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Full size better at low volumes?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hello,

 

This is my first post in the full size forum. Although I usually try to find existing information before bothering people with general questions, I did not find anything specific for low volumes and deciding between full size or on-ear type HP's. I usually use way too many words to say what I need to say, so this time I'll do the questions first and the explanation below:

 

Questions

Q#1: "should I get a full size HP, just because it's supposed to have a better sound experience at lower volumes?"

Q#2: "do I need a powerful portable amp for a 250Ohm set of HP's, to reveal a detailed musical sound, even when I don't play loud, or would a E11 or similar amp be sufficient?"

 

I know that a full size headphone is not as portable, but my absolute main requirement is to keep the volume low, while still having a musical (I believe you call it "good sound stage") music listening experience. I am a music lover, but lately I travel a lot so I don't get to listen to my home sound set as much.

 

I will only buy one headphone with amp, not "get this HP for home use and another one for travel". My listing locations are:

- on the commuter train

- in bed, before falling to sleep (which HP's do well on pillows?)

- in hotels or at friends' homes where I don't have home amplifiers

My DAP is a 120GB iPod classic (2009), containing Apple Lossless audio files mostly.

 

I have a huge backpack (The North Face Surge II) so I have enough space to fit in a reasonably sized head phone. That said, if a smaller HP will sound equally nice at low volumes I will save space for other important stuff.

 

Initially, after searching a lot on this forum, I was sold on a set of Beyer 1350's, along with a Fiio E11 or E17. Main reasons for these HP's were a warm sound character (my preference) and excellent isolation considering it's of on-ear type. However, while browsing for other (Beyer) headphones I came across the DT880 and T70 (not T70p) and these are apparently known for "excellent sound quality even at low volumes". Does this hold any thruth?

 

From a practical PoV, I am aware that the 1350's are 80Ohms and the DT880/T70 are 250 Ohms and therefore may require a  more powerful portable amp than a E11, but I'm not sure of this.

 

You experts would really help me out by giving your opinions, because it could save me from buying the wrong products. I would appreciate your input a lot. Thank you.

post #2 of 3
Soundstage and "musical presentation" aren't the same thing. Sound-staging basically refers to a headphone's ability to create the illusion of space (depth, width, etc) for music or multimedia content. Generally full-size headphones excel there. Musicality is a bit different, and there are plenty of musical on-ear headphones.

As far as on-ear vs around-ear for low level listening; it depends more on the specific headphone than such a general paradigm. Around-ear by itself doesn't explicitly mean better low-level listening. Generally for good low-level listening you want to look for a headphone with some variation on the "v-shaped" sound signature.

Regarding drivability, impedance by itself isn't the entire picture; sensitivity should also be considered. If the amplifier you're looking at (I don't know the FiiO amps' specs by heart) can provide enough output power into the nominal impedance of the cans you're looking at, you're probably going to be okay.

As far as what headphones I'd specifically suggest for you, I'd look at the following:

- Ultrasone PRO900. These are fairly easily driven, low Z/high sensitivity (good for mobile use), comfortable, offer decent isolation, and have a v-shaped sound signature that lends itself to low-level listening. They also come with a nice hard-case for travel.

- Bose QC15. Better isolation and even less picky about sourcing/amping (by design), but somewhat slower and smoother; also have a hard-case.

Both of these have decent sound-staging for closed headphones, and are suitable all-rounders that will both satisfy low-level listening (isolation is a component of low-level listening on the go; the more noise is blocked, the quieter you can run and still enjoy the music), they're also easily driven, and very suitable for mobile use (hard-cases, fold, are relatively compact, provide good isolation, have removable/replaceable cables and earpads, etc).

Sound-wise, the Ultrasones are more aggressive and forward, while the Bose are smoother and more laid-back. They sound fairly different, and your personal tastes will best inform which one is a good choice for you.

I think the T70 will be too thin for what you want (they do include a (very big) case, and isolate well, but IME they're very top-heavy in their sound; the T70p would be the appropriate choice for your desires though). I don't know the DT1350. Oh and the DT880 aren't appropriate - they're full-open, and offer no isolation or containment (you'll find yourself listening at very high levels when on the train or otherwise on the go, just to hear anything).
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hi obobskivich,

 

Thank you for your elaborate reply. I appreciate that very much. I generally like a warm sound and my nerve system can't support any aggressiveness in music reproduction, so that would point towards the Bose among your two options. However, you say you're not familiar with the 1350's so I am going to look for posts of people comparing those two.

 

It's good to know that there is no general rule that around-ear isolates better than on-ear. Or at least low volume listening is more model-dependent than type-dependent. I will dig a little deeper in the V-shaped sound signature, because I really haven't got a clue what that means. I can tell a good set of speakers from a bad one when in the listening room of a high end store, but I don't know about the theoretical backgrounds. Your post invites me to learn more about it.

 

Last thing: why would a T70p be more appropriate than a T70? As far as I understand, provided each HP has their own appropriate amp (a more powerful for the T70 that is) any impedance difference should be solved and then it comes down to the best performance in musical reproduction and low volume listening. But of course I'm probably wrong here because I don't know much about HP's anyway. So please enlighten me (really) and explain why the t70p would be more appropriate for me than the t70.

 

Thanks!

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