Listening with speakers and open-back headphones simultaneously dramatically improved the soundstage!
Jan 30, 2020 at 9:24 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4

Peter Z

New Head-Fier
Jan 20, 2020
TL;DR: Played music through speakers and headphones at the same time; discovered that doing this yields soundstage and details that neither the speakers nor the headphones can produce alone.

Context: Recently, I purchased a pair of ESP/95x's. They sound absolutely amazing on their own--I love the airiness of the highs, the clarity of the upper-mid and the pristine details. However, I was used to the enormous soundstage of the K701's, so sometimes I feel like the instruments are squeezed a bit too tight together on the ESP/95x's. Also, their energizer has only one RCA input, which is problematic for me because I frequently switch between my DAC and my turntable's preamp, so I got a passive switch box and some splitter cables to distribute the signal to both my speaker amp and the energizer.

Life-changing incident: One time, I forgot to turn the amp off before listening on my headphones. I started the music and the soundstage blew me away. I was fascinated by the drastic improvement in soundstage, instrument separation and dynamics. I took my headphones off and realized what had happened. I played around with both knobs (actually three knobs, because the energizer is stupidly designed) and realized an interesting effects:

When I turned the speakers up, it felt as if my headphones were being muted (and vice versa). Fascinating, isn't it? Also, as I turned the speakers up, it felt as if the music was moving out of my head and into the space around me (and vice versa). However, I was losing some details as I turned the speakers up, which is strange because usually, loudness means more details. Additionally, I felt significant improvement in bass compared to using headphones alone. Anyway, I found a perfectcombination of the two (actually three) knobs that would yield soundstage and details that neither the speakers nor the headphones can produce alone. These observations fascinated me and got me thinking about our perception of sound. What are your thoughts?
Feb 4, 2020 at 4:48 PM Post #2 of 4


Headphoneus Supremus
Nov 10, 2016
NNW of Boston
Basically this works with open backs only - unless its just bass. Bass being what it is, if the Q of the speaker and headphone are similar then they should be in time sync assuming the speakers are not 25' away. But full range? Time smearing. If one is a fan of Bose 901's and walking around and listening to music in adjacent rooms - than this won't be a problem. If you're into the one good listening position for your Quad ESL 57's, or your Triton 5's - then I would say this wouldn't work.

Last year I played around with my speakers as subs (2 x 7") reflex design, well damped, flat to about 42 Hz, and they just didn't woof in close enough unison with all my open backed cans to justify the move.

Best thing is you are trying different flavors, keep reporting..
Feb 24, 2020 at 3:26 PM Post #4 of 4


100+ Head-Fier
Aug 10, 2017
A forum dedicated to headphones might be the worst possible place for me to voice an opinion like this, but with good enough speakers, here's what works best: first turn the speakers volume up to a good comfortable amount, turn the headphone volume down to about barely audible, and then take the headphones off :wink:

Especially with open-backs, if there's no need for isolation, treating a room and getting a good set of speakers can be considerably cheaper than some of these 5000$ headphones, and will (in my opinion) result in a better listening experience 100% of the time. In terms of soundstage, in terms of bass impact, in terms of air in the vocals, in terms of general musicality...

To me it seems like headphones are for cases where you can't use speakers, like late at night (in my case an apartment with neighbors on all sides), or at work. Although I realize most people here probably wouldn't agree.
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