Originally Posted by ucrime
Thank you everyone. Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone for not turning this thread into a 'troll thread' but actually taking the time and effort to explain.
I have to say, my knowledge is not on par with anyone who posted above me, and some technical terms have gone a little over my head. Hopefully I'm educated enough to figure out some of the meanings.
I would like to cut/paste and show key comments from the posting but it would create my fear of the 'wall of text' so I'll just toss a couple thought that maybe someone can respond to that will bring my understanding closer...
What I understand from above posts is (layman terms)
1. There are a couple headphones created that do reproduce exact sounds (Stax i think were mentioned) but the price is not for the casual buyer.
2. After that, headphones are really personal preferences and to keep trying on headphones until something clicked for me (or the user).
3. The sound the artist creates has a lot to do with the mix the producer does in the studio (moving sounds left to right, etc...)
4. It was pointed out one artist questioned that his music wasn't being reproduced by standard headphones and created one himself, but they cost a lot to do this.
So, if I got that right, here are my questions...
What do audiophiles look for in headphones?
Do the surroundings have to be perfect? (example, some open ended headphones may sound amazing in a perfectly quiet room, but would they sound the same in a location where there is ambient noise coming.
What qualities really matter (and I know it may be different for everyone but are there universal qualities that matter?) Example, in wine tasting, you know you want to smell the wine, you want to roll it in your mouth, and you want something that is pleasant to drink. Sometimes, people will go for the alcohol and none of that will matter. With headphones, what is looked for. I can tell you, playing music on my iPad when traveling, the order of prefer are comfort and loudness with the ability to hear sounds I did not hear before (example (not the best but all I can think of) in the song 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is' by Chicago, I hear more of the song and more of what is going on in the background with my TF10s then I do with my Etys. My Etys are more comfortable, but when I want music, I seem to get more music from the TF10s.
So, I'll conclude to go back to daily life for now. Thank you all for your replies.
Side wonderment question: I lurk a lot on these forums in bursts, and I notice many people have headphone collections. For some, I can see that they display the headphones, and its like a baseball card collection, they may go back to each headphone at times, but for most, I notice people usually upgrade headphones. What do people do with the headphones that have been upgraded from? I know, some may 'sell' them etc, but usually selling a 100-200$ pair of headphones (new) isn't really a profit. Do people just store the headphones in boxes in their closets. I've got headphones I don't use (example: I don't use my Bose QC3s any more, but they are old so no real sell value, but they are good so they don't value the trash either, or, say with my Apple headphones which I find are junk and ill-fitting but came with every apple device I ever bought, I have them in a drawer).
What do other people do, considering you may only use your favorite headphones, with the excess. Is it just an evil of the industry to buy, try and take the hit when they are upgraded? Is there some website where people give things to others just to get rid of?
It's interesting that you bring up wine tasting because there are a lot of similarities there with headphone observations. It's a purely subjective experience although we can do scientific measurements on a headphone and in wine tasting I don't know of anyone who regularly puts wine through a GCMS so we kind of have the edge. :)
Show two people the same wine and they will often taste different things, developing their own language to describe what their senses tell them "I taste apricot, and green apples, pomegranate seeds with just a hint of muscat musk" and another person might say "I taste pineapple and lemongrass with just a touch of acidity and overtones of peach and nectarine." There is no standardized language for describing the taste of wine but if you listen to people talk about it enough, you get a sense of what a wine might taste like.
In headphone land we have a similar language, "The sound is transparent with slightly veiled highs, the sound is analytical but with a slight warmness and not a hint of grain". If you've ever listened to a headphone that others described as "grainy" then you might know what that particular type of sound is like. If you've ever listened to sennheisers you can get a good idea of what someone means when they say "it's veiled". Veiled means subdued, as opposed to a headphone which has no highs at all which would overly color the sound and be considered a defect.
Anyway, hang out on the forums long enough and you can start to get a handle on the vocabulary people use to describe the subjective experience of how a headphone sounds to them.
Now to directly answer your questions:
1. What do audiophiles look for in headphones? I can't tell you. I can tell you what I look for. I want something that is true to the intended sound, but musical at the same time. A good example is the DT880. It can faithfully reproduce a wide variety of different musical styles, is a pleasure to listen to, doesn't color the sound in any particular way, has a forward high range but without sibilance or grain. In effect, my subjective opinion of a good audiophile headphone is it's like putting on god's ears. You suddenly hear things in music you've listened to your entire life and never heard before, it makes you go back and re-listen to every song in your collection because it's like hearing the song anew.
