Newbie w/ hearing loss. Your help would be appreciated.
post-201025
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Phreon

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After several years of denying the steady decline of my hearing, I finally "fessed up" and now have a set up digital hearing aids on the way. I've also resigned myself to the fact that I will have to wear headphones to get the most out of music from now on.

I've always been what you might call a "low buget audiophile"; I make a point to purchase the best equipment (with a good cost/performance ratio) within my means. To this end, the speakers I purchased years ago and would still be satisfied with if it weren't for my decidedly non audiophile ears, are a set of Paradigm Titans. At the time, they were, hands down, the best speakers availible *for the money* (and very may still be with the current version 3's). They're driven by a modest Sony STR-D790 integrated amplifier; it certainly isn't high end in any sense , but again, was a good choice at the time.

My hearing loss is as such that I no longer sense the clean highs and smooth, airy vocals the Titans are capable of producing without cranking to volume to earsplitting, neighbor enraging levels. To put it simply, my left ear can no longer detect an upright bass, the overall sensitivity is depressed by about 40db with a big dip right in the middle of speech frequencies, but I still retain high frequency acuity. My right ear is depressed by about 20 db ( with a similar dip), but there is a sharp rolloff at the high end where the crispness of trumpets and cymbals reside. The end result is when I listen to music with my headphones, I adjust the balance to about 50% to the left, leave the bass flat (with my phones, which I'll get to) and turn up the treble to max @ +10db.

The headphones I currently use the most are an old pair of Rat Shack Pro-25's (rebranded Koss KTX-Pro's, I believe) I picked up on clearance for $17. At 17 bucks, these phones are surprisingly good and are far better balanced than most others in the range. The problem is, with my hearing loss, their adaquate upper ranged is not enough for me any more and at the volumes I play them at, complex music (symphonic, for example) becomes muddled.

In theory, the ideal set of phones for my ears would have good bass (the Pro-25s are fine in that respect) clear, open mids and accurate, crisp,bright highs, even when driven hard. I'll probably end up adding an EQ with discrete settings for Left/Righ channels, but I'd like to get headphones that are already a step in the right direction.

I used to strive for very neutral, open sounding equipment, but with my crappy hearing, that ideal has gone out the window. I'm not sure if any headphones will be open and airy, considering my Pro-25s which used to be "in your face", now seem distant and unsatisfying in the midrange. I've historically prefered the feel and sound of open phones, but that may not be in my best interest anymore.

After spending hours in the archives here, I think I've compiled a good starter list of sub $150 cans to audition. I think Etymotics might be the ultimate solution for me, but at this time, they are unobtainable because of the price.


The few phones that might fit the bill from their descriptions here, at least, are:

Koss Porta-Pro's
Sennheiser 525
Grado 80/125 (the 125's seem particularly intriguing out of the bunch)
And maybe AKG 401/501. but they may be too flat for my needs.


The headphones will be used for all kinds of music, movie and television listening, but they should really shine for (in order of preference) Jazz (Miles Davis, Some Kind of Blue!!!, Mingus, Coltrane, Parker & Monk), female vocals (Fiona Apple, Bonny Rait, Sarah Mclaughlan...), Electronic/Ambient/Trip-Hop like William Orbit, Orbital, Hive, Massive Attack, Mono, and symphonic pieces.

I know I've thrown down the mother of all gauntlets, but does such a headphone as I've described, for under $150 (cheaper, the better) exist? How well do any of the can's I've listed fit my description? Any other suggestions?

Thanks,

Phreon
 
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post-201059
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joelongwood

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Welcome to Head-Fi, Phreon.

In my opinion, the Grado SR-80s would come the closest of the 'phones you've listed (I haven't heard the Senn 525s, though) to meeting your needs. They have excellent bass, coupled with an elevated upper midrange that may compensate somewhat for your hearing loss. Some here consider them a bit bright. At my age (54) I don't share those feelings. When I auditioned the SR80s and 125s, I didn't think the extra $50 was worth it. You may also want to consider the Allessandro/Grado Music Series One @ $99. Many consider this a cross between the SR-80 and SR-125.
Hope this helps.
 
