Best headphones for music and movies?

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by LeeTK, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. LeeTK

    LeeTK New Member

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    Hi Shaun, Robin and Jon,
    I'm about to buy a pair of very good headphones, will go up to £300+ so its a once only purchase and I want to make sure I get it right!
    I have spent hours reading reviews but most seem to be 'gaming' biased.
    I will use the 'phones with my laptop (X FI Titanium sound card) to listen to music files and watch blu ray 3D movies, not really into gaming.
    I've heard that the 7.1 surround sound phones are best for movies and games but that soundblaster xfi cards 3D sound only works with stereo phones.
    I'm guessing that stereo phones are best for music and 7.1 phones are best for movies and games? Is it possible to get phones that have a large sound stage and great spatial positioning when watching movies but will make my spine tingle when I listen to music?
    I'm looking for full size phones and the music I listen to is pretty eclectic though mainly rock, pop, chart, dance. Prefer closed or semi closed back.
    My listening environment will be quiet and no need to worry about annoying anyone else!
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Lee Kelly
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Headphone for surround sound

    I'm not aware of any headphone made to be optimized for surround sound, but if there are some, then I wonder if they would compete in sound quality with the best available stereo headphones in your price range. The most popular stereo headphones in that price range have had long development cycles and manufacturing history, and so they represent the best sound quality and balance that the industry provides.
     
  3. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Hi LeeTK

    Although you seem a little resistant to openbacks (if your listening environment is quiet) they really do give a much more natural sense of space and movement than closed back. A really great pair of open stereo headphones should really outshine all but the best headphone surround systems.

    Beyerdynamics Headzone system is trully impressive and is used by many broadcasters the world over to clone their 5.1 Studio mix setups. It uses DT770 and DT880 as the headphones of choice but works with all stereo headphones. To me the effectiveness of this system (strating at £1300) seems to suggest that multiple driver systems are not really necessary. To my mind most of the effects are positioned very intelligently in the stereo mix and have proximity or distance and movement built in. Remember it is your brain that does the processing for positioning of a sound, we only have two ears - we don't use a back ear to hear a sound behind us. When you listen to surround sound speakers the room you are in also plays a big part in making the "surround" bit possible. I still think most cheap headphone surround systems only just about capture some of what a great open back can do in terms of instrument separation and scale and movement of sound.

    I would go for these

    Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium Semi-Open Headphones 32Ω
    £209.95

    I have nothing negative to say about them, this is what Dolby use (with the Beyer Headzone Head Pro) to mix 5.1 on location, they are vivid and natural and you could always add a Dolby designed surround Headphone processor later on for a near unbeatable headphone surround sound without starting a career as a Televisual Soundman. These should be superb for both jobs, unbelievably comfy and last about 10 - 20 years:D
     
  4. LeeTK

    LeeTK New Member

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    Thanks for help...32ohm or 250ohm?

    Hi Robin, Dale
    Thanks for both your replies.
    I've done more research on this and I now see that a pair of open back Audiofile/reference class cans are the way to go. I think the 7.1 cans I looked at were all at a lower price point which would be an indication of quality. After 48h solid research I now know a bit more about what is good and bad!
    Robin your recommendation gave me a smile as after 48h research I had pretty much decided on the DT880's! The T1's look amazing but outside my price range alas. Though the recently released T70 looks interesting, I haven't seen any reviews on this yet though.
    Grado seems well thought of but every review I read remarked on them being uncomfortable.
    I want 'phones that will make the hairs on my neck stand up when I listen to a piece of music and everything I've read suggests the DT880 are the most likely to do that at that price point. ...and I've seen them for as little as £135 on amazon.
    One more question though. 32 ohm or 250 ohm? I have read reviews that the 32 ohm version does not have the same quality sound as the 250 ohm version.
    I realize the 250 is harder to drive but if I overcome that would you recommend the 250 over the 32 for straight sound quality?
    Thanks once again for your help.
    Lee
     
  5. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Beyerdynamic DT-880, 25 or 250 ohm?

    The 880 model sounds good. If you get the low impedance type, it may work well from portable players like iPods, if the player has a very low output impedance like the newer Touch models. Older models may not work as well, and I have had problems that way. Higher impedance headphones like 250 ohm are excellent from an amplifier, and they are not a problem impedance-wise with portable players, but they may not play at full volume well on portable players.
     
