Newbie w/hearing loss part Deux: Deliberation and Experimentation (long)
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Phreon

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The trip to my audiologist was interesting, to say the least. Within their limited range, the abilities of modern hearing aids is astounding.

I found it interesting, as I was sitting there working with my audiologist(s) to tweak my aids, that there was a set of Sony V600s hanging on the wall. Blech. Then I initiated a discussion about how I'll have to wear headphones to really enjoy music, since my current speakers are no longer satisfying at reasonable levels. Guess what he recommended! I should consider Bose speakers! I spent the next 15 minutes trying to describe that my Paradigms are quite excellent for the price I paid for them and that nothing Bose makes could touch them in said price range. I gave the usual schpiel about Bose's heavy marketing and poor price/performance ratio ad nauseum. Finally he caught on!

Both my audiologists are very competent people, but I got the distinct impression that while they're masters at eaking intelligable speech out of tiny hearing aids, they're somewhat clueless about music, musicality and fidelity. I can't blame them though; in the grand scheme of things, understaning speech is more important than enjoying music to most people.

I've spent the last weak carefully reviewing some of my favorite CD's as heard through my Pro-25's (Koss KTX-Pro clones) in an effort to really grasp what sounds I'm missing, what's important to try to recover and whats acceptably discardable.

The "rig" I'd been using, and please don't laugh, is my old Sony STR-D790 being fed by a modified Apex AD-500 DVD player (I said don't laugh!). Back to the "rig" later.


First, I'd like to say that my respect for these cheapie Pro-25's has really grown. After listening to some Best Buy/Circuit City level phones that cost four times as much, I feel very lucky for having found them, with no audition, for $17.

My audiogram looks like a 2D cross section of a black hole, with the dip right where human voices reside. I attribute the annoying distance iof the vocals on many of the albums I own, to this.

Since noone can ever truly relay to me what music sounds like , I can't entirely discriminate the difference between deficiencies in my hearing and the 'phones. I'm wondering if other people's impressions of certian tracks are similar to mine though the same family of headphones (Optimus Pro-25, Koss KTX-Pro,SportaPro, PortaPro, etc) and what's truely a hearing deficiency.

For example:

George Michel, Listen Without Prejudice.

Track 7: Mother's Pride. George's voice is very clear and distinct with just a bit of air. The soundstage is good, the instruments are well separated, but the strings are somewhat recessed. The small guitar interlude is clear, but could use more "pluck"

Track 8: Heal The Pain. The vocal sounds much more intimate, still clear and pleasing, but with no air at all. The backup guitar sounds good, bit lacks just the very highest detail that lends perceived sizzle and clarity. The cymbals sound very flat.

Enigma, MCMXC A.D.

Track 4: Mea Culpa. The falling rain at the beginning of this track sounds like frying bacon. The bass drums have real authority. The synth lead sounds good with a great stereo effect, but the female voice is uninteresing and the male backup vocals sound flat. The cybals and snare also sound somewhat flat and don't have impressive attack. I really love this track, but I think what I've criticized is probably more because of the mastering than anything. Except for the riveting bass drums, the recording seems lifeless.

Mannheim Steamroller, Fresh Aire 4

Track 4: Four Rows of Jacks. These headphones are at their best with this album. I redisovered this CD recently and was instantly reminded why I like it so much. The harpsichord is exceptionally clear,well imaged and has an "air" all it's own even with my screwed up ears. The strings and brass are smooth, have good presence and the bass drum attacks are great (as is the entire drum kit). My only complaint is that some of the cymbal crashes seems a bit distorted and harsh.

Beth Orton, Central Reservation:

Track 7, Stars All Seem to Weep. Great solid (Koss) bass. Her voice is clear and smooth but is directly in the center of my head and lacks life. Very little air. The acoustic guitar backup, while recessed, is very clear, distinct and has that pluck I like.

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

Track 2: Freddie Freeloader. I love this album so much, I could probably listen to it on vacuum cleaner and enjoy it. It's a remaster, so it has that annoying pseudo-stereo, "instrument in your ear" sound, but is never the less, great. Miles' trumpet is smooth and I can actually hear it pop once or twice where he needs to empty his spit valve. The sax (Coltrane?) has a great sound for such an old recording and the upright bass is well represented on this track with these phones. I just wish it sounded more "open".

Track 2: Blue in Green. The perfect mellow trumpet, though it seems to lack upper sizzle. Piano is great, but seems a little boomy as well as the upright at times. But again, the sax lead is beautiful. I han hear the sax's air, but the sound doesn't *have* air. The whole album has a slightly laid back, muted sound to me; It lacks a subtle clarity.


Sophie B. Hawkins, Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover (CD Single)

Track 1, Damn I Wish..... I picked this old CD because I remember how it sounded before my hearing went to hell. The snare drums are lifeless and muted, and all the instruments seem muddled together, but her voice, though kind of muted retains it's lightness (I know thats a contradiction) and just a bit of zing. It sounds like they were thinking, "To hell with the backup, put your time into mastering her voice".

Track 2, Don't Stop Swaying. I know this song sounded better before..... The bells in the beginning are clear and crisp, but lack attack and are recessed. Her voice seems more muted than it used to and lacks richness.


The above accounts lead me to believe that what I'm looking to recover is the the richness, texture and air of instruments and vocals. To that end, I think what I'm looking for is a much more foward (in the mids and highs) set of cans that aren't harsh. As I've mentioned before, the Alessandro MS-1's are very, very intriguing, but I'm having trouble finding a dealer where I can audition ANY Grado's (I know the Alessandros have a single source)

Getting back to my stereo and the laugability of my CD player... I've always know that the APEX was nothing more than a PC DVD mechanism fitted to a decent case, but for some reason, it didn't click that music could/should suck on such a cheap player until recently (duh).

I resurrected my ancient Fisher AD-815 "Studio Standard" CDP and hooked it up to the Sony integrated amp. Ok, the APEX is out as a player until I build a real DAC; the Fisher just tramples it. Too bad I lost the remote to the Fisher years ago. The 815 is what I reviewed the above music with, by the way.

Then I noticed that my forgotten Fisher had a headphone jack; what the heck, let's try it. There have been few times in my life where an exclamation point has appeared and smacked me upside the head with such authority. Holy ####! The 'phones out on that old player is remarkably better than that of the Sony's, even with the bass and treble tweaked! It's like looking at a Van Gogh next to a good quality reproduction; they're exactly the same, but not. Does anyone know anything about old Fisher CD players? It just seems too good for such an old, hand me down deck.

My quest for the perfect set of upgrade cans has been refined. I'm looking for a set that has very foward and smooth, but accuate mids and highs as well as accurate, fast bass (I hate boominess). $150 or less.

And finally, to hell with all of you for making me realize how much I need to upgrade and for sucking me into this never ending spiral!



Phreon

All spelling and grammatical errors are due to imperfections in your monitor.
 
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Cap'n Dan

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I'll say that the HD 497s have a very forward and smooth presentation. Very articulate mids and highs, and the bass is good, but probably gets tighter with an amp... I've yet to find out. They're not boomy, though.

Overall, it's a very effortless, smooth, articulate sound.

Amazon's got 'em for 47 bucks, now, I think.

Or, wait, did you say $150? Oh... that exclamation point must have been a typo. Oops... well, the 497s are good value anyway!
 
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RobertR

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can you compensate for the dip in your audiogram with some kind of eq circuit?
There are a lot of headfiers who could help you here and then you could audition a wider range of headphones.
 
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