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michael green
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the headphone soundstage

I'm sure this has been brought up before, but I didn't see where, so I'm starting it again.

Years ago as I started to expand my listening room soundstages to become more close to real size, real space of a recording I noticed that my systems played the music much like headphones, with space all around. The one difference is still a frontal stage (somewhat) but not limited to the front only. The more I opened up the stage the more the instruments became real and the more I was in the recording. Things like crowds for example became exciting as I was now in the crowd with clapping all around, and right next to, and infront and behind me. Recordings since then have taken on new meaning, and I have been able to listen to recordings that have been labeled as not so good, when in reality are actually great performances. Now just hearing the typical high end audio front soundstage is very boring to me. It feels like I'm looking at a box of music instead of the feeling of being in a live room.

Those of you who listen to both stages, the typical front stage and the all around stage, which one do you feel is closer to real life, and if you could make your frontal stage all around you (a little closer to your headphones) would you? Where do you draw the line between the two stages?

Keep in mind I have heard all the stories of why they are different so don't need to go there. I'm more interested to find out, if you could have the speaker in room stage sound more like your headphones (with the exception of some things being right in your head) would you?

michael green

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dalethorn
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I've had nearly 100

I've had nearly 100 headphones since 2011, doing analysis with them. I've found that with a good parametric equalizer, merely fixing the colorations caused by sudden changes of volume from one frequency to the next usually makes a big difference to the soundstage. When I did a couple of minor adjustments to my wife's ATH ESW9a, she was amazed and exclaimed "You made the sound come alive". Very few headphone users know that those pesky little colorations that are fixable are contributing in a big way to the "constricted" sound that's frequently reported for closed headphones.

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Re-phrase

Michael, to paraphrase your question, you are asking "do you like sound staging realistic and better, like I can give you, or do you prefer inferior sound?"  I ain't falling for that. 

michael green
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no

No this is separate from my agenda. I make no excuses for my agenda in wanting to help make stages bigger for those who want it. My question is about which one do people like more that have both. I personally don't see this as a right or wrong question cause there are people who listen to tons of different size stages. In my own listening though and some of the guys I've been listening with lately we've been getting closer to a stage that feels more like a headphone stage, and I'm interested in the headphone perspective from those who do both. In my systems I pretty much can make any stage I want so I don't really see a right or wrong. I make tunable audio which makes it variable, I don't get into the personal taste thing with the exception of if I have someone that is trying to get somewhere and can't, then I'll try to dial them toward their sound. For me it's just as fun to listen to someone else's taste a lot of times.

michael green

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geoffkait
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Headphones soundstage

I've got an advanced modded Oppo 103 with the aftermarket Power Supply from OPPOMODS (the one with the big honking toroidal transformer) not to mention a slew of WA Quantum Chips and the Audio Magic Pulse Gen ZX installed.  In addition, I've isolated the Oppo printed circuit boards from vibration, damped the toroidal transformer and damped the capacitors, all of which are critical for any real shot at high definition and soundstage. The Woo Audio WA 6 headphone amp and Oppo 103 are isolated from structural vibration by platforms employing marble tiles and cryogenically treated high carbon miniature steel springs.  Viscoelastic damping is employed on the iso platforms to expunge any residual vibration from the top plate.  The Sennheiser HD600s have had their foam pads and metal grills removed, another absolute necessity.

 

cheers, Geoff Kait, Machina Dynamica

michael green
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the stage

Hi Geoff

How do you like the HP stage as compared to your room stage? Are there things that crossover placement wise, or do the two types of stages sound completely different to you?

michael green

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geoffkait
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Headphones' soundstage

Michael Green wrote,

"Hi Geoff, How do you like the HP stage as compared to your room stage? Are there things that crossover placement wise, or do the two types of stages sound completely different to you?"

There is no doubt that speakers, when I had them, are much more capable soundstage-wise than headphones; that's certainly one of the big challenges with headphones - to get as big and open and transparent and "realistic" a soundstage as possible.  But I wouldn't say I was trying to get the soundstage my speakers, which were Fultons, had.

 

Geoff

machina dynamica

 

michael green
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headphones

Hi Geoff

Do you do all your listening with headphones now, no room/speaker listening? If I may ask, which Fultons were they?

michael green

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geoffkait
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Headphones

I went from Fulton Nuances to Sennheiser HD600s six years ago and never looked back.  I am currently using very modded Oppo 193, Woo Audio WA6 headphone amp, all cabling cryo'd and broken in on the Audiodharma Cable Cooker.  Tubes are '52 Sylvania 6SN7GT and '42 Tung Sol 5U4G rectifier.

 

Geoff @ Machina Dynamica

michael green
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slice

Hi Geoff

Nothing like finding your personal slice of heaven! :-)

You said earlier about the soundstage of the speaker/room as being more capable. It's proven to be that way in my listening too, to a degree. From the late 80's till now though I have (as I said) moved to a stage that is far more around the listener than only in front. It reminds me of headphones, and actually in some of my more recent recordings we would do a lot of headphone listening during the sessions. Control rooms have a very hard time getting their recordings out of the front stage, so because of this much of the overall sound is never even heard in the studio. It's on the recordings for sure, and one can hear it plainly when they get their system to open up.

The reason I started this thread was to get some staging feedback from folks. It's kinda why I'm here on the forum in general. In my travels and at my places of listening I have noticed that people in the hobby for the most part are only hearing a fraction of the stage. This isn't just me I've heard this from a lot of folks both hobbyist and pro. I think this is why listeners have made a dividing line between headphone soundstages vs speaker/room soundstages. I don't hear that they are all that far apart when the speaker/room stage is opened up. Of course the speaker/room stage is huge in comparison, but it's not just about the stage but the amount of info and how it is laid out.

