Headphones: FLAT FR, low sibilance... fidelity?
Aug 6, 2010 at 7:14 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 46

Sonic Atrocity

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Over the past week or so I have been learning a lot. At first I was looking at the PRO 750s, 900s, and the Hfi-780s. I haven't ruled them out quite yet but I have some concerns considering what it is that I am looking for. Now, I may be totally wrong here so someone correct me if need be (I am still a n00b). I am looking for fidelity in my listening experience. I don't think it is up to the brand and/or producer of my headphones to decide how my music sounds. Personally, I believe that to have fidelity in one's listening experience one must be using headphones (and other equipment) that provide a flat FR (or at least as close to flat as can be). It is up to the producer/artist what I hear in the music. I don't want anything modified. IE: I have heard that Ultrasone headphones are very bass heavy. While that may sound good and perhaps even "better" I am looking for fidelity. 
 
Not only am I looking for a flat FR but I don't want sibilance problems. Also, I am interested in what "color" is in the context of audio. I have tried to look this up online but cannot find a definition. What is "color"? How does it affect sound? Please, fill me in on the ins and outs of color. 
 
Next I am going to do some research in regards to DACs, portable amps, cables, DAPs, etc. Hopefully, I can achieve fidelity in my listening experience. If it seems as though I have a mis-understanding or poor perspective in any shape, way, or form please fill me in! Thanks for taking the time to view my thread. I certainly appreciate the expertise of my fellow head-fiers. 
 
Aug 6, 2010 at 7:34 PM Post #2 of 46

kool bubba ice

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Pioneer 10/DT48a, e, s,/240DF/HP1/2 come to mind.. Color to me is when a headphone adds their own sonic signature to the music.. You want a headphone that gets out of the way of the music as much as possible..Transparency..
 
I have a very neutral/transparent set up.. I also owned a very colored set up.. Both give you a window of the music but in a very different way.. I like horror movies... So this is my analogy.. Latex, real blood & human organs makes the movie more realistic & gritty, but includes flaws..GCI gore might look more pristine & better, but you know it's artificial..Both can be enjoyed, but I prefer the George Romero way..:)
 
Aug 6, 2010 at 7:36 PM Post #3 of 46

Uncle Erik

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Well, I'm not sure you want something perfectly flat. At the low end, you're probably talking about a pair like the Beyerdynamic DT48 or the AKG K-240DF. I love them, but a lot of people don't. Most complain about the "lack" of bass and call them boring. You should probably listen to a pair before you buy them, just to make sure.

Coloration is adding or taking away from the frequency response to make the sound more pleasing. Think about it as adding seasoning to food. If you think corn is tasteless without a little salt, then the salt would be like a coloration. A lot of headphones boost the bass, because most people have come to expect to hear the bass overemphasized these days. Almost all home and car stereos do this, and so do most headphones. When bass isn't lifted, people complain about "no" bass. Similarly, the high end often gets a little boost to make the highs more sparkly and seemingly detailed. Others pull different tricks - Grados bump it a little in the range where guitars are, which makes rock sound a lot better. Some emphasize the midrange and roll of the bass and treble. Each manufacturer has their own recipe and tend to color their headphones similarly.

Portable amps aren't ideal for full-sized headphones; read Boomana's post about them. You might not want to invest much in cables, either. No difference has ever been measured or demonstrated and no one has ever passed a blind listening test. The controversy has gone on for over 30 years and no evidence has ever been presented. You're better off spending the money on better gear or more music.
 
Aug 6, 2010 at 7:44 PM Post #4 of 46

kool bubba ice

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Cables are the least of his worries.. Even though I'm a 'believer.' They are last in the chain in terms of audio improvement. No cable debates please..
 
Quote:
Well, I'm not sure you want something perfectly flat. At the low end, you're probably talking about a pair like the Beyerdynamic DT48 or the AKG K-240DF. I love them, but a lot of people don't. Most complain about the "lack" of bass and call them boring. You should probably listen to a pair before you buy them, just to make sure.

Coloration is adding or taking away from the frequency response to make the sound more pleasing. Think about it as adding seasoning to food. If you think corn is tasteless without a little salt, then the salt would be like a coloration. A lot of headphones boost the bass, because most people have come to expect to hear the bass overemphasized these days. Almost all home and car stereos do this, and so do most headphones. When bass isn't lifted, people complain about "no" bass. Similarly, the high end often gets a little boost to make the highs more sparkly and seemingly detailed. Others pull different tricks - Grados bump it a little in the range where guitars are, which makes rock sound a lot better. Some emphasize the midrange and roll of the bass and treble. Each manufacturer has their own recipe and tend to color their headphones similarly.

Portable amps aren't ideal for full-sized headphones; read Boomana's post about them. You might not want to invest much in cables, either. No difference has ever been measured or demonstrated and no one has ever passed a blind listening test. The controversy has gone on for over 30 years and no evidence has ever been presented. You're better off spending the money on better gear or more music.



