It's always about the room to a larger degree than most people discuss. You may never match the headphones in your room. You have to be able to accept that. Then all will be well....
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One of the most humbling experiences for me is going into Barnes and Noble and listening to their cheap headphones (and probably lo-res computer format over an op-amp) to check out new music. While they have many shortcomings, and my main system bests them in many ways, in some way, there is a coherence to the sound, especially in the upperbass, that I don't hear in free-standing systems. I try to pretend it doesn't exist. I'm afraid to listen to good headphones (although maybe I should).
I also have high end headphone rig with Senn 650 among others, of course the reason headphones sound so great is they use single full range speaker (no multiple speakers and crossovers) plus no room interactions, direct feed right to ear. Unfortuantely headphones have one serious drawback.......no 3D soundstage compared to speaker stereo!
So headphones are like viewing an ultra high resolution photo of an object with razor sharp detail. Stereo is like seeing same object in 3D space but not quite as finely detailed.....I prefer stereo version but cannot ever quite match the microscopic detail of great headphone set-up.
I do feel every audiophile should own good headphone set-up for a number of reasons.
I used a pair of HD600 phones and I agree with Megasam about the soundstage. It sounded awfully flat through the phones. The one other thing I discovered was my system did sound better than the phones overall. I did find that the Vandersteen's I use were a touch brighter if you can believe that! Overall, I'm glad I don't have to listen to the phones that much.
Well, it all depends on your perspective. Usually it's the room acoustics that prevent the "perfect" soundstage you get from headphones. But, that's where the benefits end for headphones.
The soundstage is not life size in front of you (just as live music would be) like speakers give you.
You don't get the heart pounding thump that vibrates your body like you do with speakers. (unless you want to cause yourself some hearing loss) (you have to be more careful in what level you listen to headphones at)
The soundstage is in your head, very unrealistic (in other words you can't imagine your in a concert hall and believe it like you can with a good system with speakers.)
Frankly, my Grados give me more detial then my Senn 600s (I use senn for classical and grado rs-1 for rock, jazz, etc.)
And after all of that my stereo still gives more detail and sparkle than the headphones anyway.
So, it's probably your system or acoustic setup of your room, or both.
I have a pair of Stax Omega II headphones (same thing as Xiekitchen) which I rarely use. I like the sound of music emanating from real space, not sounds in my head.
Phones are great if detail is placed above all other consideration. The Stax are so amazingly detailed and free of any transient overhang -- small phono ticks and pops come and go so fast with good phones you come to realize how much fullixixed speakers are prone to resonance. But, that kind of detail can become a bit exhausting.
Also, my Stax sound dry and analytical and cold with my current complement of equipment; they really only sounded their best when I tried them in a system with crazy expensive Audionote equipment (M-8 linestage, DAC-5 signature for CD).
I hear you loud and clear.
I also have a good 2 channel system (that is ever evolving - I should update my profile :)); however, I feel that when I put my headphones on (Senn 600 / Corda HA-1 MkII), I seem to relax more. No worrying about sitting in the sweet spot. Not worrying if the loudness is bothering anyone else in the family. Realizing that I am getting this incrediable sound for a small fraction of what I paid for my 2 channel system.
Just seemingly, a lot less fussiness or tweaks required.
Denf.....what about the CDR you got from Reality Check?
I have had good results playing with my outboard CDR drive and am seriously considering getting $500 custom CDR duplication decks offered by this company. What are your findings so far?
Please start new thread here, we have briefly mentioned this in a couple related threads about CDRs and I saw recently a few people at AA have been to guys house that sells these see/hear for themselves.
Yea, there's a level of detail that I've never managed to replicate coming from speakers. That said, I definitely agree that there is something unequalable about the room-filling sound that you get from speakers and a proper soundstage.
To too had a crisis of faith when I got the Cardas cable to replace the stock wires on my HD600s. They sounded SO much better than the speakers that I was a little depressed. After about a year of monkeying with the various room treatment and isolation tricks for the system, I've gotten to the point where I feel that the speakers are equally involving as the headphones. Yes, there is definitly a resolution gap between the two, but there are things that I now feel the speakers do better (and vice versa). Don't despair, there is a time and a place for everything. (But definitley upgrade the wires on those cans -- it gets much better...).
I was watching a movie at home, The Bourne Identity some time ago. For my main fronts I was using Audio physic tempos,( no loss of fine detail) as it is stamped on the front. I put on my Senn. 580 for fun during an office scene, and the amount of inner detail they picked up was incredible. I heard little chair scrapings on the floor, printers that were in the back of the room quietly printing, people in the back talking to each other. things that had nothing to do with the shot, which was focused on two people talking in an office. If I put my ear to the speakers, I could just hear some of them but not many. It wasn't important to hear all these tiny little details in the movie. I just found it interesting that the headphones picked them up. Of course there is no replacement for dynamics and I will continue to crank my latest speakers whenever possible.
Hey, thanks for all the replies guys!
I know what a few of you mean about the "imaging in the head" with the cans, and the lack of the sound having viseral, physical impact like you get with speakers in a room.
