Where is the "real sound" within the 'high-end headphones' category?
Feb 10, 2012 at 4:53 PM Post #16 of 21


100+ Head-Fier
Mar 5, 2007

Great original post, good thread.
As someone who used to play a lot of piano much of my perception of its sound comes from being right next to it, as well as feeling it vibrate and all the tactile feedback of feet on pedals and fingers on keys. I was interested recently on listening to two zenph recordings of the same 'performance', one "at the keyboard" the other "in the audience". I expected them to sound different, but not as different as in fact they did sound in these recordings.
So this is yet another variable to consider about what is the "real" sound.
Of course, I listen (and listened, when I was learning) to a lot of piano performance as an audience member too; but one at least partly 'hears' it as if one is performing it oneself. This changes the perception.
I'm sure this applies to any instrumentalist/singer - well, any 'performer' in any field in fact.
I certainly have no answer about which is the "real" headphone. I don't expect I ever will. The LCD2 gives me a very "convincing" reproduction of piano - far more so than the not very many other phones (original Stax Lambda pro; a Senn 5xx; Beyer T1; K701 auditioned for a few days; Grado RS1, HF2) I have experience with. But I say "convincing" not "real".
Indeed, I agree completely with the OP's concluding remarks.

Interesting!  I too played piano (before and while training on trumpet).  The recordings of piano that I have enjoyed most and purchased are "near" recordings, as one might hear it if performing it, vs hearing it while being in the audience.  Although I passively noticed the preference before, I had not thought about it specifically until you mentioned it here.  Yes, another variable!
I do wonder if these sorts of things register as primary in preferences for recordings with people that have never played an instrument. 
May 11, 2012 at 4:29 PM Post #17 of 21

R Giskard

Used to work for HAD Audiolab
Previously known as Akatona.
Jan 12, 2008
Those are nice headphones you have there! To give you an answer to your question. The recording you are hearing is not really the exact copy of what went down in the studio room or the concert hall. It is merely an interpretation of the performance or rather, an opinion of the audio engineer that recorded, mixed and mastered the recording on how the recording should sound. Even the best recordings where extra measures are taken to minimize the effects of ambience have their flaws, if only in the technical sense (made by the musicians themselves) or caused by buzzing of the light on the music stand or the musician forced to turn the next page in his music book. Equipment used to make the recording can also have effect on the end result. Some studios here still use analog reel-to-reel recorders like the Studer A810 so that certainly affects the recording (even though these machines are incredible and will mop the floor with most SA-CD players given a proper master recording). In the end, with chamber music and especially famous artists, it is also a question of which or better said, whose instruments are they playing on. Hand made instruments means different tolerances in measurements and also materials used. Wood is a non-homogenous material and consistency varies a lot so two instruments can sound very different. Modern production of classical instruments (like the ones from Yamaha) has made it possible to manufacture instruments in a way they all sound the same but even if this is true, there's still the factor of "the opinion" like I mentioned earlier. 
Nothing sounds like live performance and this is the truth. However, it is also true that systems of this level can sound a great deal more exciting and alive than a real performance. In a theater there is always someone talking, you can't get the seat you wanted or you're just not in the mood you hoped to be for some reason and this can affect the entire experience. With your home system you don't have to qorry about it and the entire orchestra is at your disposal and you get the best seats in the house. It's better than live music. 
May 11, 2012 at 5:54 PM Post #18 of 21


1000+ Head-Fier
Dec 15, 2004
Once music is recorded/amplified there is no such thing as  " true sound". Mikes, recorders, mixers all add their sonic signatures and the sound is corrupted.
The recording process itself is the major downfall. Then you add the complexities of trying to reproduce "true sound" that in itself is no longer there by compensating for the recordings and you have a plethora of problems for which there is no solution. So you end up having a few mixes that you can make sound good in a particular sound system while others tend be unlistenable.
May 11, 2012 at 7:49 PM Post #19 of 21


100+ Head-Fier
Jan 10, 2011
i have a few of the headphones you have, and some of the same amps. i use my speaker system as the reference for the sound. i play lots of chamber music on my vinyl rig and my RTR tape deck. i also play solo piano, violin, and cello.
easily the least veiled headphone amp combination is the BHSE-009 combo. no sloppy bass, or blurred transients.....but also no edge or brightness.
if you want nothing but those instruments naturally rendered but alive and vivid, this is the one to get.
May 13, 2012 at 6:11 PM Post #20 of 21


New Head-Fier
Jul 28, 2010
To me, it comes always to the same point.
Fidelity, in an electroacustic device, is due to the electrical signal provided, not to te original event.
Since the original event is recorded from a subjetive point of view, in a particualr enviroment, with a particular mic brand/model/settin/placement, by a particular ingeneer with a particular criteria, and so forth in the audio chain till its handled by this or that final amplifier stage, it is the fidelity to what that final stage provides as electrical signal what really counts.
ANYTHING else is an algebraic addition (dont know the name of this in English,sorry about that), an actual rollercoaster of things added and substracted, and therefore not the headphone responsability.
Interestingly enough, from this perspective we can declare 2 event horyzons.
  • represented by the chain of events contained in a "package" (so to speak) that includes from the event itself till the final comercial product, (f.ex. the final CD) so that commercial product can be tested and compared in almost identical circumstances in different moments and setups to perform a fairly valid camparation.
  • represented by the chain of events contained in a second package that includes all the audio chain from the front end to the headphone jack. Again, this second chain can be tested as a whole in almost identical circumstances in defferent moments and setups toperform a fairly valid comparation.
The importance of conceiving these two chains as a concept, and therefore determining these two event horizons, is that there is no way to ponderate all the changes taking place inside them. There are only two quasi-objective elements (in terms of compartive replicability): the CD and the audio chain as a whole.
So, in terms of being true to something at all, we can only be true to the headphone jack, as a teller it is. Everyting else is a rollercoaster of changes impossible to assess. 
May 25, 2012 at 8:07 PM Post #21 of 21


100+ Head-Fier
Mar 13, 2012
Very interesting and true points of view , i also would like to add that there is another factor that is many times under estimated and increase the problem when judging speakers , headphones or even live performances, and is the ear of the listener . What i want to addres is that in many cases there are differences in how every person can perceive sound due to different factors objetives and subjetives,. for instance the normal aging process that may start at 25 years and that even tough is very slow and gradual can affect hearing (objetive) , also the emotional impact sounds and music has in every single person could influence the way we perceive sound and how we interpret it (subjetive).

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