If headphones are only differentiated by sound signature and distortion...
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Àedhàn Cassiel

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Then what do you think the chances are someone is going to eventually kill off the whole industry by developing a flat, low-distortion driver coupled with a DSP hardware full of presets that mimic the house sounds of all the diffetent popular brands with the flick of a switch?

Even if soundstage is something additional to FR and distortion, it seems it wouldn't be hard to account for this with pad swapping and an adjustment system similar to the Abyss, or Mysphere's to go along with the DSP pre-sets.

Oratory1990 has already done something similar to this, creating presets for nearly every popular headphone to tune them to the Harman curve. All you'd need to do is get the right driver with the ideal flat signature, then do those same measurements towards a variety of "house sound" goals instead of just Harman.

If you did this, you could even release "new headphones" for free, or in an app you pay a small monthly subscription to or something like that.

It seems we already have all the know-how we would need to pull this off - and I don't doubt there would be overwhelming interest in the project. If you priced it within reach of an average young audiophile, you could take the entire market just like that.
 
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I don't understand why a person would want a bunch of different sounding headphones. I have a specific target I'm looking for. Once I reach that, almost all my music sounds great and I'm done... ready to listen to music and stop fussing with the equipment. I think people who want to have a bunch of different kinds of sounds just haven't sat down and analyzed sound to determine their own target response. Instead they listen to one coloration until they get tired of it and then move on to another. And on and on back and forth. If they'd just expend the energy to define their goal, they wouldn't be see sawing so much. They'd arrive at their happy place and not have to fuss any more.
 
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So, then I guess if an idea like this never takes off, it will be because:

* the companies would rather carry on the illusion that there's some indefinable magic juice going into each and every unique design, that could never in principle be recreated this way (but the fact is, it is)

* those that understand the science well enough to know this is possible aren't willing or able to understand why people do enjoy going down the typical audiophile rabbit hole, and are willing to shell out big bucks for multiples of these designs (but the fact is, they do)

If you ask people for advice on headphones, they'll ask you what genres you listen to before they even make a recommendation. I've found this to be the opposite of the right approach, because adjusting to very different signatures is precisely the biggest way audiophilia has expanded my love of music – it makes me shift my tastes towards genres, albums, songs, and particular parts of particular tracks that I wasn't previously as interested in. I also find mixing it up just for its own sake sometimes keeps me engaging with music more actively than if I just let something I find pleasant play in the background. None of this is deliberate; I simply find that the trends in what stands out to me as a favorite shifts over time depending on what I'm listening through.

But that's just me. There are thousands of others who'd have their own reasons for why they enjoy the process of changing and trying new headphones / signatures. As an empirical matter of fact, it's obviously not true that most audiophiles want to settle with one signature forever or have one underlying 'target' they're moving towards; people's favorites very often have highly contrasting signatures. Maybe the typical consumer just wants to grab a slight variation of Harman and be done with it forever, but the audiophile demographic consists entirely of the exceptions to that rule, by definition. That's one reason the audiophile market is so much smaller. The other is that huge prices and nearly infinite choices scare newcomers away.

But since both variables could be eliminated by an invention like this, it could very easily expand far beyond the current audiophile market - in addition to swallowing it whole as well. With something like this, someone like you could discover and stick to their once-and-for-all sound, and someone like me could change and experiment to their heart's content all at the same time.

For a play on words, you could call it "The Equalizer"
 
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There are elements of audiophilia that have nothing to do with sound. There are people whose hobby it is to diddle with equipment... plug stuff together like Chinese puzzle boxes, upgrade for the sake of upgrading, bling for status symbols to impress the neighbors, brand name fetishism, OCD about sound that can't even be heard with human ears, etc. These aspects are often the underlying motivation behind discussion in the rest of head-fi, but those of us in Sound Science tend to be focused on sound, although here folks can be derailed into theoretical discussions of things that bear very little resemblance to practical reality.

