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Headphones to Speakers

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Where is the price line where a quality speaker setup would have better sound quality than a similarly priced headphone setup.  For example, would the theoretically best speaker setup for $500 be better than a $500 headphone setup?

post #2 of 12

define better... and in either case both would likely have strengths/weaknesses compared to the other.  As with the difference between two $500 headphone rigs, the differences are subjective and personal.

post #3 of 12

I'd take some speakers at 300 over some headphones at 300.

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lighthouse View Post

Where is the price line where a quality speaker setup would have better sound quality than a similarly priced headphone setup.  For example, would the theoretically best speaker setup for $500 be better than a $500 headphone setup?

 

Heya,

 

Depends on what you're looking for.

 

A headphone will provide more detail and overall more frequency response with more intimate listening per dollar. On a budget, headphones give you more. However, speakers, even entry level speakers, can make headphones sound like toys in comparison when you feel the music, hear a vastly superior sound stage, and enjoy a room full of complete frequency response. Speakers cost more, and require a lot more components for a complete system, and do not provide any kind of intimate listening or privacy. But given the best speaker setup and the best headphone setup, speakers win without even a question.

 

But it boils down to what you're looking for in audio. If you are into sound stage and immersive "you're there" music, then speakers win by miles. If you're looking for analytical detail, intimate listening, then headphones really give you that for less cost.

 

Very best,

post #5 of 12

I doubt a speaker that has the same characteristics (freq response, detail etc) as a $500 headphone will cost the same. Think somewhere on the lines of 2-3 times the cost.

Secondly, a headphone will perform well in most spaces. Speakers' sound is also dependent on the environment (room size, speaker location, wall treatment etc). 

post #6 of 12

Oh, I dunno.  Getting a flat response speaker that's flat down to at least 60hz is pretty easy-- especially when not many good open headphones have very authoritative bass under 60hz.

 

Room treatment and everything is a bit more tricky.

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

I doubt a speaker that has the same characteristics (freq response, detail etc) as a $500 headphone will cost the same. Think somewhere on the lines of 2-3 times the cost.

Secondly, a headphone will perform well in most spaces. Speakers' sound is also dependent on the environment (room size, speaker location, wall treatment etc). 

 

Yes indeed the key thing with speakers is the room they are placed in.

 

To get good sound from loudspeakers does not require a great deal of money. It requires a great deal of attention to the room in which they are situated.

 

The problem is that the average room in a house or flat is not suitable for listening to music in high fidelity at reasonable sound levels.

 

The average room is very small. You could imagine what it would be like if a full orchestra were somehow to fit in your living room and play, it would be bedlam. Maybe you could consider the Rolling Stones setting up all those amplifiers in your living room. When they start playing it will be bedlam. Okay, it is bedlam even in the concert hall, but in your living room bedlam in a bad way :)

 

Even a chamber group would sound awful in you living room. That classical music has the tradition of "chamber music" is worth considering. This is music to be played in smaller rooms. What is meant by smaller rooms of course, in this case, is still rooms larger than say, your complete house or flat.

 

So to get good sound with loudspeakers requires making your room acoustically behave like a very much bigger one.

 

No matter how much you spend on loudspeakers the sound quality won't improve in any significant way until you address the problem of the small room they are in.

 

You might say now to me: "but I have read thousands of Hi Fi magazines, and millions of blogs about Hi Fi and never once has any one of those publications mentioned this".

 

And you would be right. It is amazing but true, the biggest problem for listening with speakers is ignored by the Hi Fi industry and its fawning magazines because there is no money in it for them.

 

Room treatments just don't come in neat little boxes with a quote from the Shakyamuni Buddha on them and a four figure price tag. It is that which the Hi Fi industry wants you to believe. To get better sound you have to spend money on that stuff no matter how absurd (and it is often very very absurd).

 

So the issue with speakers is not about money really. You can put speakers worth thousands of pounds in the average living room and they will sound crap.

 

Very basic loudspeakers in a properly treated room will sound absolutely superb.

 

 

post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

 

Yes indeed the key thing with speakers is the room they are placed in.

 

To get good sound from loudspeakers does not require a great deal of money. It requires a great deal of attention to the room in which they are situated.

 

The problem is that the average room in a house or flat is not suitable for listening to music in high fidelity at reasonable sound levels.

