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High end headphone advice needed !
azoth
post Dec 17 2012, 16:25
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Hi All,

I've optimised my headphone search into a metaphorical cul-de-sac sad.gif

I've viewed the graph comparisons, read the subjective listener impressions, viewed (but not listened to) models instore and generally spent far too much time trying to make an informed decision about my first set of proper high end headphones.

I've owned rather nice IEMs (Phonaks, Hifimans, Shures), swapped a few headphone amps and spent far too much time reading audiophile blogs. Then I got a bit bored of the fanboyism and went off in search of something sensibly priced, well built and neutral.

I'm looking for a pair of neutral, highly detailed headphones for general home listening, primarily for prog metal, post rock, electronica, classical (modern composition) and world music. Basically anything featured in The Wire magazine. I'm not a bass head an didn't rate Sennheiser Momentums, Sennheiser Amperiors and UE6000s (passive mode) when I tested them out recently - too much booming bass. Having said that I do like well defined, articulate bass, just in intended quantities, not boosted because its the current trend.

Right now I intend to power my headphones with a Minibox E+, but in the near future I want to get an O2 / ODAC combo - a chain that ensures that I hear my music without colouring, exactly as the recording engineer intended. So the final piece of the puzzle is which pair of headphones to get. Based on my neutral / detailed requirement I've been gravitating towards the Sennheiser HD600, but there's something that makes me balk at spending 300 quid on a 16 year old headphone which used to cost a hundred quid+ less a few years ago. I understand the benefits of driver matching, the amazing sound signature, etc but I'm wondering if for the money I can do a bit better.

I've also considered the Hifiman HE-400 and HE-500 series, though the 500s are getting very pricy and I'd rather not spend THAT much on headphones. Although buying the 500s via Head Direct's ebay store makes the price a bit more palatable. Basically I'd say top end of my budget is about 400 if I can get away with it (though spending less is of course welcome).

Am I missing anything for consideration ? Or have I covered all the bases ? Someone considered Beyer DT880s, but they have non-removable cables and I figure that being able to swap cables means being able to fix parts of the headphone that fail.

Your advice is much appreciated.

Azoth
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Porcus
post Dec 18 2012, 21:26
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I own a pair of ER-4's. They don't reach 20Hz, that's for s(h)ure, but they have taught me not to judge in-ears until you have tested them with both foam and flangs.

Otherwise ... I'd suggest to check out Grado (been a few years since I did myself though). Cheap tweaks are discussed around the 'net: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/evalu...dified-ear-pads


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mzil
post Dec 18 2012, 21:56
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 18 2012, 16:26) *
I own a pair of ER-4's. They don't reach 20Hz, that's for s(h)ure, but they have taught me not to judge in-ears until you have tested them with both foam and flangs.


In addition to plug style, insertion depth and the quality of seal play a part with them. Also, unlike most headphones, ER4's don't have an elevated bass response, however their bass extension makes it to 20 Hz with just a few dB loss and they still has considerable output down to the lower limit of most graphs:

http://www.headphone.com/headphones/etymotic-er-4s.php

There's also different flavors of ER4 and how they differ is specifically in frequency response.

To some listeners their first impression might be "Wow, these have very little bass" and that's indicative of a poor seal. Once corrected, the same listener might say, "Well that's much better now, however there still seems to be more treble and less bass than I'm used to" and that's because they don't artificially raise the bass like almost all other headphones do in the bass, compared to say 1 kHz.

Music is not usually mixed taking the ER4's accurate bass reproduction into account so that's why many dismiss the ER4s as "too bright" and "bass shy".
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Porcus
post Dec 19 2012, 02:35
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I guess the OP will only be satisfied by the lack of boominess, but the measurements of the ER-4 surprise me. There are signals which are well audible on other equipment, that I cannot at all hear on my ER-4P pair. (My other headphones are Stax Lambda (not known for boom!), and my loudspeakers are reasonably flat at the bottom, when I get past the resonance hump of my room. I have quite narrow ear canals though, it may be a factor, but certainly not to loose fit.)

