The Cause of Many Stupid Arguments Regarding Tonal Signature of Headphones

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Marvey, Nov 14, 2015.

  1. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    The Cause of Many Stupid Arguments Regarding Tonal Signature of Headphones
    85155825_ele.jpeg


    Allow me to summarize a story:
    1. Whitney: These headphones have a bad resonance. This headphone is elephant shit.
    2. Marv: I heard HeadRoom's pair at THE SHOW. WTF, I jumped up from my seat in agony.
    3. Tyll: My pair are not bad. That's because you listen to shitty music like Nirvana.
    4. Marv: Fuck you Tyll. My Nirvana recordings sound great on good headphones.
    5. HF Noob: I think these headphones are awesome. Measurements are dumb.
    6. HF Boob: Posts train going off tracks in HF thread.
    7. Currawong: Locks HF thread.
    8. Whiney: I just got a second pair. They still sound like shit but are a little bit better.
    9. Marv: I just listened to Whitney's second pair. I can confirm this.
    10. Christian: My pair is not bad.
    11. Marv: WTF. Your pair really isn't bad.
    We see this happen from time to time. For more common than people would suspect. What can we take away from this? That experienced ears can have wildly diverging opinions on frequency response (specifically treble nasties or ringing)? Unlikely. A better explanation is that these headphones actually sounded differently and measured differently from each other for whatever reasons (production variance, ongoing improvements, etc.) AKG and Beyer headphones have been particularly affected by this. I have heard stories of AKG production issues from industry insiders, but that's all I can say. They are just stories.

    Figure 1A: AKG K550 Sample #1
    k550 fr.txt.jpg

    Figure 1B: AKG K550 Sample #2
    k550-2r.txt.jpg

    Note how in Figure 1A, the K550 has significant treble peak at 7.5kHz and overall bass which slight lower in level than the midrange. The #2 K550 in Figure 1B does not have the lower/mid treble peak and the overall bass is slightly higher in level than the midrange.

    Figure 2A: Beyerdynamic T1 Sample #1
    T1#2 FR.jpg

    Figure 2B: Beyerdynamic T1 Sample #2
    T1 FR.jpg


    No explanation required. Needless to say, but the #2 sample of the T1 in Figure 2B was not good sounding at all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2016
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  2. briskly

    briskly Friend

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    Both you and RD used that picture to describe the K550 on HF.

    I've heard at least 4 pairs of K550 so far, and they seem to fall on a scale of mild peaking to intolerable mega-treble, more so to brightness.
     
  3. keanex

    keanex Martian Bounty Hunter - Friend

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    I've heard the 550 and I believe the 553, they remind me a bit of the MSR7 but thinner.
     
  4. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I think it's more likely that people are using different recordings, different gear, or are just in different states of mind. I doubt the LCD4 I heard was any different than the one Hans heard.
     
  5. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    I tried a K551 in shop recently, nothing super annoying, reasonably decent sounding phone even, a good roll I guess.
    No comments on T1.
     
  6. Shaffer

    Shaffer Facebook Friend

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    I have K550, my only closed can. It sounds closer to graph 1. Really don't like the performance. but the cans isolate well and they're fine for how little they're used. Would I buy them again? Hell, no!

    ATM, I have 2 AKG K702s sitting here - my older Austrian cans and a brand new Chinese model. Very small physical difference, but a significant difference in sound. Not night and day by any measure, but certainly quite noticeable. Taking a big leap and making the assumption that all listeners have very similar preferences and expectations - which is the equivalent of believing in Unicorns, but I hope the stretch can be excused - one can easily see how folks could walk away with two different impressions of the "same" headphone.
     
  7. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    This topic deserves a wholly different write-up. We are talking about disagreements among CS regulars here who already know better, not random HF dudes who listen to a bright pop recording on one setup to anime or hiphop on another. I really didn't a major disconnection on LCD4 between you and Hands knowing you guys well (my take was typical current Audeze bass).
     
  8. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    Needs some Rowan Atkinson.

     
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  9. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    I think the biggest source is not objective based on source or equipment so much as personal sensitivities, hearing loss, etc.

    I have some hearing loss. Spoiler alert, if you're old enough to read this text, so do you.

    I'm also more sensitive to treble than many, perhaps because of the shape of my ear parts, or the perception of my brain, or my hearing loss and tinnitus.

    Some headphones that people think are dark sound bright to me. A coworker asked what would be an upgraded DT880 that's brighter in the highs. After cleaning up the fecal matter from my leg from losing control of my bowels at the question, I listened to them. Sure enough, bright as a desert freaking sun on her gear, but it wasn't bright enough to her ears.

    The biggest problem is that we're all people. We're all wrong. We're all right.
     
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  10. CheFiga

    CheFiga Rando

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    LOL. I remember that thread...good times.

    So, what's the moral of the story here? I suppose that one should listen to a couple of units before stating that a headphone sucks. On the other hand, why should you seek another unit just to make sure? You only get one change to make a first impression and if there are variances in production, well, that headphone pretty much sucks. I like the K550 though (and I've heard a few of them...they all seemed the same to me). I do believe that AKG and Beyerdynamic have production problems (specially Beyer).
     
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  11. Besnia

    Besnia Acquaintance

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    I think we can summarize 3 reason for this reocurring argument...

    1) ...is that people rarely compare two units on the same rig.