 

The average room is very small. You could imagine what it would be like if a full orchestra were somehow to fit in your living room and play, it would be bedlam. Maybe you could consider the Rolling Stones setting up all those amplifiers in your living room. When they start playing it will be bedlam. Okay, it is bedlam even in the concert hall, but in your living room bedlam in a bad way :)

 

Even a chamber group would sound awful in you living room. That classical music has the tradition of "chamber music" is worth considering. This is music to be played in smaller rooms. What is meant by smaller rooms of course, in this case, is still rooms larger than say, your complete house or flat.

 

So to get good sound with loudspeakers requires making your room acoustically behave like a very much bigger one.

 

No matter how much you spend on loudspeakers the sound quality won't improve in any significant way until you address the problem of the small room they are in.

 

You might say now to me: "but I have read thousands of Hi Fi magazines, and millions of blogs about Hi Fi and never once has any one of those publications mentioned this".

 

And you would be right. It is amazing but true, the biggest problem for listening with speakers is ignored by the Hi Fi industry and its fawning magazines because there is no money in it for them.

 

Room treatments just don't come in neat little boxes with a quote from the Shakyamuni Buddha on them and a four figure price tag. It is that which the Hi Fi industry wants you to believe. To get better sound you have to spend money on that stuff no matter how absurd (and it is often very very absurd).

 

So the issue with speakers is not about money really. You can put speakers worth thousands of pounds in the average living room and they will sound crap.

 

Very basic loudspeakers in a properly treated room will sound absolutely superb.

 

 


Well explained.

So, in practice, a headphone is much more 'fool proof', and will require a lot less effort to sound good.

 

EDIT: I'm considering near field monitors should be better, i.e. less affected by room acoustics?


Edited by proton007 - 2/5/13 at 1:35am
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post


Well explained.

So, in practice, a headphone is much more 'fool proof', and will require a lot less effort to sound good.

 

EDIT: I'm considering near field monitors should be better, i.e. less affected by room acoustics?

 

Pretty much correct. headphones will pretty much always have lower distortion levels.

 

Near fields will sound nice and accurate most of the time, but you probably won't "feel" the music as much as with big speakers.

post #10 of 12

Good advice in general on this thread.

 

The only thing I'd say is that the price ratio of speakers being much more expensive doesn't always hold. Especially not now there are so many $1k + headphones on the market. Depends greatly on the model. There are some bargains in speakers audio, and some rip offs - just like in the headphone world.

 

I would say my previous speakers, a vintage set of Acoustic Research AR18, out performed most $200-$400 headphones I've heard, and cost me less than £50 on ebay.

 

Recently got some Magnepan MMG, and while I had to pay a lot more than Americans would being in the UK, it is an unbelievable bargain for those in the states at $599 a pair. They outperform most headphones that cost more than them really, in my opinion. 

 

They have a 60 day money back guarantee so worth giving a go if you have a fairly powerful amp that is reasonably comfortable delivering high current, and a bit of space to spare for behind the speakers.

 

I'd also say that room acoustics are important, and totally dictate the sound, but its not to say that speakers will sound bad in an unideal room, just that they would sound better in a better room.

 

My room is less than ideal for the MMG, so I know they could sound much better, but they still sound great. It's nice knowing that next time I move flats I'll be thinking about the room size/shape and basically get an "upgrade" at no extra cost.

post #11 of 12

i only know this:

 

quality speakers+quality receiver

sounds always better for me in terms of ''feeling the music through your hole body intead of just the head''

bass on a good speakers hits your whole body/no fatique ,

quality bass on headphone is just unhealthy for my ears/head.

i feel the pain after a few hours


Edited by Nion - 2/5/13 at 4:18am
post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post


Well explained.

So, in practice, a headphone is much more 'fool proof', and will require a lot less effort to sound good.

 

EDIT: I'm considering near field monitors should be better, i.e. less affected by room acoustics?

 

My experience is that near field monitors are indeed less room sensitive as one would expect, however they are still very room sensitive.

 

I have a pair of Rogers db101 speakers which I use with my Mac Pro at my desk. These are in fact attached to the wall behind them using mounts originally intended for computer screens. The Rogers db101 speakers have Vesa-like mounting points on the back.

 

These Rogers speakers are just a metre away from my head when I'm sitting at my desk and they work very well indeed.

 

However I know that if the room I'm in were well treated then even those near field speakers would sound a lot better.

 

Years ago I used to work for the BBC in the UK and we had near field speakers (usually Rogers or Spendor) at the mixing desks for recordings. The mixing rooms had extensive acoustic treatments and the quality of the near field speakers was really superb, I think many times better than the arrangement I have at home now.


Edited by p a t r i c k - 2/5/13 at 5:56am
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