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Flat response graph headphones vs the real thing and speakers

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,

 

I'm no expert in this matter and was wondering if anyone with more experience in the field would have any insights. I posted this same post in one of my other threads, but I find the topic very interesting so figure i'd start a new thread about it. Below's just one of the things I posted in my other thread. And the reason why I'm wondering is i'm currently in the process of choosing between the HD800, LCD2 or PS1000 and I am just curious if the HD800 is really the most accurate headphone that replicates what the artist/producer intended us to listen to:

 

 

Many ppl lately seem pretty caught up with wanting a pair of headphone with a flat frequency response. But because the conditions and limitations of speakers, headphones and live performances are all different. In order say for a pair of headphones with it's limitations and different listening conditions to actually sound like top grade speakers or like real live sound, should there actually be some accentuation or or coloring/altering to it's frequency response to make it less flat so that it would more sound like speakers or live sound? An example i mentioned was bass. With speakers and often live sound we get the bass coming through vibration so we can feel it. This isn't possible on headphones so perhaps for headphones a slight bump in certain bass ranges would actually make them sound more "accurate"? If this is the case then perhaps a ruler flat response headphone actually might not be accurate at all at capturing speakers or live sound?

 

But I was just curious because with the limitations and different listening conditions of headphones, perhaps a flat response might not be a true accurate depiction of what the original artists intended for us to listen to. Just something I was wondering about. Was going to post a seperate thread for this topic. 

 

Reason why I was curious was because there was this article I read the other night about the reviewer actually compared the PS1000 in a live studio recording situation where he'd first listen to the live performance and then instantly listen to the recording through the headphones and he stated that the PS1000 sounded as close to the real performance as he's experienced. I don't know how true that review was, but it just got me wondering if minor deviations from a flat response might actually be necessary for headphones to sound more like live performances or speakers.

 

I'm no expert with this and was wondering if yourself or anyone else with more experience could shed some light.

post #2 of 15

No headphone that I have seen actually has a flat response, so you are correct. A speaker or headphone with a ruler flat response across the board wouldn't sound very good. And no one here knows what the artst/engineer intended us to hear, so we can only go off of preference.


Edited by Slaughter - 10/1/12 at 11:32am
post #3 of 15

No transducer (headphone, speaker, stylus/cartridge) has flat frequency response.

 

No live concert has flat frequency response, not classical, not rock, not jazz.  The concert hall is not flat, not the jazz club, not the rock concert.

 

You can buy amps and dacs that have flat frequency response.  Why can they sound different from each other?

 

But, I muse.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hi Slaughter,

 

Thx for the response. And yeah.. the thing is I've noticed a lot of people are quick to point out that a pair of headphones with a flatter response graph would be more accurate, but I'm not so sure if that's the case because of the inherent limitations and different listening conditions of headphones when compared with speakers and also live performances. (many live performances go through speakers anyways). 

I've noticed that no matter how expensive or how "flagship" of the headphone that I listen to that I still seem to be missing something from my speaker listening experience. And I don't think a flatter response curve would be the answer. If anything, something seems to be lacking and I'm wondering if it's necessary sometimes to tamper with the response a bit with headphones to bumping and decreasing certain ranges to better represent the accurate speaker or a live setting experience.

 

Reason why I was wondering is many are quick to point out the hd800 with it's flatter response curve would sound more accurate than say the ps1000. But I sometimes wonder if the deviations made on the PS1000 response curve is a way of compensating for the inherent limitations and different listening conditions of headphones vs speakers to make them in the end perhaps more accurate?

 

I'm not saying that I think the PS1000 sounds more accurate than the HD800. as I've only had a quick 15 min listen to the PS1000. I was just curious. And would like to get some good insights from others who might have more experience than me in this or from others who have actually A/B'd these headphones next to top notch speakers.

 

I'm actually going to give the LCD2, PS1000 and HD800 a more thorough audition today. Too bad I won't have any top grade speakers side by side to compare with though.

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric23 View Post

Hi Slaughter,

 

Thx for the response. And yeah.. the thing is I've noticed a lot of people are quick to point out that a pair of headphones with a flatter response graph would be more accurate, but I'm not so sure if that's the case because of the inherent limitations and different listening conditions of headphones when compared with speakers and also live performances. (many live performances go through speakers anyways). 

I've noticed that no matter how expensive or how "flagship" of the headphone that I listen to that I still seem to be missing something from my speaker listening experience. And I don't think a flatter response curve would be the answer. If anything, something seems to be lacking and I'm wondering if it's necessary sometimes to tamper with the response a bit with headphones to bumping and decreasing certain ranges to better represent the accurate speaker or a live setting experience.

 

Reason why I was wondering is many are quick to point out the hd800 with it's flatter response curve would sound more accurate than say the ps1000. But I sometimes wonder if the deviations made on the PS1000 response curve is a way of compensating for the inherent limitations and different listening conditions of headphones vs speakers to make them in the end perhaps more accurate?

 

I'm not saying that I think the PS1000 sounds more accurate than the HD800. as I've only had a quick 15 min listen to the PS1000. I was just curious. And would like to get some good insights from others who might have more experience than me in this or from others who have actually A/B'd these headphones next to top notch speakers.

 

I'm actually going to give the LCD2, PS1000 and HD800 a more thorough audition today. Too bad I won't have any top grade speakers side by side to compare with though.

