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why don't headphone match music as created

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

Sorry if this has been asked, but I am really confused and cannot come up with an answer on my own

 

I think of a musician creating a song

I think they use voice, guitars, bass, drums, etc...

I think these are all done at volumes to make the music well..., for lack o better english... good.

I think they record this for others.

 

Why don't headphones reproduce this?

 

If there are headphones that reproduce what was created, then all the headphone can do is volume.

If headphones cannot produce perfect images of what is created,.. first why?  Second, if not, can it be done?

 

 

So, with all this rambling, why isn't there a headphone that creates the image of what the musician created?

 

And if there are, what are they, and why can't the same headphone do this on all sources (stereo, mp3 player, etc).

 

(for me, I use M50s and TF10s, I don't like TF10s for the fit and I don't like I have to use an amp for the M50s with my iPad)  Money isn't an option for me on headphones, but I don't want something that creates something the artist didn't create in the first place.

 

I hope before there are any replies, you read into what I write and not take it word-for-word.  I just want to know why headphones have to be rated for mids, bass, and highs instead of being a perfect copy of what the musician created.

post #2 of 38
Thread Starter 

I've watched 20 posts (edit) be responded to and the people who read this post did not respond.  Did I not post something creditable or worthy (probably) or did I not explain correctly what I mean (probably)?

 

Headphones should match watch was created by the artist, nothing more, so what headphone do that?  Or is this some dream-world joke on me and I just don't get it and never will?

post #3 of 38

That is the reason this entire website exists.

 

I recommend you lurk more.

 

A valid question, but It's like asking a car mechanic "how do cars work"?

 

We could answer, but it'll take a hell of a long time.

Simply, physics won't allow it. plus a million other factors.

post #4 of 38

My question for you ucrime is: 

 

When you walk into a recording studio do you hear the song the same way I do?

post #5 of 38
Thread Starter 

thank you 2enty3 for the effort.  I lurk a lot, and I get the feeling most of what is posted are ads.  Some very good ads, but all with an agenda.

 

You can see from my prior posts that I have tried, but every head-ear phone I have has failed me to 'rock my world' then I thought, it shouldn't rock my world, the music should be like I am standing in front of the people making it, nothing more.  No extra high, no booming bass, no super unheard sound.. just the music, nothing more.

 

I've moved to visual more than audio in my tastes.  I like watching my ripped copy of White Lion doing Radar Love in HD more than I like sitting in my chair listening to the same song.  I like AFI and I like the video more than the 'sound of the video'.

 

So, with headphones or earphones, I want the experience.  I want music moving and I want it enjoyable.

 

I'm an old guy, and on these forums I am not very audiophile but I search for the best to listen to, and that is what I think these forums are about.

post #6 of 38
Thread Starter 

I don't walk into a recording studio, but if I did, I would love to hear what you hear, and I would hope it would be awesome.

post #7 of 38
Hi!

The reason for headphones not sounding like how the artist is because of the following reason to my less than one year experience:
1] We have different taste:
Headphone sound like the original record = flat frequency. It is almost impossible to design a headphone with completely flat FR curve. Not everyone likes flat sound. Some like bass, some prefer forward mids and highs etc. If all headphone sound the same, what is the reason?

2] Not sure about this but sound does not only affected by volume:
Only FR are affected by volume anything more than that; soundstage, detail, imaging etc for example. Some might claim that any recessed point of a FR can help increase soundstage but I don't agree. ATH-M50 have a recessed point at around 1KHz if I am not mistaken but I do not see good soundstage from ATH-M50. To me, soundstage improved over space between the driver and the housing. Details on the other hand, do not improve when volume increased. The reason is because louder volume might create sibilants.

I hope this helps explain/answer your question.
Billson smily_headphones1.gif
post #8 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BillsonChang007 View Post

Hi!

