Do you think an expensive pair of headphones can sound better than speakers?
Mar 12, 2004 at 6:08 PM Post #16 of 33

Geek

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Headphones annihilate speakers in everything except a realistic sense of soundstage and visceral bass.

Surround sound setups generally suck.

2-channel speaker systems are the only ones that can generally compete with high end headphones and win.

Cheers,
Geek
 
Mar 12, 2004 at 7:00 PM Post #17 of 33

Canman

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Quote:

Originally posted by Geek
Surround sound setups generally suck.


Generally, Yes.

That doesn't mean that they are less capable than 2 channel systems. They take more money since there are 5 channels to do properly instead of 2, and setup in a proper room is critical.

I once heard a surround setup with Wilson Grand Slamms in the front and Watt/Puppy's in the rear and it was sweet. I think Kevin Gilmore uses that setup in his home.
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 12:35 AM Post #19 of 33

aphex944

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I agree, in general, surround systems suck. My 2-channel setup can easily image better than a lot of 5-channel systems I've heard(regular consumer crap, though).

In my opinion, a very high-end speaker setup can almost match a headphone's detail and accuracy. The only time I really prefer speakers is when I'm getting up frequently, or watching a movie.
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 1:34 AM Post #20 of 33

emmpeethree

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for me, nothing comes close (except panasonic VMSS) to having a 400 watt subwoofer rattle you and your house. when you can not only hear, but feel that drum being smashed apart, oh boy, that's shomething that headphones can't compare with.
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 1:43 AM Post #21 of 33

markl

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Quote:

Headphones annihilate speakers in everything except a realistic sense of soundstage and visceral bass.


In your opinion, of course. I think you should listen to a few more speakers before you make your mind up so rigidly. The vast majority of people who can afford any kind of system for music reproduction they want buy speakers, not headphones. Perhaps there's a reason for that.
Quote:

Surround sound setups generally suck.


How many surround systems have you heard that you can make a statement like that?
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 1:58 AM Post #22 of 33

aerius

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Quote:

Originally posted by Geek
Headphones annihilate speakers in everything except a realistic sense of soundstage and visceral bass.


3 words. Martin-Logan Prodigy. Unless the Sony R-10 or Stax Omega II is literally orders of magnitude better than the Stax 404 setup I heard they have no chance of coming close to those speakers. Once you get to the $2500-$3000 level speakers start running away from headphones, the break-even point IMO is about 500-1000 bucks below that depending on which headphone you're using as a reference.
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 5:43 AM Post #23 of 33

Cor

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There are at least 3 different audio stores near where I live that have $20K+ speakers set up in quality demo rooms with proper acoustic treatments. I don't know of a single place I can go where I can try out headphones worth more than $500. Perhaps my experience is unusual, but I suspect it isn't, and that makes this question a tad difficult to answer.

Both speakers and cans seem to have logarithmic price/performance curves. (i.e. The difference in quality between a 10$ set of cans and a $100 set is far greater than the difference in quality between a $100 set and a $200 set.) It seems to me, just based on what is available, that cans tend to level off at a lower price than speakers do. That doesn't really have much bearing on cost-no-object setups however. I haven't heard the best speakers or cans out there, so I have to reserve judgment for now.