It's very difficult to find 1 headphone to do all of that, different brands and models are better and worse at different kinds of things so it's not uncommon to own several pairs of headphones for different things. When i put on my Q701's I get such a wonderful midrange that I imagine I can hear whether a singer is a smoker or not, if it's dry in the room, if they are on the first take or the fifth, if they are drinking water or gin, and every little detail, bump, spike in sound from their voice my ear drum rides along in like a needle in a groove.
A good headphone should be fast and transient, IE it should have a low weight, low mass driver, that can respond quickly to differences in volume and frequency, it should have a relatively flat frquency response, it's okay to have an EQ curve, as long as there are no big spikes or dips, you want it rounded like or flat, it should be comfortable for long listening sessions (I sleep with mine on several nights a week).
2. Background noise
I primarily listen on the couch or in my bedroom. I sometimes listen in my music studio or office. When I'm drumming I actually want to be able to hear the background noise sometimes so I don't have to make my wife deaf or wake the neighbors trying to drum loud enough to be heard through a closed back. There is usually air filter, humidifier, or fan noise in any room but my studio, and I just kind of tune it out. It doesn't effect my enjoyment in the least. The only background noise that drives me nuts is my neighbor 2 streets over with the 5,000 watt car stereo who insists on blasting the entire neighborhood in concert level subwoofer noise.
The noise the headphones leak though sometimes drives my wife nuts, so I have closed backs or listen at very low volume when I sleep.
3. What do you look for, what's important to you.
Purely personal preference there. Some people like large open circumaural (around the ear). Some like IED's because they give a big sound for such tiny little things. Sometimes you make concessions to the environment, people who work out in a gymn might like IED's but a jogger might need to have open headphones to hear cars. A portable headphone usually needs to be sensitive and lower impedance unless you want to have to lug around a portable headphone amplifier with you.
I'm perfectly happy listening to my Beyerdynamics on my Iphone. There is a great little program I got called Accudio Pro that lets you download professionally assembled headphone profiles for about 50 different audiophile headphones that will electronically try to counter act the short comings of headphones to make them sound even better. You just tell it what kind of headphone you have, and it makes the Iphone listening experience really incredible, in some ways better than a home stereo.
4. Where do old headphones go?
I love music. I'm listening to Pink Floyds Division bell right now, and I slept last night listening to Enya. Music is in my life 24x7 either a song in my head, or headphones on my head. Different headphones have different qualities and depending on my mood, where I am, and what I'm listening to I might pick a lower quality or older headphone for that day. I move some of my headphones from my studio to my bedroom and back and forth. Where I'm sitting right now I have within arms reach Sennheiser HD419's, Beyerdynamic DT880's and DT990's, and AKG Q701's, and even a pair of Logitech Bluetooth headphones and some Skullcandy Full Metal Jacket IED's. My favorite of the moment are my 2 day old DT990's but each brings something unique to their presentation and it's like listening to a familiar song with new ears.
Going back to your wine analogy, having different sets of headphones is like having a variety of wine glasses of different sizes, and a variety of wines to pour into them. There is no one wine you want to drink forever, it's variety that is the spice of life.
I also mix, record, perform, and produce music in my home studio. I have a couple of different headphones I use for those purposes but my workhorse is a set of bi-amped studio monitors, the M-Audio BX8's. They are easily the most expensive speakers in my house. I have a couple Gemini 15" concert loudspeakers I use for live sound, djing, things like that, and some excellent Pioneer SP51's and SP52's in two rooms I use to just enjoy music with headphones off sometimes, play Rocksmith, stuff like that.
Oh I almost forgot, I also have within arms reach a pair of $7.00 Atari headphones that have almost no highs to speak of, the midrange is a muddy mess, and the bass is bloated with no depth. But you should hear death metal through these things. It's like being back in my room as a teenager, making due with what I got and blasting the music because loud = good. :)
Sorry for the long posts but just one more thing. I think I might have over simplified my description of HRTF and included a few things that aren't HRTF. HRTF specifically is talking about the way the shape of the ear colors the sound entering our ear canal. The bit where we hear sound in 3 dimensions is not exactly HRTF so much as just the magic of our brains ability to locate sounds in 3 dimensions using only 2 ears. The magic is in your head so to speak. :)
Edited by Kodhifi - 2/16/13 at 1:34pm