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Mid-Fi, or Hi-Fi with a glass ceiling: Roland, Yamaha, Sony...?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Choosing headphones, it’s very complex. No way I can be as scientific and accurate in my words as many are capable of on this forum. I come to you as a soft-bellied newbie. Have mercy!

 

I like these, in this order: Roland RH-300, Yamaha HPH-200, Sony MDR7506. I thought I the Audio Technica ATH-M50 would be good, until I read about boomy bass and recessed mids. I wouldn’t like that, since I like things like Motorhead guitar, and those little parts of any music that sometimes you only notice after years, which for me are often in the mids.

 

What I want headphones for: analytical (but not cold?) type music listening (have other IEMs for general knock-around listening, plus home and car stereo) and for music tracking (guitars, vocals). Music listening is a potentially interesting topic. Most of what I listen to has a lot of dynamic interplay going on, but most of it is lo-fi, too (ethnographic recordings made with one mic, or certain lo-fi rock and metal bands, even their demo tapes, i.e. recorded on cassette). The highest fi I listen to is 1990’s level, rock and metal mostly. Let’s say, to be safe: ...And Justice for All. That's lots of production, but nothing like dubstep, “modern metal,” contemporary pop and hip-hop, etc.

 

Not looking to be blown away like the guy in the famous Maxell ad. I want to be like the guys in diamond shops who have those eye-piece goggles that let them see cracks. But pleasure too, it's gotta be there! Not looking to explore headphones for their own sake. Don't want to use an amp, and would like whatever's a decent compromise for straight out of an ipod, home stereo, digital 8-track recorder, etc.

 

I like the cord on one side. Two sides gets in my way when I have other cords around. Yamaha has cord on both sides. (BTW, Yamaha HPH-200 is listed as discontinued on the Yamaha site, and on B&H, but still available elsewhere). Sony seems OK, but the damn coil, don’t need that. Plus the flake, it bothered me from a cheap Sennheiser set I have. The Roland seems great, but most expensive. I don't need isolation, and would prefer to hear parts and also to hear the phone ring. But I'd still go with the Rolands, if I could only be financially reckless for the time it takes to point and click.

 

Anyway, I've gotten a lot out of reading so many of your posts the past few days. So I wanted to chime in.

post #2 of 11

They must be closed? And what's the budget?

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Don't have a preference on open/closed per se, but I don't need so much isolation. On the other hand, don't need to hear ambient sounds or ambient sounds of instruments either. Want decent sense of space and separation (one of the things that turned me off from ath-m50). Budget up to around $150, but no rush (i.e. I can wait through price-matching, sales, etc.). Thanks for reading.

post #4 of 11

I have a feeling that the SRH840/940 might be what you're looking for. More info @ the SRH840 thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/433356/srh840-impression

 

In fact there's two pairs of like-new SRH840's on Amazon for ~$113... pretty good deal and within your budget.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

OK, I read about them, and added Shures to list of possibilities. EDIT: but the thing about the over-presence of mids is a concern, and seems like they need an amp maybe.


Edited by SwoopingCough - 12/25/13 at 12:30am
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

More re-reading of the same reviews, has Yamaha HPH-200 back at the top. Also AKG K141 MKII. The Yamaha seem fine w/o amp, what about the AKGs? Turned off from Roland by no-replacement-pads issue, from Shures by amp-requirement and stressed mids issues. Somehow liking the open or semi-open idea. Oh my, complicated.

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by SwoopingCough View Post
 

More re-reading of the same reviews, has Yamaha HPH-200 back at the top. Also AKG K141 MKII. The Yamaha seem fine w/o amp, what about the AKGs? Turned off from Roland by no-replacement-pads issue, from Shures by amp-requirement and stressed mids issues. Somehow liking the open or semi-open idea. Oh my, complicated.

What sources are the headphones going to be plugged into?

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

Says above, my Angel. Small-fry digital electronics mostly (8-track, digital recorder, ipod, etc...), un-amped. EDIT: I think it's down to either Yamaha HPH-200 or AKG K141 MKII. Anyone? Anyone? I just let go a chance for the AKG, new at $69 on ebay, but wasn't really sure yet. If it was the Yamaha, I'd a taken it. When I awoke this morning I felt that pang of oh! missed my chance! Probably one of you guys took it from right under my nose. But then I thought to myself, well, maybe I should meditate on the unique emotions that consumer capitalism generates in me. Yeah, HPH-200 or K141 now.


Edited by SwoopingCough - 12/26/13 at 7:03am
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've decided, semi-tentatively, to get the Yamaha HPH-200. Here is a graph of the sound quality, which is really what sealed it for me:

 

 

As you can see, frequency response (with price of amp adjustment) changes as time goes by (from date of purchase, as headphones burn in) over a 6-month period.

 

I decided on open design. I remember not liking that "sealed in" sensation after long sessions with my old closed ones a few years ago. It always felt like my head had been in a decompression chamber, and I wanted nothing more than to go outside, hear birds, planes, supermen from far away, feel breezes on my ears, etc. I don't like the sense of being totally cut off aurally from my surroundings, either, or from the physical sound of my instruments, even if amplified through the headphones. These previous headphone experiences have just been coming back to me as I've been wasting my time reading and re-reading.

