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Author Topic: Headphones disillusions  (Read 4984 times)

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Offline noam

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Headphones disillusions
« on: November 27, 2016, 12:22:52 PM »
I've been comparing a lot of high-end cans in the past 2 years and have been consistently underwhelmed. This morning I pulled out my old Sennheiser HD600 - what do these headphones lack? They are as good as it gets. They have an overall better tonal balance than the HD800, the HiFiManHE1000 or any of the $1,8000 and up Audeze. The sound-stage is as good as it gets, the bass perfect, they are not thin, veiled, distant, dark, bright, muddy or empty and are very revealing. Is it possible that an entire consumers' market has been bamboozled into believing that everything that followed was better? I believe only my ears. I use cheap cables and hook them up to a Benchmark DAC1 Pre. I listen only to classical/opera.

Noam
« Last Edit: November 27, 2016, 04:13:58 PM by noam »

Offline OOK

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2016, 01:28:44 PM »
I agree... I unfortunately see the headphone market repeating the sins of the past of the high end audio market.  It's sickening...greed enduced.  Thank God for companies like schiit audio. I also agree let your ears tell you what is good.. ;D
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Offline scb

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2016, 01:19:21 PM »
I want to hear the Focal Utopia

Offline goodcooker

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2016, 04:18:28 PM »

I've been using my Senn HD280s for years. I live alone and I'm not forced to use headphones so I don't use them all that often. But ~10 years of traveling and frequent use and they are still just fine for me straight out of my Focusrite USB interface.
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Offline raymonda

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2016, 06:25:56 PM »
My listening experience has told me that headphones have improved. However, I have not experienced any uber expensive headphones to determine their absolute value. I would enjoy the opportunity but at this time my wallet wouldn't.

Offline noam

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2016, 09:40:41 PM »
I want to hear the Focal Utopia

The December issue of Stereophile has an unusually honest review of $4,000 headphones by Herbert Reichert on page 43. He dares to trash politely the 4,000 Audeze LCD-4, saying their too high impedance make them sound dark, remote, distant; the $4,000 Focal Utopia "empty-sounding", but he likes the $1,000 Focal Elear.

Offline Fatah Ruark (aka MIKE B)

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2016, 11:08:18 PM »
I just purchased the HiFi-Man HE-350's from Massdrop. Retail on them is $300 (got them for $99). Figured for $99 I don't have much to lose

There is NO WAY they are worth $300...and they don't even compare to my Sennheiser HD280 Pro's (also $99).

The Hi-Fi Man headphones sound like a tin can compared to the Sennheiser's. Very little low end. I still want to give them a chance to break in before I get rid of them. Also might pick up a better amp (running the Audioengine D1 now).

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Offline noam

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2016, 08:21:55 AM »
I just purchased the HiFi-Man HE-350's from Massdrop. Retail on them is $300 (got them for $99). Figured for $99 I don't have much to lose

There is NO WAY they are worth $300...and they don't even compare to my Sennheiser HD280 Pro's (also $99).

The Hi-Fi Man headphones sound like a tin can compared to the Sennheiser's. Very little low end. I still want to give them a chance to break in before I get rid of them. Also might pick up a better amp (running the Audioengine D1 now).

I had the HiFiMan HE 1000 for 60 days and they sounded like shit, very thin - garbage.

Noam

Offline noahbickart

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2016, 10:19:39 AM »
I just purchased the HiFi-Man HE-350's from Massdrop. Retail on them is $300 (got them for $99). Figured for $99 I don't have much to lose

There is NO WAY they are worth $300...and they don't even compare to my Sennheiser HD280 Pro's (also $99).

The Hi-Fi Man headphones sound like a tin can compared to the Sennheiser's. Very little low end. I still want to give them a chance to break in before I get rid of them. Also might pick up a better amp (running the Audioengine D1 now).

I had the HiFiMan HE 1000 for 60 days and they sounded like shit, very thin - garbage.

Noam

Hmmmm. I really enjoy my he-400 pair.

