Are there headphones that image in front of you rather than in your head?

I have and excellent room and system but I need a small and "just me" system. I have owned several headphones but found I cannot stand them and having performers in my head. 

Has anyone found headphones that keep performers in front of you?
I think this is usually solved by headphone amps with cross-feed features. :)

Not sure though, but look for it.
The old Stax Lambda Pro's, which put the drivers in front of the ears, pointing not straight unto the ear canal, but slightly toward the backside of the wearer's head.
Stax Lambda Pro headphones position the drivers on the left and right, just like standard headphones. bdp24 was referring to the Stax Sigma phones that position the drivers perpendicular to the head, requiring a large bulky earcup. The sound was amazing but the appearance was a turnoff. Stax Sigma phones are seldom seen for sale as I don’t think many were sold back in their heyday. They had both Standard and Pro models available.
Thanks, guys. I heard the Stax Pros long ago. I thought they were somewhat better, but still bothersome. I guess the brain would have to retrained to achieve what I want. Maybe those using earbuds daily teach their brain to move thing out front.
For fun, take a look at a vintage pair of AKG 1000 headphones. They are difficult to find these days and the sellers seem to think they are worth their weight in gold.
Right you are Tony, the Sigma. Pretty goofy looking, and really bulky. I should have known better, still owning a pair of Lambda Pros!

I also own a pair of Stax Lambda Signatures that I drive with a Stax SRM- T1S. They get less use now as I'm trying to break in my 009's. I don't think you can beat Stax for headphone sound. Obviously, that's just my opinion (formed over the last 25 years). 

I would agree that the detail, timbre of instruments, high end, etc. are exemplary with the top Stax head phones, But you never experience realism and think you are at the recording session.

It strikes me that we should be able to duplicate in the brain the same thing as we get with speakers in our rooms. 
Headphones will certainly give you the "just me" experience, and they are indispensable for listening late at night without disturbing anyone else. It's hard to say if they can image inside your head to recreate the illusion of a live event formed by speakers in front of you. It seems to me that the sensation of a live event takes place in your head in either case. I do think that the more experience someone has listening to headphones allows them to ignore the limitations of the device and enjoy the experience for what it is, simply your own personal enjoyment. Again, just my opinion.

Getting a soundstage using headphones that makes the listener forget the sound is between the ears is a challenge, but it can be done.

The most practical starting point is using Sennheiser 800 headphones. They have the biggest soundstage, are lightweight, and comfortable.  Also easy to drive. Buy a used pair. If it looks like the experiment might work for you, upgrade the headphone cable (it will decrease glare and grain).

Listen to headphones lying down with the room lights dim. In this position have your eyes closed and listen to the music. It is then much easier to tell your brain that the drums are now 15 feet in front of you, instead of being inside or behind your brain. Removing conflicting visual triggers will do a lot to retrain the brain. It does take time . It is worth it.

Everything that affects a big speaker system affects headphone listening but even more so. So for a great headphone experience think cables, interconnects, footers, fuses, wall outlets, equipment racks. But think in terms of improving darkness, decreasing grain, and reducing the HF hash that moves instruments closer to the listener. Fast detailed components might not be the best path.

The highlight of many days for me is the just before sleep headphone listening session.

David Pritchard
One further thought. While headphones don't make you feel that you are in the room during a performance, they do make you feel like you are sitting in the sound engineer's seat during the mix down. And really, how bad is that?
Try binaural recordings for headphones, made with two microphones positioned in space as your ears would be... there are some examples on youtube.  I think i have seen a few labels that offer such recordings.

I hope you will give updates on your headphone journey.

Last night my headphone listening session was most satisfying. 

I feel as if I am in the performance room, church, or concert hall.

Binaural recordings (the one's I have) do not offer a special listening experience when compared to other well recorded music.

David Pritchard
Guys, I greatly appreciate your thoughts and taking time to state them.
Much will depend on whether we sell our little New Mexico house where at best I have a 10 x 13 x 8 bedroom. I really cannot afford the same equipment in both of my rooms or have enough room to get all my cabling, racks, components, etc. from one listening room to another 765 miles away.
Much depends on how long I am in New Mexico. This time we were in NM for 6 weeks and I had no sound, but there were two political party conventions and the Olympics.
I think a big problem is also that the image with headphones is unrelated to head movement. When listening we are always moving our head slightly, gauging distances and directions, but the phones move with us and mess it up. Maybe some DSP and position sensors someday will be able to do something to work around that with existing recordings.
I agree, but also suspect that refections off the wall and ceiling or invaluable. I can conceive of signal changes to give the brain changes in the signal to give the impression of being there. This sounds like a complicated process and one that is not yet available.

