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rustyjaw

The Headphones Thread

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First impression with the Px7s.  Sound quality is incredible.  Comfort is better on my ears, but a little rougher on my eyeglasses than the Tribits.

 

This is my first experience with Active Noise Cancellation, and I think I am already hitting a limitation.  I understand that ANC is meant for the steady drone of your surroundings, and for that it worked incredibly well on the bus. However, when the bus hit a big bump, or a series of small bumps, the headphones make a sound like a woofer flutter, that is very annoying and not going to work for me at all. My guess is that it's either the sound of the bumps getting passed the ANC, or the ANC is trying to offset the sound of the bumps, but is just a hair too late.  I tried it with low/high/auto ANC, and low makes it barely tolerable, but "off" was the only way not to get it at all. 

 

Here at work the ANC is already paying huge dividends.  Just a bummer about the bus, but I get it, it's not magic.  It can only do so much.

 

 

Carlos.

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The Sign of a Good Pair of Headphones

 

Here is a picture of the Sennheiser HD 600, taken from Sennheiser's official website. Notice the plush cushions across the headband?

 

product_detail_x2_desktop_HD_600_Sennheiser_03.thumb.jpg.05fe9b0e6361f038c1e9d95af1c4ebed.jpg

 

Below is a picture of my own personal HD 600 headphones, originally purchased in December 2002. That plush cushion around the headband? Completely flat now after more than 17 years of use.

 

HD600.thumb.jpg.76e8189671defc5a54a0fc134ec03554.jpg

 

I think it might be time to finally replace that cushion. The good news is that the HD 600 was built so that you could easily replace individual components instead of being forced to replace the entire unit. I think once the COVID-19 lockdowns are eased a bit, I will order a it from Amazon.The question is, do I want to replace the ear pads as well?

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So I’m in the market for studio monitor headphones. I never really thought mixing on headphones would work well, but a friend gave me his Sony 7506 set after he upgraded. Despite them being an old and inexpensive set (and also they have a repair to one of the wires that occasionally cuts out), I tried them while mixing and I was quite impressed with how they revealed the details and frequency peaks and troughs in what I was working on. I now switch between them and my speaker monitors regularly. 
 

This experience got me looking into the modern studio monitor world. The consensus seems to be that the Beyerdynamic dt1990s are the top of the heap. But as with anything relating to speakers and headphones there are arguments, and even measurements, for and against. Other sets compared to the 1990 are the Sennheiser 660s, Neumann NDH-20 (closed back), Focal Elex, and even the Beyerdynamic dt1770 (closed back). 
 

Anyone have experience with these sets or with other studio monitor headphones?

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I’ve seen people rave about the Sennheiser 650/6xx and more recently the audeze lcd 2

but no experience with any of them.

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13 hours ago, AlbertA said:

I’ve seen people rave about the Sennheiser 650/6xx and more recently the audeze lcd 2

but no experience with any of them.


Thanks! I looked up the Audeze’s - confusingly it seems the same model is sold in open and closed back. Pretty sure open is where I’m headed. 
 

From what I gather they are more pleasing to listen to, but perhaps not as revealing as the dt1990s. They are a step-up price wise too. 
 

I’m waiting to see if the price on the Beyerdynamics will come down. I understand the price fluctuates, and it seems at the moment they are peaking at $600. I’ve heard they can go as low as $450, which is a lot more palatable. 
 

One thing that I find curious as I look into headphones for the first time in several years, is how Grado has all but disappeared from “top X” lists. I bought a pair of open-back Grado’s nearly 20 years ago that were phenomenally good at that time. Grado had tons of high-end audio buzz then. I thought maybe they went out of business, but no, they are still going. I wonder if they have declined in quality. Or if the world has caught up and overtaken them.

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On a completely different tip, I’ve been very pleased with my RHA TrueConnects that I bought recently. £149 normally, though I got them in a half price sale, they’re every bit as light as Apple wireless earbuds, while having a car, far better sound than the £300 Beats ones I tried. They also stay in my ears, which is more than I’ve ever been able to say about Apple’s offerings.  Gloriously comfortable, amazingly transparent when out and about so traffic isn’t a worry, and clear as you like. No pairing worries yet either, which put me off Bluetooth for years. 
 

