Headroom questions from a newbie
Mar 24, 2006 at 8:43 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 62

fondy44

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I've lurked around these forums for a while now (ever since Mr. K dropped the link over at Riovolution), but now I have a few questions that I was hoping you guys could help with.

I've often heard that the audiophile market is plagued by snake-oil salesmen hawking expensive aftermarket products that don't really work that well. I've also heard that some expensive products DO work, but the improvements are so slight that only someone with a trained ear can detect them.

So I was wondering, which category does Headroom (www.headphone.com) fall into? The reason I ask is because a couple of comments I've read on their website strike me as odd coming from audiophiles. The first is "the bundled iPod earbuds don't sound that bad". I know sound is subjective, but almost everyone I have talked to thinks these are just about the worst-sounding earbuds money can buy. I'm no audiophile by any means, but I'd take a pair of MX300s over the iBuds any day.

The other thing I don't understand are the headphone recabling kits. I'm not talking about the 'balanced system' kits where you need to use a special amp to convert the source after the upgrade. I'm referring to the aftermarket Cardas cables that are somehow supposed to sound better than the stock cables. Particularly for high-end models like the Sennheiser HD650. One would assume or even expect that a $500 pair of headphones would already use top-of-the line hardware, and that such an upgrade would be directed instead at lower-end models which are more likely to use inferior parts to keep prices down. This doesn't seem to be the case though, as most of their cable upgrades are for the high-end Sennheiser phones.

I hope nobody gets offended as my intent isn't to accuse anyone of shady business practices, but to try to clear up the confusion surrounding these comments/products.
Thanks
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 9:00 PM Post #2 of 62

F107plus5

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My quick take on the wire issue, and being brief so's not to start a flame war, is to simply state my opinion.

A good quality piece of wire will do a good job of passing a pure signal, changing little along the way.

A boutique cable may or may not change the resistance, or the capacitance or the inductance enough to change the characteristics of the signal reaching the final destination.

With luck, the change will be in the direction that the audiophile desires.

In home theater the costs are likely to be out of reach for many folks due to the great variety of ICs required to outfit a room. In headphones, the wires are minimal in nature and are not as likely to be such a great financial burden, so why not induldge if the spirit moves? Yeah, why not!!
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 9:28 PM Post #3 of 62

sgrossklass

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Apparently not everyone is convinced that the Cardas cable is better than even the stock HD600 one... the Equinox is supposed to fare better though. As for what difference it can make and where this comes from - if I knew. I suspect it may have something to do with the amplifier in conjunction with the cable capacitance, given that capacitive loading tends to give amps a headache (like mine :wheres-the-my-head-hurts-smiley?: ).
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 9:43 PM Post #5 of 62

F107plus5

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Ahhh....a custom cable designed with specific components in mind could certainly be a winning combination!!

Looks like I(also being a newbie to cans, but in audio since the good ol' days of "Hi-Fi Stereo Review")need to find out more about my new hobby!!

This is gonna be fun!
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 9:43 PM Post #6 of 62

Beauregard

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Quote:

Originally Posted by fondy44
... I've often heard that the audiophile market is plagued by snake-oil salesmen hawking expensive aftermarket products that don't really work that well. I've also heard that some expensive products DO work, but the improvements are so slight that only someone with a trained ear can detect them.

So I was wondering, which category does Headroom (www.headphone.com) fall into? ...



Hiya and welcome to Head-Fi!

HeadRoom most definitely does not fall into the snake oil category. I've been listening to their amps via headphones they've recommended for more than a dozen years and I can honestly say that I've never been more impressed with the way an outfit does business - at all levels.

First, their amps are marvelous; HeadRoom basically founded the headamp market you see in this forum. Their products reflect sound engineering; the design philosophy expressed by HeadRoom founder and CEO Tyll Hertsens is to build products that measure well - and then fine tune them by ear. Also, their crossfeed function is based on solid psychoacoustic research and works damn well at making headphone listening a noticeably more natural experience.

