most ACCURATE / NEUTRAL headphones (non-stats)?
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halcyon

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I'm looking for extremely neutral and accurate headphones for audio signal testing and psychoacoustics research.

Reguirements are:

- non-stats (can't afford Stax, Orpheus, etc. These don't come from a lab budget, but from my own pocket)

- amplitude response as flat as possible from 20 Hz to 20+ (pref at least to 30 kHz. AND YES, I need those extra frequencies as well, too time consuming to explain, look up ultrasonic excitation and aliasing-intermodulation distortion if you're interested)

- minimal THD and IMD

- can be hard drive to load (will get a matching amp or build one)

- pref. wired for correct absolute phase

- the above pretty much covers this already, but again: tonally as neutral as possible (i.e. I DON*T want pleasant, musical, bass strong, airy or other audiophile properties out of these cans, if any of them means less accurate).

I don't want headphones that take into account the non-linearities of the human ear and try to compensate for that. I want a transducers that give a flat and measurably as faultless reproduction as possible (to a measuring device).

From what I've read here and from many of the reviews this may exclude some of the following models (please correct me if I'm wrong):

- Sennheiser HD-580 & HD-600
- Most grados (????)

SHould I be looking at HD-590, Beyerdynamics or something else? I know that my limit of not using stats (they are VERY EXPENSIVE where I live) narrows down the choices a lot.

I'm no expert on headphones so I would appreciate recommendations which hopefully are based on personal detailed comparison or absolute measured performance (as per laboratory tests).

Am I asking for too much?

regards,
Halcyon

PS I have HD-590 currently (for different use than described above) and to my ear they are not overly bright (as in deviation from neutral) for my use. For extended musical listening I do fall back on my Grados however... But now I really need *accurate* and *neutral* headphones...
 
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Mystyler

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HD280s?

 
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JaZZ

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Welcome to Head-Fi, Halycon!

Have a look at http://headphone.com/layout.php?topicID=10. But it is to say that these curves aren't to be taken too seriously – they're «normalized» from a handful of common high-class headphones, not absolute amplitude responses.

It will be hard to find any dynamic headphone which reaches onsiderably beyond 20 kHz. If that wasn't a claim, I would propose the Etymotic ER-4S – but its frequency response ends at 18 kHz. But I wouldn't exclude the Sennheiser HD 600 at the outset (in contrast to the HD 590): Apart from a slight dark coloration it's probably one of the most neutral phones, kind of antipode to the AKG K 501, which even may be the first candidate if it comes to linearity over a broad frequency range, including extended high frequency response. Main weakness: the lean bass. And maybe the Beyerdynamic DT-931 would also accomplish your guidelines.

Try this!

Good luck!

JaZZ
 
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Hirsch

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There are a wide range of electrostatic headphones. Some of the Stax models are very affordable (they're not all the Omega II). However, even should you decide to try an electrostatic headphone, you'll need to be careful to insure that you get full low-end extension to 20 Hz.

In a dynamic headphone, the neutral reference IMO is going to be difficult to find: the Grado HP-1 or HP-2. Even then, I don't think this one goes out to 30 KHz (although the phase switches on the HP-1 would allow you to insure correct absolute phase).

The Alessandro Music Series Pro is a modified Grado RS-1, that is reportedly more neutral than the stock RS-1. It does have the frequency extension you need. I don't have personal experience with this headphone, but maybe you'll hear from someone who does.

The Beyer DT-770 Pro also has the high end frequency extension you need. However, I'm not sure that it will meet your requirement of neutrality (loaded low end)
 
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JaZZ

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Quote:

Originally posted by Hirsch
The Alessandro Music Series Pro is a modified Grado RS-1, that is reportedly more neutral than the stock RS-1. It does have the frequency extension you need.


Apart from the «neutrality» issue with Grado transducers (which I absolutely appreciate, though), I doubt that the promised extension (12-30,000 Hz) is worth a rush.

JaZZ
 
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RobertR

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visit etymotic web site and see if their design philosphy behind the ER-4 ear phones would meet your needs. The er4 response was tailored to produce a sound as near as possible to what we hear in the real world without headphones.
All I know is that these are as near to the real thing as youre likelly to hear given the limitations of headphone listening.
At least maybe they can advise you what to get.
 
