Natural sounding headphones, which one to buy?

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by Christo4, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    Greetings, I hope that someone could give me an advice about which pair of headphones to buy that sound the most natural. I have made a list from lurking on the forums for some time but i have no idea which one is the best.
    The list:
    Under 200 GBP
    Fostex T50RP
    AKG K601
    FA-003
    DBA-02
    FIscher audio Jubilate (not so sure about this one)

    200 GBP or over:
    FA-002W
    ATH-ESW9(although they are quite expensive in Europe)
    Sennheiser HD 600
    Shure SRH940

    I think these are the headphones that sound the most natural (from what I've been reading). I have been looking for a pair of headphones that have a natural sound because I have purchased a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium and i was VERY dissapointed. The sound was very metallic and sounded very unnatural to my ears. In comparison i also have a pair of Grado SR80i which i really like the sound of. The only problem is that it has a lot of sibilance. Now maybe i'm going to get criticized but in gaming with some bass boost and the highs toned down to prevent a lot of sibilance (although i can still hear it and i HATE IT) it really is the most natural sounding pair of headphones i have heard.

    I would like to get a pair of headphones from the list under 200 GBP so that i have some money left for an amp or something else, but if there is a big difference between performance then i could go over. I would also like for the pair to have low sibilance or not at all since i really hate it. If there are any other headphones I'd be glad to consider them, but as a long time lurker i think this is a complete list.

    Well i hope someone will check this thread out and help me choose my Christmas(and birthday, born on December 25 :D ) present :).
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I would recommend the near-perfect headphone (below). It has everything, great bass, clear and musical mids, slightly soft highs with no peaks or irritations, extremely good comfort and build quality, etc. You might have to stretch the budget slightly, but the sound is really the point of the thing.

    The Shure 940 is a great headphone, but fairly bright and a scorcher for sibilants etc., unless you mod the earcups. The Senn HD600 (which I owned along with the 650, 800, 565 and 580) is slightly veiled to me. It's a very old design. I have the ESW9a I bought for only $200 USD from Amazon, and it's nearly as good as the Senn Momentum. My wife took control of it and abandoned her B&W P5. The T50rp apparently can be a great headphone if it's modded, but the stock version is very uneven in response.

    Sennheiser MOMENTUM Closed Back Audiophile Headphones
     
  3. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    Hmm interesting suggestion. I think I'm going to purchase these if you say that they are that good.

    Thanks!
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I have a review here in the reviews section. For a good second opinion on the Momentum, I recommend the Headfonia site review. They use a rather different set of descriptors from what I use, but I think they have some good comments that are succinct and quite readable.
     
  5. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    Hmm, I've read the review on Headfonia for the Momentum's and it wasn't very favorable... Mostly because I've seen it mention the PRaT not being very good on it, which i think is one of the things i like most about my Grado's (the fast response). It really is a difference between the SR80i and my HD 380 Pro which seem really sluggish in comparison.
     
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    My Momentum is very fast, and I've listened to much percussion that tends to support that. But PRaT doesn't mean fast exactly, it means Pace Rhythm and Timing, which says to me that it follows some sort of rhythm that those guys at Headfonia have in mind. I don't pay any attention to that, but other people might.

    If someone asked me to listen to certain tracks with the Momentum to see if it sounds fast or sluggish, I would love to do that kind of test. I still point people to Headfonia, because their opinions usually contrast with mine, so it makes a good second opinion I think.

    EDIT: There's always a possibility that someone could get an impression of 'slow' because of the soft treble, but my review addresses that, and Headfonia's review does not.
     
  7. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    I see, thank you very much. I thought that PRaT meant response, but if you say that the Momentum's response is good i believe you. I think I'll make a purchase after all since they are pretty cheap in my country fortunately :) (compared to amazon.co.uk for example, just 200 GBP).

    Well thanks again for your very helpful insight.
     
  8. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    Hello, i just wanted to add some feed-back regarding the Momentum's. They sound great, have a nice balance overall, but i am kinda disappointed. To my freaky ears they sound rather sibilant or harsh in the treble, especially on female voices... I know that some people don't have a problem with it, but it really bothers me. Also after wearing them for more than 1 hour my ears begin to hurt a little.

    Will try to do some more burn in (only 20-30 hours so far) but if i don't get used to them i think I'm going to return them.

    Any other suggestions?
     
  9. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I use the Momentum at home and away, and also the v-moda M100. I play the Momentum with a slight treble boost(!) and the M100 with bass reduction.

    The Momentum has far greater output between ~3 khz and ~7 khz than the M100, which is the "presence" region. Still, that's not where the greater amount of sibilants and other irritations occur for me. I'm mostly irritated with sounds around 8 to 10 khz, where the Momentum seems to produce less output than what I like (or it's simply masked by the amount of presence energy).

    But it's entirely possible that you're extra sensitive around 7 khz and that's what you're experiencing with the Momentum. It might be a good idea to play a few test tones from about 2 to 10 khz just to confirm the relative loudness of the tones you hear. I keep a set of test tones handy on my music players at all times - it really helps.
     
  10. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    What source are you using Christo4? It shouldn't be that but it's worth thinking about. Its definitely worth trying to work out what is going on here, most people think the Momentums are a little dark so even if you end up returning them some experimenting might help with picking a replacement.
     
  11. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    Well I am using an Asus USB Soundcard (Asus Xonar U3) since it has dolby headphone and also has some amplification that is good for some headphones. But I have also tried my MP3 player and my parent's laptops, my brother's laptop, my friends PC soundcard (which was a pretty expensive one, creative i think) and i hear it every time.
    But i don't think it's a problem with the headphones, or the source, i think it's a problem with me since i also find the Senn HD 558 sibilant ( i think most people consider this a dark pair of headphones as well) and i had to return it.