They also do wired studio earbuds for the same price, which might do you well. 

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Well I played the waiting game, price-checking the DT 1990s for a few weeks, just in time to watch the price climb. And when I say the price climbed, it was everywhere; retail, eBay Buy it Now, and auctions, I looked at completed listings and saw a trend of rising prices.  The last auction I watched, for a used pair, went for $550! I finally bit once I saw the prices return to “normal.” Basically what it was when I first searched. 

 

I could have waited longer, but lately I find myself stalling on a music project because “I could hear all this so well if I had those headphones.” It’s a game I play when I want something but don’t want to pay for it! I turn it into a “need.” The plan worked. Yay. 
 

I suspect the pandemic is partly responsible, from increasing demand because more folks than ever are making use of their home recording setups, and also maybe just economic volatility in general. 
 

Anyway, I won’t have them for a week. I’m a little apprehensive, actually. I’ve heard they can be unforgivingly revealing and detailed. I’m afraid I’m going to hear a lot of artifacts in what I’m working on, from frequency clashes to outright glitches, but in the end I’d rather hear them and try to correct, than not be aware in the first place. 

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18 minutes ago, rustyjaw said:

I suspect the pandemic is partly responsible, from increasing demand because more folks than ever are making use of their home recording setups, and also maybe just economic volatility in general. 

 

Sometimes I forget just what people can do at home. Charli XCX just put out an album written, recorded and produced under six weeks of lockdown and it's really quite brilliant on so many levels. I still wouldn't have a clue where to start when it comes to exploring all these tools. 

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So while I wait for my fancy new headphones to arrive. I’ve started looking at headphone amps. The DT 1990s are known for being unforgivingly detailed, but paired with an analog amp, they can be warmed up for a more pleasing sound. 
 

I figure if I’m spending this much on headphones, I might as well use them for more than just studio “critical listening”. 
 

Anyone have recommendations for a nice analog headphone amp, maybe even a tube model?

 

I’ve seen “Schiit” mentioned (yes, and it seems they came up with that name quite intentionally). And also a Chinese knockoff that has tubes.

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My headphones (Audioquest NightOwl Carbon) are efficient enough that a headphone amp isn't required but I did look into amps a bit. I think Schiit is the jumping off point for most amp (and DAC) purchases because they are priced right and deliver good performance. As the starting point for so many enthusiasts, Schiit also has a ton of detractors as cheap equipment with poor quality control and unrefined performance. 

JDS Labs is a company that has sort of followed Schiit with solid performing gear at lower prices. Their Objective 2 amp is one you'll see mentioned a lot.

The Chord Mojo is expensive ($500) but it's both and amp + DAC with an outstanding reputation for sound quality. Another one with a strong following is the Drop THX AAA 789 (They also have Liquid Carbon DAC+amp combo that is highly regarded). Another DAC+amp combo I have come very close to purchasing is the Topping DX3. It has strong reviews and is just a good value. 

 

Like many, I have been doing a half dozen Google Meet or Zoom meetings per day. My company just committed to working from home through September 7. I've decided to invest in a pair of "true wireless" headphones to pair with my computer and phone. I'm an Android user so the ubiquitous Apple Airpods are not an option. I'm curious if anyone out there has had good luck with alternative options in this category for use with online meetings? I'd probably use them for some music (especially if they can replace my crappy workout headphones).

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Cool, thanks for those. I'm definitely not buying anything until I have the headphones for a while. But I'd like to know the best options.

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If you are going for "warming up"/modifying the source signal, then yeah go for a tube amp; if you are looking for something neutral - don't get a tube amp :)

 

I've seen the Schitt thrown around as well, the recent ones being the Magni 3+ and the Heresy ( https://www.schiit.com/products/magni-1 (no experience with neither ). Looks like the Heresy has great performance (see here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/schiit-magni-3-and-heresy-headphone-amp-reviews.10311/)

 

 

 

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43 minutes ago, AlbertA said:

If you are going for "warming up"/modifying the source signal, then yeah go for a tube amp; if you are looking for something neutral - don't get a tube amp :)

 

 


Well as of now I can only go on what the consensus among reviewers seems to be, which is that the DT 1990s are ultra detailed, clinical, and analytical, like good monitors should be. And I also see a lot of “not for casual listening” kinds of feedback as well.

