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Are Audiophile headphones only for classical/jazz/instrumental?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

Hey guys.

 

Been at this hobby for around 2 months, reading loads of threads and trying to gain as much information as possible. I've sampled out some commonly recommended headphones on the way and even bought some as well. My problem, or rather the the pressing question I have is this. Out of all the ones I've tried, I haven't been blown away by any of them

 

Nearly every headphone review I read, the music used to test the headphone is always instrumental, jazz, classical or vocals, but not pop vocals. Whenever someone is looking for a new audiophile headphone it's generally to do with those genres. Some people look for rock and get recommended grado's, others look for trance/dubstep.

 

Almost nobody every mentions mainstream music. Pop, rap, RnB. There are a few threads floating around, but I've yet to read a review that deals with those genres. I've read something about this loudness war going on at the moment. About how recording studios are compressing their songs lazily, and how they are boosting the treble and bass. Because of the way these people are mastering their songs, would it be pointless to get an "audiophile" headphone? A lot of pop is synthesised, so would cheap headphones pick up all there is to pick up anyway since their is no "air moving from the plucking of a guitar string" etc..

 

I'm asking this because my music library probably falls into this mainstream category of badly recorded music (check profile). I've sampled lots of headphones only to be disappointed or unimpressed. Would it be best for me to just get a coloured set of phones suited to my genre and be done with it, or is there something to be gained by buying expensive headphones?

 


Edited by RayleighSilvers - 3/13/12 at 6:22am
post #2 of 43

Budget??? Your budget is very important. If it's flexible, then I think depending on your individual preference, any of the Stax 009, Audez'e LCD-3 and Sennheiser HD-800 will excel. My personal pick would be the HD-800s if classical is important as they by far the best soundstage reproduction.

post #3 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dyl1dyl View Post

Budget??? Your budget is very important. If it's flexible, then I think depending on your individual preference, any of the Stax 009, Audez'e LCD-3 and Sennheiser HD-800 will excel. My personal pick would be the HD-800s if classical is important as they by far the best soundstage reproduction.



lol did you even read my post?

post #4 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayleighSilvers View Post



lol did you even read my post?


Haha, I'm so sorry, you caught me there, only read the title, saw the length of your post and decided to skip the details ;) Haha, just read through it. I believe some others have asked this question before so you might want to dig around. Anyway, my answer would be get the LCD-2s. They are phenomenal for mainstream music, especially things with strong bass lines. Plus, they aren't super detailed like the LCD-3s so lossy/badly recorded music sounds more acceptable.

 

post #5 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayleighSilvers View Post

Hey guys.

 

Been at this hobby for around 2 months, reading loads of threads and trying to gain as much information as possible. I've sampled out some commonly recommended headphones on the way and even bought some as well. My problem, or rather the the pressing question I have is this. Out of all the ones I've tried, I haven't been blown away by any of them

 

Nearly every headphone review I read, the music used to test the headphone is always instrumental, jazz, classical or vocals, but not pop vocals. Whenever someone is looking for a new audiophile headphone it's generally to do with those genres. Some people look for rock and get recommended grado's, others look for trance/dubstep.

 

Almost nobody every mentions mainstream music. Pop, rap, RnB. There are a few threads floating around, but I've yet to read a review that deals with those genres. I've read something about this loudness war going on at the moment. About how recording studios are compressing their songs lazily, and how they are boosting the treble and bass. Because of the way these people are mastering their songs, would it be pointless to get an "audiophile" headphone? A lot of pop is synthesised, so would cheap headphones pick up all there is to pick up anyway since their is no "air moving from the plucking of a guitar string" etc..

 

I'm asking this because my music library probably falls into this mainstream category of badly recorded music (check profile). I've sampled lots of headphones only to be disappointed or unimpressed compared to. Would it be best for me to just get a coloured set of phones suited to my genre and be done with it, or is there something to be gained by buying expensive headphones?

