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Who here actually prefers colored headphones?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hello, I'm still relatively new to the community, as evidenced by my postcount. I've only recently gotten my first set of cans, a neutral and uncolored open-ear set with a very flat frequency response graph. It's a fairly highly regarded set on these forums, and I can see why: all sounds that come out of them are emphasized very evenly. You can hear each sound clear as day, neither louder nor quieter than others. It's very nice to hear sounds I've never heard before in music that I've been listening to for years.

 

I can't help but think that some music is meant to be emphasized differently, however. For example, maybe that percussion instrument is meant to be barely audible over the guitar and vocals, or that smooth beat is supposed to subtly complement the blaring synthesized sound.

 

Think of it like a painted portrait. It emphasizes a person's face, whether abstract or photorealistic, with a subtle background. Now, imagine if the face was less emphasized, the picture zoomed out and more of the background visible. The idea of the art piece loses focus, and people are left wondering whether they should be looking at the face or the vast white mountain off in the distance. The painting loses value due to the lack of focus, and confusion created among the viewers.

 

Is there anyone else who feels this way? If so, what kind of music do you listen to, what cans do you use, and why do you like them for that music?

post #2 of 13

IMHO, there is no headphone that is uncolored, neutral and flat.  That would be the unattainable perfect can.  I'm guessing you don't own that one.smile.gif

post #3 of 13

Generally yes, color is good... K701 is my most neutral can.  Thats as about as measurably flat as I care to get, in my budget.  But even then, I spice it up with tube amps, my source is not exactly flat either, and I dial in a 2.5db boost at 30Hz on the iTunes EQ.  The K701 on a "dry" neutral amp/source is a snooze-fest... IMHO.  Come to think of it most dynamic driver phones fail when it comes to spectral flatness... IMHO of course.  Color seems to be what they do best.

 

The only reasonably ruler-flat (measured) rigs I have really enjoyed are the high $$$$ setups like HE90/60 + Orpheus, SR-009 + KGSS.  Stratosphere-Fi to me is really the only way to go for spectrally-flat enjoyment.  IMHO they're the only setups that do spectral flatness without being boring.  Not sure how they achieve this... maybe its the tubes, woody earcups, or pure psycho-acoustics at work.  I can't tell one way or another.  These opinions are based on meet impressions (first impressions in noisy environments).

 

Actually some of the lower-tier (and older) Stax rigs sound amazing too.  It so confusing reading HF impressions, where you think the top-tier is the only way to go.... thats just not the case.

 

I'm thinking about picking up a Fostex TRP50... and give the Orthos a whirl on my rig.  I liked the mad dog version I demo'd.

 

For me (in my budget) its more about balance than ruler flatness.  Things can't be too colored, scale tipped too heavily to one side.


Edited by kramer5150 - 3/8/13 at 10:14am
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by BetaWolf View Post

Hello, I'm still relatively new to the community, as evidenced by my postcount. I've only recently gotten my first set of cans, a neutral and uncolored open-ear set with a very flat frequency response graph. It's a fairly highly regarded set on these forums, and I can see why: all sounds that come out of them are emphasized very evenly. You can hear each sound clear as day, neither louder nor quieter than others. It's very nice to hear sounds I've never heard before in music that I've been listening to for years.

 

I can't help but think that some music is meant to be emphasized differently, however. For example, maybe that percussion instrument is meant to be barely audible over the guitar and vocals, or that smooth beat is supposed to subtly complement the blaring synthesized sound.

 

Think of it like a painted portrait. It emphasizes a person's face, whether abstract or photorealistic, with a subtle background. Now, imagine if the face was less emphasized, the picture zoomed out and more of the background visible. The idea of the art piece loses focus, and people are left wondering whether they should be looking at the face or the vast white mountain off in the distance. The painting loses value due to the lack of focus, and confusion created among the viewers.

 

Is there anyone else who feels this way? If so, what kind of music do you listen to, what cans do you use, and why do you like them for that music?


I think if I'm understanding you correctly, I agree in part, but also think you may be misunderstanding to a degree. Let me address what may be a misunderstanding first:

A "flat," "neutral," or "reference" monitor (whether speaker, can, or IEM) is meant to most accurately reflect the recording as it was actually produced. Of course recording engineers have a great interest in this because they want to hear what's actually there. (From there, they often go to a wide variety of common listening sources to see how the "dry" mix translates to the "real world.")

Now though I did some live and recorded engineering, my reason for reference sources was much more fan boy in origin: I wanted to hear what the band/producers actually intended. This is going back, but Alan Parsons is a producer with a very distinctive sound for instance. Like Pink Floyd? They are definitely great but a major part of that Pink Floyd sound was due to Alan Parsons. I was at one time very geeky about trying to get into Alan Parsons' head to hear what he'd intended. So in such a case, I'd want very neutral sounding headphones.

But a neutral headphone doesn't make everything sound the same! Another favorite producer of mine is T-Bone Burnett and while he experiments and deviates more than Parsons, you can still tell a Burnett production and it's nothing like a Parsons one, etc.

So now we come to just listening to music. Right now just for fun, I pulled out my old Sony MDR-7506 headphones... a standard at one point and still are to some extent. The sound "good" to me still, but they aren't my preference by any means. I'm finding out my preference varies with what I'm in the mood for and what I'm listening to. For instance, right now I'm listening to Allman Brothers and I'd really prefer to be listening to my ATH ESW9 cans which I know aren't even as "accurate" as the Sony's. Why? because old recordings like this tend to be somewhat "tinny" and I love how my ESW9s thicken things up. (In general, I like roll off ala a "tube" kind of sound.) But let's say I was listening to a recording with all sorts of inherent roll off like some very old recordings, then I might prefer my JVC HA-S500 mods, that would tend to counteract the roll off. I also like the S500s for the "sheen" they bring to acoustic guitars and so on. In general though I'm beginning to realize I seem to like a "warm" headphone best for general listening.

