Is 'slam'/'macrodynamics'/'impact' a real thing? (Outside of frequency response)
Sep 5, 2021 at 7:18 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 47

cactus_farmer

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 12, 2008
Posts
1,107
Likes
102
If you follow Andrew from The Headphones Show - you'll be familiar that he often bandies about the concept of slam/macrodynamics/impact as an attribute OUTSIDE of frequency response. For example, a headphone with lower overall bass output might still have greater slam in the bass than a headphone with overall higher bass output. And likewise, a headphone with more recessed mids might have more impact in the mids than a headphone with more prominent mids. So the most important things to mention about his proposed slam/macrodynamics/impact concept is that it;

1). Occurs across all ranges of the frequency response (i.e. it's not ONLY about bass. You can have 'slam' in the treble and mids too)
2). It is not related to frequency response (i.e. a headphone with lower bass output can have higher slam as mentioned above)

The headphones he often refers to as having weak/reduced slam are;

Most Hifiman products including Arya, Ananda...etc...
Almost all Dan Clark Audio products

The headphones he often refers to as having strong/enhanced slam are;

All Focal headphones (Clear, Clear Mg, Elex...etc...)
Hifiman HE6
Very high-end Audeze's (i.e. LCD 4)

Do you recognize this phenomenon to be real?

Personally speaking, I have a Hifiman Ananda and have compared it directly to my Focal Elex. For me, they have similar impact in the bass (kick drums, heavy bass lines...etc..) whilst the Elex has notably more slam in the mids (snare drums, shouted vocals...etc...). And really, this makes sense because the Ananda has a similar bass level to the Elex whilst having notably less prominent mids than the Elex. So this would suggest to me that I hear 'impact' as simply being related to frequency response - i.e. if the headphone has a peak in one area of the frequency response I'll perceive it as having more impact there, and if it has a recession I'll perceive it as having less impact there. So for me, it seems that 'slam'/'macrodynamics'/'impact' is simply a product of frequency response.

Do you guys hear it differently? And, if so, can you give some examples?

Do you also hear the Hifiman Arya/Ananda to be lacking in macrodynamics?
 
Last edited:
Sep 5, 2021 at 7:31 AM Post #2 of 47
I think so the fr is the frequency of the waves. But I think that slam/macrodynamic property has to do with how much air it's being pushed to achieve that frequency. I think generally it has to do with how much the diagram moves to achieve the frequency. So a driver moving 1nano-meter at 30hz will likely slam less hard than a driver moving 3nano-meters at 30hz. So I would think the air would compress more in since the driver is moving more distance but at the same frequency. But I could be wrong since i don't know what I'm talking about.

The Ananda and Arya's have good deep rumbling bass, but don't feel the impact on the ears as much as some of the ZMFs I've heard.
 
Last edited:
Sep 5, 2021 at 7:43 AM Post #3 of 47
It's difficult to assess if it's even a thing, because there could be many factors involved. My speculation would be that if it exists, it's likely a combination of distortion, impulse response and reflections.
I'm actually trying to working out a setup to test for this characteristic, but there are many obstacles such as music choice, level matching, headphone choice, amplifier choice and probably many more I still need to figure out. I also don't own any professional equipment for measurement so that throws more variables in the mix.

So far I'm trying to do a simple setup with ADI-2 DAC into Monolith 887 with Aeon RT and Elex first. If that should result in any tangible result, I will try to refine the setup progressively to eliminate the variables one by one to narrow down the factors of the characteristic.
There is still a lot of stuff to figure out before I get a sensible setup though.
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 9:02 AM Post #4 of 47
I’m personally tracking what Andrew is saying. My DCA Noire have elevated bass but lack bass slam. My Elex have way less bass but have more bass slam. That’s what I hear, though of course people ‘hear’ all sorts of crazy things like differences between cables and the like.

That being said I wouldn’t be surprised if we do end up finding a way to measure slam.
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 9:17 AM Post #5 of 47
If you follow Andrew from The Headphones Show - you'll be familiar that he often bandies about the concept of slam/macrodynamics/impact as an attribute OUTSIDE of frequency response. For example, a headphone with lower overall bass output might still have greater slam in the bass than a headphone with overall higher bass output. And likewise, a headphone with more recessed mids might have more impact in the mids than a headphone with more prominent mids. So the most important things to mention about his proposed slam/macrodynamics/impact concept is that it;

1). Occurs across all ranges of the frequency response (i.e. it's not ONLY about bass. You can have 'slam' in the treble and mids too)
2). It is not related to frequency response (i.e. a headphone with lower bass output can have higher slam as mentioned above)

The headphones he often refers to as having weak/reduced slam are;

Most Hifiman products including Arya, Ananda...etc...
Almost all Dan Clark Audio products

The headphones he often refers to as having strong/enhanced slam are;

All Focal headphones (Clear, Clear Mg, Elex...etc...)
Hifiman HE6
Very high-end Audeze's (i.e. LCD 4)

Do you recognize this phenomenon to be real?

