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Headphones vs Speakers - That Setup!

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Yo folks, what's up? So I was wondering, and it seemed like a perfectly interesting and valid question to think about, and I doubt this has been asked in the past.

 

Everyone was talking about how Headphones, being quite a bit cheaper than hi-fi/end speakers, can actually be a competition for the price of the speakers.

 

And one day I went and bought Audioengine 5+ speakers that are faulty and I'm too lazy to bring them back for repair cause I'm perfectly fine with using my HD700 for everything.

And that day that I got myself the Audioengine 5+ I also got to listen to them Grande Utopia Focal - http://www.procinema.hu/termekkepek/jmlab-focal-grande-utopia-be_big.jpg

speakers... and I must say I'm amazed by the sound quality, even it was something you would have trouble leaving the room even though you don't own them...

 

So lets cut to the chase - If you were to listen to some very high quality, expensive, awesome sound quality speakers and would want a match in terms of much of the same, how would you port it to the headphone realm? :)

post #2 of 18
Thread Starter 

bumping this thread, I've found an Audeze distributor here and I've got a demo soon, at least of the LCD-2. The LCD-2 cost in israel 4200 ILS and the LCD-3 cost 8500 ILS which is pretty much a bit more than double the price, but still quite a bit less than the 85,000 that they asked for the second hand Grande Utopia Focal.

 

Would you say that the LCD-3 is a winner in overall the best headphones? And does it sound as big as these huge speakers? :P

 

Or should I go for the HD800? Sort of disliking the HD700 that I have in terms of the bright sound and the treble peaks (Equalizing it in foobar2000 makes it a bit better)

 

Will the LCD-3 be good at first with the Xonar Essence STX that I have?

 

Thanks people :)

post #3 of 18

I think $269,000 speakers, would sound better than $1999 headphones. 

post #4 of 18
Now days you can get quite good speakers for a fairly affordable price. For instance, if you're a bit handy, you can build a pair of Holtz Statements for a little more than a thousand bucks I believe. For around half that, the Monitors.

At any pricepoint, sadly, headphones will never give you a similar experience. You just can't get the dynamic feel and soundstage of speakers.
post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by XVampireX View Post

So lets cut to the chase - If you were to listen to some very high quality, expensive, awesome sound quality speakers and would want a match in terms of much of the same, how would you port it to the headphone realm? :)

 

You really couldn't directly port a speaker experience to the headphone realm, because the experience is different. When we move up the chain of headphones, they tend to get pretty damn big and heavy, thus in terms of fatigue and relaxation they don't compare to a good pair of speakers.

 

Sound quality wise, there will always be a difference in spatial imaging between the "best" headphones and a good pair of speakers. The way the air reaches both your ears (e.g. crosstalk) in a proper speaker setup (incl. room treatment) will always sound more natural than headphones.

 

But theres not much more you can do about it at the moment, so you can try to get as close to the luxury speaker experience by spending a lot on headphones, dacs and amps etc (which will still be cheaper than a good speaker setup). Go for STAX system, HD800, Audeze etc. Happy spending! smily_headphones1.gif

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

So I'll be listening to the LCD-2 this coming Wednesday and I am looking for something that won't break the bank but will sound the best in the line. So far from what I've heard and saw the LCD-3 headphones are twice the price and they are supposed to be giving you 30%~ more in value which is a good point, but I guess you need the right equipment for it.

 

@Flognuts - well I guess speakers are going to sound better, one is because of the size... but will some of the best in the line headphones come close to the top of the line speakers? I'll be testing the LCD-2's on some 2 or so amps, one is the iFi iCan and the other is some Leben CS-600 which is supposedly a very good amp.

 

I just want it to be right for the purchase, if I've already got some of the top of the line headphones (The HD700 that don't get the love they deserve) but I want it to be better, with live sound.

 

Thanks people for the help. Still I don't think that saying that very expensive speakers are going to blow and headphone in the right setup.

post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by XVampireX View Post

I just want it to be right for the purchase, if I've already got some of the top of the line headphones (The HD700 that don't get the love they deserve) but I want it to be better, with live sound.

