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Using a subwoofer with headphones, is it a bad idea?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

It's been awhile since I've joined head-fi, and I've learned a lot since then (like most people tend to) and I may have said something similar awhile ago on these forums, but would it be a bad idea to use a subwoofer with open headphones that are a little light on the bass end? I've actually been reading up on subwoofers, and I know a lot of audiophiles tend to dismiss subwoofers as being slow and sloppy, but that's not always the case. Budget-aside, does anyone think an infinite baffle subwoofer setup would compliment a basslight open headphone --- assuming the room is properly treated with bass traps and there's no issues with room modes? I feel like infinite baffle is the only way to go, like four 8 or 10" drivers with decent extension to 20 - 30 hz might offer the lacking low-end without compromising on sound quality. IBs have excellent speed and low distortion, so perhaps they'd blend in well with even the faster of headphones, maybe not matching the bass definition of planars, but planars don't really need help in that region anyway. I'd like to hear others thoughts on the matter, I feel as though this could be an interesting topic if enough people weigh in their thoughts.

post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by LaPierre View Post
 

It's been awhile since I've joined head-fi, and I've learned a lot since then (like most people tend to) and I may have said something similar awhile ago on these forums, but would it be a bad idea to use a subwoofer with open headphones that are a little light on the bass end? I've actually been reading up on subwoofers, and I know a lot of audiophiles tend to dismiss subwoofers as being slow and sloppy, but that's not always the case. Budget-aside, does anyone think an infinite baffle subwoofer setup would compliment a basslight open headphone --- assuming the room is properly treated with bass traps and there's no issues with room modes? I feel like infinite baffle is the only way to go, like four 8 or 10" drivers with decent extension to 20 - 30 hz might offer the lacking low-end without compromising on sound quality. IBs have excellent speed and low distortion, so perhaps they'd blend in well with even the faster of headphones, maybe not matching the bass definition of planars, but planars don't really need help in that region anyway. I'd like to hear others thoughts on the matter, I feel as though this could be an interesting topic if enough people weigh in their thoughts.


This is sacrilege to admit this, but I've found myself - by mistake - listening to a subwoofer output at the same time as a pair of open headphones.  The impression is not that bad, really.  Admittedly, it was with a movie when you really want some thud to hit your chest in certain sections.  So there may be something to your suggestion.  I'm open to it, at the very least.

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

I think using a subwoofer just to cover 20 - 60ish hz should work pretty well, assuming it's not too bad sounding. I wish more people had experience or have experimented with it -- but not with low-end subs or ported ones, like I said infinite baffles would probably work really well, transmission lines too might be pretty decent. In your experience did the bass feel disjointed or off, or what. I guess even a decent sealed subwoofer probably can't sound too bad, resonant/boxiness aside.

post #4 of 19
Well, you might have a delay issue between the sub and the headphones since the headphone driver is a couple inches from your ear.

However, I don't understand the whole infinite baffle focus. Get a very good single driver sub or maybe a dual opposed sub. Locate it nearfield and you won't have to worry as much about room interaction. Larger drivers are actually better for lower distortion and can have just as fast a transient response as smaller drivers. You might want to read through these bass myths that are debunked.

So unless you are a serious DIY basshead who has experimented a lot with sub designs already and just wants to do it, I think the infinite baffle approach is better left alone. smily_headphones1.gif
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

Well, to me infinite baffles sound good since all you're basically doing is isolating the back-wave from the front-wave and giving it space to breath. I don't really like excessive bass, but good extension is important to me (neutral down to at least 30hz). I don't know too much about dual opposed subwoofers, and larger drivers are definitely not a bad thing -- I was more thinking about myself when I mentioned smaller drivers, as I have a smaller room. But yeah, my main thoughts on subs is that rear-waves are a nuisance unless utilized in a helpful manner like in a properly designed T-line. I'll do some more research though :D . I think infinite baffles are good because my room is above a really large garage,  so it'd be pretty simple to just build one into the floor.

post #6 of 19
That's a lot of effort for adding in bass to headphones smily_headphones1.gif Particularly since you have to solve the delay problem. As far as designs, talk to these guys over at AVS. A lot of very serious sub enthusiasts who build their own. For instance, check out this project thread.

Anyway, I just got some HE-400s, and I'm satisfied with their bass such that I don't think a sub could improve on the bass quality (I have dual 18" home audio sealed subs in my living room, so I am familiar with pretty good bass). What's missing to me is the feel of the bass. Buttkickers or some other tactile transducer could do that.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

I see, I see. I might look through those projects later. Planar magnetics are the exceptions for open headphones, they definitely have a nice textured, linear bass that extends down with ease. I have Sony MDR-MA900s so they have a dissappointing subbass rolloff, but their midbass is fast, punchy and well defined. I only considered the subwoofer route because I didn't want to drop 400$ on the HD-600s which probably don't sound ideal out of my Magni/Modi setup and I also find these MA900s pretty good for their price.

post #8 of 19
Well, it's expensive to built a good subwoofer when you figure in driver cost, enclosure costs, and amplifier. If you are concerned about spending $400 on headphones, seems like you might be thinking outside of your budget here with the sub plan.

