Headphones fast and slow
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money4me247

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  Two great resources to start with is Ethan Winer's seminars...
 
AES Audio Myths Seminar: http://youtu.be/BYTlN6wjcvQ
AES Damn Lies Seminar: http://youtu.be/Zvireu2SGZM
 
And the Audiophile Claims and Myths thread... Particularly the first post. Check out all the links there. Some are dead, but I'd be happy to fill you in on what used to be there.
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/486598/testing-audiophile-claims-and-myths
 
Re: Perception vs measurable reality... If I see faces in the clouds, does it mean there are actually faces in clouds?
Thank you for the resources. I have read through the Audiophile Claims & Myths thread. I look forward to listening to the youtube links.
 
For headphones, the whole point is perception. Obviously, you are sitting by yourself and there is no band playing, but headphones give you the perception of a band playing.
 
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The question is, how can I get the band to sound more real? There are ways to do that and other ways that lead down blind alleys. If you understand how sound reproduction works, it's a hell of a lot easier to tell which path to take. The one thing that very few audiophiles do is to define the problem. How are you going to solve a problem if you don't know what it is? You can buy more expensive equipment, or get something with inaudibly better specs, but that is attacking the problem randomly. Until you know the issue you have to solve, you're flying blind. Problem solving requires an understanding of how things work... both your system and your ears. That's why sound science is the best forum at headfi and why people who are trying to sell you something you don't need hate us in this forum so much.
 
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money4me247

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  The question is, how can I get the band to sound more real? There are ways to do that and other ways that lead down blind alleys. If you understand how sound reproduction works, it's a hell of a lot easier to tell which path to take. The one thing that very few audiophiles do is to define the problem. How are you going to solve a problem if you don't know what it is? You can buy more expensive equipment, or get something with inaudibly better specs, but that is attacking the problem randomly. Until you know the issue you have to solve, you're flying blind. Problem solving requires an understanding of how things work... both your system and your ears. That's why sound science is the best forum at headfi and why people who are trying to sell you something you don't need hate us in this forum so much.
lol. yea, I mean I agree with the general gist of what you are saying. Objective criteria and objective specs that measure real-world performance are immensely helpful and would be great if we had comprehensive data on all headphones & gear available. Most stuff being sold in the audiophile market are worthless  or have very low real-world impact on sound quality compared to its price (from my experience).
 
My 'goal' is for music enjoyment. I get there via personal listening. If it doesn't sound more enjoyable to me, I don't bother. How real it sounds... honestly after scoring a nice pair of headphones in the $300 mark, everything sounds pretty real if your source is good. Most of the time, it isn't even realism that people crave, but a specific sound signature preference.
 
With that in mind that sound signature preferences probably trump most everything else, how can you know that you would like a pair of headphones without listening to them? Specs alone cannot tell you everything. The point of owning headphones is listening to them... not measuring them.
 
Good points though. I basically agree with most everything you are saying, but have a different personal stance on the issue.
 
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I am pretty picky about frequency response. I want clarity, which isn't possible unless you have a flat response. (because of auditory masking issues I already outlined) Balanced frequency response is the hardest thing of all to achieve. Most people have never gotten there. But once you've heard flat, you never go back.
 
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  I am pretty picky about frequency response. I want clarity, which isn't possible unless you have a flat response. (because of auditory masking issues I already outlined) Balanced frequency response is the hardest thing of all to achieve. Most people have never gotten there. But once you've heard flat, you never go back.
just curious, what headphones do you use?
 
hahah... actually, I don't think flat/balanced is the hardest. I've heard a lot of "flat/balanced" headphones. Honestly, for me personally, I think the hardest is finding linear frequency response with great bass presentation/quality. Due to the limitations of headphone drivers, I often find that flat frequency response does not always reproduce realistic bass.
 
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I have Oppo PM-1s.
 
The thing about bass is that headphones in general don't do that well. Especially the sub bass that you feel in your chest with speakers. They fake it by boosting the upper bass, but that causes its own problems. No headphones present bass the way a good speaker setup with a subwoofer does.
 
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  Balanced frequency response is the hardest thing of all to achieve. Most people have never gotten there.
 
Add to that how complex that problem really is. Flat response in a single driver isn't even possible, not even a wide enough response (FR drivers tend to drop off but have a spike somewhere); multiple drivers have to deal with crossover designs for smooth transitions (which can do well in a lab, but not necessarily in the listener's own room); make a DD diaphragm too light and it can get damaged easily; make a non-DD diaphragm that relies on different vibration patterns and you tend to lose bass, or have to deal with huge surface areas (and bass thump is critical in modern music); or you get close to flat response, but the impedance curve isn't as close to "flat" along its nominal rating.
 
