What is the current "gold standard" in headphone fidelity? - AVS Forum
Forum Jump: 
Reply
 
Thread Tools
post #1 of 36 Old 05-04-2014, 09:49 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

I'm in the market for a new set of headphones, and sort of a newbie to hi-fi audio, and would like to know what the best sounding headphones look like in terms of frequency response and so forth, regardless of the price.


I've listened to several headphones recently (mostly in the $100 to $300 range), but none have really "clicked" for me yet, and they each seem to have different frequency "fingerprints". So what are the best sounding headphones currently available in your opinion?


ADU
ADU is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 36 Old 05-04-2014, 09:50 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

This is one of the tools I'll be using for comparison btw: http://graphs.headphone.com/


ADU
ADU is offline  
post #3 of 36 Old 05-04-2014, 11:37 PM
Advanced Member
 
VectorLabs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 642
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 32
Headphones are one of those things where absolutely no one can tell you what to buy. Reason being is because whatever sounds good for one person will sound like crap to another. Also depending on the type of headphone it will have different characteristics. For example:

open-air - lot less bass usually but more open top end
closed - good bass but highs will be a bit recessed
semi-open - not as common but still out there like the Beyerdynamic DT880 which has good bass and nice detailed top end. Sits in between the DT770 (closed) and DT990 (open).

Now of course there are headphones of either that will excel at both but those tend to be in the $1000+ range. It also depends what you are looking to get out of the headphone. For example I have 3 cans and an IEM.

Travel: Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro - super fun headphone to listen to no matter what I throw at it and easy to drive
Gaming/Work: Audio Technica ATH-AD700 - super comfy and Dolby headphone (surround) rocks with these
Critical listening: AKG K701 - not for everyone that's for sure and require an amp
IEM: Monster Trumpets - don't use them as much anymore unless I am working out

First decide what you want out of the headphone and then we can go from there. Also need to know the environment you will be listening them in as you don't want to use an open-air can surrounded by people in your office.
VectorLabs is offline  
post #4 of 36 Old 05-05-2014, 07:08 AM
AVS Addicted Member
 
arnyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Posts: 13,874
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 435 Post(s)
Liked: 1057
Quote:
Originally Posted by VectorLabs View Post

Headphones are one of those things where absolutely no one can tell you what to buy. Reason being is because whatever sounds good for one person will sound like crap to another. Also depending on the type of headphone it will have different characteristics. For example:

open-air - lot less bass usually but more open top end
closed - good bass but highs will be a bit recessed
semi-open - not as common but still out there like the Beyerdynamic DT880 which has good bass and nice detailed top end. Sits in between the DT770 (closed) and DT990 (open).

Now of course there are headphones of either that will excel at both but those tend to be in the $1000+ range. It also depends what you are looking to get out of the headphone. For example I have 3 cans and an IEM.

Travel: Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro - super fun headphone to listen to no matter what I throw at it and easy to drive
Gaming/Work: Audio Technica ATH-AD700 - super comfy and Dolby headphone (surround) rocks with these
Critical listening: AKG K701 - not for everyone that's for sure and require an amp
IEM: Monster Trumpets - don't use them as much anymore unless I am working out

First decide what you want out of the headphone and then we can go from there. Also need to know the environment you will be listening them in as you don't want to use an open-air can surrounded by people in your office.

Something like one of these inline with the headphone amp makes buying headphones soooo much easier:



Since our ears all have significantly different frequency response from a headphone source...

I had it on hand so I used it. Works great! It is called "dial a sound". If I was starting from scratch it would be a 5+ band parametric.
arnyk is offline  
post #5 of 36 Old 05-05-2014, 10:58 AM
AVS Special Member
 
g_bartman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: cleveland, oh
Posts: 3,178
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7 Post(s)
Liked: 52
In the 100-300 range, I like the PSB M4U1. Great sound and don't require an amp.

http://m.thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-300ish-headphone/

g_bartman is offline  
post #6 of 36 Old 05-05-2014, 03:14 PM
Member
 
NormP's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Big Sky, Montana
Posts: 123
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 15
Rather than giving you my favorite headphones let me give you a process to find your favorite "cans" they probably won't be the the same as mine. Spend a week researching the market in your price range and list as all the headphones that you can find. Then make an effort to listen to as many different headphones as you reasonably get to, using the same music in each case. Listen to the headphones in the same way you expect to use them- don't listen to any using a headphone amp unless you plan on buying the amp as well. Narrow the search down to just a few sets and re-listen to your favorites, then decide.

