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Speakers vs. Headphones, Have your preferences changed, too?
JacksonGrey
post Aug 6 2010, 03:25
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Hey everyone,

I just thought this would be an interesting topic:

How many of you have been totally converted from one to the other over the years?

I have a pair Sennheiser HD-595s, which I thought sounded great, and which I used non-stop. However, after purchasing and using a fairly cheap but good-quality pair of speakers (Tannoy F1s), I find myself unable to enjoy music through the headphones. By contrast, the speakers sound much better, with the headphones sounding harsh and tinny - how I remembered cheap 4.99 headphones sounding in the past!

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Or is this perhaps just my headphones developing a fault; the change seems rather dramatic, but then I hadn't used them for a number of months after I purchased the speakers, so perhaps my memory of them was over-optimistic. rolleyes.gif

Any/all comments welcome. smile.gif

This post has been edited by JacksonGrey: Aug 6 2010, 03:26
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dyneq
post Aug 6 2010, 04:10
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I don't think of one being better than the other. Instead, I see them being different tools for reaching the same goal (not thinking about the equipment and only enjoying the music). If I am at home, I listen with speakers. If I'm traveling, I use headphones. I can become immersed in my music with either tool. None of my headphones sound harsh or tinny.
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probedb
post Aug 6 2010, 09:04
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I'd agree with dyneq. I listen with in-ear phones most of the time as I'm travelling but at home then I use speakers.
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Brand
post Aug 6 2010, 10:30
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I think it's easier and cheaper to hear a lot of detail and frequency range with headphones. To get the same level of detail with speakers you'd need to spend more money (also to set up a proper listening room etc.).

OTOH, only speakers can give you the "full body" experience of sound, the proper dynamic and spatial dimension. (The latter might just be due to the fact that music is usually mixed for speakers, not for headphones.)
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2Bdecided
post Aug 6 2010, 12:37
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Lower frequencies are felt by your body, which can't happen with headphones. Headphones + sub maybe!

I sometimes think headphones help us to hear details that the recording engineer never intended us to hear - maybe even details that were inaudible in the original performance space (unless you put your ear unrealistically close to the performers).

Despite this, I prefer headphones for those recordings that "work" over headphones - cost, convenience, immediacy, and the controlled, reproducible, portable nature of the listening experience. It's nice that the room doesn't matter. Sometimes it's nice to be "too close" to the performance.

Sadly some recordings just sound wrong over headphones IMO.

Cheers,
David.
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Northpack
post Aug 6 2010, 12:55
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QUOTE (Brand @ Aug 6 2010, 09:30) *
OTOH, only speakers can give you the "full body" experience of sound, the proper dynamic and spatial dimension. (The latter might just be due to the fact that music is usually mixed for speakers, not for headphones.)

Actually I think it is rather the other way around! Have you ever listened to a dummy-head-recording with a decent pair of headphones? No kind of speaker setup can beat that experience for its accurate three-dimensional reproduction of the sound stage (exept maybe holophony, which isn't very common for home application wink.gif)
Even the usual pan-mixed records can be processed by a crossfeed to attain basically the same sonic properities as listening to them with speakers would produce. Of course you'll miss some details from your personal HRTF but on the other hand, you won't have all those nasty room reverberations coloring the sound...

When it comes to dynamics, no headphone will ever be able to compete with a subwoofer of course...

QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Aug 6 2010, 11:37) *
Sadly some recordings just sound wrong over headphones IMO.

I think most of these recordings sound wrong because the equalization to compensate for the speaker's HF-rolloff is overdone. Maybe that in conjunction with dynamic range compression. An equalizer setting, attenuating the highs >5khz by something like -6db usually works well with such recordings.

This post has been edited by Northpack: Aug 6 2010, 13:26
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Aug 6 2010, 13:13
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I have found small desktop monitors to be the ideal compromise between the inconveniences full range loudspeakers and headphones.

