Closed-Back Planar Magnetic vs. Open-Back Dynamic Headphones: Which One Wins Out?!
Apr 10, 2021 at 4:12 AM Post #61 of 122

castleofargh

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Something to understand befor you heading further.

"Headstage", i call it that way ^^, in headphones is mostly due to the distance of driver <-> eardrum and the cup size between or/and opening of the pads.
This creates the reverb of the "sound waves bouncing off the walls".

So one could assume that the bigger the cups = the bigger is the "headstage".
But it ain't that easy, as usual. ^^

That's the reason why it's gonna be a tough race trying to find a headphone with similar "headstage" of the K702.

Don't hang on it and be open minded. :)

All the best on your journey.
May great sound be with you. :ksc75smile:
Not sure I agree with that. I can imagine how being farther from the driver could allow more of the outer ear to reflect sound and give enough cues for its actual distance and position, but that would suggest anchoring sounds near that driver. In term of distance it sure beats feeling sounds inside our head, but it's also not the best we can experience.
IMO some lucky match of FR with certain panning directions could result in feeling sounds at an even bigger distance. I get that with many sounds on the sides with the HD800. I don't happen to feel anything special in front of me(depth) on that headphone, while others do describe big perceived distances at the front too.

But then again, we can think of headstage in many ways, the feeling of being surrounded by the bass is something that always impresses me, and some tiny IEMs gave me that. The feeling of hearing some sounds at a bigger distance on the sides, or in front, or maybe both. The sense that some instruments are above or below us(what I consistently think of as a mistake with basic stereo albums, but others think that's what shows the best 3D soundstage). Or just the impression that a sound source has an origin as small as a dot instead of getting a larger blob as the perceived source.

Being isolated from our environment seems to confuse us enough to degrade spatial placement somehow. I don't think many people have their biggest feeling of space with sealed IEM or closed back headphones. So I think we at least have a consensus on that.
I’ve read arguments like your own, or people saying that the size of the driver helps, but I don't feel the same general agreement when it comes to actual experiences.
Of course I wouldn't be so insecure if we were using custom HRTF processing, or binaural audio recorded at our own ears. Then we could confirm exactly how much impact everything has based on ”natural” hearing, but I do not know how well that could translate to the more typical(bad) way to use headphones with stereo albums.
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 12:53 PM Post #62 of 122

RockStar2005

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Terms are misused all the time on internet forums. The trick to the internet is to realize that not everyone who is speaking knows what they are talking about. A lot of people are speaking entirely for their own benefit and it doesn't matter to them if they are being helpful to others or not. The Dunning-Kruger Theory applies as well.
Yeah. It's best to do your research first.

Though I feel like at this point that you can use soundstage and headstage interchangeably.
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 12:58 PM Post #63 of 122

RockStar2005

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Not sure I agree with that. I can imagine how being farther from the driver could allow more of the outer ear to reflect sound and give enough cues for its actual distance and position, but that would suggest anchoring sounds near that driver. In term of distance it sure beats feeling sounds inside our head, but it's also not the best we can experience.
IMO some lucky match of FR with certain panning directions could result in feeling sounds at an even bigger distance. I get that with many sounds on the sides with the HD800. I don't happen to feel anything special in front of me(depth) on that headphone, while others do describe big perceived distances at the front too.

But then again, we can think of headstage in many ways, the feeling of being surrounded by the bass is something that always impresses me, and some tiny IEMs gave me that. The feeling of hearing some sounds at a bigger distance on the sides, or in front, or maybe both. The sense that some instruments are above or below us(what I consistently think of as a mistake with basic stereo albums, but others think that's what shows the best 3D soundstage). Or just the impression that a sound source has an origin as small as a dot instead of getting a larger blob as the perceived source.

Being isolated from our environment seems to confuse us enough to degrade spatial placement somehow. I don't think many people have their biggest feeling of space with sealed IEM or closed back headphones. So I think we at least have a consensus on that.
I’ve read arguments like your own, or people saying that the size of the driver helps, but I don't feel the same general agreement when it comes to actual experiences.
Of course I wouldn't be so insecure if we were using custom HRTF processing, or binaural audio recorded at our own ears. Then we could confirm exactly how much impact everything has based on ”natural” hearing, but I do not know how well that could translate to the more typical(bad) way to use headphones with stereo albums.
So if you don't feel it's the size of the driver or the distance to one's ears, then what dictates how wide a soundstage will be?
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 1:29 PM Post #64 of 122

Chris Kaoss

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Not sure I agree with that. I can imagine how being farther from the driver could allow more of the outer ear to reflect sound and give enough cues for its actual distance and position, but that would suggest anchoring sounds near that driver. In term of distance it sure beats feeling sounds inside our head, but it's also not the best we can experience.
IMO some lucky match of FR with certain panning directions could result in feeling sounds at an even bigger distance. I get that with many sounds on the sides with the HD800. I don't happen to feel anything special in front of me(depth) on that headphone, while others do describe big perceived distances at the front too.

