Soundstaging wrt to headphones
Jan 12, 2009 at 2:51 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

triode12

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I have been dabbling in High End Hi-Fi for 20 years now but a newbie to headphone listening.

What headphone systems are capable of? So far, the soundstage out of my K701s has not extended beyond the confines my headspace (empty as it is
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). And the soundstage is usually never presented in front of me but again within my headspace.

I would like to find out if headphones are capable of presenting the same illusion of a soundstage as a good speaker based system would. With the soundstage extending beyond the rear, sides and height of the speakers and creating the illusion of performers performing live in front of you.

One of the reasons I bought the K701 was because of the reports and reviews extolling it's soundstaging abilities.

Is a good headphone setup capable of doing this?


TIA for any insights and experiences.
 
Jan 12, 2009 at 3:13 AM Post #2 of 13

Duggeh

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I would recommend that you read this:

http://www.thismanwillkillyou.com/bi...ega2Review.pdf

It's the best headphone review that there is imo and it does a lot to explain spacial imaging in headphone listening. What I think that you are after may not be achievable even with something really top end like an Omega 2 or K1000. Speaker listening may be less microdetailed but its far better for macrodetail and that full soundscape from a good speaker rig just doesn't exist on headphones in my experience. Good headphone soundscaping though is a different kind of pleasurable experience in itself.

I think that most people are going to post here with "K1000!" "x2" "x3", and then someone else will pop in with a mention for the Stax Sigma, taking the extra time to note that yes, they're pretty ugly things. There'll probably be a K701 fanboy drop in too saying that you haven't got the right amp for the K701 and so they aren't producing holographs in your ears (I don't care for the K701 personally).

All that said, of the headphones in my rig, toed out K1000 is the closest to that speaker kind of image you want. But it isn't the same, and you trade off a large chunk of its very very good toed in headphone soundscaping in the process as well as efficiency and bass level.
 
Jan 12, 2009 at 5:20 AM Post #3 of 13

edstrelow

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Headphones are capable of some very effective left right "imaging," iand repruding subtleties of ambience, in many respects better than speakers. However externalization , i.e. the pereception of sound at a distance is more problematic because the headphone signals come from a space very close up to your ears. In this respect at least speakers have the advantage since they are some distance from you.


HEADPHONE VS SPEAKER LOCALIZATION
Speakers create "phantom channels" of signals whereby, for example the left channel feeds the right ear and vice-versa with a slight time delay. Thus you get 4 channels of sound from 2 speakers, two of them time delayed and which will interefere with the two correct signals. These phantom channels are complete artifacts and hence unnatural, compared to headphones which provide a pure left and right channel signal to the correct ear.

While you may think you are geting good spatial localization with conventional speakers, you should hear the sound when correction is made for the phantom channel artifacts. Some years ago Polk produced a series of SDA speakers which did this, with a fair degree of success. The images they produce are almost tangible by comparison with conventional stereo speakers.

Thus with headphones you are getting a more pure stereophonic signal.

MICROPHONE ISSUES IN SPATIAL REALISM

However, the realism of the image depends significantly on the nature of the recording. The signals picked up by 2 or more microphones used in recording may or may not be the same as your own ears would hear if you were in the listening situation. Generally they will not because the mics are spaced differently than your ears are spaced. Also, much music is multi tracked and micked, and creates a wholey synthetic stereo image. The extent to which it sounds real on either speakers or phones is a matter of the skill of the sonic engineers.

The best images will be obtained with "dummy head" recordings, where 2 mics are placed on a dummy head (or real head for the matter, I used to make my own such recordings with Sony's pro portable cassette machine and 2 small condensor mics clipped on my own ears.) The spatial realism of such images can be quite uncanny.

What tends to be still missing is "externalization," ie. the perception of sounds as occurring in a real space oustide of one's head. I recall in the notes of Sennheisser's old lp of dummy head recording, the claim that many people still perceive even such good recorded sound as being located somewhat to the rear of the listener. I certainly feel this is a problem with most headphones. And for the simple reason that the headphones drivers are somewhat toward he rear of the head, because that's where your ears are. Your brain is still strongly registering the true location of the source of the auditory signal.

PHONES USING EXTERNAL DRIVERS SUCH AS THE STAX SIGMA AND AKG1000

I agree with Duggeh about the Stax Sigma being able to partially get around this problem, for the simple reason that the drivers are mounted ahead of the ears (and I believe this is also true of the AKG K1000). In my own listening, I prefer the 007A for its sheer good sound and ability to register detail, but the Sigma/404( a modified Stax Sigma, using the later built Stax 404 drivers and cable) is a close second. It has a similar sonic signature but an openness and airiness of sound that almost no other phones have except the regular Sigmas and probably the K1000.

Sigma.jpg


LATERAL SPATIAL LOCALIZATION vs DEPTH

The long review by darthnut makes some interesting observations about some phones and makes an interesting argument for auditory depth perception based in part on an analogy with what are termed in experimental psychology "monocular depth cues" i.e. cues or stimuli to distance which one can perceive with one eye, i.e. not relying on stereoscopic vision.

I think there is some truth in his observations but I would point out that the literature on auditory perception shows little evidence of any particularly acute auditory sense of depth as opposed to lateral spatial perception which can be quite acute. (Similalrly there is little evidence of any particularly good auditory perception of height.)

Many of the stimuli of distance he discusses are also inherently ambiguous, thus he claims that softer sounds are perceived as being further away. Why not just being softer (less loud) but at the same distance?

Lateral perception based on stereo cues is far more exact. Sounds producing an interaural arrival time difference are pretty unambiguosly located in a specific direction around the head. My point being that headphone listening is primarily about stereophonic spatial localization. Whne this is done accurately as is so by most phones, then sonic ambience tends to fall into its correct place/space too.
 