I'm sure the HD600s would sound very good out of the Modi/Magni. The Magni is rated up to 600 ohms.

However, there are definitely headphones with better bass extension than the MA900s for less than the HD600s.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

I'm positive there are better headphones than the HD600s for bass extension, but I really love the comfort and total openness of the MA900. And A good subwoofer won't cost that much, I have all the tools necessary to build an enclosure, I was thinking of using 2 budget drivers and a 100 watt amp, seeing as how IB subwoofers reach their excursion limits far before their thermal or wattage limits.
I already have a Reference 1260w driver that seems like it'd fair decently in an Infinite Baffle setup. Also, it's really hard to find open headphones that don't a compromise some way or another. I'm fond of the MA900 cause it has a decent soundstage and excellent imaging, but it also has fast, well textured and punchy bass. It's fault is rolloff on both ends, which as I've said is dissappointing in the low-end. I'd rather not side-shift rather than upgrade when I put over 200$ into a new headphone, and it seems as though I'd have to spend at least over 300$ to surpass the MA900 and even then it's questionable. 

post #10 of 19
The Beyerdynamic DT990 250 ohm is only $143 on Amazon. It is well recognized for having good bass and bass extension. Meanwhile, a subwoofer amp that has 100 watt RMS will cost you $100 or more. So your subwoofer project could easily cost more than an alternative headphone that could give you what you are looking for.

Then what kind of electronics will you use to solve the issue of delay between the subwoofer bass and the bass of the headphones? How will you implement a high pass filter on your headphones to work in conjunction with the low pass filter on a subwoofer amp? If you are not prepared to solve these problems, then what you may end up with is poor bass integration.
post #11 of 19

This is a very interesting idea!  I think finding a headphone that has some thump is the best idea but i am tempted to try this with a subwoofer :D

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

The delay issues might not be that big of a problem, I've sometimes had my bookshelf speakers on while my MA900 is plugged into the receiver and not noticed until I took them off and realized the speakers were on the whole time. The sub will only be about three or four feet away from my ears.. And also, the MA900 drastically roll off under 50 hz so If I just set the crossover on the sub to that it should be fine, more or less.  Also, I did say I already have a 12" driver laying around that I can use, so I only need an amp (and it'd be a waste not to use that driver). ---- also, I don't think I'd like the DT990. Too much treble and it's bass quality is probably inferior to my MA900, though it goes a good amount deeper. You do have good points, but I have a month or two to consider what I truly want to do.  If you think it's not worth it though, I may reconsider. I could probably live with poor LF extension, after all it's not everything.

post #13 of 19
Why not just save up for a nice pair of closed cans?
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

I have M-Audio Q40s and T50rp IIs (modded) so that's not the problem. I have a preference for open headphones, or at least my MA900 for it's natural timbre and realistic imaging and soundstage. But yeah, maybe I shouldn't invest so much into something I truly don't need (but isn't that the audiophile way? :D ).

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by LaPierre View Post

The delay issues might not be that big of a problem, I've sometimes had my bookshelf speakers on while my MA900 is plugged into the receiver and not noticed until I took them off and realized the speakers were on the whole time. The sub will only be about three or four feet away from my ears.. And also, the MA900 drastically roll off under 50 hz so If I just set the crossover on the sub to that it should be fine, more or less.  Also, I did say I already have a 12" driver laying around that I can use, so I only need an amp (and it'd be a waste not to use that driver). ---- also, I don't think I'd like the DT990. Too much treble and it's bass quality is probably inferior to my MA900, though it goes a good amount deeper. You do have good points, but I have a month or two to consider what I truly want to do.  If you think it's not worth it though, I may reconsider. I could probably live with poor LF extension, after all it's not everything.

Well, up top you were talking about the importance of "speed and low distortion," and setup integration issues are just as important for achieving good subwoofer SQ.

I sincerely doubt that the DT900 bass quality is inferior to the MA900. I haven't heard the MA900s, but everything I have read suggests that it is "OK" for bass for the price (for what bass it provides). It would cost you ~~$10 to demo the DT990s if you didn't like them if you order from Amazon.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post

Why not just save up for a nice pair of closed cans?

I agree. Finding the right tool (the right headphones) for the job is almost always the better choice than the Frankenstein solution. There are many other alternatives to the MA900 if bass is what one is looking for. If you have not demoed many headphones in that ~ $200 price range, that's the first step. See if there is a GTG in your area.

Byrnie: I'm not happy with you for having that "want" list in your sig. I looked at that list, and it made me start wanting other stuff. It's not nice to promote upgraditis. (lol)

smily_headphones1.gif
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