As far as space goes how do you see the classical recordings with your phones? How would you layout the stage? How big too?

thanks

michael green

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geoffkait
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Classical music and soundstage

 Michael wrote,

"As far as space goes how do you see the classical recordings with your phones? How would you layout the stage? How big too?"

Funny you you should ask that question since I bought the new box set of Mercury Living Presence CDs last year, actually it's been a little more than a year ago, expecting to hear how the new reissues might vary in SQ from the original reissues from back in the 90s, but as I have gotten kind of caught up in the whole tweaking and modding thing, what with the new Oppo and WAs, and have been using a selection of old favorites to gauge how I'm progressing, things more in a popular or rock vein, I haven't gotten around to cracking open the Mercury Box set yet.  I think it's fair to say unless they really blew it on the new reissues, the soundstage of the Mercurys should be terrific.  I used to be a rabid collector of Mercury and RCA LPs.  Hopefully whoever did the production made sure they were in correct polarity.  Lol. But I suspect I will finally crack open the Mercury box set soon.

 

Cheers, g. kait, Machina Dynamica

michael green
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with ya there!

I hear you. I was a big Merc LP fan too.

Right now I'm tuning in the rear hall on Atlanta Symphony doing "Pines of Rome". I got to work on this while I was there so it's fun to be able to go back and recreate the event.

michael green

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audiophile2000
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Headphones

Interesting thread, funny enough I also just shifted to incorporating headphones into my listening world. I realized as I was looking at various products to upgrade to that I need a definitive reference that I could trust. I personally found that in a pair of Beyerdynamics T1 recording headphones (driven either by a balanced headphone amp or my sim audio front end for the stereo. To me, these became my new reference to judge things by.

Its funny, I found using the headphones I was able to adjust the placement of my speakers to improve the sound since I knew what it was supposed to sound like in minutes rather than hours.

Also the headphone buying experience was much more pleasant than what I'm used to in a speaker world. I essentially listened to every Beyerdyanmic headphone in the line up before I got to their reference model (t1) and the only way to describe each step is the sound became more accurate and cleaner but at no point did a pair sound bad. I contrast this to speakers where some of the entry level speakers in a series really just feel thrown together.

Back to the original post, I think a good stereo system should have a soundstage as wide as a pair of headphones and should come from in front but also feel to wrap around you when the instruments are heavily paned to the left or right

geoffkait
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Headphone Accessories and mods

I highly recommend the following accessories and mods for the headphone enthusiast.

1. NOS tubes
2. Herbies tube dampers
3. Isolating both the source component and the headphone amp.
4. Cryogenically treating all cabling including the headphone cable.
5. Isolate the circuit boards of all components with pure cork shims.
6. Cover all transformers with annealed mu metal.
7. Cover the tops of all semiconductor chips with 3M's AB5100S RFI/EMI absorbing material.
8. For Sennheiser HD600s be sure to remove the grills and foam pads inside.

Cheers,

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

michael green
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yeah man

Hi 2000

I was a little disappointed that this thread didn't take wings when I put it up, so I'm happy you brought it back to life. Using headphones can teach us tons about the in room setup. I've been pushing for a few years now for listeners to give the frontal only stage a rest and see if they can get the fuller stage sides back overhead and through to behind. The ones that have been able to do it successfully have been at a different place in their listening ever since.

If you can get your in room system to do this it's like headphones times 3. Really quite cool and no listening fatigue at all. For myself, if I couldn't get the big room stage I would be using headphones instead of a frontal only stage. I look at a lot of systems in galleries and can pretty much see their sound. I personally think many of them would enjoy headphones more.

The key is to find a pair that don't give that head-y feel, and with headphones you can have one guy use a set and it will be dead in the head and another guy use that same set and get space. Headphones and their tweaks are very person dependent. That T-1 is a hot ticket, my fav out of the BD's and warm sounding. I think those guys nail that baby! Nice front and all around stage, and I personally like the bass boast. The top can get a little hot but the right amp and your set to go.

great choice, I think

michael green
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Headphone Speaker Comparisson

I have separate headphone and speaker set up. The headphones are HD800s.

Like Geoff, I have used the headphone sound to try and get the same detail on my speakers, in particular percussion. For example, on Emmylou Harris's 'Every Grain of Sand' (from Wrecking Ball) there is a chorus with some nice rhythmic percussion detail. I never heard it with my speakers. In fact the tweeters produced the sound but it didn't get to my ears. It was very difficult to make various adjustments - speaker and listening position, an equaliser - to get this sound without making some sounds harsh (notably some female voices).

On the subject of soundstages, I've never heard a headphone with one that goes beyond the 'phones. Apparently something like the Smyth Realiser can do this, supposedly tuning it to your speaker system. The nearest I got to a headphone listening experience with speakers was when I experimented with 'The Thirds' set up (speakers and ears one third of each rooms dimension out from their respective walls. Unfortunately I never got to like that arrangement as I found too many recording anomalies that spoiled things. Now I have it seems more a less a 'Fifths' arrangement. With this I get the 2D soundstage but if I turn it up louder it seems to surround me more. I can't really do that as I live in a flat (apartment).

audiophile2000
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Hipper

Interesting point on soundstage and depth with headphones. TBH would like people to jump in, but when listening to headphones you are fundamentally listening different than you would on a pair of speakers, this is why very few audio engineers will use headphones for anything more than a check. Here is the difference, when listening on your speakers a sound on only the right speaker is heard by both your right and left ear (delayed) while on the headphone it is only heard on the right (which is a bit unnatural).