The reason for headphones not sounding like how the artist is because of the following reason to my less than one year experience:
1] We have different taste:
Headphone sound like the original record = flat frequency. It is almost impossible to design a headphone with completely flat FR curve. Not everyone likes flat sound. Some like bass, some prefer forward mids and highs etc. If all headphone sound the same, what is the reason?

2] Not sure about this but sound does not only affected by volume:
Only FR are affected by volume anything more than that; soundstage, detail, imaging etc for example. Some might claim that any recessed point of a FR can help increase soundstage but I don't agree. ATH-M50 have a recessed point at around 1KHz if I am not mistaken but I do not see good soundstage from ATH-M50. To me, soundstage improved over space between the driver and the housing. Details on the other hand, do not improve when volume increased. The reason is because louder volume might create sibilants.

I hope this helps explain/answer your question.
Billson smily_headphones1.gif

Billson, thank you.  I do have questions but because I have a habit of a wall of text I will be short.

 

if not everyone likes a flat sound, and the flat sound is what the artist created, are not the headphones creating a sound that the artist did not create.  Maybe it is making the sound 'better' but it is not artificial?

post #9 of 38

Well, for one thing, both of the headphones you mention you have are closed. They won't be able to produce as natural of a soundstage and presentation as a pair of open headphones. Many open headphones also place the drivers further away from your ears to make the soundstage bigger, or have hand-matched drivers to improve the accuracy of the imaging within the soundstage. Headphones that do present sound accurately do exist, but a lot of them are more expensive. There are a lot of factors to consider besides the soundstage and frequency response, too. The sound pressure levels affect how much you feel the impact, and the damping on the driver affects how quickly the driver can stop making sound after a note ends (this is called the decay). If it can recover quickly, you'll hear more details and the sound will be less muddy. The driver will also need more power to move it in the first place, though, and you will need an amp for any really good pair of headphones.

post #10 of 38
Thread Starter 

these are what I currently use.  TF have a fiio cable and comply and 50s have a velco bundle for the 9 foot cable.

 

 

post #11 of 38
Thread Starter 

thank you TSU.

 

I understand now that soundstage should be open to give proper sound.  I'm personally limited as I don't want to leak my sound to others.

 

From your message, I think you mean that an open headphone will give true sound. So, what would have amp do to correct closed headphone soundstage?  I use some crap amp for my ATs, and I need it, but it seems to just boost bass and volume.

post #12 of 38
Thread Starter 

before bed, my 'dumb' question came to mind also.

 

If closed headphones cannot create the true sound the artist wanted.

If open headphones can (I am sure the source of the sound has something to do in this)

 

Why headphones?  Why not speakers?  To me, privacy is key for headphones, but if that doesn't matter, then why not some polk audio size speakers?

 

I am guessing the forums are sponsored by headphone sellers and with all the money they have, they can make posts (edit typo) that sound legit that come up in google and then people will buy the product.

 

Don't get me wrong in any way, if there were 600$ headphones that created the artist's music perfectly, I would be all over it, but I'm starting to think that there is something I am missing.

post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ucrime View Post

Sorry if this has been asked, but I am really confused and cannot come up with an answer on my own

 

I think of a musician creating a song

I think they use voice, guitars, bass, drums, etc...

I think these are all done at volumes to make the music well..., for lack o better english... good.

I think they record this for others.

 

Why don't headphones reproduce this?

 

If there are headphones that reproduce what was created, then all the headphone can do is volume.

If headphones cannot produce perfect images of what is created,.. first why?  Second, if not, can it be done?

 

 

So, with all this rambling, why isn't there a headphone that creates the image of what the musician created?

 

And if there are, what are they, and why can't the same headphone do this on all sources (stereo, mp3 player, etc).

 

(for me, I use M50s and TF10s, I don't like TF10s for the fit and I don't like I have to use an amp for the M50s with my iPad)  Money isn't an option for me on headphones, but I don't want something that creates something the artist didn't create in the first place.

