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Do Objective Headphone Measurements Correlate to the Audiophile's Subjective Experience?

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by purrin, Jun 16, 2012.
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  1. thune
    Tyll talked again on this issue yesterday on Home Theater Geeks 116. (youtube version isn't up yet.)
    My general question is this: should the compensation curves for headphones be manipulated so that "neutral" results in a flat frequency response graph? And would that help in sorting which headphones have identifiable characteristics from the graphs? (The idea that a "neutral" headphone should shelve down 12 db to the treble in Tyll's graphs means that it requires a lot of experience to correctly interpret the measurements; ending up with a "secret key" that is only available to those in the know.)
  2. Magick Man

    Yeah, the MA6600 is a fantastic IA, and I was very impressed with the MCD1100. I didn't get to try the 1100s HO, though.
  3. estreeter
    Shouldnt this thread be in Sound Science ? Juat sayin.... 
  4. Magick Man

    Shelving down 12dB to the treble, using Tyll's graphs, makes for a headphone that I consider dark. People may prefer that warmer sound, but that isn't the way I hear the world when I walk around each day. Thus, it doesn't seem "natural" to me.
  5. Grev
    So that's what my voting went into!  Great stuff!
  6. kiteki
    That's fine, I'm still interested in his thoughts on the T5p driver though, since he says the DT880 and T1 look the same or something.
  7. obobskivich

    Just saw the pillsbury doughboy image - that made my morning! :D
  8. Sonic Defender Contributor
    I had the same experience. At a recent meet here in Ottawa there were two T1s for me to listen to. I went to the meet with the goal of auditioning the T1 to buy a set, but when I listened to what they brought to the table beyong my 880, I just couldn't hear anything that significant. I'll admit I would need more time than I spent with them to be 100% certain of this, but for that price difference there should have been at least some significant improvements in a few areas. For what is it, almost $800 more? - you shouldn't have to work to hear the difference. And I brought my whole chain with me so I heard the T1 on my system with my music. I would like to spend more time with them as I am confident there is much that I could learn about them, but I'm equally confident that my humble 880 provides me with at least 95% of the sonic ability of the T1 for a third of the price.
  9. k3oxkjo
    It's simply not clear what, in terms of measurements, "neutral" would be! Here's an short explanation for those interested; http://www.stereophile.com/features/808head
    It's also pretty clear that different manufacturers and different measurers come up with different compensations for the various issues involved, how to compensate for the ear's structure, how to account for the variations in ears, do you use free-field or diffuse field or some hybrid of the two, which ear simulator you use etc. etc. I have never gotten involved in measurements for headphones myself, but have performed and written up measurements of audio and video equipment for a major US TV network and know how problematic assessing these measurements can be in certain situations (even considering the more straightforward nature of these measurements).
    Interestingly, the most useful headphone measurements to me are the cumulative spectral delay and the less often seen harmonic distortion measurements. What the FR of a headphone SHOULD be is a subject of some controversy, but it seems to me that resonances shown in CSD plots often have sonic penalties and significant levels of distortion products are also pretty much undesirable in a technical sense (though sometimes low to moderate levels of distortion at certain frequencies can "sweeten" the sound in a subjective sense).
    So I am not sure fostering the "just look for the straight line on the graph" concept would really shed any real light. In my experience, interpreting the various measurements in toto for a given headphone with an eye to evaluating it's "quality" is a skill that takes lots of listening and correlating with the available measurements and, frankly, not for the faint-hearted. Personally, I am glad there a folks like Tyll and Purrin taking the challenge...
  10. Focker
    I'm always envious when I hear of places where they are arranging get-togethers. Seems like a fantastic way to evaluate some gear first hand. I live about 45mi north of Atlanta, and I know there are a lot of audio folks here, but most of them are far more into home audio than they are headphones and headamps. Still, I need to try to arrange the sort of meet you're describing...sounds like a great way to spend a few hours. 
  11. rhythmdevils
    So you consider your Stax 007 dark? 
  12. Maxvla Contributor
    With the sizeable peak at 9khz I wouldn't say the 007 is dark at all.
  13. TMRaven
    -10 or -12db down at 20khz seems about right to me.  I go off of that starting from 500hz.  LCD-2 follows that as beast as possible into the mids and and the SR-009 follows it best in the treble region.  
  14. Magick Man

    They aren't quite that much, maybe 6-8? Plus the treble peak helps to add back some sparkle, and mine seem to have a small ridge in the upper mids that I enjoy.
  15. k3oxkjo
    Just remembered you asked! But I wanted to wait until I had time to answer in a bit of detail.
    My favorite phone ever was probably the Sony R-10. I have had two medium-term loans over the years, but actually owning one has eluded me despite being friends with one of the original importers back when. As far as what's available now, I would probably say the modern Stax are the best to me, though I have never owned these either, just auditioned them in various venues. I do have an older Stax (Lambda Pro and original SS adaptor) and owned Sigma's in the past. But the Stax (and the AKG K-1000 that I like less) have what is to me a problem, they have to be tethered to some kind of adaptor that precludes portable use, at home I have had good speaker-based systems (currently main system Magnepan 3.7 main system, Audio Note AN-E system in den system) so headphones at home would not get much head time.
    I listen mostly to Classical and Rock (lately a lot of Legendary Pink Dots and Six Organs of Admittance which are sort of Psych/Folkish) but mix in whatever else interests me at the time. Right now, my favorites phones are:
    HD-800 These struck me as in many ways excellent. Low perceived artifacts and a transparent sound with three problems a) a bit less bass that I would like, b) a bit insistant in the treble and c) they showed every imperfection of average recordings (which was the biggest problem to me). In their favor, they did not exacerbate recording problems for the most part, just gave them nowhere to "hide".
    CD-3000. This is what I ended up with when the R-10 eluded me. To me, one of the most important features of a good phone is freedom from what I call "artifacts", a combination of (perceived) resonances and distortion products that raise the noise floor and compromise transparency. The Sony does OK here, especially for it's design era. It's not a R-10 to be sure...
    Denon AH-D 5000 w/J-money earpads. I bought these as an experiment. One day, just for fun, I looked for a "flat" (to my perception) phone using Inner Fidelity's graphs to buy to test what a technically "flat" phone would sound like and came up with these. The bass has more distortion than I would like unfortunately (which is certainly audible), but it's actually pretty good overall
    My current favorite, the Fostex TH-900. This is not a strictly "accurate" (what ever that means, LOL) phone technically to my ears but is beguiling with a large variety of recordings. It has a bit more bass than what some might call accurate, but to me a phone should have a bit more to compensate for the fact that perceived bass from live or speaker source is sensed from other than direct introduction into the ear. This is a hard one because going over the top with bass can be ruinous, IMO, the TH-900 gets it just about right. I hear the mids as a bit recessed, but to me this is to the good as it backs off the perception of the sound being in your face (ear?) that hurts the HD-800, for example, on many recordings. I could wish the treble was a bit smoother but, as headphones go, it's not bad. No phone that I have heard sounds as smooth as the best dome or ribbon tweeters in great speakers with the possible exception of the flagship Stax.
    Overall, there's an excellent perceived sense of freedom from my definition of artifacts, so the TH-900 is easy to "hear thru", in my view. The sense of beauty without compromising the basic sound of music too much is what makes this a winner in my experience. I would still rather have a good R-10, I suspect, but since that's unlikely the TH-900 will do. Of course, I have not heard all of the current contenders extensively enough, so there may be (and probably is) better...
    My favorite IEM's at the moment are the Sony MDR-EX1000 and AKG K3003.
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