More space, less bass. tongue.gif
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Brand
post Aug 6 2010, 14:54
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QUOTE (Northpack @ Aug 6 2010, 13:55) *
QUOTE (Brand @ Aug 6 2010, 09:30) *
OTOH, only speakers can give you the "full body" experience of sound, the proper dynamic and spatial dimension. (The latter might just be due to the fact that music is usually mixed for speakers, not for headphones.)

Actually I think it is rather the other way around! Have you ever listened to a dummy-head-recording with a decent pair of headphones?

I don't think I have (except for some holophonic stuff). Do you have any recommendations or links to check that out?

I'd agree with you that it's _possible_ to make the spatial aspect work better on headphones, but most of what I've heard so far sounded better on speakers in this regard.


QUOTE (Northpack @ Aug 6 2010, 13:55) *
QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Aug 6 2010, 11:37) *
Sadly some recordings just sound wrong over headphones IMO.

I think most of these recordings sound wrong because the equalization to compensate for the speaker's HF-rolloff is overdone. Maybe that in conjunction with dynamic range compression. An equalizer setting, attenuating the highs >5khz by something like -6db usually works well with such recordings.

That's one thing, but I think some aspects can't be fixed to work on headphones post mixing (during mastering or at home). A song needs to be already mixed (if not even recorded - where applicable) to sound properly on headphones. For example the volume levels of individual instruments translate too differently on headphones and speakers. On headphones you can hear every little instrument loud and clear, about as much as the loudest one, while on speakers the differences in volume are much more pronounced.

But eventually it depends from recording to recording. I was listening to some old Spooky Tooth over headphones and it completely ruined the feeling, IMO. OTOH, some newer stuff works better. Listening with headphones is much more popular nowadays, so producers are adopting and they make it sound good enough on both.

But ideally, we'd need two versions of an album: one produced for headphones and the other for speakers.
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2Bdecided
post Aug 6 2010, 14:57
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QUOTE (Brand @ Aug 6 2010, 14:54) *
But ideally, we'd need two versions of an album: one produced for headphones and the other for speakers.
Yes. And given the opportunity that most record companies take to sell us the same music again and again, I'm amazed this doesn't happen!

clipressed vs dynamic
speakers vs headphones

That's four new versions straight away!

Mind you, I suppose most people would only buy one, so it could be more effort for the same sales. Maybe not - I'd probably grab speakers and headphones versions.

Cheers,
David.

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Northpack
post Aug 6 2010, 16:09
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QUOTE (Brand @ Aug 6 2010, 13:54) *
QUOTE (Northpack @ Aug 6 2010, 13:55) *
QUOTE (Brand @ Aug 6 2010, 09:30) *
OTOH, only speakers can give you the "full body" experience of sound, the proper dynamic and spatial dimension. (The latter might just be due to the fact that music is usually mixed for speakers, not for headphones.)

Actually I think it is rather the other way around! Have you ever listened to a dummy-head-recording with a decent pair of headphones?

I don't think I have (except for some holophonic stuff). Do you have any recommendations or links to check that out?

In the late 70s there used to be a real "Kunstkopf"-trend - here in Germany at least - with quite a few commercially avaible records. I don't think any of this stuff is still avaiable, and since the dawning of digital age artificial head-recordings have almost completley vanished, which is a shame. However, there are a few enthusiast making such recordings and publishing in the web. This blog has some nice recordings of ambient ond orchestral music:

http://www.binauralairwaves.com/

And there is this "Virtual Barber Shop" radio play which is quite impressive:

http://ccgi.bluerabbit.plus.com/virtualbarbershop/

QUOTE
That's one thing, but I think some aspects can't be fixed to work on headphones post mixing (during mastering or at home). A song needs to be already mixed (if not even recorded - where applicable) to sound properly on headphones. For example the volume levels of individual instruments translate too differently on headphones and speakers. On headphones you can hear every little instrument loud and clear, about as much as the loudest one, while on speakers the differences in volume are much more pronounced.

