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post #76 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by kn19h7 View Post
 


Isn't it so obvious that full-size desktop systems will always have higher potential than portable devices? Not only for audio, basically any purposes. Just think about the design constraints...

Nice portable setups may become more readily available in the future, but apparently desktop setups will be able to perform even better by that time.

 

Btw, as long as we're listening to music reproduction via sound-waves, I don't really see much game-changing improvement can be made to current situation. The ultimate solution should be something like block ear-hearing and listen to music at neuron level.

 

I'm really talking more about what the "perfect" end game would be for headphones, rather than talking about the pros and cons of where things are now.

 

I am not stating what is and isn't better today, I am talking about an end game. What is the perfect headphone, and the perfect gear for driving it? 

 

If you had equal performance between a huge, multi-part desktop rig; and a small portable device that could also be plugged in at home - who chooses the former? 

 

If you had two headphones that sounded equally good, one impossible to listen to with any background noise and needing a permanent, stationary rig to listen to; the other you could plug into a portable device and listen to on the train - who chooses the former?

 

If you had two headphones that sounded equally good, one so heavy it gives you a sore neck; the other light as a feather and you hardly know you're wearing it - who chooses the former?

 

We live with these inconveniences as enthusiasts because of sound quality gains. But if we could get dynamic, portable headphones sounding as good as the less convenient forms of technology, then those old forms no longer have any draw. If we could get small portable devices that sound as good as huge desktop rigs, then the old forms no longer have any draw. 

 

That's what I mean when I say "the future". When convenience and sound quality no longer have to compete.

 

As for "how can things get better"... come on. Seriously? 

 

There is not a single headphone on the market that sounds perfectly realistic. We don't even have that licked with headphones that are non-portable, open, and can only be driven properly by multi-thousand pound collections of heavy gear. Once we reach "perfect" sound quality (IF we do) then we have perfect functionality to contend with. 

post #77 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieE View Post
 

 

I'm really talking more about what the "perfect" end game would be for headphones, rather than talking about the pros and cons of where things are now.

 

I am not stating what is and isn't better today, I am talking about an end game. What is the perfect headphone, and the perfect gear for driving it? 

 

If you had equal performance between a huge, multi-part desktop rig; and a small portable device that could also be plugged in at home - who chooses the former? 

 

If you had two headphones that sounded equally good, one impossible to listen to with any background noise and needing a permanent, stationary rig to listen to; the other you could plug into a portable device and listen to on the train - who chooses the former?

 

If you had two headphones that sounded equally good, one so heavy it gives you a sore neck; the other light as a feather and you hardly know you're wearing it - who chooses the former?

 

We live with these inconveniences as enthusiasts because of sound quality gains. But if we could get dynamic, portable headphones sounding as good as the less convenient forms of technology, then those old forms no longer have any draw. If we could get small portable devices that sound as good as huge desktop rigs, then the old forms no longer have any draw. 

 

That's what I mean when I say "the future". When convenience and sound quality no longer have to compete.

 

As for "how can things get better"... come on. Seriously? 

 

There is not a single headphone on the market that sounds perfectly realistic. We don't even have that licked with headphones that are non-portable, open, and can only be driven properly by multi-thousand pound collections of heavy gear. Once we reach "perfect" sound quality (IF we do) then we have perfect functionality to contend with. 


Well, I was basically saying, that bright "future" seems unlikely to me.

 

As for "how can things get better", yeah quite serious, that's the best possible solution I could think of. The best solution should be something that the laws of physics can't get in the way, as physics laws are main causes of why we are facing all kinds of acoustic problems.

 

As for perfectly realistic sound reproduction, I think its more important to have some dramatic changes in the recording industry instead...

post #78 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by kn19h7 View Post
 


Well, I was basically saying, that bright "future" seems unlikely to me.

 

As for "how can things get better", yeah quite serious, that's the best possible solution I could think of. The best solution should be something that the laws of physics can't get in the way, as physics laws are main causes of why we are facing all kinds of acoustic problems.

 

As for perfectly realistic sound reproduction, I think its more important to have some dramatic changes in the recording industry instead...

