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Headphones vs Speakers -- an Inconvenient Truth

post #1 of 257
Thread Starter 
Most people say that after a certain point, high end headphones stop making sense and money is better spent on speakers.

But the hard truth to face is -- speakers aren't nearly as resolving as high end headphones, and getting than the center image from loudspeakers takes an optimal room geometry that most people don't have. My speakers sound like veiled trash next to my HE-6, TH900 and Utopia.
post #2 of 257

Thank you for your opinion.:popcorn:

post #3 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyUnder View Post

Most people say that after a certain point, high end headphones stop making sense and money is better spent on speakers.

But the hard truth to face is -- speakers aren't nearly as resolving as high end headphones, and getting than the center image from loudspeakers takes an optimal room geometry that most people don't have. My speakers sound like veiled trash next to my HE-6, TH900 and Utopia.

 

Well the thing is some people do neglect to take into account that the money on an expensive headphone system could have been spent on acoustic treatments so their speakers don't sound like veiled trash or have a weird soundstage. I didn't start really getting into headphones until I spent a little bit on acoustic panels that didn't fix the skewed image in my room.

post #4 of 257
Thread Starter 
Well I've spent over $500 on carpeting and acoustic panels. My entire living room was made into a listening room.

I got a pair of those new Chane 1.4s (bookshelves) and a Teac integrated (which claims to use an ICEPower amp so it shouldn't be garbage) to power them.

Veiled, rolled off, BORING, unresolving. It's true that the soundstage is wide, but it's basically center, left and right.

It's like, I'm listening to THIS instead of my Utopias?

So what's going on? Are my speakers just entry level junk and I'm being taught a lesson for listening to avsforum?
post #5 of 257

Even if I heard a speaker system that was better than headphone systems in every way, I would still prefer the intimate presentation of headphones. I favor feeling at one with the music rather than having it come at me from a distance.

 

I think it's funny when people talk about headphones having giant soundstages. An HD 800 is on my head right now and it sounds pretty intimate to me—just the way I like it. (Even cheap desktop speakers are far more spacious.)

 

Some interesting articles:

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/strengths-and-weaknesses-headphones-and-speakers

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/across-great-divide-can-we-love-headphones-speakers-equally

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/aes-headphone-technology-conference-highlight-paper

 

Quote:
Imaging - Here's one I didn't know: Turns out that while headphone imaging is inside the head, it has been found to be more precise than speakers. In the plot above, speakers at 3 meters (normal room listening), speakers at 1 meter (near field listening), and headphones were evaluated for the ability to precisely locate a sound within the normal stereo image.
post #6 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyUnder View Post

Most people say that after a certain point, high end headphones stop making sense and money is better spent on speakers

 

Sir;
I'm not convinced that most people really say that. I think that "most people" on this site agree that headphone and speaker imaging differ. I also agree that folks will prefer one or the other. But "after a certain point" one is better than the other...nonsense Sir. 
post #7 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyUnder View Post

Well I've spent over $500 on carpeting and acoustic panels. My entire living room was made into a listening room.

I got a pair of those new Chane 1.4s (bookshelves) and a Teac integrated (which claims to use an ICEPower amp so it shouldn't be garbage) to power them.

Veiled, rolled off, BORING, unresolving. It's true that the soundstage is wide, but it's basically center, left and right.

It's like, I'm listening to THIS instead of my Utopias?

So what's going on? Are my speakers just entry level junk and I'm being taught a lesson for listening to avsforum?

 

The problem with speakers is that you have an entire room that can affect the sound whereas headphones are just right there by your ear canals. That makes it easier for a headphone to be more resolving since the room barely affects it past ambient noise. On the flipside, your left ear can't hear the right driver and vice versa, so imaging even on an HD800 can have issues. In some cases it's not even higher resolution but that you have some mild peaks (but peaks nonetheless) on the treble response that enhances what you perceive to be detail. Look at how headphones known to be "detailed" have such peaks while anything with a relatively flat though relatively weaker output (vs 1000hz and below) are known to be "laid back." Case in point: K701 vs HD650.

 

If you speakers sound like a headphone, ie, strong L-C-R with nothing in-between, that's as likely a problem with the room as the speakers. For starters, that kind of problem primarily lies in toe-in angles, and then on the room. Depending on the dispersion patter, too much toe in means narrow soundstage; too little, and you have a very 2D image with strong output on the flanks and center.  And what works with your seat 1.5m away won't necessarily work from 3m away.

 

Also, having tried some treatments doesn't automatically mean the speaker sucks, let alone all speakers suck, but of course there comes a point where treatments essentially will be like rebuilding the room altogether and the downsides of headphones are a good compromise compared to the time and money involved (let alone if you can even do such extensive work on the room).

post #8 of 257

Different horses for different courses.

 

Very best.

post #9 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by penmarker View Post

Different horses for different courses.



 



Very best.


 



My thoughts exactly. Its an entirely different listening experience, not just depending on the individual, but also location and situation.
post #10 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyUnder View Post

Well I've spent over $500 on carpeting and acoustic panels. My entire living room was made into a listening room.