 

 

Heya,

 

This is actually a good question. I've found myself constantly wondering why people ask for a $XXX recommendation for various genres. Poorly recorded material, poorly mastered material, poorly compressed material, will sound poor no matter how awesome your headfi setup is. I've had mixed experiences when it comes to quality of music. I have lossless/vinyl/CD old rock and it just sounds terrible on very resolving headphones to the point where I can't stand it and look for even higher quality remastered versions of the same music. I have a lot of classical and jazz however that is utterly flawless, silent, you don't hear hiss or noise or imperfection of recording, or weird noises here and there, it's literally just flawless and it's absolutely gorgeous to listen to on a higher end headfi setup. I have metal that sounds like a hot mess through very detailed and bright higher end headphones, yet sounds better and more casual through some lesser headphones. When it comes to electronic, which I listen to a ton of, I find I reach for various headphones that are not high-end. I can tell the difference between lossless and compressed MP3 when it comes to even electronic music, but in general, I don't find electronic music to be all that crazy to need high-end headphones. And I can just go on and on about various genres, but end of the day, here's where I reach for my high-end headphones: classical (from modern, solo piano, cello, to orchestra & opera), jazz (basic trio to fusion), acoustic (simple guitar with a female vocal in general for me) and sound tracks (like Hans Zimmer stuff). When I listen to basically anything else, I'm grabbing a different headphone usually. Here's where I grab my HE500.

 

When I listen to Robyn, Avantasia, Ayreon, John Petrucci, Kiss, Queen, Cranberries, Corinne Bailey Rae, Dave Mathews, The Who, OceanLab, Buckethead, Opeth, BAD, Euphoric Emotions, Deadmau5, Hotel Costes, Sigur Ros, Genesis, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, U2, etc, I'm usually not grabbing my highest resolving headphone or high-end and I'm usually grabbing my favorite casual headphone, which in my case, is the Denon D5000, but I've had days where I also just enjoyed it fine with a $30 pair of Panasonic HTF600's and lately a pair of $120 M-Audio Q40's or a set of sub-$200 Beyer DT770's.

 

I don't think every genre is going to demand a high end setup. I for one don't see the value in a $3k setup to listen to pop, for example.

 

Very best,

post #6 of 43

Malveaux is right on the money. This is why I just spent the weekend ripping about 300 cd's to flac. Crap in crap out. I want to start with the best rip possible and then listen to different material with the headphone that I own that I feel sounds the best.


Edited by MattTCG - 3/13/12 at 10:59am
post #7 of 43

Expensive headphones are all about details in sound.

 

For example if you listen to Michael Jackson's "Who is it" on Sennheiser HD 485 and than on HD 650 the difference will be that the bass will be more textured instead of bloated on 650 (you might even like 485 more) but most important the highs will be more textured, pronounced and will sound more natural. It just feels like you are loosing some details with the cheaper headphones. But if this is not that important to you than I think that you do not need to take the "audiophile road". Most of the headphones at $ 100 price range will be fine and provide enough details for casual listening.

 

For serious music listeners serious equipment does make a change. Most of the details are important with classical, jazz etc. since pop rarely provides good mastering i.e. sound to really go into the details.


Edited by gokica - 3/13/12 at 6:17am
post #8 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by gokica View Post

Expensive headphones are all about details in sound.

 

For example if you listen to Michael Jackson's "Who is it" on Sennheiser HD 485 and than on HD 650 the difference will be that the bass will be more textured instead of bloated on 650 (you might even like 485 more) but most important the highs will be more textured, pronounced and will sound more natural. It just feels like you are loosing some details with the cheaper headphones. But if this is not that important to you than I think that you do not need to take the "audiophile road". Most of the headphones at $ 100 price range will be fine and provide enough details for casual listening.

 

For serious music listeners serious equipment does make a change. Most of the details are important with classical, jazz etc. since pop rarely provides good mastering i.e. sound to really go into the
I agree with this...
But ultrasone makes headphones for non classical music (see edition 8)

post #9 of 43

My 20 cents on this subject:

 

- Try to keep your library with best possible audio quality for starters, minimum MP3 VBR -v0 -new or CBR 320 kbps or ACC 256 kbps average, but lossless FLAC/ALAC isn't a bad idea (but generally unless you have a very highend setup you won't notice much difference)

- Different types of music reveals highend headphone details better than others (classical & jazz especially)

- Recordings can have very varying quality, more known artists and the genres typically marketed towards audiophiles have in general better quality recordings but there's always some exceptions

- Some headphones masks the weak recording qualities better than others

- Just get a headphone that has the sound you're personally looking for rather than try to buy a headphone based on what is the general concensus that it fits well for

 

If you're a person like me that currently listens to a lot of hardstyle (but I listen to a wide variety of music though) it wouldn't make sense to buy a $1000 headphone because about like 50% of the recordings I spot audible clipping partially because this genre is usually mastered very loudly/hot for getting that biggest possible bass hump and partially because the producers themselves usually master the tracks. xD

 

Did some1 say loud? xD Yes this is a retail track, one of the louder recordings I've spotted but still, the clipping is quite easily audible here at least. :P

 

tonight.png


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 3/13/12 at 7:03am
post #10 of 43

I won't directly answer "Yes" to the OP's question but... here's what I feel.