 

Why is such a future unlikely? What is unrealistic? That they will be able to make a world class headphone sensitive enough to be driven by portable gear, or that portable gear could be good enough to drive such a headphone to the fullest of its potential?

 

I would say there are already several small portable amps out there that can drive world class IEMs as well as any desktop gear could, so I don't see why it is so unrealistic to think that, through a combination of full size headphones getting more sensitive and portable gear getting more powerful, the same could not be true of full sized gear.

 

The way I see it, the signs of this direction are already there.

 

In the last few years we have seen several excellent portable, closed back, sensitive full sized headphones - such as the NAD Visio, Focal's Spirit Pro and Classic and so on - that while no contest for the flagships of today, are equal to the sound quality of some of the "flagships" of just a few years ago like the HD600/650/K701/DT880. Progress is happening extremely swiftly. 

 

We have also seen an influx of higher quality portable gear. Largely from companies with little past form like Hifiman and Astel and Kern, but now we have a highly regarded high end components manufacturer in Ayre Acoustics having designed the Pono, which not only has a Sabre chip with their highly regarded digital filters, but also, due to its triangular design, enough space made for a fully discreet amp section and a much higher quality cyclindrical battery. 

 

Things are moving fast on both the headphone and device front in terms of bringing higher quality audio to a portable context. Think about the fact that your smart phone is considerably more powerful than the desktop computer you had in the 90s before putting an artificial ceiling on how far progress can go.

 

I really can't take your idea that headphone sound quality can't get any better seriously. Which headphone models do you consider to sound perfectly real? What makes you think that every single acoustic solution has already been investigated? 

 

Right up until the very recent advent of 3D printing, only a tiny handful of companies in the world had the ability to do iterative R&D, now anyone can do it with a modest budget. It was only relatively recently when headphones were taken seriously enough (by all but a very small number of parties) to even bother with R&D - slapping a driver in an undamped plastic shell to strap on the ears was considered enough. 

 

We are not at the end of headphone R&D - we have actually barely started. 


Edited by EddieE - 3/27/14 at 1:56am
post #79 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieE View Post

 

Why is such a future unlikely? What is unrealistic? That they will be able to make a world class headphone sensitive enough to be driven by portable gear, or that portable gear could be good enough to drive such a headphone to the fullest of its potential?

 

I would say there are already several small portable amps out there that can drive world class IEMs as well as any desktop gear could, so I don't see why it is so unrealistic to think that, through a combination of full size headphones getting more sensitive and portable gear getting more powerful, the same could not be true of full sized gear.

 

The way I see it, the signs of this direction are already there.

 

In the last few years we have seen several excellent portable, closed back, sensitive full sized headphones - such as the NAD Visio, Focal's Spirit Pro and Classic and so on - that while no contest for the flagships of today, are equal to the sound quality of some of the "flagships" of just a few years ago like the HD600/650/K701/DT880. Progress is happening extremely swiftly. 

 

We have also seen an influx of higher quality portable gear. Largely from companies with little past form like Hifiman and Astel and Kern, but now we have a highly regarded high end components manufacturer in Ayre Acoustics having designed the Pono, which not only has a Sabre chip with their highly regarded digital filters, but also, due to its triangular design, enough space made for a fully discreet amp section and a much higher quality cyclindrical battery.

 

Things are moving fast on both the headphone and device front in terms of bringing higher quality audio to a portable context. Think about the fact that your smart phone is considerably more powerful than the desktop computer you had in the 90s before putting an artificial ceiling on how far progress can go.

 

Erm, you're actually proving my point, by comparing portable gears today to fullsize flagships in the past, and admitting those are no match for real flagships today...

Well, we all know that today's smart phones are no match for today's desktop computer right?

I wasn't trying to imply any "artificial ceiling" on portable gears... as I've said in a post before, "Nice portable setups may become more readily available in the future, but apparently desktop setups will be able to perform even better by that time.".

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieE View Post
 

 

I really can't take your idea that headphone sound quality can't get any better seriously. Which headphone models do you consider to sound perfectly real? What makes you think that every single acoustic solution has already been investigated?