Second, although you'll find disagreement here among seasoned headphone listeners here, I admire the way HeadRoom describes and rates the headphones and other products they sell. And if you call them, you'll always get someone who really knows their product line and will give you sound advice based on your requirements and budget without any hint of "salesmanship". The best example I can give from personal experience is when I called to order a module upgrade last year. Instead of simply taking the order, Jamey initiated a discussion of whether the upgrade would be cost-effective given my current equipment, audio tastes, etc. He ended up talking me out of a $700 purchase that I'd already decided on! The snake oil folks don't do stuff like that...
icon10.gif


As far as pricey headphone cables go, HeadRoom is meeting a market demand. If you spend some time here, you'll see that an awful lot of folks believe that aftermarket cables improve the sound of hi-end phones. Though there's a lot of discussion, sometimes heated, about how much improvement they offer and if they're worth the price. What you won't find on the HeadRoom website are what are, IMO, the real snake oil products that you're properly concerned about - megabuck interconnects and power cords, magic discs, etc.

Soo... I think you're absolutely correct to approach hi-end audio with a healthy skepticism - there are indeed lots of worthless and/or overpriced products that rely on the placebo effect to convince impressionable folks that they're getting improved sound quality. But you're not going to find such a thing in dealing with HeadRoom. If you do a little searching on Head-Fi, I think you'll find that this isn't just my opinion. I believe it's safe to say that, in this weird little community, HeadRoom is among the universally respected good-guys.

Again, welcome and enjoy!

Best,
Beau
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 9:46 PM Post #7 of 62

granodemostasa

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they are mostly great headphones, but they are made to be used with different cables if one wants to: it's at least suggested when a company makes their cables to be easily pulled out of the headphone. Think of speakers: some come with throw in cables for those who want to start up their rig; but they are cheap cables: an expensive product would be even more so with expensive cables.
the HD650 cable isn't bad; but because of it's lenght not so great build (i actually chewed through it) you do loose information. the Cardas cable is more detailed; but it sounds terrible. the equinox and blue dragon are the same as the stock cable; but they are tuff and have much more resolution.
the other reason is to change the sound: silver changes the sound of the HD650 when opposed to copper cables: it makes it brighter, smoother, and other such things: i personally don't like it since it messes up the sound of violins. These cables are the Cardas, Silver Dragon, and Zu. they are often said to be more lively and exciting...etc...
on headroom
often they are hailed as the best, the standard and they are (i'd love to get a max one day) however, they are sometimes not the best value in amplification; a shootout of the 300 dollar amps at the meet a few weeks ago had the micro dk as the lowest; but the top of their line is debatable since they are suppose to be really really really good. i wouldn't consider anything they sell as "snake oil," it's all good, but do keep in mind the concept of diminishing returns.... audio is full of it.
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 10:10 PM Post #8 of 62

ElectroJunkie

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Quote:

Originally Posted by TheSloth
I find HeadRoom to be one of the most honest and respectable companies in the business. But then, you all knew I'd say that...


This has been my experience too, I'm sure most people here would agree.
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 10:46 PM Post #9 of 62

TheSloth

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Quote:

Originally Posted by granodemostasa
they do sell not that great things; often they are hailed as the best, the standard and they are (i'd love to get a max one day) but the original airhead became famous, apparently, for purposely sound bad in order to sell the higher end amps (i didn't make this claim, but found it). The microamp DK can't actually power the HD650 that well also: it's dynamics faltered at the meet when compared to the MK-1 HA-II and M3, at one point the HD650 sounded flat, as if it couldn't deliver any thing above a certain point. Their amps are also somewhat expensive when compared to other things out there... but that's debateable.


Well that isn't selling snake-oil, but it's certainly giving some away for free.

If the MicroAmp Desktop Module was unable to power a 650 with adequate 'headroom', the amp was not being used correctly, or was faulty. Debate about sound quality doesn't belong in this thread, so I won't get into that, however inability to deliver the dynamic drive requirements of the HD-650 is simply techincally incorrect, and shouldn't be repeated.

Regarding the original Airhead, why on earth are you repeating an unsubstantiated claim about the original AirHead here, if you have no evidence to suggest it was remotely true. Such speculation is rather offensive to one of the founding sponsors of this forum that you enjoy on a daily basis, and that is willing to give 5% of every single sale to Head-Fi with no strings attached (assuming you put head-fi in the comments window) to allow us to continue to enjoy this valuable resource.

Open debate about the commercial entities with a presence here on Head-Fi is both important and absolutely necessary, however propogating baseless misinformation is unnecessary and unfair.
 
Mar 24, 2006 at 10:53 PM Post #10 of 62

seacard

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As for HeadRoom, they're one of the great companies in our business. Very knowledgeable, easy to talk to, and have a great return policy.

