Phone's vs. Speaker's a losing battle?

ShinOBIWAN

diyAudio Member
2004-02-25 9:13 pm
UK
I've just had the pleasure of listening to what I can honestly consider the highest fidelity sound I have experienced and as usual it was from a pair of cans.

Thanks to a friend, I've borrowed a brand new pair of Grado RS1's for an evening. These are so superior to my so called hi-end effort the 'percieve' its not even funny. The differences are subtle but astounding.

Now I used some pretty heavy duty drivers in that design, months of design and years of building up a knowledge base to attempt the percieve in the first place.

Just what does it take to get sound on a par with something like these Grado RS1's? I've revisited room acoutics over the last day or so and until the problem is beat, meaning substantially minimised, I don't think its possible. Its interesting that KYW mentions and promotes controlled dispertion at the way forward at this intersection of conundrums I'm having after hearing these phone's, his goals are to minimise room relections through controlled dispertion of the drivers radiating pattern. With the Percieve I used wide dispertion drivers and used DRC/EQ and room treatments, which I have to now believe or hope isn't as successful as KYW's controlled dispersion, if I want to approach these Grado's.

With any phones the room is removed and its easy to see why this makes them so much better. They also have no crossover. Basically they offer a much more pure view of audio.

I guess what I'm saying is that I hadn't heard a great pair of phones 'till today but have heard many expensive, respected but ultimately coloured loudspeakers, in comparison.

Again the bloody room is at the fore just when I thought I'd beaten it!
 
Not lost, it's just different

ShinOBIWAN said:
Again the bloody room is at the fore just when I thought I'd beaten it!

I've seen big speakers in small rooms, tall speakers that almost reach the roof, or small speakers that get lost on big spaces.
These are the real customers of room treatment products and gear. And EQs.
I've also heard very good headphones (and I have a pair of decent Beyerdynamics) and yes, the room effect is absent but the sound is left/right and center, no much imaging to talk about.
It's easier to appreciate some details in a music piece, though.
But some can still sound "boxy".:D
 
Phones might give you more definition and clarity, but they will never give you the illusion of sharing space with musicians.

Regarding room treatments, I think they are useful for taking care of major problems (harsh first reflections, boomy bass, etc) but should not be overdone.

This is just my own personal bias, but I think a good home hi-fi sound is one where the music exists in the room space -- that's where the illusion is most intense.

That said, listening to a good pair of cans can be a fantastic experience, and take you to this virtual space of sonic wonder. But it doesn't replace speakers.

YMMV, etc.
 
Binaural recordings

Damn kids: As I've posted several times there was a recording technique known as binaural recordings. They used two microphones attached to a dumy human head (no not mine:)). So since the mikes were spaced for headphones, the image came out right for headphones.

The imaging was spectacular, I think the recordings are still being made (not many) and you occasionally stumble across used ones.

They solve the imaging problem in a way that puts many very fine speakers to shame.

Still you need to wear the cans, communicating with others in the room is impossible and in spite of the end result, the binaural recordings never moved out of the novelty market.

I thought people were now making spatial alignment devices that put the headphone image in proper perspective. Doesn't max headroom make one? I've never heard it so I can't speak to its sonic qualities but modern processing shouldn't have that much trouble compressing the microphone distance to more or less match the human ear spacing.
 

ShinOBIWAN

diyAudio Member
2004-02-25 9:13 pm
UK
Dumbass said:
Phones might give you more definition and clarity, but they will never give you the illusion of sharing space with musicians.

Regarding room treatments, I think they are useful for taking care of major problems (harsh first reflections, boomy bass, etc) but should not be overdone.

This is just my own personal bias, but I think a good home hi-fi sound is one where the music exists in the room space -- that's where the illusion is most intense.

That said, listening to a good pair of cans can be a fantastic experience, and take you to this virtual space of sonic wonder. But it doesn't replace speakers.

YMMV, etc.

I understand that the sensation of realism is greater with speakers but I was really trying to get at the fact that clarity in decent headphones is superb. Easily the besting any speaker I've heard.

I was also eluding to the fact that KYW suggested methods which can potential yield better results regarding room influences. Its clear to me that my setup is missing details.
 

MBK

Member
2002-04-03 3:40 pm
Singapore
It depends on what you want. You can't beat the absence of any room (headphones), with regards to maximum detail retrieval, no matter which speaker you use. So headphones will give you greatest detail.

But all this detail would never have come to your attention in a real musical performance. If you get a chance to attend acoustic instruments played in a concert setting (not amplified rock in a stadium...) and listen closely, you'll find that it doesn't even have close to the imaging of a decent home HiFi setup. Never mind the details. I often listen to unamplified violins relatively up close (a friend is a violin maker). Even then, in a normal living room, at maybe 2 m from source, a violin sounds extremely sweet and mellow, without gritty detail such as finger noise etc and w/o much perceived extreme HF. And no wonder: likely 90% of the SPL you hear at a concert is reflected/reverberant. Even at home likely >50% of what you hear is the reverberant field, regardless whether you play instruments or a speaker.