Personally speaking, I have a Hifiman Ananda and have compared it directly to my Focal Elex. For me, they have similar impact in the bass (kick drums, heavy bass lines...etc..) whilst the Elex has notably more slam in the mids (snare drums, shouted vocals...etc...). And really, this makes sense because the Ananda has a similar bass level to the Elex whilst having notably less prominent mids than the Elex. So this would suggest to me that I hear 'impact' as simply being related to frequency response - i.e. if the headphone has a peak in one area of the frequency response I'll perceive it as having more impact there, and if it has a recession I'll perceive it as having less impact there. So for me, it seems that 'slam'/'macrodynamics'/'impact' is simply a product of frequency response.

Do you guys hear it differently? And, if so, can you give some examples?

Do you also hear the Hifiman Arya/Ananda to be lacking in macrodynamics?
I think so the fr is the frequency of the waves. But I think that slam/macrodynamic property has to do with how much air it's being pushed to achieve that frequency. I think generally it has to do with how much the diagram moves to achieve the frequency. So a driver moving 1nano-meter at 30hz will likely slam less hard than a driver moving 3nano-meters at 30hz. So I would think the air would compress more in since the driver is moving more distance but at the same frequency. But I could be wrong since i don't know what I'm talking about.

The Ananda and Arya's have good deep rumbling bass, but don't feel the impact on the ears as much as some of the ZMFs I've heard.
It's difficult to assess if it's even a thing, because there could be many factors involved. My speculation would be that if it exists, it's likely a combination of distortion, impulse response and reflections.
I'm actually trying to working out a setup to test for this characteristic, but there are many obstacles such as music choice, level matching, headphone choice, amplifier choice and probably many more I still need to figure out. I also don't own any professional equipment for measurement so that throws more variables in the mix.

So far I'm trying to do a simple setup with ADI-2 DAC into Monolith 887 with Aeon RT and Elex first. If that should result in any tangible result, I will try to refine the setup progressively to eliminate the variables one by one to narrow down the factors of the characteristic.
There is still a lot of stuff to figure out before I get a sensible setup though.
I’m personally tracking what Andrew is saying. My DCA Noire have elevated bass but lack bass slam. My Elex have way less bass but have more bass slam. That’s what I hear, though of course people ‘hear’ all sorts of crazy things like differences between cables and the like.

That being said I wouldn’t be surprised if we do end up finding a way to measure slam.
From my observation so far, it seems your whole chain needs be able to provide this 'slam' to be representable on the headphone:
On my GS-X mini with the Ares II DAC I dont get this 'slam' effect, same amp with Gustard X26 Pro I get this with an impressive quality, when the headphone is able to (for reference, e.g. the Violectric v281 was never able to provide this 'slam' quality regardless of DAC and headphone used). Maybe its a question of how fast the power delivery is able to provide the power.
Since I own the Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Closed and Focal Celestee for comparison, I tend to find this phenomenon to be noticeable, the A2C cannot provide this in any case, but the Celestee really seems to. Bass note itself is played the same way on both headphones, but the perception changes slightly due to this effect.
Would really nice to understand this phenomenon better and how it can be measured!
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 9:34 AM Post #6 of 47
One thing to consider is that it could be that, for example a kick drum hit comprises of low end tones plus mid to treble frequencies that provide the 'click' or 'snap' to the attack. It could be that the Dan Clark headphones have less mids and/or highs therefore don't provide the snap of the kick drum hits whereas the Focal headphones do have the mids and highs to provide this snap, therefore the Focal headphones are perceived as having more slam. If this were the case it would still mean than the slam effect was still related to the frequency response
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 1:52 PM Post #7 of 47
How 'slam' is achieved is a mystery to me. I don't think any of my headphones have this characteristic emphasised but that's difficult to assess. A headphone that slams a lot must be inherently an unnatural sounding headphone. Like most alterations distortion is never far away, if your amplifier enhances the attack as well as the headphones then some recording with aggressive drums or bass will become distorted especially when played loud. There are multiple ways 'slam' could be created: the driver, the earcup acoustics might be able to be adjusted to create this effect, the earpads also. Whether you would notice much of a change between an altered design to emphasise attack on the FR I can't say. Perhaps you could have two similar FR's one that slams hard and another not so much. It's not a trait I would want in a headphone. A hard slamming headphone must be fatiguing. Too much is as undesirable as too little. Decay and sustain are also traits that could be made unnatural. I wonder if any vintage headphones 'slam' or whether it's a purely modern characteristic. Unfortunately there is a cost in terms of accuracy, fatigue and sound quality in order to liven up the music.
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 2:00 PM Post #8 of 47
How 'slam' is achieved is a mystery to me. I don't think any of my headphones have this characteristic emphasised but that's difficult to assess. A headphone that slams a lot must be inherently an unnatural sounding headphone. Like most alterations distortion is never far away, if your amplifier enhances the attack as well as the headphones then some recording with aggressive drums or bass will become distorted especially when played loud. There are multiple ways 'slam' could be created: the driver, the earcup acoustics might be able to be adjusted to create this effect, the earpads also. Whether you would notice much of a change between an altered design to emphasise attack on the FR I can't say. Perhaps you could have two similar FR's one that slams hard and another not so much. It's not a trait I would want in a headphone. A hard slamming headphone must be fatiguing. Too much is as undesirable as too little. Decay and sustain are also traits that could be made unnatural. I wonder if any vintage headphones 'slam' or whether it's a purely modern characteristic. Unfortunately there is a cost in terms of accuracy, fatigue and sound quality in order to liven up the music.
Some of the most dynamically powerful headphones I've come across are some the least fatiguing I've come across so not sure about that personally. I find grain, certain distortions, certain resonances, certain FR responses, etc. far more fatiguing. Some of the most fatiguing headphones I've come across have weak slam and dynamics. There is a difference between artificially boosted perception of dynamics and headphones with good dynamics, the boosted headphones tend to fall apart at higher volumes. Headphones with good dynamic range and excursion on the other hand do not fall apart at higher volumes given they are driven well and don't always sound dynamically hyper, but rather vary more from track to track dynamically than a headphone with weaker dynamics.

