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Low volume long listening sessions below 9 O'clock

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I'm looking for something to fill the hole between the two extremes of my favorite

headphones for low volume listening. I want a natural compression that will keep

the volume level steady and low, but not allow soft sections to drop inaudible or

loud blasts of sound to jump out and attack my ears. There should still be detail

and instrumentation separation. It doesn't need a big soundstage; it can even be

forward and central sounding even boring but it must be detailed. When speaking

of low volume sessions I mean around 8 and 9 O'clock with a headphone amp

to keep drivers moving correctly. Easy levels where you can still hear the phone

or doorbell ring while music is playing even with closed cans.


Right now my MDR-V6 puts out great sound for symphonies, classic rock jazz

and <70s recordings at low volumes It seems to naturally compress everything so

there aren't any huge jumps in sound like my other headphones with wider

dynamics and bigger sound stages. It has a more central and forward sound that

is great for low volumes, but it doesn't separate instrumentation very well. Dance

music and other modern synthetic genres can sometimes sound weird; especially

at normal or louder listening levels. The Sony normally doesn't need an amp, but

at extreme low volumes the extra voltage helps to keep SQ up.


My DT150 at the other side of the low volume extreme is great at rendering synthetic

music. There is always punchy precise bass and nice separation of instruments and

sounds synthetic or otherwise. Treble remains accurate at low levels and vocals and

mids don't suffer either. Dance and pop music always stays at one volume so long

sessions are not a problem on the beyerdynamics. Listening to symphonies at low

volumes is hard though. The dynamic range of this headphone is so huge that a soft

small string line or bassoon solo that leaps to a full symphony attack can be too

intense for long listening sessions. I tried the headphones without an amp to see if

the dynamic range would get compressed, but it did not help. Instead bass impact

and instrumentation separation suffered at the lower volumes.


I tried all my other headphones at low volumes but none of them sound as good as


the two above. SQ on the other headphones suffered at volumes below 10 O'clock

with or without an amp. 10 O'clock on my systems seems to be just above normal

listening levels where most music will create the isolation in closed and semi-open

cans that prevents me from hearing the phone ring. These volumes though can be

hard on your ears when listening to long symphonies operas movies or multiple albums.

post #2 of 5

I find the Fischer Audio FA-003/Brainwavz HM5 to be quite good at low volumes, with plenty of instrument separation. However, their large soundstage may make you want to turn it up sometimes.

post #3 of 5

I really like the HD600 at low volumes and feel it still has good instrument separation while remaining decently detailed. 

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 

Yes I find that larger soundstages don't seem to blend stereo rock instrumentation as well at low volumes; like the DT150. Left vs right guitars sound too far apart and distant at your sides. Separation is good, but too much at low volumes becomes unnatural.

Originally Posted by ssrock64 View Post

I find the Fischer Audio FA-003/Brainwavz HM5 to be quite good at low volumes, with plenty of instrument separation. However, their large soundstage may make you want to turn it up sometimes.


post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 


Originally Posted by Fringe View Post

I really like the HD600 ... 

I read that the HD600s warm highs make for good listening at low volumes like you mentioned. Going in that direction I tried an Ultrasone HFI2000 thinking the brilliant treble route might help for details and seperation at low volumes.


The Ultrasone was a good example of fast detailed highs, but I don't think the drivers or the housing of this 1999 headphone have much life left in them. The Ultrasone brand is definitely leagues below the MDR-V6 and DT150 in longevity. However, the sound-signature of the HFI2000 forced me to re-examine the dampening of my other headphones. I had become too accustomed to the dark sound of my closed Monitor 10. The HFI2000 was the ultimate counterpoint with its fast detailed highs and bass light sound. An AD900 was an option too, but the older Ultrasones were much cheaper to source used.


With the new reference I set out to compare and correct my headphones. I took out the felt over the driver grills in the DT150 and just put some gaffer tape on the back 1/8 portion of the grill holes instead. This corrected the rolled off highs that everyone seems to complain about on the DT150. I was able to get a brilliance similar to the Ultrasone on my beyer without sacrificing its overall balance. I did the same removing the foam from my MDR-V6 and replacing it with thin felt over the driver grills. With these changes, I believe the exact compressed low-volume detailed sound signature I was looking for has now been achieved in the Sony.


So far normal to extreme low volumes are pleasant for long listening sessions. No fatigue from either headphone. The beyer will always be too dynamic for symphonies at low volumes, but the Sony can do them and all other genres now without issues. Both headphones past 12O'clock will be harsh on the ears, but its better I never go towards those hearing loss levels anyway.


Thanks everyone for the recommendations.

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