 

I do not own super highend equipment (audeze...), but the Ultrasone Pro900 will easily pickup differences between Mp3's and Flac most of the time with Jazz, Classical, Instrumental, Classic rock etc.

When I listen to Rap, Pop, RnB, Electro... then I won't notice much of a difference... in fact, like Malveaux said earlier, at that point I usually grab my "lower end" pair (SRH750DJ for now) and have more "fun" listening to 320 Kbps Pop / Electronic Mp3's with these than with my Pro900's anyway.

But don't get me wrong, some RnB / Electronic songs with heavy details (I don't know why but I have Unbreak my heart - Tony Braxton in mind, or 12th Planet - Bass Ship) will sound much better with my highend phones. This is all "in general".

 

So basically... when I feel like listening to music while doing other things... usually my lower end gear does a better job there.

When I feel like listening to music that makes my head go far far away from earth with my eyes closed, then I take out the higher end stuff.

 

 

post #11 of 43

+1 to everyone above.  I agree with everyone's perspective here.   While it is possible that you can find a headphone that will make you enjoy your bad recordings more, and some of those headphones may even be expensive, the main reason you see classical, jazz, instrumental in discussion, even some good rock, and not pop and many other genres is because of the mastering.  The recording itself in most (but not all) cases in the pop genres is simply of poor quality.  Playing poor quality recordings which lack detail through highly detailed headphones will at best, continue to play the poor quality recording at the maximum of it's poor quality, and at worst will accentuate the flaws that you were previously unaware of. 

 

The idea of higher detail in your headphone setup is to fix the flaws in cheaper equipment where fine details and clarity are present in the recorded music, but it's getting muddied or distorted in your playback chain before it gets to your ears.  In the case of pop, most of the mud and distortion you're hearing is actually what's on the original recording.  It's not your playback chain making it sound unclear, that's what the disc actually has written on it.

 

Which is why even fans of mainstream tend to depart from it and explore different music once they discover higher quality audio.  It gets to a point where you realize how bad the recordings are and no longer enjoy listening to them.  It starts with upgrading your sound gear so it sounds better, only to realize it still doesn't sound better.  Because the recording will never sound better.  Then you realize, you don't need new headphones, you need the engineers to stop mangling recordings!

 

For most mainstream music, it's very much damaged on the original.  You can't get tighter bass because it's bloated on the disc.  You can't get more detailed treble or cleaner mids because there are no clean mids or detailed treble on the recording.  No amount of money will solve that.

 

For that genre you don't want neutral or detailed headphones you actually want headphones that will mask bad quality.  Sennheiser HD650's are famed for being forgiving of bad recordings, though only to a point.   Headphones with a V-shaped frequency response graph tend to mask bad recordings.  They suppress the usually bloated mids and midrange and accentuate treble and bass.  That won't help your vocals though. The V curve is usually used to let dynamic drivers have more "energy" and "speed" in presentation, and is often described as "fun." Ultimate Ears (IEMs) are a great example of that profile.  TF5 & TF10 both show a strong V-shape.

 

Nothing is universal though, every now and again I find that some pop albums are not as badly recorded as I thought they were, and a good DAC & good headphones really do clean them up.  I disagree with Malveaux on only two things: Dave Matthews and Duran Duran.   For Dave it depends on the album....there are a few I always get disappointed with by the loudness wars, and others that are actually quite good.  Especially the live recordings are very well mastered, and I consider that the "real" DMB recordings anyway.  As a sort of mish-mash of pop. rock, and jazz, his music is more of a live improv style that doesn't work as well in the studio, just like jazz.  Duran Duran I've found tends to have better than average mastering for pop across the board...probably because it was recorded long before the loudness wars really took off.

