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2 Channel user reviews vs Headphone user reviews


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Over the last few months I enjoyed the reviews of DACs by few headphone users.  Never gave it a second thought. One of my fav review in this category is @GoldenOne

 

Just now I received an email notification of a new review by GoldenOne. Immediately clicked on the link which took me to YouTube.  In the first 10 seconds of the review I heard this statement by GoldenOne

 

Quote

The speakers vs headphones debate will probably rage on till the end of time. But one thing we can all agree you do miss out when using headphones is that in your chest full body experience you get with a powerful 2 channel setup especially with a subwoofer.

 

In your chest full body experience is neither a sought after nor a desired in quality 2 channel stereo setups. The description sounds like it belongs to HT setups.  Yes, we use powerful subwoofers in 2 channel stereo, but the goal of them is accurate reproduction of low frequencies, not huge SPL levels. Probably that is why, HT subwoofers are seldom used in 2 channel stereo systems.

 

The product being reviewed is woojer Vest-Edge.  This looks like an adaptation of old Bass Shaker for the gaming industry.

 

The reason I mention this is, now I am wondering if the headphone use reviewers have different criteria for the gear than the 2 channel stereo user reviewers.

 

@GoldenOne this is not an attack on you, a legitimate question to context to the reviews.

 

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The biggest difference between headphone listening and loudspeakers is in soundstage. Soundstage reproduction through headphones is pathetic and will not come close to telling you what is on the recording. 

 

I wouldn't say that bass you can feel is necessary through stereo speakers for good sound, but I definitely prefer it. I'd dare to say most everyone prefers it, as long as it is done right (i.e. tight and well integrated).

 

My last speakers only had a 7" mid-woofer per side, but tuned pretty low, and really able to grip and shake the air in the room. They were likely helped by a room mode in my smallish room at the time. No subs needed.

 

My current listening room is considerably larger and I have a pair of stereo monitors with 10" stereo subs. The monitors are sealed MTM, with a pair of 6.5" mid-woofers per side. The subs roll in at 48Hz LR2, frequency response corrected using DSP and REW Auto-tune. I can listen to the monitors by themselves and they sound very good. When I turn on the subs however, the bass energizes the room, you can hear it, you can feel it. Soundstage expands and the presentation just feels more real.

 

My subs go down to 24Hz in-room, below which they drop off rapidly. My headphones extend down to 10Hz, but the experience of bass through the headphones is sorely limited compared to the subs. So I guess I agree with Golden One (whoever he is). 

“To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity for reflection.” 
Bertrand Russell 

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I've been into head-fi since 2017, climbing the scale into more and more expensive gear.  I finally made the switch to 2ch last month upon moving into a residence that allows for speaker listening. 

 

Headphones have fewer resonances in the lows, but the highs have peaks and nulls as the standing wavs accumulate in those small cups (even open back headphones).  The opposite is true for 2ch.  The lows are where you're going to have the most trouble achieving linearity (due to the room), but the highs are pristine! 

 

The panning and soundstage are no match against real 2ch.  The mix was intended to hear over 2 speakers and NOT bypass your head and shoulders (ref. HRTF).  This is even worse for IEMs as you bypass the outer ear as well.  All of these things work against sounding 'natural' or at least 'as natural as speakers' as designers of headphones have to add gain to upper mid frequencies to compensate for the bypassing of your natural anatomy.  Similarly, the frontal localization of headphones is very rare and usually requires a crossfeed to get close to speaker performance.  Everyone has a slightly different HRTF and therefore headphones may come close, but never really hit the mark exactly for balanced FR.  

 

With that said, i still find it easier to hear the differences with DACs on a very highly resolving headphone system.  But enjoyment and natural presentation, with intelligible delivery of all the sounds on the stage - that goes to speakers and by a huge margin I may add.   It's also far less fatiguing and my brain doesn't have to strain to locate sounds nearly as much.  

 

-Vince

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On 9/7/2021 at 6:46 PM, Cogito said:

In your chest full body experience is neither a sought after nor a desired in quality 2 channel stereo setups.

I disagree.  The felt pulse as a drum is hit is definitely a desired quality in my 2 channel stereo setups.

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3 hours ago, the_bat said:

I disagree.  The felt pulse as a drum is hit is definitely a desired quality in my 2 channel stereo setups.

 

Hmmm, when did I say bass is not important?

 

I am specifically responding to the quote, "your chest full body experience". 

There is a huge difference between the quality of bass in a Home Theater and a 2-channel music system. Home theater bass is all about "chest thumping" experience when the bombs explode. Its all about SPL levels. In 2-channel music system, tightness and accuracy of the mass is the sought after quality. Music subwoofer should be able to reproduce all the low frequency vibrations and their harmonics of a Cello or Bass Guitar. It should delicately express the power and fullness of Barry White.

