or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › Stereo imaging and headphone: Have we been underestimating our ability to percieve?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Stereo imaging and headphone: Have we been underestimating our ability to percieve?

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

I understand traditions and I understand the 'if it works, stay with it' mentality but after reading so many posts on if your going to seriously make music, you 'have' to do it on montiors because they physically show you where the stereo image is...

But what about people who have listened mixed-on-monitors-music on headphones for years and years? Wouldn't they develop a perception of that stereo image? I suppose it would help to go back and forth between monitors and headphones but I can't help but feel people are being over traditional and stick-to-the-books instead of being an independent mind who (say) using the placebo effect, can make music with well done stereo imaging on headphones.

post #2 of 34
Studio monitors have more advantages over headphones for mixing and mastering than just stereo imaging. The corporal feel of sub bass can help balance low frequencies. You can mix something on headphones and they sound fine, and then listen to the same mix on speakers and the walls shake. The opposite is true of high frequencies... mix on cans- fine, play back on speakers and the high end disappears.

But that said, stereo imaging is MUCH easier with speakers, because you can balance the sonic cues of depth better when the sound is physically in front of you at a distance, than you can when it bisects your skull.
post #3 of 34
Thread Starter 

Thank you for an informative response :)

post #4 of 34

Soundstage arises when sounds interact with the environment. As a result, the sound you hear has information about angle, distance, echo/reverberation, etc encoded into it. The brain processes this into soundstage.

 

This works for speakers because they are separated from your head, and inside some sort of room.

 

However, headphones do not have this - the sound effectively hits your ear directly. Therefore headphones cannot have real 'soundstage'. They may have distortions that the brain mistakenly interprets as positioning data, which can cause a small 'illusion' of soundstage.

 

The other alternative is to directly encode this environmental information into the recording itself. e.g. binaural recordings.

post #5 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by higbvuyb View Post
 

Soundstage arises when sounds interact with the environment. As a result, the sound you hear has information about angle, distance, echo/reverberation, etc encoded into it. The brain processes this into soundstage.

 

This works for speakers because they are separated from your head, and inside some sort of room.

 

However, headphones do not have this - the sound effectively hits your ear directly. Therefore headphones cannot have real 'soundstage'. They may have distortions that the brain mistakenly interprets as positioning data, which can cause a small 'illusion' of soundstage.

 

The other alternative is to directly encode this environmental information into the recording itself. e.g. binaural recordings.

But, wouldn't all that information be sensed by the mic.  mic should pic up the sound after it went through all this.  And then we listen to whatever that mic has picked up.

 

Regarding speakers, wouldn't you want sound directly from the speakers projected toward you?  Let say you had a pretty good damping material around you.  How is it different from headphones projecting sound directly to your ears?

 

One difference I can think of is that headphones move with your head, but speakers do not, so for speakers the direction of the sound from each channel is fixed.


Edited by SilverEars - 4/22/14 at 5:18am
post #6 of 34
We pinpoint sounds in three dimensional space around us by moving our heads around slightly as we listen. That works with speakers, but not headphones.
post #7 of 34

Ok, another question.  For headphones, if you listen with the driver upside down, it should sound no different.  Ok now, lets do that(turn them upside down) with speakers with crossovers with many different dynamic drivers.  Would it change the spacial image of the sound if you do that with the speakers?


Edited by SilverEars - 4/22/14 at 7:40pm
post #8 of 34
Generally, you want the woofer in cabinet speakers near the floorr, and mid and tweeter near ear level. Unless you listen standing on your head.
post #9 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverEars View Post

Ok, another question.  For headphones, if you listen with the driver upside down, it should sound no different.  Ok now, lets do that(turn them upside down) with speakers with crossovers with many different dynamic drivers.  Would it change the spacial image of the sound if you do that with the speakers?

The higher the frequency, the more directional the sound (the lower, the less so). That's why you want tweeters generally pointed at your ears. The sound would change if the tweets were on the ground (and not designed to be there).

With headphones, all frequencies are pointed at your ears.
post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverEars View Post
 

Ok, another question.  For headphones, if you listen with the driver upside down, it should sound no different. 

 

The question is how to do that properly in terms of fit. Wear the AKG K701 upside down, and the fat side of the earpads that give the drivers some toe-in will be on the front of your ears. Even if you can reverse the mounting of the earpads, your throat will get in the way of the headband.  In any case there's really no point in reversing the driver mount because it's the same round full range driver.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverEars View Post
 

Ok now, lets do that(turn them upside down) with speakers with crossovers with many different dynamic drivers.  Would it change the spacial image of the sound if you do that with the speakers?

 

 

If it changes the height of the drivers relative to your ears at your listening chair, or it moves drivers closer to the floor, then it will affect the sound. Simply putting a speaker upside down has a similar effect to the earpads on the K701 above - it just wasn't designed to work that way. A tower speaker with its bass driver 2ft off the floor and the tweeter at ear level will not have a tweeter on the floor and the bass driver even lower. 