The effect of this produced a noticeable difference in the representation of sound compared to the speaker. My guess is this is why your not getting that 3d sound since our brains use the time difference (between right ear and left ear) to figure out where the sound is coming from.

Given the above, I find it hard to believe that better headphones will have any effect give part of the issues is the way we hear sound.

With that said, there are some recording amp for headphones that are designed to be used in a studio that emulate this delay (its known as cross feed). SPL is a very popular brand that incorporates an elaborate cross feed system so you can potentially mix on them. I'm not saying this is better than any other amp, just designed for a different purpose

geoffkait
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Some tricks of the trade
audiophile2000 wrote:

Interesting point on soundstage and depth with headphones. TBH would like people to jump in, but when listening to headphones you are fundamentally listening different than you would on a pair of speakers, this is why very few audio engineers will use headphones for anything more than a check. Here is the difference, when listening on your speakers a sound on only the right speaker is heard by both your right and left ear (delayed) while on the headphone it is only heard on the right (which is a bit unnatural).

The effect of this produced a noticeable difference in the representation of sound compared to the speaker. My guess is this is why your not getting that 3d sound since our brains use the time difference (between right ear and left ear) to figure out where the sound is coming from.

Given the above, I find it hard to believe that better headphones will have any effect give part of the issues is the way we hear sound.

With that said, there are some recording amp for headphones that are designed to be used in a studio that emulate this delay (its known as cross feed). SPL is a very popular brand that incorporates an elaborate cross feed system so you can potentially mix on them. I'm not saying this is better than any other amp, just designed for a different purpose

For,Sennheiser HD600s, at least, a few tricks of the trade relative to obtaining a more open and detailed sound and deeper and more transparent soundstage are (1) remove the metal grills, (2) remove the foam pads found inside after you remove the grills, and get an aftermarket headphone cable as the one they give you sucks.

Cheers,
Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

Hipper
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Crossfeed

I'm aware of the principle of crossfeed. I have a Headroom Blockhead which employs this. The effect is difficult to detect though.

I always find it odd that some headphone amp designers think we should use this crossfeed yet proponents of Ambiophonics introduce a screen or software to prevent speaker crosstalk.

I had the HD650s (I've not heard the HD600s). HD800s are a vast improvement to me. Firstly they are bigger so completely cover the ears instead of squashing them. That may well have some impact on what we hear as well as comfort. However they are just more open/airy then the HD650s. I too have an after market cable for the HD800s, from Toxic cables. I also use the balanced outputs of the Blockhead (I have to say that I got very respectable sound with the HD800s, original cable and the headphone output of the TEAC UD-h01 DAC).

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the pod

Hi Guys

I use a custom set of headphones made for me by a studio guy in Nashville. I don't like wearing things on my ears therefore I don't talk much about it, for the sake of studying the stage they have come in handy, along with my pod setup.

The pod is a setup that is halfway between the headphones and the in/room listening setup. Pretty trippy and a ton of fun, for those who want to experience huge stages, some of the phone feel, a not fighting with a room or using it, the pod is mind blowing. The dynamic range is outrageous. I at one time thought about introducing it, but one can only do so much. Now that gaming is such a big thing though the thought crosses my mind more often.

michael green
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Headphones just don't do it for me

I use cans very rarely and usually for referencing something. They make me feel captive and I need the open space of an environment to relax and enjoy music. While I certainly appreciate their virtues, I need the relative realism of the stage in front of me as opposed to being in the stage or fatigue will quickly settle in. The only ones I can even tolerate for more than 15 minutes or so are open back/over the entire ear designs. I guess it's more a matter of the stage perspective being somewhat laid-back as opposed to immersed within in it.

I'm kinda curious if you guys that enjoy cans also prefer a more forward perspective with your room rig or if you gravitate toward a laid-back perspective from your gear combination? You know, the vocal image far behind the speakers or more toward being between the speakers or even projected?

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in your head

One thing I can't do is sound in my head! I love huge stages, but put something in my head and I'm out of there. My phones are open-back with a front tilt for frontal imaging. Personally my in room stage murders my phone stage.

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Did any of you ever hear of

Did any of you ever hear of binaural recordings? And it's not just that, it's the fact that headphone/speaker mixes have been common for many years, especially recent years where headphones are the dominant listening medium. This entire thread is mostly negative as to headphone listening, and on a headphone forum I see that as suspicious.

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I think your taking it the wrong way

I don't think anyone here is saying you can't listen on headphones, just that it is fundamentally different than listening on loudspeakers.

you post is interesting with the addition of biaural recordings, which basically references the cross talk discussion above, biaural recordings are basically using a dummy head and a microphone for each ear to account for the inter aural time differences that is associated with how we hear (a sound on the right is actually heard by both ears (just not at the same level or time due to the distance to reach the other ear).

Basically this method builds the cross talk into the recording so it should be all accounts sound amazing on headphones but would sound bad on a pair of speakers.

this point also highlights that while listening to a pair of headphones for a traditional recording will be different due to the above. Not saying its better but different. Will not the above reason is the fundamental reason why its hard to mix on headphones. Some amps employ cross talk functions, which can give you more of a speaker

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the OP

Hi Dale

I started this thread so people could have a discussion about comparing the two, and should we be moving the two types of stages closer to each other. I haven't seen anything off topic thus far, just good posting and info.

michael green
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geoffkait
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Soundstage with headphones

I believe that with headphones the primary objective should be Transparency rather than Soundstage; the reason I say this is because - for most headphones including mine - the stereo image is presented inside the head. What can move the presentation more outside the head is an ALL OUT EFFORT to reduce distortion and noise, thereby improving transparency (as well as overall SQ). And a lot depends on how the music was recorded, in a studio with overdubs or live in the studio or live in an auditorium as to how it will sound on headphones. On some recordings it's easy to visualize the musicians out in front just like on speaker systems, well almost. As I've mentioned before soundstaging is not necessarily the raison d'être for headphones, it's the purity, the lack of distortion, the dynamics and extension. And the TRANSPARENCY.

