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$20 earphones better than $100 earphones??

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Last night I was listening to some CDs through my Sennheiser earphones and saw some Skullcandy ones my wife had near by. For giggles, I tried them. Holy crap! The big difference was the presance of more of each end of the audio spectrum. More bass and more treble. Lots more bass! The mids were about the same. The Skullcandy ones had a little more sibilance than I would like but overall, I liked the cheap ones better. What is going on here?
post #2 of 13
Whatever sounds good to you is "best". Other than that.... why be surprised? Cost doesn't doesn't always equate to perfornance,
post #3 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by karlsaudio View Post

Last night I was listening to some CDs through my Sennheiser earphones and saw some Skullcandy ones my wife had near by. For giggles, I tried them. Holy crap! The big difference was the presance of more of each end of the audio spectrum. More bass and more treble. Lots more bass! The mids were about the same. The Skullcandy ones had a little more sibilance than I would like but overall, I liked the cheap ones better. What is going on here?

I'm thinking the Skullcandy earphones were In-Ear Monitors that stick into and seal tightly with your hearing canal. These can indeed produce awesome bass compared to say open-ear headphones which many of the Sennheiser headphones are. To some degree better bass tends to smooth the perception of what may actually be fairly rough treble. Smooth treble is one of those other things that Sennheiser headphones are known for.

There is sometimes a "Grass-Is-Greener" effect where something that sounds quite different from what you are used to seems really good. This often fades over time.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
They are both "ear buds" Arnyk, of the same basic design. One thing that may be different is the impedance. Sennheisers are 16 ohm. Not sure of the Skullcandys. But like Ratman said, whatever works!
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by karlsaudio View Post

They are both "ear buds" Arnyk, of the same basic design. One thing that may be different is the impedance. Sennheisers are 16 ohm. Not sure of the Skullcandys. But like Ratman said, whatever works!

It's not the impedance alone that causes the difference you observe unless the source is incapable of providing enough voltage to provide equal loudness. High impedance can be overcome with either more signal or a more efficient electromechanical design.

The sensitivity and frequency response of IEMs is based on a number of internal electromechanical and acoustic details that may not be visible at all when you look at them.
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

It's not the impedance alone that causes the difference you observe unless the source is incapable of providing enough voltage to provide equal loudness. High impedance can be overcome with either more signal or a more efficient electromechanical design.
The sensitivity and frequency response of IEMs is based on a number of internal electromechanical and acoustic details that may not be visible at all when you look at them.

I understand the physical appearance part. But, I just don't understand why a $100 pair of earphones sounds worse than a $20 pair.
post #7 of 13
Quote:
But, I just don't understand why a $100 pair of earphones sounds worse than a $20 pair.
Since when is price a technical spec?

We've seen one test in which a $500 pair of speakers bested a $3500 pair of speakers. Why should earphones be any different?
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by karlsaudio View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

I understand the physical appearance part. But, I just don't understand why a $100 pair of earphones sounds worse than a $20 pair.

The general problem is that "sounds better" involves personal taste.

I hope this little anecdote helps.

When I was a teenager my dad had a friend who had a console audio system that he often played when we were visiting, usually as background music. One time when he was visiting my parents, I demonstrated my latest greatest component system which included some highly rated components and for the day did not sound shabby. He objected to the SQ of my system on the grounds that if he stuck his head up against a speaker and the system was playing fairly loudly, you could hear the tics and pops on the LP being played. He proudly demonstrated to me at his house how his system (had such seriously rolled-off high end that you couldn't hear tics and pops even on seriously worn records) lacked this "flaw", He was convinced that his system sounded better than mine even though what it did to violins and brushed cymbals was pretty tragic. That was his taste and his preference.

I'm not saying that your preferences are like that, but I'm trying to make the point that your taste isn't an absolute or even reliable standard for the rest of us. It might be spot on, but presuming that it always is might be a risk.

OK, you like the SK earphones. Enjoy! BTW it is possible that the more expensive earphones would be judged by the more educated ears around here to be "The Emperor's New Earphones". Or not.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
I get it. I just find it interesting. I read now and then how some people don't like some $150,000 + speakers.
And no. Price is not a technical spec. But, there is a 5 fold difference in price. That is why I brought it up.
post #10 of 13
I'd bet that if you could do a really detailed scientific study of preferences (you'd have to clone Sean Olive about 50 times over!), you'd find little or no correlation between price and preference.

True, a company that both a) uses better parts and b) knows what it's doing can make better-sounding earphones or speakers. But just because a product costs more doesn't mean that either a or b holds, let alone both of them.
post #11 of 13
Some headphones sound great out of the box and some don't. Some need EQ'ing to boost frequencies and other headphones need to be toned down in order to get good sound. I assume you listened to the headphones on the same equipment and settings? Might try dialing in each pair until your pleased with their sound, then comparing them again using their respective, optimum setting. I would definitely expect the Sennheisers to deliver the better quality sound.
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I'd bet that if you could do a really detailed scientific study of preferences (you'd have to clone Sean Olive about 50 times over!), you'd find little or no correlation between price and preference.

I agree. There has recently been an explosion of headphone and earphone alternatives at all prices, surprisingly many at the high end (> $400) end of the scale. There have been no dramatic changes in how headphones or earphones are being made. The pricing seems to be based on what the market will bear. A fair number of the earphones on the market are either made from off-the-shelf components made by Knowles Research (a long time dominant supplier to the hearing aid industry) or clones of them.
Quote:
True, a company that both a) uses better parts and b) knows what it's doing can make better-sounding earphones or speakers. But just because a product costs more doesn't mean that either a or b holds, let alone both of them.

At times it has been possible to buy what appear to be cheap knock-offs of certain Sony Headphones that bormally sell for more than $200. They were generally sold for less than $50 and duplicated the packaging and product indistinguishably. I think this would be an indication of the role that materials costs play in the pricing of expensive headphones.
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanglo View Post

Some headphones sound great out of the box and some don't.

Of course, but we need to understand two things:

(1) Headphones and especially earphones actually work differently on different people's heads. The Pinnae and ear canal vary strongly from person to person and they have a strong effect on the technical performance of headphones and earphones.

(2) People have vastly different expectations for technical sound quality from speakers and headphones.
Quote:
Some need EQ'ing to boost frequencies and other headphones need to be toned down in order to get good sound.

For the reasons stated above, the way that people eq good 'phones is very individual. Of course some 'phones have fairly dramatic specific shortcomings and given the choice and ability people on the average are going to want to address that, Lots of people are lost when faced with an equalizer that could do a lot for them.

Quote:
I assume you listened to the headphones on the same equipment and settings? Might try dialing in each pair until your pleased with their sound, then comparing them again using their respective, optimum setting. I would definitely expect the Sennheisers to deliver the better quality sound.

I agree that having high standards and using speakers and headphones without a good equalizer at hand and effective training in how to use it would be a recipe for dissatisfaction.
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