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Lowest Distortion Headphones

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by pila405, Nov 17, 2017.
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  1. pila405
    From what you know and measurements you did or found online - which was the one with the least distortion?
    (Usually there are only measurements of harmonic distortion)

    Some likely contenders:
    Audeze LCD2 (not all, but some)
    HifiMan RE-400\600
    Audeze iSine 10\20\LCDi4(?)
    Stax SR-202\SR-404
    Sennheiser HD650 have low THD from 250Hz and up
    Focal Utopia

    And what is the most current research regarding hearing threshold when it comes to harmonic distortion? (as a function of the harmonic (2nd, 3rd etc'...), amplitude, frequency...)

    *I am aware of the fact that it isn't the ultimate way to predict headphones' sound quality.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2017
  2. castleofargh Contributor
    there is an issue with those measurements in the sense that I don't know many people with a great enough environment and rig to measure low THD+N levels with real confidence that it's not a truck passing by or some noise and distos from the mic itself.
    for example, while I adore Innerfidelity for what it is, and how Tyll almost single-handedly made headphone measurement a thing which consumers could be interested in. his distortion graphs are often BS and much higher than they should be(and I seem to remember that he's aware of it).
    personally I measure THD for IEMs, because with the extra isolation and often high distos, I end up being able to get something relevant. but for headphones, it went laughably wrong on a few occasions where I would end up with distortion values louder than the original signal :disappointed_relieved:. hmm ok so the original signal generated a new signal that contains higher energy than the original. I invented a revolutionary source of free energy that will run forever!!!!!!! or maybe there is too much noise outside. I guess we'll never know :deadhorse:
  3. pila405
    Haha! Maybe you really were onto something

    And yes, many times I guess the measurements can't be fully trusted, but many of Tyll's measurements also agree with measurements from other sources, so at least some of the have value (talking about headphones, not IEMs specifically)
    For example the HD650 - many sources produce the same measurements - may an order of magnitude lower :)
    But that is something I never understood - how come a few different measurements done by different people have the overall same "look", but different magnitude (both, for example, done at 100db at 1KHz)
  4. castleofargh Contributor
    I really don't know.
    the distos are showed relatively to the original tone, so for similar shape at wrong magnitude, I guess random noise being picked up loud enough could end up following the shape of an inverted FR maybe? I'm really fishing here. ^_^
    or maybe it's simply that they have calibrated the loudness very poorly so if the distortions increase in a fairly homogeneous way with loudness, one could be showing the values at 110dB SPL thinking it's 100dB or 90? I guess guess all day long but IDK is really my final answer.
    you'll need somebody who has actual experience with proper gear to talk about this. my low fi experience only goes so far. @jude &co with their cool isolation chamber and expensive mics have probably higher chances to measure the right stuff.
  5. FastAndClean
    oppo pm3 at 100db have less than 0.5 % THD
  6. ScareDe2
    Most Audeze seem to do great relative to other headphones in terms of THD. Stax and Audioquest NightHawk seem to have low distortion too.


    But headphones seem to measure very poorly against speakers, not sure, but I saw speakers with less than 0.008% THD according to specifications. Someone more knowledgeable on this topic could explain.

    Also, https://www.rtings.com/headphones/tests/sound-quality/total-harmonic-distortion
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
    trellus likes this.
  7. ev13wt
    Does THD in moving coil speakers take the doppler effect into account? Is this an issue?

    At what "volume" is thd measured? Parameters? Speakers measure better at lower volume? So what I am trying to ask is: "How is the distortion at 80, 85, 90 dB"
  8. colonelkernel8
    Pretty much comes down to driver mass. I’d imagine the Sennheiser Orpheus measuring pretty impressively. Or the Shangri-La. Or any other electrostatics. It’s also why planar magnetics measure so well. Really low mass.
  9. colonelkernel8
    This could be because of multiple drivers. Speaker cones have a “breakdown” frequency that introduce a lot of harmonic distortion that can be alleviated by having a crossover to a smaller diameter driver. 0.008% THD ain’t happening though.
  10. Glmoneydawg
    Yep.....0.008% is way beyond mechanical transducer territory. ...great spec for electronic components too :)
  11. castleofargh Contributor
    as far as I know THD on speakers is much worst than on headphones.
    jgazal, ev13wt and Glmoneydawg like this.
  12. Glmoneydawg
    I prefer speakers over headphone listening.....but not because of thd...speakers offer a more realistic image/soundstaging experience....i would suspect that $ for$ headphones offer better thd numbers
  13. Glmoneydawg
    Yep... i have planars for that very reason(love them for headphones)...they dont scale up for speakers the same way though...limitations in the bass,output level and efficiency...but stiil low distortion.
  14. Hifiearspeakers
    The LCD-X specs say that it has less than .1% THD across the entire frequency spectrum. That’s pretty damn impressive.
  15. ev13wt
    At what output?
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