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

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In a serious discussion of

In a serious discussion of headphone soundstage, I think you need to do a lot more investigation into how much things like frequency response impact on soundstage. I noted such early in this discussion, but I think it's being ignored as though the typical "inside-the-head" etc. experience were really the bigger picture. If you wanted to restrict the discussion to upper price ranges only, or to headphones having "premium audiophile" reputations only, you might have a clearer case for focusing on the classic issue of that "inside-the-head" experience or whatever it is. But today's headphone market is way different from the 1990's when Sennheiser was leading the charge with the HD580, 600, and 650 (first version). Today we have lifestyle headphones of all kinds, whose frequency response is so wildly variable that soundstage is a minor issue with those. In today's headphone market even the greatly revered Sennheiser HD800 is considered too "technical" or "clinical" to be satisfactory for long-term use for a variety of music. That's not a few fringe reviewers stating that - it's Innerfidelity - the replacement for this forum recommended by Stereophile. Perhaps some qualifications or stipulations about which example headphones, and used for what purposes, would make this discussion clearer.

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The soundstage

For me, every topic is about the soundstage. I can not bother with a system, of any kind, that leads to fatique. The "audiophile" sound (if there is such a thing) leaves me wanting many times with the upward tilt and thiness. That's not detail, that's irritating. I have to have body, substance and musicality. I'll be honest many of the "high end" headphones or speakers as far as that goes don't do it for me. The body is not there. And when I say body that means the body top to bottom. Some do, but others are thin as ice.

As far as EQing I would like for you to go for it, I'm interested in your views, and if saying what I think you are we might be close to the same page. Would have to read more about where your going. I'm definitely not the forget the stage for clarity guy. I don't even believe there is such a thing. If the soundstage is in the head something is clearly not working.

I think a lot of audiophiles are missing out because they are afraid of the word EQ. They don't understand how easy it is to collapse a stage by creating frequency clusters. They think a brand name is a sound and start missing out on what the music is trying to do, and what it was made for.

As I've said on other threads "you get the stage right and the rest comes together". I believe frequency correction is a big part to this if we don't start omitting, and that's what I'm seeing many do. I think the listeners of today (the masses) are more on the ball than many give credit to. They like rhythm and pace, something I see sorely lacking in high end much of the time.

I've seen many in this industry say "transparency", and when I preview their system it's not transparent at all, simply in a state of collapse, playing only a small part of the recording.

michael green
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When you listen to headphones what are you hearing?
dalethorn wrote:

In a serious discussion of headphone soundstage, I think you need to do a lot more investigation into how much things like frequency response impact on soundstage. I noted such early in this discussion, but I think it's being ignored as though the typical "inside-the-head" etc. experience were really the bigger picture. If you wanted to restrict the discussion to upper price ranges only, or to headphones having "premium audiophile" reputations only, you might have a clearer case for focusing on the classic issue of that "inside-the-head" experience or whatever it is. But today's headphone market is way different from the 1990's when Sennheiser was leading the charge with the HD580, 600, and 650 (first version). Today we have lifestyle headphones of all kinds, whose frequency response is so wildly variable that soundstage is a minor issue with those. In today's headphone market even the greatly revered Sennheiser HD800 is considered too "technical" or "clinical" to be satisfactory for long-term use for a variety of music. That's not a few fringe reviewers stating that - it's Innerfidelity - the replacement for this forum recommended by Stereophile. Perhaps some qualifications or stipulations about which example headphones, and used for what purposes, would make this discussion clearer.

I think it best to take what anyone says, especially someone I don't know, with a grain of salt. If you look hard enough you can always find someone whose opinion jives with yours. As for the HD800s I can read as well as the next person and there are both detractors and supporters. Many actually find the 600s better all around so I wouldn't use so quick to discount older technology. That's a dangerous sport in this hobby in general anyway. I also happen to think that there are a great many factors that determine how a pair of headphones sounds in a given system. If it isn't obvious already I don't believe much in plug and play or comparing X to Z without certain ground rules. For example, I think it's absolutely silly to compare cables unless all cables under comparison have been broken in on a competent cable cooker AND cryogenically treated. I also happen to think that Sennheiser HD600s MUST have their metal grills removed and the foam inside removed before making a judgement about their sound. I also am not a big fan of solid state electronics and have very specific tastes when it comes to electron tubes. There are many others things that influence the sound one hears through headphones, obviously. This makes it difficult IMHO to make categorical statements regarding dp frequency response, soundstage, transparency, resolution, dynamics, realism, etc. When you listen to your headphones you are really listening to your entire system, no? Finally, as I intimated on some other thread, we cannot automatically conclude from someone's words what he actually means when he describes the sound he's getting. Words can be quite tricky, hyperbolic and even misleading. I ask you, how many times do you hear audiophiles use words like tinny, threadbare, congealed, rolled off, bass shy, disembodied, generic, dull, cardboard like or wooly?

Bennett Marco: "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life." - Marco in The Manchurian Candidate

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

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"Many actually find the 600s

"Many actually find the 600s better all around so I wouldn't use so quick to discount older technology. That's a dangerous sport in this hobby in general anyway. I also happen to think that there are a great many factors that determine how a pair of headphones sounds in a given system. If it isn't obvious already I don't believe much in plug and play or comparing X to Z without certain ground rules. For example, I think it's absolutely silly to compare cables unless all cables under comparison have been broken in on a competent cable cooker AND cryogenically treated. I also happen to think that Sennheiser HD600s MUST have their metal grills removed and the foam inside removed before making a judgement about their sound."