Jan 13, 2009 at 4:02 AM Post #5 of 13

triode12

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Thank you all for replying and for the links, explanations and insights. Thank you especially to edstrelow for the comprehensive explanation.

Duggeh, darthnut summed up what I was hearing through my headphones. His term 'headstage' is very apt. There isn't much depth to the headstage and there is hardly any space between the instruments, performers on this stage. Nothing like what I hear through my ribbon dipole speaker system where I images are rock solid and sounding as though they are there in the room with me (and sometimes outside the room in the imaginary space beyond the walls)

The reviewer mentions the ability/need to suspend disbelief to experience the headstage. However, I can't seem to do this.


edstrelow,

I concur and understand why that multi-miked, multi-track recordings are synthetic. That is why I used Opus3 recordings which are usually recorded using only one stereo mike to formulate my observations.

Recordings I am familiar with played through headphones sound like they are crammed in a row between my two ears. Sometimes at different heights.

So I suppose a better amp will not improve what I am hearing with regards to the size and depth of the headstage?
 
Jan 13, 2009 at 4:41 AM Post #6 of 13

hew

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Better amp and better headphones will but as mentioned above you may want to consider an electrostatic setup.
 
Jan 13, 2009 at 5:17 AM Post #7 of 13

derekbmn

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Electrostat phones in general can pull the "reach out and touch the singer" trick/illusion rather easily, but if you think it's anywhere close to the experience that a well setup speaker rig can portray....I would say you are fooling and/or lying to yourself.
biggrin.gif


That said... I enjoy the intimacy of the headphone experience and especially electrostats. Yes the music can be portrayed ahead of you with some depth...but don't expect miracles. Physics is simply working against it.
 
Jan 13, 2009 at 5:25 AM Post #8 of 13

triode12

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derekbmn,

Thank you for your candid post, I think I shall not be investing further into the headphone side of the hobby as I will be unable to replicate what I can get with my speaker setup.
 
Jan 13, 2009 at 10:21 AM Post #10 of 13

triode12

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Quote:

Originally Posted by derekbmn /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Well heck... now I feel bad. The last thing I want to do is drive you away. I wouldn't give up just yet. Certainly there must be some times when you are not able to listen to your speaker rig (late at night, early mornings, kids sleeping,etc etc.)

I would stick around, maybe you will find a happy medium.





Pls don't feel bad! You've helped me actually, you have saved me spending more to find out what my ears and heart were telling me.

I'll keep my current headphone rig. But I probably won't spend more than I have already.
k701smile.gif
 
Jan 15, 2009 at 5:24 PM Post #11 of 13

Scooterboy

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As someone who is new to headphones but have been in the high end audio world for years, your answers to the posters leaves much to be desired:

1. You have someone attacking a particular headphone brand. Hardly objective.

2. The orignal poster stated that he is using the AKG 701 using a portable amp. That would certainly contribute to his overall issue with lack of sound stage. It is well known that the 701 needs a quality dedicated headphone amp to extract its true potential.

3. Did anyone ask the question if there was any break in time on the posters 701. It has been stated that they require at least 200 hours to aproach its potential.

4. Quality headphones with the proper source material, cabling and amplification can give a delightful soundstage and presentation even though different from some Speaker Systems.

All I can say to the original poster is do your research ,listen for yourself and sift though opinions for their value.

You can refer to my signature, I listen to both and am continually learning ...
jecklinsmile.gif
 
Jan 15, 2009 at 5:42 PM Post #12 of 13

Duggeh

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Scooterboy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
As someone who is new to headphones but have been in the high end audio world for years, your answers to the posters leaves much to be desired:

1. You have someone attacking a particular headphone brand. Hardly objective.



Opinions are inherantly subjective.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scooterboy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
2. The orignal poster stated that he is using the AKG 701 using a portable amp. That would certainly contribute to his overall issue with lack of sound stage. It is well known that the 701 needs a quality dedicated headphone amp to extract its true potential.


Extract its full potential and drive it properly sure. Not turn it into another headphone. No amp makes a K701 a K1000 and because this is a soundstage related inquiry, discussion of the most suitable transducers is of primary importance.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scooterboy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
3. Did anyone ask the question if there was any break in time on the posters 701. It has been stated that they require at least 200 hours to aproach its potential.


Just because thats been stated doesn't make it true, but this isn't the place to get into another tired debate about the amazing transformative magic of burn-in.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scooterboy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
4. Quality headphones with the proper source material, cabling and amplification can give a delightful soundstage and presentation even though different from some Speaker Systems.


The difference you allude to is the most important point with regard to the OPs situation and has already been well addressed.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scooterboy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
All I can say to the original poster is do your research ,listen for yourself and sift though opinions for their value.

You can refer to my signature, I listen to both and am continually learning ...
jecklinsmile.gif



Indeed.
 
Jan 15, 2009 at 7:48 PM Post #13 of 13

Scooterboy

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Duggeh /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Extract its full potential and drive it properly sure. Not turn it into another headphone. No amp makes a K701 a K1000 and because this is a soundstage related inquiry, discussion of the most suitable transducers is of primary importance.

That was not the OPs original question. Certainly a K701 can not be a K1000 nor can a K1000 be a Grado RS-1 or Stax. They all have their unique sound. The point is to be fair and address the OPs original question. Proper Amping will change the sound stage and extract any headphone's full potential

Just because thats been stated doesn't make it true, but this isn't the place to get into another tired debate about the amazing transformative magic of burn-in.



That may well be your opinion but in most all credible audiophile circles burn in is an important factor.

Your are right; opinions are inherently subjective........Also having an open mind can have the therapeutic effect of being refreshing.
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