For me, it's always been about presenting music well. For well engineered recordings, one response works with everything. I only need to adjust for sub standard recordings. My goal is that I want to be able to sit down and listen without being distracted by imbalances, noise or distortion. Since the beginning of the digital era, that has been completely achieved when it comes to electronics... transducers are the wild card, but there are plenty of great solutions there too. My goal was always to have a listening room. No coffee tables, furniture blocking the speakers, weird reflections off the walls- so I could have a nice space that suited my speakers and was comfortable to relax in. I never worried about the electronics or the wires that connected them. That stuff could take care of itself.

Now I have my listening room, and the focus is on making it more convenient. Home automation so I can speak a word and the screen drops and a movie starts, adjusting things from my phone, making things seamless and less cumbersome. I am very close to achieving that.

The next project is addressing my media server. It has swelled to 100 TB and I need to upgrade to a more secure and efficient disk array. I'd also like to invest in a more flexible room correction system than the one built into my AVR.

So it's not like once you find the headphones you like, the hobby is done. There are always things to work on. But it makes no sense to keep wiping the slate clean and going back to square one picking headphones again. That is a good way to go broke without taking a single step forward. But that is the path the equipment manufacturers would like you to take. Buy the "new and improved". Set your old cans on the shelf along with 15 more sets you've become bored with. Keep buying the same thing over and over. That is exactly the message you get from the rest of Head-Fi.
 
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And as someone whose musical tastes extend from opera to rock to classic jazz to country music to latin to ethnic music to modern jazz to baroque to you name it... I can tell you categorically that frequency response imbalances are NOT what lead you to expand your musical tastes. The way to do that is to push your boundaries and experiment with genres you aren't familiar with. You need to research them and strive to understand them. When you've done this enough, one genre will lead you to another, and one genre will inform your understanding of a completely different genre. This is 100% an analytical process. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with the equipment you use.

I was chatting with a classical music buff about this once and he told me about an email exchange he had with a famous musicologist about a particular conductor. They were discussing specific recordings and referring to them in their own collections, and the musicologist was blowing the guy's mind by pointing out details of the performance that had escaped him. Their correspondence lasted several weeks and spanned over a dozen different recordings, and when they were finished, he asked the musicologist what sort of sound system he had. The musicologist told him he had a wall full of old LPs and a turquoise blue schoolhouse phonograph to play them on.

Discernment doesn't involve equipment or the quality of your hearing. Discernment comes from analysis and experience.
 
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I can tell you categorically that frequency response imbalances are NOT what lead you to expand your musical tastes
I made a statement about the effects these different variables have personally had on me, myself.

I did not and would not presume to make any statement about how it does work for all people. That would be ludicrous, because musical tastes evolve in different ways for different reasons at different times in different people. There are two possible ways I can interpret your statement. Either that's what you're doing here - you're making a statement about how it did in fact work for me, and it's just that ludicrous, and the empirical fact of the matter is that you're wrong. Or, you're making a moral statement about how you think it "should" be done, and you think one way is purer than the other. In that case, you're taking a moral stance and projecting your own feelings, not taking an empirical stance on a matter of fact. And as such, it wouldn't fall in the realm of being a "scientific" statement one way or another.

I've also never claimed it was the only factor that's ever caused my tastes to expands. Obviously that would be silly. It is, nonetheless, one factor that has.

It's one thing to prioritize empirical discovery over subjective reports when it comes to determining the truth of a question. It's another to claim the authority of science to deny that people actually have had the experiences that they actually have, in fact, had.

But it makes no sense to keep wiping the slate clean and going back to square one picking headphones again.
The fact remains that so long as something like what I've described (a) costed the same (or less!) than what you currently own and use, and (b) has the same or better user experience, there's no reason why you wouldn't be better off purchasing something that had the capability of doing this built in.

