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Why do many headphones have a treble peak?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by rhythm is life, Sep 12, 2014.
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  1. rhythm is life
    Looking through various headphone measurements, it seems like a lot of headphones have a peak in the 8-10 kHz range. The recently introduced Harman response curve does not incorporate such a peak, and none of the speakers that I've listened to had this peak. So why is it in so many headphones?
  2. KamijoIsMyHero
    To compensate for your ear's amplification of that frequency range. Your ear doesn't behave like a room and there isn't a standard set on how to measure headphones or what the target response is supposed to be yet.
  3. saxelrod92

    yea that, and the result of which makes an easy way to create a sense of treble/air without making the tone bright. Of course on cheaper headphones, the result of doing this creates a V or U shaped curve, and you just lots of bass, and a sharp treble at that spike, with not as much in between. If you look at the hifiman he-560 or even the senn hd800, they have a bump around 3-6 khz. that is what gives them a fuller sounding treble and in the case of the hd800 a brighter tone, and in the case of the he-560 a more neutral balance (since the bump is about 2-3 khz lower than on the hd800). So they no longer need a spike at 10khz. but on like audeze lcd 2s they do have a spike at 10khz, just its still lower in dB than the lower frequencies, so overall they still sound smooth and warm/slightly rolled off, but that spike exists to give the headphones that little bit of treble needed to make cymbals, and high pitched tones like the attack of the drumhead, be heard.
    as said, there is no "correct" response curve yet, and the materials/technology of the drivers get taken into account when tuning the sound to optimize it.
  4. bigshot
    It is intended to emphasize detail by bumping up the upper frequencies. It's a trick that sounds really good for ten minutes until the listening fatigue sets in.
    A flat response is the correct response curve, but that isn't as easy to do as it sounds. Expensive headphones can do a nice flat response without resorting to tricks.
    ieee754 likes this.
  5. SilverEars
    I want to hear the treble avg of 800 and lcd3.  That would be interesting.  800 is not neutral.  It's bright.  Neither is lcd.  Its a bit dark.  I want to hear the baby of the two.  Is it difficult to get that area flat?  5-10k?
  6. wnmnkh Contributor
    There is an excellent headphone that is not either bright nor dark. It's called HD600.
    Or any well-made reasonably-priced headphones like Focal Spirit Professional, VISO HP50, etc.
    For big mega bucks headphones... Really only headphones that have proper balance are LCD-X (prob most ideal I've ever heard), LCD-2 (little too dark), HF-560 (little too bright). And everything else simply fails.
    As far as I know here are reasons:
    1.) Inherent driver problems. Some diaphragms produce more high-level energy than others (e.g metal)
    2.) Maker being cheap/lazy at damping. <- 90% case for less-priced headphones.
    3.) Older people prefer treble-focused freq response due to hearing damage <- 90% case for high-priced headphones.
    Yes. No.3 is the reason why with exception of Audeze, pretty much most of headphones costing more than a grand exhibit powerful trebles. Fortunately HiFiman's new HF-560 has more tamed high, but it is still in 'bit bright' category.
    Like our bigshot said, these headphones sound amazing for first 10~20 minutes, then you get pain from your ears.
    Kaffeemann likes this.
  7. saxelrod92

