Best Flat/Neutral Closed Back Recording/Tracking/Reference headphones under $1000?
Jun 12, 2020 at 12:00 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

TheloniousEllington

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I've been researching many hours so far and haven't found anything that stands out. I know everyone's ear is different and is looking for different qualities.

I'm looking for something that is closed back, so I can track, but also for referencing while I listen back to a track. I want the headphones to be flat or neutral (limited coloration if possible), so that I can pick up on flaws in all (hopefully) frequency ranges.

I've done a decent amount of research and I find the Neumann ndh 20 is close, but some people have said the bass boost is a bit, with 1k cut a little and little to no high end, while some people have said it's too shrill. Again, everyone's ear is different... I want something (since I can't personally test right now with everything going on) that will work for tracking, referencing and possibly mixing within a Closed Back headphone. I like the reviews on the AKG K872, but that's a bit more than what I can afford right now.

Thank you for your time and help. I do appreciate it!
 
Jun 12, 2020 at 12:06 PM Post #2 of 16

Chris Kaoss

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Take a look at the Pioneer SE-Monitor 5.
You can't go wrong with it, at least imo. :wink:

I've bought this headphone after a listening session for exactly this purpose.
It's hard to catch for a discount used, but possible.
Bought mine second hand for 500 € and it was a steal.

Have a great day.
BR
Chris
 
Jun 12, 2020 at 12:13 PM Post #3 of 16

TheloniousEllington

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Take a look at the Pioneer SE-Monitor 5.
You can't go wrong with it, at least imo. :wink:

I've bought this headphone after a listening session for exactly this purpose.
It's hard to catch for a discount used, but possible.
Bought mine second hand for 500 € and it was a steal.

Have a great day.
BR
Chris
Thanks for the advice, I'm going to check that out right now. Question on second hand headphones: is there anything to look out for, besides looking beat up, when deciding to purchase? Thanks again Chris!
 
Jun 12, 2020 at 12:44 PM Post #4 of 16

Chris Kaoss

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A mint look does indicate they were treated well.
Beside that, it'll be a lottery, i guess.
Bought mine second hand from a Hifi-shop, so all went fine for me.
Even from the sales forum on here, it's all about pictures and what've been written by the seller.
I made my decisions after i've heard them by myself to be sure it's a safe bet.
For me, every purchase was fantastic, even on the sales forum.

In the end, buying second hand comes down to your research, good reputation of the seller, and your expectations. :beyersmile:
 
Jun 13, 2020 at 3:47 AM Post #5 of 16

TheloniousEllington

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A mint look does indicate they were treated well.
Beside that, it'll be a lottery, i guess.
Bought mine second hand from a Hifi-shop, so all went fine for me.
Even from the sales forum on here, it's all about pictures and what've been written by the seller.
I made my decisions after i've heard them by myself to be sure it's a safe bet.
For me, every purchase was fantastic, even on the sales forum.

In the end, buying second hand comes down to your research, good reputation of the seller, and your expectations. :beyersmile:
Thank you, I appreciate it. I looked up the SE montior 5's today and they look really good. I'll look out for the deals. Have a great weekend!
 
Jun 15, 2020 at 10:29 PM Post #8 of 16

bzippy

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I assume you have tried doing some reading on recording forums? That's where I would go if i wanted truly neutral monitoring headphones. I'd guess it's a more direct path to your goal. Dunno.
 
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Jun 16, 2020 at 4:08 AM Post #9 of 16

ADUHF

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I'm looking for something that is closed back, so I can track, but also for referencing while I listen back to a track. I want the headphones to be flat or neutral (limited coloration if possible), so that I can pick up on flaws in all (hopefully) frequency ranges.

I do not work in the recording industry. But if you think you're going to be able to find a headphone that's completely neutral out-of-the-box, I think you may be disappointed. AFAIK, such an animal does not exist. And many people will use an EQ to get their headphones closer to what they feel is a neutral response.

More money isn't necessarily the answer either. Many of the higher-priced headphones that are discussed on this forum have a more colored response than the lower-cost ones.

What you really should be using is a pair of anechoically flat speakers with good on and off-axis performance. And some good bass management. Most studios use more than one pair, in part so they can see how their work sounds on different types of equipment. They will also often use a couple different kinds of headphones to check how their work sounds on a variety of different transducers. And some will also listen on their car stereo systems for the same reason. So for many people, a neutral reference can be just a starting point.

You need to clarify what you mean by the word "neutral" as well. Because that word can have different meanings to different people. If you mean the sound of anechoically flat speakers in a typical room, or something which roughly approximates the Harman curve (which is more or less the same thing), then that's probably what you should say. Maybe that's not what you mean though (?).
 
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Jun 16, 2020 at 3:38 PM Post #11 of 16

TheloniousEllington

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I do not work in the recording industry. But if you think you're going to be able to find a headphone that's completely neutral out-of-the-box, I think you may be disappointed. AFAIK, such an animal does not exist. And many people will use an EQ to get their headphones closer to what they feel is a neutral response.