In turn, "auditory masking" is in marketing terms "sound signature." Manufacturers compromise with a "signature" that they would prefer, but many fail to appreciate the fact that "compromise" is the key word here (since marketing would use "preference" or any other term aside from "compromise").
 
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money4me247

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  Add to that how complex that problem really is. Flat response in a single driver isn't even possible, not even a wide enough response (FR drivers tend to drop off but have a spike somewhere); multiple drivers have to deal with crossover designs for smooth transitions (which can do well in a lab, but not necessarily in the listener's own room); make a DD diaphragm too light and it can get damaged easily; make a non-DD diaphragm that relies on different vibration patterns and you tend to lose bass, or have to deal with huge surface areas (and bass thump is critical in modern music); or you get close to flat response, but the impedance curve isn't as close to "flat" along its nominal rating.
 
In turn, "auditory masking" is in marketing terms "sound signature." Manufacturers compromise with a "signature" that they would prefer, but many fail to appreciate the fact that "compromise" is the key word here (since marketing would use "preference" or any other term aside from "compromise").
all headphones have a sound signature. there's no such thing was a 100% perfectly balanced & linear pair of headphones. in fact, people actually hear the mid-range frequencies to be louder than bass & treble, so if a pair of headphones were technically perfectly flat, they would actually sound mid-centric.
 
it's just when coloration is small enough, people accept them as 'audiophile neutral,' but all headphones have inherently different signatures. that is why you find such variation of sound across flagships despite all being specifically designed to be as neutral as possible. There are different interpretations of "audiophile neutral." There is also more to how a pair of headphones sound than their frequency response curve.
 
realistically, tuning of the frequency response is actually desirable when audio engineers are trying to make a pair of audiophile headphones sound transparent, enjoyable, natural, and realistic. There is much more to headphones than just the frequency response curve.
 
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all headphones have a sound signature. there's no such thing was a 100% perfectly balanced & linear pair of headphones. in fact, people actually hear the mid-range frequencies to be louder than bass & treble, so if a pair of headphones were technically perfectly flat, they would actually sound mid-centric.

it's just when coloration is small enough, people accept them as 'audiophile neutral,' but all headphones have inherently different signatures. that is why you find such variation of sound across flagships despite all being specifically designed to be as neutral as possible. There are different interpretations of "audiophile neutral." There is also more to how a pair of headphones sound than their frequency response curve.

realistically, tuning of the frequency response is actually desirable when audio engineers are trying to make a pair of audiophile headphones sound transparent, enjoyable, natural, and realistic. There is much more to headphones than just the frequency response curve.

I agree with the above post. I have read the whole thread starting from page one.





Remember the part where the town runs after Frankenstein with torches? That is how the SS forum reacts to my posts, still here is my single post on headphone speed.


It is a phenomena that exists. Science thought the world was flat at one time. Science only has it's limits of understanding and any question of those limits gets responded with contempt. So be it.


The fact here at Head-Fi is that most amps are holding headphones back at reaching their true speed perception. I sat with Ray Samuels at a meet and we listened to his newly invented balanced portable amp. Maybe the first one ever? This was in 2010. We were using the Sennheiser Orpheus ( Mini Orpheus Headphones) joined to the Emmeline SR-71B amp.

This setup sounded very fast. Why? Because it was all mids and it had detail. Ok? That's pretty simple. The fact is though that there are genres of music where speed is not as important. If you were listening to the Brandenburg on a slow system it may be fine. Jazz on a slow system sounds fine, especially if you have a bunch of smooth warm tones to mask the lack of speed. You have the audio equal of creamy butter and it's great.

On the other hand an inexperienced listener is going to be wowed and not notice when you put on music that challenges a system's speed. Heavy Metal, or IDM is going to require a fast change of pace regardless of bass response or perceived tone.

It seems to be related to a flat frequency response only because bass heavy systems do mask the perception of headphone speed. If the system is mid centric then we need to also concentrate on the amp. If the headphones resonance and design frequency response are closer to flat, then we have to work on the amp.

Power supply to the amp affects it's speed response as well as power cables. The right power cable will get the PRaT out of your amp if your exact amp has a response to the cord. Getting a different level of detail from a more detailed source will help you hear the speed just because everything is more clear.

A source is maybe the third factor affecting speed. So it goes in order of headphones, amp then source detail. This is backwards to the line of importance many will put in a system with source then amp then speakers or headphones.