I don't think so. An ordinary mixed recording can be filtered in such a way (as any decent crossfeed does), that it will contain the same amount of phase mixing as you would experience from speaker listening. Volume levels of individual instruments are of course determined through the mix, but it doesn't make any difference to these relative levels whether the recording is listened to through headphones or speakers - how could it?

This post has been edited by Northpack: Aug 6 2010, 16:13
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2Bdecided
post Aug 6 2010, 17:34
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If you add a crossfeed it's fine. Maybe sometimes a little reverb too. But some recordings don't need this (IMO it makes them worse to add a cross feed), while some desperately do.

Cheers,
David.
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WonderSlug
post Aug 6 2010, 18:29
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Over the past decade, I've listened to music almost entirely using headphones. That's because I haven't had much occasion or ability to listen using speakers. I'm often around people, at work and at home, who are doing other things besides listening with me. So, I listen with headphones so I don't disturb anyone.

Thus, it's headphones for me, out of need and circumstance, not by any preference.

The exception has mainly been when driving in my car, since that's obviously speaker. However, in my car, I'm usually just listening to FM radio and not off any DMP.


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Woodinville
post Aug 6 2010, 19:00
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Well, one uses very different localization cues in headphones vs. nearfield listening vs. farfield listening.

I think preference can change, and different recordings, produced in different ways, may in fact result in very different listening preferences.


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dhromed
post Aug 6 2010, 20:10
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It's always a tradeoff, in my case.

I choose heaphones or speaker based on their physical properties: A headphone tethers you to the amp and closes you off to the outside world, but the sound is always reliably perfect.

Speakers provide freedom and "public" listening, but the sound varies when you radically change position, the room itself has a big say in the final quality, and there's environment noise to contend with.

I mostly do headphones, because when sitting in front of my computer, being tethered isn't a problem.

Additionally, I find speakers fatiguing after a while because of harshness. I've never come across a set of speakers that, when played for a while, didn't begin to sound too loud. Probably a room's reverb has something to do with that. Headphones always sound smooth.
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Northpack
post Aug 7 2010, 15:42
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Aug 6 2010, 17:34) *
If you add a crossfeed it's fine. Maybe sometimes a little reverb too. But some recordings don't need this (IMO it makes them worse to add a cross feed), while some desperately do.

Depends on how they where mixed. Most live productions, even the more elaborate classical ones are basically* pan-mixed just like studio records are. Those records will always benefit from crossfeed. Some live recordings however, especially small budget productions from accoustic/classical performances are simple 2-track, recorded with a stereo microphone. Yet it depends on the type of micing how they will sound with a crossfeed. IMO the only type of recordings who really suffer from a crossfeed are true binaural recordings, which are very rare. Recordings made with a Jecklin Disk won't benefit from a crossfeed, but it won't do much harm either - the crossfeed will give the impression of a more distant sound stage. Recordings made with directional stereo microphones may even benefit from crossfeed, depending on how they where set up.

*of course there will also be some of the room sound recorded and mixed in to capture the natural ambience.
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Aug 9 2010, 13:24
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Aug 5 2010, 22:25) *
Hey everyone,

I just thought this would be an interesting topic:

How many of you have been totally converted from one to the other over the years?

I have a pair Sennheiser HD-595s, which I thought sounded great, and which I used non-stop. However, after purchasing and using a fairly cheap but good-quality pair of speakers (Tannoy F1s), I find myself unable to enjoy music through the headphones. By contrast, the speakers sound much better, with the headphones sounding harsh and tinny - how I remembered cheap 4.99 headphones sounding in the past!

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Or is this perhaps just my headphones developing a fault; the change seems rather dramatic, but then I hadn't used them for a number of months after I purchased the speakers, so perhaps my memory of them was over-optimistic. rolleyes.gif


I suspect that you are simply at a stage in your life's journey and perhaps in time you'll move on.