Hope some of this rambling helps!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
post #5 of 13

A lot of people actually prefer "colored" headphones to "neutral" ones. It's just that most of them don't really agree on what "colorations" they like, and others don't even know what they like yet until they go through a few headphone setups.

 

This old Stax SR-Lambda helped me find out that I really like midrange-more specifically, forward vocals and no strange rough "texture" over the sound that makes it sound a bit "harsh", as the Stax SR-202 and HiFiMan HE-400 did. EQ may bring the vocals in front, but it can't get rid of that distracting "roughness". Whether it's a flaw in the source files or the headphones, I'm not sure, but it makes music listening less enjoyable regardless. (It also taught me that newer and more expensive headphones are NOT necessarily better, to the point where I prioritize those Normal bias Lambdas over their Nova/numerical-series descendants.)

 

Also, speaking of Alan Parsons... *fires up a playlist for The Alan Parsons Project* Can't go wrong with Parsons and Woolfson!

post #6 of 13

Theres no such thing as a "flat" sounding headphone, because in order for every recordings to sound flat on the headphone, every recording would have to be mastered in the exact same way.

 

There is honest sounding headphones, which basically means that you'll hear different recordings in the way that they were mastered. But they won't all sound perfectly flat due to different mastering processes.

post #7 of 13

I've given up on looking for perfect neutrality for now. There are far too many factors to consider. Even if a pair of headphones is very neutral, everyone's ears are different, and one person's ear shape or psychological perception of sound could be completely different from the next. Furthermore, recordings aren't always well done or neutral, and even if they are, the recording equipment (like microphones) can have its own coloration. I'm more concerned with the overall sound and how well a headphone pulls off a certain sound signature than how neutral it is. Coloration can sound great if it's done well. But on the other hand, if you stray too far from neutrality there's no way to make it sound good.

post #8 of 13

I don't particularly prefer colored headphones, but I do have my sound preferences. I believe in choosing headphones/amps/sources as close to neutral as possible (amps and sources should be neutral, period) and then EQing to your ears' desire. It is much easier to EQ a neutral headphone than one that has many peaks and dips. Also, there are different methods for determining neutrality in headphones. For example, innerfidelity states that a neutral headphone should be flat to 2kHz, while headphone.com says 1kHz. To me, the latter sounds more neutral to my ears. 

 

I like my headphones with a little bit of sub-bass boost to compensate for lack of body impact, a recessed upper midrange (my ears are really sensitive in this area), and neutral highs. I wonder if there are any headphones that fit this profile. Not that I would be buying them anytime soon. Must...resist...power of Head-Fibiggrin.gif

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsujigiri View Post

I've given up on looking for perfect neutrality for now. There are far too many factors to consider. Even if a pair of headphones is very neutral, everyone's ears are different, and one person's ear shape or psychological perception of sound could be completely different from the next. Furthermore, recordings aren't always well done or neutral, and even if they are, the recording equipment (like microphones) can have its own coloration. I'm more concerned with the overall sound and how well a headphone pulls off a certain sound signature than how neutral it is. Coloration can sound great if it's done well. But on the other hand, if you stray too far from neutrality there's no way to make it sound good.

 

You hit the nail on the head there. A neutral headphone, even if it existed, would not be for everyone, even if everyone desired a neutral sound. It helps a lot to know your own ears and look at the frequency response graphs from there. Judging from all the talk about the M50's recessed mids, I might be the only person in the world that thinks the response near 2kHz is too strong. But that's just how I hear things. Back in the day when I had an EQ in my car, I lowered the upper mids more than anything. I go to a bar and as soon as the DJ comes on and the music is turned up, I'm gone. The sound of teenage girls is really annoying to me.tongue_smile.gif But when I put my headphones on and press play, all is right again.beyersmile.png

post #10 of 13

I personally prefer to have several headphones with different signitures.  I let my mood determine what signiture I want.  The one thing I do not want to compromise is that I want the headphone to be detailed.  By this I mean the notes should be clearly distinct and not muddy.  the best analogy I can make is a sharp knife vs a dull one.  I also want the sound to be full.  A good german beer rather than than bud light.

 

I find that a lot of mid level to lower mid level, as well as flagships headphones can meet these standards.  My open headphones that I use at home were flagships for their lines at one point and have now been passed by.  My semi portalbe headphones that I use at the coffee shop or library are all closed with a max price of $200. I feel it is foolish to carry around something too valuable when I will throw it in my messenger bag.  Have to say I enjoy all of them

post #11 of 13

I think it's always good to have one neutral can as "reference", and a few colored ones to best match your preferences and moods. I do find that neutral headphones with a large soundstage are best for instrumentals/BGM stuff.  

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by LinkPro View Post

I think it's always good to have one neutral can as "reference", and a few colored ones to best match your preferences and moods. I do find that neutral headphones with a large soundstage are best for instrumentals/BGM stuff.  

+1
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by LinkPro View Post

I think it's always good to have one neutral can as "reference", and a few colored ones to best match your preferences and moods.

 

Or just one neutral can and EQ. (Though, curiously, much of what is said to be neutral turns out to be not neutral at all.)

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