 

But until I’ve spent a dozen or so hours with them on my head will I know if they need any sweetening to make them good for casual listening. That’s where a headphone amp would come into the picture. 

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The headphones arrived today. It’s been an interesting afternoon of exploring. I’m in the late stages of finishing a track, and as I mentioned before I was kind of anxious that these uber-detailed headphones would expose weakness. But before I plugged them into my mixer, I thought it would be best to listen to some tracks I know well.

 

So what did I choose as my inaugural track? Why Motherlover by Lonley Island, of course. (If you haven’t heard it, and you’re easily offended, I’m not responsible for your reaction). It wasn’t part of any plan, I’d just listened to it recently and, probably due to Justin Timberlake’s involvement, it actually sounds quite good, with a really profound sub bass and nicely positioned percussion. Indeed multiple layers of the track suddenly revealed themselves with breathing space around each one. You can focus pretty effortlessly on any given layer, really nice. 

 

But the day’s first surprise was the second track I chose, Happy Cycling by Boards of Canada, again, only because I’d listened to it on headphones a few days ago. I’d been afraid of hearing artifacts in my music, so imagine my surprise when I suddenly could hear, really plainly in this Boards track, the loop point of the opening sample repeating over and over, and on top of that some very subtly static blips on the drums! I’ve listened to that track hundreds of times and never heard any of that. In fact, I’d never really thought that the opening sound is a sample, it never really crossed my mind. 
 

After spending a good 90 mins geeking out on music I’ll already quite familiar with, I plugged them into my mixer, hit play, and was quite pleasantly surprised to hear a coherent mix of instruments. And after that initial sense of relief, I could immediately hear details that needed attention. It was like putting glasses on for the first time. A real sense of “oh so that’s what’s over there!” Far from being a painful experience, it felt like I’d donned a device that gave me superpowers, like x-ray hearing, I can sense all of the textures and hear through sounds to what is masked behind them. 
 

At some point in the first 90 mins, I swapped out the pads that come with the headphones. They give you two sets, a “balance” set, fitted by default, and an “analytical” set. After donning the analytical pads, I revisited some music and indeed they flatted the response. Bass In particular is less beefy, but still quite full. Swapping the pads was a little stressful, but supposedly it gets easier as the material stretches a bit. 
 

It’s nice to have different listening “environments” in the form of pads. There are also a number of different 3rd party pads with different characteristics. I may look into those before looking at an amp.

 

I tried these on my iPad, my iMac MacBook Air (CDs), and through my mixer. All were able to drive them just fine. Although the mixer did seem to have the most dynamic sound, but that could be because of the fidelity of the synths plugged into the mixer. They are very sensitive at 102db, but they are 250 ohms. I don’t pretend to understand the relationship between those two specs. 
 

After reading and watching so many reviews, I was expecting something more “hard” and clinical, but reality was a lot easier on the ears and more musical than I expected. Nothing feels forced or in your face. As I said above, it’s more like that sense of ease that comes with putting the right prescription lenses on, like you’re suddenly connected to what you are seeing, or in this case hearing, in a way you weren’t before. So yeah, 100% happy with this purchase. 

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53 minutes ago, rustyjaw said:

They are very sensitive at 102db, but they are 250 ohms. I don’t pretend to understand the relationship between those two specs. 

 

The higher impedance is usually from the use of thinner voice coils in the drivers. They do this to lower the mass so that the frequency response is flatter. The lower the mass the less power it needs to produce the same SPL as something with more mass. This translates to a higher sensitivity rating. That's mostly how they are related :)

 

Andrew Yang Speech GIF

 

 

 

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@AlbertA Awesome, thanks for that. I was under the impression that higher impedance meant kind of the opposite, that more current was needed to achieve the same gain (I'm sure I'm getting the terms wrong). Which, in my cartoon understanding of electricity, sounds like less sensitivty. What am I not getting?