The fact also remains that had you had something like this years ago, if we add up everything you've spent experimenting to discover your preferred signature, whether that was travel costs to CanJam events or purchases or whatever else, this would probably come out in the end being much cheaper.

Maybe the only use you'd get out of it now is putting the closed cups on and switching to the "Beats Pro" tuning once a year when your nephews spend the day at your house and you need to pacify them for a few hours. It still, theoretically, could do anything you could want while adding options there's no reason you'd lose for having. And my view is that I think the interest in something like this would be great enough for great enough numbers of people that achieving (a) could be easy. The impression I get is that you're probably going to continue insisting as harshly as you can that a product like this wouldn't be for you, rather than discussing the idea on its own terms. I don't see much further that could possibly be gained from that discussion, so here's hoping I'm proven wrong. I'd be very interested in a discussion of the plausibility of the idea from a marketing, engineering, and maybe even legal (!) perspective, even if it wouldn't be your cup of tea.
 
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Perception can be subjective, solipsist and subject to bias. There's really no point discussing those sorts of aspects with anyone else because it doesn't apply to them. However physics, tested principles, analysis and proven methods are all transferrable. I gave you a process that works to expand your musical frame of reference. If you want to expand your horizons, that is a very good way to go. Appreciation comes from understanding, not from subjectivity. All subjectivity can tell you is whether you "like" something or not. I'm not talking here about "like". I'm talking about appreciation and understanding. That comes from research and analysis. Like is another word for bias... biased in the direction of favoring something. You can feel free to just like music. That's fine. But it won't necessarily lead you to discover completely new things, because people tend to like what they already know.

It's always good to streamline your system by getting something that eliminates other steps. That is exactly what I did when I got headphones that eliminated the need for amping or EQ out of the box. But I did that when it was time to replace old headphones that had become beaters. I've chucked the beaters and I use the replacements. I'm not actively shopping for new headphones because the choice fit my needs and that made it so I could move on and address different needs. In Head-Fi there are people who have 15 or more sets of headphones on the shelf. That makes absolutely no sense at all. Who needs 15 different sound signatures? You only need the right one. When you randomly switch from one sound to another, you end up with random results. That is exactly how people get fooled into thinking wires or amps all sound different. They sound different because they haven't bothered to standardize the response of their transducers!

It's just a different approach. My end goal is great sounding music that is natural sounding and the way it was intended to sound. If I want to correct for imbalanced recordings, I do that with tone controls and DSPs. That is an adjustable way to address a wide range of problems. If I went out and bought a different set of cans to correct for every poorly calibrated recording, I would need a set of headphones for every bad recording in my collection. And there would be enough presets in an app to cover all the different kinds of error. That's why adjusting it myself with EQ, tone controls or DSPs make sense, rather than swapping a bunch of fixed presets.

By the way, I'm not being harsh. I am trying to clearly explain and illustrate my points.
 
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Àedhàn Cassiel

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If I want to correct for imbalanced recordings, I do that with tone controls and DSPs.
Well, seeing as what I'm talking about is a headphone that would be packaged with DSP hardware (*ideally once the tech allows it to be small enough for portable use), I'm not sure if your comments are directed at the thread topic per se. I'm talking about something that would render the need to collect multiple cans obsolete, even for most of those people, too. A few holdouts might stay attached to the idea of different physical cans, but seeing as something like this could be made modular enough for cosmetic attachments as well... I really doubt there would be very many left.
 
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You'd want adjustable controls to correct a huge spectrum of imbalanced recordings, not fixed presets to simulate a variety of imbalanced headphone models. There is no need for multiple sets of headphones, other than portable and home- and that's for practical reasons of functionality, not sound.
 