Here is a piece of music that will shake some diaphragms for testing. Don't play loud first time!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SqdcrH2pOE

This post has been edited by Porcus: Dec 19 2012, 02:47


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mzil
post Dec 21 2012, 01:19
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 18 2012, 21:35) *
...the measurements of the ER-4 surprise me. There are signals which are well audible on other equipment, that I cannot at all hear on my ER-4P pair.


Have you tried them wet?
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Porcus
post Dec 21 2012, 16:37
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QUOTE (mzil @ Dec 21 2012, 01:19) *
QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 18 2012, 21:35) *
...the measurements of the ER-4 surprise me. There are signals which are well audible on other equipment, that I cannot at all hear on my ER-4P pair.


Have you tried them wet?


Oh, your dirty mind ... or was it my own.

I pointed out that the flangs/foams did matter, and I also have molded silicone fittings for them. Especially the latter do require a tight wet fit.


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mzil
post Dec 21 2012, 17:38
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 21 2012, 11:37) *
Oh, your dirty mind ... or was it my own. .

Ha-ha.

I may have worded that oddly.

For people unfamiliar with etymotics, they advise trying them wet. It is mentioned in the manual and this video:

[Considering they felt they needed to make a video, mentioning repeatedly that some people have trouble getting a good seal, and how it weakens the bass.....hmmm...]

etymotic insertion guide

Perhaps a tell tale test for a good seal is to listen to a 20 Hz tone? If you don't hear it, you don't have a good seal.

Oddly there are reasons to avoid custom ear molds. I have to run out now but I will try to get back to this later. Caio.
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mzil
post Dec 27 2012, 04:31
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QUOTE (mzil @ Dec 21 2012, 12:38) *
Oddly there are reasons to avoid custom ear molds. I have to run out now but I will try to get back to this later. Ciao.


I looked but couldn't find the article I mentioned. Sorry. Considering Etymotic now seems to promote custom ear molds and provides support in finding an audiologist to take impressions, I can see why they would have reason to yank the article from their extensive library, I had read many years back (1980s?). [I reminds me of how many speaker makers provide bi-wire speakers posts, even though they know it is just audio mythology and woo, but they feel they have to bend to market demands.] Everyone assumes "customized is always better" but this paper I read explained it's actually a mixed bag.
---

I downloaded some sine waves from here and indeed using 30Hz is a good test for ear seal in both ears with my Etymotics:

http://www.realmofexcursion.com/downloads.htm

I don't recommend 20 Hz because the results are ambiguous since it is the threshold where we no longer hear sound, we feel it. (Pinna motion, hairs on your skin wiggling, and loose clothing flapping. None of which occurs with IEM's!)

I also found a great free app for my iphone (Android support too, I think) which is by far the best manual equalizer control I have ever experienced. I gave a gentle rise to the frequency response below 1 kHz, say +8dB at 32 Hz, and it made my Etymotics sound much fuller and more akin to nearly all the other elevated bass curves we see at those headphone sites which record them using B&K H.A.T.S. , KEMAR, etc. Check it out. Here's the i-device version:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/denon-audio/id520604518?mt=8

Ignore the silly presets and go straight to manual. Note you can add many more bands (29 or 30 in total, I think) by tapping at a point between two others. You also can drag points off screen to remove them and build a simple "tilt control" with just two. Different curves can be stored as presets.

The flexibility and control is astounding. I think everyone should try it out regardless of headphone brand.

P.S. "Q" (slope) can be controlled by placing bands at different distances from the band of interest, and asymmetrically on its two sides if need be, so in that sense this equalizer is actually more flexible than most parametric equalizers.