Norm
NormP is offline  
post #7 of 36 Old 05-05-2014, 03:20 PM
Advanced Member
 
VectorLabs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 642
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 32
I know people who loathe AKG but I love them. I've listened to way more expensive headphones and I the only one that can top them to me in the <$1000 range is the Sony MDR-SA5000 which is no longer being made. I have always regretted not getting a pair of SA5000 when they were being cleared out for $200.
VectorLabs is offline  
post #8 of 36 Old 05-05-2014, 03:38 PM
AVS Special Member
 
JohnAV's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 6,470
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 24 Post(s)
Liked: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by ADU View Post

This is one of the tools I'll be using for comparison btw: http://graphs.headphone.com/
You can't depend on that graph type absolutely because a lot of times it based on measured frequency response results at a high level selected by the tester you don't normally listen to. It would be better if you had several sweep responses against multiple input levels.

Oppo Beta Group
JohnAV is online now  
post #9 of 36 Old 05-05-2014, 05:19 PM
AVS Special Member
 
commsysman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Southern California
Posts: 5,209
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 89 Post(s)
Liked: 244
Sennheiser and Grado.
commsysman is offline  
post #10 of 36 Old 05-05-2014, 07:13 PM
 
mc2ed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 198
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Sennheiser and Grado.


I'd throw AKG into the mix:)

mc2ed is offline  
post #11 of 36 Old 05-06-2014, 06:48 PM
AVS Addicted Member
 
BillP's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: PA
Posts: 13,696
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 9 Post(s)
Liked: 37
Think about Oppo as well (newly released).
BillP is offline  
post #12 of 36 Old 05-06-2014, 08:54 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

Appreciate all the responses on this.


I know some here have doubts about the value/reliability of graphs... Me too. And my ears (and eyes in the case of video) would always have the final say on a decision like this. I thought some here might be interested in seeing how a few of the recommendations so far graph though.


I'm using the Audeze LCD-2 Rev-2 (in light blue), as my control headphone, because it has about the flattest raw frequency response below 1000 Hz that I've seen so far. And also one of the smoothest perceived frequency curves.


Audeze LCD-2 Rev-2 - Perceived

Audeze LCD-2 Rev-2 - Raw
Another graph of the perceived frequency response on the LCD-2 Rev-2 from a different site.

 

I'm not suggestin everyone should run out and buy these. I've never heard them myself, and they run more than a grand. And there are other (expensive) headphones (including the newer LCD-3 which retails for ~2K) that also graph exceedingly well. The LCD-2 seems to plot really well though.


Beyerdynamic DT770, DT880 & DT990 - Perceived

Beyerdynamic DT770, DT880 & DT990 - Raw
 

The DT880 (in green) plots the best of the three imho.

 

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700, AKG K701, Sony MDR-SA5000 - Perceived
Audio-Technica ATH-AD700, AKG K701, Sony MDR-SA5000 - Raw
 

The AKG and Audio-Technica are fairly decent in the mid and upper frequency ranges. But all three headphones have a noticeable drop-off in the lower bass, and the Sony looks fairly choppy across the board.


Couldn't find a reliable graph of the PSB M4U1, but here are a couple on the M4U2...

 

PSB M4U2 - Perceived

PSB M4U2 - Raw

 

Not too bad. This is with ANC (active noise cancellation) enabled. More info here.

 

According to this website, a "natural sounding" headphone should graph slightly higher (3-4 dB) in the 40 Hz - 500 Hz bass region, and should "roll-off" (ie decrease) by about 8-10 dB from 1000 to 20,000 Hz. This applies to the perceived frequency graphs.

 

Based on what I've read elsewhere, the raw graphs should be relatively flat below 1000 Hz. And there should be a noticeable peak at around 3000 Hz, and a lesser peak at about 9000 Hz. I think the peaks in the upper range may have something to do with the way the shape of the ear influences high-frequency sound from a headphone.

eljr likes this.

ADU
ADU is offline  
post #13 of 36 Old 05-06-2014, 11:09 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

Some more expensive headphones in the ~$1500 range that plot pretty well...

 

Sennheiser HD800, AKG K812 & Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 - Perceived

Sennheiser HD800, AKG K812 & Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 - Raw

 

And some $500-$600 headphones that plot well...