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I don't understand why a person would want a bunch of different sounding headphones. I have a specific target I'm looking for. Once I reach that, almost all my music sounds great and I'm done... ready to listen to music and stop fussing with the equipment. I think people who want to have a bunch of different kinds of sounds just haven't sat down and analyzed sound to determine their own target response. Instead they listen to one coloration until they get tired of it and then move on to another. And on and on back and forth. If they'd just expend the energy to define their goal, they wouldn't be see sawing so much. They'd arrive at their happy place and not have to fuss any more.
This is why you should aim for a flat sounding headphone with a strong driver, So it can handle some of the heaver boosts. The ER4S/SR, Westone W30/40, SE535 are 3 examples in the in ear area. Can sound like new headphones with EQ/DSP, The ER4S/SR can handle a 12db boost under 125Hz fine despite being single driver. Since every harman traget profile has the SR/S at 10db at 90Hz Low shelf.

Never understood why that opinion is taboo, When it can fun doing that. Even in low key contexts like EQ'ing the ER3/ER4 S versions into the XR versions.


So, then I guess if an idea like this never takes off, it will be because:

* the companies would rather carry on the illusion that there's some indefinable magic juice going into each and every unique design, that could never in principle be recreated this way (but the fact is, it is)

* those that understand the science well enough to know this is possible aren't willing or able to understand why people do enjoy going down the typical audiophile rabbit hole, and are willing to shell out big bucks for multiples of these designs (but the fact is, they do)

If you ask people for advice on headphones, they'll ask you what genres you listen to before they even make a recommendation. I've found this to be the opposite of the right approach, because adjusting to very different signatures is precisely the biggest way audiophilia has expanded my love of music – it makes me shift my tastes towards genres, albums, songs, and particular parts of particular tracks that I wasn't previously as interested in. I also find mixing it up just for its own sake sometimes keeps me engaging with music more actively than if I just let something I find pleasant play in the background. None of this is deliberate; I simply find that the trends in what stands out to me as a favorite shifts over time depending on what I'm listening through.

But that's just me. There are thousands of others who'd have their own reasons for why they enjoy the process of changing and trying new headphones / signatures. As an empirical matter of fact, it's obviously not true that most audiophiles want to settle with one signature forever or have one underlying 'target' they're moving towards; people's favorites very often have highly contrasting signatures. Maybe the typical consumer just wants to grab a slight variation of Harman and be done with it forever, but the audiophile demographic consists entirely of the exceptions to that rule, by definition. That's one reason the audiophile market is so much smaller. The other is that huge prices and nearly infinite choices scare newcomers away.

But since both variables could be eliminated by an invention like this, it could very easily expand far beyond the current audiophile market - in addition to swallowing it whole as well. With something like this, someone like you could discover and stick to their once-and-for-all sound, and someone like me could change and experiment to their heart's content all at the same time.

For a play on words, you could call it "The Equalizer"
It won't work because thant means they have make use a driver that can handle 12db-/+ without choking. Not to mention drivers have different decay levels, A DT1990 or a HD650 would sound wrong mimicing. The FR sound of a LCDX, Lxxx stax, ER4XR because of much better decay/transient performance.

So owning 2 pairs with there own EQ profiles who be a better choice.
 
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For now the concept of the headphone having integrated DSP is not as cool as you hope it can be. Because having processing means it also needs a DAC, the amp and the power source in it. Given the requirement in term of space and weight, if you're going to see compromises made, such headphone will probably have them. It's not ideal,and when you add to this the challenging job of using convolution to imitate the sound of another headphone(the linear stuff at least), you probably want to start with the best headphone possible, objectively. we don't want audible hiss or some highly distorted bass that will color anything we send through it for example.

The second challenge is that to make a copy of the sound you'd get using another headphone, at the moment the best option is still to record the sound of that headphone at your ears(or improve HRTF models based on video or 3D scans).
So such a project would ideally require the headphone that is objectively superior to the list of headphones it's going to simulate(lower distortions, better frequency response extension), and customized measurement method where you'd have to at least measure your own ears once and then hope that they can work out a transfer function for the headphones measured in a lab. Or if we stick to the basics, have you record the sound of each headphone you plan to simulate later. If you do that, we can absolutely get you to experience the sound of all those headphones in a very convincing way(minus the weight and pad comfort).