Thanks people for the help. Still I don't think that saying that very expensive speakers are going to blow and headphone in the right setup.
It depends what you're after. If it's realistic soundstage, you just won't get a 'true' soundstage as you do with speakers. If you're after detail & accuracy in terms of frequency response, then headphones wins hands down because you do away with the room, which is an incredibly important aspect of how speakers will sound. Also with headphones you don't get any thump in the chest obviously... So it really depends on what you're after, in some aspects speakers will always be better than headphones, and in others headphones will always be better than speakers.

But if you want to hear with as much fidelity a recording, I think Etymotics blow away any speaker; you just can't beat getting the sound directly into you ears, without any room interaction (reflections, reverberation, room modes, etc.). The distortion from speakers is also much higher than headphones in general. But even for regular headphones, for 250-300$ for instance; DT990 or Q701s, I really doubt you'll get speakers which sound as good for as cheap.

In general, you need to spend quite a bit more on speakers to get equal quality to headphones, and room treatment definitely helps a lot. Again, it depends what you're after, you said live experience... If that's the only criteria, I don't think you can achieve it through headphones... Speakers will always have the edge because of the headphone's lack of visceral impact and in your head soundstage.
Edited by GirgleMirt - 9/2/13 at 7:05pm
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hey again, I was listening to the Audeze LCD-2 on a test run, the equipment it was connected to was:

 

C.E.C - TL3N CD Transport + DA3N Dac Transport

Amps - iFi iCan + Leben CS600

Music - K2 24bit/100Khz mastering of Oscar Peterson Trio. Pink Floyd 20th Anniversary The Dark Side of the Moon. ELP: Tarkus. J.S.Bach (I don't remember exactly) and a few more.

 

I didn't post the review before but I'll write something not as detailed as I wanted, so here we go:

 

The "store" (garage style with some acoustic work) owner is a really nice audiophile guy who knows a thing or two about this. So first thing I was introduced to when I entered the store was the speakers by Raidho Acoustics the C-2.1 or D-2 whatever it is these cost apparently 76,000 ILS which is really nothing to laugh at ... the sound is pretty nice and all but I couldn't compare until what I did was I saw the Audeze LCD-2, really pretty headphones!  I also brought along my HD700 for comparison.

 

Design: Really beautiful. Really. The HD700 are also unique :)

Quality: Sturdy, though of course since that's wood we're talking about it might have problems with that quality. But these headphones speak quality.

Comfort: Amazing. As good as my HD700. Clamping force is VERY light yet very good. Padding is excellent. There's plenty of space between my ears and the padding and the driver.

 

Sound Quality: So here's where what I said before about the Raidho Acoustics speakers come into place. They were playing when I put the headphones on. And because of the open design I couldn't understand what was playing, the Speakers or the Headphones, and apparently, they were both playing because when I asked to turn off the speakers, I got the same feeling, pretty much nothing changed, I couldn't tell the difference. Mind you, we're talking about a difference, well, the LCD-2 costs here 4200 ILS, so go figure.

 

The Imaging on the LCD-2, I couldn't feel too much of a difference between the LCD-2 and my HD700, I might even say that the LCD-2 might have better imaging. I could hear better how and where the instruments were being played. But it was much closer to you, than the HD700 it makes the sound stage really far and that's harder for a new audiophile to hear. Maybe because it's easier to drive the LCD-2's. Most likely.

 

Overall I felt that sound quality wise, these were amazing, a bit darker than my HD700, and without the Sibilance problem. More Neutral. But also the Bass was lacking in kick/punch I felt like my HD700 were beating in my ears much harder, but yeah, the bass on the LCD-2 was quite a bit more real. I think after that demo I am hearing differences in sound quality better... yeah.

 

Regarding the Amps, to be honest, I didn't really like the iCan, it was good, but just not good, had to play with it too much to enjoy the music, all settings off on them the sound was way too muddy and unrealistic as well as pretty much dead and boring. Turn on the Leben CS600, my jaw dropped... When I tried the HD700 with it, it almost completely killed off the treble and made the sound so much livelier than whatever I have right now (STX). So yeah, both headphones will happily give out whatever improvement you give them, and both headphones are great, but I really like the sound of the Audeze and I feel that when we're talking about LCD-2 and Sennheiser, I feel they are much closer to HD800 quality, and maybe even beating them.

 

The only Con I could find in the Audeze is that they're not mine. Yeah. That soon will too be eliminated, very soon. But I'm hunting the LCD-3 this time around.