You probably got burned out to headphones-only listening, and need to listen to just speakers for a while to restore balance.

I'm pretty sure that a proper balance was expressed by Dyneq(?) who was about picking the right tool for the job.

Headphones transport you to where the music was made, and speakers transport the music to the room you are in. Near field monitors or their equivalent are someplace in-between.

If you move around among the various alternatives a lot, the mind seems to fill in the blanks so that any of them can be an effective and comfortable experience. I have a pretty fair sub in my main system, but when I listen through good headphones, I don't miss the tactile sub bass at all. But I won't try your patience by saying that something nice is vastly attenuated in the headphone experience. OTOH, the headphones really give you the opportunity to get into the detail, both spectral and spatial.
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ZeosPantera
post Aug 21 2010, 18:31
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I may sit here at my computer and listen to FLAC all day with my HD280Pro's but it is only really to check for sound quality. When I want to really listen to music I have to put the FLAC's (uncompressed to WAV) on my archos604 and dock it to an old Pioneer Spec2 connected to a 10" passive Design Acoustics PS-SW and a pair of very cheap, very good Cerwin Vega VE-5M's. Its really the only way I can enjoy music. I actually took out my SPL meter and worked out that I enjoy my music at around 90db peak.



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EazyB-FRAC
post Oct 2 2010, 02:54
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I'm really not an audio "snob" yet in regards to equipment. As long as the system can reproduce the highs and lows of a recording then I'm happy. So my $20 Creative speakers and subwoofer for my desktop suffice as a decent monitor. That and I'm going for the low-to-no budget aesthetic. ;-)

Besides, Steely Dan's "Aja" sounds great on it! In fact a lot of music sounds great on it (as long as it wasn't molested by "Vlad The Butcher" and his wonderful crowd).

I also have an ancient Sansa MP3 player that uses standard SD cards. I never used the earbuds for it. Instead I use a set of Phillips headphones. I don't see how earbuds can replicate the bass of any recording accurately, much less most of the soundstage. And I encode in Lame MP3 from my private FLAC audio restorations.

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ZeosPantera
post Oct 2 2010, 04:27
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As an update to my last post. I have since switched to the Dayton B652's from the vega's. Holy cow I never imagined a $30 pair of speakers could sound as full and natural as these do. Guttenburg did a great write up on them here http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-20005175-47.html and they made his top 10 speakers under $1000.


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BearcatSandor
post Nov 3 2010, 02:45
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QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Aug 9 2010, 06:24) *
I suspect that you are simply at a stage in your life's journey and perhaps in time you'll move on.

You probably got burned out to headphones-only listening, and need to listen to just speakers for a while to restore balance.

I'm pretty sure that a proper balance was expressed by Dyneq(?) who was about picking the right tool for the job.

Headphones transport you to where the music was made, and speakers transport the music to the room you are in. Near field monitors or their equivalent are someplace in-between.

If you move around among the various alternatives a lot, the mind seems to fill in the blanks so that any of them can be an effective and comfortable experience. I have a pretty fair sub in my main system, but when I listen through good headphones, I don't miss the tactile sub bass at all. But I won't try your patience by saying that something nice is vastly attenuated in the headphone experience. OTOH, the headphones really give you the opportunity to get into the detail, both spectral and spatial.

Whenever i've listened to headphones i've never felt like i was 'where the music was made', i've just felt like there were singers inside my head. I never got a sense of "there is a guitar there, drums there and a vocalist there and they are in a small club all in front of me" or "i am in a church and i can hear the reverbs around me", and i never liked the feeling of Ozzy Osborne standing on my brain :")

If i understood you, what headphones have you found that you've had this experience with?

My experience is limited to some cheap (in the 70's) heavy Radio Shack headphones when i was around 10 or so, and now i have a pair of Ultimate Ears in-ear phones, so it's still very minimal. I rarely use the UE's because i don't like that feeling. Granted, i don't have a headphone preamp and have only used them with the out-put jack on my netbook.