But then again, we can think of headstage in many ways, the feeling of being surrounded by the bass is something that always impresses me, and some tiny IEMs gave me that. The feeling of hearing some sounds at a bigger distance on the sides, or in front, or maybe both. The sense that some instruments are above or below us(what I consistently think of as a mistake with basic stereo albums, but others think that's what shows the best 3D soundstage). Or just the impression that a sound source has an origin as small as a dot instead of getting a larger blob as the perceived source.

Being isolated from our environment seems to confuse us enough to degrade spatial placement somehow. I don't think many people have their biggest feeling of space with sealed IEM or closed back headphones. So I think we at least have a consensus on that.
I’ve read arguments like your own, or people saying that the size of the driver helps, but I don't feel the same general agreement when it comes to actual experiences.
Of course I wouldn't be so insecure if we were using custom HRTF processing, or binaural audio recorded at our own ears. Then we could confirm exactly how much impact everything has based on ”natural” hearing, but I do not know how well that could translate to the more typical(bad) way to use headphones with stereo albums.
Agreeing half the way is ok for me on something subjective like sound perception. :)

Listening to headphones, for me, is like staying one feet away from a wall with sound being around me in a half circle of said wall, especially in comparison to listening to speakers.

Really different experiences, but not less enjoyable for me.

Can't explain it in a better way, sadly.
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 2:56 PM Post #65 of 122

castleofargh

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Our impressions of distance come from as many cues and expectations as we can get. Considering only sound and only at the eardrum could already be a mistake, but let's do that a moment for sanity’s sake.
Then obviously what matters is the sound itself at the eardrum and not how it traveled before reaching the eardrum.
If 2 headphones gave the exact same signal at the eardrum but one had the drivers farther away, would we feel a different stage? If our experience was only born out of the sound at the eardrum, then no we wouldn't.
The actual distance from the ear will have some acoustic impact, no doubt about that. But do we have a direct relation between driver distance and perceived distance? My educated guess would be that it's not so simple. Unless the distance becomes non headphone like, then we're in business for actual location cues.
From sound we rely on frequency response and timing to assess distance. The frequency response of a headphone will depend on the headphone we pick, placement,our ears...
so we're not tied by FR. We're far from a case where all headphones have the same FR and phase over frequency before we move the driver deeper in the cup. we could just as well have a nearby driver and EQ it to the change that the bigger cup would have.

As for timing, I'm not confident that it matters for 2 reasons:
1, stereo albums have been made for speakers for the longest time and perceived distance would either be baked in the track or would rely on how far we are from the speakers. Headphones with those tracks have limited options.

2, the distance from driver to eardrum is pretty small. A lot can happen in the FR domain for higher frequencies(short wavelengths). but in term of timing, having something at 3 or 4cm on each ears won't do a all lot for us IMO.


Maybe there is a trend where having a driver farther away provides a little more cues that our brain knows, maybe if we have fairly different left and right outer ears, the resulting FR impact of a far away driver could smooth out some of the otherwise conflicting impressions from a given FR? I don't know enough and can't even think of the all the variables involved and how psychoacoustic would handle that. Maybe there are papers on this?
Maybe headphones with far away drivers just tend to have FR similarities between them because of the unavoidable bigger ”room”, and some listeners do get a bigger stage from those FR trends? Maybe an EQ would do the same, maybe there is no clear trend anyway. I honestly don't know about data on that topic. I just strongly suspect that the FR keeps playing the bigger role on fairly clean headphones.

Large drivers might be an even bigger can of worms. I would assume a more stable FR from placement but what FR? Maybe they just tend to have deeper subs(causing one of the feelings I mentioned in my last post). Maybe something to do with sound hitting more skin, or just the headphone shaking more on the head at similar listening level? Maybe big drivers tend to be very open so they send louder sound to the opposite ear and we feel some low key crossfeed?
I could probably hypothesize all day on this, but I have no actual answer for a direct relation between big drivers and perceived headstage.


