Originally Posted by Danz03
The problem is that it's not possible for most human beings to be able to tell what's neutral sounding, listening to some bad speakers or headphones for a few minutes can easily change someone's perspective of what's flat sounding. That's why there are reference systems, they are measured and calibrated to sound flat and neutral, like the reference monitors in recoding studio. Many people above the age of 35 cannot hear anything above 16 or 17 kHz anyway, so I don't think the human ears are a good reference for audio flatness.
Not everyone thinks neutral sounding systems are good, otherwise valve amps and the HD800 wouldn't have been so popular in my opinion. So the thing is, if flat and neutral sounding is not good, then in theory, nothing is actually good or bad, as everyone has a different preference. For me, I'll take the flat sounding LCD-2 r 2.2 any day.
To the OP : I think you really need to hear all 3 headphones to decide what you want, what someone likes about a pair of headphones can be very different to what you like as it's so subjective.
If you're talking about the combination of HD800's + tube amps, then I totally agree, as I too find it quite puzzling . Can't blame people for craving that epic HD800 soundstage though... But yeah, as you said, not everybody likes a 'flat' sound signature. Meanwhile, I'm in the minority because I don't like the idea of artificially trying to 'improve' the sound of recordings. If the recording/production is good: great! If it's bad: oh well, I'll take it for what it is. Not to mention that "poor" production-values are often intentional in certain styles of music...
And yeah, its possible to achieve a flat response in general, but it depends on whether you're talking about headphones independently, or whether you're aiming to reproduce the response of a studio setup. Due to the physics of it (positioning, head/ear acoustics, bass vibrations, etc), they're not gonna be perceived the same way, hence the use of HTRFs to measure headphones and the debate of which function is the most accurate to use of those. Given that a vast majority of modern music is mixed/mastered on loudspeakers, the latter method is the obvious way to go. The quest for 'neutrality' could then be interpreted as trying to find the most faithful reproduction of those original studio conditions. But it gets trickier once you realize that audio engineers don't really always use flat monitors to mix everything (auratones/NS10s anyone?), and that studio conditions can vary a lot for modern 'independent' recording artists (like I pretend to be ). But I digress...
Edited by oblique63 - 2/5/13 at 10:02pm
Either way, a lot of this stuff is already taken into account by most high-end headphone manufacturers in one way or another, so pretty much all of the headphones that consistently measure as being reasonably flat across a variety of different measurement schemes could safely be considered 'neutral'/'flat' in general. I'm just personally of the mind that 'neutral' headphones should be slightly on the brighter side of flat, and have a slight boost in the bass (to make up for the lost vibrations) in order to best recreate the original studio conditions.