So as you see you'll need some custom measurement, which is usually a big no no for the industry trying to sell "one fit all" products. And the solution for that might require to end up with an inferior simulation if they still try to replace part of them with approximate models for practical reasons(I mention that as most existing products with DSPs do exactly that and aim for partial models or default standards). Would we be fine with that? It's a subjective question and I probably wouldn't have the same standards you would for what is "good enough".
Another issue is that once you have a bunch of headphones, even if you like to change from time to time, most people would rapidly find one they prefer and stick to it. Making the probably more expensive simulator, not that appealing if the listener can just find out what he likes and go get it for a lower price. maybe your idea would be cool in a store where you'd get to try all the sounds from one headphone, but wouldn't you still wish to try the real one for fit and weight?


And now my personal opinion, if we could properly record the sound at my ears or model it very well with video scans or pictures(it's coming and getting better each year), then I wouldn't want to simulate some other headphone. I would want to have something flat to my ears that no headphone does well enough for me), or perhaps speaker+room simulation instead of other headphones and what I consider wrong stereo(wrong only because the albums I listen to, were made with and for speakers. otherwise headphones are very fine stereo systems).
In conclusion: your vision stands on a thin line between getting the resource and ambition to get it done well enough to sell, and the fact that once we're there, most people would probably want to immediately move to the next step and simulate 3D environments(real rooms measured at your ears, or virtual environments). Between this and most 'elite audiophiles' being actively against DSPs because they're too ignorant to know what's good for them, I don't see this getting much traction.
But of course that's only me playing Nostradamus. I have no idea if I'm right or not. ^_^
 
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This is why you should aim for a flat sounding headphone with a strong driver, So it can handle some of the heaver boosts.
Exactly. If a set of cans can play a wide range of frequencies loud, it can be EQed into anything you want. The only exception is sub bass, which depends a lot on kinesthetic vibrations. But no headphone can do that like a subwoofer can.

if we could properly record the sound at your ears or model it very well- -, then I wouldn't want to simulate some other headphone. I would want to have something flat to my ears that no headphone does well enough for me), or perhaps speaker+room simulation
Bingo. The goal isn't to simulate a bunch of cans that are inaccurate in their own peculiar way, it's to achieve the one perfect signature that works best for the individual listener. DSPs are the way to do that. They should incorporate DSPs into DAPs.
 
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Exactly. If a set of cans can play a wide range of frequencies loud, it can be EQed into anything you want. The only exception is sub bass, which depends a lot on kinesthetic vibrations. But no headphone can do that like a subwoofer can.
This is why I'm skeptic when reviewers hype the sub bass on headphones, But it turns out it a boost in the 50 - 125Hz area there hearing. But yeah there a few threads showing what the Westone W40, SE535 and ER4PT can do with EQ.
 
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Well, I didn't realize something already exists to tune one headphone to another's frequency response target. Jaakkopassanen's AutoEQ. I've put it on my Verite Closed and on my HD800 now, both tuned to the LCD-4 target, and the one hole in my arsenal (being able to blast extreme metal or get that vocal focus) is completely filled. The Atticus however does not IME take to the EQ well, no idea why but it just doesn't sound right. Mildly annoying that that's the result I'd expect if I my perceptions were really being biased by price, but that's what I'm hearing.
 
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The Atticus however does not IME take to the EQ well, no idea why but it just doesn't sound right. Mildly annoying that that's the result I'd expect if I my perceptions were really being biased by price, but that's what I'm hearing.
Who would've thought headphones are not only differentiated by sound signature and distortion.................

Unfortunately, there's still a lot to transducer tech that we don't fully grasp. Analysing CSDs, however, is starting to become more of a thing as it provides a more detailed look at what sound is actually doing.
 
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