  6. LeeTK

    LeeTK New Member

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    DT880 and Dolby surround - ultimate combo

    Thanks Dale,
    I dont really listen to music on portables. Not really into walking down the street listening to an ipod, just looks a bit ignorant unless ur out jogging. I have a car so never listen to music on the bus or underground.
    It will be strictly for home use on mains powered kit so don't need to worry about driving a 250 ohm model. If this gives the better quality sound I think that's the rout I will take.
    Also been looking at Robins link regarding dolby 5.1 support. sounds real exciting. I know the tech has been out since 2001 but you can get this via software without shelling out for hardware decoders.
    Roxio's cineplayer 3d-BD carries the dolby headphone signal and works with any stereo headphone. about £30 download. ($40)
    Watch any DVD through cineplayer on ur pc or laptop, plug your phones in to the headphone jack, and you hear 5.1 surround sound through your standard headphones. The better the phones the better the effect. I've added the links for anyone interested. The effect is really amazing.

    Dolby Headphone Overview - TimeForDVD.com (this explains it all)

    Roxio - DVD Players and Decoders (this for the UK store but just change region)

    Sorry you will have to cut & paste but its worth checking out.

    Lee
     
  7. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Decoders

    It would be nice if someone had a SACD decoder. But that aside, when it comes to reprocessing the source signal, I recall the original Bose 901 review about adding reflections to the sound, then Gordon Holt's followup review that described the downside of that process. In any case, please describe the results you get.
     
  8. LeeTK

    LeeTK New Member

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    Good results from Dolby spatial...

    I've installed roxio cineplayer and though I havent had a chance to watch an entire film I've tried some experiments with the basic DVD copies of Cloverfield and I am Number 4 and the results were a massive improvement in quality from the standard sound track.
    Basically Roxio decodes the movies standard sound track and re-encodes it with the 5.1 surround cues and sends the altered signal to the phones.
    I was only using cheap phones I picked up at PC World and the results were still good.
    The spatial effects really do work and it really does seem like the different sounds are coming from different positions around you.
    I tried playing the same bits through 'Power DVD' (no Dolby spatial software) and there was a noticeable difference. Much less sense of position and depth and it seemed boring and dead compared to the spatial sound from Roxio.
    I'm looking forward to trying it out properly with a complete movie when my DT880's arrive.... yes, ordered them this morning from Amazon :)) <excited!
    Ordered the 250 ohm version along with a Fiio E7 DAC/AMP after reading 50+ excellent reviews about the E7.
    I'll post again when everything arrives and I have a chance to try everything properly.
    Just about to start a run of duty at work though so I'll be out of the loop for several days.
     
  9. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    FiiO amp and 880's

    The FiiO amp looks nifty - see if there's any interaction between the amp and the sound processing you are working with. Maybe try some different experiments, if you can do line out as well as USB. Line out might not apply to a computer, but if you have a media player that has a true line out that would be interesting to compare to USB, with or without any additional processing.
     
  10. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    The higher the impedance the lower the volume for the same power input - this does not effect quality as such. The secondary effect though is at the nominal impedance increases a correct amout of power to drive the headphones well will result in a slightly lower dynamic range. By this I mean the difference between the quietest and loudest noise on a recording is reduced. This can be viewed as positive or negative - you might prefer the slightly airier sound of the 32ohm model and find it more exciting or you might prefer the slightly more authoritative sound of the 600ohm version which feels a little more stable. Again this is subjective not really an issue of quality.

    I think everybody is best off when they have done the research (like you have) and then suit themselves by following their own tastes. Go with the option you get excited about:D
     
  11. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    This is a great thread which will probably help others!:)
     
  12. Shaun-HiFi

    Shaun-HiFi Administrator Staff Member

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    Best headphones for movies

    Another couple of movie watching headphones to add to the mix are the excellent German Maestro GMP 400 and GMP 450. The GMP 400 is open back, whereas the GMP 450 is closed back.

    If you don't have a dedicated headphone amp then the lower impedance GermamMaestro GMP 435 S is also well worth considering.

    The sound signature is similar across the GermanMaestro range. Sound is well balanced, with full bass, wide soundstage and clean trebles. An innovative cardomatic suspended earcups result in a feather light fit that is surprisingly secure. The build is robust and they come supplied with 3 year warranty.

    All in all, the German Maestro GMP series are well worth auditioning...
     
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