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Headphones vs Speakers.....Go!

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I spent 15 minutes in solitary listening to the Sennheiser HE 1 with music of my own choosing. The only other reference I have as headphones go is Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80ohm + Hegel Super dac/amplifier. Needless to say the difference in quality is nearly as startling as the difference in price.

 

My speaker reference is the Kii Three. Compared to Kii, the HE 1 were so detailed and revealing it kinda ruined the musical experience for me. You hear every nuance of everything recorded, like your ears become the microphone in the studio. To me it just felt unnaturally close and in-your-face, though in no sense in the forward, harsh or bright kinda way.

While I'd like a combination of that revealing nature of the human voice and the way a good speaker presents a physical soundstage in the room, I'd never exchange the experience of that physical soundstage right here and now for that detailed then and there sensation you get from the best headphones.

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That's really interesting because the HE-1 wasn't designed to be hyper-detailed, more of a laid back headphone system with lower mid/upper bass bloom and muted transients, if you look at the FR it's quite a rolled off headphone. Stax SR-009, MrSpeakers Ether ES, Sonoma One are electrostatics that are all much more "detailed" sounding than the HE-1.

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Sennheiser HE 1 has a very clean and detailed sound without sounding analytical or lean like many HPs can do. Compared to Beyer dynamic DT 770 Pro using something like a Hegel Super dac/amplifier as well as many other headphone system it’s doubtless very resolving and highly detailed. The lower mid/upper bass has some natural bloom and the transient respond was good IMO.

 

Was the Sennheiser HE 1 a perfect all-in-one package HP/DAC/amplifier? No, the subbase was a bit rolled off compared to some of the best planar magnetic HPs. However the main bass and upper bass wasn’t missing so the overall sound was still full and well balanced. The image was spot on and the headstage seemed proper, though not as deep and out of your head like with the Abyss or Hifiman HEK mk2. Also the upper midrange has a small touch of steely glare to it that am allergic to.

 

My verdict of the Sennheiser HE 1 (after a private 15 minutes session) was good but no cigar. With another DAC or tubes than the implemented I would maybe like it a bit more, but for the price they ask for it you can get a really good speaker setup or a super duper good HP setup and still have money left.  

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30 minutes ago, GUTB said:

I came from a headphone background. The truth is this: for the pure equipment cost, you can get peak world class headphone performance for the price of a mid-fi 2 channel setup. Speakers are more than just high prices — its engineering a listening space. For the amount of money I spent on my speakers, room treatments, pre/pro amps, cabling, etc, I could have got a Utopia with the finest OCC silver cables plugged into best headphone amps and be at endgame.

 

The problem is, I’m addicted to the full-immersion experience of speakers. The unfurled soundstage. The physical dynamics. No matter how good, headphones can’t provide that.

This is in fact true. 


 

 

 

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35 minutes ago, GUTB said:

I came from a headphone background. The truth is this: for the pure equipment cost, you can get peak world class headphone performance for the price of a mid-fi 2 channel setup. Speakers are more than just high prices — its engineering a listening space. For the amount of money I spent on my speakers, room treatments, pre/pro amps, cabling, etc, I could have got a Utopia with the finest OCC silver cables plugged into best headphone amps and be at endgame.

 

The problem is, I’m addicted to the full-immersion experience of speakers. The unfurled soundstage. The physical dynamics. No matter how good, headphones can’t provide that.

 

I agree.

 

Besides, I don't like wearing headphones: it's not really pleasant and sounds unnatural.


"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira Pascoaes

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26 minutes ago, semente said:

 

I agree.

 

Besides, I don't like wearing headphones: it's not really pleasant and sounds unnatural.

 

Good earphones (I use Noble Encores) are exceptionally resolving. And I could have a great listening while sitting on a bench in a park with a beautiful sea view, as it was today.

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34 minutes ago, AnotherSpin said:

 

Good earphones (I use Noble Encores) are exceptionally resolving. And I could have a great listening while sitting on a bench in a park with a beautiful sea view, as it was today.

 

It's undeniable that head' and earphones are a great way to enjoy music on the move.

I haven't had a portable player since my Sony Minidisc broke down in late nineties. I used it mostly in train or coach or plane journeys. Perhaps I should get a nice pair of earphones...


