every electrostatic headphone is as accurate as an Orpheus, and if they were I'd hate to see the price tag.

post #10 of 46
Probably because dynamics are easier to manufacture and cost a lot less. They also work with portable gear. I would not be surprised if 95% or more of headphones sold were developed to work with DAPs. Electrostats are very much a niche and I don't think the sales volume is enough to pay attention to. Reminds me of the RX-7 I had. The rotary engine is wonderful and has some great advantages. Having a real mid-engined car was a joy. There's enough demand for one manufacturer to make a specialty car, but it just isn't different enough to justify everyone switching over.

Also, the amplification is a huge stumbling block. Expensive and little variety. There would have to be a major difference to convince people to switch. 'Stats sound great, but so do a lot of dynamics. I like the O2, but in the big picture, it is about as enjoyable as the HD-800. The SR-009 is probably fantastic and I'd have "new toy" excitement for several months. Then I'd probably return to the baseline of happiness I have with my current rig, which is high.

Also, I prefer electrostat speakers. If you're going through the expense and trouble of running electrostats, you might as well have a dipole. You can get into nice Quads for the same price as high-end Stax, the amplification is a lot cheaper, and you get a much better soundstage.
post #11 of 46
Thread Starter 


I don't like headrooms graphing technique, as it it applies the same functions to all headphones, and there are a range of responses. I'd like to see a raw response, more than anything. From their graph, it looks great, but not perfect. The DT880 is a widely acknowledged headphone that is close to diffuse field hrtfs. I also don't like their scale.

Quote:
Originally Posted by maverickronin View Post


Headroom uses DF EQ right?  Wasn't that your favorite?

 

925f2235_0053.jpg
 



Take a look at this response, as an example of a 0.25" electret microphone.

average%20mic%20response.jpg

Here's the same, zoomed out

0391.png

 

Certainly the goals are different, though I'm sure you can appreciate how close it would be to DF if placed in a dummy head in a diffuse field

 

Here's an electrostat microphone produced by (I think) one guy.

 

537_U-O_Response_Curve.GIF

 

Certainly you can see it's less ideal, but it has other benefits that come wth it, and it's still very, very good. Especially when you consider that the actual microphone is $35~

 

0613.png

 

Here's a graph of a small electret that comes from a $50 matched stereo pair. This mic has problems other than response, such as self noise and max SPL. These are all omnidirectional microphones which capture sound fairly evenly, the small-group mic probably has the most deviation off axis, and as you can see it's very small


Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post

Probably because dynamics are easier to manufacture and cost a lot less. They also work with portable gear. I would not be surprised if 95% or more of headphones sold were developed to work with DAPs. Electrostats are very much a niche and I don't think the sales volume is enough to pay attention to. Reminds me of the RX-7 I had. The rotary engine is wonderful and has some great advantages. Having a real mid-engined car was a joy. There's enough demand for one manufacturer to make a specialty car, but it just isn't different enough to justify everyone switching over.

Also, the amplification is a huge stumbling block. Expensive and little variety. There would have to be a major difference to convince people to switch. 'Stats sound great, but so do a lot of dynamics. I like the O2, but in the big picture, it is about as enjoyable as the HD-800. The SR-009 is probably fantastic and I'd have "new toy" excitement for several months. Then I'd probably return to the baseline of happiness I have with my current rig, which is high.

Also, I prefer electrostat speakers. If you're going through the expense and trouble of running electrostats, you might as well have a dipole. You can get into nice Quads for the same price as high-end Stax, the amplification is a lot cheaper, and you get a much better soundstage.

With regards to portable devices, every portable field recorder has something called "plug in power", which is basically a few volts applied to microphones - it's much less than phantom power, though (about 1/5th). There are quite a few electrostat microphones that work from portable sources that only have PiP, and no Phantom Power, including a small company called Naiant, who release very good microphones for the price (about $35, if you want to use plug in power). No doubt the capsule costs about $5 at most. (I'll be making a free album from them later ;))

Not that I don't agree with everything you've posted: the current "layout" of all DAPs definitely adds a stumbling block to adding an electrostat, but one has to wonder why it hasn't made the swap, like most field recorders have.

 One possible reason I've come up with, besides cost is producing a reasonable SPL for the general public. Using microphones as an example, a cheap variant of some very popular measuring microphones (earthworks, etc) from behringer (not too respected), is only capable of about 70dB SPL before it starts to malfunction. It's pretty much dead flat, though, and other that spec and it's self noise (due to size), it's an exceptional mic at $50 for hte matched pair

 

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Shike View Post


See maverickronin's post, I purchased the K601 due to specifically how flat it was DF equalized -- flatter than the HD800 even.  You're right about it not being that hard though, since the K601 is only around $200.  The only thing I can say is some electrostatics have "fun" traits, but if that's all we're looking at there's just as many orthos and dynamics (cheap and overpriced) that do the same thing. 