I got a pair of those new Chane 1.4s (bookshelves) and a Teac integrated (which claims to use an ICEPower amp so it shouldn't be garbage) to power them.

Veiled, rolled off, BORING, unresolving. It's true that the soundstage is wide, but it's basically center, left and right.

It's like, I'm listening to THIS instead of my Utopias?

So what's going on? Are my speakers just entry level junk and I'm being taught a lesson for listening to avsforum?

I know you're likely baiting, but you cannot really compare a set of 400 dollar speakers with a pair of 4000 dollar headphones and anticipate them to be as good.

post #11 of 257
I use a $6000 integrated amp, I own most of the decent high end headphones. My speakers are preety good $10,000 msrp. I like some songs better on the headphones. Speakers > headphones. I blast speakers when no one is home and headphones when there are people. If I had to start all over I would go with speakers first.
post #12 of 257
A carefully chosen, matched and properly positioned room-audio setup can be a thing of beauty. It will be less detailed and less neutral than headphones...but maybe more forgiving of most recordings. Nearly all headphones sound hyper detailed and too precise compared to a live acoustical performance of classical music. I find prices of a great headphone setup to be cheaper than a room based one, but not by that much. Room acoustics mods are free or dirt cheap. Decent inexpensive speakers are everywhere, cheap amps are common too.
post #13 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyUnder View Post

Well I've spent over $500 on carpeting and acoustic panels. My entire living room was made into a listening room.

I got a pair of those new Chane 1.4s (bookshelves) and a Teac integrated (which claims to use an ICEPower amp so it shouldn't be garbage) to power them.

Veiled, rolled off, BORING, unresolving. It's true that the soundstage is wide, but it's basically center, left and right.

It's like, I'm listening to THIS instead of my Utopias?

So what's going on? Are my speakers just entry level junk and I'm being taught a lesson for listening to avsforum?

 

IMO you chose the wrong speakers. I chose the Yamaha HS7 as my bookshelf speaker due to their unveiled presentation, precise imaging and excellent resolution for the price. It's better sounding and resolving than my AKG K712 headphone. Seriously, if you have invested so much on headphones already, you need to match it with speaker setup just to be on Utopia's level. For example KEF Reference 1 when listened on a small living room should be able to keep up with Utopias in sound quality.

post #14 of 257

there is no inconvenient truth imo.

Hi

to each their own.

 

a colleague i know feels headgear is subpar to a nice speaker setup.

he once had a US$70k system (his interconnects alone were $5k each)

..he preferred his beloved sonus faber speakers and wadia cd player and esoteric $20k japanese shindo tube amp.

but he also had to spend 2k on room treatments, too.

he's recently downsized 90% but still prefers 3d speaker sound.

he feels headgear can't compete on imaging, space etc.

in fact he only uses his cans (senn momentums) for late night listening

so as to not disturb his wife while sleeping.

(but give cans a few yrs: more tech is coming out to take that 'in our head' sound

to make it more speaker and 3d like).

 

i just got back into audio last yr...started off with head gear.

 

recently, however, I realized that i missed the larger, room filling music from speakers.  

eg., when cooking or cleaning up having some live music to add some joy and life to my apt

or while surfing at my desktop.

so i  started with a desktop setup near  my kitchen: got the audioengine a5+ and a pioneer sub

...love the live music that can now spill out around me.

now moving up to trying to find some focal alpha 50s to replace the audioengine a5+.

additionally I am now looking at the new kef ls50 wls speakers to start

setting up a home system in the living room.

 

but that said: i also love the fab resolution and bang for buck value that good headgear

can deliver, esp when i want to crank things up guilt free and not worry

about pissing off my neighbours....looking at the focal elear to replace or compliment my senn 650s

 

so in the end: different strokes for different folks...i love both, to be frank

which is ideally what many of us perfer...but in the end it's a matter of limited $$$.


Edited by canali - 1/31/17 at 5:24am
post #15 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyUnder View Post

Well I've spent over $500 on carpeting and acoustic panels. My entire living room was made into a listening room.

I got a pair of those new Chane 1.4s (bookshelves) and a Teac integrated (which claims to use an ICEPower amp so it shouldn't be garbage) to power them.

Veiled, rolled off, BORING, unresolving. It's true that the soundstage is wide, but it's basically center, left and right.

It's like, I'm listening to THIS instead of my Utopias?

So what's going on? Are my speakers just entry level junk and I'm being taught a lesson for listening to avsforum?


 

 

 

Put one of these in the audio circuit and the veiling will be gone...https://www.amazon.com/BBE-Sound-482i-Sonic-Maximizer/dp/B0002FDKIW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485136499&sr=8-1&keywords=482i+sonic+maximizer   

 

 

.... Tweak the bottom end until it sounds balanced.  No need for a sub woofer if the speakers are of high enough quality in many cases...  and, I advise keeping off the high end process unless your speakers really need it.

 

The heart of this unit is the NJM2153 chip made by NJR Corporation. Its the same company that gave us the audiophile Muses 01 and 02 chips.  It was designed to counter the veiling effect found in speakers.   All you interconnects and cables will suddenly reveal their strengths, or weaknesses.  Why?  Transparency.


Edited by 5genez - 1/22/17 at 6:12pm
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