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Headphones are great, but will never be speakers...

Discussion in 'Currawong' started by currawong, Apr 25, 2010.
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  1. bcasey25raptor
    I much prefer to use speakers any day. Not because of sound but do to convenience.
  2. Silent One


    As I'm so fond of saying here inside an international forum, 'Golden Ear' nailed it... Olympic style!  
    Thanks for sharing, Currawong ~
  3. CatboyMac
    The thing is, I don't wear headphones to emulate speakers. I'm not entirely sure why "Perfect 3D sound" is the ultimate goal for audiophiles nowadays.
  4. dyl1dyl
    Yup, I definietly find my B and W diamonds do beat any headphone in terms of sounstage, impact and just the sense of being there in the studio or concert. However, I do find that headphones such as the stax 009 offer amazing resolution that is equal to my speakers for less. Going on to more conventional headphones, models such as the lcd rev2s (my favourite) do offer very punchy, exciting sound with great bass and mids. (in fact i sometimes prefer the lcd 2 presentation to the b and ws)
  5. Magick Man
    I love my B&W N802s, vintage Nautilus are the bomb, but quite often I prefer the cocoon of sound from my cans. Also, I like to listen to music while my wife is asleep, and cranking the stereo for some Shostakovich goodness at 2am would get me murdered. :)
  6. buson160man
        I admit a good speaker setup can be very satisfying but they can be very expensive and assembling a good system is no easy task. But imho you can never get away from room interactions that prohibit you from obtaining the best sound that is posssible with speakers. With the best headphones there are no room interactions that get in the way and in taking room interactions out of the picture you get all the available sound performance from your headphones.If you take the time to research your system and purchase the correct amp to drive your phones within the limits of affordabity you can achieve much better sound for far less of an investment in comparison to a loudspeaker based system.
     I have found in my experience that I have never come close to the performance that I have obtained with my audeze lcd-2 rev 2 headphones with any loudpeaker based system that I could afford.
     In fact I have not heard imho any systems, many of them quite expensive and elaborate, the levels of resolution that I get with the lcd-2 rev 2  headphone. But I have to admit that in a speaker based system several other people can enjoy the music you are listening to which is not possible with headphone based listening.
     There are also those who just do not like being tethered to what they are listening to and find it very confining.For those headphone listening is not enjoyable.But I find imho that I prefer listening to headphones because I feel that I am getiing a much more accurate reproduction of the recordings that I am listening to than if I was listening to that same recording on loudspeakers.I find that when listening to speakers there are just too many room interactions that affect  the sound preventing an accurate representation of the recording you are listening to.But I will still keep my loudspeaker based system for casual listening and or entertaining others.
  7. sejarzo

    This is why I rarely listen to my speaker rig, and in fact downgraded my electronics and only drive it with an Oppo DVD player and a fairly high power HT receiver now instead of my old high end CD player/preamp/power amps.
    I'm limited to a basement room that isn't particularly high, and spent a lot of time and effort on absorbers and diffusers, but in the end it never got close to the clarity of my HD600's no matter what I did. It's enjoyable for movies and TV, but if I want to hear detail in the music and purity of tone, cans win out in every case.
    In my experience with hi fi, people who don't have balanced hearing (few actually do) tend to hate the subsequent lack of imaging caused by headphones.  If you don't take the take the time to balance them for their own hearing.  I have 99% percentile hearing according to audiologist tests but still have a 5db difference between my right and left ear.  I don't like a vanilla headphone set up at all and need to adjust the balance on every setup before it will become transparent like speakers.
  9. IMAWolf
    Not trying to start an argument or anything but IIRC as time goes by your brain automatically compensates for these ear imbalances to provide accurate sound positioning, so if you actually tune both ears to be equal you are kind of skewing the soundstage to one side.
  10. Duartisimo
  11. Cante Ista
  12. Pasquale
    Truth be told...I am just a nut for good audio equipment !period! whether the system consumes an entire room (did that), an entire car (did that), or a good portion of my desktop (doing that).  Did I fail to mention consumes an entire wallet!  I fear that many audiophiles are simply collectors (like art collectors or wine aficionados) of audio related stuff (equipment, music, etc.).  I would bet that a survey of audiophiles would find that they horde other "shiny objects" as well.  They also like being in community with other audiophiles.  Membership has its benefits and its COSTS.
    Carry on!
  13. Golden Ears
    As Steve Jobs would say, "Just one more thing".