An analogy: would you despair at the lack of detail when looking at your date in a restaurant under candle light - compared to that hi res 20x24 portrait of her in your living room :0

Now this reverberant field does obstruct detail - but it makes for the "reality" of the experience! I suspect after a short while, you'd find headphones fatigueing, as the detail overload obstructs your emotional experience.... unless you use a soundfield simulator to purposely recreate a reverberant field (and obstruct detail). It's "supposed" to sound like that ... Regular 'phones w/o soundfield simulator just create a magnifying glass effect.

Now I do see a problem with recordings where the venue acoustics make up a large part of the recorded sound. These will sound best on headphones or on highly directional speakers. The absence of standards for recordings makes some compromises necessary.

If you intend to have an emotionally involving listening experience close to an actual musical performance, you don't need to fight the room - you need to use it to achieve your goal. Your room is your concert hall. I found this article here most enlightening:

Griesinger

and I hope I will apply some of this theory one day at home. In any case it opened my eyes to what it takes to make music feel more real - and the missing link is not the detail
;)
 
I went on a trip to go visit a possible college last week and I pulled out my headphones and listened to music for the entire car rides. I agree the detail is amazing, but it hurts my head to try and find where the singer is singing from. With my headphones (far from good) the image is behind my ears, not level with them and seems to be a couple of inches back. After listening for a couple of hours I did find myself tired of them, not that they were uncomfortable, but I would get a mild headache (very mild) because of the detail perhaps.

Well my big question is this.
I was looking through the Parts Express catalog and I saw some headphones and their frequency responces were 40hz and up, 20hz and up, and 5hz and up.
How can such a small driver play such low frequencies, and if we cannot hear 5hz what is the point of having that in headphones, does that just mean that at 20hz the frequency responce would be about the same as the higher frequencies?

Thanks,

Josh
 
Re: Binaural recordings

hermanv said:
Damn kids: As I've posted several times there was a recording technique known as binaural recordings. They used two microphones attached to a dumy human head (no not mine:)). So since the mikes were spaced for headphones, the image came out right for headphones.
IIRC for maximal effect it was recommended to wear in-ear phones. And I recall reading that the 3D effect was quite stunning.

One of the most stunning effects was being able to relocate an entire concert hall simply by turning your head. :cool:
 
Re: Binaural recordings

hermanv said:
Damn kids: As I've posted several times there was a recording technique known as binaural recordings. They used two microphones attached to a dumy human head (no not mine:)). So since the mikes were spaced for headphones, the image came out right for headphones.

The imaging was spectacular, I think the recordings are still being made (not many) and you occasionally stumble across used ones...
The BBC did some research into binaural reproduction. You can still find some of their recordings out there somewhere; indeed, they still record some stuff binaurally.




For normal stereo headphones, a little simple crossfeed can help a lot with the in-your-head image problem. More advanced HRTF processors exist, some of them working quite well.
 
Headphone low frequency response

When you drive an enclosed chamber such as is formed with ear plug style headphones or with a closed ear muff style headphone the small accoustic volume completely changes the driver area and displacement equation.

Your eardrum is small and has response to ~20Hz, the driver doesn't need to be any bigger or move any farther as long as the coupling coefficient is high. It's not high for conventional speakers.

So it is perfectly possible to acheive very good low frequency response with tiny diaphrams.

Now, as to whether audio suppliers lie about specifications, that is a different question.
 
edjosh23 said:
Well my big question is this.
I was looking through the Parts Express catalog and I saw some headphones and their frequency responces were 40hz and up, 20hz and up, and 5hz and up.
How can such a small driver play such low frequencies, and if we cannot hear 5hz what is the point of having that in headphones, does that just mean that at 20hz the frequency responce would be about the same as the higher frequencies?

Thanks,

Josh

You don't see those kind of lies with german and american phones.
That's Sony, Panasonic, etc. (and unbranded) territory.
Don't EVER buy phones just for the specs, because the most impressive ones on paper are exactly those that sound like junk.
Those manufacturers are the same ones that spec PMPO power ratings, sum the 5 channels of an amp and give (max) power ratings under 4 ohm loads. Then you have hundreds of watts in a pocket size amp.:clown:
Car audio is also typical.
4x50w on the front panel and then you look at the user manual and it says... 4x18W RMS / 4 Ohms.:D
 

angel

Member
2003-10-09 3:42 am
Norway
carlosfm said:
Don't EVER buy phones just for the specs, because the most impressive ones on paper are exactly those that sound like junk.

I take issue with that.

My Stax Signature system has a quoted frequency response of 7Hz-41KHz, and is anything but junk. In fact, the response is fairly credible, based on some church-organ recordings I've listened to where regular high end speakers produce no sound at all, whereas the Staxes do. (I will concede that their somewhat forward mids and highs cause them to appear somewhat bass-shy, though :bawling: ).

What you really need, is to find a HRIR response that suits you based on these samples (modulated noise moving clockwise around your head, describing a horizontal plane). Find the best one of the 50+ that are there, then download the corresponding data and use this with your favorite HRTF tools..

Remember to compensate for any FR deviations in your headphones.

While still barely proof of concept, you may want to try Michael Grundmann's plugin for foobar2000 found here . It gives good results with the right HRIR data and the right headphones.