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Why does it matter if headphones have a frequency range below 20Hz and above 20kHz?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by keyboardwarrior, Nov 29, 2011.
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  1. keyboardwarrior
    I've been looking around for some good headphones (I love bass, so I'm probably getting ATH's PRO700 Mk 2) and I keep seeing headphones with frequency ranges going from 10Hz to 34000Hz and what not. Since the human ear only can pick up sounds between 20-20000Hz, why does it matter? 
    And what signifies quality in the headphone's ability to go under and above these marks? 
    /sincere audio noob
  2. Head Injury
    It doesn't. You can feel notes below 20 Hz, but can you feel them from tiny headphone drivers? Why bother with a subwoofer then?
    I'm not even sure how they come up with those frequency ranges. Grado, for example, claims the RS1 goes down to 12 Hz, but it's rolled off nearly 25 dB by then!
  3. liamstrain
    Some make an argument that if there is extra headroom in the ends, that the headphone is better and has less distortion (since you are not pushing its limits). Sort of like a car that is pushed to the limit to go 60 mph, versus one that can do 60 easily - the engine doesn't work as hard - the ride is better. Similar arguments are made for using more powerful amplification than is strictly necessary. 
    I cannot say one way or the other. The above makes sense conceptually - but as far as I know, does not have evidence to back up the position. 
  4. nikp
    Wider frequency range = Better extension. The SRH940 has a frequency range of 5 Hz - 30 kHz and the bass goes really deep.
  5. liamstrain
    nikp - his question makes sense to you then though - if you can only hear down to 20hz - why on earth would it matter if the headphone could extend lower? It doesn't sound any deeper to you. 
  6. RPGWiZaRD


    I can feel the notes below 20Hz and hear down to 15Hz where it's still has like +12dB boost on XB500. :p But yea requires a massive boost for headphone drivers to be able to deliver bass you can feel down low (we're talking like +10dB here even) and the headphones with this capability are rare.
  7. nikp


    Human can feel such frequencies (under 20Hz). Earthquakes have a frequency less than 20Hz and you can hear the rumbling noise. [​IMG]
  8. SobbingWallet


    Some of it is probably just marketing.  I don't put much stock in stated frequency response in specifications, since it seems to have little correlation with actual measurements (note what Head Injury said about the Grado RS1).  The absolute limits of frequency response are much less important to me than knowing that 30-17kHz tones are all represented with adequate volume.
    I think I actually can feel really low-frequency tones with headphones though.  There's no kind of aural enjoyment quite like getting disoriented or nauseous from super-deep bass you can't even hear. [​IMG]
    All that said, I do prefer having headphones that can handle ridiculously low frequencies.  There are bass tests on Youtube and such that go all the way down to 1Hz, and I'm too afraid of blowing out my drivers to mess with them too much.  I don't know if that's a superstitious fear or if there's genuine merit to it, but unless/until I know for sure, I wouldn't mind peace of mind...not that many/any headphones I know of can go THAT low anyway, but the lower they go, the more leeway you might have.
  9. anetode

    Picking on Grado? Can I join?
    SR60i, SR80i, SR125i: 20-20khz

    SR225i, with the mere addition of UHPLC copper voice coil wire, nets you: 20-22khz

    SR325is: 18-24khz

    RS2i: 14-28khz

    RS1i: 12-30khz

    GS1000i: 8-35khz

    PS1000: 5-50khz
    All are within like a couple of db in freq. response.
    Still love the Grado sound and the value of the lower end models. Still chuckle at the freq. range marketing.
    Forget these unambitious wimps, I'm gonna design a headphone that can do DC-1mhz to match the customer's 10,000$ amp.
  10. Head Injury

    And that requires a lot of power and a lot of surface area. Headphones don't push enough air.
  11. nikp


    That doesn't really explain why I hear deeper bass on the SRH940 than, say, the ATH-M50.
  12. Head Injury

    No, but that doesn't suggest you can actually feel 15 Hz with headphones.
  13. liamstrain
    No, and their FQ response curves indicate that it should be the opposite. But the deeper frequency extension of the Shure doesn't explain why you hear that either. Something else may be at work in this circumstance. 
  14. RexAeterna
    it's the seal and absorption properties of the cups that allows for sub-bass to be felt and heard. open headphones tend to have deeper bass extension better cause there is place where the soundwave can escape from and reflect back in or around your head. it's actually easier to get a full-range headphone driver to extend down to 20hz since it need lot less motion to achieve that frequency band compared to actual fullrange speakers where you might need specially designed complex speaker cabs to allow the air to travel and then you need good enough bass traps so your room can capture and absorb those low frequencies. headphones are very different. most headphones actually have a harder time reaching the air frequencies and above cause they're usually purposely rolled-off so it'll be hard to actually have headphones that can extend up to 20khz flat,but that's of course if your hearing is up to the task of hearing that high still.

    the frequency specs on headphones are all marketing. people should know that by now.
  15. nikp

    I'm aware of that but I still get that feeling that < 20Hz can be felt. Not heard but felt.
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