 

One thing I realized recently while modding the grills of my Hifiman HE400s is that the enclosure is a huge determinant of how "open" and "speaker-like" headphones sound, especially open planars. Any enclosure-related resonance, however minute, contributes hugely to the "headphone-like" feel of the sound. Quite amazing how our hearing pick up these little cues and interpret them accurately. Ideally you'd want a free-floating driver sealed to your ear with nothing acoustically obstructing it from the sides or the back.

 

The current state of my cans:

 

 

They sound quite speaker-like already this way.

 

 

 

Something like HE6 with modded grills like this are sure to sound even closer to speakers in terms of the innate quality of the imaging and openness.


Edited by jerg - 10/1/12 at 1:05pm
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the insight Jerg, 

 

Was wondering, have you ever listened to the LCD-2, HD800 or PS1000 before? If you have, which would you consider to be more natural and speaker-like? or which would be closer to say a live performance? Ofcourse I guess different types of live gigs will have different requirements too. haha

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric23 View Post

Thanks for the insight Jerg, 

 

Was wondering, have you ever listened to the LCD-2, HD800 or PS1000 before? If you have, which would you consider to be more natural and speaker-like? or which would be closer to say a live performance? Ofcourse I guess different types of live gigs will have different requirements too. haha

 

I haven't heard the Grados, but yeah I have heard of the Audezes (both rev1 and rev2 of LCD2, in fact) and HD800s.

 

I wouldn't call either of them to align perfectly well with how speakers sound though:

 

LCD2s have a more natural timbre and more body to the sound, but it suffers from a lack of speaker-like imaging/soundstage

HD800s do have that open holographic imaging and expansive soundstage akin to speakers, but it is very fast and treble-happy which detracts from a natural speaker-like presentation needed

 

By far the best of both worlds is HE6; I'd go so far as to say it has a more natural timbre than LCD2, and more natural imaging/soundstage than HD800s. People tout HE6s as "earspeakers" for a reason.

post #8 of 15

Ha! Didn't I tell you to go for the HE-6? Now there's somebody backing me up on thistongue.gif.

post #9 of 15

Heya,

 

Honestly, the whole "flat response" thing is more of a novelty technology attempt than actually going for high fidelity (read: reproduction). You would think in theory something that played back flat response would be high fidelity, but in reality, it's just not, and that's because every room is different and every ear is different in terms of shape, so all the flat response in the world matters not when you have to then further tune everything so that it sounds flat based on the physical environment. So even if you had something perfectly flat response, you'd have to equalize and tune it to fit the room to continue sounding flat since the room (or you ear shape) literally changes the acoustic properties drastically.

 

Very best,

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

Heya,

 

Honestly, the whole "flat response" thing is more of a novelty technology attempt than actually going for high fidelity (read: reproduction). You would think in theory something that played back flat response would be high fidelity, but in reality, it's just not, and that's because every room is different and every ear is different in terms of shape, so all the flat response in the world matters not when you have to then further tune everything so that it sounds flat based on the physical environment. So even if you had something perfectly flat response, you'd have to equalize and tune it to fit the room to continue sounding flat since the room (or you ear shape) literally changes the acoustic properties drastically.

 

Very best,

+1

post #11 of 15

Manufacturers are already compensating for the lack of full-body bass feel on headphones by jacking up the lower end beyond what's neutral. I don't like it, I want my bass flat. No matter how much you increase the vibrations to your skull, you won't come closer to capturing the live sound vibrations occurring along your entire body.

 

Whether you can hear what the artist/producer intended you to hear depends on the brain that's in your head. If the producer was sad while producing, they heard differently than you will when you listen to the product feeling happy. A professional musician will hear an instrument differently than a person who's never received such training, regardless of gear. If you've chugged seventeen liters of energy drinks, you don't hear a moody tune the way its producer intended. I don't buy into this 'hear what they meant you to hear' thing in the way it's given to us as marketing; you'll hear what your brain decides for you to hear.

 

About the person who thought the PS1000 sounded as close to reality as he's heard... Who was this person and what were their motivations? What sort of instruments were playing? Since they said it was a close (but not a total) match, what were the deficiencies? What other headphones did they compare in this way (from a live sound straight to headphones)?

 

As for the mysterious lack of correlation to reality from the headphones you've heard, try running a sine sweep and look for where the volume goes up or down. If it does that at all, you're not getting a flat response from those headphones to begin with.

 

The text below is in response to Mal.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

Heya,

 

Honestly, the whole "flat response" thing is more of a novelty technology attempt than actually going for high fidelity (read: reproduction). You would think in theory something that played back flat response would be high fidelity, but in reality, it's just not, and that's because every room is different and every ear is different in terms of shape, so all the flat response in the world matters not when you have to then further tune everything so that it sounds flat based on the physical environment. So even if you had something perfectly flat response, you'd have to equalize and tune it to fit the room to continue sounding flat since the room (or you ear shape) literally changes the acoustic properties drastically.

 

Very best,

 

You say flat and flat, but you mean marketed as flat vs. perceived as flat. Clearly if you had a flat response, you wouldn't need to tune it to be any flatter. A pair of headphones that sounded flat to me on a sine sweep I would consider very hi-fi - though no guarantee that they would sound good subjectively.

post #12 of 15

Waay back in the day, I had speakers equalized for flat frequency response.  They sounded really awful.  They were "very hi-fi".

post #13 of 15

^ Did you measure them that they really did come out as flat or was it a marketing promise?

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by vid View Post

^ Did you measure them that they really did come out as flat or was it a marketing promise?

They were measured on a real time analyzer.  We could see the (non) curve in the room.  No marketing attempted.

post #15 of 15

That's quite interesting.

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