You can have a perfect speed amp set up and fast headphones but your source can be slowing you down with perceived distortion. Many a time a new DAC will come along which gets a ton of interest due to it's detailed mids and fast treble affecting the systems perception of speed.


Rooms reflection in speaker use affect perceived system speed. This is color. Nodes are places where certain sound waves can be over emphasized. To see this drop a pebble in a pond and watch the ripples reflect back off the side and disturb or enhance the radiating ripples. This happens in a room where the loss of phase coherence is directly responsible to color and a perception of speed.

Thus a perfectly treated room is going to maybe be 90% of correcting system speed. In the end many just agree that all sections of the system affect speed this is what I believe.

Thus better cables that can bring about better resolution are going to get you the perception of speed. Yep, RCA cables can ruin your speed even if every thing else has been accounted for.

And remember the genre music choice is considered source here. Most though will not realize their system is slow due to inexperience. Though many non audiophiles hear an audiophile system as treble centric and thin. This can be partially the result of chasing the speed factor. Basically a system can not be too fast, but they are often too treble in an off attempt to be fast.

The best systems are going for a detail in bass, perfect mids and a detailed treble all in the right PRaT. And in the end, yes a muddy bass is the single other factor that reduces the perception of system speed. This results from masking the mids, and, or having a slow lower end due to a bad damping factor or character of the amp.
 
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  all headphones have a sound signature. there's no such thing was a 100% perfectly balanced & linear pair of headphones. in fact, people actually hear the mid-range frequencies to be louder than bass & treble, so if a pair of headphones were technically perfectly flat, they would actually sound mid-centric.
 
it's just when coloration is small enough, people accept them as 'audiophile neutral,' but all headphones have inherently different signatures. that is why you find such variation of sound across flagships despite all being specifically designed to be as neutral as possible. There are different interpretations of "audiophile neutral." There is also more to how a pair of headphones sound than their frequency response curve.
 
realistically, tuning of the frequency response is actually desirable when audio engineers are trying to make a pair of audiophile headphones sound transparent, enjoyable, natural, and realistic. There is much more to headphones than just the frequency response curve.
 
You totally missed my point - that "sound signature" is precisely the result of "flat" not being a reality yet and is a compromise - and that many fail to appreciate that. In any case, perception plays a part in all that, not just the brain+ear tendency to focus on midrange frequencies.* Let's take for example how the Alpine Audyssey tuning feature was first received by some of the people here: they said it "sucks." Over time we learned two things about it:

1) The mic was sensitive enough that you should do the tuning at night with the system completely running off the battery (engine off), so the initial tunings were flawed in the same manner that some people will keep upgrading to more expensive speakers instead of treating the room (those cars BTW already had the proper Dynamat treatment with the car still usable as a car).
 
2) That the resulting response technically was closer to flat than "by ear, this sounds good" tuning, so technically the auto tuning was competent enough. The problem of course is that perceptions affect how people think instruments "should" sound. In many forums people keep talking about "warm," but once I get to listen to what was highly praised, what was "warm" was just "borderline nasal" to me (like Norah Jones singing with a cold, if not sinusitis). According to my ENT's instruments I can hear up to 21khz (22khz on a software sinewave generator) and with a smooth, consistent downward curve, so I'm inclined to think that people enjoy that "smoky jazz club tube sound" too much rather than suspect there's something wrong with my ears. With that Alpine Audyssey tuning, one of the particular issues was that people expected feeling the bass drum thump, even if the subwoofer was in the rear and there's a ton of material (foam, leather, metal, plastic, etc) between it and the listener (none of which can be found in a home audio set-up between the sub and listener), the result being that some of them don't mind the thump audibly coming from the rear to the point that no time alignment/delay processor can correct it and bass guitars sounding a little loose (as they turn up the subwoofer too loud). By contrast, having the subwoofer in front at home without anything between the sub and listener tends to produce the thump that can be felt without audibly excessive bass.
 
3) If anything, and we admit to flaws in human hearing, a $3,000 corrective hearing aid* would be a lot better than a $3,000 set of cables, but guess what audiophiles will always buy first. At the same time, while I notice that among my friends those who appreciate audiophile gear are the ones who are or were in bands and have had extensive experience with instruments, there are many I've met who never picked up a guitar or played a piano and will vigorously argue for how those cables are the schizznit (hell, someone who plays a violin professionally will claim that a Stradivarius sounds better than everything else, even a properly-engineered/crafted new violin with none of the wear of a hundreds of years old instrument). Similarly, I've met people who vigorously defend a system as "perfectly flat" if it has no bass and they just assume that their hearing just can't hear bass when it's not louder than the midrange (when in reality they are referring to a 5in standmount without a helping subwoofer and they sit 8ft+ away; my preference for 2.0 monitors at least takes into account how in some cases integrating a sub's output can be a huge headache without DSP, like on an HT receiver). No measuring instrument will get a flat response out of that from 120hz to 40hz; at best, it might be flat from 250hz to 100hz, but below that it should start sloping down (or up if the cabinet was tuned to squeeze out more bass, then dips again at some point).
 
