HD 595 sound quality for movies? Through TV or receiver?
Feb 13, 2008 at 8:55 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5


100+ Head-Fier
Jan 16, 2007
I posted the following question on another large forum a few days ago, but unfortunately I haven't gotten any responses, so I figured I would give it a shot here as well - even though music listening rather than movie watching and gaming does seem to be the favoured headphones activity around here

I recently bought a 40" Samsung M87 HDTV and a PS3 for Blu-ray movies and gaming.
I've decided to postpone purchasing a surround system for the time being - and aside from the expense of a decent complete system, living in an apartment and usually being up until daylight I'm also a little concerned about noise levels and neighbours.

So headphones it is for now - I've had a pair of cheap Sennheiser HD 515 for a while, but I've just ordered the HD 595 (note: received them today and they are definately, as expected, a huge step up from the rather disappointing 515 - both with iTunes music connected to my PC as well as movies/gaming plugged into my TV).

One question lingers though. Am I likely to get a marked difference in sound quality through headphones if I connect my PS3 directly to a fairly cheap receiver (probably a surround receiver I could use for a possible future surround system, I've been looking at the Denon AVR-1306 and 1508 models for instance) rather than just plugging the headphones directly into my M87 TV as I'm doing now (PS3 connected through HDMI)?

With the HD 515's I've been getting two very different kind of results through my TV.
Flat and uninspired sound with slightly unpleasant shrill voices in movies if I just use the plain default audio settings on the TV (not all that much better with the 595, just with the unpleasant shrillness dialed down a notch or two).
Really impressive and broad soundscape and vastly more pleasant voices if I turn on the SRS TruSurround XT setting.

Given the second result (even more pronounced and positive now that I've been able to try out the 595's), I'm actually a bit concerned that I would end up sorely regretting investing in a receiver if there's actually a chance it's going to deliver a sound closer to the first unprocessed result above, rather than the fairly impressive "virtual surround" the TruSurround XT offers?

Of course logic would dictate that even a fairly cheap receiver should beat the no doubt lacklustre built-in TV amplifier in unprocessed sound - but is it likely to match up to what that apparantly rather remarkable TruSurround XT system can deliever?
Additionally I found some info suggesting that Dolby Headphone is possibly superior to SRS TruSurround XT (leaving out what other sound quality impact a decent receiver may have over the built-in TV amplifier) - and it looks like the Denon AVR-1508 supports that virtual surround format (I haven't been able to confirm this with my online research though, some specification lists I've found lists "Dolby Headphone support", another one on the US Denon site gave the impression that it wasn't available).

So basically I'm in a bit of a pickle here. Virtual surround or some sort of DSP seems to be the way to go for movies (and gaming), but spending $500 on a receiver without having a clue whether it will actually sound any better (or provide a better movie sound "experience") than plugging the 595's straight into the TV seems a little risky.
On the other hand I'm awfully tempted

Anyone with any experience in this area, or just comments based on general hi-fi or audio/video experience and common sense?
Feb 14, 2008 at 4:13 AM Post #2 of 5
Welcome to head-fi, sorry about your wallet.

Actually, I've a wallet friendly solution. Don't buy a reciever until you're ready to setup a speaker system. In general, receivers aren't the equipment to drive headphones. There, saved you $500.

I use HD595 straight out the TV when I'm just watching broadcast stuff or when I'm too lazy to setup other equipment. The headphones are easy to drive and sound pretty decent on their own. The quality bottleneck here is the TV's headphone output. Some are good, some not so good. Unfortunatly most TV reviews focus more on the video rather than audio portion.

In general, a sound system comprises 1. source, 2. amplifier, 3. speaker/headphones. The greatest effect comes first from speakers/headphones (as you've discovered in the 515 to 595 change), then source, then amplification. Your TV (via HDMI) is acting as source and amplification. If you purchased a reciever and ran HDMI or other digital signal to it, would also be the source and amplification. They are both sources because the Digital to Analogue conversion is taking place there. There are many factors affecting the quality of a source, but the largest influence comes from the DAC chip being used (and how well its implimented). Find the highest quality source you can that has the features you want (Dolby headphone for example), whether its via TV or reciever or outboard DAC. BTW, your PS3 is also a decent source if you run the analogue audio signals into an amp.

Headphone amps do wonders for certain headphones and some headphones are lousy without an amp. Fortunatly for you, the HD595 work pretty well without and amp so, peruse the headphone amp forum at your leisure.

For your situation, I'd get a source that decodes at least DD and DTS and has Dolby Headphone built in. Ideally it'd have a decent headphone amp built in too. Not that many choices.