You are on point about this - my point (perhaps poorly stated) is that the vast majority of headphone-philes that I know have gravitated away from the HD600 (even moreso when things are removed to increase transparency) and toward the deliberately-colored HD650 (newer version). That would be to service the new generations of users who want warmer, bassier, whatever.

I'll leave it to you to decide how much effect the HD650, or Beats etc. have on the world of hi-fi and the future of recordings or reissues of older recordings. I'd suggest that eventually the remasterings will be done by those who grew up on the new lifestyle headphones. I'm not an expert on sound or soundstage, but I've experienced what "simple" colorations can do to soundstage and musical realism, so the current design trends seem scary to me.

The news isn't necessarily all bad. Paul Barton's "room feel" technology for headphones doesn't impress me. The current AES head who runs the Harman headphones development has said some promising things. Philips has issued a colorations exercise for headphones that has been very popular, but I have doubts about it due to cancelation effects.

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Step Right Up

[quote=Hipper]
I always find it odd that some headphone amp designers think we should use this crossfeed yet proponents of Ambiophonics introduce a screen or software to prevent speaker crosstalk.

(quote)

Headphone designers sometimes offer "crossfeed" because phones have TOO MUCH ISOLATION.

Ambisonic modification for speakers is because "speakers have TOO LITTLE ISOLATION."

On the other hand Binaural recordings using a "dummy head with ear canals" and mics INSIDE the ears---will sound exceptionally correct soundstage wise on playback through headphones.

This is because there is a transfer function comb filtered time delay between left and right ears and the brain processes this to provide spatial information.

I have heard systems using Ambisonics (Meridian).

I have heard binaural headphone soundstages.

The latter is much preferred and all I want is a system that, using regular old fashioned stereo and mono recordings---will provide left-right transfer function timing information but using speakers, not headphones.

Let me say it one more time: All I want is a real soundstage in my room. Just like binaural headphones.

Anybody know how to do this?

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Don't you think, given all of

Don't you think, given all of the better recordings available, that some achieve a great sense of realism and most don't? In other words, the recordings alone can do the trick, but most of the providers of those recordings aren't doing it, for whatever reason.

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Define Real
dalethorn wrote:

Don't you think, given all of the better recordings available, that some achieve a great sense of realism and most don't? In other words, the recordings alone can do the trick, but most of the providers of those recordings aren't doing it, for whatever reason.

Someone should publish a glosser of audio terms so that we all understand what all the audiophiles terms we throw around so nonchalantly actually mean. You know, words and terms like realism, musicality, soundstage, tonality, palpability, transparency, brightness, propulsive, air, openness, microdynamics, separation of instruments. One man's reality is another man's mid fidelity, no?

Geoff Kait
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History Unlearned is History WASTED
geoffkait wrote:
dalethorn wrote:

Don't you think, given all of the better recordings available, that some achieve a great sense of realism and most don't? In other words, the recordings alone can do the trick, but most of the providers of those recordings aren't doing it, for whatever reason.

Someone should publish a glosser of audio terms so that we all understand what all the audiophiles terms we throw around so nonchalantly actually mean. You know, words and terms like realism, musicality, soundstage, tonality, palpability, transparency, brightness, propulsive, air, openness, microdynamics, separation of instruments. One man's reality is another man's mid fidelity, no?

Geoff Kait
Machinadynamica.com

Somebody already did. He founded the very mag wherein you scribble.

His name was J Gordon Holt. He gave me one of the biggest compliments of my entire life (so far) when he said "YOU get it."

Sometimes I really wonder at how little research is pursued by the guys that occasionally spend a fortune on gear in our industry.

A little knowledge would go a long way towards helping the more money than brains guys get some decent results out of all the gear...

Read and LEARN:

http://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/

And by the way, please teach ME something. A day without anything new learned is a day wasted...

dalethorn
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geoffkait wrote:
geoffkait wrote:
dalethorn wrote:

Don't you think, given all of the better recordings available, that some achieve a great sense of realism and most don't? In other words, the recordings alone can do the trick, but most of the providers of those recordings aren't doing it, for whatever reason.

Someone should publish a glosser of audio terms so that we all understand what all the audiophiles terms we throw around so nonchalantly actually mean. You know, words and terms like realism, musicality, soundstage, tonality, palpability, transparency, brightness, propulsive, air, openness, microdynamics, separation of instruments. One man's reality is another man's mid fidelity, no?
Geoff Kait
Machinadynamica.com

I don't think I need to define anything - there's really no reason to. This topic already discusses unprovable things, and I'm just saying simply what nearly audiophile knows - that the quality of the recordings is a much bigger influence on the end result than the devices used to deliver the experience, given a reasonable attention to setting up one's system for best reproduction.

geoffkait
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Chicken and egg
dalethorn wrote:
geoffkait wrote:
dalethorn wrote:

Don't you think, given all of the better recordings available, that some achieve a great sense of realism and most don't? In other words, the recordings alone can do the trick, but most of the providers of those recordings aren't doing it, for whatever reason.