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I used to own the Alessandro-Grado Music Series Pro. I listened to two separate copies of the headphone (one mine, one Vka's) compared side-by-side with Vka's HP-1000 (I didn't have one at the time). It seemed to us that the HP-1000 was more neutral -- the Music Series Pro (MSP) seemed to have slightly more treble "energy" and a little more bass extension for a slightly livelier sound. It would be difficult to say which one is actually more true to the signal since the two amps we mostly used to compare -- the Wheatfield HA-1 and Holmes-Powell DCT-1 -- are both tubed headphone amplifiers with their own colorations. However, the HP-1000 series was, after all, created to be a headphone for audiophiles. The Music Series Pro was created specifically for the recording engineer and strives to be as neutral as possible. I would go first for the Music Series Pro if you can find it. However, it costs just a hair under $700 new here in the United States and it's hard to find them used. Visit http://www.alessandro-products.com and e-mail them to find out if they have any demo models (these usually sell for around $500 if available) and if they'll ship to Europe.
 
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The most neutral headpones I have ever used are the Grado HP-1000 series. Apart from those, the most neutral headphones that come to mind are the Ety ER-4s and Allesandro Music Series Pro.
 
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The Beyerdynamic DT 48 A.00 has been especially designed for audiometric testing. I have never seen or heard it though.
 
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JaZZ

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The Beyerdynamic DT 48 A.00's HF extension (16-20'000 Hz) isn't really better than the one of the Etys (20-16'000 Hz) – which, btw, are also used for audiometric purposes.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by halcyon
I'm looking for extremely neutral and accurate headphones for audio signal testing and psychoacoustics research.

Reguirements are:

- non-stats (can't afford Stax, Orpheus, etc. These don't come from a lab budget, but from my own pocket)


Just so you know, Staxes are considerably cheaper if you order them from Japan (EIFL, audiocubes). I cannot say much about them in terms of absolute neutrality though; the FR graph that my SR-404 included was somewhat spiky but I'm not sure I was interpreting it right either. What I'm sure of is that they are certainly not flat down to 20hz. I think SR-404 starts rolling off at around 30hz.

Anyhow, you should probably not rule out electrostats just because of the price, because the cost of any Stax system save Omega II is comparable to the price of HP-1000 headphone + a decent amplifier.

Also, since you have no issues with making a matching amplifier, you could also try getting only the phones themselves and then building any of the Kevin Gilmore electrostatic amps. His amplifiers are probably as close to neutral as it gets. Moreover, solid state KGSS has -3db point at 45khz and his newest hybrid (which is considerably more expensive to build though) is flat to about 250khz. If you have an access to cheap electronic components, that could be a viable option.
 
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Duncan

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Ultimately I think ETYs (the 4Ps at least) are a shade shrill in the upper treble...

The most neutral sounding 'phones I have ~ also the ones with the second least amount of time on my head (after my Grados ~ Bleurgh!!) are my Sony MDR-F1s...

Gorgeous sound (tonal) quality ~ just a little too dry for full time use (imo)
 
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kerelybonto

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Quote:

Originally posted by DanG
... However, the HP-1000 series was, after all, created to be a headphone for audiophiles. The Music Series Pro was created specifically for the recording engineer and strives to be as neutral as possible. ...


That's untrue. The HP-1000 series headphones were designed and built with the sound professional in mind and were/are used extensively in the studio. The HP-1000 series is generally regarded as being more neutral than the current Grado offerings. Indeed, Grado claims the RS-1 to be the more 'musical' headphone.

I haven't heard any of the Alessandro-Grado series cans, but I suspect they're slightly more neutral than their current Grado counterparts, but not as neutral as the old Grados.

kerely
 
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JaZZ

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Assuming the HP-1000 series headphones really are that neutral, they probably are beaten by electrostats anyhow (at least in terms of extension), which are in the same price range. Obviously that's more than halycon is ready to spend – therefore his focus on (affordable) dynamic headphones.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by kerelybonto
That's untrue. The HP-1000 series headphones were designed and built with the sound professional in mind and were/are used extensively in the studio.


Hm, maybe I should have noticed the "Professional Recording Monitor" on the side of the HP-1000 box. My bad.


Quote:

The HP-1000 series is generally regarded as being more neutral than the current Grado offerings. Indeed, Grado claims the RS-1 to be the more 'musical' headphone.


Rarely is the MS Pro included in the current Grado offerings when such comparisons are made. Other people here who have great experience with both HP-1000 and the MS Pro include JMT and joelongwood (as well as Vka). If either could chime in, that would be interesting.

Quote:

I haven't heard any of the Alessandro-Grado series cans, but I suspect they're slightly more neutral than their current Grado counterparts, but not as neutral as the old Grados.


Well, that's the key, isn't it.
To me it was hard to tell -- on the one hand, the MS Pro might have been artificially "sparkly" and more exciting. On the other hand, the MS Pro could have been more neutral and the HP-1000 rolled-off. It's hard to tell which is true, because yes, even a wood-enclosed headphone can be neutral!
 
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