Originally Posted by ag8908
I was just curious if the audio community had definitely reached a conclusion that speakers sound better than headphones, to confirm my perceptions. And to say that you should not be allowed to compare headphone sound to speaker sound, because they're apples and oranges, is like saying you can't compare live sound to headphone sound because they're apples an oranges. They're both sounds representing the same source, and they're only apples and oranges because one sounds much better than the other, which is not a basis by which you can prohibit comparisons.
It's fine if you don't know the answer to the OP, but I really don't understand why you had to add a post declaring that no such comparisons between headphones and speakers should be permitted. If you don't know the answer to a question, just go on to another thread. Don't try to sound smart by imposing arbitrary rules denying the validity of the question.
And to waste more time on the notion that adding three speakers can somehow make something sound worse, which is preposterous on its face: when playing a 2 channel song on a 5.1 channel system, you still get the stereo effect, it's just coming out of five speakers instead of two. All that's happening is that the right channel is being played out of two right speakers and the left channel out of two left speakers, and I imagine it plays it evenly in the center, plus the subwoofer of course, which only adds to sub 80z tones.
Okay let's start at the beginning. Of course one can "compare" the sound of headphones to the sound of speakers but all one is really doing is just expressing a preference for the sound of one versus the other. Headphone listening is just a different presentation of the sound of the recording.
For the sack of the way you originally started this thread let me say I find that headphones tend to make one more aware of the details of recording/sound but tend to sacrifice soundstage. More detail because just the act of wearing headphones kind of forces one to have focus on the music - outside sounds and other distractions are much less with headphones then with speakers. Less soundstage than speakers because with headphones one is only the direct sound with none of the reflected sound that one gets when listening to speakers.
Plus there is the 5000 pound elephant that has not been mentioned - headphone bass is never, ever as good as bass from a good speaker system, never.
So there is a "comparison" of headphones to speakers.
Now onto 5.1 channel versus stereo. Basically almost everything you wrote is incorrect.
5.1 channel is not a stereo effect with more speakers - 5.1 channel is an attempt to recreate the sound of the recording venue in one's listening room by having the direct sound of the instruments in the front with the reflected sound of the recording space reproduced by the rear channels. Or at least that's how it's supposed to work. I suspect that what you are talking about is just trying to play a stereo mix through a 5.1 channel without an processing. Plus depending on how well the 5.1 mix is done the center channel can either enhance the sound or just serve to collapse the entire soundstage but the center channel is not just a little bit of the left and right channels. I suggest that you do a little research and reading on the topic of multi-channel sound.
And last but not least a subwoofer does not, or rather should not, just "adds to sub 80z tones". A properly functioning subwoofer should just be reproducing whatever low frequency signals are present in the recording. A good subwoofer that is properly set up will enable the main speakers (be they two speakers, in the case of stereo, or 5, in case of 5.1 channel) to reproduce the mid bass signals without the need for the main speakers to have to reproduce the low bass signal. The use of a subwoofer should, hopefully, mean that there is less distortion in the bass resulting in cleaner and clearer bass. Again perhaps a little research and reading is in order.