 

Here's a taste: http://imgur.com/a/doy6Z

 

Mind you, I didn't have much sleep, I don't look like the happiest person on earth, but that was in Givatayim (Near Tel Aviv) and I'm in Beer Sheva right now.

post #9 of 18
Quote:
 Sound Quality: So here's where what I said before about the Raidho Acoustics speakers come into place. They were playing when I put the headphones on. And because of the open design I couldn't understand what was playing, the Speakers or the Headphones, and apparently, they were both playing because when I asked to turn off the speakers, I got the same feeling, pretty much nothing changed, I couldn't tell the difference.

What?!   If I had to guess, I'd say it was because the headphones drowned out the speakers...  And unless you were sitting fairly in the center of the speakers and directly facing them, there's no way you'd have had a similar soundstage with the speakers and headphones...  I'm still very confused as to how the Audeze could have a sounstage even remotely similar to speakers, I noticed that they're a bit angled, but to say that the soundstage sounds similar between them and the speakers interacting with the room is...  Super weird...   When you listen to headphones, don't you get that soundstage in your head and on the left and right of your head?  And when you listen to speakers, the soundstage is well in front of you?

 

Cool pics, they're huge! :) Any pics of the room?

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

What?!   If I had to guess, I'd say it was because the headphones drowned out the speakers...  And unless you were sitting fairly in the center of the speakers and directly facing them, there's no way you'd have had a similar soundstage with the speakers and headphones...  I'm still very confused as to how the Audeze could have a sounstage even remotely similar to speakers, I noticed that they're a bit angled, but to say that the soundstage sounds similar between them and the speakers interacting with the room is...  Super weird...   When you listen to headphones, don't you get that soundstage in your head and on the left and right of your head?  And when you listen to speakers, the soundstage is well in front of you?

 

Cool pics, they're huge! :) Any pics of the room?

 

I didn't say the soundstage was like speakers, of course, the soundstage of speakers and headphones differ because there's a difference in positioning and the acoustics but overall the feeling was very similar, and we're talking about some of the better gear here.

 

but headphones can play around with whatever space the driver gives them to output the sound, so naturally, the bigger the headphones, the bigger the soundstage is, and LCD-2 do seem to have a huge driver.

 

I have no other pics from that time, sorry. Didn't feel right making pics of the place :P Like I said it wasn't the best looking place with tons of different speakers, but whatever was there counted :)

post #11 of 18

hehe ok I misunderstood :)  So you meant just overall sound quality then?  As much as I listen to different speakers, I still can't find speakers/rooms sounding the same.  Essentially, they all seem to have different flavors and their own music interpretation...  Even going very high end, the tweeter type, woofer material, size, shape, design, etc., all factor in the sound and they just end up sounding very different from each other.  Even when you go up say the JMLabs Utopia you've mentioned, just going up/down the line, trying different rooms, you'll always find almost dissimilar sounds, with each most likely having some type of distinctive attribute...

 

It's even worse when comparing headphones to speakers... hehehe   To me, there's a whole world of difference between them...  Most of the time you just end up hearing the room which all too often really is not up to par with the speakers... (most of my very high end speaker listening was done in showrooms/demo rooms where there's way too little attention spent on placement/room).  Phones are much simpler!  I guess it was a very good setup if they matched the Audeze!

 

But so in the end, essentially, how would you compare the two setups?  They really can't be exactly the same to the point you couldn't tell a difference... No?  Or did you really walk away thinking the two; speakers and headphones, were similar experiences?  Or more maybe I should say sound quality?


Edited by GirgleMirt - 9/6/13 at 2:11pm
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

The sound quality was great, of course I'd have to do more listening to be able to reach conclusion that both are technically the same, as I don't own any of these yet, I can't comment. But from what I've heard, I came to the conclusion that definitely, Headphones can compare to speakers in terms of sound quality. And you can definitely get a much more awesome setup at a lower price than getting speakers.

 

And like I said, the speakers and headphones are different, the idea of the topic was that - Can you really get a good sound like high-end speakers in a headphone setup which is much cheaper... and the answer is, well, a huge resounding YES :)

post #13 of 18

Headphones are very different from speakers. There are some things that speakers will nearly always do better than headphones. However there are some things that headphones will nearly always do better than speakers.

 

In my long experience with speakers what matters the most is the quality of the acoustic treatments of the room in which the speakers are placed, assuming the speakers are of a reasonable quality. This is the amazing untold story of getting good sound from stereo speakers. The acoustic of the room in which they are placed is just as much a part of the system as the design of the speakers.

