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Can you detect subtle differences in equipment with headphones as easily as speakers??

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Just curious,I am building a headphone only system,in a general sense are DAC's,cables and source changes as critical with headphones as with a speaker system?My guess is NO,just went through days trying to decide on a DAC,at the end I felt it wasn't worth spending more than a grand on a DAC for a headphone system??I suspect like anything else it comes down to personal budget and choice.
post #2 of 18

  It's a lot easier to get great sound out of a headphone setup than speakers, mainly because with speakers there are a lot more variables, speaker position, speaker cables, interconnects, listening position, room acoustics and resonances, etc. With headphones the chain is much shorter and cleaner. Cables on the headphones and interconnects can make a lot of difference to some, and not so much to others, some of that is training your ears to recognize the differences and developing a "listening vocabulary", so a novice may not notice subtle details that a trained recording engineer, musician or audiophile might find very easy to recognize. Having said all that, its a journey that your ears must take and your brain has to get comfortable with... it wont happen over night, but like most things worth while, its worth the effort.
 

post #3 of 18
Except that from what I read here, there's no evidence that cables and interconnects make a difference on headphones, period.
post #4 of 18

you'll hear more detail in headphones than speakers in general, unless you have a very diligently built and well-designed listening room.  to that end, amp and source differences will be MORE apparent in a headphone system

 

and as always, cables won't change anything unless theyre broken ;) 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfarina View Post

Just curious,I am building a headphone only system,in a general sense are DAC's,cables and source changes as critical with headphones as with a speaker system?My guess is NO,just went through days trying to decide on a DAC,at the end I felt it wasn't worth spending more than a grand on a DAC for a headphone system??I suspect like anything else it comes down to personal budget and choice.
post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

you'll hear more detail in headphones than speakers in general

And with reasonably good speakers, you'll more natural overall balance and a realistic soundstage.

If you can hear differences between amps and sources, there is probably something wrong with your amp or source. Even inexpensive electronic components are aurally transparent nowadays. Save money and go cheap on electronics and put all your money in your headphones.
Edited by bigshot - 4/25/13 at 7:19pm
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

Save money and go cheap on electronics and put all your money in your headphones.

... that sound good and not just look fancy. wink.gif

post #7 of 18

Generally headphones are much less diffuse and forgiving than speakers...

Back then when I did audio editing I always switched from monitors to cans for problem/error spotting.

post #8 of 18

Air is an imperfect and lossy medium.  Rooms are generally built for living in as opposed to listening in and so will have numerous issues that interfere with audio playback, e.g. resonances, suck outs, reflective or absorbent surfaces in all the wrong places, etc.  Headphones have an inherent two-fold advantage over speakers in that the sound from the headphone driver only passes through a tiny fraction of the amount of air that sound from a speaker must penetrate and the sound from the headphone completely sidesteps the thicket of obstacles that color the sound from a speaker.  While headphones cannot create an "image" the way speakers can, they are able to reveal details that would otherwise be blurred by having to travel from the speaker to your ear. 
 

post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

... that sound good and not just look fancy. wink.gif

and I am more than happy if I can have both

post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlindInOneEar View Post

Air is an imperfect and lossy medium.  Rooms are generally built for living in as opposed to listening in and so will have numerous issues that interfere with audio playback, e.g. resonances, suck outs, reflective or absorbent surfaces in all the wrong places, etc.

 

Air is what we hear sounds in. Rooms are where music is played. Shoving a band into two cups over the ears may give you close up details like shoving your head in the bell of a horn or pressing your head up to the lips of the singer, but if you want music to sound like it is in the room with you the way it would if the musicians were performing in the room with you, you have to have speakers. If you have a 5:1 setup, it's even better, because then you aren't limited by the physical size of your listening room. You can simulate any size you want. The sound of the room is part of the sound. Music doesn't sound good in a vacuum.