Tldr, IDK, but my imagination doesn't stop at that. :wink:
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 4:21 PM Post #66 of 122

Chris Kaoss

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Hehe.

For me:
"I know that i know nothing." or "I know that i don't know."
Whichever sentence was truly spoken back in the days. ^^

Don't know where the "bigger driver thing" is coming from. :wink:

My intention was not the size of the driver, it was the size of the cups or for the better, the space between the driver - (in the) pad - ear/auricle.

Struggle myself with how much the driver size would matter in case of "headstage" at all.

Similar like the attempt of Ultrasone with their S-logic tech.
Which for some works and for others don't.
For me it did work to some degree.

Possibly true for the FR to affect the perception of a bigger stage.
Would like to see a proper FR plot of the SEM5, which for a closed back headphone has a fairly large stage, maybe the biggest i've heard from a closed back one by now.

Never have made a comparison to the Ultrasone head to head, sadly.

It's gonna be an interesting task, i think. :)

Thank you very much for your input, btw.
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 5:10 PM Post #67 of 122

bigshot

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I personally believe that primary distance cues are the area that could use the most improvement in headphone listening. True dimensional surround sound is theoretically possible. But that isn't going to happen with better FR curves, bigger ear cups or open or closed backs. It's going to come with customizable HRTF and head tracking like the Smyth Realiser. Right now, achieving that is expensive or complicated (or both!) But as technology advances and signal processing becomes more sophisticated, we will probably look back at stereo sound the way kids today look at B&W movies. The most practical method to achieve this now is with a multichannel speaker setup, but that is something that only middle aged people have the ability to build. Youth drives the market, and until there won't be real advancement until there is a "iPod" sort of gadget for synthesizing dimensional sound fields. It might take a while. Remember, TV was possible before WW2, but it didn't become prevalent in people's homes for almost two decades.

Open or closed and different ear cup designs can make a difference, but a couple of centimeters one way or the other isn't going to get true dimensional soundstage.
 
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Apr 10, 2021 at 5:32 PM Post #68 of 122

Chris Kaoss

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Absolutely. :)

So we've to make the best of what we can achieve from those tiny space of our beloved earspeakers without spend a fortune.

It's a pretty tough task, i know.
Although not impossible to reach a state of personal satisfaction, i think.
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 5:41 PM Post #69 of 122

bigshot

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Sometimes personal satisfaction has more to do with our own temperament than sound quality. I think a lot of people try to forget how they feel about themselves by obsessing on commercial products.
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 6:13 PM Post #70 of 122

Chris Kaoss

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For sure.
But sound quality is my second place to catch.
1st is my musical enjoyment.

But you're right, here in sound science.
Did forgot where i'm writing at the moment. :see_no_evil:
Apologies. :)
 
Apr 10, 2021 at 6:17 PM Post #71 of 122

bigshot

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We don’t bite! (Well not much...)
 
Apr 15, 2021 at 7:48 PM Post #72 of 122

mobbaddict

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Replying to the OP, I think yes closed-back planars can have a great level of transparency and detail. Actually I don't see what they lose on open-back besides the smaller soundstage. I just got the Audeze Sine recently and they are kicking the HD600's ass for sheer transparency. Sure, the HD600 has the nice large soundstage that expends beyond the earcups, but I don't hear any advantage in terms of detail or imaging. For me the Sine is extremely accurate and certainly closer to what I would get from an electrostat. The HD600 has a sweet and charming sound but it's not on the same technical level. I'm taking these exemples as these are the only ones I have now at home and I know the Audeze used to be twice as expensive so not exactly a fair comparison. But the Monoprice closed-backs look interesting as well for a cheaper price, I may have to try one soon.
 
Apr 16, 2021 at 7:14 PM Post #73 of 122

RockStar2005

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Replying to the OP, I think yes closed-back planars can have a great level of transparency and detail. Actually I don't see what they lose on open-back besides the smaller soundstage. I just got the Audeze Sine recently and they are kicking the HD600's ass for sheer transparency. Sure, the HD600 has the nice large soundstage that expends beyond the earcups, but I don't hear any advantage in terms of detail or imaging. For me the Sine is extremely accurate and certainly closer to what I would get from an electrostat. The HD600 has a sweet and charming sound but it's not on the same technical level. I'm taking these exemples as these are the only ones I have now at home and I know the Audeze used to be twice as expensive so not exactly a fair comparison. But the Monoprice closed-backs look interesting as well for a cheaper price, I may have to try one soon.
Hey mob,

Yeah, the only real difference is the soundstage. And even then, it may be of very little difference. Like when I tried out the Audeze LCD-1, I was surprised at just how narrow the soundstage was considering it was an open-back (planar) headphone.