A weaker headphone dynamically such as the HD 560 S will sound weaker and restrained especially on a dynamically strong track compared to say a HD 600 or a DT 880 both which have better dynamic range and excursion than the HD 560 S.
 
Last edited:
Sep 5, 2021 at 4:57 PM Post #11 of 47
I don't claim to be an audio scientist, but I definitely believe in slam/impact beyond just frequency response. In fact a lot of how a headphone sounds won't show up in FR graphs. A headphone that doesn't have tight impact can't always gain it with some EQ treatment. Some of it is inherent to the transducer design and materials in and around the housing.
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 5:48 PM Post #12 of 47
Fun thread. So far my investigation on this has been mostly focused on planars, since this is where I find the biggest extremes. At best, we've found what seems to be a necessary condition for this quality, even if it's not a sufficient one. That condition seems to be some combination of A) a low driver resonance frequency (at least under 100hz), and also B) minimal driver damping (this can be indicated by the resonance frequency Q). The reason why it's not a sufficient condition is because there are some examples of low Fs planars that also don't have this quality. But of all the planars that do well here, they have these traits in common.
 
Last edited:
headphones.com Stay updated on headphones.com at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
 
https://www.headphones.com/ andrew@headphones.com
Sep 5, 2021 at 6:09 PM Post #13 of 47
If you take the recent DCA headphones into account.

It feels like mechanical tuning/dampening seems to lose all these fun playback artifacts we associate with slam and other things.

I wonder if it would be better for a company to minimize dampening and make an official dedicated circuit for a headphone and tune it that way. Much like a how BAs are being handled in in-ear monitors.
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 7:38 PM Post #14 of 47
I have become a believer after hearing things through the Dangerous Music Convert-2.

I used to think my Ether's had slam but this is during my time with them on various midrange amp and dacs. After just gaining more experience, it occured to me that they're very lifeless and the tuning filters dampens a lot of what I'd enjoy in music nowadays.
I am always still open how to find more slam in my Source/HP though as I couldn't just EQ my way into a good sound/feel I want.
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 8:38 PM Post #15 of 47
From my experience, it's just a matter of SPL, or rather, how much bass the headphone is putting out-- rather that be from added distortion or not. The louder you crank the volume, the more quantity of bass the headphone will put out. The ability to produce bass at very high SPLs is largely down to how much headroom the amplifier has, and the power handling of the headphone itself.

The whole 'x technology moves more air than y technology' argument is bs. Yes, you have to pressurize a certain amount of air to produce low bass, but if a headphone couldn't do that in the first place, it wouldn't have measurable low bass extension.

Another argument I've heard-- and I crap you not-- is how much the headphone vibrates on your head. My friend thought his old beats studios were the hardest hitting he's ever experienced, merely because its flimsy lightweight and plastic frame couldn't handle the energy of the driver, so it would just rattle on his head. He attributed that rattling to impact.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Back
Top