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Soundstage does it exist with headphones ?

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 
Background. I'm comming from home systems that consisted of SET amps, and horn speakers (namely oris horns using 8" AER md3 drivers) tube disc player and tube per-amp, also spun vinyl on VPI TNT rig) we lost our house thus I lost my system. I tailored the system over many years to achieve what I felt was the best system I could afford to put together . It was very detailed and balanced across the whole spectrum. And soundstage was at times wider than my room and as deep as you would want to make it. This soundstage was my favorite part of the system as it allowed for the illusion of being there and placing each performer in there own spaces


Now I'm trying to achieve something similar with headphones but to my ears all I'm hearing is a closed in stage as though all recordings are near mono. I can hear some facets from each ear and the performers tend to be centered but nothing seems to go beyond the phones. I've read several threads where people speak of wide and tall stages but I'm wandering if soundstage with headphones is more perceived/imaginary


My headphones are sennheiser hd439, and hd 650 (just showed up today) , i have a nuforce amp/dac on the way should be here tomarrow, sources are a portable Sony discman, and iPad with 192 kb files

I'm not sure I can adjust to this type listening, what I need to do is retrain myself to not analyze and just listen. The headphones do sound good I just feel like I'm missing something:rolleyes:
post #2 of 88

Oh ho, this will be an interesting thread.

I've never used a high-end speaker setup so I don't know how headphones compare in terms of spacial reproduction. I've actually always been curious about this as well.

post #3 of 88

I find the soundstage thing difficult with headphones. If anything, I hear it 'backwards'.  With the first violins in orchestras on the left, you would assume that the orchestra that you're listening to is in front of you, but I find that it expands backwards in my head.

 

I certainly don't hear 'out of head' sounds that some mention. It goes from ear to ear but not forwards for me.

 

I've always found this no matter how much I concentrate on 'headstage'.

post #4 of 88
Thread Starter 
Interesting that you mention sounds from back, I do occasionally get a sense of some part of the music at the back of my head ( kinda cool, but wierd at same time). I will say that the headphones are better at inner detail. I am hearing some new nuances I have never heard before (even on systems costing upwards of $50,000.00) The stuff I'm hearing is like tone changes in voice, background noises I hadn't heard in recordings B-4, this alone makes me want to listen further:D
post #5 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by joespride View Post
 I've read several threads where people speak of wide and tall stages but I'm wandering if soundstage with headphones is more perceived/imaginary

Exactly.

The topic has sprung up a few times in the past few weeks actually.

The core idea surrounding 'soundstage' comes down to a perception of stereo imaging, which in headphones is basically impossible as there is no cross-over (unless you factor in expensive amplifiers with advanced cross over circuits or binaural recordings which are nothing short of mind-blowing).

 

The few factors involved in creating this 'artificial' headstage or soundstage, are:

- distance of driver to ear (further the distance to increase stage)

- size of enclosure            (bigger enclosure/room increases air and stage)

- angle of the driver          (angle the drivers like you would stereo speakers to create the 'stereo image' - increases soundstage)

 

I think people have mentioned that open back headphones allow for some cross-over, but honestly that probably accounts for less than 1% of the perceived sound.

But open-backs are generally better at creating 'soundstage' (but if we look at numbers alone - it isn't a fair analysis either, as most of the 'best' headphones in the world are open back anyway)

 

And even then, not all headphones abide by these 'rules.' 

post #6 of 88

This is a complicated topic, to say the least.

 

Some headphone models sound noticeably more open and airy than others, but to someone primarily used to loudspeakers, they can still sound very closed-in.

 

However, the source also matters...and this ties into why I prefer headphones to loudspeakers, that being that a binaural HRTF mix for quality stereo headphones utterly blows away any 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system I've ever listened to for pinpoint imaging and positional accuracy, sounding more like reality than a crude multi-point approximation of it.

 

Most music is mixed with stereo speakers in front of your ears in mind, though, and thus the perceived stage with most headphones won't sound right, possibly barring some of the radical "earspeaker" designs like the Stax Sigma series, the AKG K1000, and the Sony PFR-V1 that have the drivers noticeably splayed out in front of the wearer's ears instead of beside them.

 

In my case, I don't mind the presentation for conventionally-mixed music so much, and that binaural mixing advantage I mentioned earlier mainly applies to gaming, where I want that competitive "aural wallhack" advantage and the general immersion of "being there".

post #7 of 88
Thread Starter 
I don't have experience with surround sound was never a fan. I'm comparing to 2 channel stereo, I get the music cannot crossover with headphones as it can with loudspeakers (makes sense now that it's mentioned). I have both of the chesky binaural records and they do sound great but still nothing like the soundstage I'm used to. Even with this drawback (IMHO) I like headphones I have already found some advantages to them and they do reveal some nuances that 50,000.00 speakers don't seem to be able to reveal (at least not in my experiences). I believe I'll be keeping them, Now I just have to avoid the upgrade BUG (can't count the $ spent on that BUG in home audio, but I did learn a lot in my journey). smily_headphones1.gif
post #8 of 88

Yes it does exist (hello AKG K1000) :D

post #9 of 88

and this:

post #10 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by iancraig10 View Post

I find the soundstage thing difficult with headphones. If anything, I hear it 'backwards'.  With the first violins in orchestras on the left, you would assume that the orchestra that you're listening to is in front of you, but I find that it expands backwards in my head.