Someone should publish a glosser of audio terms so that we all understand what all the audiophiles terms we throw around so nonchalantly actually mean. You know, words and terms like realism, musicality, soundstage, tonality, palpability, transparency, brightness, propulsive, air, openness, microdynamics, separation of instruments. One man's reality is another man's mid fidelity, no?
Geoff Kait
Machinadynamica.com

I don't think I need to define anything - there's really no reason to. This topic already discusses unprovable things, and I'm just saying simply what nearly audiophile knows - that the quality of the recordings is a much bigger influence on the end result than the devices used to deliver the experience, given a reasonable attention to setting up one's system for best reproduction.

I see it as sort of a chicken and egg thing. If the problems, the inherent problems, in the CD player were fixed more audiophiles would probably say the problems are not all in the records and that more recordings actually sound pretty damn good. As things stand, I can certainly understand why many audiophiles might say that the problem is in the recording or the manufacturing. I also happen to think some recordings are superior to others, that is more or less a truism. On the other hand, it is possible to bring a CD that originally sounds very compressed, bass shy, thin, pinched, harsh, all those things audiophiles supposedly despise, up to a much higher level by simply addressing some of the inherent problems in the DESIGN of the CD player I am always talking about. You know, things like vibration, magnetic fields, RFI, scattered background laser light, things of that nature. Its just plain physics, I don't even have to broach the whole dodgey subject of metaphysics. And the recordings audiophiles thought sounded pretty damn good before would now sound sublime.

Geoff Kait
Machina Dramatica

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geoffkait wrote:
geoffkait wrote:
dalethorn wrote:
geoffkait wrote:
dalethorn wrote:

Don't you think, given all of the better recordings available, that some achieve a great sense of realism and most don't? In other words, the recordings alone can do the trick, but most of the providers of those recordings aren't doing it, for whatever reason.

Someone should publish a glosser of audio terms so that we all understand what all the audiophiles terms we throw around so nonchalantly actually mean. You know, words and terms like realism, musicality, soundstage, tonality, palpability, transparency, brightness, propulsive, air, openness, microdynamics, separation of instruments. One man's reality is another man's mid fidelity, no?
Geoff Kait
Machinadynamica.com

I don't think I need to define anything - there's really no reason to. This topic already discusses unprovable things, and I'm just saying simply what nearly audiophile knows - that the quality of the recordings is a much bigger influence on the end result than the devices used to deliver the experience, given a reasonable attention to setting up one's system for best reproduction.

I see it as sort of a chicken and egg thing. If the problems, the inherent problems, in the CD player were fixed more audiophiles would probably say the problems are not all in the records and that more recordings actually sound pretty damn good. As things stand, I can certainly understand why many audiophiles might say that the problem is in the recording or the manufacturing. I also happen to think some recordings are superior to others, that is more or less a truism. On the other hand, it is possible to bring a CD that originally sounds very compressed, bass shy, thin, pinched, harsh, all those things audiophiles supposedly despise, up to a much higher level by simply addressing some of the inherent problems in the DESIGN of the CD player I am always talking about. You know, things like vibration, magnetic fields, RFI, scattered background laser light, things of that nature. Its just plain physics, I don't even have to broach the whole dodgey subject of metaphysics. And the recordings audiophiles thought sounded pretty damn good before would now sound sublime.
Geoff Kait
Machina Dramatica

All of this is true of course, but then you can buy any number of variations of the better CD player, and/or better cables and amps etc., and every variation will sound different. That, I think, is the big frustration for many audiophiles (esp. those on a budget of money or time) - in that they expect convergence at some point, but the target keeps moving and they can never say "Now I've solved that sonic problem for a permanent improvement, and I'm definitely getting closer."

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It's the equipment

I for one of thousands have not found the flaw to be the music or the music format, but the equipment playing it.

If you look through the history of this, it's not the format that went south in sound, it's the equipments ability to play it. Between 80-95 the high end audio industry hit it's peek. You need to go back and see what changed from that point to this to see why so many now are complaining about the sound. You can't have it both ways. Both studios and the home listening made a change and I have identified that change along with many others. One the equipment started being over built, and two the engineers started to replace the natural acoustic bandwith, with a compressed sound. Both of these together have given us the typical highend audio mess we have.

While there have been improvements in some areas there have also been back steps in others. High end audio is in a real pickle today, but the mainstream has improved overwhelmingly.

michael green
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I don't know what you guys are hearing

But, it's the recordings that are night and day in quality. Take Dylan's recording "Modern Times" for example. Can anyone really say with a straight face that it's not a mess of epic proportions?

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Dylan

Hi Catch

So far the recordings that people have mentioned to me I have tuned and the listener would then disappear. So once again I'll put on "modern times" and give a report.

michael green
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Dylan's Oh, Mercy and Slow Train Coming
Catch22 wrote:

But, it's the recordings that are night and day in quality. Take Dylan's recording "Modern Times" for example. Can anyone really say with a straight face that it's not a mess of epic proportions?

Oh, Mercy and Slow Train Coming are for me excellent examples of what tweaking can do for the sound. On systems that are how shall we say not up to snuff, both of these Dylan classics can sound rather lame: closed in, uninspired, congealed, boring, mono tonal, perfunctory, generic, ill-conceived and drab. After a few good rounds of tweaking, however, these iconic gems will start to shine, revealing their true nature: the Daniel Lanois production atmospherics come out, the band members' musical and vocal contributions come up out of the noise floor, the intensity of the performance is revealed and the various instruments and vocals are DE-INTERLEAVED. The incredible POP and INTRICACY and INTENSITY of Knopfler's guitar is fully revealed on Gotta Serve Somebody and Precious Angel (Slow Train Coming). It's a whole new ball game. As I'm fond of saying it's like an archaeological dig, getting the information out from being buried in the dirt. There are no components, not even really expensive ones, the Class A Components, that can do this for you, you have to do it yourself. This is the reason so many audiophiles believe many CDs are badly recorded. Hel-loo!!