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post-201070
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kerelybonto

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I second the Grado recommendation. Grados do have a slightly elevated top end, but it's not shrill or too harsh. Apparently it's headache-inducing to many member here (though not to me, and I can hear many ultrasonic sounds given off by electronics components), but it should fit very well for you. The Alessandro-Grado 'phones that joelongwood mentioned are very similar, but aimed for the pro audio community. According to Grado, they're even brighter. They're only available from Alessandro High-End Products.

Apparently you're using some sort of EQ to get the results you desire. If you don't already have one, it's probably worth getting a full graphic equalizer so you can really get the control you need. Someone had pretty good one for sale in the sale forum a few days ago -- might be there.

kerely
 
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mkmelt

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The Grado SR-80s would be a good choice, you should definitely seek them out for an audition with some CD source material that you know well. Not everyone finds the Grados to be comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The upper range response of these and most of the rest of the Grado line includes a rising response above 2KHz. This may make these headphones sound more revealing to you than ones with flatter upper range response.

Another headphone to consider would be the Sennheiser HD-590s. These are available at some of the larger audio/video retailer stores and are actually quite a nice sounding headphone, at a cost of around $150.00 They are very comfortable, like the HD-580s and HD-600s, but unlike these other Senn models, they are easy to drive well using much of today's electronics components including portable CD players, etc. The HD-590s have a decided peak in the upper midrange/lower treble that you may find enhances your listening experience. The HD-580s and the 600s have flatter response, but with these you might find the mid and high frequencies lacking, i.e. a bit dull sounding.

The AKG 501s are probably not a good choice unless you plan on getting a dedicated headphone amplifier as they are difficult to drive well from the headphone jack of much of today's equipment without an auxilliary headphone amplifier.

The Headphone Corp. website at www.headphone.com has a great deal of information about these and other headphones including a way to compare the frequency response of various model of headphones. Not that this will be a big help in determining if you actually like the way a particular model of headphone sounds, but it will give you some idea of the design parameters and compromises that were made in developing a given model. For example, while the entire Grado line has a rising high end response, the lower cost models show this effect to be much more pronounced that the top of the line Grados.
 
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kerelybonto

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Small correction, mkmelt got that address wrong -- it's HeadRoom Corp at www. headphone.com.

kerely
 
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slindeman

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The Porta-Pro's use the same drivers as your rebranded Koss, so strike them off the list.

I've heard everything on your list (if you substitute HD545 for HD525 which you can because they are very similar). I've owned cans similar to your Radioshack (my KSC-35), to the HD525 (my HD545s), and I've owned the SR-125s. Based on your descriptions of what you need I would choose the Grados. They'll need less EQ'ing to get where you want them, which is a good thing as far as distortion goes.

An even cheaper alternative for a brighter forward sounding headphone (or for use as a second headphone if you need a cheap throw around set) is the Labtec Elite-840 which I believe MacDEF is selling used if you can't find it new. I had these for awhile and for $20 or less they offer great details and clarity with a forward presentation. I thought they were great for vocals especially.

Quote:

clear, open mids and accurate, crisp,bright highs, even when driven hard


Consider saving up for a dedicated headphone amp if you want to play your headphones extra loud with sound that remains clear and clean at those high volumes. A good amp will scare you at how loud it can go without distortion of any sort to warn you that it is so loud.
 
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post-201164
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redshifter

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give the sony mdr-v6 a try. they are a great value, and have bright, detailed sound and solid bass. they can be driven very loud, and are "good enough" without an amp. considering the bass and treble are usually the first to go in noise related hearing loss, i've often wondered if the v6 was designed with half-deaf rock stars in mind. you can play them loud without disturbing others as well, something open cans like grados can't do.

i have an audiosource equalizer i sometimes use with worn records. it has a frequency response display and independent right/left sliders. this might be a good solution to boost the frequencies your hearing lacks.

total for the v6 and eq should be well under $200. good luck, and keep enjoying the music!
 
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Voice of reason checking in
Is there a possibility of furthering your hearing loss by switching to headphones for your listening pleasure ? Might be something to discuss with your doctor.
 
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Joe Bloggs

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Yes, I thought it funny too, a guy switching to headphones because of hearing problems while the rest of us are ever so afraid of getting tinnitus or hearing loss because of excessive volume on headphones...
may I ask how you contracted this problem?


