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"Distant" sound = "airy"?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

I have been looking for new headphones and recently got HD598 and HE-400.

 

HD598 arrived first, and I had about a week to solely listen to it. Then, HE-400 came after I was somewhat used to the sound of HD598.

 

My setup is PC/Android -> Centrance Hifi-M8 -> headphones.

 

The first impression on HE-400 was that it sounds very "distant" compared to HD598. It could be that I was already used to the sound of HD598, but HE-400 sounds like I am listening to music from far back row or something. On the other hands, HD598 sounds alot closer and "engaging". I prefer sound of HD598 alot more. This makes me want to crank up the volume when I listen to HE-400, which is probably not very good for my ears.

 

I searched for "distant" in HE-400 thread, and there's alot of impression like mine. Some people say velour pads help, but even with velour pads, the difference is significant.

 

My question is: is "distant sound" what people describe as "airy" and having "wide soundstage"? If they are the same, then I guess I don't like "wide soundstage" and probably should stick to closed phone...?

 

Also, is "sennheiser veil" similar to what I am experiencing from HE-400 (distant sound)? If so, I should stay away from HD650? (according to review by innerfidelity, HD600 doesn't suffer from the veil so much).

 

Thanks in advance for your help!

post #2 of 18

I'm going to comment based on my experience with the beyerdynamic dt990 which is similar to your senn's, and compare them to my experience with my denon d5000 and audeze lcd 2. Plus anything else I might have heard that I dont own.

So that distant sound can be a few things, for one it is in fact part of the airy wide soundstage sound, something my dt990's have, compared to my other headphones. but you get used to it, and start to learn how thats the more normal sound for good headphones (even the ones that people call "smaller soundstage" like the lcd 2, which are only small in comparison to super high end headphones like the hd800 or something). but despite this, it shouldn't sound boring or lacking engagement. Usually that occurs when headphones are not being powered correctly, because it prevents the drivers from accessing their full range of motion, which causes the sound to be quieter, more distant, and a little dull. So maybe try powering the HE-400 with something that outputs more power, although your centrance really should be doing it well. so I'm not 100% sure on the reasoning, other than maybe not being used to it?.

I mean I too like the more engaging sound, hence my current headphones being lcd 2 and d5000 lol. both of those are considered warmer, closer sound stage, and more intimate with the music (engaging). but I never felt like the dt990 wasn't engaging or distant in a bad way like you described with the HE-400.

Also the sennheiser veil is not the same as the distant sound. the veil is more like an overall clarity of the sound rather than distance and engagement. usually the veil gets lifted when you power it with enough power, because the veil is pretty much the result from the drivers not being powered well enough.

Honestly one thing that may improve your sound is instead of using just the centrance, get a seperate dac and amp to use with your computer, something that has decent power output, and a dac that has decent sound reproduction abilities. That should definitely do something to your headphones in a good way.

One thing about the distant sound is that is usually has to do with the midrange being distant. and a wide sound stage is not the same as that. if you ever get the chance to listen to the hd800 or some higher end beyerdynamic headphone, then you will be able to know for sure whether you just simply dont like a wide sound stage, or if the sound of HE-400 is the problem, or if your set up is the problem.

post #3 of 18
I respectfully disagree with the amping requirenments cited above.
And distant does not equal airy at all. I'll be happy to explain further if you want me to.
post #4 of 18

It's simple really.  The 598 has slightly emphasized upper-midrange (2-4khz), the HE-400 has very deemphasized upper midrange.  The more uppermidrange the headphone has, the more harmonic energy and bite many instruments and vocals will have, equating to the instruments sounding closer to you.  The less uppermidrange, the more further back it seems for you.  

 

Airy usually has to do with treble quantity, if something has a good bit of upper treble (9-10khz and beyond.)  The more of that extreme treble, the more spacious and airy the instruments will sound, as if they're not grounded and sound like a recording, and as if they were live right there with you in the room.

 

The 598 has a robust upper-midrange but not so much upper treble, so it could be considered upfront but not too airy.  The HE-400 has a recessed upper midrange but lots of upper treble, so it can be considered distant and airy.

post #5 of 18
Stax lambda models can be considered both airy and up front with a fairly small soundstage. HD800 slightly distant and airy with a very wide soundstage. Just examples.
I think the way we perceive staging, especially with regards to width, depends quite a lot on whether the sound is distant or up front along with whether sound is airy or congested, though there are lots of other factors.
post #6 of 18

I own the HE-400 but have never heard the HD-598. 

I suppose everyone hears things differently, because the HE-400 doesn't sound distant to me at all. I find them to have just about the right balance between intimate and distant, maybe erring on the side of intimate. I'd give the AKG Q701 as an example of a distant sounding headphone. 

You absolutely have enough power to drive the HE-400 properly. They don't need that much power, and the M8 has way more than enough wattage for you. If you don't like the HE-400, that's fine, but a more powerful amp isn't going to change that. 

As far as terminology goes, airy refers to treble extension--an airy headphone is one that can present delicate, precise treble that goes very high. Veil is something like the opposite of airy. It also has to do with treble. A veiled headphone has treble that's less emphasized, and less articulated. Treble contributes to the soundstage of a headphone, so headphones with more treble clarity tend to sound larger and vice versa. But it's not that simple and there are plenty of exceptions. 