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

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Dylan

Hi Geoff and Catch

I have to say I was a little surprised to hear "Modern Times" was the recording Catch is not able to play. Both "Modern Times" and "Slow Train Coming" are on my go to Dylan listening list. Again this goes back to having systems that are fixed in their sound characters. We need to move away from systems that can only play certain recordings and back to systems that can play it all, and play music at higher levels of quality.

I have no doubt audiophiles have systems that can play certain recording choices at an entertaining level and with quality, but the hobby is bigger than that, and as I keep saying we should have systems that can play it all, and not be blaming the recordings for something the playback system is not doing. The system should not be the judge of the recording, the recording should be the judge of the system.

michael green
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This puts us right back at square one

It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to reach a conclusion when we aren't listening to the recording being played in the same system at the same time. We could evaluate what we are each hearing and how we describe the sound. At that point, we would have a better idea of what sort of sonic heiarchy each of us places on what we enjoy hearing and hence, our enjoyment of the music.

Modern Times is a bad recording. It's that simple. However, that certainly doesn't mean that a person can't enjoy the music. I like Dylan and I've enjoyed his last 15 years of music at least as much as his first 30 years. But, that's not making an attempt to base my enjoyment on the recording quality. I like lots of stuff that isn't particularly well recorded, I just lament how much better the music could have been had the producers and engineers done a better job. Modern Times falls into this catagory. It falls way deeper down the sonic hole than most, in fact, I can't think of another disc in my library that approaches the sonic short comings of Modern Times. But, it could have been one hell of a recording! It probably was a sonic feast when it was laid down.

Steve Guttenberg was far more kind to this recording than I am. But, my take is generally in line with his.
http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/1206awsi/index.html

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I would disagree

I would need to ask both you and Steve the same question. When you heard things on the recording you didn't like. What did you do to change this?

I think maybe the point gets missed because you guys are listening to one sound whereas I variably tune in my systems and it's probably hard to conceive of a system setup that tunes things in, much like tuning in an FM station or a TT. If you or anyone is listening to the recording off it can sound horrible. I get that, all systems do that. But there's a step beyond this and that's the part that your not getting. Recordings and systems are able to be tuned together, and when this happens it's like a whole new recording. Recordings that you think right now are terrible would sound fantastic. I did this for many of the reviewers, and maybe they should have talked about the process more, but this doesn't change the reality of variable tuning.

michael green
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Opinions regarding sound

It can be difficult to find consensus about almost anything in this hobby. Here is a snippet of a review of Modern Times on some web site called Sputnik Music, which I provide only for comparison. I ordered a new Modern Times CD this morning as my other copy has vanished into thin air, just to see what all the hoopla is all about.

"Everything about this album is better than the two that came before. The guitar work is phenominal, Thunder On The Mountain, Spirit On The Water, Rollin' and Tumblin', and Someday Baby, all feature excellent lead guitar licks and fills, as well as some toe-tapping rhythm guitar. Workingman's Blues and Nettie Moore feature the best piano work I've ever heard from Dylan, and he manages to make the parts sounds both modern and classic at the same time. Vocally this album features the best and most accessible "gravely-voiced" Dylan songs yet, either that or I have just really gotten used to the sound, I'm not quite sure yet."

Geoff Kait
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We had a thread about this album when it was first released

I remember Buddha being smitten big-time by this album. Rolling Stone raved about it. I was really digging what I was hearing on the radio. And then I bought the disc. Whoa! My first thoughts were that something was wrong with my copy. My second thought was to check and see if my daughter had put oatmeal in my disc player.

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michael green wrote:
michael green wrote:

I would need to ask both you and Steve the same question. When you heard things on the recording you didn't like. What did you do to change this?

I think maybe the point gets missed because you guys are listening to one sound whereas I variably tune in my systems and it's probably hard to conceive of a system setup that tunes things in, much like tuning in an FM station or a TT. If you or anyone is listening to the recording off it can sound horrible. I get that, all systems do that. But there's a step beyond this and that's the part that your not getting. Recordings and systems are able to be tuned together, and when this happens it's like a whole new recording. Recordings that you think right now are terrible would sound fantastic. I did this for many of the reviewers, and maybe they should have talked about the process more, but this doesn't change the reality of variable tuning.

michael green
MGA/RoomTune

I think in more than 30 years of subscribing to Stereophile and buying many components they recommended, and applying tweaks they found and I found, that I've gotten pretty good at pulling the best performance out of any system. But if I tweak a system to optimize the sound with any particular recording or collection of recordings, that tweaking won't be optimal with others. There are examples of music with tremendous energy in a particular range (say, mid-treble), and examples with nearly no energy in that range. You can spend days upon days tweaking, using multiple headphones or speakers to have a balanced perspective, and the best you'll get is a compromise. With headphones, users frequently speak of burn-in time, and it's become apparent that most of the burn-in is merely adjusting to how the headphone represents different tonalities.

I will say that with the better headphones at a higher price, tweaking produces the best results on average. The Beyerdynamic T90 I'm working with is excellent (once tweaked or compromised across a few genres of music), whereas the Sennheiser HD26 I have seems a hopeless case. Out of the box the T90 is rather shrill, even on some good recordings.

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the system?

"I remember Buddha being smitten big-time by this album. Rolling Stone raved about it. I was really digging what I was hearing on the radio. And then I bought the disc. Whoa! My first thoughts were that something was wrong with my copy. My second thought was to check and see if my daughter had put oatmeal in my disc player."