 

2-channel music subwoofers have typically large sealed cabinets. Emphasis is on accuracy not SPL. HT subwoofers have usually small and ported cabinets, as venting makes the sub reproduce lower frequencies as higher SPL at the expense of accuracy. 

 

As a matter of fact, many audiophiles avoid subwoofers completely.  Bass drivers are high-passed around 30-40Hz to avoid muddying the entire music with inaccurate sub-bass reproductions.

 

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Headphones are like the small nimble cars darting in and out of traffic, a small expenditure gets you fast agile response where a full size speaker solution costs significantly more to duplicate. But headphones are weird for instrument placement and a failure for duplicating the experience of a live percussion performance

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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On 9/9/2021 at 3:19 PM, GoldenOne said:

Perhaps I could have worded it better in the review. I'm not so much meaning the deep/weighty rumble that you might want in a home theatre or movie sort of setup. 

 

Im meaning the full body 'presence' that is missing when you use headphones. 


Thanks for the clarification.

 

On 9/9/2021 at 3:19 PM, GoldenOne said:

 

As someone who spent considerable time growing up as part of orchestras and listening to live music of various genres, this was something that was there in live music, there in good two channel setups, overdone and distracting in many home theatre setups, but absent in headphones


Human anatomy is designed to specially locate the sources of sounds in all directions. With headphones, all the sounds originate at the ears. All the spacial clues are permanently lost. Sound stage is pretty much restricted between the ears. A two channel system aided by an acoustically treated room can provide the spacial clues of the stage in front of the listener. Sound stage can be 10-15 behind the speakers and extend beyond the speakers sideways.

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2 hours ago, Cogito said:


Thanks for the clarification.

 


Human anatomy is designed to specially locate the sources of sounds in all directions. With headphones, all the sounds originate at the ears. All the spacial clues are permanently lost. Sound stage is pretty much restricted between the ears. A two channel system aided by an acoustically treated room can provide the spacial clues of the stage in front of the listener. Sound stage can be 10-15 behind the speakers and extend beyond the speakers sideways.

Well, the spatial cues of the circumstance of the original recording are permanently imprinted on the signal.

The spatial cues for the listening environment are added to the recording as it was originally made with ITS own ambience and timing.

 

The key is how the original recording is made.   If you listen to a true stereo recording, then the headphones can come somewhat close to the original environment during where the recording was made.   Likewise, a very carefully controlled/designed listening environment can also produce reasonably plausible/similar results.  If some kind of crazy mixing is done, then you get whatever the person did the mixdown created -- along with some randomization because of mixing the various phasing and timing of the signals being mixed.  Hopefully, the person doing the mix is good at dealing with these matters.

 

Likewise, the person setting up/owning the listening environment needs to consider the effects of their own environment.   People spend a lot of time/effort trying to control the result of the behavior/timing/levels put-out by the speakers along with the additional room ambience/timing.

 

Hopefully, the environment where one listens is the most enjoyable for that person.   Because of all of the variables in all of the situations, a recording will never precisely match the original performance.   Perfect reproduction just doesn't normally happen.   Enjoyable reproduction should hopefully be the focus.

 

There are things missing from headphones, but I could swear that with  headphones that go all the way down to 5Hz, I 'feel' the bass -- I dont' know how, but the true, very low bass does produce some kind of feeling, but NOT as good/much as the pressure against the whole body.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, John Dyson said:
4 hours ago, Cogito said:

Well, the spatial cues of the circumstance of the original recording are permanently imprinted on the signal.

The spatial cues for the listening environment are added to the recording as it was originally made with ITS own ambience and timing.

 

The key is how the original recording is made.   If you listen to a true stereo recording, then the headphones can come somewhat close to the original environment during where the recording was made.


Think about it this way.

 

Stereo recordings are made with two mics. Your 2-channel system speakers are reproducing the sounds each mic heard. If the speakers are spaced right next to each other, you will not hear any soundstage.  Move the speakers few feet apart and you start perceiving the soundstage.  This demonstrates that the presence of spacial clues in the source material is not enough to create the sound stage, sound must emanate from a similar position as the mics recording them. There is no way to mimic the position of the mics with headphones.

 

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20 minutes ago, Cogito said:


Think about it this way.

 

Stereo recordings are made with two mics. Your 2-channel system speakers are reproducing the sounds each mic heard. If the speakers are spaced right next to each other, you will not hear any soundstage.  Move the speakers few feet apart and you start perceiving the soundstage.  This demonstrates that the presence of spacial clues in the source material is not enough to create the sound stage, sound must emanate from a similar position as the mics recording them. There is no way to mimic the position of the mics with headphones.