 

But that's exactly how I  enjoy it. I  find it distracting, when the soundstage seems to come in front, especially

 when you are listening music and working at the same time.

 

EDIT: try to increase the amount of treble with an eq , to reverse you perception of the soundstage.


Edited by extrabigmehdi - 2/28/13 at 4:08pm
post #11 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

This is a complicated topic, to say the least.

 

Some headphone models sound noticeably more open and airy than others, but to someone primarily used to loudspeakers, they can still sound very closed-in.

 

However, the source also matters...and this ties into why I prefer headphones to loudspeakers, that being that a binaural HRTF mix for quality stereo headphones utterly blows away any 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system I've ever listened to for pinpoint imaging and positional accuracy, sounding more like reality than a crude multi-point approximation of it.

 

Most music is mixed with stereo speakers in front of your ears in mind, though, and thus the perceived stage with most headphones won't sound right, possibly barring some of the radical "earspeaker" designs like the Stax Sigma series, the AKG K1000, and the Sony PFR-V1 that have the drivers noticeably splayed out in front of the wearer's ears instead of beside them.

 

In my case, I don't mind the presentation for conventionally-mixed music so much, and that binaural mixing advantage I mentioned earlier mainly applies to gaming, where I want that competitive "aural wallhack" advantage and the general immersion of "being there".

Im kind of on the same length you  are.

 

my old stereo system i used was pretty decent at distance and sounds but i think i find headphones more clearer, I enjoy IEMs and headphones far more than a speaker system and i feel they both have differences and very large opinions of themselves.

 

when i heard sounds in a speaker system that was 5.1 there were noticeable differences in distances but i felt they didnt have the ease of generating some clarify the way headphones do since they arent really that 'in your face' kind of presence and distance is quite important for speakers to be accurate + other compounding factors do make it complicated like rooms that echo etc...

 

I just feel headphones can achieve a lot more with a lot less environmental issues being a big deal.

post #12 of 88

Get a Sennheiser HD800 with a Woo Audio WA2 and a DAC.

post #13 of 88

....and hear a glorious fake "soundstage". 

 

A stereo image exists in a recording. It is not something that is created by headphones. A pair of earbuds with balanced drivers will reproduce this image as well as can be done with headphones. 

post #14 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beagle View Post

....and hear a glorious fake "soundstage". 

 

I  disagree that the soundstage of hd800 is fake. Or at least it is enjoyable.

There's no fake stereo either, there's a clear left/right separation, and if you hear something mono, it stays mono.

post #15 of 88

To get to the soundstage level you really have to push the boat out with patience, cash, and careful audio route planning. It's not all about the headphone. If things were only that simple.

First of all, the musical detail has to be present in the music track that would allow for a realistic soundstage. Don't expect anything from mp3. FLAC, WAV, APE are the kind of formats you need to look at.

Next you need a DAC that can dig down to the soundstage bit level and reproduce it without any artefacts that could misalign the soundstage.

And then you need a low distortion headamp that can produce the rms voltage that the impedance of your headphothne would need in order to cover the full audio frequency and signal dynamic range.

Finally, you need a headphone that can produce a soundstage. Only then can you really enter the soundstage domain with your cans.

 

It is often assumed that just about any headphone design concept can produce a good soundstage, as long a the above criteria are met. Not true. Some designs are better suited than others. Electrostatics are almost guaranteed a place at the top, but conventional drivers set in an unconventional design can now also be considered. I am thinking of trend setters like the MDR-F1 and SA5000, and the more recent HD800. But there are also exceptions that transcend the rule. One of them is the D7000, which has a closed design that is not normally associated with a realistic soundstage. But such odd technical marvels come at a price.

 

Look, the HD650 is a good set of cans, but it has a couple of shortcomings that hinders its true potential. Mods galore to try to overcome that. The basic sloppy bass and recessed tops impair of a sizeable portion of the soundstage experience. To get round that you need to read up and then try a headamp that is more or less mapped to correct the anomalies with the HD650. Don't get me wrong. I am not singling out the HD650. I own one and wouldn't part with it. I still put it back in its original box after use. But I had to knock up a TPA6120 headamp with a +/-15V supply rail and incorporate a filter network to take down the bass lift and raise the tops before I could get the HD650 to transform from sleeping beauty to fiery vixen. The dryness from the TPA6120 counteracted the woolly feeling of the overall HD650 sound.

 

So expectations should be tempered. The journey has only just begun in your search for headphone soundstage. I would advise you to go through the archives and threads about the HD650, such as the HD650 appreciation thread. Some outstanding advice and information can be found there on how to get the best soundstage out of the HD650.

 

Of course you could go and buy headphones till you find what you are looking for. Many of us have, and are a few $$$grands poorer from it. So headphone users like me know the rough edges and pitfalls along the way that should be avoided when in the persuit of soudstage.  


Edited by Baxide - 2/28/13 at 5:11pm
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