 

Not every electrostatic headphone is as accurate as an Orpheus, and if they were I'd hate to see the price tag.


Most stax lambdas have a near-perfect free field response curve. Not diffuse field, but anyway. The same applies for the original SR-Omega. I'm not sure about the SR-009, or the 007, but judging by my experience from the SR007, I don't suspect it does. Etymotic is another source of diffuse field equalisation (for canalphones, obviously)

 


Edited by MrGreen - 8/2/11 at 4:37am
post #12 of 46

Quote:

Originally Posted by MrGreen View Post

I don't like headrooms graphing technique, as it it applies the same functions to all headphones, and there are a range of responses. I'd like to see a raw response, more than anything. From their graph, it looks great, but not perfect. The DT880 is a widely acknowledged headphone that is close to diffuse field hrtfs. I also don't like their scale.


Personally DF equalization is exactly what I want, but I could understand you wanting both measurements.  I'd argue most of the industry (including Dolby) believes DF equalization is the way to go now though, FF headphones being very rare.  As for the raw response, you're in luck!  We have that too:

 

 

hWyfD.png

 

As for the DT880, the K601 is even closer to ideal DF response -- seriously, go check headroom.  Even eyeballing the graph it's not too hard to figure out which is more accurate, but I compared them when they were both still in the system to make sure.

 

Once again, I purchased it specifically for this reason.  They're currently the closest I know of to ideal for DF besides the past Orpheus on the market - and we could say those are "great but not perfect" too, so what?  Transducers aren't going to be perfect, just approach it in degrees.

 

Quote:
Take a look at this response, as an example of a 0.25" electret microphone.
 
[removed images for simplicity]

Certainly the goals are different, though I'm sure you can appreciate how close it would be to DF if placed in a dummy head in a diffuse field

 

If you're talking about using the mics for measurements sure, but as headphones . . . not really.  Completely different design goals with necessary differences - this we agree on correct?

 

Quote:
Most stax lambdas have a near-perfect free field response curve. Not diffuse field, but anyway. The same applies for the original SR-Omega. I'm not sure about the SR-009, or the 007, but judging by my experience from the SR007, I don't suspect it does. Etymotic is another source of diffuse field equalisation (for canalphones, obviously)

 

Regardless of whether DF or FF is better, I'd like to ask you for a source that lists various lambda models with their measured response, including equipment used for testing if possible.

post #13 of 46

I would wager because they sound good and technological improvements bring them further and further along toward the goal of "one driver to reproduce them all." Plus, you know, sunk money in manufacturing processes... Sennheiser, Beyer, AKG, etc. aren't going to just toss their awesome factories in the factory rubbish bin just because electrostatic headphones are fairly neat. Getting a less finicky technology to capture the nice qualities of a more finicky one is a laudable goal in my opinion.

post #14 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shike View Post

Regardless of whether DF or FF is better, I'd like to ask you for a source that lists various lambda models with their measured response, including equipment used for testing if possible.



The manufacturer provides this information. Many of the classic lambdas actually came with a print-out. I could post a picture of my print-out, although mine is less close to a free-field curve than say, the lambda pro. Though I think I'd rather have the smaller diaphragm.

 

Quote:
If you're talking about using the mics for measurements sure, but as headphones . . . not really.  Completely different design goals with necessary differences - this we agree on correct?

 

A dead-flat, omnidirectional microphone, when mounted inside a head with the correct ears will produce any kind of response for headphones, depending on the source of the sound.

 That's what I meant, I should have been clearer. Eg, if they were placed in a diffuse field, they'd capture the ideal "response" for a diffuse field headphone, because of the ears.

At any rate, I prefer diffuse field in headphones, though I am quick to acknowledge free field. But we've spoken about this before

The raw response for the K601, actually looks better than the adjusted one - were they taken on separate occasions?


Edited by MrGreen - 8/2/11 at 10:18am
post #15 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrGreen View Post


The raw response for the K601, actually looks better than the adjusted one - were they taken on separate occasions?



That would be a question for Tyll honestly, I do know that the FR Maverick posted is the smoothed one they display on the site.

 

RmzRo.png

 

This is the straight raw to DF from my understanding.

 

For comparison, the HD800

 

6e1an.png

 

And DT880:

 

9J06j.png

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Sound Science
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › Why are high end dynamics/orthos still being created?