That's cool! I've heard good things about the Sine too.

Right now, I'm in the middle of doing a comparison b/t my AKG K702 and the Hifiman Sundara (open-back planar). This is def the most difficult comparison I've done recently after also having my K702 battle it out with the closed-back (planar) Blue Ella and the LCD-1. I've had 2 sessions already, but I can see I'm prob gonna need another 2-3 more to really know for sure which one I like more. They are VERY similar sounding, to me anyway. So far though, the differences include that the K702 seems to still have a SLIGHTLY wider soundstage, but it seems like (so far anyway) that the Sundara has a better bass and esp a somewhat better treble output (a bit more detail anyway). On one song, it seemed to render the drums a bit more clearly (or at least less messy) than the K702. But I need more time to examine them.
 
Apr 17, 2021 at 7:17 PM Post #74 of 122

mobbaddict

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Hey mob,

Yeah, the only real difference is the soundstage. And even then, it may be of very little difference. Like when I tried out the Audeze LCD-1, I was surprised at just how narrow the soundstage was considering it was an open-back (planar) headphone.

That's cool! I've heard good things about the Sine too.

Right now, I'm in the middle of doing a comparison b/t my AKG K702 and the Hifiman Sundara (open-back planar). This is def the most difficult comparison I've done recently after also having my K702 battle it out with the closed-back (planar) Blue Ella and the LCD-1. I've had 2 sessions already, but I can see I'm prob gonna need another 2-3 more to really know for sure which one I like more. They are VERY similar sounding, to me anyway. So far though, the differences include that the K702 seems to still have a SLIGHTLY wider soundstage, but it seems like (so far anyway) that the Sundara has a better bass and esp a somewhat better treble output (a bit more detail anyway). On one song, it seemed to render the drums a bit more clearly (or at least less messy) than the K702. But I need more time to examine them.
Yes the size of the soundstage will also depend on the physical dimensions of your headphone. Simple as that. You can often tell how big a soundstage will be based how big the earcups are. Those entry-level Audeze were more designed for portable use and therefore have a smallish soundstage. But imaging is still great with the Sine and I value that much more than a fake wide soundstage.

How are you driving your Sundara? I think you should also notice a difference of sound in terms of how planars usually sound more effortless and smooth, at least that's what I notice and what I love about planars.
 
Apr 18, 2021 at 5:08 PM Post #75 of 122

RockStar2005

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Yes the size of the soundstage will also depend on the physical dimensions of your headphone. Simple as that. You can often tell how big a soundstage will be based how big the earcups are. Those entry-level Audeze were more designed for portable use and therefore have a smallish soundstage. But imaging is still great with the Sine and I value that much more than a fake wide soundstage.

How are you driving your Sundara? I think you should also notice a difference of sound in terms of how planars usually sound more effortless and smooth, at least that's what I notice and what I love about planars.
Yeah def. I have also noticed a correlation b/t earcup size and soundstage. Also how the speakers in the headphones themselves are positioned matters too (i.e., straight vs. angled).

Sure. I had already read that the Audeze LCD-1 didn't have a very wide soundstage, so I wasn't THAT shocked by how it sounded in person. But that's a factor in which headphones I choose here now as it seems like the Sundara has the better imaging vs. the K702's wider soundstage. Still, I don't want to rush it, so I'm hoping within the next week or two I'll know for sure. I try to have at least a few days in between each session as to "clear out" my brain. lol

The Sine 'phones look pretty nice too. I guess BMW designed them, so not surprised by their good looks. I'm not an on-ear person, but I know there are some good ones out there, aside from the Sine. If you bought the $50 Cipher cable, how is the DAC BTW? Hopefully good. That's cool that they include one. And is the built-in amp strong enough to power them too?

I'm using my iFi xDSD to drive both headphones.

Well so far the Sundara def SEEMS more effortless and smooth. The physics of how planars work vs. dynamics indicates they would sound better and more accurate, though I've read some who say the difference isn't so noticeable vs. how the headphone is "tuned". Maybe it's simply both?
 
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