    Regarding the tones I've found this site Online Sound Test Tone Generator with .wav file output but i don't really know what to look for.
     
  12. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    I'm taking a guess based on your last post that you are what most people would consider young. Please don't be offended by that, it is a much sadder day when people tell you you aren't! These headphones are capable of producing some quite high frequency sound and you are also using nice equipment as a source. You may find this effect with all decent headphones as you just have very good hearing! I used to do a lot more work involving pro audio and it is painful on the ear and very tiring as you are listening to what is there and not a flattered version of it. In pro audio sound reproduction must be accurate and whilst mixing part of the process is to strip away unneccessary and irritating frequencies. When this type on thing was a daily occurrence I often had to sit in a quiet room and would rarely want to talk at all at the end of a long day. They key may be EQing the top end down a bit as believe me your hearing will not always be this sharp. It is a downhill slope after the age of 20 for most and unless you are a lot younger than I was thinking the headphones will probably outlast your upper hearing limit.

    An alternative that I would not suggest is to get worse quality headphones which cannot produce these frequencies. This seems a little pointless but would work. As I would say your hearing sounds good then much darker headphones may strangely not suit your taste as you would hear the inaccuracy of the boosted lower range but you could give that a go too.

    Even young people with good hearing will struggle to hear above 17KHz (17,000Hz), I can still hear just about to here, but I once met a young lady who could hear about 23Khz in her mid 20s. At a previous job we spent an amusing hour occasionally playing really high tones and watching her pull a face an look around the control room. If you use a tone generator to listen to some tones around 17-20KHz and these annoy your ears you probably just have better than average hearing and can show off about it:)
     
  13. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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  14. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    Well i did try a test and i think i hear around 16-17 kHZ. That may be the issue since I'm only 21 (on 25 December :D) and my parents don't have a problem and that may be because they are older. I think it's mostly a combination IMO of me being young and also being a little sensitive to high treble since my brother can hear at about 18khz (from what he told me) but he's not as annoyed as i am. It's annoying because i really like the sound but i have to use the EQ to tone down the treble very much so that it won't disturb me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2013
  15. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I hear up to 16 khz reliably and I'm over 60. It's important to test the whole range from 2 to 12 khz and see where the peaks occur, to your ears.
     
  16. Christo4

    Christo4 New Member

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    Well i tried on the previous link frequencies from 2 to 16 kHz and i think the peak occurs, to my ears, at ~8 kHz (7-8-9 kHz, 8 being the average) and then frequencies above 12 kHz.
     
  17. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    One clarification I forgot to mention, about age and hearing. Typically people lose some high frequency (HF) sensitivity after 40 or 50, but that's in the "air" sounds above 12 khz, typically. The frequencies that cause the irritations and sibilants are below 10 khz, where middle-aged people don't have hearing losses unless they have unusual health issues. So if you're more sensitive to sibilants etc., age per se is not the issue. It may be a personal sensitivity, it may be an off-spec headphone,might be the music tracks and not the gear, any number of things.
     
  18. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    8 khz is where a lot of headphones have very large peaks, and I won't mention which ones, but the Sennheisers are not known to be offenders in that area of the spectrum. The Momentum in particular tests as minus 12 db or so at 8-9 khz compared to the midrange.

    If you hear extra strong frequencies above 12 khz, that's a sign of gear problems because headphones like the Momentum roll off in that area. The only two headphones I know of that have strong output to 16 khz or higher are the Beyer DT48 with new oval pads (strong output, but not that bad), and the Parrot Zik, which had a very unusual output there.
     
  19. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I had a look at Innerfidelity's test graph for the Momentum, which agrees with my ears and test tones completely. Here's the result:
    2 khz: Minus 3.5 db from midrange
    3 khz: Minus 12.5 db from midrange
    4 khz: Minus 14.0 db from midrange
    5 khz: Minus 14.5 db from midrange
    6 khz: Minus 17.5 db from midrange
    7 khz: Minus 16.5 db from midrange
    8 khz: Minus 15.5 db from midrange
    9 khz: Minus 12.5 db from midrange
    10 khz: Minus 12.5 db from midrange

    Now the highly regarded (and not bright) Sennheiser HD600 is down about 7.5 db at 10 khz and 9 khz, and down about 9 db at 8 khz, so the HD600 is 5 to 7 db *brighter* than the Momentum according to the tech tests. That also corresponds to my tests.
     
  20. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    I haven't ever really found a headphone to be irritating (literally ouch irritating) with a spike that appears in the spectrum of where there are still discernible notes. I find many irritating because they are so poorly voiced that spikes occur so obviously you can take a guess at where they are. For me it is only the unneccessary boosting of really quite high frequency which I find tiring, above 6KHz I guess. If Christo4 is having trouble with the Momentums some headphones are going to sound excruciating! What really sets my teeth on edge is if something happens around 13-14KHz, There are a few tracks which I'm sure are supposed to assault you up there on purpose. I have been really enjoying Amon Tobins Isam of late and some of the crazier sections make me pull a face, I hope no one is watching on my morning commute.

    It doesn't surprise me that your hearing is so good Dale (although I would have knocked a few years off 60 just from talking:)) I have found from talking to a lot of Hifi guys that as the hearing drops off at the top they are less enthusiastic as they begin to notice some of the sparkle is missing and isn't going to come back. I think you're one of the most enthusiastic guys I know!
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2013
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