 

I hope before there are any replies, you read into what I write and not take it word-for-word.  I just want to know why headphones have to be rated for mids, bass, and highs instead of being a perfect copy of what the musician created.


Good question. Lets start by discussing the differences between headphones and speakers.

 

1. Sound stage.

         Speakers in a room have lots of air between them and the listener. They can spread farther apart and this expands the sound stage so that there is a lot of subtelty between left, right, and center. The downside is rooms have walls and this causes standing waves, early reflections, late reflections, resonances, etc. Speakers get around these short comings by having users apply panels to a room, bass traps, to minimize these multiple paths and standing waves to make a flatter less resonant sound stage.

          Headphones are only inches from your ear canal. Because of this proximity many headphones have a compressed soundstage. Sounds appear to either come full left, full right, or in the center of your head, without much subtle variation in between. But they don't have the pathing problems speakers have. They do still have resonances though because you still use air as a medium between driver and ear drum. However they send the information much more accurately than a given speaker because the path is direct. Headphones try to work around the soundstage limitations by angling the drivers so they aren't aimed straight in to your ear canal. The HD800's and T1's do this very well. Headphones also benefit in sound stage by having open driver designs to minimize internal reflections and resonances, and to allow more air into the sound path.

 

2. Detail

      Speakers need to be physically larger so the drivers need to be larger. This introduces the problem of a large driver trying to create short wave forms (high frequencies) and visa versa. They get around this by splitting drivers up into tweaters, midrange, woofers, subwoofers. They usually do this with crossovers and the quality of the crossover and how it's tuned greatly affect the detail you hear and how balanced the sound is. Use a cheap crossover or have the crossover curves set wrong and you will get dips or peaks in sound and this colors the sound. However you are physically distant from the speaker and the room will color the sound. Also higher frequency sounds are much more directional so there is a sweet spot that you need to sit in. They get around this by using wave guides to spread the sound out more so the sweet spot is wider.

       Headphones are very small so they only need a single driver to accurately reproduce a wide range of frequencies. Because there is a direct and short path between driver and ear canal they generally have much more detail than a speaker. This additional detail is also a result of the low power requirements of the driver which allows them to use a much thinner and lower mass driver and voice coil which lets it react to movement quicker creating a more detailed transient response. However due to the small size of their enclosures and proximity to your ear it is possible for the sound to develop resonances that will color the sound and this causes dips and peaks in the frequency response.

 

In general, you can get a quality sound with headphones for a few hundred dollars and if you wanted to get the same quality of sound with speakers it might run a few thousand dollars.

 

 

Most of what makes a given headphone 'good' or 'bad' is a mixture of personal preference, do you like bass, do certain frequencies annoy you like resonant treble, or sparkling highs. How much sound they let out and how much noise they let in also affect the experience.

 

The two biggest things that impact the sound of a headphone are the driver construction and the enclosure. Do you know what the difference is between a Sennheiser HD419, 429, etc? The enclosure. Many Sennheisers in the same model line use the exact same driver. The differences in sound are due to the enclosure. A good enclosure will be shaped and padded to minimize resonances, expand the sound field, and flatten the frequency response. Sennheiser recognizes that people have different preferences so they will have several models in a line up like the 400 series, 500 series, etc with the same driver but tuned differently, some for more bass, some for a flatter response.

 

 

 

Now with that out of the way lets talk about your question of musicians making a recording, and a headphone or speaker trying to reproduce that recording accurately.

 

1. Flat frequency response.

      When you master a track there are many considerations a musician and engineer take into account. EQ, Dynamic compression (reduces differences between loud and soft sounds), effects like reverb etc, and the level or volume of each instrument in the mix. To do this accurately they need a common point of reference. The method used all over the world is using reference speakers. These are speakers that are made to be as flat in their frequency response as possible. Their job is to accurately produce the sound without coloring it.