 

Anyway, back to headphones. If you can live with the sonic environment created by the headphones they offer some huge benefits over speakers. Headphones are nearly always single driver, without any cross-over. Dynamic speakers usually have at least one cross-over and this is a big hurdle to creating a good quality of reproduction. Headphones are not dependent on having a room with good acoustic treatments. Headphones require a very small amount of amplification in the driving signal, so it is very cheap to use for example a well designed fully class A solid state amplifier.

 

So, why is the sonic environment created by the headphones odd? The stereo signal is nearly always one that was mixed for use with stereo speakers. With headphones each speaker is exclusive to each ear and this produces a very strange stereo image. The best way to deal with this is to use a good form of cross-feed in the signal. At present there are various cross-feeds available and personally I think that these do greatly improve listening to music with headphones. However I think that cross-feed could and should be developed more than it is at present and I hope that some clever engineers develop the quality of cross-feed further.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
 Can you really get a good sound like high-end speakers in a headphone setup which is much cheaper... and the answer is, well, a huge resounding YES :)

Haha, well depends ;)  The Audeze are 1k?  Well around that... You don't have to compare them to 25000$ speakers though...  The Holtz Statements mentioned earlier would have been a much better comparison in terms of pricing.  Your comparison is a bit like someone comparing a 10000$ speakers to the 35000$ Sennheiser Orpheus system walking away saying that you can definitely get speakers which will match much more expensive headphones!

 

I tell you it's all relative and what you're after!  ;)  They're really two different experiences, you really don't get anything alike when you pump up the volume of speakers vs headphones...  Not to try to crap on the Audeze or any other headphones, but if you blasted good dynamic speakers like the Holtz, and then told someone to listen headphones, even the Orpheus, and asked them which they'd prefer, the majority would go with speakers...  Hahaha, well anyhow, to answer the question, if you're after musical clarity, fidelity, definition, etc, then not only do headphones match super high end and super expensive speakers, they downright beat them, at a ridiculously low fraction of the price too!  BUT, they're not speakers though, and won't provide you with the same experience.. ;)


Edited by GirgleMirt - 9/6/13 at 2:40pm
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post
 

Headphones are very different from speakers. There are some things that speakers will nearly always do better than headphones. However there are some things that headphones will nearly always do better than speakers.

 

In my long experience with speakers what matters the most is the quality of the acoustic treatments of the room in which the speakers are placed, assuming the speakers are of a reasonable quality. This is the amazing untold story of getting good sound from stereo speakers. The acoustic of the room in which they are placed is just as much a part of the system as the design of the speakers.

 

Anyway, back to headphones. If you can live with the sonic environment created by the headphones they offer some huge benefits over speakers. Headphones are nearly always single driver, without any cross-over. Dynamic speakers usually have at least one cross-over and this is a big hurdle to creating a good quality of reproduction. Headphones are not dependent on having a room with good acoustic treatments. Headphones require a very small amount of amplification in the driving signal, so it is very cheap to use for example a well designed fully class A solid state amplifier.

 

So, why is the sonic environment created by the headphones odd? The stereo signal is nearly always one that was mixed for use with stereo speakers. With headphones each speaker is exclusive to each ear and this produces a very strange stereo image. The best way to deal with this is to use a good form of cross-feed in the signal. At present there are various cross-feeds available and personally I think that these do greatly improve listening to music with headphones. However I think that cross-feed could and should be developed more than it is at present and I hope that some clever engineers develop the quality of cross-feed further.

 

++ on room and room treatment.

 

For the crossfeed, if you're not opposed to technology, there already exists many solutions in the digital realm.  From dedicated software, to plugins (winamp for instance, iZotope & the kind), to something hardware like an affordable DEQ2496, there's already so many potential solutions...   Or are you saying that out of these, none does an adequate job?!  

 

Btw, I have most of those crossfeeds options, I don't bother for most non-early stereo recordings.  Pretty much all current mixes does contain some crossfeed, it just becomes a necessity for very early stereo records where it sounds like there's a brick wall between the left and right channels.  For some non-mono Beatles and stuff it's a necessity though as these records will drive you insane...


Edited by GirgleMirt - 9/6/13 at 3:06pm
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