Since you need to listen at LOUD levels, open phones (e.g. Grado SR-80, or indeed, everything on your list) may not be such a good idea.

Looking at your description, it seems that your hearing loss is most severe either in the midrange (left ear) or highs (right ear). In this case good bass response would not seem to be so important, as it would just overwhelm the rest of the music in your ears anyway. I would suggest the Beyerdynamic DT831, a closed phone with a similar emphasis on the mids and highs as the Grado, except it trades bass punch (of the Grados) for bass extension. But really, when all is said and done, what you really need is a quality EQ that can handle huge boost and cut settings.
 
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Phreon

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Thanks for the info so far and your concern about further damaging my hearing.


A part of my loss is due to nerve/cochlear damage of an unknown nature. I have been exposed to very loud sounds in my life and I'm sure that contributed a bit, but I haven't been to a loud concert in at least 2 years. My hearing has been declining slowly over the past several years, but the last 18 months have shown a dramatic turn for the worse.

The majority of my hearing loss is conductive in nature; otosclerosis to be exact. My main problem isn't the sensitivity of my inner ear, it's trying to get the sound to it through my seized up bones. I had an operation about 10 years ago on the right ear to repair the problem, but was left with boomy sounding hearing. The operation was not completly successful, so they're very reluctant to work on my other ear. My inner ear structure is particularly small and difficult to work on.

I have an appointment with my audiologist this Monday to have my new aids fitted and I plan on discussing in length what I can and cannot do safely. An EQ with independent left and right channel settings should allow me to set each side according to that ear's need and avoid overdriving frequencies I don't need boosted.

The funny thing is that althogh my new digital hearing aids'll contain the latest DPS based technology and are billed as being "High Fidelity", they're still only good up to 6000-7000 Hz! They'll be great for helping me understand speech better, but all the compression and EQing they'll be performing will screw up music.

I intend on obtaining a headphone amp, but I want to start with a set of cans that can be driven reasonably well off my stereo. One thing at a time. Actually, I'll probably wind up building an amp; I love small projects like that. The warm glow of a valve amp would be a welcome addition to my system. After researching over on Head-Fi, my ultimate goal would be to build an amp with a built in EQ and variable compression (my left ear lacks the dynamic range of my right).

Are the Grado SR-125s really so close to the 80s that the additional cash isn't worth it? I found a place online that carries the 125s for$129. As for them leaking sound, that's not a problem; the only one around here to complain is my dog.

Thanks,

Phreon
 
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P.S. I'll be driving my new phones hard, but not rediculously so. Even my Pro-25's are up to the task most of the time. The only time they really get into trouble is on William Orbit's "Pieces in a Modern Style"; there's something about passages of that CD that's difficult for even my Paradigms to produce distortion free.

On George Michael's "Listen Without Prejudice", a particularly well mastered CD, I can push the Pro-25's to uncomfortable levels for even my hearing, so I think any phones of good quality should work well for me.

Phreon
 
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Joe Bloggs

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Still, you might want to look at power handling figures when you're making your purchase decision.

How did your meeting with the audiologist go?
 
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Phreon

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Quote:

Originally posted by Joe Bloggs
Still, you might want to look at power handling figures when you're making your purchase decision.

How did your meeting with the audiologist go?


Hasn't happened yet; the appointment is this coming Monday.


The Alessandro-Grado MS-1 has piqued my interest and is *very* appealing for several reasons. Anyone know where I can audition Grado SR-125's in Cincinnati, OH?




Phreon
 
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Phreon

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Just an update for any of you who catch this thread in the future.

My audiologist comfirmed that using headphones to listen to music is just fine with the type of hearing loss I have. Woohoo.

I have only one of the hearing aids now since the other had to be sent back for minor shaping, but the change to the ear with the aid is dramitic. I can hear all kinds of things I didn't even realize I was missing, but for music, I'll be stuck with headphones for true "hi-fi" sound.

Thanks for the input....now I just need to find a place where I can audition Grados.


Phreon
 
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kerelybonto

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Good to hear that the aids work well and that headphone listening is okay.

I can't recall any Head-Fi members in Cincy at the moment -- maybe email Grado at info@gradolabs.com and ask then if they have any dealers in Cincinnati?

kerely
 
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