Then again, I also love my akg k701, which sound totally different.

Then great thing about headphones is ht for not that much $$$ you can have multiple high end transducers. And the WAF is perfect.
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Offline raymonda

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2016, 11:35:21 AM »
I've found that given a good headphone amp the HE 400 are my preferred headphones and are head and shoulders better than AKG 701, 702 or Senn 600's, all of which I have owned. They are much more like listening to speakers than headphones, too.

Senn 280's are okay on-location headphones but they are not for me, as they are bandwidth limited and murky sounding. Even AT ATM50's are better sounding than 280's on almost every level.

I guess it goes to show that folks really do hear things differently.
 

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2016, 11:05:58 AM »
I dig my Senn HD600 and HD650 'phones most.  Yes, a good headphone amp extracts the nth degree of optimality with them, but I'm totally happy just plugging them directly into whatever the source happens to be.  Often that's one of the recorders I'm currently using- DR2d, DR680, R-44, and frequently I'm driving both at the same time through a simple 'Y' cable so a friend can also listen.

I picked up the 650s new for $250 on sale about 9 years ago, and the 600's secondhand for less than that (can't recall) from another member here more recently.  The HD600s are completely stock.  I modified the 650's a bit early on, replacing the foam over the drivers with thinner polyester stocking material, and extracting a small piece of damping foam from the center of the driver cup (a non-reversible mod) which in combination make a subtle but to me significant tweak in slightly greater clarity and presence which puts them right where I like them to be.  And those attributes also describe the difference I hear between the 600s and the 650s as well.  The 600s are very nicely balanced and something of a standard reference headphone for good reason.  I do enjoy the slight bottom and top end extension of the 650's though, which often makes for the best personal listening fit for my own recordings.  I should replace the headband cushion foam on the 650's which is now totally flat, but I'm totally happy listening to either. 

The other primary phones I have are universal fit in-ears suitable for environments requiring isolation, or when a smaller more portable solution is required-

I've two sets of Etymotic ER4 I've had for 15 or more years which I like alot but are currently packed away.  I use them with my own modified expanding foam earplugs which maximize their environmental isolation and low frequency extension.  In overall sound quality in a quiet environment they are a step down from the open back Senns, but not by much.  They are my highly-isolating in-ear reference, but less convenient due to needing the foam plugs.  I think those were about $250 a pair at the time, which seems to be my sweet spot for "good" headphones. 

The in-ear set I currently use frequently is a set of Audio Technica ATH-ANC3 active noise cancellation in-ears with silicone flange tips.  Those I use frequently for travel, in the office for listening on the computer or whatever.  Not quite the same sound quality as the Senns (or the Etys as I recall), but very good overall and I've been quite pleased with them.  Their active cancellation is excellent in reducing environmental rumble significantly beyond the isolation capability of the silicone tips alone (HVAC, car/plane noise, etc).   Somewhat unusual to find active cancellation in an in-ear, but I chose them because of that feature and am quite happy with it.  I originally had high hopes in using them as "active ear-plugs" at loud concerts with their active noise cancellation reducing low bass and subwoofer leakage beyond the capability of even well-fitted foam earplugs alone, but unfortunately the cancellation circuit doesn't have sufficient headroom capability for those kinds of levels and clips when overstressed in a situation where that functionality would be useful.  I've thought of finding another pair and trying to modify the circuit, as I think it has potential as an  audiophile ear-plug solution for concert hearing protection.  But that's a back burner project that's long been on hold.  I think I originally picked them up from Sound Professionals for $60 or $70 along with an original R-09 back in '06 or '07 or so.

I've never tried any of the the multi-driver IEMs, either universal or custom fitted. 