More money isn't necessarily the answer either. Many of the higher-priced headphones that are discussed on this forum have a more colored response than the lower-cost ones.

What you really should be using is a pair of anechoically flat speakers with good on and off-axis performance. And some good bass management. Most studios use more than one pair, in part so they can see how their work sounds on different types of equipment. They will also often use a couple different kinds of headphones to check how their work sounds on a variety of different transducers. And some will also listen on their car stereo systems for the same reason. So for many people, a neutral reference can be just a starting point.

You need to clarify what you mean by the word "neutral" as well. Because that word can have different meanings to different people. If you mean the sound of anechoically flat speakers in a typical room, or something which roughly approximates the Harman curve (which is more or less the same thing), then that's probably what you should say. Maybe that's not what you mean though (?).
I appreciate the insight. You got me looking into somethings I hadn't thought about, so thank you for that. I do understand that there isn't a 100% sounding headphone out there, because of many variables including each person's ear canals being acoustically different than the next, which doesn't let everyone hear the same speaker the same. I'm just trying to find a good monitor headphone to track (good enough isolation), and to reference with good enough clarity on playback and basic mixing. I understand about hearing a mix through many sources to get a better idea of what to keep/change. I have some good close range bookshelf monitors.

As far as I mean by neutral, is not having many boosts in db in some regions of frequency, though I know that's not 100% possible. I don't mean anechoically flat as in a room, because I don't think that'd work on our ears? Maybe I haven't done enough research in that area with headphone speakers, which is why I'm also here, haha! Another way I could put it, is that I would like an honest and very detailed headphone that blends one frequency range to the next without having too much coloration or db boosts in any area.

Thank you again.
 
Jun 16, 2020 at 4:22 PM Post #12 of 16

Undun

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Thanks for the tip! Do you own these? What is your take on them? Thank you for your input.

Yes, I've owned them for just around a year now. "Neutrality" is a hard term to define without some FR target to reference/compare to, but what I can say is that the balance between frequencies is excellent, yet certainly does have an emphasis on lower midrange. This means that it's a mid forward set, but that doesn't mean that you lose out on bass and treble detail. They, while are not high in actual db level, extend amazingly well in both directions. The bass digs very deep and hits extremely quick, but you won't get monster viscerality. It's polite-- it hits fast and low, then disappears. The treble articulation is spectacular as well. Again, it's fast and the micro-detailing is above-average, even at its original price point! If you have equalizer APO--even better. You can dip the lower midrange area by around 1-2 db and add some energy at around 4k and you are set. Very good reference sound, gives you a semblance of a studio speaker balance. All that while maintaining a high level of dynamism, plus you don't have to worry about room acoustics like you would with some monitor speakers :).
 
Jun 21, 2020 at 2:07 AM Post #13 of 16

ADUHF

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I appreciate the insight. You got me looking into somethings I hadn't thought about, so thank you for that. I do understand that there isn't a 100% sounding headphone out there, because of many variables including each person's ear canals being acoustically different than the next, which doesn't let everyone hear the same speaker the same.

I'm just trying to find a good monitor headphone to track (good enough isolation), and to reference with good enough clarity on playback and basic mixing. I understand about hearing a mix through many sources to get a better idea of what to keep/change. I have some good close range bookshelf monitors.

Well, I wish I could give you a simple answer to your question. And just say buy this headphone, and you're all set. But I'm afraid I can't. :) Because there is no de facto headphone with the best, most accurate response across the board that I'm aware of. And it doesn't really have to do with variations in ear shape.

Yes, every ear (and body) will respond a little differently to the sound of a speaker in a room. But they also respond differently to headphones as well. Although the sound in a room can be quite complex, if the same set of frequencies are coming at your ears in both instances, then they should sound fairly similar, whether you are listening to headphones or speakers. Some people might prefer a little more bass in the headphones though to emulate a little more of the visceral impact that lower frequencies can have on your body when listening to speakers in a room. (This is not somethng which should be overdone though.)

As far as I mean by neutral, is not having many boosts in db in some regions of frequency, though I know that's not 100% possible. I don't mean anechoically flat as in a room, because I don't think that'd work on our ears? Maybe I haven't done enough research in that area with headphone speakers, which is why I'm also here, haha! Another way I could put it, is that I would like an honest and very detailed headphone that blends one frequency range to the next without having too much coloration or db boosts in any area.

lossless-page1-800px-Consumer_Reports_-_product_testing_-_headphones_in_anechoic_chamber.tif.png


"Anechoically flat" means the speaker measures flat across most of the frequency spectrum in an echo-free chamber (a room designed to absorb all reflected sounds). As opposed to a normal listening space, where there are some reflections from the walls, floor and ceiling.