I never said something like this =_=


Edited by kn19h7 - 3/27/14 at 2:33am
post #80 of 87
@kn19h7 -
How exactly am I proving your point by demonstrating how fast progress is moving? In a few short years portable, sensitive, closed back headphones have gone from being highly compromised solutions to already catching up with the flagships of just a few years ago. 
Yes, flagships have moved on as well, but to a much lesser extent. Comparing the HD650 to the HD800, and then comparing the ATH-M50 or DT770 to the NAD Visio, Spirit Pro and Classic - there is absolutely no contest in terms of the rate of improvement. 
The comparison of smart phone to old computer was to demonstrate that technology keeps improving. It is not perfectly analagous to open/closed, sensitive/insensitive headphones, or small battery powered/large mains powered audio gear. 
Headphones:
A smart phone is tiny compared to a computer, open and closed headphones are the same size and have the same basic materials. The difference is that open phones bypass the problems of the backwards firing sound and build up of resonances by letting it escape, while closed headphones try to deal with it (or don't) by damping and the shaping and construction of the enclosure. 
There is no fundamental difference in the driver used - there is simply a problem to be solved: Can a closed back headphone be designed so that it damps the backward firing sound and resonances so effectively it is audibly the same as letting that sound escape through an open back? 
This is not saying "the bigger new computer will always be better than the new handheld computer" - that is obvious - it is simply "can this problem be solved through advanced materials and R&D?".
Totally different question, and we can already see huge progress is being made on finding the answer.
As to the size of gear: 
Now there is some similarity to the comparison, but also some key differences. 
If the headphones need a lot of voltage swing to be powered, you could argue that a large desktop amp will always beat a small battery powered one. 
But is this really a question of the sensitivity of headphones?
I would not be alone in arguing that high quality portable amps can drive high sensitivity IEMs just as well as a desktop headphone rig would. Do you disagree with that? 
So if we can make full sized headphones with the same sensitivity without dropping any sound quality, why should there not be a day when there are no gains to be found with a chunky amp? Those things exist to drive large amounts of juice to headphones that need it.
If the question is "can a small portable amp ever drive headphones with as much power as a large desktop amp" - the answer is obviously no. But the question is actually "will headphones sensitive enough to be driven by a small battery powered amp ever reach the highest level of quality" - and the answer is less obvious. We are already seeing steps towards that.

Edited by EddieE - 3/27/14 at 3:44am
post #81 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieE View Post

Yes, flagships have moved on as well, but to a much lesser extent. Comparing the HD650 to the HD800, and then comparing the ATH-M50 or DT770 to the NAD Visio, Spirit Pro and Classic - there is absolutely no contest in terms of the rate of improvement. 

I'm not sure I got this right. Are you saying that flagships appear less often? If you are saying that, I must agree, and I feel the market has stagnated a bit lately in terms of flagship, with the exception of Audeze which recently brought LCD-X and I absolutely love them.  The others, however seem to take their time. And I don't know if I should be happy, as my wallet suffers less :)), or should be sad for the slow improvements. 

 

 

If you are saying the difference between HD650 and HD800 is not so big...well... I must contradict you. The difference is enormous. 

post #82 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan.gheorghe View Post
 

I'm not sure I got this right. Are you saying that flagships appear less often? If you are saying that, I must agree, and I feel the market has stagnated a bit lately in terms of flagship, with the exception of Audeze which recently brought LCD-X and I absolutely love them.  The others, however seem to take their time. And I don't know if I should be happy, as my wallet suffers less :)), or should be sad for the slow improvements. 

 

No, not really what I am saying, but yes I agree that to be a flagship should require several years of R&D.

 

Quote:
 
If you are saying the difference between HD650 and HD800 is not so big...well... I must contradict you. The difference is enormous. 

 

The difference is significant for sure.

 

There are some improvements the HD800 did that were enormous - such as the lowering of distortion and the reduction of resonance. There are also several very notable innovations in the frame and driver that will bring headphone design forwards. Frequency response is different but we cannot say one is superior to the other really as it comes down to taste. Many hate the HD800 frequency balance. Soundstage is much better than HD650, but only a gnats hair better than the K701 that is the HD650's contemporary. 