I've also not tried any Adez, LCD, or HiFiMan open-back circumaural phones, although I'd like to, all of which  came to market surfaced after search for serious phones which lead me to the Senns.  At the time, I didn't care for the AKGs I tried which sounded over bright, or most Grados which sounded over-present and were uncomfortable.  I really loved the Stax phones I tried, but didn't want to deal with electrostatics and the price was out of my range.

volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values | numeric values > voltages > vibrations > virtual teleportation time-machine experience

"Narrow or widely spaced microphone configurations are preferred. It is well-known experience that pure coincidence microphone concepts are not able to produce a satisfying natural spatial impression, due to the lack of adequate interchannel temporal relations (time-of-arrival, phase, correlation)" -Günther Theile
"The mix of the Double M/S signals with a large A/B configuration of omnis results in the spacious sound that is often desired. This option also provides decorrelated low-frequency signals." -Helmut Wittek

Offline noam

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2016, 11:31:37 AM »
This post may be medical and boring, but it deals with an issue I've been obsessing over for ever.

I play my music through speakers 99.9999% of the time, and extremely loud - the walls sake. It rarely results in tinnitus.

When I use headphones for more than one hour, even at moderate levels, I get tinnitus. Medical stuff: the high-pitched noise you hear when you have tinnitus is the hair-cell in the cochlea firing randomly because it's under distress. Each hair-cell is responsible for a different pitch, the pitch that you hear in tinnitus is the pitch of the suffering hair-cell, and in my case it is extremely high pitched. There is no cure for permanent tinnitus (which, thankfully, I don't have).

I have been wondering why I don't hear about headphone users suffering from tinnitus after using cans for hours. AFAIK the warning that "listening to headphones for more than one hour a week can result in hearing loss" is still in place. So why do I experience tinnitus so easily with cans?

My theory is that I still have a lot of intact high frequency inner ear hair-cells (dead hair-cells do not produce tinnitus). I have always protected my hearing fanatically - I have been wearing earplugs for about 9 hours a day for the past 42 years, and a pitch testing CD shows I can still hear up to 13K. I run this test on anyone who lets me, and I have yet to meet anyone who can hear up to 13K, even 20 year olds.

Anyone has this problem?

Noam

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2016, 11:38:05 AM »
Yes.  I think it has to do with certain phone/ear resonances which are not excited to the same degree with speakers that are not close-coupled to the ear.  I think it meshes with what I've been typing as you posted..

I guess it goes to show that folks really do hear things differently.
^
This. I think it's more strongly the case with headphones than speakers due to the close-coupling with the ears. 

Given a good quality 'phone that has a appropriate base-line response capability, I think there is huge potential in applying personal corrective EQ.  The trick is achieving the correct personal calibration.  I've intended to contact David Griesinger to request his experimental EQ calibration software. 

Basically the idea is to calibrate the response through the headphone so that it is identical to that of a flat-response speaker placed directly in front of the listener.  This corrects for both the listener's personal HTRF response as well as correcting the response of the headphones themselves and reportedly achieves a realistic out of head soundstage for most listeners (fortunately I have little problem hearing an out-of-head soundstage with the Senns).  As a penultimate acoustician, Greisinger prefers calibrating using microphones at the eardrum (via small flexible tubes), but says good results can be achieved more simply by comparison of white-noise timbre reproduced both ways (front speaker and 'phones), and careful adjustment to make the phones match the speaker.  He states on his site-

"The headphone equalization software is still a work in progress, and progress is slow. But it might be useful in its current form. Email me if you might be interested in trying it. To work best you must provide a Windows computer with an at least two channel ASIO audio interface, and a loudspeaker that can be equalized to be frequency flat to pink noise on-axis, or who's frequency response in 1/3 octave bands can be measured. The app provides the pink noise. A subject sits with their head close to the speaker axis and adjusts for their individual equal loudness curve for 1/3 octave band noise by comparing the loudness of each band to a 500Hz reference. Once their equal loudness curve is known, any headphone can be equalized by repeating the procedure with the headphone instead of speaker. The app then lets you hear pink noise or music through your own individual equalization.

