Sound Preferences and Priorities
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aerius

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I've been thinking about this for a while and tomek's thread on upgradeitis gave me the final push to put it into words. As the title says, what kind of sound do you want from a headphone system? Do you want detail? Warmth? Accuracy? Good frequency balance? And more importantly, which one of them is more important to you?

The reason I've been thinking about this is that I see so many conflicting opinions on the same headphones, sure human hearing varies a lot from person to person, but I know that can't be the whole story. I believe it was in one of ServinginEcuador's articles where he mentioned the need to identify one's main goal in audio, in his case I believe it was detail. By knowing your preferences & priorities, I you'll be able to get more out of the reviews, and to better understand the reviewer's viewpoints.

So with that out of the way, this is what I look for in a headphone or other music system. Above all else I want a decent frequency balance, if it has a chopped off treble, boomy bass, or sucked out midrange it's gone. I don't care if it's so detailed that I can tell what brand of sticks the drummer is using, if the frequency balance ain't right it's gone. The next thing I look for which relates the above is tone, is it warm sounding, neutral, whatever. Even though it's not "accurate", I prefer a warmer sound, maybe it's because I have a thing for nice old concert halls but that's the sound I like, something on the warm side. I don't mind if it sounds dead neutral like a Stax headphone for instance, but all else being equal I want something warmer sounding.

Now if the headphone's gotten this far the next thing I check for is harsh highs. You don't need excessive treble to have harsh highs, a Senn 580 with the foam removed can do this. If the highs hurt my ears it goes bye-bye. Next, my precious female vocals, some headphones do funny things to them, the Stax 2020 system comes to mind. Screw that up and the 'phone goes in the trashcan.

After all that I start listening for things like detail, soundstage, dynamics, and all those other audiophile things. Detail & dynamics are more important, soundstage isn't as big a deal. Instrument placement up & down and side to side is more important than the depth & size of the soundstage. I don't need a perfect true to life soundstage, as long as the sound doesn't sound like it's coming from a pair of drivers on my ears it's good enough.

And here's where the balancing act comes into play, I'll gladly tradeoff any or all of the things I listed in the previous paragraph for any of the things in the 2 paragraphs previous to it. For instance, I'd be willing to trade a bit of detail for a bit more warmth in the sound, I can live with a smaller soundstage if it means my female vocals sound better.

So what would my ideal headphone sound like? It would have the frequency & tonal balance and fun punchy sound of my Grado 225s, the detail of a Stax 4040 or better system, and the soundstage & comfort of my Senn 580s. Such a system does not exist as far as I know, and I haven't heard one that sounds like that.
 
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fyrfytrhoges

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nice idea, although i agree with your last statement. i do not believe that the "perfect" system exists. thus the upgrade mentality. i have it myself and suspect it will last until i have quite a bit more money stuck into my system. the first thing i look for is warmth, my biggest priority, i think thats why i liked my tubes so much, and i think thats why i had to have a tube amp as well as a ss for my electostat rig. next would be detail, without being bright, i often feel detail comes with some brightness, and that i will not sacrifice, in my book there is nothing worse than brightness. im sure you can get detail without it, again after spending considerably more coin on sources than i have. thats about where i stand.
 
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Kirosia

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I honestly have no idea I want. The only I can think of is "impact". When I say this I mean the power to convey the feeling of the song to me the way it's meant to. And I like not-too-bright detail.
 
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philodox

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Somehow I missed this before, good thread aerius.

I think that my ideal headphone would be as follows:

Bass:
- Amount/Level: A900
- Quality/Tightness: K271
- Depth/Extension: HD600 / K271
- Impact: RS-1

Midrange: K271 / K240

Treble: SR404 / HD600

Detail/Resolution: SR404 / K271

Imaging: K271 / HD600 [probably the SR404 as well, can't remember]

Soundstage: K271 / HD600

Isolation: K271

Comfort:
- Weight: K240
- Fit: K271
- Temperature: HD600 [or any of the velour Sennheiser headphones]
- Overall: K271 / SR404

Looks: Omega II / R10 / K271 / W100 [or any of the Audio Technica woodies]

If someone could figure out how to combine all these qualities that would be one hell of a headphone.
 
