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The "speed" of headphones

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by scarletvan, Aug 25, 2015.
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  1. scarletvan
    Hello, i am kinda confused with this term in the world of audio. When i read a review about headphones, there will be something like "suited for fast music", "not pleasing enough for fast music", and so on. What does that mean? Thank you. Fyi i am not someone who buy high end gears. In fact, i only own <$30 Pioneer
  2. ieee754
    Headphone sounds "fast" if it has treble peak(s) and/or poor subbass extension (or generally bright signature).
  3. castleofargh Contributor
    what he said.
    don't try to understand what those reviews are talking about it's a misuse of words to expressed a misunderstanding of sound. forge those reviews and stick to proper language ^_^.
    to give a simple example, when a bass guitar plays a tone, there are in fact a bunch of frequencies emitting sound at once, it's not just 1 pure 50hz for example. you hear it as a low slightly rumbling tone that is the sum of all the sounds. now if you have a stiff roll off in low frequencies (like on most Grado headphones). the same guitar will now actually sound just a bit brighter because of the attenuated low frequencies, but also seem "faster", because lower frequencies are slower and you now don't have as much of those. so if your music has less of a slow rumbling 40hz signal, you will get the feeling that those bassy sounds are somehow quicker(you can play with that on any EQ).
    and the reverse effect, if there is a very massive bass boost, you might feel too much of that slow rumbling presence when some drum hits and it will make you feel like the drum was "slower" with more reverb or whatever. I would just say the bass boost is strong and it extends very low. as it's really just a signature problem.
    if a sound or a headphone was faster all it would do is play a 1100hz when the signal sent what a 1000hz ^_^ that would be the crappiest headphone ever built. so that speed nonsense is best avoided.
    it's relay all about the signature of the headphone.
  4. scarletvan
    I see.... Thank you for your thorough explanation :).
  5. edstrelow Contributor
    A similar  and probably better term is probably "resolution" which refers to the ability of a system to register details. By and large the limiting factor is not the electronics but the mechanical speaker diaphragm. If it is too heavy it will be hard to get it to change its motion, in response to new signals. Thus it will often appear that a slow system is missing high frequencies and is bass heavy because bass frequencies are lower and slower, i.e there are fewer motion changes per second than high frequencies.  Electrostatic systems are considered fast in this regard because their diaphragms are exceedingly light and thus take little energy to get moving and have little momentum.
    Fast systems are not necessarily bass light.  Some of the better electrostatic phones measure a flat response in the lower frequencies down to below the limits of low frequency hearing.
    tekkster and joseph69 like this.
  6. castleofargh Contributor

     do you really think that people making subjective reviews of a headphone are talking about how fast the headphone reacts to an impulse response? [​IMG] only the guys at headphonia believe they're hearing PRAT and stuff like that. and IMO they're full of crap. no, reviewers for the very most part clearly talk about their "feeling of speed" which isn't speed at all but what I explained before.
  7. edstrelow Contributor
    It's an overgeneralization to talk about all reviewers. Some reviewers may be talking about what I am saying others may not.
    I personally am not talking about PRAT,  that has more to do with the dynamic capabilities of a system, i.e. its ability to play different levels of loudness.   The term "fast" is widely applied to electrostatics and they are fast in the sense of being able to resolve details as I note.  This does not necessarily give them good PRAT. For that you may need a  powerful amplifier or efficient phones which can give large dynamic swings  from a small amp.
    tekkster likes this.
  8. castleofargh Contributor
    I did make a caricature of reviewers, I'll give you that for the sake of honesty.
    and I'm not saying some drivers can't move faster than others, we all have seen some impulse responses of headphones. I'm saying that speed is a wrong wording for what I was talking about where people mistake FR for speed, and a wrong spec in yours.
    I don't see why resolution would be expressed by speed. it's necessary to have some speed, up to the highest frequency we will play and that's it. faster won't do shiit for music. it will if we measure a transient response, but music only changes as fast as half nyquist if it was properly filtered(and should be). the rest is showing of. talk to me about audible resolution with distortions values and FR amplitudes, then ok, it's something that can be heard at some levels and it is directly related to how much the driver messed up. but while speed may play a part in the resulting distortions, I don't see how someone would hear speed. to me that's just the brain playing his usual "oh those orthos show amazing transient response, so the music must be fast". 
    ps: I love it when I type nyquist and the spell correction suggests nudist. [​IMG]
    pila405 and seanwee like this.
  9. cel4145

    This is incorrect, and can be seen as such through real world experience without even understanding the science behind it. By this reasoning, IEMs with their micro drivers would always be better than full sized headphones, and transducers in speakers would all be abysmally slow.

    What you are talking about here is the transient response, and in speakers, it's not the general ability to "change it's motion," but more precisely, the decay after the sound has been generated--the ability to stop the motion--that differentiates between what people often describe as "fast" or "slow" when it comes to this audio attribute.

    Even so, "fast" and "slow" is a bit of a misnomer in reference to what happens physically with transducers. The faster a driver can move, the more SPL it can output.
    tekkster likes this.
  10. arnyk

    A little less than half right. 
    The limiting factor in audio system performance is indeed the transducers and the acoustic environment in which they operate.
    Speed is only an issue when a combination of high amplitude and high frequencies are being reproduced. Thus the idea of a "Fast woofer" is an audiophile myth.
    Diaphragm weight can be easily overcome by simply providing sufficient force to make the diaphragm move as desired.  This is done all the time. 
    The alleged transient response advantage of electrostatic and other planar speaker types does not exist - look at their frequency response curves!
  11. mindbomb
    My understanding is that speed and resolution and impulse response are synonymous. Afaik, a big factor in this is driver size, as larger drivers have to move less. So this is why the hd800 destroys most other headphones in impulse response and why the mdr z7 is marketed as "high res".
  12. edstrelow Contributor

    "By and large the limiting factor is not the electronics but the mechanical speaker diaphragm. If it is too heavy it will be hard to get it to change its motion, in response to new signals."
    I fail to see how anybody can disagree with this statement.
    Re:"resolution" here is a definition from Mirriam Webster "the ability of a device to show an image clearly and with a lot of detail."
  13. cel4145

    Because it doesn't make sense. LOL
    sonitus mirus likes this.
  14. edstrelow Contributor
    Some people it doesn't pay to argue with.   I hope you are happy in your audio fanatsy world.
  15. castleofargh Contributor
    it's very fine, but the mechanical part of the diaphragm will be tweaked with damping for control just like the electrical part, and it is very much possible to make something with a heavier diaphragm that can still move very fast as long as the magnetic power is right. at best the problem will be to stop it from moving, but that's not speed of the music we're talking about then. but really damping.  and if anything, control through all kinds of damping will matter more to resolution than added speed capacity. simply because speed isn't much of an issue for audible range music.
    so once more, IMO speed is misused to talk about resolution or sound signature.
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