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Something's off, soundwise.

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Quick context:

My main headphones are now a pair of Sennheiser's HD 598's, plugged into a Fiio e17, which in turn is connected to a laptop via USB.
I started with a pair of shure IEM se210's , moved up to ath-m50s, then added a fiio e7, then an e10 and now the e17. 
Still own the ath-m50s and I think they're wonderful and fun, but i find the hd598's a lot more detailed, balanced and better in soundstage (in the sense that it actually exists, as opposed to the m50s)

Nothing new or surprising so far, pretty boring story, I know. Moving on.

The Issue:

I have noticed improvements in every upgrade I've got. Confirmation bias aside, I can actually tell the sound has improved. I'm quite pleased with the current setup (even though I've tried far better setups).

The issue is that, recently, it just doesn't sound that good.


I hear some hisses in certain recordings. The highs sound too glassy and "hissy" and thin at times.


Specifically: I just got Portishead's roseland nyc live record on cd today (5 euros, yay.). I've been listening to it, and I can tell some hissing and distorted sounds in a couple of tracks.
I know the recording well and used to (burned hard drive.) have a 24bit vinyl rip of the thing. Maybe it's just the limitations of the cd format, but it's really bothering me. 

Another example would be cat power's The greatest, also on cd. There's some hissing and distortion in certain tracks, especially when things get high-pitched. In this case, maybe it's just the recording itself. 

I switched to the fiio e10 and the m50s to check wether i had some faulty component in the chain. It was even worse, although some distortion wasn't as apparent on the m50s, which i "blame" on them being less detailed.


Popped norah jones's feels like home into the laptop (again, cd), and things sounded better but still i could tell a couple of imperfections.


Finally, i opened HDtracks's Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert 24/96 master and everything sounded gorgeous in general but there were little imperfections again, especially in his (admittedly annoying) out-of-tune giddy squeaks.




My point is, and I know this discussion is difficult to have without actually hearing the sound I'm getting, but i wonder:

Did my ears just get used to more detail and so I'm noticing more and more flaws? Is this inherent to the limitations of my setup ? Is there something faulty in the setup? Am I depressed ?

Sorry if this kind of thread isn't suited to the forums, I'm not entirely sure what the etiquette here is.

And thank you for any input !

post #2 of 3

Check which programs are outputting audio on your pc and try muting each of them individually to see if one of them is doing anything...  


I had a similar thing I was dreading was tube noise or a grounding issue, but it just turned out since i'd been plugging and unplugging some stuff, it was feeding back some static from my mic into my headphones.


Can you hear any hissing or anything with nothing playing if you turn the volume up a bit?

post #3 of 3



Your setup is fine.


What you're hearing is what was recorded. Lots of recordings are hissy and have noise floors because of the microphones and environments they were recorded in. In particular, live recordings are notoriously noisy. But some people love the flaws in live recordings, that are recreated and realized with a good setup (like that Keith Jarret album, which is absolute phenomenal).


My suggestion to you is to simply drop perhaps 5khz, 7khz, 10khz by 1~2db to limit how much spiky hiss you hear in tizzily recorded treble. See what you think about that.


Try a Louise Rogers album on HDTracks.com (Black Coffee). You shouldn't hear much of any noise in the background or hiss. It should be nearly black between actual tones. Good album too, since you like Keith Jarret, you should like this too. Try it out. A good recording makes all the difference. There's nothing wrong with your headphone setup. A bad headphone setup will not render the imperfections, so it sounds smoother. This is why sometimes, high-fi is not always the best-fi for your particular music.


Very best,

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