    With headphones... I would say for the most prt except for Dr. Dre Beats headphones, you do get why you of for in many cases. There are some bargains to be had...but as you spend more with reputable brands with good reviews... You get more.

    Sadly this is not always the case for speaker based systems. Particularly of the better known high end brands that spend a lot on advertising, magneplanar is the exception). I sometimes feel that sound quality actually OFTEN goes down..when you spend over 25k on speakers and the are lesser known speakers for 10-20 grand that easily beat strong name brand high end speakers costing 100 grand or more.

    Just like you can have an impedance mismatch with headphones you can match cables, components or speakers poorly ...and spend a boatload of $$$ and not getr very good sound. In headphones you can make the mistake of a mismatched amp, headphone cable, or headphones. ( For the most part room interaction does not figure in....except perhaps the ear shape issues that can happen with certain headphones like Ultrasones that bounce sound off your pinnae ....where certain shapes of ea and sizes of ears do not mesh well with the way the headphone was voiced for the majority of ear shapes)I a stereo can suffer from room interaction, cable choice, system mismatching of gear...particularly speakers with amplifiers. You can position your speakers poorly, or your furniture (hint get rid of that low coffee table in front of you that is creating timing reflection errors.....or choose some heavily upholstered sound absorbing one).

    But despite so many mistakes made by most people.. Speakers for the most part offer the more enjoyable musical experience and since most music is masted with speakers, the masking engineers intent should be to understand the intent of the artist and try to preserve that as much as possible and they master music for playback for speakers...save for a few albeit excellent , binaural recordings.

    But not all speakers are created equal. You can spend over $150,000 on speakers alone...and get something that sounds like ma really good hi-fi sound yet fails to convince you that you are listening to artists right in front of you......even in a pertly constructed room with a small fortune spend on cables amps and source.

    Speakers are important. So is the source...garbage in garbage out.

    Speaks have to have some musicality...not just match in timbre or frequency response.... Speakers should reproduce the highs, mids, and lows; they should also emotionally transport you...TO THE ORIGINAL PERFORMANCE. And IFBig IIIIFFFFF) the mastering engineer and other engineers did their job, you won't hear what they heard in the sound room on their studio monitors (studio monitors are designed to help mix down, and do not necessarily sound musical....they are tools...not so much ideal transducers that recreate the live sound).....you should be COMPLETELY FOOLED into thinking that you are listening to the original performance.

    It is possible to fool all of the people all of the time...with some source material on a good system.

    To me.....that's astounding that you can take a small portion of the sonic signature of a venue, plop a mic in front of Louis Armstrong, record him with hte gear available of that decade...archive it, Compress it a bit- run a RIAA curve on it and toss a vinyl puck on a plate..transfer that a few times ...print hundreds of thousands of record this way- toss a diamond in a. Groove that gets so hot that the vinyl groove kcal actually melt and the diamond will wear down over a thousand hours, amplify that sound a hundred times over , cram that into speaker cables, divide the voice so it. Spreads into three or more transducers in different parts in space..( and sometimes introduce time smear from the crossover)... And still be able to fool people with this. And to do it with digital.... It is even harder...not as much nowadays, but still .......difficult.

    Not all music sounds the best accurately reproduced... Some dance music for instance sounds better heavily EQ 'd bass boosted and played at large than live levels...in a space where certain frequencies are purposely reinforced as resonant frequencies. Yes in this sonically "unpure environment" you are moved more.

    But for reproducing the vast majority of music.... Real is the best deal. The subtle inflections of music, the tiny bits that are so much quieter than the rest but still add that perfect flavor to the music...well in a low resolution system, they can be lost, and in systems that are tipped to emphasize certain minute details..that over emphasize these details...(I am not a huge fan of most metal dome tweeters) they can over do it. Some audiophiles get tricked into buying a system because the squeaks of the orchestra chairs were more immediate ...but fail to notice that the vocalist is not rendered as believable and violins are too shrill.