1. Some recievers now have Dolby Headphone, but don't get a reciever till you're ready to setup speakers.

2. You could chain your PS3 to a DD/DTS decoder to a Dolby headphone processor to a headphone amp. Best sound quality here but way too complicated and expensive.

3. Buy a wireless headphone setup that has the decoder and dolby headphone features. Most also have a half decent amp for plugging in wired phones. Try AudioCubes.com - Wireless, Surround Also look up the AKG models. Unfortunatly no one sells just the base station. Another options are to buy used off ebay or go for an older model.

I have a JVC SU-DH1 (works, not that great), Pioneer SE-DIR200C (excellent, and can be had for around $300), and an old Sony MDR-DS5000. The Pioneer setup I use as is with the wireless headphones hooked up to DVD and PS3. Wired output is used on occassion. The Sony I use in a second video setup with DVD and PS2 via a pair of HD595. Back in 1999 when I got it, the wireless headphones were decent, but now they sit in the box as I can get much better sound from wired phones.

Last week I tried the AT ATH-DWL5000. Big improvements in the RF/IR section and the headphone/drivers are much higher quality than other wireless headphones. Really really good but awefully expensive. I get better sound with wired phones to the Pioneer basestation, but if I can only have 1 wireless setup, this would be it.

I few years ago I saw a Sony DSP that decoded surround, had DH, and an amp. It looked pretty cheap and I never gave it a try. Anyone know the model number or have reviews?
Feb 14, 2008 at 4:24 AM Post #3 of 5
Oh, if you're willing to pass up surround sound and dolby headphones, you can just get one of the many DAC/amp units out there. Or just plug the analogue out from your PS3 to a good inexpensive headphone amp. The sound will be stereo only. For movies, high quality stereo is better than cheap surround sound. For games, well, surround sound for games just makes them that much more fun.
Feb 14, 2008 at 8:35 AM Post #4 of 5
Thanks a lot for the input - you definately gave me something to think about

After having heard TruSurround XT in action, I'm definately not keen on skipping virtual surround in favor of plain stereo for movies - even if the effects are "faked" and I would obviously get a much better stereo output if I went straight from my PS3 to a headphone amp or similar.
Depending on what my final decision end up being, I might give it a shot though.

I think I'll take your advice and look into surround headphones systems with Dolby Headphone and a line out to wired headphones.
Unfortunately it looks like most of the models I've seen recommended here and in other places, are difficult if not impossible to buy here in Denmark (the best I could find on the Danish Pioneer website was the SE-DIR800C model, and actually locating an online shop listing them was impossible), but I guess I could always try shopping abroad, which is otherwise not something I tend to do with physical products.



... For your situation, I'd get a source that decodes at least DD and DTS and has Dolby Headphone built in.

I know you advised against the receiver, but assuming the Denon AVR-1508 does feature Dolby Headphone (I can get that confirmed in a local hi-fi shop), it actually fits those requirements exactly.
And it has two HDMI inputs and one output, so I'll just be plugging my PS3 straight into it through HDMI.

I know the "driving the headphone" part is very important, but is it really likely that a receiver like this is going to do a much worse job than eg. the base decoder unit from a set of surround headphones?

It's roughly the same price for the two different solutions, and if I go for the receiver, I'll already have spent those first $500 of a full speaker surround system, if or when I decide to go for that option.
Feb 15, 2008 at 8:17 AM Post #5 of 5
Yes, a reciever with all the features you want would work fine driving the 595. I recommend against a reciever for mainly cost vs. quality in potential upgrade paths.

Say you do get a reciever and everything works fine. When you're ready to setup a full speaker surround system, yeah, you can just get 5.1 speakers and hook them up. For a high quality system though, I believe in an overall system sound. having a receiver first would limit the choices in shopping for speakers, instead of the speaker-source-amp importance chain.

Also, I just don't like recievers
. Too many functions in one box and usually remotes with a hundred buttons. Buying a reciever for today's standards/codex/specs is fine. But buying one for future standards is difficult (almost impossible) especially while the markets are transitioning to HD. Say, a reciever is purchased with HDMI 1.3 standards. (unlikely scenario) A year from now, 1.4 spec come out, along with some annoying DRM and although your video still works fine, you can't switch through mutiple video sources. That or Dolby-TrueHD/DTS-HD/THX-something gets new features that the studios all incorporate. Backward compatability is not always guaranteed and upgrading a whole reciever for want of a single function is costly.

I'm blathering. The reciever path will work now. Building a future system around may be limiting.

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