 

If what you mean is that you will design a totally new cabinet to mount the speakers in, then yes it can make a lot of difference if you move the bass drivers away from the floor, since there won't be as much bass bouncingoff the floor and pulling the bass image down especially if your room is too small. The question you might have at this point is that, if so, why don't manufacturers all make the same kind ofcabinets as high-end Dynaudios if putting the bass driver away from the floor can improve the sound. First, business economics - it will make cabinets larger, thus more expensive to ship. Second, regardless of where the drivers are, a room too small is a room too small for that many drivers - placing a speaker with the usual bass driver orientation/location in a larger room is more likely to help the bass image than putting the even larger Dynaudios into the same room already too small for those other speakers. Aside from reflections off the floor the basic problem is time alignment - if your listening chair isn't far enough, then there is enough variance in the distance from your ears to each of the drivers. The farther you are, the smaller the variance is. At the same time, if you can minimize this variation but now have the listneing chair back against the rear wall, you'd have other acoustic problems.

 

Similarly it's this time alignment problem that causes problems in cars, unless you have a Mclaren F1, at which point the center driving position is offset by the engine music (why listen to anything else besides that V12 at full tilt, which you can't listen to in your audio room at home?). Dealing with  this requires customized mounting of the speakers to deal with the time alignment, such as mounting in the kickpanels to reduce the variance, as well as proper angling to minimize reflections and maximize the center image (just like toe-in), then finally you apply time delays with a processor so all the sound arrives at the listener's ear simultaneously (tough luck for the passengers, but hey, how many people regularly riding with the owner aren't tone deaf?)

post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by higbvuyb View Post

Soundstage arises when sounds interact with the environment. As a result, the sound you hear has information about angle, distance, echo/reverberation, etc encoded into it. The brain processes this into soundstage.

This works for speakers because they are separated from your head, and inside some sort of room.

However, headphones do not have this - the sound effectively hits your ear directly. Therefore headphones cannot have real 'soundstage'. They may have distortions that the brain mistakenly interprets as positioning data, which can cause a small 'illusion' of soundstage.

The other alternative is to directly encode this environmental information into the recording itself. e.g. binaural recordings.

Huh? Why wouldn't headphones be capable of conveying positional data? What do you mean by "distortion" in this context?
post #12 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by riverlethe View Post


Huh? Why wouldn't headphones be capable of conveying positional data? 

 

Because a little bit of reflection off the room helps in conveying positional data. Headphones still can convey some of that in terms of the relative position of the mics and the instruments, but don't be blown away by reviewers who are absolutely blown away by a headphone's soundstage. Also your left ear doesn't hear teh right driver and vice versa, and while Crossfeed can tame strong Left and Right signals that a number of headphones have, it sometimes makes the Center channel much stronger, changing the trident-shaped soundstage (strong L-C-R, weak between L-C and C-R) into a spearhead cavalry charge with Alexander or Ptolemy at the head of it looming larger than life as the vocals get pushed further into your head.

post #13 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by riverlethe View Post


Huh? Why wouldn't headphones be capable of conveying positional data? What do you mean by "distortion" in this context?

 

For simplicity consider a single instrument hard-panned to the left.

 

For the 'real' sound, the sound travels from the instrument to the nearest ear.

A short time later (at a diminished volume), the same sound reaches the other ear.

As it hits the ear, the sound is slightly modified based on the direction the sound came from (this is the HRTF).

The brain picks up that change in sound, the delay on the right side, and difference in loudness to accurately locate the sound in space.

The brain also identifies reflections from the walls of the room, contributing to a sense of space.

 

For speakers, the sound comes from the left speaker only.

The sound travels to the left ear, and also reaches the right ear a short time later.

As it hits the ear, the sound is slightly modified based on the direction the sound came from.

The brain picks up that change in sound, the delay on the right side, and difference in loudness to locate the sound in space. Not as accurate as real life because the speakers play from a fixed position from the front (for stereo, at least. Which is why we have 5.1)

The brain also identifies reflections from the walls of the room, contributing to a sense of space.

 

For headphones:

The sound plays in the left ear.

Nothing hits the right ear (other than a small amount of leakage)

The sound wave is fairly planar rather than coming from a particular direction, so no directional information there.

You can tell the sound is from the left, but only because it sounds like you've gone deaf in the right ear.

There are no room reflections.

 

 

This also depends on how the music is miced.

 

 

As you can see, headphones only have the crudest of directionality cues.

Headphones can produce the illusion of soundstage through distortions in frequency response or phase.


Edited by higbvuyb - 4/24/14 at 1:42am
post #14 of 34
Sure, but most sounds aren't hard panned to the left or right. Also, the fully open-backed designs have a LOT of leakage. Isn't there enough positional information to get a good idea of where sounds are in the mix?
post #15 of 34
With headphones, you can determine left/right position in one dimension- a straight line through the middle of the skull. With speakers, the soundstage is laid out in front of you with the room and distance from the speakers adding dimensionality. Most music is mixed for speakers, not headphones.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Sound Science
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › Stereo imaging and headphone: Have we been underestimating our ability to percieve?