The problem with headphones


#1
I am often asked what headphones I recommend and the answer for me is simple: I don’t. While I certainly recognize the popularity of headphones and appreciate what they can do, I am personally not a fan for several reasons: […]

#2

Is that Paul likes to feel his music as well as hear it.



http://www.pstracks.com/pauls-posts/problem-headphones/10954/



J.P.


#3

next time I am on a 14 hr flight I will remember to take my Genesis speakers with me for that visceral, in-cabin feel, but in case I forget I’ll bring my Etymotic ER4Ps along for the ride


#4

:smiley:



There are times when headphones or IEMs are the most appropriate transducer. Unfortunately, Paul gives a skew answer to the question of what headphone does he recommend. It is not always possible to listen to speakers in an all-encompassing experience. Paul knows this because he has previously mentioned that he uses an iPod while exercising (jogging?).



Of course, the question of ‘what is the best headphone’ is almost as open as ‘how long is a piece of string?’. As noted from David’s response, sometimes you need isolation and SQ becomes a secondary consideration. Other times, isolation is not critical, but your listening really needs to be kept as a ‘personal’ experience and others around you are not to be disturbed. In this case, open headphones may be acceptable, or maybe you need the extra isolation of sealed headphones. Then again, you may just enjoy the headphone experience and the best headphones have no restricting parameters than the best sound quality.



Sorry Paul, but the simple answer of ‘headphones are not adequate’ is itself not an adequate answer - even with your further explanation. Surely you have an opinion a bit more open than that. ??



J.P.


#5

I like speakers. I like headphones. I like SS and tube. They are all different, yet equally enjoyable.



Listening on headphones is akin to listening on a different type of speakers. Some speakers and headphones are dreadful; others, magical.



Headphones are vastly better for appreciating micro-dynamics, minute expressions and articulations. Speakers are superior for visceral thumps.



Get and enjoy both.



#6

They will have to pry these Sennheiser HD800s from my cold dead ears!


#7
I like speakers. I like headphones. I like SS and tube.

+1
Headphones and a speaker systems provide a different listening experience. In 6moons the reviewer equated My Headset System to its 100K's Speaker System. It's not comparable in sound, but in the musical experience.

#8

I concur, the musical experience is or can be enthralling when dialed in.



And for a mere pittance I can explore and experience a degree of musicality and hear into the music in a way that is ≈ 10-50± times less expensive than a speaker system.



Which is another way of saying there is a greater degree of freedom to explore and experiment with far less $$ involved.



And when my very simple HD-800 based system started to hit lick after lick of improvements, which are not simply additive but are either multiplicative or exponential, well, the value is astonishing, as are the sonic results.



Yes the experience IS different but that isn’t to say it is lacking overall.

And I consider my self to be a bass freq, aficionado. And I have heard and felt bass out of my system that I have never heard/felt from the best systems I have experienced.



Getting the bass ‘right’ in a speaker system is as much an art as a science and can involve much time and $$$$ in dealing with not only the room and its treatment but matching up the hardware.



Headphone systems by comparison are MUCH simpler and far more direct, all the way around.



JJ


#9
wingsounds13 said: As noted from David's response, sometimes you need isolation and SQ becomes a secondary consideration.


I'd put this somewhat differently about the Etymotic ER4Ps: "You always need great SQ, and sometimes isolation comes with it." That's the story on Etymotic. (The one downside with them is that the cables are microphonic.)

EMM running from my mac to the Etys produces very good sound indeed. I haven't heard too many systems that have more resolving power, and I should think that the lucky people with the really nice electrostat cans must miss some of the nuance when they listen to in-room systems with their hard-to-control drivers flapping about, splashing music all over the walls/floors/ceilings/furniture/pets/spouses (if not in the previous category).

Although I find the ER4Ps sound a bit dry at times, it has served as a useful reference over many (y)ears for what a main system could achieve in detail.

#10

I was afraid that it might be interpreted that way… :slight_smile: Perhaps I should have said that sometimes isolation is as important as sound quality. I suppose that I would have if I had thought of it at the time. To be clear, I did not intend to suggest that sound quality should ever be unimportant.