 

Distant and wide soundstage are not exactly the same thing, but they tend to go hand-in-hand. Simply put, width and depth (distance) are two different directions in 3-dimensional space. However, most headphones with a wide soundstage also tend to sound distant, in my experience. IMO, the soundstage of the HE-400 has moderate width. However, the HE-400 also presents image placement in a very precise and 3-D way. So within this moderately wide soundstage, instruments have very clear and specific placement. I suppose this could sound like distance to someone, but I disagree personally. 

post #7 of 18

I found HE400s with FiiO E10 more forward than with Modi + Vali but I prefer Schiit over FiiO anyday. So I think your source+amp makes your HE400 "distant".

post #8 of 18
Veiled is not really the opposite of airy. I'd say congested is at least closer to the opposite. Not that it really matters.
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post

Veiled is not really the opposite of airy. I'd say congested is at least closer to the opposite. Not that it really matters.



Honestly, I think airy is a vague term. I don't like it. 

I could be wrong about what airy means (if it even has a precise definition), but I see it as related to treble clarity and extension. I suppose it could also mean that instruments have "air" around them, but I think separation is a better term for that. And I don't think airy is a purely spatial concept (to me, separation is a matter of space, as is congestion). Whereas veil is a matter of treble, not necessarily space.

But IDK. I would never use airy naturally when I'm talking about headphones. Maybe I don't know what it means. 

post #10 of 18
Try some good stats and you'll know what airy is. Headphones can actually be too airy, or at least more than what is natural. Stax lambda signature is a great example of this, though not cuz it has too much treble per se, but because it has some 3 very sharp peaks in the 10+ kHz range. And generally it sounds wonderful.
Terminology in audiophile world is sorrily not as rock solid as one could wish.
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 

Wow, thanks everyone for their input.

 

So summing up what's discussed so far:

 

Airy <-> Congested:

 

These terminologies are related to perceived separation, spacing or "air" between instruments. This is governed by upper treble response (9-10 kHz). Interchangeable with imaging and instrument separation..?

 

Distant <-> Up-front:

 

These terminologies are related to how close the music sound to you. This is governed by upper midrange response (2-4 kHz) where fundamental frequencies are located.

 

Soundstage Width:

 

Determines how wide the perceived soundstage is (in left-right direction?). Often "distant" sound signature is perceived as having a wide sound stage.

 

Soundstage Depth:

 

How is it different from width...? Anyone..?

 

 

This might all seem like theoretical debate which doesn't affect how we enjoy the sound, but to me it's kinda important because I can't demo headphones and rely on other's review. It's important I really understand what people are talking about in their reviews. Please correct any mistake!


Edited by sexhero - 7/2/14 at 9:08pm
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 

Distant and wide soundstage are not exactly the same thing, but they tend to go hand-in-hand. Simply put, width and depth (distance) are two different directions in 3-dimensional space. However, most headphones with a wide soundstage also tend to sound distant, in my experience. IMO, the soundstage of the HE-400 has moderate width. However, the HE-400 also presents image placement in a very precise and 3-D way. So within this moderately wide soundstage, instruments have very clear and specific placement. I suppose this could sound like distance to someone, but I disagree personally. 

 

After reading people's comments and listening to both phones, I definitely agree with above. Although I read alot of reviews that say HD598 has HUGE soundstage, I think HE-400 has at least wider soundstage (I don't know what "deep" soundstage means yet, so this is the best I can describe). Also, imaging and details are better on HE-400. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 

I suppose everyone hears things differently, because the HE-400 doesn't sound distant to me at all. I find them to have just about the right balance between intimate and distant, maybe erring on the side of intimate. I'd give the AKG Q701 as an example of a distant sounding headphone. 

 

When I listen to HE-400 alone, it doesn't sounds "distant" at all. But compared to HD598, HD598 has much more forward vocal and maybe a bit more forward instruments; it makes HE-400 sound relatively "distant". I can definitely see some people prefer the signature of HE-400 over that of HD598 though.

post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 

While reading some reviews, I ran into the following paragraph from this link (Headfonia - Old School Trio) and I think it describes very well what "air" is.

 

Quote:
Another factor that deeply disturbs the K701′s soundstage presentation is the lack of air between the instruments. The K701 separates the instruments very well with distinct distances between them. Yet, the background is almost too clean. Live recordings almost always have a small amount of air sound — that is, the sound of the air moving around the microphone. And it happens that this air is very critical for achieving a realistic ambiance. On the K701, the air sound is non existant. And while that may help give a clearer separation between the instruments, ultimately it makes the instruments disconnected without a proper “air” between them. It’s like taking a photograph of 5 people, cropping them in Photoshop, and laying them out in a perfectly clean white background. You get a very clean look at the subjects, but the photograph wouldn’t look very realistic.

 

Hope it helps!

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMRaven View Post
 

It's simple really.  The 598 has slightly emphasized upper-midrange (2-4khz), the HE-400 has very deemphasized upper midrange.  The more uppermidrange the headphone has, the more harmonic energy and bite many instruments and vocals will have, equating to the instruments sounding closer to you.  The less uppermidrange, the more further back it seems for you.  

 

Pretty much this.  If you haven't tried it already, and you don't mind EQing, just bump up the upper mid-range and it should make quite a difference.

post #15 of 18
You know there is a glossary somewhere on this site, right?
Air is not interchangeable with instrument separation and imaging.
What you'll have past 1 kHz from human voices is generally overtones by the way (not fundamentals)
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