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bLue_oNioN

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Philodox - I'd buy that headphone of yours!
 
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philodox

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bLue_oNioN
Philodox - I'd buy that headphone of yours!



We need to get one of the lead engineers at Sony or Sennheiser high and then propose the idea and get him to sign a contract or something... otherwise it will never happen.
 
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rickcr42

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I only have one test :

am i listening to the music or am i listening to the equipment .

Any audio device that has me listening to IT and not the music being played is getting in the way.Throw all the audio terms from the Stereophile Dictionary around you want but if I can't enjoy a simple damn song I don't care how detailed or spacious it sounds

just me
 
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I want to be able to tell what brand of sticks the drummer is using.

I love detail.
I also want my system to be very nuetral. I personally can't tell if the midrange is sucked out or blown in.
I do notice those harsh highs and they are very irratating, I don't like phones that screech in my ear.

As rickcr42 said, am I listening to the music or the gear? I have mine set up to where I am listening to, and enjoying the music.
 
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NotoriousBIG_PJ

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr.PD
I want to be able to tell what brand of sticks the drummer is using.

I love detail.
I also want my system to be very nuetral. I personally can't tell if the midrange is sucked out or blown in.
I do notice those harsh highs and they are very irratating, I don't like phones that screech in my ear.

As rickcr42 said, am I listening to the music or the gear? I have mine set up to where I am listening to, and enjoying the music.



Just curious, have you tried hp1000's or stax?

Biggie.
 
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Jahn

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Quote:

Originally Posted by NotoriousBIG_PJ
Just curious, have you tried hp1000's or stax?

Biggie.



Let me tell you - the PS-1 had me rollin' because of the can AND the music. But the HP-1 just disappeared after a while and it was just the music. The audiophile in me wants to remember a bit of critical listening and think "dang these cans ROCK." but the other part of me wants to wash everything out and just enjoy the music. on the lower end, it would be the SR225 and the MS-2. the 225 will make you ROCK OUT but will also remind you after a while to, hey, take of the cans your ears are ringing. but the MS-2 will just fade away and you can just surf along to some pet sounds.
 
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philodox

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Oh, definately listen to the music... there is no question there. But we're talking about the ideal equipment to present the music to you in an enjoyable manner. I don't see these as conflicting goals.
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by rickcr42
I only have one test :

am i listening to the music or am i listening to the equipment .

Any audio device that has me listening to IT and not the music being played is getting in the way.Throw all the audio terms from the Stereophile Dictionary around you want but if I can't enjoy a simple damn song I don't care how detailed or spacious it sounds

just me



Exactly! This is why I love my DT770s so much. I feel that I can just put them on and relax.

My speakers are a bit different however, I have to tweak them a bit still, but I am 95% satisfied with their sound as well. And in the end, I feel I am listening to the music, not the equipment

Heck, the only thing the big Silver, black, and blue face of my Marantz 2230B does is to sit and look pretty. The only time I touch it is to adjust volume, and thats about it. Plus the blue dial makes a pretty nightlight too
Oh, and the sound it puts out is a helluva nice bonus, of course. *hugs his Marantz 2230B*

It's all about the music
 
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philodox

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I just realized a category that I left out of my perfect headphone:

Price: Koss P4 Earbud

 
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Snake

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"Neutrality". At no time do I want to hear / feel that the system is adding / subtracting something. The system should be "transparent", with as little "character" of its own. No "warmth", no "bright", no "hollow", no "kick", no sibilance, no honk, no boom, no sizzle, nothing. Frequency accuracy first, then detail, baby. Flat, with a microscope attached.
 
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