J.P.


#11
for a mere pittance I can explore and experience a degree of musicality and hear into the music in a way that is ≈ 10-50± times less expensive than a speaker system
JJ, this hits the biggest nail on the head, I think. No speaker system can come close -- for even remotely a similar amount of money -- to the best that a headphone system has to offer in sound quality.

#12

@wingsounds13 Taking 25db out if the equation is great. No question about that. Interestingly etymotic has an awareness app to correct that if you are in contexts where ambient noise matters - for safety or otherwise.



Anyone heard the cardas phones?


#13

I too am curoius about the Cardas phones.



J.P.


#14
wingsounds13 said: Perhaps I should have said that sometimes isolation is as important as sound quality.

Yes. I have a pair of Sony noise cancelling headphones which are superb for airline use. The sound quality is much better than the Bose, but they are not comparable to high-end phones. The trade-off is more than worth it. I also have a pair of Etymotics. They are not quite as comfortable, but win for portability.

johnjen said: And I consider my self to be a bass freq, aficionado. And I have heard and felt bass out of my system that I have never heard/felt from the best systems I have experienced.

Headphone bass often also has better texture and greater clarity, with no overhang.

Somebody here needs to get the Cardas and to report back.



#15
: snip
johnjen said: And I consider my self to be a bass freq, aficionado. And I have heard and felt bass out of my system that I have never heard/felt from the best systems I have experienced.



Headphone bass often also has better texture and greater clarity, with no overhang.

snip

#16

One of the most underrated and overlooked aspects about the HD-800’s are it’s response times but even more significantly is its release or decay time. The response stops faster than almost any other driver, including electrostatic drivers.



This speed is astonishing in what it can deliver as long as the rest of the system ‘gets out of the way’ so to speak. And the bass has articulation and resolution and extension, better than I have ever heard before. They will also let you know when your recording actually has deep fundamental bass, or not. There is no guess work.



And this is the kicker… When you achieve deep extended highly time aligned and synchronized bass EVERYTHING else takes a notch up in quality. Even piccolos, flutes, stringed instruments, pianos (especially pianos), and of course all percussion instruments. Everything (if its in the recording) can have a ‘sharp leading edge’ to it, or at least as sharp as the recording has captured it.



It is quite impressive when they wail away on one of those big vertical drums and the whole hall reverberates as the sound dies away.



JJ

ps pardon my use of two posts where one would suffice. But the code is a bit different than I’m used to.


#17

JJ - those cans are drool-worthy =P~



Do you run them straight from the PWD or do you use a headphone amp?


#18

Headphones have their place, that’s for sure, and I know a lot of people just love them - I am just not one of those. They are more like a passing novelty to me - even if I found a pair I fell in love with I doubt I’d ever spend more than a few moments sitting and listening. Just me.


#19
johnjen said: When you achieve deep extended highly time aligned and synchronized bass EVERYTHING else takes a notch up in quality.

Absolutely. This is true of both headphones and speakers. I am most fascinated how good bass response improves the sense of the venue, the space, even when the music being played has no bass such as a violin or flute.

Paul McGowan said: Headphones have their place, that's for sure, and I know a lot of people just love them - I am just not one of those.

Completely reasonable; all music reproduction is artifice. What matter is determining one's preferred and beloved facade.

I happen to enjoy all reproduction. I simply cannot get past the stage of being amazed we can record and playback music. This is inherently magical. :)


#20
JJ - those cans are drool-worthy =P~

Do you run them straight from the PWD or do you use a headphone amp?
I use a Schiit Mojo amp straight from the PWD and then straight into the HD-800's. Balanced all the way.

Getting all of the other extra bits and pieces (wires, fuses, dedicated AC runs etc.) dialed in can allow the music to come thru with delightful results. But since this system is so simple and uncomplicated, with a minimal number of 'extra bits', it makes the dialing-in process that much easier and rewarding when you hit those licks.

JJ