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That _____ Sound

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

In the process of upgrading from my A700's, this idea ran by me: do companies have a signature "sound"? 

 

I'll elaborate a little. When I started looking for a replacement for my A700 that sounded similar but was open instead of closed, the first thing I though was, since it's in the same line of headphones (the "AIR" line) from the same company, the AD900 might be a viable option. This got me wondering if there are similarities between the sound signatures in the AIR line, or perhaps between all ATH headphones, or maybe between everything from Audio Technica (which is probobly a bit of a stretch). Then I thought about the other companies. I vaguely remember reading things such as "it has the AKG sound", "the Etymotic sound", "the Sennheiser sound", or even "the Audio Technica sound". And of course there's Grado too. 

 

And I'm not asking if every headphone sounds the exact same (which wouldn't be very advantageous to the company really), but do their headphones/headphone lines have similarities that people come to know as "The _____ Sound"?

 

Just a little question to ponder.

 

(and I'm still looking for an "open A700" if anyone would like to help atsmile.gif)

post #2 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pulse14 View Post

In the process of upgrading from my A700's, this idea ran by me: do companies have a signature "sound"? 

 

I'll elaborate a little. When I started looking for a replacement for my A700 that sounded similar but was open instead of closed, the first thing I though was, since it's in the same line of headphones (the "AIR" line) from the same company, the AD900 might be a viable option. This got me wondering if there are similarities between the sound signatures in the AIR line, or perhaps between all ATH headphones, or maybe between everything from Audio Technica (which is probobly a bit of a stretch). Then I thought about the other companies. I vaguely remember reading things such as "it has the AKG sound", "the Etymotic sound", "the Sennheiser sound", or even "the Audio Technica sound". And of course there's Grado too. 

 

And I'm not asking if every headphone sounds the exact same (which wouldn't be very advantageous to the company really), but do their headphones/headphone lines have similarities that people come to know as "The _____ Sound"?

 

Just a little question to ponder.

 

(and I'm still looking for an "open A700" if anyone would like to help atsmile.gif)

 

I had Grado SR325i's, and they definitely had "the Grado sound". Here are some of things I think may result in a house sound. Manufacturers buy in bulk, so they might have only one type or brand of wire that they use to wind their voice coils (or armatures). Same thing with magnets, cones, diaphragms, cables, etc. Also, the machines they build their products with may be used to build many products in their line. Another thought is that maybe a single engineer or engineering team is responsible for much of the product line, which would certainly result in sonic similarities. Finally, marketing may take one product, and make one small change and market it as something else. Some of these changes may not necessarily change the sound of the product. Same product - one comes in plastic, the other in a a nice wood grain. That may or may not change the sound. Same thing with "limited editions" or "tribute" products. They get some famous person to endorse and maybe sign a model, and that unit becomes a branch off the main product chain. Same sonic signature, but different packaging, marketing, and higher price.

 

Jeez - that was fun in a strange way. :-)

post #3 of 4

Headphone "lines" will always sound similar to each other because they usually share components like drivers and enclosures, basically, the headphones are all "variations on a theme". That's why all Grado headphones generally sound the same. In reality, their perception of multiple lines is what would be one line for another company, so the "reference" headphones still sound like the "prestige". This doesn't mean the reference aren't worth the money, it just means that if you pick up any Grado, even the SR60, you'll know instantly whether or not you'll like all Grado headphones.

 

I think brands do tend to have a "house" sound, generally speaking. Headphone companies are small relative to other electronics companies and are more flexible. They start tailoring a headphone to meet their desired end result right from the moment of its conception. The GS-1000 is a prime example of a headphone where John Grado probably went through a million prototypes before being satisfied with the sound. He could have chosen a prototype somewhere along the way and said, "This product will sell well to people who like this particular sound", but he kept revising it.

 

Etymotic, another great example. They use measurement instead of their ears, looking for the perfect "flat" headphone. They're tailoring the headphones to their tastes regardless of how they're accomplishing it. The end result is the characteristic ultra-detailed Ety sound.

 

The one I would have a tough time nailing down is Senn, because they're a gigantic company and they've made a lot of different headphones that all sound quite different (HD580/600 versus HD590, classic example). Still, if you examine their highest end headphones, it's very, very interesting just how similar the HD600, HD800, and Orpheus all sound to each other! So, there's a Sennheiser house sound in there somewhere.

post #4 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by MD1032 View Post

They're tailoring the headphones to their tastes regardless of how they're accomplishing it.

This. This a thousand times.

I think with the exception of headphones that are designed purely to look good or in the case of Sony, this is more or less true. If you're designing something and going based on measurements, you have to go by some sort of "target" performance, and I would guess that since most of these engineers likely went through similar educational programs, were taught the same physics and acoustics, and so on, there's going to be some congruency.

Sony gets to be set apart because they have a tendency to be "all over the place" with their designs (and they've had some innovative and downright weird stuff over the years), although the Sennheiser example with the "high end" products does seem to rain true at least with more modern Sony releases; they all target "accurate, detailed, fast" fairly well.
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