Originally Posted by White Lotus
I'm always really confused about how people detect "behind" or "in front" with headphones. Even with binaural recordings, I often have trouble trying to determine if something was "behind" the dummy head of "in front" of it.
So what REALLY confuses me, is when people say that a certain IEM sounds like it's "ten rows back" from the stage, compared to a second IEM, that instead might be "three rows back".
Can someone please clear this up for me?
You know how sound gives you a clue as to where it came from, like a cat swinging its ears around like radar/sonar, you pull the pin on a can opener then it turns its head towards your direction before it even smells it? It's kind of like that. From my ears and limited experience with IEMs I haven't had an experience of anything that 3D on IEMs, but for more general illustrative purposes, here's a few very rough diagrams of what I was hearing when I went to local Hi-Fi stores with my HD600 and Meier Cantate.2, a review unit Burson Soloist, and the stores' various CDPs. For context, here's the review of the Soloist.
Around 75% of my test tracks were progressive and power metal, but for simplicity I only accounted for the vocals (triangle), guitars (rectangular, and rectangular with rounded corners), and drums (circles - numbers not representative of actual numbers of drums, but perception of where each hit, particularly in a roll, are coming from). I omitted the orchestra (including some jazz instruments), choir, and keyboards as I did all these just now. Given they're electric guitar, they aren't recorded with strong bias towards left or right, as the sound being recorded isn't coming out of a the guitar itself but from an amplifier in the same room as the recording mic, whose dispersion pattern will make placement matter less. Whether a large or small venue, the dispersion patterns and number of amplifiers will still affect the left and right imaging anyway.
I. HD600 and Meier Corda Cantate.2 (using its USB input) : Relatively small soundstage, but notice how each instrument is generally in their proper place.
II. HD600, Cantate.2/Soloist, Marantz CD5003 :Drums are powerful but are too far forward relative to other notes; vocals are so "upfront" it sounds like it's coming from towards the back of my head; guitars are generally in the proper place but on some notes they're emphasized as coming from the far left and right, and louder than average when it does.
III. HD600, Cantate.2/Soloist, NAD C545 : Drums are all over the place all around my head, which some will describe as "more 3D" but personally it doesn't follow the accurate placement*
IV. HD600, Cantate.2, Cambridge 540C : Drum impact is strong and perception of their place is very, very forward - as in more forward than the vocals - with strong cymbals at either end of the soundstage. Otherwise, left-right panning of the drum set is generally correct.
V. What I understand "Front row" descriptions to be, because that's what it sounds like for electric guitar music events I've been to: Guitars interspersed in the middle but sometimes a strong L or R, vocals up front and loud, drums easy to pick out behind (well, most venues don't amp these, so it's easier from the front) but I can feel the bass drum on my chest. Nth row means to me that generally you push these farther out from the head.
*I myself was so wowed by soundstage size before I didn't care about accurate imaging - I could hear drum rolls throughout my dashboard for example but the guitars don't image wider than that, which by now feels like the band hired Mr. Fantastic to hit drums floating around the stage, with gigantic cymbals (circles near the mirrors) that at some point hurt my ears. My current system compresses the drums towards the center, notes seem "smaller" spatially but that's because they're not trying to go, "look at me! look at me!" in terms of loudness, and the cymbals back along the same plane. When I had a sub that got the response of the low bass up, the bass drum would be around where the handbrake on the center console is (not good either).
Edited by ProtegeManiac - 11/27/13 at 2:53am