As for improvements with cables, or with headphones in general, it's the same as any other subjective art form. At a certain point, you get very very little returns for a lot of money. A $600 headphone will not sound 3 times better than a $200, and an Orpheus won't sound 300 times better than a Koss KSC-75. But that's neither here nor there, and HeadRoom is not to blame.
 
Mar 25, 2006 at 12:15 AM Post #11 of 62

granodemostasa

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Quote:

Originally Posted by TheSloth
Well that isn't selling snake-oil, but it's certainly giving some away for free.

If the MicroAmp Desktop Module was unable to power a 650 with adequate 'headroom', the amp was not being used correctly, or was faulty. Debate about sound quality doesn't belong in this thread, so I won't get into that, however inability to deliver the dynamic drive requirements of the HD-650 is simply techincally incorrect, and shouldn't be repeated.

Regarding the original Airhead, why on earth are you repeating an unsubstantiated claim about the original AirHead here, if you have no evidence to suggest it was remotely true. Such speculation is rather offensive to one of the founding sponsors of this forum that you enjoy on a daily basis, and that is willing to give 5% of every single sale to Head-Fi with no strings attached (assuming you put head-fi in the comments window) to allow us to continue to enjoy this valuable resource.

Open debate about the commercial entities with a presence here on Head-Fi is both important and absolutely necessary, however propogating baseless misinformation is unnecessary and unfair.



Fine, airhead thing is one of the things i've heard out there....but i probably shouldn't be repeating what i've heard from other members..only my own ears/knowledge. I"M SORRY. as for the micro DK, i sill stand behind what i heard....it's not quality of the sound but power that was lacking....but you do bring it up i think that it may have been that a battery was dead, or it wasnt' working property or something.... but i heard it falter so i'll keep that statement up there. And, Yes i do like headroom and they are the reason why i have HD650s, and the reason why i like crossfeed, and will defintately buy my next headphones from them, and put the "head-fi" on the message so they could give head-fi a 5 percent...Further, i think that headroom is the reason why we have such great amplifiers out there; they were the pioneers of the technology and i can't give them enought credit for that.
 
Mar 25, 2006 at 2:59 AM Post #13 of 62

Bones13

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Headroom is one of the best companies out there, one of the great companies that both develops, and markets superb gear for the headphone market. They also have steadfastedly supported this board, and the members here, and frequently are at the forefront of setting up the bigger Meets.

I have 2 of their amps (Desktop and one of the new Total BitHeads) and bought my 650s from them. Very nice folks, that have no trouble working with you over the phone, and email to help with your choices, and such.

As to aftermarket cords, remember that all things are "different" and some stuff is "better" to some, while "worse" to others. Many folks here swear by the tonal differences offered by aftermarket cords, while others don't much care for them, and some even dislike the tonal changes introduced by the different wires.

Bad, and Good, are relative here, worthy of discussion usually, but not "wrong"
 
Mar 25, 2006 at 4:19 AM Post #14 of 62

redrich2000

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The question about recabling and high end interconnects is one that confronts everyone who stumbles onto this site. I have found plenty of very experienced DIYers who argue that high cables are a con and don't sound better than a decent DIY starquad cable. But there are also plenty of people that argue there is a difference.

I have concluded based some limited expereince that high end cables offer only very sublte improvements at best over decent DIY cables and so don't represent value for money, especially if you don't have really expensive reference level set up.

Obviously this is my opinion but I strongly believe its a valid one and one that is not put often enough here and hence I think people end up paying more than the need to or should.

Hope that helps and no disrespect to those of you that swear by your high end cables.
 
Mar 25, 2006 at 7:00 AM Post #15 of 62

Elephas

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I consider HeadRoom a very reputable company. Based on their history, website, the HeadRoom tour, posts by HeadRoom people and members' experiences with their products, I believe they are honest, enthusiastic about our hobby and genuinely care about the headphone industry.

As for headphone cables, I've tried the stock, Cardas and Zu Mobius cables with my HD650 and concluded there are differences. I've also recabled my DT880 with Cardas, and concluded that it sounds different compared to a stock DT880 (both pre-2005 models). In my limited experience, headphone cable differences are more apparent than RCA interconnect differences.

There are several audio shops in my city carrying headphone related gear, so I haven't felt the need to order from HeadRoom. Once in a while I feel the urge to order a HeadRoom Home amp, though, which subsides only when I check my meager bank balance.
 

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