 

I decided against the AKG's because of some bass comments I read, and also they look huge, like they double as SETI scanners. They probably wouldn't find anything between my ears anyway. The Yamaha's are nice and compact, even if I don't like the double-cord thing.

 

OK, the above graph's really just the online price over the last 6 months, from CNet. (Ha ha, I love corny jokes). Grey average, red high. As you see it's never been so expensive as now. I know I can get 15% or more off just calling sellers, but I want to see if this graph changes, too. BTW, I emailed Yamaha about the conflicting information regarding whether these were discontinued or not, and they responded today saying they're still in production.

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

I ordered the Yamahas. Just wanted to say these guys have them $30 less than anyone else, which could also be useful for squeezing other sellers if anyone's interested:

 

http://www.eastcoastmusic.com/product-p/zhl750450.htm?CartID=1

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

My impressions of the Yamaha HPH-200:

 

The earpads were a bit uneven, with thick padding in some places, and thinner in others. It bothered me at first, but over the last few weeks I've found that rotating the pads carefully around allows more a customized fit for my head and ears (they're on-hear phones). I don't think it's a deliberate design, because the unevenness was itself uneven. There wasn't really a pattern to it, but I found that basically sliding the thinnest part up to the top is most comfortable. So I'm over that aspect, but I wonder why a company can't get these little things right sometimes (like the cord on the Klipsch s4 Reference, what a nightmare!).

 

I find the HPH-200's very comfortable, though there is a little pressure on the ears. Sometimes I forget I'm wearing them, sometimes I don't. But I got these for laying back relaxed in a quiet environment, doing nothing but listening to music with my eyes closed. And when I do that, I forget I'm wearing them. I have the Klipsch IEMs for walking around. So that works out. Plus, I need to get up every once and a while, there's always little things to attend to, so like many people I'm not looking for any marathon listening sessions anyway. I don't mind to have to adjust a pair of headphones every once in a while, within reason.

 

The HPH-200's aren't headphones for gooey hi-fi immersion. I wanted a relatively even-responding headphone, and it did take a while to adjust to this. I was used to listening at higher volumes with cheaper headphones or IEMs, and sometimes felt I had to in order to get the details I wanted. With the HPH-200's, I feel that lower is better. I've put my iPod EQ back on flat, and it sounds better. At medium-high levels and up, they feel the headphones lack bass. But at low to medium-low, the bass seems mysteriously present. For example, in metal (I noticed this in Metallica's Ride the Lighting and Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger) there's often guitars doing more up front riffs with harsher textures, and then when they stop just for a very brief rest of an eighth-note within the riff, the bass will have its own muted note right there. The effect's a sort of counterpoint, I guess, but often hard to hear since the two elements (up-front guitar and subdued, muted bass) are so apart in terms of their sonic qualities. I don't hear those little things so easily when the HPH-200's are turned up loud. When I turn them down, they're there again, and even jump out. Getting adjusted to the new way that bass sounds can be half the problem. You get used to how bass (or any other aspect for that matter) sounds on a particular headphone that you find pleasurable, and judge all others by that. But it's enjoyable to be forced to find a new way to enjoy bass that you might have missed earlier. Back to the levels thing, maybe there's a scientific amplitude or frequency-related explanation, but I think it's at least partly due the to ear/brain configuration somehow tensing up with louder volumes that it interprets as potentially harmful. I'm not talking about levels loud enough where you'd wince, or fatigue easily, but even lower than that, where you might miss on certain details because the ear is instinctively bracing for louder sounds. At lower levels, the ear's totally relaxed, with no threat of sudden piercing snare hits or whatever, and so is able to 'open' more. At least it seems true in my listening experience.

 

On a related note, there's a really strong inclination that many have, myself especially, to turn something up to improve it. And often, it works initially, but I think that's just due to the difference, or the A/B between lower and now higher volume. Similar to gooey types of headphones, the ones that are meant to impress you at first listen so that you buy them. It's a sort of instant-gratification, "wow-factor" thinking that's pushed on us from all sides in our consumerist cultures. When I was 5 my parents forced me to eat a vegetable that was on my plate, something I didn't want to eat, and which I warned them was going to make me throw up. And sure enough, two minutes later there was crimson-red vomit all over my plate, the table, and me. Dr. Dre had nothing to do with it, but you know what I'm talking about. As a musician, it always gets me how loud both guitar players and drummers tend to play, even in situations where they're miked-up. Playing everything at a default loud level (banging on drums, or really hitting the guitar strings hard) just immediately erases any potential a musician's playing has for dynamics. But so many do it. There's a common virtue that would apply in both cases--headphone levels and playing techniques--where restraint pays dividends. The old question of "Do you want a quick thrill or a lasting pleasure?" applies to the HPH-200, and it takes not getting pulled into your own private loudness war. But that's not so easy to do.

 

The HPH-200's are open-back, but at low levels there's not much leak, and I can listen in bed "with my gal by my side," and there's no angry tugs on the blanket or elbows or anything like that. Also, I can relax when the baby's around, and hear her if anything needs attending to. Of course, that takes me briefly out of the listening experience, but I'm finding ways to incorporate all these things into my daily situation (music, baby, etc.). Also, the sound feels like it's coming from outside the headphones, farther away than just an inch or two from my eardrum, which is nice.

 

I'll post more later maybe.

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