I have occasionally augmented the headphone listening experience by having my subwoofer on, at the same time, which is placed right behind my listening chair. Just like the old "Sensa-round" EARTHQUAKE movie of the seventies, (but obviously a LOT tighter and cleaner bass!). When properly balanced and level adjusted, it really adds to the overall listening experience. Course again, this is only during the weekend daytime and early evening hours through the week...
Those of you who ARE headphone junkies should give this set-up a try.
MEGASAM -- the jury is still not out on the Reality Check CD process. I literally just rc'vd (2) discs a few days ago, and while initial impressions seem to be pretty impressive, I plan to conduct a non-scientific "double blind" test, with a friend switching between the treated vs. non-treated discs, to make sure I'm not having a placebo effect -- and hearing simply what I WANT to hear.
The treated CD's do seem to sound smoother and more cohesive overall, without any seemingly loss of detail, BUT, I wonder if I detect a slight compression effect on sharp transients???
Still, for $12.00 a pop for the Reality Check process, again, I recommend everyone at least experiment with one of their favorite (& well known) CD's to judge for themselves.
I'll keep you posted.
Interesting thread. I haven't listened to my HD600s in a long time. But since my system is without amps right now I listened to some music on my headphones today. I think what makes a headphone system enjoyable is that it delivers the essense of the music. The song and melody is still there! But I really miss my main system. You don't get the enveloping sound of an orchestra, the interplay of instruments from their various positions, you don't get the sense that the whole drum kit is in your room, and the kickdrum and timpani whacks lose a bit of authority.
As for detail retrieval. You might hear more detail with headphones but you also lose the feeling of a low noise floor with instruments emerging out of the darkness.
Well, just thought I would "update" my thread.
I purchased the Silver Dragon headphone replacement cable for my 650 cans a little while back. In-freakin-credible.
I guess I shouldn't be so astonished by this, as I've heard positive changes in all the other cables in my system, but again -- just didn't expect the jump-up in level that this after market cable provided.
I'm even more perplexed? depressed? disapointed? by the stark difference of the sound gap between my headphone set up vs. my "outer" rig...
Anyone in the market for a nice pair of Prodigys?
Sometimes I do make the comparison of my headphone system to my speaker system, and of course it leads to confusion. They arent the same thing, each having their own merits and complications. By fact, my headphone system is more immediate and resolute than my, er, big rig. It is a better system for that. However, lacking as my main system is, it is fun to annoy my neighbors, and it does take my friends and I all the way when the occation arrives that we can all gather together to listen to music. I am fortunate in that I tend to be the only one amongst my friends who are as neurotic as I tend to be. If the sound is really getting to me,someone will undoubtibly reach over and hold my hand. It occurs to me that when I finally did come around to attempting to put together a speaker system(I listened to headphones exclusively before this) it was because I had arrived at a point where I wanted to share the music I listened to with others.To annoy my nieghbors perhaps(there is this aspect to my personality), but to create a place to meet with friends that might pull us away from our peripherals as well. Whatever degree of sucess I have had with that I am more than satisfied with the results, and it is something my headphone system cannot do regardless of my esteem for it.
You might want to try deleting the PS Audio P300 from your main system. I owned one of those and initially thought it was great, but over time realized it limited dynamics, added colorations, and obscured detail. With a system as revealing as yours, you need power conditioning on the same level. Try the Audio Magic Stealth, the Shunyata Hydra, or the Walker Audio Velocitor...
I'm having the OPPOSITE problem, just having purchased the Intuitive Design Summit PSL 624 loudspeakers, which have everything, except the very deepest of the deep bass, which is where the Rel Storm 3 kicks in anyway (crossover is set at 27 hertz, to give you an idea of how deep the Summits go, with a rolloff at about 40 hertz). I love to listen to these so much that several times my wife has told me to turn it down (after 9:30 pm, usually) or else use my "super" headphones (Sennheiser HD 600's that I insisted on several years ago).
The problem is that the Summits are BOTH smoother AND more detailed on the high end than the Sennheiser HD 600's which I currently own. Now the Sennheisers sound annoyingly bad to me (yes, really). The only weak link in the chain to them that's any different than the signal path to the loudspeakers is the Ramsey SHA 1 headphone amplifier.
I'm reluctantly considering purchasing Stax Lambda Pro headphones with a tube amp, used for a killer low price. If THOSE don't sound good enough, then I'll be really frustrated, probably being forced to get the Omega 2's. No, I'm not being sarcastic. I really do NOT want to spend upwards of 3000 to achieve sound quality on a par with the loudspeakers. If I have to do that, then it's going to be "wait time".
Does anyone know if the Lambda Pro's are a great headphone?
Are the 650's that much better than the 600's?
Definately listen to the AKG K1000 before you buy. They are my new reference phone and the only one I've heard that throws a soundstage out of the head. Blows my Senn HD600 and Grado RS-1 out of the water. Prior to listening to the K1000, I thought Grado and Senn were the top of the line. I still listen to Grado RS1 and ocassionally the Senns, but the K1000 is amazing and to me on another level entirely.
I, too, like the AKG 1000. But, while it is not as much an in-the-head experience, it does not come close to the natural soundstage of speakers. I consider headphone listening to be a completely different experience so soundstaging is not important when I have the phones on. Still, on all other accounts, the AKGs are quite nice.