 

But the speakers aren't mimicking the recording studio.  The positioning of the speakers&local room create their own sound environment on top of the recording.

Depending on the mics, you can come really close to the same positioning as on a head, and there have even been 'head simulators.'

I used to do real, true stereo recording, and believe me -- the real ambience is mostly preserved.  If you don't use a 'head simulator', you still get REALLY GOOD stereo with good ambience, if done correctly.   Again, you can get MORE ambience and room effects (speaker placement), but that isn't what was in the studio.

 

If a recordist is really ham-handed and has bad mic positioning, then the stereo image can be really strange, but it WILL be preserved.

When stuff is mixed as in multi-mic and multilayer like in a lot of pop stuff, then there is some kind of stereo image, mostly based on signal levels, and then a reall good recordist can do some stuff to create a fake stereo image.   However, headphones DO preserve whatever image where the recording was made.

 

If you want MORE room effects or additional aspects of stereo image, then use the speakers.

 

Both headphones and speakers can produce pretty impressive results.   One problem with me -- I like more realistic sound levels, and playing more realistic levels where I live would get me evicted pretty quickly.

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

 

If it is a binaural recording, yes, because a simulated HRTF is incorporated.  With stereo recordings, the loss of all HRTF contributes greatly to the in-head illusion.

I agree, binaural can do soundstage. Stereo headphones can't even come close. 

“To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity for reflection.” 
Bertrand Russell 

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On 9/9/2021 at 12:19 PM, GoldenOne said:

Perhaps I could have worded it better in the review. I'm not so much meaning the deep/weighty rumble that you might want in a home theatre or movie sort of setup. 

 

Im meaning the full body 'presence' that is missing when you use headphones. 

 

As someone who spent considerable time growing up as part of orchestras and listening to live music of various genres, this was something that was there in live music, there in good two channel setups, overdone and distracting in many home theatre setups, but absent in headphones. 

 

 

 

+1 for me. This ^ is why I far prefer speakers to headphones, but I have to admit that if you don't have the speakers and especially, the room sorted, you're not hearing/feeling the whole enchilada. Someone (a reviewer) once said "speakers pressurize a room." While that may not strictly be true, that is how it feels, and doesn't have to be the exaggerated HT pulses nor the Infinity IRS oncoming wavefront of air I recall from a show long ago. 

Sum>Frankenstein: Schiit Yggdrasil A2+Shunyata Venom/PS Audio P3 Regenerator+AVOptions Tibia, W4S Remedy/Uptone LPS-1.2, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, Naim 72/HiCap/250 DR, Tellurium Black II, Monitor Audio Silver 500, Epos, Uptone Audio ISO & EtherREGENs, Witch Hat/Audience/Silnote/ZenWave/Mapleshade/Shunyata/Transparent Audio cables/cords, and nice room w/treatment.

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42 minutes ago, audiobomber said:

I agree, binaural can do soundstage. Stereo headphones can't even come close. 

Binaural often uses headphones to play...

Headphones show  the recording, but not much else (good headphones.)

Speakers give you extra room effects and has to deal with larger scale physics of moving a diaphragm (usually.)  There are some

mitigations for the weight of the diaphragm (including having none at all.)  Feedback can help, but some people feel like there

are negative effects to that.   Cannot make everyone happy all of the  time.


It is okay to like whatever you like - in my case, I need to hear the audio and NOTHING else.   Room effects add

confusion for me.   This is why often, in a recording situation, BOTH headphones and speakers are used.  Each has

an advantage.   Adding room effects and time delays add a layer of confusion when listening to the details in

the audio.


Back in the day, I would listen for enjoyment, and whatever changes that a room and speakers can cause were

not 'hurtful'.   Some day, if I had reason to listen to speakers, I would.  But, now, I hear practically everything on

the recording (bass included.)  Nothing extra.

 

ADD-ON:   Most of the time, any allusion to realism isn't really operative unless a stereo (or whatever 2 or 3mic technique) miced recording.  However, even then, when I did it, typically two mics approx the distance between ears.   The mics essentially hear the sound in the recording environment.   Doing multiple (>2 or 3) mics, than realism mostly goes out the window, unless some recording engineer is a genius in getting the phasing and gains all matched up.   You can still get reasonable stereo images, but realism isn't going to be very possible.

 

A 'good sound' is possible in an artifical (inside the electronics) environment, and if the placement of the speakers in the listening environment gives whatever desirable effect, then that is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

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