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post #31 of 38

I think as long as you don't have 360 speakers surrounding you, you aren't going to replicate real sound. That said, I actually prefer the intimacy two speakers can offer, and as a producer, it makes it much more convenient for me. It's like the sound hugs you with those earpads, but with real life, you don't have volume control and so on (I don't want to get metaphorical here). We all have different hearing so it becomes impossible for us to hear what the composer/producer is hearing when making the track, or anyone else who listens to it for that matter. 

 

To answer your question clearly, two speakers won't cut the level of positioning and texture you get from a live performance, but with these speakers you can actually accomplish a more complete piece of music (definitely with any electronic music). 

 

My two pennies.

post #32 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ucrime View Post

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
post #33 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by moali125 View Post

I think as long as you don't have 360 speakers surrounding you, you aren't going to replicate real sound. That said, I actually prefer the intimacy two speakers can offer, and as a producer, it makes it much more convenient for me. It's like the sound hugs you with those earpads, but with real life, you don't have volume control and so on (I don't want to get metaphorical here). We all have different hearing so it becomes impossible for us to hear what the composer/producer is hearing when making the track, or anyone else who listens to it for that matter. 

 

To answer your question clearly, two speakers won't cut the level of positioning and texture you get from a live performance, but with these speakers you can actually accomplish a more complete piece of music (definitely with any electronic music). 

 

My two pennies.

 

Well said.

I love loudspeakers, but I never quite get the same level of intimacy with the sound as I do with headphones.

I bet if I put all my money into a perfectly acoustically treated sound room, with top of the range speakers that I personally selected through months of auditioning and careful planning, I MIGHT get to that same level of intimacy.... but headphones are just so much cheaper and versatile. I think they have more character, and ultimately they suit my lifestyle better. 

post #34 of 38

Well this is why us audiophiles always want the most neutral headphone possible. The more neutral it will be, the more it will sound the way it should sound, theoretically.

Also you should read into studio monitors, since these are the speakers used when producing/mastering music.

 

I'm going to tell you a secret: These studio monitors aren't actually supposed to sound 'good-musical-beautiful' yet they are supposed to sound accurate and neutral.

Even music producers will not use studio monitors to listen to music in their private time (atleast most won't).
 

"Why isn't there a headphone that creates the image of what the musician created?"

There are, I suggest you start looking into open full sized headphones. I own the Hifiman HE-400 orthodynamic headphone, and it blows away my studio monitors (mackie mr8 mkII).

What kind of headphones have you listened to?

 

"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."
You don't want the perfect copy, studio monitors aren't supposed to sound beautiful. However getting the most life-like experience is obviously the dream. Again check open back headphones. Hifiman HE-400 or HE-500 will probably blow you away.

Also even the most expensive studio monitors will be rated on bass-mids-highs-soundstage-neutrality-distortion-detail etc. There are no perfect sound systems.
I think what you want is an interface from the musician directly to your brian. Not going to happen.

 

To get the most out of your headphones you need a good amp and dac. Expecting anything else is like expecting a car to drive well without tires.

post #35 of 38

About "creating an image of what the musician created" something that comes to mind was a discussion I had with the owner of V-MODA who makes headphones that, to paraphrase him, are created to reproduce the sound of the inside of a nightclub. Not surprisingly, they present music in a way that is completely different to "audiophile" headphones, with a lot of bass. Likewise, I had the chance to talk about headphones with a Sony engineer. He showed me a pair designed for music producers. They also sounded radically different to "audiophile" headphones, with a flat, lifeless sound but one that was designed convey the image of being some meters aware from the performers being recorded. Both pairs of headphones from the two companies were designed for "creating an image of what the musician created", but being that they were designed for different types of music in different situations, the result was radically different.

 

Then, we have the common issue that music was usually mastered for use with speakers, so headphones often have a bump in the bass to compensate for the reduced bass energy when listening. More modern music, especially if for download, is mastered for headphone use to some degree with considerably more treble and bass in some cases. So adding to the different emphasis of the sound at different frequencies for different types of music, we have different ways of mastering recordings that confuse things more. The end result is that you should preferably go to a meet and try many different types of headphones and set-ups and see what you like, or you get into the game of buying, trying and selling until you find what you like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ucrime View Post

(and to Currawong, I probably didn't explain myself, English may be my first language, but expressing it doesn't seem to be. 

 

No problem.  It can be a hobby as much about the nature of people as much as it is complexity and variety of technology. So as much as you might have observed in work and hobbies you might well observe here to some degree, though to greater and lesser degrees.

post #36 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post

 

Well said.

I love loudspeakers, but I never quite get the same level of intimacy with the sound as I do with headphones.

I bet if I put all my money into a perfectly acoustically treated sound room, with top of the range speakers that I personally selected through months of auditioning and careful planning, I MIGHT get to that same level of intimacy.... but headphones are just so much cheaper and versatile. I think they have more character, and ultimately they suit my lifestyle better. 


Yup, I really hate when people think headphones will never sound as good as speakers.

 

I think speakers can only get you so far without acoustic treatment of the room. That and neighbours can be quite tricky...

post #37 of 38

one aspect of this issue that has only been alluded to in this thread is the GIGO problem. For 90%  (or is it 99%?) of the music recorded today, the engineers are tuning their mix to sound good on car speakers and $3 earbuds. These recordings will sound horrible on any well-assembled headphone rig not because there is anything wrong with headphones but because the recording itself sounds unnatural, with exaggerated channel separation, metallic highs, flabbering bass, and no dynamics.

 

A well-engineered recording sounds good both on headphones and speakers. Different rigs will give you a different perspective of the music (e.g. close by the musicians, or farther down in the concert hall), but this is a natural phenomenon that your brain will adapt to in a couple of minutes.

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

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.

 

I guess someone has already responded to this, but yes, a good speaker rig can stomp all over the best headphone rig for soundstage and realism unless custom HRTF processing is applied to the headphones (e.g. Smyth Realiser).

 

A stereo recording played back on a good speaker system can recreate the sound field of the venue where the recording was made at the speaker system's sweet spot.  Acoustics take care of presenting the music differently to different listeners.  With headphones you need highly customized processing to reproduce this natural sound field for each person because each person's "personal acoustics" (formally known as Head Related Transfer Function) is different.  You will hardly ever find this being discussed at head-fi.  People will tell you to buy this amp and that cable and shun software enhancements like the plague when software is exactly what is needed to recover the realism lost with the headphone presentation while most of the hardware enhancements (better cables, better DACs/amps and to an extent even better phones) are little better than feel-good placebos.

 

But yes, open headphones tend to inherently produce a more realistic stage because of the natural crossfeed effect from the left earcup to the right ear and vice versa.  Also look for angled drivers, which fire at your ear from a bit in front, sort of like the direction stereo speakers would fire from.  This engages a little more of the "personal acoustics" mentioned above.

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