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Speakers vs High end headphones- the Age old debate

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hello Head-fi.

 

Its been a while since i opened up a thread so here goes.

 

I'm currently looking at getting a speaker rig to go in my 4x5m bedroom (13x16 feet for the Americans). I've already set my heart on the kef ls50 after going through a huge number of reviews and demoing them in a hifi store. I've also demoed extensively, however there were a number of problems 

 

1. I was unable to use my own source and amp of choice

2. The listening conditions were less than ideal.

 

That being said. I loved the tactile feeling that speakers produced, but was unable to accurately gauge at how much detail I would be getting in a quiet isolated home environment.

 

I currently own the Audeze LCD-2 paired with the WA7 amp/dac, a combo that I would heartily recommend to any head-fier looking into the high end but not wanting to spend a small fortune.

 

Now here is my problem. At the moment I'm faced with a couple of choices choices.

 

1. Upgrading to a cost no.object headphone rig consisting of the

Audeze LCD-3

Burson Conductor or Schiit mjolnir and gungnir

Audiophileo 1 with purepower.

 

2. Wait out for the ALO studiosix to become widely available and making a decision then. as to my source and dac. (LCD3 as well)

 

or

 

3. Switch entirely to a standmounted speaker rig consisting of

Kef LS50 Standmounted speakers

Naim NAP-100/Burson timekeeper

Naim DAC-V1/ Wyred4sound DAC-2 DSDse

Dynaudio 4 speaker stands

Various acousting panels and a skyline diffuser

 

Note that if i were to go with option 3, the sheer cost would force me to sell my current Headphone rig to fund this endeavour. Another bit of background information is I also own the UE900 for portable use, so I won't be entirely taking flight from head-fi-dome.

 

Would any of the head-fi crew in their infinite wisdom, be able to provide me with some more insight as to what I would be trading off if I were to switch entirely to a speaker setup. Additionally, It would also be helpful to know what I would be expecting if I were to upgrade my current headphone setup- As I will be buying blind (no chance to demo in south australia- adelaide jokes, here we come) and the reviews and impressions here frequently conflict and contradict each other.

post #2 of 18

I know I'm not helping very much by saying this, but it all comes down to personal preference. Do you like the presentation of speakers or headphones more? If there is no volume or room constraints, and you don't usually listen to music with others, than it all comes down to what you prefer. I prefer headphones because I like the more intimate listening conditions, budget is a constraint (I can afford a nice stereo, but I feel like I can reach the limit of sound quality with headphones... whereas with speakers reaching the limit can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars), and my living conditions don't allow for high volume speaker playback. If I were you, I would listen to some nice speakers at a hi-fi stereo shop and then decide. If you're using speakers at home and headphones on the go, you would get a bit of the presentation of both and that might be nice to change things up. Then again, you might find that you end up having a preference toward either speakers or headphones and leave one for the other.


Edited by ToddTheMetalGod - 6/20/13 at 11:35pm
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 

I've extensively auditioned speakers but its been a bit of a hit and miss.

 

One of my old man's friend's owns the Nakamichi dragon electrostat, which is said to be a formidable speaker in its own right. But just from the way it has been set up, I never warmed up to it, especially when I pitched it up against my LCD2's (which we had in the same room). That kind of switched me off the idea of speakers for a while. If you spent this much (approx 15k for the entire system), you better damn hope it beats a headphone and a 1 grand amp, but I never felt that way about the system.

 

Recently however, when auditioning the klipsch palladium speakers at a hifi store hooked up to some upscale Naim gear- everything changed. The room wasn't even acoustically treated, had other speakers and equipment lying around and half of it was opened up to the rest of the store. I really did love the way it presented the soundstage (i hate to use that word) and the gutsy sound after 30 or so minutes. At approx 9 grand just for the speaker though I had to think twice, not to mention the amp and source costs.

 

I also demoed some bookshelves just placed on shelves at the store and found that I also enjoyed them, so I went around listening at other hifi stores, but could never get a good idea of what they would sound like at home and the salesmen weren't too keen on a in-home demo, even when I offered a generous deposit (80% of brand new price to audition the demo pairs).

