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Seeking synergy - waste of time and money, or outright foolishness?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I was just reading over at an LCD-3 (I think) thread in the High End forum. After a load of crap, frankly, about huge differences with cables, I noticed it was preceded by encyclopedic treatments about what electronics of all flavors could/should be used to change the response of the headphones to the owner's liking. In other words, a typical audio forum thread.

I am curious if the Sound Science forum has ever discussed specifically the practice of using colored gear to fix the coloring of other gear. To me the obvious solution is to get a different transducer (headphone or speaker) that sounds the way you want it to, not trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. My title for this thread presents my take on the matter. Actually I think I was being kind, since the whole idea of modifying distorted equipment by combining it with disimilarly distorted equipment deserves a string of nouns that would get me banned.
I am assuming a music enthusiast, not someone who's hobby is audio equipment, whether they say it is or not, to cover that base.
post #2 of 10

There aren't any sufficiently perfect transducers to get, though, so there's an obvious limitation going that route.

 

If time and money are no concern, trying different combinations of gear in the hopes of getting something better to work, maybe has some merits.  I would suggest a more rigorous approach than what pretty much everybody is doing, though.  Also, people generally seem to focus on the wrong tweaks (less likely to improve things, except by placebo).

post #3 of 10

EQ applied to "good" cans does seem more flexible than buying $xxxx amps to fix "recessed mids"

 

"linear distortion" is simply phase, frequency response - can be EQ by modern DSP up to the uncertainty of the headphones response (slow time varying changes in stiffness, damping, head positioning repeatability)

 

nonlinear distortion is much harder to deal with, it causes new frequency components in response to the signal, harmonic and Intermodulation sum and difference products that change relative level with loudness

the math is hard, even if the distortion coefficients were known and stable, but they can be expected to vary over time as well as signal level

 

the best plan is to buy low distortion headphones with reasonably good frequency response - then just use "linear" EQ

 

amp output Z and headphone electrical Z vs frequency can cause some frequency response changes with some combos - Orthodynamics have some of the flattest impedance curves of any headphones and should be fairly insensitive to this effect

and linear EQ can in principle compensate away these effects if you know or measure the resulting frequency response from the Z divider frequency variations

 

 

the idea of, say, a triode amp's nonlinearity "compensating" for a transducer's nonlinear term is as you say laughably implausible

 

 

an interesting "existence proof" for the power of EQ, DSP is the Smyth SVS Realzer that can give a very convincing reproduction of specific, real loudspeakers+room, outside of you head full multichannel "soundscape" - can be used with any "good" circumaural headphone - the headphone's response is EQ'd away -the Realizer processed headphones sounds like the speakers and room it is calibrated to

http://smyth-research.com/technology.html

 

if a Smyth Realizer can make Stax 2020 system, or a LCD-2, or HD800... sound like recognizably different loudspeakers, in different rooms - to your ears, after personal calibration sessions with each headphone, in each real environment then I think the question just of how much "EQ" can change the "inherent character" of even headphones is well established


Edited by jcx - 7/9/12 at 12:29pm
post #4 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

If time and money are no concern, trying different combinations of gear in the hopes of getting something better to work, maybe has some merits.  I would suggest a more rigorous approach than what pretty much everybody is doing, though.  Also, people generally seem to focus on the wrong tweaks (less likely to improve things, except by placebo).

 

Those are the key words really. If I was buying components somebody else had recommended as having qualities which would fix the sound of my system, I'd go in with exactly that expectation, and would be a bit more likely to believe there was "synergy" after all.

 

Good post jcx. Do you know why orthos have such flat impedance/frequency? Is it perhaps to do with the resonant frequency being far above audio?

post #5 of 10

Not too long ago I had my DT990-250 and was considering a synergy with a tube amp to tame it's brightness. This after listening to a DT990-600 through a Schiit Valhalla, which I thought sounded fantastic at the time. I also started looking for other solutions: passive networks, rolled portable amps, and equalization. Somehow I got it in my head that while these headphones had coloration issues, they were keepers.

 

As I looked at the economy of things, I paid $174 for the DT990-250. A Valhalla is about $350. While the amp is competent, and good looking, a Valhalla is not portable, and a ~2x $ solution to the problem (compared to the price of the headphone).

 

In the end I sold my DT990-250, and picked something more pleasant to my ears: An HD558 which I bought used for $100. It may not the perfect headphone, but it does not cause me fatigue, gives me enough bass/mids/highs, and sounds smooth to my ears... Furthermore, I can power them from my Sansa Zip, Receiver, and Laptop (i.e. no need to carry the amp around).

 

Two things I took from this experience:

 

1) I believe in equalization to get interesting effects, and fine tuning. I also believe that a "warm" amp can be paired with a "bright" headphone to sound more pleasant. But I think in my particular case replacing the headphone (the source of the problem) with something more pleasant to me was a better solution. 

 

2) When I bought my DT990-250, I did not listened to them before buying. It was a blind purchase, and I was disappointed. When I bought my HD558 I had already made sure to listen to them before buying them. It was not a blind purchase, and was not disappointed.


Edited by ultrabike - 7/16/12 at 1:51am
post #6 of 10
Correcting response imbalances by swapping colored equipment in and out is absurd. First of all, the vast majority of equipment is flat, regardless of what silly audiophools think. Secondly, frequency imbalances are corrected using three different parameters... Frequency, width of correction and gain. Randomly finding a piece of equipment that matches all three of those is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack that doesn't even contain a needle.

However, encouraging people to correct response through "synergy" is a fantastic way to get people to churn through buying equipment at a fearsome clip.
post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

frequency imbalances are corrected using three different parameters... Frequency, width of correction and gain. Randomly finding a piece of equipment that matches all three of those is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack that doesn't even contain a needle.

 

That's how I felt when trying to find a synergy solution to my headphone problem. Specially given my limited experience on what is available out there. That is also why I feel careful equalization, using a headphone that even without equalization is not offensive to one's ears in the first place, is a better solution to what was my particular problem.
 

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

Correcting response imbalances by swapping colored equipment in and out is absurd. First of all, the vast majority of equipment is flat, regardless of what silly audiophools think. Secondly, frequency imbalances are corrected using three different parameters... Frequency, width of correction and gain. Randomly finding a piece of equipment that matches all three of those is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack that doesn't even contain a needle.
 

 

Yeah. To swap out devices with subtle differences - all of which are supposed to have no differences - is to miss the biggest source of distortion: the headphones.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

However, encouraging people to correct response through "synergy" is a fantastic way to get people to churn through buying equipment at a fearsome clip.
 

Yep.  Yep yep yep.

post #9 of 10

Nice to know that I'm not the only one fed up with the word.

post #10 of 10

I hate synergy with a passion as well. If someone already owns 6 amps and finds that one makes his cans sound better, great, let him enjoy life. But if someone is on a budget recommending synergy is pretty unnecessary.

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