 

Currently listening to the latest Dead Can Dance CD, this easily wins the award for most improved by good headphones. Holy crap this recording is phenomenal.

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Well today was completely lost to these headphones. I spent about 9 hours going back through the last 4 things I’ve recorded (starting in January), redoing the mixes with the Beyers. Not redoing masters, but going further back to the original mix to clean them up. Lots of eq-ing to help separate layers. The headphones are like magic, I can zero in on problem areas so quickly. I wish I’d gotten them sooner, actually. But glad I bit the bullet finally. Remastering will be next. It might eat up all of tomorrow at this rate. 
 

————

 

a few more observations. The supplied cables are really excellent. One is a long fairly thick wire, and the other is partly coiled, like an ancient phone cable. But what I love about both is that they are almost dead sonically. They don’t transmit much at all if you move around and the cable stretches or hit things. That was a gripe with my old NADs, the cables transmitted a lot of low frequency vibration.
 

They are not as “open” as other open back cans I’ve had. Compared to the Grado SR325, these are more closed. The Grados were close to transparent, so you had to be in a quiet room. The 1990s cut out quite a bit of the external world, but you can still sense they’re open.

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10 hours ago, rustyjaw said:

Awesome, thanks for that. I was under the impression that higher impedance meant kind of the opposite, that more current was needed to achieve the same gain (I'm sure I'm getting the terms wrong). Which, in my cartoon understanding of electricity, sounds like less sensitivty. What am I not getting?

 

Well the higher the impedance, the less current they will draw at the same voltage.  Ultimately, current flowing through the voice coil is what moves the speakers so the current needed to achieve a specific SPL won't change. However, as impedance gets larger, to produce the same amount of current in a circuit, as compared to a load with lower impedance, you need to increase the source voltage.

 

Sensitivity is just a property that describes how much power  you need to apply to the load (headphones) to reach a certain SPL at some distance (for headphones, they omit distance because it's so close to you ear that you don't have to account for sound level decreasing in an inverse square of the distance). 

 

You could have two headphone pairs with the same sensitivity rating but one pair with high impedance the other one lower. They both need the same amount of power, but the high impedance one needs an amplifier that can supply a higher voltage in order to draw the same amount of current as the lower impedance version. This is the reason why when you hook up higher impedance headphones to say an iPhone, you get very little volume - this is because circuits there derive their voltage source from the battery tech (3.7V With Li-On).

You could design an amplifier to deliver high voltage given a 3.7 V power source, but that increases cost and area it occupies on the PCB. So you can thank mobile phones for driving the lower impedance headphones in the market :) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for spelling that out. I still have a gap in my understanding, but you helped me get a grasp on the concepts. 

 

BTW, I think the real blame for low impedance headphones lies with Sony and the Walkman.
 

Actually as I just typed that, I flashed back on my first real “hifi” love. Back in 1987 or 88, I discovered the Sony Boodokhan Walkman. I was in an electronics store one evening, kind of like Circuit City, but that chain wasn’t around then (at least not in NorCal). The Boodokhan was a freak of a device at the time, a tiny cassette player, barely larger than the cassette itself, paired with gigantic headphones. I mean the headphones were nothing extraordinary by today’s portable audio standards, but back then there was nothing like it. I asked to try it in the store and was completely floored by the sound. All in a portable package! I remember also that the transport mechanism was immune to shaking. A lot of Walkmans (Walkmen?) back then had issues if jostled, the tape would change speed as the spinning parts sped and slowed from rotational forces. The Boodokhan has some kind of flywheel that made it resistant to that, it was rock solid playback. 

 

I was obsessed with it after that encounter at the store, so I saved my pennies for months and months and finally walked out of that store with one of my own. I treasured that thing for so long. It was like being in my own world of music wherever I went. People would stare at this kid with those ginormous headphones on. 
 

Boodokhan.JPG

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I picked up a pair of Powerbeats pro’s for 150 $ . I have been using my Samsung Galaxy buds for about a year which fit great and are good for phone calls. But was not happy with the sound for listening to music. The pro’s have been great. I’ll give them a test for  another week or so and give a small review on them.

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