 
Aug 6, 2010 at 8:58 PM Post #5 of 46

Sonic Atrocity

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Quote:
Well, I'm not sure you want something perfectly flat. At the low end, you're probably talking about a pair like the Beyerdynamic DT48 or the AKG K-240DF. I love them, but a lot of people don't. Most complain about the "lack" of bass and call them boring. You should probably listen to a pair before you buy them, just to make sure.

Coloration is adding or taking away from the frequency response to make the sound more pleasing. Think about it as adding seasoning to food. If you think corn is tasteless without a little salt, then the salt would be like a coloration. A lot of headphones boost the bass, because most people have come to expect to hear the bass overemphasized these days. Almost all home and car stereos do this, and so do most headphones. When bass isn't lifted, people complain about "no" bass. Similarly, the high end often gets a little boost to make the highs more sparkly and seemingly detailed. Others pull different tricks - Grados bump it a little in the range where guitars are, which makes rock sound a lot better. Some emphasize the midrange and roll of the bass and treble. Each manufacturer has their own recipe and tend to color their headphones similarly.

Portable amps aren't ideal for full-sized headphones; read Boomana's post about them. You might not want to invest much in cables, either. No difference has ever been measured or demonstrated and no one has ever passed a blind listening test. The controversy has gone on for over 30 years and no evidence has ever been presented. You're better off spending the money on better gear or more music.

 
First I'd like to thank everyone who has responded so far. Very informative posts. UncleErik, I appreciate your analogy about adding seasoning to food. Now that I understand what colour (I'm Canadian... hence the spelling difference) is I want my headphones to add none of it. I want my rig to change the sound as little as possible. I want fidelity. But then, I just realized something. Do producers/artists record music with the color that sound systems add in mind? I would think not. Especially, considering that all rigs have different attributes. But, perhaps I am wrong. Just a thought. Oh, and what is roll off?
 
Aug 6, 2010 at 9:09 PM Post #6 of 46

lejaz

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Beyerdynamic dt250 is one that will sound good...and relatively 'colorless', without a dedicated amp, and will sound even better if you eventually get an amp. Highly recommended for someone without the funds to invest in an amp. Also sony 7509 is supposed to be 'flat', though I haven't heard it myself.
 
Aug 6, 2010 at 9:17 PM Post #7 of 46

Soaa-

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The way tracks are mixed depends on the genre of music. Pop and dance tracks are usually mixed with the expectation that they would be played on bass heavy equipment. Otherwise, night clubs would be quite seismic.
 
Roll off is the attenuation of frequencies at the two ends of the audible spectrum. Humans hear bass down to 20Hz, so if a pair of headphones starts outputting weaker bass at 80Hz, it would be described as having rolled off bass.
 
Do keep in mind that the frequency response of our ears varies depending on the sound pressure levels. We are less sensitive to lower frequencies at lower energy. I chose not to compensate for that, but some prefer to, and it's not really considered coloring the sound.
 
With all that said, I definitely recommend the DT 48 for an absolutely flat listening experience.
 
Aug 6, 2010 at 10:16 PM Post #9 of 46

Sonic Atrocity

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Quote:
The way tracks are mixed depends on the genre of music. Pop and dance tracks are usually mixed with the expectation that they would be played on bass heavy equipment. Otherwise, night clubs would be quite seismic.
 
Roll off is the attenuation of frequencies at the two ends of the audible spectrum. Humans hear bass down to 20Hz, so if a pair of headphones starts outputting weaker bass at 80Hz, it would be described as having rolled off bass.
 
Do keep in mind that the frequency response of our ears varies depending on the sound pressure levels. We are less sensitive to lower frequencies at lower energy. I chose not to compensate for that, but some prefer to, and it's not really considered coloring the sound.
 
With all that said, I definitely recommend the DT 48 for an absolutely flat listening experience.


How would one go about compensating for the lower energy? Perhaps I don't quite understand. I am thinking an amp?
 
Aug 6, 2010 at 10:54 PM Post #10 of 46

Pianist

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I am sure the DT48 is a beast, but I haven't heard one, so can't say. Out of the ones I've heard, Fischer Audio FA-003 is probably the most neutral headphone that still sounds musical and powerful. I also heard orthodynamic Fostex T50 RP and while it has an even flatter frequency response, it seriously lacks sub bass and upper treble extension, and thus sounds quite dull.
 
Aug 7, 2010 at 12:08 AM Post #11 of 46

lejaz

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Quote:
How would one go about compensating for the lower energy? Perhaps I don't quite understand. I am thinking an amp?

I can answer that since it was discussed in another thread. At low volumes the bass is lacking relative to the other frequencies, but if you listen at a higher volume it comes more into balance with the mids and highs. That's just the way human hearing works. However, the dt48 would require that you invest in a decent amp AFAIK...I don't know if a portable would do....that's why I recommended the dt250.
 