 

HiFiMAN HE-500, Sennheiser HD650, AKG K712 - Perceived

HiFiMAN HE-500, Sennheiser HD650, AKG K712 - Raw

 

HiFiMAN also has a newer HE-560 model for around $900. Couldn't find a graph for it though.

eljr likes this.

ADU
ADU is offline  
post #14 of 36 Old 05-07-2014, 07:48 AM
Member
 
ohYew812's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 81
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4 Post(s)
Liked: 47

What? Nobody has recommended 'Beats by Dr. Dre'? LOL

 

kidding...

ohYew812 is offline  
post #15 of 36 Old 05-07-2014, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohYew812 View Post
 

What? Nobody has recommended 'Beats by Dr. Dre'? LOL

 

kidding...

 

Monster Beats by Dr. Dre - Perceived
Monster Beats by Dr. Dre - Raw

I've seen worse. ;)


Bass drops off at ~30 Hz. (Humans can hear as low as 12 Hz in ideal conditions.) But the rest is more or less in the ballpark, I guess. It's possible the Beats headphones have been improved since the above measurements were taken as well.


If you want more "boom", you could go for the Pro Detox's. :)


Dr. Dre Pro Detox - Perceived
Dr. Dre Pro Detox - Raw


ADU
ADU is offline  
post #16 of 36 Old 05-07-2014, 10:11 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

 

The Beyerdynamic DT770, DT880, and DT990 don't look quite as impressive on the Golden Ears perceived graphs. All three models have fairly pronounced spikes in the treble.

 

DT770 - Perceived

DT880 (32 ohm) - Perceived

DT880 (250 ohm) - Perceived

DT880 (600 ohm) - Perceived

DT990 - Perceived


ADU
ADU is offline  
post #17 of 36 Old 05-08-2014, 08:03 AM
Member
 
evanengisch's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 49
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 23

Lots of cool info in here.

Not to hi-jack the thread, but I too am in the market for some new headphones, but with a bit lower of a budget.
What would be some suggestions to check out for under $500?

evanengisch is offline  
post #18 of 36 Old 05-08-2014, 11:16 AM
AVS Special Member
 
g_bartman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: cleveland, oh
Posts: 3,178
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7 Post(s)
Liked: 52
At the risk of sounding like a parrot, PSB headphones sound very good. I have owned a lot of cans over the years and are easily my favorites in the sub 500 range. Check out the link in my post above.

g_bartman is offline  
post #19 of 36 Old 05-08-2014, 05:25 PM
Advanced Member
 
VectorLabs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 642
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 32
This hasn't been asked so what are you going to be using to power these headphones? I ask because every single headphone you mentioned will require an amp and some will require a pretty beefy amp.
VectorLabs is offline  
post #20 of 36 Old 05-08-2014, 06:16 PM
AVS Special Member
 
sillysally's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Chicago
Posts: 3,664
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 45 Post(s)
Liked: 252
Stax SR-009 Headphones, add a Stax SRM 727 II Amp.
W4S Dac.

This little combo will put the rest of the headphones listed here to shame.

And if you really want to have some fun add a Smyth SVS Realiser, go to a sound studio like AIX and make some PRIR's.

ss
sillysally is offline  
post #21 of 36 Old 05-08-2014, 06:37 PM
Advanced Member
 
VectorLabs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 642
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sillysally View Post

Stax SR-009 Headphones, add a Stax SRM 727 II Amp.
W4S Dac.

This little combo will put the rest of the headphones listed here to shame.

And if you really want to have some fun add a Smyth SVS Realiser, go to a sound studio like AIX and make some PRIR's.

ss

Let's see... A $6500 headphone system putting the headphones listed above to shame? I sure as hell hope so. Why post this? Dude wants $300 headphones but sure let's post about something that costs 21x more.
VectorLabs is offline  
post #22 of 36 Old 05-08-2014, 11:31 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

My personal price range is limited, but I do want to know what THE BEST sounding over or on-ear headphones are out there, regardless of price, for comparison to equipment in my price range. (And I also like window-shopping for stuff I can't afford. :) )


This is the amp I'm currently using btw.

 


A Livewire HA04 for about $50 from Guitar Center. Not sure if this would be sufficient for some of the better headphones here, but I believe it's just a repackaged Rolls HA43 amp. (If I can find the Rolls HA43 locally, I might return the Livewire and get that instead, because it has a few more I/O options for the same price.) This is connected directly to my Sony S390 Blu-ray player using a Livewire RCA to 1/4" stereo adapter cable.


