Mixing/ general home studio

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by JoeMurphy, Dec 14, 2011.

  1. JoeMurphy

    JoeMurphy New Member

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    I'm looking to buy some new headphones for mixing soundtracks and as a general home workhorse set for my first pass over any sound work before getting it into my universities studios. I'm looking for around £100-150 (and up if there is a clear benefit to spending the extra). I've been pointed towards the FiiO E7 to boost my existing signal, and I'm told it's also a DAC?

    The headphones I've been looking at are;

    BEYERDYNAMIC DT770 / DT880

    AKG K-271 MK II

    and Sennheiser 598

    I'm dubious about the Sennheisers, although I have used Sennheiser for a lot of past stuff these seem to be more aimed at looking flashy.
    Also I'm looking primarily for a closed back design as I would think these are more isolating both for me and others around me, keeping what I'm doing to me and not blasting it out.

    Any advice would obviously be welcome as this will be my first reference orientated hardware.
     
  2. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Hi Joe

    I would forget Sennheiser for this purpose - none of their range is really suitable for mix. The DT880 are probably the most suitable for this purpose - twinned with a small DAC amp like the E7 this would give a clean and clear impression which was accurate enough to make professional mix decisions. The two problems with that set up is that the headphones are over the budget and they are semi-opened which will leak noise into the environment - The semi open back is part of what makes these so good for mixing, it gives a very natural and well though out stereo image with a similar feel to a nice pair of nearfield monitors. A slightly cheaper and closed option would be the excellent DT770 80ohm which does not quite have the stereo width and accuracy of the DT880 (due to the closed back) but is nearly there. You could also have a look at -


    Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Closed Monitor Headphones Coiled Cable
    £134.95

    Beyerdynamic DT250 Studio Headphones 80Ω in Black (DT 250)
    £139.96

    GermanMAESTRO GMP 8.35 D Monitor Closed Headphones
    £149.99
     
  3. JoeMurphy

    JoeMurphy New Member

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    Thanks for the speedy reply!

    I was surprised to hear that Sennheiser weren't up to the challenge, all of my universities studio headphones are Sennheiser models as far as I know, coupled with Genelec near fields.

    After looking at the models you suggested, I thought the GermanMAESTROs were rugged enough to be in use for a long time, but I'm generally very careful with my gear and I read that they aren't the most comfortable due to the smaller pads and non moving cups (this in particular as I wear glasses so this normally means a lot of pressure).

    The Beyerdynamics (both DT880 + DT250) offer a greater frequency response which is obviously a plus based on the assumption that this extra is 'usable' sound, i.e. it's present in the overall sound rather than just audible.

    Nowhere near me stocks these models as far as I can tell so an actual test is not really on the cards which is a shame. As far as the FiiO amp/ DAC is concerned would the money be well spent on getting one? I'm not sure of the exact figures for impedance and power of my audio socket and as far as I've been told the DAC would be worth the money alone to change my digital signal to a cleaner analog (I am probably mistaken here so any advice on DACs is again appreciated).

    I would expect a headphone amp to be worth the expense, but obviously if this one is not up to the job then buying more serious gear would be something to save for.

    In short, my home project space is built around a late 2009 27" iMac, sound is an area I'm particularly interested in. Is the extra (however slight) amount of money spent on the improved frequency response of the Beyerdynamics justified by an audible improvement? And would buying the FiiO be worth my money as my main home soundcard/ Amp/ DAC?

    Sorry for the massive posts but I'm not content until I know exactly what I can and can't do for the money!

    Cheers, Joe.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  4. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Sennheiser used to make a few more "industry standard" models but you tend to see more Beyer and Sony about these days. Sennheisers HD25 are still a big favourite with Cameramen, Sound guys and DJ's but the majority of their stuff is definitely consumer aimed.

    The cups on the German Maestro do move up and down on the headband but the mechanism is hidden from view:) - I do think they may be problematic if your glasses arms are a bit bigger.

    Getting the Fiio E7 is only worthwhile if the output you are currently using is weak or noisy - it would solve this problem and is surprisingly good quality but may not be necessary so could wait until later. Basically a DAC is the chip which converts information or data into physical sound - the quality of this process has a profound effect on the end quality of the sound.

    Frequency response is very interesting - it tells you nothing about the EQ or Sound of a headphone (you can have a guess but it is easier to just have a listen!) but does tell you how serious the drivers are. Human beings have pretty bad hearing for mammals, we can hear from around 20Hz to 20,000Hz (or 20kHz) below and beyond this there is not a terrific amount of useful information (unless you are a Bat/Dog) but as sound is just air movement, sound outside of the region we can hear has an effect on the sound we can hear. This is why Pro and High end equipment reproduces these frequencies too - the effect is that the sound should feel more natural, these frequencies exist in the real world and are produced by instruments in addition to the portion we can hear. I think of this like undercoating whilst painting - You can't see the undercoat but it looks better for it. Also the other point is that a headphone which is 20Hz-20kHz is not capable of producing tones at equal volume all the way through this spectrum. A frequency response graph gives a picture of volume across the sound spectrum, as you reach the lowest or highest pitch the headphone can produce the volume drops off to zero. This means that a headphone with a wider frequency response is not necessarily better at producing detail or sub-bass, it could be that each end of the frequency respose tails off quickly and therefore the extra width is not usable. If the frequency response is really wide this normally denotes a really serious driver, if there isn't a big difference between two headphones this doesn't really tell you anything.

    Phew!:D
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2011
  5. JoeMurphy

    JoeMurphy New Member

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    Thanks again, I've ordered the FiiO E10 as it's designed as a stationary device and I won't need to carry it around. I've been told elsewhere that it's almost identical to the E7 but apparently more neutral (and I managed to find it for ever so slightly cheaper!)
    The most annoying thing is I can't seem to find any specific details about the iMacs audio output, and I can only imagine it's not going to have an easy time trying to drive 250ohm headphones but I guess I'll have to wait and see now, I can always sell the FiiO on!
     
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    iMacs

    We use desktop Macs and Macbook Air around the house here, and I don't see any issues with 250 ohm headphones at all, unless it's a very inefficient headphone like the orthodynamic models. You will get better sound generally with a good desktop headphone amp if you can drive that headphone amp from a proper audio line out or USB port, but if you're betting on a Fiio to improve the sound from the desktop computer, I don't know. Their small portable amps are designed to improve sound from iPods and the like, so maybe they also make something designed for desktop computers.
     
  7. JoeMurphy

    JoeMurphy New Member

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    The E10 is specifically designed to be a stationary amp, usb powered. I've only used it so far with an old pair of K44s and I really noticed a difference even though the headphones themselves aren't amazing. I need to sell off some old stuff now and get some serious headphones. The Beyerdynamic dt880 pros seemed to be a firm choice with most people for what I aim to use them for ( mixing and more analytical use rather than just music).
    Recently though people have pointed me towards the AKG Q701s which are a steeper price and I've been told the bass is more powerful but less punchy, with a huge soundstage (some people mention you lose a lot of intimacy with vocals etc). I've not heard either of the headphones so it's hard to make a choice, by the sounds of things though the DT880s are more what I'm looking for.
    If anyones experienced both I'd love to hear your opinion!

    Cheers, Joe.
     
  8. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    I'm not a big fan of the K701/K702/Q701 series - i do not find them natural or monitor like at all. Many seem to disagree with this and like them - one thing is certain, your amp choice has a big effect on the sound of these.
     
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