    It is hard for speakers to do everything right...even when fed the best signal. But some speakers do it much better than others. In act sooooo much better, that it almost seems laughable that some one could choose wrong. But people often choose wrong not having the right criteria. 35 years ago I started buying speakers I absolutely bought **** sounding speakers the first time I picked out a component system...and completely mismatched the gear...

    I fried tweeters, amplifiers, midranges, because of lack of system synergy and downright stupid electrical mismatches...like specifically buying Infinity Studio monitors (garbage sound) based solely on how a single drum beat sounded in The doors song Peace Frog, and how the clocks sounded in Pink Floyd's "time". I matched it to a great looking Mitsubishi receiver which was not capable of handling anything less than 8 ohm impedance speakers...and matched with the Watkins woofe in the Ifinity...fried my receive in seconds if played too loudly, no amount of adding resistors to my speakers helped. I bought a Bryston 4b amp which could handle the load but when clipped SMOKE WOULD COME OUT OF MY TWEETERS! During my senior year in high school I couldn't buy replacement tweeter diaphragms fast enough.

    So wadddya do?

    My best advice... If you really want to know how a speaker can sound, you should hear it in a great room treated and designed for sound. Ok...now you know how it sounds...but what about your home? You can borrow speakers...but this gets tedious fast. Your back will hate you.

    Ok, so lets do things....knowingly. BACKWARDS....

    Go hear speakers in less than optimal rooms and environments, to see if they can still draw you into the music. Go to a hi fi show.

    Why? Because the rooms are pretty much the same within a hotel sonically, and you can hear a ton of gear in a short period of time. (Uhhh...short....to me means like 40 - 100 different speakers over 2 -3 days. (Yes this can become an obsession). Go early or late to hear your favorite candidates because you will have a easier time having them play your demo music (bring music you are familiar with on CD, a USB thumb drive, and vinyl).

    The annual RMAF- ROCKY MOUNTAIN AUDIO FEST is a good one....the hotel rooms there are ok for sound...not great but ok. Some of the best sound I have heard has been at T.H.E. SHow Newport. (The home electronics show). This is not ideal as it is split into two hotels the Hilton and the Atrium with the Hilton having better acoustic sounding rooms IMHO. NYC h a show, so does Dallas, Germany has shows...they are great to hear a lot of stuff in a short period of time.

    You'll be amongst a zillion other rabid audiophiles and music lovers and techno weenies...who are eager to share impressions... Every time you get in an elevator to go to another floor...ask "What room is not to be missed, what's the best you have heard?" And go check it out.

    So.... You now have picked your favorite 3-5 sets of speakers from the ones you have heard... It is time to go to a dealer....(you probably met a few at the show) hear them again for a longer period of time and ask to borrow the pair THAT YOU CAN AFFORD, home and live with it for a few days.

    If after 3 days with them, you found that you listened long and deep into the night, saying.."ok, just one more song..this will be the last one" and continue playing ......for two more hours.

    You probably found your for lack of a better term..."your significant speaker" or speaker mate. A speaker you can live with, are always happy to play with when you come home, and are proud to play for your friends.

    Your dealer will help with system matching to get the most out of your speaker, Mail order, though cheaper, is no replacement for the services of a good dealer who could come over to your home and switch a few things around in a few minutes and get you better sound than you could with months of tinkering. Mail order dealers may allow you to ship a product back for a refund 20 times to try something...but he can't hear your home system like a local dealer.

    Yes it's worth it.

    A great system is like an invitation to the hotel room of your favorite singer where you can listen to any request. It is like hanging out with the Mick and Keith, or sipping champagne with Diana Krall while she sings directly for you.

    I think music that emotionally moves you is good for your overall well being and health.

    All living things...vibrate in the key of G. Maybe that's why those Tibetans have those healing bowls...who knows??. I just know I feel better after I have listened to music that moves me.