This post has been edited by mzil: Dec 27 2012, 04:41
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Posts in this topic
- azoth   High end headphone advice needed !   Dec 17 2012, 16:25
- - extrabigmehdi   QUOTE (azoth @ Dec 17 2012, 15:25) I...   Dec 17 2012, 17:03
|- - azoth   QUOTE (extrabigmehdi @ Dec 17 2012, 16:03...   Dec 17 2012, 17:16
|- - extrabigmehdi   QUOTE (azoth @ Dec 17 2012, 16:16) I...   Dec 17 2012, 17:33
|- - azoth   QUOTE (extrabigmehdi @ Dec 17 2012, 16:33...   Dec 17 2012, 17:41
- - Carledwards   All things considered, the HD600 really is a good ...   Dec 17 2012, 18:25
|- - Nessuno   If you feel like opting for an IEM, my advice is f...   Dec 17 2012, 19:12
|- - azoth   QUOTE (Carledwards @ Dec 17 2012, 17:25) ...   Dec 17 2012, 20:33
|- - extrabigmehdi   QUOTE (azoth @ Dec 17 2012, 19:33) QUOTE ...   Dec 17 2012, 21:01
- - gregs1104   I have many of the popular brands here--from Cheap...   Dec 18 2012, 09:45
- - azoth   Would 240 be a reasonable cost for a brand new HD...   Dec 18 2012, 10:58
- - evereux   I'm gobsmacked at the price hike of the HD600....   Dec 18 2012, 11:26
|- - azoth   QUOTE (evereux @ Dec 18 2012, 10:26) I...   Dec 18 2012, 14:04
|- - extrabigmehdi   QUOTE (azoth @ Dec 18 2012, 13:04) Are th...   Dec 18 2012, 20:34
|- - azoth   QUOTE (extrabigmehdi @ Dec 18 2012, 19:34...   Dec 18 2012, 21:26
- - Porcus   I own a pair of ER-4's. They don't reach 2...   Dec 18 2012, 21:26
|- - mzil   QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 18 2012, 16:26) I own...   Dec 18 2012, 21:56
||- - Porcus   I guess the OP will only be satisfied by the lack ...   Dec 19 2012, 02:35
||- - mzil   QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 18 2012, 21:35) ...th...   Dec 21 2012, 01:19
||- - Nessuno   QUOTE (mzil @ Dec 21 2012, 01:19) QUOTE (...   Dec 21 2012, 09:13
||- - Porcus   QUOTE (mzil @ Dec 21 2012, 01:19) QUOTE (...   Dec 21 2012, 16:37
||- - mzil   QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 21 2012, 11:37) Oh, y...   Dec 21 2012, 17:38
||- - mzil   QUOTE (mzil @ Dec 21 2012, 12:38) Oddly t...   Dec 27 2012, 04:31
||- - mzil   QUOTE (mzil @ Dec 26 2012, 23:31) QUOTE (...   Dec 27 2012, 22:58
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 18 2012, 15:26) I own...   Dec 20 2012, 14:21
- - sorabji   Hifiman HE500's are very good, save the peak @...   Dec 18 2012, 21:50
- - azoth   Thank you all for your replies, you've given m...   Dec 20 2012, 11:52
- - AndyH-ha   My experience is based on the HD600 set I own. May...   Dec 21 2012, 09:35
|- - extrabigmehdi   QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Dec 21 2012, 08:35...   Dec 21 2012, 14:06
- - Mach-X   One thing to remember - music is mixed to be playe...   Dec 27 2012, 09:58
|- - johnb   QUOTE (Mach-X @ Dec 27 2012, 09:58) ...   Dec 27 2012, 10:43
|- - Nessuno   QUOTE (Mach-X @ Dec 27 2012, 09:58) ...   Dec 27 2012, 12:09
- - markanini   Diffusie field EQ doesnt really adress Mach-X conc...   Dec 27 2012, 14:47
|- - Nessuno   QUOTE (markanini @ Dec 27 2012, 14:47) Di...   Dec 27 2012, 19:20
|- - markanini   QUOTE (Nessuno @ Dec 27 2012, 20:20) In f...   Dec 27 2012, 20:04
- - Stop the Noise   I've owned a number of different cans over the...   Dec 28 2012, 05:31
- - Nessuno   QUOTE (Stop the Noise @ Dec 28 2012, 05:3...   Dec 28 2012, 18:51
- - Stop the Noise   QUOTE (Nessuno @ Dec 28 2012, 12:51) QUOT...   Dec 28 2012, 22:58
- - Nessuno   QUOTE (Stop the Noise @ Dec 28 2012, 22:5...   Dec 29 2012, 11:14


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