 

This is kind of beside the point - I was not trying to belittle the HD800 - I was rather saying that the progress made on closed, sensitive headphones in that same time has been monumentally greater. The closed cans at the time of the HD650/K701/DT880 were kind of a joke to me, it's arguable they even reached a point where they could be called mid-fi. Now look at the NAD Visio, Spirit Pro and Classic - these are sensitive, closed cans you can run from a portable player than rival the previous generation of flagships for sound quality. 

 

I am just saying that this is the biggest and most significant advances in headphone engineering of recent years has been in the closed, portable segment of the market. Open flagships have continued to get significantly better at a steady pace, while closed portable headphones are going through a huge evolutionary shift.

post #83 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieE View Post
 

 

No, not really what I am saying, but yes I agree that to be a flagship should require several years of R&D.

 

 

The difference is significant for sure.

 

There are some improvements the HD800 did that were enormous - such as the lowering of distortion and the reduction of resonance. There are also several very notable innovations in the frame and driver that will bring headphone design forwards. Frequency response is different but we cannot say one is superior to the other really as it comes down to taste. Many hate the HD800 frequency balance. Soundstage is much better than HD650, but only a gnats hair better than the K701 that is the HD650's contemporary. 

 

This is kind of beside the point - I was not trying to belittle the HD800 - I was rather saying that the progress made on closed, sensitive headphones in that same time has been monumentally greater. The closed cans at the time of the HD650/K701/DT880 were kind of a joke to me, it's arguable they even reached a point where they could be called mid-fi. Now look at the NAD Visio, Spirit Pro and Classic - these are sensitive, closed cans you can run from a portable player than rival the previous generation of flagships for sound quality. 

 

I am just saying that this is the biggest and most significant advances in headphone engineering of recent years has been in the closed, portable segment of the market. Open flagships have continued to get significantly better at a steady pace, while closed portable headphones are going through a huge evolutionary shift.

I understood your point now, and yes the closed cans evolved quite a bit lately. Another market that is evolving fast, is the DAC market. It will be interesting in the next few years.

 

HD800 is kind of pretentious but I have learned that it scales enormously, while I used it with MSB Analog Dac for example. It scales more than any other headphone I have ever tested and I think I understood why David Mahler ranked it so high in his list. 

post #84 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan.gheorghe View Post
 

I understood your point now, and yes the closed cans evolved quite a bit lately. Another market that is evolving fast, is the DAC market. It will be interesting in the next few years.

 

HD800 is kind of pretentious but I have learned that it scales enormously, while I used it with MSB Analog Dac for example. It scales more than any other headphone I have ever tested and I think I understood why David Mahler ranked it so high in his list. 

 

HD800 is one of those headphones I wish I could love, but I can't. I have heard it on dozens of different amps at meets over the past few years, but I can't get over its clearly shelved up, peaky treble. It also needs a little lift to the bass, but I can live with light bass, I can't live with those treble peaks/shelf. When I listen to acoustic tracks without cymbals (which have little high frequency information) I have loved them - such a smooth, distortion-free midrange, such a great sense of space, so fast and responsive - but all it takes is a few cymbal crashes or brushes on snare drums for me to be ripping it off my head in shock. It makes me excited for what Sennheiser could do next, as it really does do so much right, but they got the frequency response all wrong for me. 

 

I agree about DACs coming on, but we have had extraordinarily good DACs out there for a while. The interesting thing is that great quality is now coming from much smaller DACs, which is promising for the portable future I was discussing. The best DAC I have ever heard, hands-down, was the Ayre USB DAC - it just sounded so effortlessly sweet, smooth and natural. It's pretty exciting to me that Ayre have designed the Pono with a miniaturised trickled-down tech from this DAC and their pre-amp. The bespoke digital filter they use is a large part of that Ayre DAC sound, and the Pono has it. I ordered one pretty much on the strength of their involvement and that filter. 

post #85 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieE View Post
 

 

HD800 is one of those headphones I wish I could love, but I can't. I have heard it on dozens of different amps at meets over the past few years, but I can't get over its clearly shelved up, peaky treble. It also needs a little lift to the bass, but I can live with light bass, I can't live with those treble peaks/shelf. When I listen to acoustic tracks without cymbals (which have little high frequency information) I have loved them - such a smooth, distortion-free midrange, such a great sense of space, so fast and responsive - but all it takes is a few cymbal crashes or brushes on snare drums for me to be ripping it off my head in shock. It makes me excited for what Sennheiser could do next, as it really does do so much right, but they got the frequency response all wrong for me. 