 

Imagine that a producer used a speaker that was bass heavy. They would tend to mix down the bass in their song to make it sound right and it would sound fantastic on their studio speakers. They take it and give it to someone else who has a portable radio, and they won't hear any bass at all, because it was mixed out.

 

Or they have speakers with no bass so they crank the bass up in the mix to make it sound good, and then when somebody listens to that track with a subwoofer, it will shake their house off it's foundation. This is a huge problem.

 

So they use monitors with as flat a frequency response as possible. They often use more than one set of speakers to audition the track, playing it on car stereos, headphones, cheap portable radios, home stereos, until they are satisfied that their song will sound good on as many different equipment as possible.

 

2. Dynamics

     Over the years, professional music has had more and more dynamic compression applied so that the average level of a song keeps getting louder and louder. This makes a song pop and sound in your face and catches your attention, but it doesn't sound terribly realistic. This is a very fine balancing act that a recording engineer must perform, between making a mix that sounds good on the radio, and without over compressing it so it's just a continual 0db droning.

 

Loudspeakers tend to handle dynamics very well because they have high power handling capabilities and the amplifiers tend to also produce a lot of power. You can turn them up to a comfortable level and they can shake your house when something explodes like 1812 overture with report, yet on quieter parts of the song you can hear everything.

 

Headphones have much lower power requirements and the phones themselves can't handle much power so in order to produce realistic dynamics you need a headphone that will not distort under high power, and you need a headphone amplifier that has headroom or power to spare if that piece of classical music you're listening to suddenly has a Tchaikovsky Canon blasting away in the back ground.

 

 

We call these things reference designs, reference levels, reference response curves etc. The idea being that you want to create a listening experience as close as possible to the conditions the studio mixed the song at. If you achieve this you will get a result on your sound system that is nearly ideal to the way it was intended to be heard.

 

In a headphone this means having a flat frequency response and good power handling characteristics, coupled with a headphone amplifier that does not color the sound and has power to spare.

 

However you will NEVER get a fully authentic listening experience on headphones because of the soundstage and something I haven't brought up before now, HRTF. HRTF is a fancy way of talking about the physical construction of your ear and the way that your brain interprets slight phasing, delays, and coloration of sound as it bounces around your pina, ear canal, etc. The very close proximity of driver to your ear canal causes very thin but very large resonance spikes, and dead spots in an audio signal. This has the perception of coloring the sound.

 

Many audiophile headphones do not have a flat frequency response above 1khz, yet they might sound better to you than a completely flat headphone. This is because those dips and peaks might help compensate for those resonances, but also for the way the ear is more sensitive to sounds in the 1-3khz range than to sounds in the 4-10khz range.

 

There are endless variations of physical headphone construction, driver construction, amplifier construction, that will greatly affect the sound of a recording. But the single greatest impact to whether something sounds good or not is the headphone or speaker.

 

A well designed headphone or speaker will sound very musical, dynamic, and while it may not be 100% faithful to the reference curve, it will sound good to most people.

 

Which brings us back to preferences. People who like Sennheisers might prefer a more laid back high frequency presentation, the so called 'veiled' sound. People that like midrange might ooh and ahh about the AKG 700 series. People who love soaring highs might swear by Beyerdynamics. People who love warm sounds might only use tube amplifiers.

 

In a nutshell, keep trying different headphones until you find one that you never want to take off. Don't worry about what sounds 'right' worry about what sounds 'good'.

post #14 of 38

The amp doesn't have as much to do with soundstage (the virtual size of the area where the instruments are playing). They're just needed for headphones with fast decays and large amounts of detail because you need a lot of power for those kinds of drivers. The M50's aren't one of the really hard to drive headphones, so an amp won't do as much for them.