Those that want the sound to change as they move their heads should investigate the Smyth Realizer system. This is mature technology that has been available since 2009. It is very impressive to listen to when sitting.

Another approach to headphone listening is to buy Darin Fong's software for your computer. This changes the sound  (via computer)   thru the headphones to emulate how multiple high end speaker systems sound. It will simulate Wilson speakers and  Axe Recording  Studio speakers just to name a few choices. 

Both of these systems have a major effect on the headphone listening experience. Both are worth investigating.

David Pritchard 

AKG K-270 headphones have separate tweeters that fire from the front. Perhaps the 1000 mentioned before is also like this.
David and Humand, thanks for your posts. I am going to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Oct. They usually have a large showing of head phones. I expect that AKG will be there.

David, I was unaware of Darin Fong Audio! I'm going to correct this today. Thanks for the heads up.

At RMAF the headphone area is quite noisy so except for evaluating physical comfort of the headphone on the head it is rather limited in doing serious evaluations. Look for the few rooms on the upper floors that will have headphones. Evaluate early in the day before the crowds arrive.

The listener - headphone interaction is really the world's smallest listening room. The Smyth Realizer people have shown there is up to a 30 % frequency response variation due to changes in the external ear anatomy. So to maximize their system's function to produce 3D listening, your individual ear's are evaluated with microphones inserted into the ears. Much like testing the acoustic response of a room.

Electronic noise at the wall outlet, RF noise, EMF noise generated by components and all cables have a greater effect on the headphone soundstage than on room speakers.

You can achieve a wonderful headphone experience with the Sennheiser 800 ( some demo units at Music Direct for under a $1000.00).  I also have be able to get an outstanding listening experience using the Enigmacoustic Dharma  hybrid headphones - about $1300.00. This has a conventional driver with a self biasing electrostatic element. They too are comfortable.

But my system has had the whole works applied and evaluated - just as you would do with a cutting edge full room system. That means starting with the wall outlets and evaluating each link in the chain until the music gets to my brain processing centers. Noise, hash, grain really kill the soundstage of headphones.

David Pritchard


While you're at RMAF, listen to the Stax headphones through Blue Hawaii or Woo Audio WES headphone amplifiers. You will be amazed, and I think the question of whether the drivers are in front or on the sides will seem less important. Just my opinion.
I have cross feed with my system..... they still sound different than speakers. Actually, I love my headphones...they have more of a see-through - cleaner, clearer image than my expensive speakers. I find myself however listening much more often to my speakers.

On another point.....balanced headphones are clearly better.....but they must be used with a completely balanced system to get the full advantage.
I am not a headphone lover, but I found that the Grado GS1000s present a very open, airy presentation that resembles listening to real speakers in an acoustic environment.  The downside it that, like a normal system, you need a very quiet area to listen, as every outside sound is very audible.  
In pure audiophile terms, I've heard better phones, but none that gave the sense of space and air of the Grados.  I wish I could love headphones - it would make life easier. 
My sister is also a music lover. I gifted her audiophile headphones. She loves them a lot. She told me that these headphones isolate the outside noise completely. I looked in few shops, but these were a bit expensive. Then I searched for this product online and got affordable full size headphones at exclusive offer from You can also try these out.
I have, in the last 6 months, returned to purchasing and setting up a headphone based system to listen to when circumstances dictate it over my main system and have really been thrilled with the results leading to headphone listening about 25% of the time. My main rig consist of a pair of Wilson Audio Sophias fed by an all tube system and it is grand, my headphone system consist of a pair of Audeze LCD 2 with fazor driven by a Yamamoto Sound Craft HA2 headphone amp with upgraded cables and I love this set up, it really works well for me. The point I would like to make is that the two systems satisfy me in different ways and I am fine with that and enjoy both systems for their own merits and attributes. I have not listened to a very significant portion of my music collection yet thru the headphone system but played a Mapelshades CD the other night titled Mapelshade's Music Festival (08132), upon the music starting I instantly pulled the phones off thinking I had somehow left the big rig on with the volume turned up, I panicked because everyone else was in bed including my 4 year old grand son and could not believe what I heard, the drum beats were way out to the sides so that it made me look into my foyer for the drums the soundstage was really set up in front back and sides like an exceptionally well recorded vinyl recording. The headphone rig with all my recordings is really a nice experience but WOW with this one recording you really do get a feel of how sweet it can be, looking for comments on my experience and why this recording can excellent at this where the average recordings don't.