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Dirty Little Secret of Headphones

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 

Here's something that most people don't consider when auditioning/reviewing headphones. Where you place the headphones on your head affects the sound quality. And even more than that, the distance of the drivers to your ears (dictated by the amount of use the cushions receive,) has a huge impact on sound quality. So what do you guys think about that?

post #2 of 48

Pads do burn in a lot more than drivers...

 

evil_smiley.gif

post #3 of 48
Thread Starter 

Are you being sarcastic? I think you're absolutely correct.

post #4 of 48
Yes, this is true, I, as a reviewer, am well aware of that. Tips do break in as well (in terms of IEMs).


Sent from an iPod touch with TapaTalk... Autocorrect may alter the meaning of this message tongue.gif
post #5 of 48

Didn't seem like a secret to me, and it wouldn't be a secret to any Grado/Alessandro user either.

post #6 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaximumRoom View Post

Are you being sarcastic? I think you're absolutely correct.

 

Nope.  I think it's true too, but it still was a joke.

 

It's just that suggesting that driver burn-in is, at best, insignificant is sometimes labeled as heresy around here while other factors that make much more of a difference, like worn down pads, are ignored.

post #7 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by maverickronin View Post

Nope.  I think it's true too, but it still was a joke.

It's just that suggesting that driver burn-in is, at best, insignificant is sometimes labeled as heresy around here while other factors that make much more of a difference, like worn down pads, are ignored.

Silence, you! We're much too busy testing our new Super Star Quad 99.9999999999999999999% oxygen free silver bum plugs. They increase bottom end extension by 12%. eek.gif
post #8 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaximumRoom View Post

Here's something that most people don't consider when auditioning/reviewing headphones. Where you place the headphones on your head affects the sound quality. And even more than that, the distance of the drivers to your ears (dictated by the amount of use the cushions receive,) has a huge impact on sound quality. So what do you guys think about that?

I find that to be the case with almost all dynamic headphones, however with planar magnetic cans like Hifiman ones, it appears to be significantly less prevalent for some reason... maybe because their diaphragms are much larger and pretty much even all the way across unlike voicecoil diaphragms.

post #9 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaximumRoom View Post

Here's something that most people don't consider when auditioning/reviewing headphones. Where you place the headphones on your head affects the sound quality. And even more than that, the distance of the drivers to your ears (dictated by the amount of use the cushions receive,) has a huge impact on sound quality. So what do you guys think about that?

 

Reviewers should use dummy heads. tongue.gif

post #10 of 48

Of course they do.  It's the combination of the small diaphragm and the conical soundwave they emit in relation to the baffle that is your earlobe. Big round cups have the issue more severely (AKG) than some others.  Denons try to confine your ears to a specific spot with an oval opening.  One I don't like in fact.  Senns have oval cups (or octagonal cups on the new ones) that try to confine the ear but it's still easy to move them around.   And I do think head placement accounts for a lot of the variances we hear in reviews.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

I find that to be the case with almost all dynamic headphones, however with planar magnetic cans like Hifiman ones, it appears to be significantly less prevalent for some reason... maybe because their diaphragms are much larger and pretty much even all the way across unlike voicecoil diaphragms.

 

This is true.  The flat (planar) sound wave reduces the effect somewhat (same with HD800) ,and the huge drivers in the likes of LCD-2 and HE-500 mitigate it.  I do find with HE-400 though the issue still exists though due to the somewhat smaller diaphragm than the others.  However you have to move to the extreme edges of the cup for it to be significant, and it's more significant with the flat-crushing pleather than the velour that gives the wave time to expand before hitting the lobe.  With pleather on HE-400 and you put your ear at the very front of the cup they become almost bright with a hideous peak.

post #11 of 48

It doesn't seem like a dirty secret to me.
 

post #12 of 48

How much of that difference is actually audible or noticeable? I haven't heard any changes due to burn and I'm pretty posistive if I spent an insane amount of money recabling my headphones I wouldn't hear any difference either. Whether there is an actual difference or not is a different story. Moving the headphones and earpads around would be the same.

post #13 of 48

Position of the drivers relative to your ears definitely affect how it will sound overall. Just use any on ear headphones and it's pretty apparent.

post #14 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaximumRoom View Post

Here's something that most people don't consider when auditioning/reviewing headphones. Where you place the headphones on your head affects the sound quality. And even more than that, the distance of the drivers to your ears (dictated by the amount of use the cushions receive,) has a huge impact on sound quality. So what do you guys think about that?

Yeah, this is pretty well understood. Tyll's measurements show the raw data for multiple placements to illustrate the point, and to evaluate how placement sensitive a given pair of cans are (some are less picky than others). There's also the "tips and tricks" section of Meier's website that gets into this. And finally, Ultrasone's S-LOGIC is based on this principle taken to extreme levels.
post #15 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayleighSilvers View Post

How much of that difference is actually audible or noticeable? I haven't heard any changes due to burn and I'm pretty posistive if I spent an insane amount of money recabling my headphones I wouldn't hear any difference either. Whether there is an actual difference or not is a different story. Moving the headphones and earpads around would be the same.

 

Without moving this into a cable or burn-in discussion, regardless of ones thoughts on that, the matter of repositioning headphones is free to try, instant to ABX, and everyone can do it, so why not try?  

 

I actually mentioned this topic a while ago in the HD650 App. thread when I realized it.  The sound had considerable effect depending on where the ear was placed, mostly affecting treble/bass balance/depth and also affecting HRTF (if in the wrong position, HD650 and HE-400 have a nasty habit of projecting sounds from behind  me, it's rather startling to hear some bongo drummer start drumming behind your shoulder eek.gif)

 

Driver placement, especially with non-planar wavefronts (orthos, HD800) since the wavefront is conical in shape and depending on how it hits your ear/earlobe affects how it resonates.  With the planar wavefronts it's more likely to baffle naturally.   And where you place the pad affects driver distance-to-ear, and if it's sitting on a bone differently affects angle as well.

 

Consider why all the $1k+ headphones (and some well below that like AT, Denon, AKG) are angling the drivers, angling the earpads, and remember one of the significant differences between HD600 and HD650 was the driver distance in the housing.  And consider why many like Denon try to coax you by force into where you put your ear in the cup (with the front-shifted ovoid hole in the pads in the case of Denon.)

 

The HE-400 has such a huge cup, with the pleather pads on, it's easy to experiment.  Putting your ear near the front emphasizes treble but can make it harsh.  It makes sense, you're putting the driver closer to the ear, moving your ear away from the center of the airflow (bass weight), and your ear canal entrance is picking up the refractions off the glossy pleather surface directly rather than after some bouncing attenuation. Obviously ergonomics tells us they weren't designed with the idea of your ear being at the front edge, but for the purpose of confirming driver positions effect on sound, it's an interesting test, and easily confirms the potential for negative (and fatiguing!) effect in incorrect positions. 

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