Would i just need to try "professional studio monitor headphones" to get that feeling?

This post has been edited by BearcatSandor: Nov 3 2010, 02:49


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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Nov 3 2010, 13:58
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QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 2 2010, 21:45) *
QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Aug 9 2010, 06:24) *
I suspect that you are simply at a stage in your life's journey and perhaps in time you'll move on.


Headphones transport you to where the music was made, and speakers transport the music to the room you are in. Near field monitors or their equivalent are someplace in-between.


Whenever I've listened to headphones I've never felt like i was 'where the music was made', I've just felt like there were singers inside my head.


What you seem to be saying is that you don't think that "inside your head" is where "You" are. To me, 'I" am inside my head. So, when the sound stage comes to join "Me" inside my head, that's no big surprise. You seem to think that it is a distraction.

I have to admit that I've never thought this through as clearly until now. I've always been mystified by people who object to the fact that headphones image inside their head. I never expected it to be any other way! The first time I heated stereo headphones maybe 50 years ago, I just accepted that this is the way things are and moved on.

QUOTE
I never got a sense of "there is a guitar there, drums there and a vocalist there and they are in a small club all in front of me" or "i am in a church and i can hear the reverbs around me", and i never liked the feeling of Ozzy Osborne standing on my brain :")


Your problem seems to be that you want headphone listening to exactly duplicate loudspeaker listening. AFAIK that is always going to be a problem. Whether it is a problem is to me, just a matter of state of mind.

QUOTE
If i understood you, what headphones have you found that you've had this experience with?


Pretty much all of them. Right now I own about 8 different pair of really pretty good headphones and IEMs. I Love the ones I'm with...

QUOTE
My experience is limited to some cheap (in the 70's) heavy Radio Shack headphones when i was around 10 or so, and now i have a pair of Ultimate Ears in-ear phones, so it's still very minimal. I rarely use the UE's because i don't like that feeling. Granted, i don't have a headphone preamp and have only used them with the out-put jack on my netbook.

Would i just need to try "professional studio monitor headphones" to get that feeling?


I don't know what "professional grade stereo headphones are" because I've sren that label on some pretty good stuff and some utter trash. I do know that headphones in the realm of the Sennheiser HD 280/ 580/600/650 or Audio Technica ATH-M50/ATAH700 /ATAD700 or Superlux HD 668B, or Sony MDR 7506... work pretty well for me...
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dhromed
post Nov 3 2010, 15:41
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I've never labeled the headphone experience as "in my head", but perhaps that's an artifact of my perception of personal space. I do find speakers more roomy, but it falls under the category of "different, but not better". I much prefer the smoother, less fatiguing sound of my headphones.

An interesting experience I had was when I was listening through my headhphones very late at night (around 0:00) to a Tangerine Dream track I'd never heard before which has some very clear musicless samples of playing children at the very end. In my nightly state I wondered in all seriousness what the heck children were doing outside at this hour, but gave it no extra thought.

How surprised I was when I looked at the last part of foobar's spectorgraph image and noticed that the children were in the recording, and the streets outside were, in fact, moodily quiet.


And this happened twice.
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BearcatSandor
post Nov 3 2010, 15:42
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QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Nov 3 2010, 06:58) *
QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 2 2010, 21:45) *
QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Aug 9 2010, 06:24) *
I suspect that you are simply at a stage in your life's journey and perhaps in time you'll move on.


Headphones transport you to where the music was made, and speakers transport the music to the room you are in. Near field monitors or their equivalent are someplace in-between.


Whenever I've listened to headphones I've never felt like i was 'where the music was made', I've just felt like there were singers inside my head.


What you seem to be saying is that you don't think that "inside your head" is where "You" are. To me, 'I" am inside my head. So, when the sound stage comes to join "Me" inside my head, that's no big surprise. You seem to think that it is a distraction.