    The problem is that a headphone that had a perfectly flat frequency response would sound pretty off. thats why theres stuff like the harmon response curve, which gives a good guess at the perfect frequency response shape. But of course is still not at all perfect, or "the one". For example you want to hear a combo of the hd800 treble with the lcd 3 treble, by wanting the 5-10khz area flat. well making that area flat might not actually give you that sound at all. I'm gonna say this as purely a very observant and detail oriented person, but with no actual audio engineering experience. but the way a frequency response seems to work is that its a balancing act of sorts. to make something sound neutral you need to keep everything in balance, and making it all flat does not do that because it will make everything sound as loud as everything else, which wont really sound flat to you. you need to be able to hear the bass, the mids, and treble as distinct frequency areas, with smooth transitions, and to keep it neutral, they need to be in balance of each other. but to accomplish this, you need some dips in certain frequencies, and bumps in others. because music/sound in general does not always use every frequency between 20-20,000hz. its just a balancing act, and a consideration of the driver type/materials used, since they all need to be tuned down or up to sound good.
    also on a side note, having certain frequencies peak or dip does not always correlate to changing the tone of the headphones, as in bright or dark. you can have a dark headphone with like a peaky treble, and it will still sound dark because of the overall tone the driver material gives/how its tuned in ways other than the frequency response. like hd800 drivers are a large part of why it is slightly bright and treble happy, because its frequency response does not really have any aspects of it that would make it have that overly accentuated sound signature. its mainly the ring driver, with the aluminum coated diaphragm. Compared to like fostex drivers which use the organic membrane type material and as a result have more bass, and impact, and slight organic tone (thinking of the denon d5000 which I have).
    just shows how there is no real correct curve, or tuning. its just how well a company balances all the variables that are present in the headphone they are designing.
  8. bigshot
    AUDIBLY flat... not measured flat. What matters is what ears hear, not what microphones hear. A headphone that is audibly flat won't have a response graph that is flat for a million reasons they argue over incessantly in the HeadFi headphone forums.
  9. saxelrod92

    yea thats exactly what the point of my whole post was, because they were talking about wanting a measured flat response to hear neutrality, and my post was about explaining why thats not how it works.
  10. KamijoIsMyHero
    Lcd-x is has a boost in midrange in my experience, add to that that it has a similar treble presentation as the lcd3, it isn't balanced enough IMO for such a high price. The HE-500 is still a good choice...slight bias though.
  11. bigshot
    More info isn't always better. Sometimes just stating it clearly in unequivocal terms helps people understand better.
  12. Baxide

    The HD800 is only as good as the headamp powering it. I had to build my own headmp just to power my HD800, because the prices for the headamps that can handle the HD800 properly are eye watering. Most HD800 owners, like myself, could afford the headphone. But a suitable amp was a paypacket or two too far.
  13. cjl
    The HD800 is a fairly easy load, as high end headphones go. The list of amps that can power the HD800 in an audibly perfect fashion is long, and includes several fairly inexpensive amplifiers.
  14. Dark_wizzie
    This is the Sound Science section. Just making sure we're on the same page here.
    A $150 O2 amp is more than enough to power HD800s whether you like it or not, because electrical engineering.
    My question is... What do you think about the various attempts at weighting the FR graph to try to represent how we would perceive the sound with ears instead of microphones? There's that curve of human hearing as I'm sure you know, showing that we are more sensitive to some frequencies than others. Do we use that? Is that any good considering how sound interacts with our ear canals?
    I was watching a RockyMountainAudiofest discussion, and some guy who used to work with monitors talked about how he felt headphones varied too much in their sound signatures. Whereas with monitors they were looking for speakers that are as flat as possible (hence, different monitors sounded a bit like each other), it felt like some headphone companies weren't even trying to be neutral, or they don't really know what neutral is. What do you think is the most neutral headphone?
  15. Grave
    No headphone is flat past ~1k because basically. . .  **** happens and it's complicated.
    HTRF's are applied to make them sound very approximately flat. The sensitivity of our ears to certain frequencies is not taken into consideration because this bias exists for a reason -  lower frequencies are much louder than higher frequencies and also our ears are optimized for vocals for obvious reasons (communication).
    I agree that the HD 580's or HD 600's are perfectly balanced if that is what you are looking for. I have a pair of those.
    The HD 650's and LCD-2's are only slightly dark and I really like that. I agree that treble boosted headphones are probably better if you are old and deaf but otherwise they are annoying and inaccurate. :p
    Approximately flat vs. purposefully V-shaped is a whole different issue and what sounds balanced depends upon the volume that you are listening at so this is complicated as well. Some headphones are horrendously V-shaped, and again, I would argue inaccurate.
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