 


Edited by IEMCrazy - 3/13/12 at 7:22am
post #12 of 43

I got everything in reverse. I liked my HD600 for the various metal genres I listen to, but I prefer the SR225 over that for about half the jazz/audiophile vocal recordings I have. Why? The Grado's vocal reproduction sounds more "raw" and whatever is "raw" about these recordings actually sounds good; the HD600 I liked for most metal the same way a lot of people like them for classical - they have more layers than most audiophile recordings, barring of course orchestras and Jazz big bands. The HD600 brings out as much detail as the Grado without throwing them all at you.

post #13 of 43

Audiophile headphones are for listening to recordings of any music. Ideally the headphones and the whole system just "moves out of the way" and leave only the recording of the music behind. The recording quality will be revealed regardless of genre or artist.  

 

 

post #14 of 43

Hi,

I think that when you buy a pair of good headphones, it is because you want good music production; you want it to sound real, like in a concert. When you listen to pop music, there is not as much improvement as in jazz or rock because it is not always decently mastered and there's alot of auto-tune, which can really scrap the "blow-away" feeling. Imo, pop music or rap is often more bass centric than other genre, so it is normal that you might not be blow away by them of a heaphones set up which cannot give you the physical impact of a speakers system. Have you tried headphones that delievered decent bass?

 

The other question that I would like to ask you is how much do you like music and for how much time have you been regularly listening to music? The thing that blew me away with good headphones is fact of how much I felt I was missing listening to my old cans, rediscovering music and having some memories brought back to me.

 

By the way, it it not because you listen to pop that you can't appreciate Hi-fi! It should soung better, maybe you haven't tried the good cans yet. I would go to a local store and test some headphones to see if you get that feeling you are looking for.

 

Oh, another thing. If you still have a pair of cheaper headphones, try some of your favorite songs on them and then retry them on your best headphones, you should notice a big difference. I always felt that when you downgrade you get a much better idea how much better are your headphones than when you upgrade.

 

Hope that it will help and happy listening!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayleighSilvers View Post

Hey guys.

 

Been at this hobby for around 2 months, reading loads of threads and trying to gain as much information as possible. I've sampled out some commonly recommended headphones on the way and even bought some as well. My problem, or rather the the pressing question I have is this. Out of all the ones I've tried, I haven't been blown away by any of them

 

Nearly every headphone review I read, the music used to test the headphone is always instrumental, jazz, classical or vocals, but not pop vocals. Whenever someone is looking for a new audiophile headphone it's generally to do with those genres. Some people look for rock and get recommended grado's, others look for trance/dubstep.

 

Almost nobody every mentions mainstream music. Pop, rap, RnB. There are a few threads floating around, but I've yet to read a review that deals with those genres. I've read something about this loudness war going on at the moment. About how recording studios are compressing their songs lazily, and how they are boosting the treble and bass. Because of the way these people are mastering their songs, would it be pointless to get an "audiophile" headphone? A lot of pop is synthesised, so would cheap headphones pick up all there is to pick up anyway since their is no "air moving from the plucking of a guitar string" etc..

 

I'm asking this because my music library probably falls into this mainstream category of badly recorded music (check profile). I've sampled lots of headphones only to be disappointed or unimpressed. Would it be best for me to just get a coloured set of phones suited to my genre and be done with it, or is there something to be gained by buying expensive headphones?

 



 

post #15 of 43
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot for the response everyone. I've learned a lot. Guess I should've asked this question before I started buying stuff but it's better late than never. I was oblivious to this loudness war going on, and didn't know anything about bad mastering. I used to listen to music on my turtlebeach x1's and fake sony mdr-ex700 from ebay. Back then I really enjoyed my music. But ever since I found this site I haven't because I was trying to analyse everything too much and it ended up just listening to the headphones rather than the music. That said I can't go back to my old headphones. They do sound terrible compared to what I have now. 

 

Maybe in the future I might give this hobby a proper go, but for my current musical tastes it would probably be better to grab a cheap pair of fun phones and be done with it. I know my wallet would thank me for it biggrin.gif.

 

I'm thinking of trying a pair of monitor phones just to make sure there isn't anything else I'm missing from my music. Will the FA0-11/DT 700's be good enough or should I get something more accurate like the shure 940's? I don't really plan on keeping them, unless they really do impress.

 

 

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