"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira Pascoaes

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7 hours ago, semente said:

 

It's undeniable that head' and earphones are a great way to enjoy music on the move.

I haven't had a portable player since my Sony Minidisc broke down in late nineties. I used it mostly in train or coach or plane journeys. Perhaps I should get a nice pair of earphones...

My o my, have things come a long ways with earphones, especially since multi ba tech was proficiently implemented. 

 

I think youd you’d be pleasantly surprised. Delighted even. A low output impedance source with finely tuned universal ba monitors and foam tips to absorb treble reflections are truly impressive. 

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9 hours ago, semente said:

 

It's undeniable that head' and earphones are a great way to enjoy music on the move.

I haven't had a portable player since my Sony Minidisc broke down in late nineties. I used it mostly in train or coach or plane journeys. Perhaps I should get a nice pair of earphones...

 

My earphones give a sound which is incomparably superior in comparison with that from my room set. The only inconvenience, it is not very comfortable to have something inserted into ears, and cable to miniature DAC is slightly annoying sometimes. But, these small details are nothing compared with a joy of listening, for example, Beethoven while making long walks, or Brahms while laying on the thin floor mattress somewhere in India at night.

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On 3/27/2018 at 7:58 AM, ShawnC said:

Speakers always for me.  Headphones are for portable use and airplanes.  I prefer the sound filling the room like real life, not a contraption strapped to my head.  Both have there benefits and drawbacks.  I do you use headphones at home for recording guitar tracks and mixing.

 

I agree. Speakers liven up my house a lot because I like music playing all day without having to worry about something in my head or ears. I really like good quality speakers I'm very keen on that, sound quality is everything. Headphones/earphones are my travel must-have. 

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I would like some
Brand new leopard-skin pill-box headphones

"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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they would "balance on your head

just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine"


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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I guess in an ideal world, speakers, but I don't live in an ideal world.  So for me it is a combination of the 2.

 

I don't have the luxury of having dedicated purposed speakers (and amps, dacs, etc.) - so what I have in the living room - needs to fit both home theater and music - they sound good for music, but not great.  For my office - where I do most of my listening, I do have somewhat dedicated hardware/speakers but on a much smaller (bookshelf size) scale - and unfortunately the office is really just the corner of large bonus room.  So while it sounds good, it is still limited.  Plus - the family is downstairs!  None of this is ideal.  

 

This is why I like headphones, too.  I can have many different headphones (along with a couple of different amps) for not huge amounts of money that I can change out depending upon my mood, what music I am listening to or whether I am around someone or not.  I find my open headphones (Beyerdynamic DT 990) always sound great, are comfortable enough to wear for hours (but not good when I am around someone or travelling).  Sometimes I just want a flat response (Sony MDR-7506).  When out and about I like my Westone 2.  And when I travel on an airplane - I want something comfortable and isolating (Beyerdynamic DT 770) (yeah - they are bit big to travel, but I can keep them on for hours) - I also use these a lot at home when around the family.  With headphones - I get a lot of different soundstages for both my mood and the situation.  

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I prefer both of my speaker setups over the headphones I had in the past and currently have: LCD-2.2, LCD-3, LCD-2C, HE-500, HD 800, Denon AH-D2000, KRK KNS 8400, HD 598.

 

Comfort always goes to speakers. Speakers are just more easier to listen to and make sense of. The one thing that headphones struggle with is the presentation of the plane and soundstage. It never quite translates like with speakers.

 

I can still enjoy headphones, however, if given the choice without worrying about noise or privacy, I'll go with speakers.


Power: Torus (main) + Teradak (network)

Source: Bryston BDP-1 w/ Roon

DAC: Dangerous Source (Teradak 12V13A) + Emotiva DC-1

Amp: Amphion Amp100 + Marantz PM6004

Speakers: Amphion One15 + Mackie HR 824 Mk1

Headphones: Audeze LCD-2C + Denon AH-D2000 + HD 598 + KRK KNS 8400

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Headphones are problematic for me because of tinnitus, which goes in and out.  It's a lot easier to ignore the ringing when the music is not inside my head.

 

However you can't beat headphones for hearing everything on a recording.

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7 hours ago, zoom25 said:

The one thing that headphones struggle with is the presentation of the plane and soundstage. It never quite translates like with speakers.