 

The LCD-2 sounded polite next to some of those setups. I may try to replace the tubes on my WA7 and see how that goes and the mjolnir is said to make the LCD's sound more 'gutsy', but at this point in time, without having tried the LCD3 or the mjolnir I'm going to have to give it to speakers.

 

I just wanted some impressions from owners who own both high end speaker (without breaching the 10 grand mark) and headphone setups. There doesn't seem to be many on head-fi.

post #4 of 18

I think the problem may be that you need to try out more speakers. I mean, it's easy to walk into a headphone shop or go to meets and hear headphones, but I find that it's harder to audition speakers. I think that you didn't like the sound signature of most of the speaker systems you tried, from what I've read Klipsch speakers have a warm sound and so do the Audeze headphones. Maybe you need to try out more warm speakers? Yeah sorry, I definitely don't have experience with anything that high end... so I can't help very much.

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

I'll need to get down to melbourne some time at addictedtoaudio to try out everything :D

post #6 of 18

I had the LCD-3 and the auralic taurus amp + hegel hd20 DAC, and I've had a nice speaker setup (xtz divine 100.33 + nad m3 amp). Headphones just can't touch a nice speaker setup, there's just no competition there at all. And while I've never had the LCD-2, I can't imagine it's that much worse than the LCD-3. Along with the LCD-3, I also had (and still have, along with a burson the conductor) the hifiman he-500, and the differences between the two are minimal. So if the LCD-2 is about as good as the he-500, you're truly not getting a lot for your money upgrading to the LCD-3. Upgrading from something like the he-500 or lcd-3 to a nice speaker setup tho... A world of difference.

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 

The world of difference was what I had the fortune to experience. All those LCD-3 and HD800 reviews spouting out that they're better than a speaker setup less than in the 10 grand ballpark have confused the hell out of me though. I didn't know if it was placebo or sitting in a fancy speaker room or not.

post #8 of 18

My current stereo is the nad m3 amplifier, burson the conductor (as a dac + running my headphones) and some xtz 99.36 mkii speakers (they cost about half of what the lcd-3 cost) and there's no way in hell I'd trade the stereo for the lcd-3's again. Imaging/soundstage, just the sheer feeiling of having the musicians in the room are better with the speakers. And that's a fairly cheap setup..

 

My advice is to trust your ears from what you've heard, and don't believe the BS hype about needing atleast a 10 grand stereo. Statements like that are as true as you need atleast [insert whatever summit-fi level headphone amp costing atleast 4-5000 USD here] to drive the lcd-3. It's a bunch of hyperbole from people who've got a financial interrest in selling those products, or people with too much money who're just out of touch with reality (audio snobs)

post #9 of 18

the first & biggest important point of impact is the audio scoring traveling a much larger distance.

the increase in distance is enough to make any audiophile want one, if only for the difference & choice.

 

you really don't give yourself opportunity to be impressed when the speakers aren't some 3-way set able to go down to 20hz ... and that 20hz the same level of loudness as 40-50-60-70-80hz

 

no matter how transparent the midrange and treble is, the 'fun' doesn't happen when the biggest chunk of melody & rhythm is totally missing.

 

buying pre-made speaker cabinets causes people to lose the last 5 - 10 inches of box space .. as well as the last few inches of port length to get to the 20hz

 

they tune the box too high most every single time ... but sometimes you can get to 20hz with an equalizer because the box looses pressure and that lets the cone move in and out more with less power.

 

 

i imagine the high price is because there is a single 5.25 inch driver trying to work like a headphone driver claiming 'full range' capable.

you probably need a harmonic equalizer (or harmonic booster) to get the lowest lows from the setup... and then hope it doesn't change the other frequencies negatively.

 

even a pair of headphones that sounds like bass is coming from two 15 inch woofers .. it doesn't compare with the audio travels the long distance.

the difference is like a kiddie carnival ride compared to a roller coaster.

post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thenorwegian View Post

My current stereo is the nad m3 amplifier, burson the conductor (as a dac + running my headphones) and some xtz 99.36 mkii speakers (they cost about half of what the lcd-3 cost) and there's no way in hell I'd trade the stereo for the lcd-3's again. Imaging/soundstage, just the sheer feeiling of having the musicians in the room are better with the speakers. And that's a fairly cheap setup..