Hi Catch

Your probably getting to know me a little by now so you hopefully know I'm be sincere here. When you heard of others liking this CD and you liked it even in your car, didn't you think it a little odd that your home audio system was not able to play it? I mean set aside all the hype about high end for a second. Others "hundreds of thousands", with all kinds of systems that cost all kinds of money, loved it. You loved it in your car. I love it with my completely tuned out setup. What does this tell you?

Do you really believe your system is so revealing that it won't play a piece of music? Please understand that I'm not being a smart A** here, but someone who really cares about you guys systems. If I loaded up my system right now and came to your place and set it up, do you think it would still sound terrible? Can you really imagine that I "Mr. RoomTune" would set up a crappy system in your place and this recording would sound as horrible as it does to you now on your setup? Before answering read some of the reviews on what I do again.

I absolutely guarantee you, if it sounded good on your car system and at others places and at my place, it can sound good at yours. I say this not trying to be anything but truthful with you. If your systen can not play it there is something out of tune.

There is no way any high end audio system on the planet should not be able to play this recording, yet I know that audiophiles have been suffering this type of thing for a long time. My friend, it's not the recording. It's a system not be able to play this recording.

michael green
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Several issues here

First off, we're mixing apples and oranges comparing what low quality audio in a car and the critical listening ability of the listener in that environment with what is expected from a home audio system to someone who listens intently. Modern Times was getting a lot of air-play on the radio and that's what I was referring to.

My wife, for example, loves listening to XM in her car. When I attempt to get her to switch over to the radio so that I could enjoy the better sonics, she rolls her eyes and says it sounds the same to her and that I'm a nut. I'm quite sure that she represents the hundreds of thousands of people that you refer to who think Modern Times sounds just fine. For most, it's about the beat and the rhythm and for women in particular, the lyrics. And who can blame them if they consume most all their music in far less than ideal environments and in a format that is seriously flawed from the start, like XM or low resolution files on their mp3 player and through their earbuds? Hell, even I will tap my toes to otherwise crappy sounding music and go with the flow when I'm not trying to listen intently.

I don't consider my systems as particularly revealing. My stuff is quite modest by audiophile standards, but they are capable of reproducing recordings sufficiently well so as to reveal obvious shortcomings in the material being played. And, I'm not so arrogant as to think that there isn't even better sound to be had out of them with a little passed down knowledge from people who know more about audio than I do. I doubt I will ever reach the point where learning something new about audio reproduction isn't waiting around the next corner and I've met several people who have probably forgotten more about audio than I know.

Michael, I don't doubt that you are able to help people improve their sound. You've obviously got enough experience with this stuff to have learned a thing or two. But, audio alchemy hasn't been invented yet and until it does, recordings like Modern Times is still going to suck in comparison to what well recorded music sounds like.

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time for referencing

Time to get "Modern Times" off the shelf and put it on the system. I'm glad when you guys bring up specific recordings cause it gives people a chance to see not only how their systems are doing, but for me a chance to show that most of these recordings are pretty amazing when tuned in.

I'm tough on components and setup because in my business as a studio, hall and home specialist, if I screw up it costs somebody and it will make it's way back to me and I hate having a wrong audio move being hung on me. It also gets to me that recordings get the raw end of the deal in the audiophile world many times and get blamed for things that the system is doing and has nothing to do with the recording. I see this happen with reviewers and home users and think that if people are going to judge something they need to be sure they are doing everything they can to make that recording sound good.

Catch, I hope you and others will take the time to put "Modern Times" on your home system and listen along with me.

I'm going to move this to the referencing thread as this will be more on topic there.

michael green
MGA/RoomTune

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Modern Times

Interesting post so far. I'll give my take on the album to add to the discussion. So I'll start that saying that I actually order the CD today given the colorful post but was able to listen to it in the interim via a streaming service (mp3) so please take that into account. I'll update everyone when I get the CD in a few days

So I'll start out by saying that the album doesn't seem to be the best recorded. There seems to be a good bit of compression, I'm sure some of this is related to the mp3, so it will expand out with the CD so I don't want to comment on that since its impossible to know how the mp3 effected the final playback. But with that said the album is actually very nice. It is very full range and has weight behind the instruments. As a note, the album seems to have a lower bass note that many albums I listen to and will likely require a good sub or large speakers to get the bass track to come into its own. The interesting thing here, is when I turned off the sub, the first song seemed overly bright and flat and my main speakers actually extend quite low. Funny thing, take the opening track, it really came into its own when you had the proper amount of bass, the splash on the cymbals was spread around the room and not overbearing. I do consider my system a bit relaxed in the highs so please take that into account. I also listened to the tracks through a pair if beyerdynamic T1 headphones, which added back some of the HF information that I wasn't getting until I turned the volume up to reference levels.

With that said, this album brings me back to an interest point I've always noticed and may be a reason some people are having issue with the song. High always seem to sound better and more "relaxed" or not as noticeable when there is also a good bit of low frequency with them. At least to me, I could see how the whole album could be rather fatiguing to the ears if you removed the lower bass octaves. (i.e. switching off my sub). I know this has to deal with the way we hear but always an interesting phenomenon, which leads to the issue with some manufactures who make speakers that can't seem to get the bass right.

Someone once said that you will never be happy until you get the bass right, its the foundation of the depth and body to the music so without it, it just doesn't sound right. I think this phenomenon is very apparent on this album

In relation to the music, for me sitting back, closing your eyes and listening to me back to a nice blues or jazz clubs with the small round tables, limited seats, and a stage center room.

I agree with Michael on this one, the album is very nice and while it may not be the best recording, definitely has a full and deep sound with a nice sound stage. I can say either the headphones or my main system got me closest to the music. Would agree with those that there are better Dylan recordings out there.

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