When you listen to a loudspeaker in a typical room, you're not just hearing the sounds from the speakers themselves. You're hearing all the reflections as well, which alters the speaker's overall tonal balance, warming it up in the bass/low-frequencies. There is some attenuation in the higher frequencies as well, due to "beaming" (narrower dispersion) and absorption by both the surfaces and air.

It is this in-room or steady-state response that the Harman headphone target attempts to approximate. The Harman curve is intended for use with in-ear (as opposed to in-room) measurements though, taken at the eardrum (aka DRP or drum reference point). Which is why it doesn't look like a conventional room curve which is just elevated/shelved up in the bass, and rolled off in the treble. The ear amplifies some frequencies more than others, especially in the 3000 Hz range. So when you measure sound at the eardrum, there is usually a fairly large bump at that frequency...

EX_z4f1U8AA8V6_


There are other frequencies which can be amplified within in the ear canal as well, typically around 9k and 15k Hz. Which is why you'll often see spikes or peaks in those areas on the raw frequency plots of headphones, like the Sennheiser HD 600, for example...

https://www.rtings.com/headphones/1-4/graph#325/4012

What we're mainly concerned with is the overall response in the treble though. As long as the overall response of the headphone more or less follows the above shape, then it should be pretty close to what many of us would describe as "neutral". A few peaks and valleys in the treble (like on the HD 600 graph) are normal.

The Senn HD 600 is fairly neutral in the midrange and treble. It is significantly more rolled off in the bass though than the Harman curve, because it is open-backed. Dynamic open-back headphones generally have less bass than closed headphones because they can't maintain the pressure needed to produce the lower frequencies. To get better extension into the bass and sub-bass frequencies, you need either a closed-back dynamic headphone. Or a planar magnetic headphone.
 
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Jun 21, 2020 at 5:55 AM Post #14 of 16

ADUHF

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Jun 22, 2020 at 5:11 PM Post #15 of 16

TheloniousEllington

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Well, I wish I could give you a simple answer to your question. And just say buy this headphone, and you're all set. But I'm afraid I can't. :) Because there is no de facto headphone with the best, most accurate response across the board that I'm aware of. And it doesn't really have to do with variations in ear shape.

Yes, every ear (and body) will respond a little differently to the sound of a speaker in a room. But they also respond differently to headphones as well. Although the sound in a room can be quite complex, if the same set of frequencies are coming at your ears in both instances, then they should sound fairly similar, whether you are listening to headphones or speakers. Some people might prefer a little more bass in the headphones though to emulate a little more of the visceral impact that lower frequencies can have on your body when listening to speakers in a room. (This is not somethng which should be overdone though.)



lossless-page1-800px-Consumer_Reports_-_product_testing_-_headphones_in_anechoic_chamber.tif.png


"Anechoically flat" means the speaker measures flat across most of the frequency spectrum in an echo-free chamber (a room designed to absorb all reflected sounds). As opposed to a normal listening space, where there are some reflections from the walls, floor and ceiling.

When you listen to a loudspeaker in a typical room, you're not just hearing the sounds from the speakers themselves. You're hearing all the reflections as well, which alters the speaker's overall tonal balance, warming it up in the bass/low-frequencies. There is some attenuation in the higher frequencies as well, due to "beaming" (narrower dispersion) and absorption by both the surfaces and air.

It is this in-room or steady-state response that the Harman headphone target attempts to approximate. The Harman curve is intended for use with in-ear (as opposed to in-room) measurements though, taken at the eardrum (aka DRP or drum reference point). Which is why it doesn't look like a conventional room curve which is just elevated/shelved up in the bass, and rolled off in the treble. The ear amplifies some frequencies more than others, especially in the 3000 Hz range. So when you measure sound at the eardrum, there is usually a fairly large bump at that frequency...

EX_z4f1U8AA8V6_


There are other frequencies which can be amplified within in the ear canal as well, typically around 9k and 15k Hz. Which is why you'll often see spikes or peaks in those areas on the raw frequency plots of headphones, like the Sennheiser HD 600, for example...

https://www.rtings.com/headphones/1-4/graph#325/4012

What we're mainly concerned with is the overall response in the treble though. As long as the overall response of the headphone more or less follows the above shape, then it should be pretty close to what many of us would describe as "neutral". A few peaks and valleys in the treble (like on the HD 600 graph) are normal.

The Senn HD 600 is fairly neutral in the midrange and treble. It is significantly more rolled off in the bass though than the Harman curve, because it is open-backed. Dynamic open-back headphones generally have less bass than closed headphones because they can't maintain the pressure needed to produce the lower frequencies. To get better extension into the bass and sub-bass frequencies, you need either a closed-back dynamic headphone. Or a planar magnetic headphone.
Thank you very much for all the time and detailed information that you gave. Very cool of you. I'm going to study a little of the parts I didn't initially understand. I ended getting a very good deal on the AKG K872 for less than 1000 brand new.
 

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