 
 
*which is an evolutionary survival instinct for a social animal, helping sort out "chaaaaaaaaarge!!!" and "cavalry at the reeeeeeeaaaaarrrr!!!" from the hooves, the clashing of bronze and iron, the crushing of bone and the tearing of sinew
*which EQs the response, not just making it louder - most people who use this have hearing loss in the midrange frequencies, like a friend who can't understand voices unless he's facing the speaker (and in effect equally uses both ears) or the speaker speaks at a direct path into one ear
 
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  That's why sound science is the best forum at headfi and why people who are trying to sell you something you don't need hate us in this forum so much.
 
This is so true
 
I have been lurking a while on head-fi before i joined but since I started following these threads in sound science I have a hard time enjoying the threads in the other forums 

 
Its often just a lots of random opinions of what to buy to get the "right" sound signature without anything to base it on more than the usual vague terms.
 
 
Edit: for crappy english
 
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I agree with the above post. I have read the whole thread starting from page one.


It is a phenomena that exists. Science thought the world was flat at one time. Science only has it's limits of understanding and any question of those limits gets responded with contempt. So be it.
This old saw really gives me the craps, I shouldn't let it bother me, but it gets repeated so often as a put down for science, when it's just flat out wrong. Science never considered the world flat, by the 5th century BC no Greek writer of any note considered the world as anything but spherical and it had been guessed that it wasn't flat centuries before that. The circumference of the earth had been estimated as early as 230 BC, with a fair degree of accuracy using trigonometry, which is incidentally, one of the sciences. Hell, the idea of a heliocentric solar system was proposed in the 3rd century BC.

It was religion that insisted on a flat earth and geocentric universe, it was religion that stifled scientific thought for centuries and forced Europe into what are now called "The Dark Ages". In those days, if you disagreed with the church, you were likely to be consigned to hell, minus some very vital organs!

So your post started off badly and just fell away from there, PRaT, yea right!
 
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I'm not totally sure where the science is in this thread, and I'd like to see more of it. What I see might as well be personal belief for the proof it's given on, with vague references to science here and there.
 
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This old saw really gives me the craps, I shouldn't let it bother me, but it gets repeated so often as a put down for science, when it's just flat out wrong. Science never considered the world flat, by the 5th century BC no Greek writer of any note considered the world as anything but spherical and it had been guessed that it wasn't flat centuries before that. The circumference of the earth had been estimated as early as 230 BC, with a fair degree of accuracy using trigonometry, which is incidentally, one of the sciences. Hell, the idea of a heliocentric solar system was proposed in the 3rd century BC.

It was religion that insisted on a flat earth and geocentric solar system and in those days if you disagreed with the church, you were likely to be consigned to hell, minus some very vital organs!

So your post started off badly and just fell away from there, PRaT, yea right!


Sorry to bother you. Just an example of a belief found not to be true. Just a single example.

Here are more examples of how current scientific understandings change. http://listverse.com/2009/01/19/10-debunked-scientific-beliefs-of-the-past/


If that's not enough look for some science books from the 1920s and read one. 75 years from now much of our science books will be wrong too.

The issue here is that there can be much ego with education, after you have gone to school for 18 years it goes against the grain to be told you only have a small understanding of the universe when all the professors acted like they were smart and knew it all. That is the sale.

Add to that the fact that western education only teaches a small fraction of the understandings. Most of the information taught is connected with a very specific belief system, much like the church in your above example only based on capitalism.
 
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Quote:
The fact here at Head-Fi is that most amps are holding headphones back at reaching their true speed perception. I sat with Ray Samuels at a meet and we listened to his newly invented balanced portable amp. Maybe the first one ever? This was in 2010. We were using the Sennheiser Orpheus ( Mini Orpheus Headphones) joined to the Emmeline SR-71B amp.
The fact of the matter is, with amps, if an amp is flat to ~20kHz, it is as fast as it ever needs to be. If an amp had a low slew rate or a similar problem, it would show up as a high frequency rolloff. The concept that a really high-end amp is required to show off the true "speed" of headphones is bogus.
 
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