    2) And even when they do, there are always unit to unit variations, especially with not-so-expensive headphones. When I bought my first expensive headphone (LCD-2F) I was utterly disappointed. Later on the right driver failed and both drivers got replaced with supposedly matched drivers at the dealer's shop. These sounded significantly better. Yet both drivers don't sound exactly the same. I also purchased LCD-X and LCD-3F, and they had the same but less noticable issues. Here's another example... a year ago I bought AKG K518DJ to use on the move with my iPhone, and after I modded them I liked them very much. I immediately bought a second pair as a backup. The left driver had more pronounced and hissy treble and less bass. Last week I accidentaly broke my original pair, so I went to the shop and picked another one. Now this one is outright horrible, it's totally unlistenable. The bass in the left driver is so fracking bloated, while the right one has a 10-12Khz treble peak which feels like hammering a nail in my ear. The treble between the two drivers is phase misalighed. I haven't got a clue how they've managed to achieve this. My brains turn into omelette du fromage after 2 mins of listening. I guess I just got super lucky with the first pair I bought. So far it seems that only Sennheiser manufacture drivers with consistent quality (or I just got lucky there too).

    3) A lot of people like some particular character in the sound of a speaker/headphone that has nothing to do with high fidelity or accuracy of reproduction. My wife loves the sound of the FE126En. She says it's got "lovely creamy tone", whereas my body gets convulsions when I hear it's terrible horrible super distorted sound. So, go figure :) I've also visited people who've spent 50 to 100k on their speaker systems. Yeah, they're expensive and properly tonally balanced, but they lack real transparency. Or another example, and this happens so often, when a friend buys an off the shelf dac or amp and tell me it's got an unbelievable massive soundstage. Yep, but only because the left and right channels are slightly out of phase. It doesn't matter, he loves it. And so on, and so on. Now please don't jump on me, this is perfectly OK and I'm not saying this is bad, I'm just sharing my observations.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
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  12. fiddler

    fiddler Acquaintance

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    Regarding "treble nasties", I think we have the most divergent hearing responses in the upper frequencies. My audiologist said I can hear higher than most of the peers in my age group, but the overall loss is greater - possible due to my profession as a violinist, also I think my trigger finger was slow in reacting to the test, where I had to push a button as soon as a certain frequency became audible. My point is... some people find some headphones unbearably sibilant, and others are fine with it. I think you're greatly underplaying physical differences of individual ears.
     
  13. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    Listening level can be a big part of this
     
  14. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    My initial post was in context of people with trained ears and who knew each other well. As for accounting for divergent opinions from different random people? That's easy to explain and pretty obvious:
    1. Different recordings, down to the masters used.
    2. Different setups / gear.
    3. Hearing damage (see below)
    Hearing Damage
    • Went to a wedding
    • DJ/MC was deaf - slideshows, announcements, America Idol wannabe's performance, etc. were loud. 85-90db (iPhone calibrated RTA/SPL meter)
    • My seven year old daughter (the flower girl) covered her ears in pain
    • I covered my ears in pain
    • Daughter and I left the room and went to the lobby. We noted temporary hearing loss ("stuffy" in ears), i.e. "Dad, my ears feel stuffy."
    • An Asian lady and a young couple had also followed us to the lobby
    • DJ got dance music going for the big party to begin
    • Daughter and I wanted to go dance - we stuffed TP in our ears and headed back
    • Upon entering, we were we even greater pain (90-100db) than before and had to run out
    • No one else, except the Asian lady and young couple who went to the lobby earlier, seemed to mind the high SPL
    CONCLUSION: 95% of people (the young people in that room) had hearing damage.

    LESSON: Protect your ears. Use hearing protection. If you guys have or ever have any young ones, be a responsible parent and protect their ears.

    THOUGHTS: What the heck is wrong with that DJ?
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
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  15. fiddler

    fiddler Acquaintance

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    Yeah, my wife and I have to shut our ears when the windows are open in the underground trains here in Berlin and the wheels screech, and are always pretty amazed at people being unfazed by the noise.
     
  16. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Much the same as is wrong with some of the "engineers" who do the PA for classical concerts that I go to (acoustic instruments, for god's sake) and almost all the ones that do the sound for weddings that I go to. They believe that people like it loud (and, amongst the young, there may some evidence that that is true?) and, partly as a result of that, they themselves have hearing damage, so they turn it up even further.

    .
     
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  17. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    Dunno. I damaged my ears in my teens with some DJ cans. I think I'm cured now but tolerate loud music way less now. I get pain sensation before my friends when we hit the club. Maybe I've got paranoia.
    Then again these friends have sorta tin ears to begin with.
     
  18. Shaffer

    Shaffer Facebook Friend

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    There was a time, when I was in college, when I worked shows for a concert promotion firm. First show I did, couldn't help noticing that everyone backstage was wearing earplugs. That was the fist and last time I didn't bring some along.
     
  19. Claritas

    Claritas Friend

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    I started wearing them for my NYC subway commute ~20 years ago, and the habit never left me. To rephrase Jelly Roll Morton, we should tell people, "You're so deaf you should be the president of the Deaf and Dumb Society."

     
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  20. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Friend

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    Amps and dacs matter too. A super rolled, gooey tube amp will make the current HD 650 sound veiled. The Magni? Not so much. Plug a face tweeter into that tube amp and it won't sound horrible. Then you have guys who already listen to super warm classical music recorded by two mics in the back of a concert hall who want to add some treble spikes of false detail and edge to their recordings. These guys typically refuse to admit that their recordings actually sound the way they do and they prefer to listen to these recordings through euphonic transducers like the HD 800 and Beyers. They trash the sound of more neutral transducers. If you played the raw recording back on equalized near fields in a treated room, they would still trash the setup and claim that neutral to you is not neutral to them. Doesn't work like that. Ears may perceive neutral sound differently but that's what it sounds like. 65 year old fat guys in shorts with fanny packs at audio shows may argue differently about some overpriced speaker systems and try to get you to hear some Diana Krall through them but they don't know what they're talking about.

    Orchestra pit musicians are deafer on average than rock musicians.
     
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