Surround systems tend to be maligned quite a bit by two-channel listeners. There are several valid reasons for this and corresponding workarounds:
  1. Most surround systems are used as theatre systems, so a big honking display of some sort is typically found in between the front speakers. This wreaks havoc on the left and right main speakers' imaging. Workaround: Use a projector instead of a television or plasma display. You get a bigger visual image for less money and less interference with audio imaging. The only downside is that light control is now an issue.
  2. Because of the dominance of the screen in a theater system, many people push their speakers off into acoustically unfavorable positions. (e.g. Into the corners of the room or right up against a wall.) Given a big enough room you can get the speakers into a more favourable position however. You can make surprisingly few compromises to two channel performance when setting up a theatre system if you take care in what you're doing. Most people don't however... It is an unfortunate truth that the most acoustically favorable positions for speakers is seldom the most convenient positions to live in and around.
  3. More channels means dividing your money amongst more speakers and amplification. To get the same quality in a multi-channel system you have to spend more than you would for a stereo system. There's no workaround here. No matter how much you spend on a multi-channel system, you'd be able to afford a better stereo system with the same amount of cash. However, if you're far enough down the price/performance curve differences may well be negligible.
  4. Multi-channel processing sounds awful. Yes, I agree. It's hideous. I have no idea how people can listen to stereo music in dolby pro-logic 2 or even Lexicon's mystical circle surround. I, like many others, let the source dictate the means of reproduction. Stereo music should be reproduced in stereo. 5-channel DVD-A or SACD on the other hand...
  5. Surround speakers are crap. Well, they are if they all came in the same box! Bose Lifestyle and B&O systems are bad enough, but then there's all the Home-Theatre-in-a-Box rigs at your local electronics store... Honestly though, how many quality sets of cans do you find in the same places? There is better stuff out there, so don't judge all surround setups by that crap. Furthurmore, practically no consumer electronics store is going to bother setting up speakers properly. Even high-end stores rarely have enough space to set up even one tenth of the speakers they sell properly. It is comparatively quite difficult to mess up the setup of a pair of cans. (i.e. Place cans on head. Plug them in. Press play. Done!)

Anyways, personally I have a set of ~$150 cans (Shure E3's) and a somewhat more expensive surround system. (Onix Rocket RSC200 + 4 x RS750's, Bryston 9BST, Anthem AVM20, Paradigm Servo-15) I bought the E3's for when I'm out of the house and they do an admirable job. There's absolutely no contest between them and my home system however. (not even when I'm out of the sweet spot!) Of course, I never expected there to be. I'd love to hear some of the nicer cans out there, but, as I stated above, it can be a tad difficult to audition them!
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 5:22 PM Post #25 of 33

Reticuli

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I have yet to hear the type of perfect glow of a recently certified THX theater in any home system, speakers or headphones. Matrix Reloaded in DD-EX and The Sum of All Fears in SDDS...that's my idea of great sound.
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 5:43 PM Post #26 of 33

aphex944

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THX certification doesn't mean much in terms of audio quality.

My opinion of movie theatres is pretty low. Every one I've been in has a general flat, honky, nasty sound to it, with gobbles of bass and tons of volume.
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 8:58 PM Post #27 of 33

Cor

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Quote:

Nice post Cor, very interesting. Do you mind if I ask how much that stereo system cost?


Enough.
biggrin.gif


Quote:

THX certification doesn't mean much in terms of audio quality.

My opinion of movie theatres is pretty low. Every one I've been in has a general flat, honky, nasty sound to it, with gobbles of bass and tons of volume.


I agree that movie theatres typically produce sound quality that is substantially inferior to what can be gotten from a home system. It's a simple product of the application. Do you have any idea how much cone displacement it would take to produce bass that's flat to 20Hz in a room the size of your typical movie megaplex theatre? It's no surprise that they settle for bloated mid-bass instead.

I'm not a fan of THX certified speakers myself, but the THX certification process is worth a little bit when it comes to preamps and receivers. I'd pay a few dollars extra for it. I'd rather not go into that here since it's one of those "religious feud"-type topics, at least over on avsforum anyways.
 
Mar 13, 2004 at 10:11 PM Post #28 of 33

TimSchirmer

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Only headphones worth even comparing to speakers would be omegas.

I still wouldn't bother though, as I could find superior sounding speakers for the same price.

Headphones are nice if you can't listen late at night though.
 
Mar 14, 2004 at 5:06 AM Post #30 of 33

danaa

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If we're talking about Bose or home theater in a box, the answer would be yes, but there are many multi-channel systems out there that would make those systems wimper and cry. By the way, THX speaker systems are optimized for movie watching, not music. If we're talking about even a low high-end speaker system though, I'd personally much prefer that to headphones. High resolution formats such as DVD-A and SACD can make fine use of all speakers, if engineered correctly. As for the surround formats that come with most home audio gear, I agree most are either useless or distracting. I do use five channel stereo to good effect with some recordings though.
 

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