 

agree - artificially wide sound field that travels along a rod, as if it impaled both ears.  Though with a good delay modeling cross-feed (like Canopener Studio) you can pull the sound further "out of your head" - further above and out to the sides.  Still no speaker experience with a frontal sound presentation, but a nice relaxed changeup. 

 

but not only have I become accustomed to the sound field presentation of headphones/earphones, I actually prefer it because........

 

6 hours ago, Daverz said:

you can't beat headphones for hearing everything on a recording.

 

the detail, the resolution!  Especially if you can smooth out the treble peaks using a good EQ software that avoids phase distortion. 

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21 minutes ago, buonassi said:

 

agree - artificially wide sound field that travels along a rod, as if it impaled both ears.  Though with a good delay modeling cross-feed (like Canopener Studio) you can pull the sound further "out of your head" - further above and out to the sides.  Still no speaker experience with a frontal sound presentation, but a nice relaxed changeup. 

 

but not only have I become accustomed to the sound field presentation of headphones/earphones, I actually prefer it because........

 

 

the detail, the resolution!  Especially if you can smooth out the treble peaks using a good EQ software that avoids phase distortion. 

 

Yup, agreed on the treble response. This is why I actually like the Audeze's. I find majority of the headphones are too bright stock. Even with calibrated EQ, they still don't respond quite well. The Audeze's are the easiest to go back and forth with speakers for me. With HD 800, it'd take several minutes getting adjusted tonally, even with Sonarworks.

 

Being phase accurate is definitely a huge part on both headphones and speakers. Good monitors in a good room can really make things so much more relaxed on the brain. I enjoy ATC and Amphion for that reason. You don't feel like you're missing out on detail, tonality, transients, or phase response.


Power: Torus (main) + Teradak (network)

Source: Bryston BDP-1 w/ Roon

DAC: Dangerous Source (Teradak 12V13A) + Emotiva DC-1

Amp: Amphion Amp100 + Marantz PM6004

Speakers: Amphion One15 + Mackie HR 824 Mk1

Headphones: Audeze LCD-2C + Denon AH-D2000 + HD 598 + KRK KNS 8400

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My living room setup is pretty basic. PS Audio Sprout, Rega RP-1, Raspberry PI3 (Volumio), HiFiBerry Dac+ Pro and Paradigm Atom V.6. But the room just works with them. Soundstage, bass has authority and punch, vocals...just everything sounds great. I have yet to hear headphones that I like as much as listening to this setup.

 

Currently using for headphones are M1060, Meze 99C, HD650, HiFiMan 400i, and Grado 325e's with Schiit Modi 2U, Magni 3, Asgard and Bottlehead Crack. I also live close to Schiit and have been to their showroom a few times and tested all their amps/dacs with the couple dozen headphones they have for testing like Mr.Speakers, Audeze etc.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love headphones and IEM's....I just find room system better sounding.

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There is nothing weird about headphone plane of presentations.  The weird thing is how your brain construct and understand it.  Simple, speakers are in front at a V-angle toward your listening position.  It creates a sound field away from you and your brain understand it as a live performances on stage with you/yourself the customer in the chair.  Headphones is on top of your ears from side to side, and your brain take that you/yourself is the singer with instruments laying around and surrounding you.

 

You can easily positioning your speakers side to side, angled toward your ears and parallel with it.  You will get the same plane of presentation as headphones .  The only differences is that the speakers are much further away than a Headphones would be, so this spherical scape will be gigantic in comparison.

 

stax headphones at it best performances can be said to present a gigantic soundscape similar to many high-end close range monitors just fine

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On 8/9/2018 at 10:14 PM, Whitigir said:

The only differences is that the speakers are much further away than a Headphones would be,

And that sounds coming from each speaker would still reach both ears.  This doesn't happen with headphones.  It would be a similar sound stage still, I'm betting.  Never done it, have you?

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On 5/2/2018 at 1:17 AM, buonassi said:

 

agree - artificially wide sound field that travels along a rod, as if it impaled both ears.  Though with a good delay modeling cross-feed (like Canopener Studio) you can pull the sound further "out of your head"

 

I'm wondering if the RME ADI-2 DAC can dial in the appropriate cross-feed to overcome the bad recordings, i.e the ones with the artificially wide sound field.

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