I have to admit that I've never thought this through as clearly until now. I've always been mystified by people who object to the fact that headphones image inside their head. I never expected it to be any other way! The first time I heated stereo headphones maybe 50 years ago, I just accepted that this is the way things are and moved on.

QUOTE
I never got a sense of "there is a guitar there, drums there and a vocalist there and they are in a small club all in front of me" or "i am in a church and i can hear the reverbs around me", and i never liked the feeling of Ozzy Osborne standing on my brain :")


Your problem seems to be that you want headphone listening to exactly duplicate loudspeaker listening. AFAIK that is always going to be a problem. Whether it is a problem is to me, just a matter of state of mind.

QUOTE
If i understood you, what headphones have you found that you've had this experience with?


Pretty much all of them. Right now I own about 8 different pair of really pretty good headphones and IEMs. I Love the ones I'm with...

QUOTE
My experience is limited to some cheap (in the 70's) heavy Radio Shack headphones when i was around 10 or so, and now i have a pair of Ultimate Ears in-ear phones, so it's still very minimal. I rarely use the UE's because i don't like that feeling. Granted, i don't have a headphone preamp and have only used them with the out-put jack on my netbook.

Would i just need to try "professional studio monitor headphones" to get that feeling?


I don't know what "professional grade stereo headphones are" because I've sren that label on some pretty good stuff and some utter trash. I do know that headphones in the realm of the Sennheiser HD 280/ 580/600/650 or Audio Technica ATH-M50/ATAH700 /ATAD700 or Superlux HD 668B, or Sony MDR 7506... work pretty well for me...


Thanks Arnold.

I thought "studio headphones" were different somehow in the way that studio monitors were different from ..uh...regular listening speakers? I guess i'm coming from a place where i want things to sound as close to real as i can get. When i'm listening to music i want to be sonicly fooled that i'm there. I'm always thinking that headphones ought to be able to give you a surround effect. I've listened to some binarual tracks that sounded really interesting and i think that has a lot of potential for that, but it always feels so nearfield. I have noticed that headphones do probably give me an idea of what telepathy would feel like though. :")



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mixminus1
post Nov 3 2010, 17:17
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QUOTE (dhromed @ Nov 3 2010, 07:41) *
<snip>
How surprised I was when I looked at the last part of foobar's spectorgraph image and noticed that the children were in the recording, and the streets outside were, in fact, moodily quiet.


And this happened twice.

<cue theremin> wink.gif

I have the exact same reaction nearly every time I hear the beginning of a particular track by Fila Brazilia over my Sony MDR-V6's.

It's "Feathery Legs" from their Power Clown album, and after the (hysterical) opening dialogue, there's a police siren that pans from channel to channel, and if I'm standing in a room with open windows, I *always* look at the windows, even though I *know* the siren is in the recording.


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Fandango
post Nov 3 2010, 17:40
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What I liked about headphones in the past was that I was able to distinguish the intruments better or have more "detail" then with my old stereo setup at home. But since I got two small speakers on my desk the stereophonic hearing is actually working while it wasn't before, compared to those speakers headphones are a lot worse unless the music is specifially mixed for headphones. But almost all music isn't, it's mixed for speakers. It's stereophonic, not binaural. And frequencywise with good speakers you can discern every instrument, too. It also helps if the distance between you and the speakers is near enough, so there aren't too many reflections and absorbtions from the furniture.

So stereo depth with speakers when being in the sweet spot beats headphones generally. Real binaural recordings on the other hand are very rare, I only have a few records out of thousands. Special plugins like the Bauer stereophonic-to-binaural DSP don't work for me that well either.

I only listen with headphones if I have to, when I'm commuting.

Yes, with speakers I can tell that this instrument is directly in the front or that instrument is slightly more to the right and so on... that's impossible for me if I listen to the same track with headphones, then the band is just inside my head.

This post has been edited by Fandango: Nov 3 2010, 17:48
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