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Headphones fast and slow

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by charlesc, Sep 13, 2014.
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  1. CharlesC
    I've been listening to my HD598s for about 9 months and like them a lot.  The thing is that I keep reading how they are slow but I don't know what that means.  Can someone please describe how the sound of a fast headphone would be any different than a slow one?
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It's  really hard to describe without hearing that sort of sound for yourself, but generally a "fast" headphone with precise and hard enough hitting bass (not just one with a weak bass response) will produce a fast bass line as "dum-da-da-dum-dwooooom" whereas a "slow" headphone would do the same notes as "dwuudwaammdwaammdwwooooooooommmm." Similarly the "thud! thud! thud! thud! thud! thud!" of a fast headphone on fast double pedal action (metal, prog metal, etc) will end up as a "thwwDvvthwwDvvthwwDvvthwwDvvthwwDvvthwwDvv" or "thWUthWUUdthWUUdthWUUdthWUUdthWUUd."
    On my system (not just the headphone) it even sounds like some bands are in too much of a hurry to finish the performance, but of course the actual runtime is unchanged. It's just that the attack on the notes hit hard then the notes decay quickly. Notes that are naturally longer gradually fade out, like when one plucks a bass guitar string then slowly runs the other hand down the frets.
  3. CharlesC
    Thanks for the response. This is helpful. So does it follow then that one with slow headphones would want to pay particular attention to damping factors? Also, is it always true that quicker is better?
  4. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Generally, however you have to be able to sort out if it is truly quicker or it has no bass response to begin with. Sometimes a headphone can seem "fast" because its bass notes aren't overlapping, but it barely has any bass at all; conversely, some people who say one headphone "lacks bass" might actually be comparing a more accurate headphone with something that has too much bass response.
    You mean the amplifier's damping factor? Not necessarily, in the sense that you shouldn't buy an amp just because its damping factor rating is higher (and ignoring other specs) - voltage swing and current performance matter just as much if not more (doesn't mean you need +-40v swing though).
  5. castleofargh Contributor
    most of what people call fast is related to signature. the feeling of speed is mostly a question of how much bass and how much sub bass there are. just look at what are called fast headphones and slow headphones and see how the vast majority of the slow ones are bassy cans.
    now about a somehow real use of the speed idea, there is damping factor and diaphragm control. what people call transient speed. for signal reproduction, high transient speed is better, that's why something like a good electrostatic driver will perform better than a dynamic one. but hey with usually more than 100times the voltage, they can do a little better right! ^_^ .
    my advice, if people don't explain what they mean when they talk about slow or fast headphone, just dismiss the comment. and if the explanation involves "PRAT", then you must dismiss the comment [​IMG].
    rovopio likes this.
  6. bigshot
    I think "fast" and "slow" is about as useful a term as "veiled", "revealing", or "prat". It's all a bunch of hooey. Frequency response, distortion, dynamics... these are terms that actually mean something.
  7. Lenni
    this slow sound seems to be mostly associated with some Senn's 'phones. I bought the PX100 when they first came out, and could not stand them. The only music I could enjoy with them was some fast AC/DC tracks, everything else was sounding too slow. I then bought a pair of Grado's and I was home. It also seems a matter of personal taste - people who like Senn's tend not to quite like Grado's and vice-versa.
    Get a pair of used Grado's and you'll find out what it means. Though, the downside with Grado's is that if you listen to them too loud and for too long, they will make your ears bleed (not good); Senn's, on the other hand, are less fatiguing, easier on the ears (very good). If you get a pair of Grado, use them with caution.
  8. Lenni
    kinda remind me of this post...[​IMG]
    ...only joking
    seanwee and ileikpie like this.
  9. Strangelove424
    I think the nature of high vs. low energy waves contributes to what we perceive as slow or fast. The faster headphones have more treble, and high frequencies have shorter periods than low frequencies. A headphone tilted toward the upper frequencies will feel faster than one tilted toward the lower, but that doesn't mean one actually is reproducing its notes faster. It's still the same timing in the song, but the onset of a 500hz note will feel more sudden than the onset of a 100hz note because of the character of sound waves, even if they both arrive to your ear at the same time. This should give you a better idea what I'm talking about:  http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/sound/Lesson-2/Pitch-and-Frequency
  10. bigshot
    The speed of a waveform for the lowest frequency a human can hear is a 20th of a second, and as it occurs in musical instruments, that is a deep rumbly thump with no attack to speak of anyway. Even a 20th of a second is still a tiny fraction of what we would perceive as "delayed sound". Film runs at 24 frames per second, and I doubt you would notice if the sound was out of sync by one frame.
    Calling this speed is completely wrong. They are referring to frequency response, not timing issues.
  11. Strangelove424
    I have a lot of experience in post production, and syncing can be a tricky phenomenon. If there isn’t a clapboard you cannot do it by eye/ear alone, it's too hard to tell most of the time. You have to cheat by finding an impromptu reference like a waveform peak for the letter “p” and match it to pursed lips, as an example. But other times, like if an actor swallowed a vowel and you have to go find another vowel somewhere to patch it, then it’s pretty easy to find the exact starting frame where it needs to go. Audio out of sync with other audio sticks out like a sore thumb, but there’s a lot more margin for error in the perception of synced visuals. 
    True, but the perception of frequency response is a major issue here too. Our recognition of a tone and how fast we make that recognition (I think this is usually referred to as "attack") might be a process that only takes place in our heads, purely perceptual, but that perception is still central to our experience of audio.  
  12. bigshot
    Call it frequency response then. Because speed has absolutely nothing to do with it.
  13. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Well short of handing him one system and then letting him figure out what it does differently... [​IMG]
    That depends on which Sennheiser. Nightwish sounds like they want to get the hell off the stage pronto on my HD600 (of course, that's with a Meier Cantate.2, not an iPod or my old Little Dot MkII). The overall fast decay of all notes make for an impression that it's all happening fast, not that much "slower" than a Grado, except maybe there is a tendency for people to think that the latter is faster because it presents the image the same way you would see an anime character trying to punch you - with fists and dashed arms all over the place - so in effect "overwhelming" gets confused with "fast(est)." 
  14. bigshot
    You can't hear a difference in decay. That depends on how loud you have it turned up, not some mythical speed of headphones.
  15. vid
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