 

Room acoustics are not nearly as troublesome as people make out. If you have good speakers and a living room in your house, it's no great trick to get fantastic sound. It just takes a little planning and careful adjustment of the EQ. Since I finished my living room/listening room/screening room, I haven't even taken my headphones out of the drawer. Cans just don't come close.

 

If you're a kid in a dorm room, you don't have any choice. But I honestly think that you can't be a true audiophile if you don't have speakers.


Edited by bigshot - 4/27/13 at 11:43am
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

 

If you're a kid in a dorm room, you don't have any choice. But I honestly think that you can't be a true audiophile if you don't have speakers.

+1. Headphones also can't really produce the extended low like some of the large speaker.IMO, headphones are really only useful for mobile app (exercise, travel, etc); privacy (at work, dorm etc.) and editing tunes.

 

My perception of today's generation is that the younger generation has very little experience in speakers. They grew up in the MP3/PC/Ipod/Iphone era. Speakers are not exactly a portable device. IME, there are more variation and differentiation than headphones. Just different types of drivers will make your head spin.

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by dvw View Post

+1. Headphones also can't really produce the extended low like some of the large speaker.

 

Headphones (especially closed ones) can produce good bass extension, It is just not possible to "feel" the bass at high volume.

post #13 of 18

It might surprise you to know but many ADE test their new designs using headphones after trying loudspeakers because good headphones can pick up detail that no loudspeaker system  can.

                 Its just a technical and scientific point The thickness of the diaphragms in my stax 007-omega MK1 are less than  --2 Microns thick -No tweeter I have come across can have that sensitivity. That's why electrostatic phones can reproduce so much fine detail.

                      And if you are talking of air -minute musical information is lost the further the music has to travel. Think large theater  the difference between the stalls and the back of the theater.

                                 You may say because you hear too much detail  then its not musical but that's the reason I have those headphones while the 009s have more detail mine[IMO] the MK1s have a more musical presentation. 

                                    The top "golden ear" in the UK Alvin Gold thought they were the best in the world .Precisely because they were not totally open and therefore tiring after a while.

                                          I may add all my equipment is biased towards total openness so I don't need any raising of it further.

post #14 of 18
Music isn't about detail. It's about natural sound. Listening to headphones is like looking at the Mona Lisa with a magnifying glass. Sure, you can see cracks and brushstrokes, but if you want to see the painting, you stand back and view it as a whole.

Mixing and mastering engineers don't use headphones to balance music. They use calibrated speakers. Your CDs are *designed* to be listened to on speakers.

By the way, there are piezo electric super tweeters that can reproduce frequencies well beyond the range of human hearing if that's what floats your boat.
Edited by bigshot - 4/28/13 at 10:30am
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

Music isn't about detail. It's about natural sound. Listening to headphones is like looking at the Mona Lisa with a magnifying glass. Sure, you can see cracks and brushstrokes, but if you want to see the painting, you stand back and view it as a whole.

Mixing and mastering engineers don't use headphones to balance music. They use calibrated speakers. Your CDs are *designed* to be listened to on speakers.

By the way, there are piezo electric super tweeters that can reproduce frequencies well beyond the range of human hearing if that's what floats your boat.

 

 

If you feel that way about headphones why do you even bother with this forum which is called HeadFi for a reason?

 

Headphones listening and speaker listening are different things. Very often when you see images of engineers mixing or read their forum posts the speakers they refer to are only 3 feet away from their ears which is far closer than most speaker listeners.

 

I have a pair of Wharfedale Delta 70s, they have a more visceral low end than my headphones but there is stuff in the background that they cannot reproduce audibly at normal levels which any of my headphones can do trivially.

 

That is all part of the music and if someone wants to listen for the details surely that is their business. Sometimes I like being able to hear details such as Ian Hunter saying OK in the background on "Honaloochie Boogie" at the end of the line "Wanna tell Chuck Berry my News" it is more difficult to get that on speakers except at high volume.

 

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