or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Please help me with noticing subtle differences in sound quality (setup details in first post)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Please help me with noticing subtle differences in sound quality (setup details in first post)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I have an extremely noobish question.  Is there an easy way to detect sound quality improvements in a setup?  I have the Shure SRH840.  When comparing it to awful headphones, there is an obvious difference to me.  When using the SRH840 in my cheap MP3 player vs. in my laptop, again, there is a somewhat obvious difference to me in sound quality.  However, when I try to compare the sound quality coming through my Hifimediy Sabre DAC and Fiio E11 amp vs. plugging the SRH840 directly into my laptop's headphone jack (with the original sound card), I am not sure that I can discern any difference in sound quality.

 

My question: is there anything specific that I should listen for within songs that would help me notice the improvement that surely exists (rather than listening to the songs overall)?  Alternatively, are there any songs that would be good to help me notice a difference?   I realize that some people have better ears for this sort of thing than others.  Please be specific with musical terms if you can.  I played the piano and alto saxophone for many years, so I should have an idea of what you are talking about.  I mostly like classic rock, classic metal, hair metal, power ballads, and some more modern rock.  However, I am open to any suggestions.  I am using a Dell Latitude E6500 laptop currently with Foobar2000 with the ASIO4ALL plugin.  Most of my music is either WAV lossless from CDs or 320 kbps MP3s.  I hope what I am asking makes sense.

post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

I know the SRH840 is easy to drive.  Is that why the difference is not obvious to me?  I read many posts on this site claiming that a DAC and amp should make the sound better than with a laptop sound card, though.  Any suggestions?

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

One more thing I forgot to mention is that I am using a 32-bit Windows XP system, if that matters.

post #4 of 6

This is a difficult topic because these things are hard to describe. I have a few thoughts on the matter.

It's usually easier to hear differences when you first listen with a "better" set up, and then switch to the worse set up. In the other direction, improvements can be harder to notice because it just sounds more natural. You should also listen to songs that you are very familiar with and that seem to have a good recording quality. I think metal is generally known for having lots of bad recordings (not all of them though).

General things to look for:

the sense of space and depth in the recording, and the locations of different sounds
quiet details and instruments in the background, as well as reverb and echos
bass depth and snap on instruments like drums, cymbals, pianos, or crunch on electric guitars
"black space," the sense of separation between notes of the same instrument

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 

This is a difficult topic because these things are hard to describe. I have a few thoughts on the matter.

It's usually easier to hear differences when you first listen with a "better" set up, and then switch to the worse set up. In the other direction, improvements can be harder to notice because it just sounds more natural. You should also listen to songs that you are very familiar with and that seem to have a good recording quality. I think metal is generally known for having lots of bad recordings (not all of them though).

General things to look for:

the sense of space and depth in the recording, and the locations of different sounds
quiet details and instruments in the background, as well as reverb and echos
bass depth and snap on instruments like drums, cymbals, pianos, or crunch on electric guitars
"black space," the sense of separation between notes of the same instrument

Thanks.  Those general suggestions actually helped!  In some songs, I was able to hear slight improvements (especially in songs with heavy drums and electric guitar) with my DAC and amp.  Some tracks even seemed more balanced with the DAC and amp.  I think listening to individual instruments carefully helped me notice the improved balance more easily.  In other songs, I still absolutely cannot tell the difference between my laptop's headphone jack and my DAC and amp.  I also cannot discern any difference in the space and depth of any songs, but perhaps open headphones would be better for that.  Anyway, the differences are MUCH more subtle than comparing the SRH840 to crappy headphones, but I'm glad I am beginning to really notice them.  Thanks.

post #6 of 6
What's even worse is that when you are comparing expensive headphones to outrageously expensive headphones, the differences can be extremely subtle and none of them are "bad" - they are just different shades of excellent. The law of diminishing returns is a biatch.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Please help me with noticing subtle differences in sound quality (setup details in first post)