8/18/15

We are currently working on an app for headphone equalization that uses an equal-loudness method. The app is getting pretty useful. I have been able to use it with several headphones and get them close enough to my own hearing to have excellent results reproducing my binaural recordings. These include my favorite Sennheiser 250-2 noise cancelling headphones, the Sennheiser 600s, AKG 701s, and a pair of insert headphones that came free with a Sony ICD SX1000 micro recorder. After eq they sound similar, but not identical. Binaural recordings heard through the circumaural phones sounded pleasant, but lacked the sense of presence and reality that were achieved with the on-ear phones and the insert phones. Circumaural phones, as are currently preferred for binaural playback have too many resonances inside the cup and concha to be equalized with a 1/3 octave approach, and too much variability each time you put them on to be equalized mathematically.

Prompted by this work I decided to make a short video which describes how to make probe microphones from a readily available lavaliere microphone from Audio Technica. I uploaded the video to a private YouTube address: http://youtu.be/2yYFND4lbAs

I also put on this site a folder that contains the Matlab scripts I use for making impulse responses from sine sweeps. Using the files in the folder you can make impulse responses without Matlab by using Audition, although you will not be able to invert the responses. However an inverse response IR can be made by using the parametric equalizer in Audition to manually equalize the test impulse response to flat. Tedious, but it works. The folder is in www.davidgriesinger.com/probes/sweep_folder.zip."


volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values | numeric values > voltages > vibrations > virtual teleportation time-machine experience

"Narrow or widely spaced microphone configurations are preferred. It is well-known experience that pure coincidence microphone concepts are not able to produce a satisfying natural spatial impression, due to the lack of adequate interchannel temporal relations (time-of-arrival, phase, correlation)" -Günther Theile
"The mix of the Double M/S signals with a large A/B configuration of omnis results in the spacious sound that is often desired. This option also provides decorrelated low-frequency signals." -Helmut Wittek

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2016, 12:03:59 PM »
However, I've not emailed D. Greisinger or pursued my own calibration, partly because I got onboard early with the Kickstarter campaign for this- http://www.smyth-research.com/ when it was about $800 (thus breaking my personal headphone price ceiling) which does all that and much more.

I've posted before about demoing an earlier less-extensive version of this device at a CanJam event back in 2009 (when I was seriously shopping open backed phones) and how it completely floored me.  After being personally calibrated (using mics placed in foam earplugs), music through the headphones sounded so identical to music through the speakers in the room in which the calibration was made that it was essentially impossible to tell a difference. This is where huge gains stand to be made in the near future, a quantum leap past the comparatively minor differences between different brands of high-quality headphones.  The main problem I see restraining widespread adoption of this technology is the need for personal calibration, which is required for it to work so well, and precisely why it does.

After that experience I considered sticking my PDA 4060s in my ears to make 4-way binaural impulse responses of myself sitting in front of my main listening system- one impulse response per speaker for each ear, four total, which would not do everything the Realiser does (no head tracking, only two channels, etc) and would require a computer and player with an convolution plugin for listening, but would be a poor-man's DIY version of what was back then a $3500 device.
volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values | numeric values > voltages > vibrations > virtual teleportation time-machine experience

"Narrow or widely spaced microphone configurations are preferred. It is well-known experience that pure coincidence microphone concepts are not able to produce a satisfying natural spatial impression, due to the lack of adequate interchannel temporal relations (time-of-arrival, phase, correlation)" -Günther Theile
"The mix of the Double M/S signals with a large A/B configuration of omnis results in the spacious sound that is often desired. This option also provides decorrelated low-frequency signals." -Helmut Wittek

Offline scb

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Re: Headphones disillusions
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2016, 08:26:15 AM »
I want to hear the Focal Utopia

The December issue of Stereophile has an unusually honest review of $4,000 headphones by Herbert Reichert on page 43. He dares to trash politely the 4,000 Audeze LCD-4, saying their too high impedance make them sound dark, remote, distant; the $4,000 Focal Utopia "empty-sounding", but he likes the $1,000 Focal Elear.

I had read nothing but rave reviews of the Utopia until you said this

 

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