 

I agree about DACs coming on, but we have had extraordinarily good DACs out there for a while. The interesting thing is that great quality is now coming from much smaller DACs, which is promising for the portable future I was discussing. The best DAC I have ever heard, hands-down, was the Ayre USB DAC - it just sounded so effortlessly sweet, smooth and natural. It's pretty exciting to me that Ayre have designed the Pono with a miniaturised trickled-down tech from this DAC and their pre-amp. The bespoke digital filter they use is a large part of that Ayre DAC sound, and the Pono has it. I ordered one pretty much on the strength of their involvement and that filter. 


Nothing 30 seconds worth of EQ can't fix. Boost bass from 20 Hz to 100 Hz and reduce the 6K peak. If you have an amp that can put out some real power and have a clear but smooth treble the HD800 can now produce amazing punchy and physical bass and a treble that don't bother you unless the source material really stinks.

After trying out a bunch of good DACs they really provide minuscule benefit between each other compared to a program like TB Isone that takes the HD800 to another level of soundstage and imaging. 

post #86 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sweden View Post
 


Nothing 30 seconds worth of EQ can't fix. Boost bass from 20 Hz to 100 Hz and reduce the 6K peak. If you have an amp that can put out some real power and have a clear but smooth treble the HD800 can now produce amazing punchy and physical bass and a treble that don't bother you unless the source material really stinks.

After trying out a bunch of good DACs they really provide minuscule benefit between each other compared to a program like TB Isone that takes the HD800 to another level of soundstage and imaging. 

 

Yeah I'm sure EQ could fix it, but if I was in the market for home listening headphones right now, there are models I love without any need to EQ - such as the various Stax Lambda models that suit me very well. Not as great a soundstage as the HD800 for sure, but have a wonderfully sweet and natural, low distortion sound that works for me. 

 

As it is I do my home listening on my Magnepan MMG speakers with a REL Quake Sub at the moment (moving in with girlfriend make headphone listening anti-social!).

 

Maybe that's why I've become fixated on the rise of portable cans - 90% of my critical listening is on walks and my commute with portable models.

 

I have nothing serious against the HD800 that, as you point out, a good EQ could not fix. 

post #87 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieE View Post
 

 

HD800 is one of those headphones I wish I could love, but I can't. I have heard it on dozens of different amps at meets over the past few years, but I can't get over its clearly shelved up, peaky treble. It also needs a little lift to the bass, but I can live with light bass, I can't live with those treble peaks/shelf. When I listen to acoustic tracks without cymbals (which have little high frequency information) I have loved them - such a smooth, distortion-free midrange, such a great sense of space, so fast and responsive - but all it takes is a few cymbal crashes or brushes on snare drums for me to be ripping it off my head in shock. It makes me excited for what Sennheiser could do next, as it really does do so much right, but they got the frequency response all wrong for me. 

 

I agree about DACs coming on, but we have had extraordinarily good DACs out there for a while. The interesting thing is that great quality is now coming from much smaller DACs, which is promising for the portable future I was discussing. The best DAC I have ever heard, hands-down, was the Ayre USB DAC - it just sounded so effortlessly sweet, smooth and natural. It's pretty exciting to me that Ayre have designed the Pono with a miniaturised trickled-down tech from this DAC and their pre-amp. The bespoke digital filter they use is a large part of that Ayre DAC sound, and the Pono has it. I ordered one pretty much on the strength of their involvement and that filter. 

We did have good dacs, but I see more movement now in this department than before. I think that Chord Hugo is an important step, as it has incredible performance for the size and even at that price, actually I know that it beats full sized dacs priced on 3-4k. Besides that, I love the fact that companies started to replace the normal DAC chips with better stuff like FPGAS or their own dac modules ( Chord, MSB, PS Audio with their new product, Rockna, etc ). 


Edited by dan.gheorghe - 3/28/14 at 2:35pm
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