 

Actually, most mastering is done with speakers (studio monitors). That's why most recordings are stereo rather than binaural (and why some recording have instruments only coming out of one channel. This sounds fine for speakers but strange with headphones). But there's a difference between accurate sound and enjoyable sound. There's also a difference between the way the instruments actually sounded and the way they were intended to sound by the producer. Headphones might not produce sound exactly the way the sound engineer in the studio heard it, but they will give you a different experience that allows you to hone in on details. In general, I think that speakers are more expensive than headphones for a given amount of sound quality as well. But you have to remember that it's a different experience listening to headphones vs. speakers and comparisons are not directly transferable.

post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsujigiri View Post

The amp doesn't have as much to do with soundstage (the virtual size of the area where the instruments are playing). They're just needed for headphones with fast decays and large amounts of detail because you need a lot of power for those kinds of drivers. The M50's aren't one of the really hard to drive headphones, so an amp won't do as much for them.

 

Actually, most mastering is done with speakers (studio monitors). That's why most recordings are stereo rather than binaural (and why some recording have instruments only coming out of one channel. This sounds fine for speakers but strange with headphones). But there's a difference between accurate sound and enjoyable sound. There's also a difference between the way the instruments actually sounded and the way they were intended to sound by the producer. Headphones might not produce sound exactly the way the sound engineer in the studio heard it, but they will give you a different experience that allows you to hone in on details. In general, I think that speakers are more expensive than headphones for a given amount of sound quality as well. But you have to remember that it's a different experience listening to headphones vs. speakers and comparisons are not directly transferable.


Bang on mate. You nailed it. Soundstage is in the speaker or headphone, not the amp. Recording engineers might 'monitor' on headphones, but they mix on studio monitor speakers.

 

But this brings up something headphones are very good at, that if you wanted to do it with speakers, would be terribly inconveniencing and prohibitively expensive....binaural sound.

 

OP, imagine you have headphones on and you have a singer and that singer is only in the left speaker, nothing at all coming from the right speaker. Your head will tell you the sound is to the left and close to your head. Then, here is the magic bit, if you add some of that singers voice to the right speaker, but you delay it slightly, and subtely color the sound, your head will interpet this as directional information and it will make the singers voice appear MORE to the left and further away, even though their voice is now coming out of the right hand speaker as well.

 

Engineers have experimented with different ways to accurately record in stereo sound to give a 3 dimensional aspect to the sound stage. Back in the day they would use a bi-directional microphone off axis to a directional one, copy the off axis track, phase invert it, and feed it back into the mix in one channel, and in phase in the other, and the effect was an incredibly true to life stereo image that made a soundstage sound BETTER on headphones than on speakers. This comes back to that HRTF I was talking about, or Head Related Transfer Function.

 

This recording technique could get the phase and delay information your brain uses to tell where a sound was coming from, but not the coloration information that your head might use to tell a sound in front of you from behind, or above from below.

 

Somebody got the bright idea of taking a dummy head, like a mannequin, drilling holes in the ears, and putting microphones there. Binaural audio was born. The dummy head used for recording is designed to mimic the reflectivity, mass, and dimensions of the human pina (outer ear) and head as closely as possible. The net effect is that if you then play this audio back through headphones, you get a nearly perfect 3 dimensional representation of the sound. This effect is lost if you use speakers, but allows head phone users to hear a sound like they were sitting in on the recording session.

 

Binaural is to headphones what 3d glasses are to watching movies.

 

If you want to experience this yourself go to youtube and look for binaural in a search, enjoy.

 

 

Now I said speakers can't do binaural and this isn't 100% true. Binaural requires that the left ear and right ear have separate paths, in headphones this isn't a problem because the speaker is right up against your head. In speaker audio in a room though, the left ear can hear both the right and left speaker and visa versa so the effect is lost. But there is a way. If you put something heavy and sound absorbant in between the listener and the speaker, and parralel to the path of the sound, it will prevent the left ear from hearing the right speaker and visa versa. But this means having a big piece of wood or other material running down the center of your room in between the speakers and your listening position. Not ideal.

 

Here are some choice Binaural selections from youtube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my personal favorite ( I love flamenco music!!!)

 


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/15/13 at 9:29pm
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