Aug 7, 2010 at 7:37 PM Post #12 of 46

Soaa-

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Quote:
Its funny that all of us DT48 users reported here. 
 
DT48 +1.


It's our duty. :wink:

 
Quote:
How would one go about compensating for the lower energy? Perhaps I don't quite understand. I am thinking an amp?


Just as lejaz said, it's how human hearing works. Our ears are less sensitive to bass frequencies at lower volumes, so you may want to compensate for that. I can't say if an amp is really required; I'm very happy with my 8 Ohm DT 48 unamped, but I don't have an amp to refer to.
 
Aug 7, 2010 at 8:34 PM Post #13 of 46

joelpearce

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I think there's a bit more to lack of colouration (yay Canada) than just a relatively flat frequency response.  I've had quite a few cans with a relatively flat frequency response, and they all sound completely different:
 
Charteroak SP-1 (detailed, delicate, fast)
Pro 750 (cold, analytical, snappy)
Pioneer Monitor 10 (indescribable)
Beyer DT480 (crystal clear, smooth, peppy)
Fostex T50RP (warm, smooth, almost detached from the music)
 
Beyond frequency response, I think we find neutrality in what fits our hearing the best.  If you are able to, I'd recommend listening to a few pairs of relatively neutral headphones with music that you're very familiar with.  You should be able to settle into a pair that sounds just right to you.
 
In terms of headphones that can be really revealing about the source--that's a dangerous game to play.  A lot of songs these days are mastered not to sound perfect to the band and producer, but to sound decent when heavily compressed and played on the radio.  The more revealing headphones become, the more painful that music gets.
 
Before you start seeking out the most accurate headphones you can find, here's a quick test for you to take on.  Get yourself a copy of Foobar if you don't have it, then set up a peak meter.  Play a song from your ten favourite albums.  Watch for albums that have been heavily compressed (you'll know because they will sit at the peak (0db) line pretty much the whole song.  If most of your music is compressed, you might not want too much of a clear window into what the recording really sounds like.
 
While I haven't got my pair of DT48 in yet, the 480 is remarkably revealing.  You hear things like the piano bench squeaking, to an extent I haven't heard anywhere else.  That said, you might be quite happy with the Pro 750 once they are Kees modded, as long as you like that cold, clinical sound.  If you get an amp that can feed them properly, the Fostex T50RP is a pretty good introduction to the studio sound, with that warmth that makes them a bit more forgiving with bad recordings.
 
Aug 7, 2010 at 10:36 PM Post #14 of 46

kool bubba ice

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I have both the 480 & DT48.. The 480 is more musical for sure.. The DT48 more detailed & resolving by a good margin, depending on the era & type of DT48.. Both mid ranges are very good, but the DT48 is a level above it..Could just be preference..
 
Quote:
I think there's a bit more to lack of colouration (yay Canada) than just a relatively flat frequency response.  I've had quite a few cans with a relatively flat frequency response, and they all sound completely different:
 
Charteroak SP-1 (detailed, delicate, fast)
Pro 750 (cold, analytical, snappy)
Pioneer Monitor 10 (indescribable)
Beyer DT480 (crystal clear, smooth, peppy)
Fostex T50RP (warm, smooth, almost detached from the music)
 
Beyond frequency response, I think we find neutrality in what fits our hearing the best.  If you are able to, I'd recommend listening to a few pairs of relatively neutral headphones with music that you're very familiar with.  You should be able to settle into a pair that sounds just right to you.
 
In terms of headphones that can be really revealing about the source--that's a dangerous game to play.  A lot of songs these days are mastered not to sound perfect to the band and producer, but to sound decent when heavily compressed and played on the radio.  The more revealing headphones become, the more painful that music gets.
 
Before you start seeking out the most accurate headphones you can find, here's a quick test for you to take on.  Get yourself a copy of Foobar if you don't have it, then set up a peak meter.  Play a song from your ten favourite albums.  Watch for albums that have been heavily compressed (you'll know because they will sit at the peak (0db) line pretty much the whole song.  If most of your music is compressed, you might not want too much of a clear window into what the recording really sounds like.
 
While I haven't got my pair of DT48 in yet, the 480 is remarkably revealing.  You hear things like the piano bench squeaking, to an extent I haven't heard anywhere else.  That said, you might be quite happy with the Pro 750 once they are Kees modded, as long as you like that cold, clinical sound.  If you get an amp that can feed them properly, the Fostex T50RP is a pretty good introduction to the studio sound, with that warmth that makes them a bit more forgiving with bad recordings.



 
Aug 7, 2010 at 10:38 PM Post #15 of 46

kool bubba ice

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Lets be honest.. This was planned.. Flyers were sent out weeks before the thread was even started..
Quote:
It's our duty. :wink:

 

Just as lejaz said, it's how human hearing works. Our ears are less sensitive to bass frequencies at lower volumes, so you may want to compensate for that. I can't say if an amp is really required; I'm very happy with my 8 Ohm DT 48 unamped, but I don't have an amp to refer to.



 

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