    Full range Speakers that I have lived with for a long time and would welcome back into my home at any time.
    Infinity reference standard RS1 and RS1-b, Magneplanar tympani 1-d and IV, Custom JBL paragons with upgraded drivers and crossovers (for rock and dance and outdoor use only...though for many years they were the left channel of The Bottom Line Jazz club in NYC before I had them)' Chapman T-8, Chapman T-9MKII , Chapman T8MKII, Apogee Diva, Apogee full range,

    Non full range that were satisfying for music other than dance and rock...:
    Quad ESL -63 and Quad-57, ProAc Response 1SC, Splendor 3/5, all of these should be used with tube amplifiers, quads sounded good with Levinson ML3 too. Magneplanar 1.7, needs solid state amp with a ton of current.

    Ones I would have liked to have owned ...even though I knew I would sell them because they had too much of their own flavor..Kharma Ceramic, Red Rose model 1 ( weird suckout over 1-2 octaves), Revel Salon,

    Speakers I thought I would like but ended up disappointed in. My fist pair of speakers..audio logic 3 ways...horrible! Infinity reference studio monitors..what was I thinking! , Pyramid Metronome 3 (greet ribbon tweeter, but they could not do rock...) Sound Dynamics Rts-3 (for a GF), Magnaplanar Mh-3, Magnaplanar Mc1.

    Speakers that I liked. But did not buy because either they did not fit my room or budget.
    Devore Gibbon 8 speakers, Infinity IRS, Saunders electrostatics ( bargain full system price....consistently great sound at audio shows- really nice guy).

    Speakers that i just cant understand....Bose, almost any in ceiling or in wall speaker, Most Bang ad Olufsen speakers, Cambridge sound works, Sony, Polk, Boston Acoustics, PSB, most B&Ws,...so many models, klipsch, and gosh they are cool looking and others love them....but I just don't rock out to Wilson's or Sonus Farbers.

    Most of what I have historically liked are hybrid planar designs..or just big big big planars. In trying to find a speaker that does it all....they consume a room.
    Chapman and Devore are reasonably sized and sound great. Never heard a speaker from those two conventional dynamic loudspeaker manufacturers that I didn't find pleasing...which is highly unusual for a speaker manufacturer to not have any duds in his lineup of price points.

    If I could do it all of again..... I'd probably buy a Gibbon 3xl ($3800 i think) and kept the custom paragons and have a set of small polite loudspeakers that are easy to set up and transport and a pair of rocking but good sounding LOUDSPEAKERS for those party times. (Those modded JBLs were unlike any other and were close to high end sound outdoors) If I could only do one set of speakers ....probably the Chapman T-9MKII, and not my Infinity Reference Standard RS1-b because I have often had to put them into storage because I cod not find a suitable room, whereas the Chapmans could play in just about any room.

    Speakers under 1000?

    Build one of Zaphs designs using a Scan Speak 12m or Scan 15w4531 as mds.

    Used bargain...BG radia Z-92 ( that Neo 10 midrange is great for the price).
    Currawong likes this.
  14. Pasquale
    I have a bit invested in a headphone system, but I must admit a REALLY good speaker system is magical.  I am talking about a system that is $20-30K (minimum) all-in with its own dedicated and well-treated room.  I think the minimum is changing a bit with computer audio capable of running the front end, but you can easily drop 20K on great speakers and amplifiers (and still face compromises!).  With a good setup up, you are experiencing an 8ft (wide) x 8ft (tall) x 5ft (deep) image space (at least) with sound moving across, up and down, and front to back in that space.  That is much closer to a live experience than phones.  Now..most ppl will not experience this effect...in part because they are not motivated enough (somewhat crazy) or resourced-enough to put the price of an entry-level luxury car into an audio system.  
    Phone systems are great, but they are a different animal.  The image space is mostly in your head with phones (largely cause the source is around your head) - that is not really the live experience recorded audio has traditionally tried to achieve.  I have no real comparisons for headphone audio except maybe singing a tune in your head that you heard somewhere once!
    Interesting discussion but IMHO headphone audio and component system audio (full systems) are not comparable in many respects.      
  15. Tjj226 Angel
    My new celestion 3s beat the stax sr-009. Next stop western electric horns. 
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