My advice is to trust your ears from what you've heard, and don't believe the BS hype about needing atleast a 10 grand stereo. Statements like that are as true as you need atleast [insert whatever summit-fi level headphone amp costing atleast 4-5000 USD here] to drive the lcd-3. It's a bunch of hyperbole from people who've got a financial interrest in selling those products, or people with too much money who're just out of touch with reality (audio snobs)

Exactly my thoughts on the topic, except I wasn't too sure- perhaps I wasn't driving the LCD2's well enough for them to approach loudspeaker levels of visceral impact in sound. Now that i've gotten some insight... Should I try to keep the lcd2's even after the purchase in your opinion? Would i miss it?
post #11 of 18

It all depends on your interrest and needs. If you live in an appartment where you can't always just play as loud as you want with speakers, I'd say keep the headphones or you're going to miss beeing able to play at whatever volume you desire. But if you can play as loud as you want, whenever you want - there really is no NEED for a headphone. But you have to concider how much you enjoy headphones aswell. I like both speakers and headphones, and I can't play as loud as I want with speakers, so a stereo + headphones is what's right for me.

post #12 of 18

First off, those are some nice components you're considering!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thenorwegian View Post

... I'd say keep the headphones or you're going to miss beeing able to play at whatever volume you desire.

 

You won't get visceral impact if you can't push the volume past 9 o'clock on your preamp because you'll be intruding on your roommates. Luckily, my stereo is located in a below grade basement so I can really turn it up without making too much of a disturbance. However, I've also had a stereo when I lived in an apartment and haven't had a problem with neighbors complaining. Maybe they really liked my taste in music... smile.gif

 

Personally, I enjoy listening more on my stereo than I do through headphones - the main reason why my headphone setup has been in a sort of suspended animation for almost a decade. (I still use it occasionally when the family is asleep.) As previous posters mentioned, it's a better presentation since the sound is outside your head and you can 'imagine' the performers in front of you.

 

Also - don't overdo the room treatments if you do opt to go with the stereo. I've heard some mega-expensive setups in treated listening rooms and they sounded dull and lifeless.

post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 

I'll be using a combination of diffusion and absorption. My room includes a bed and I have a bookshelf on the immediate right of where I'm putting the speakers, so I think the only panels I'll be putting up are to my immediate left and right and a bit on the ceiling. so only about 10% of the surface area will actually be covered. There will be a large skyline diffuser right behind my listening/workspace however.

 

I've done a quick config on how it will pan out. Now that I've measured it, the room is actually 13 feet by 17 feet. The reason why i picked out expensive electronics components was so that I could upgrade to dynaudios in the future if I so wished, so please don't bash me on spending more on the dac and mp than the speakers themselves.

 

I live in the family home (only 19 :) ) and I'll mostly be using the setup for very soft background music as I study or am doing a project for work on the computer. I envision that I'll be turning it up about 4 times a week for an hour each listening session.

 

Ambient music on the LCD-2 is.... well how would I put it.... not so good. I get pressure being applied to the top of my noggin and clamping force on my head. LCD-2's.... maximum 30 minute sessions for me.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by stainless824 View Post

 

The reason why i picked out expensive electronics components was so that I could upgrade to dynaudios in the future if I so wished, so please don't bash me on spending more on the dac and mp than the speakers themselves.

 

Not a problem. Hell, you could use the Naim gear to power a pair of $130 speakers. Seriously, though, I wouldn't worry too much about ratio of money spent on one particular component versus another. It's all about how the system sounds in the end. In my opinion, price only loosely correlates with sound quality.
 

Are the speakers going to be placed on the short or the long wall?


Edited by yage - 6/21/13 at 6:33pm
post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 

 

 

here is the config that i will be using. note that I won't be deadening the room with too much acoustic treatment. I believe in a combination of diffusion and absorption to get the best results. Some experimentation will further inform me though.

 

The panels that I'll be using won't be these : not the ones with patterns which absorb a huge amount of air.

 

Processed By eBay with ImageMagick, R1.1.1.M2a

 

 

I'll be making a skyline diffuser similar to this size to act as my backdrop

 

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