I'm not sure if this is a temporary or (more or less) permanent solution yet. But I'm tryin to avoid using a regular AVR because it would waste too much electricity. I'm still learnin about all this stuff though, so if it looks like I'm doin something wrong here, feel free to point it out.


I thought about the equalizer idea Arnold mentioned as well. And it'd be nice to have a little control over bass and treble. But I think a full-on EQ might be overkill in such a bare bones setup.


Is there such a thing as a headphone receiver? :)


ADU
ADU is offline  
post #23 of 36 Old 05-09-2014, 01:37 AM
AVS Special Member
 
sillysally's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Chicago
Posts: 3,664
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 45 Post(s)
Liked: 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by VectorLabs View Post

Let's see... A $6500 headphone system putting the headphones listed above to shame? I sure as hell hope so. Why post this? Dude wants $300 headphones but sure let's post about something that costs 21x more.

Read the header.
"What is the current "gold standard" in headphone fidelity"

No dude your wrong, that headphone system is a lot more that $6500.
sillysally is offline  
post #24 of 36 Old 05-10-2014, 02:04 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

Another good source of graphs for comparison...

 

http://www.innerfidelity.com/headphone-data-sheet-downloads

 

All three sites (Inner Fidelity, HeadRoom, and Golden Ears) seem to be fairly consistent in terms of the general features shown in their graphs. Golden Ears seems to be a little less forgiving to issues in the treble range at times though.... which is probably one of the harder areas to accurately analyze.


The Inner Fidelity Graphs are in PDF format btw. And the first graph on their page shows both the "Perceived" (aka Compensated & Averaged), and Raw data.

 

There might be a few good ideas on their "Wall of Fame" as well.


ADU
ADU is offline  
post #25 of 36 Old 05-10-2014, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
ADU
AVS Special Member
 
ADU's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 6,147
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 60 Post(s)
Liked: 128

Some graphs of the Sennheiser HD800 from all three sites for comparison...

 

Golden Ears (2013) - Perceived

Golden Ears (2013) - Raw

Golden Ears (2011) - Perceived

 

HeadRoom ("Generic", 2013 & Balanced) - Perceived

HeadRoom ("Generic", 2013 & Balanced) - Raw

HeadRoom ("Generic", 2013 & Balanced) - Raw data compensated for perception, without smoothing

 

Inner Fidelity - Perceived (aka Compensated & Averaged) & Raw

 

All of the perceived graphs above show some peaks or spikes in the treble region. But the "problem" looks more pronounced on the Golden Ears graphs.


ADU
ADU is offline  
post #26 of 36 Old 05-10-2014, 02:38 PM
AVS Special Member
 
TVOD's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4,881
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 74 Post(s)
Liked: 67
I'll say skip all this newer expensive stuff and just go with the older Sennheiser Orpheus HE90. They keep you warm in the winter too.
TVOD is offline  
post #27 of 36 Old 05-10-2014, 11:03 PM
Advanced Member
 
VectorLabs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 642
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 32
This is all of the amp you will ever need for the headphones you are looking at.

http://www.jdslabs.com/products/35/objective2-headphone-amplifier/
VectorLabs is offline  
post #28 of 36 Old 05-11-2014, 10:03 PM
Advanced Member
 
NagysAudio's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 778
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 35
Stax are the best headphones that I have ever heard. I can't even think of anything at any price that would come even close.
NagysAudio is offline  
post #29 of 36 Old 05-14-2014, 06:01 PM
Member
 
Gray Eagle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Alexandria Virginia
Posts: 36
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 14
I agree. You'll pry my Stax Lambda Pro headphones from my dead fingers. Superb for listening where a speaker system will incur the neighbors' complaints. Superb anywhere.
Gray Eagle is offline  
post #30 of 36 Old 05-14-2014, 07:35 PM
Member
 
zammykhan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: North New Jersey
Posts: 31
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 11
Stax headphones with a suitable amp if it fits your budget

In a more prosumer range, you can get a sennheiser HD800 or my fav a Audeze LCD3s.

If you want something around 500ish to 1000 bucks, you can't go wrong with a lower Sennheisers or look into Shures as well...

In Ear monitors are a different thing and JH Audio 16 Pros are the best you can buy!!
zammykhan is offline  
Reply 2 Channel Audio

User Tag List

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off