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A/V Another Headphone Thread

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by pizan, 27 Jan 2012.

  1. pizan

    pizan that's n00b-tastic

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    I'm looking for headphones/headsets. I have a mic so don't need one on the headset.
    I currently have a Creative X-fi Fatal1ty Titanium soundcard with Logitech Z5500 speakers and a Speedlink Medusa 5.1 (first gen) headset.
    I'm willing to spend at most $300 for a good set of headphones and an amp if needed. Comfortable ones would be a big plus. Also somewhat easily available ones, as in not ordered from Europe.
    I looked at Turtle Beach Z6A, Astro A40, Sennheiser PC360, but don't really have a clue.
     
  2. Cleggmeister

    Cleggmeister Of reasonable knowledge...

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  3. thil

    thil New Member

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    A handy tip to remember with headphones is that if the word "gaming" is mentioned anywhere in the marketing for it, run like hell away from them.

    I use a pair of Beyerdynamic DT-990 cans. They're 250-ohm, but they come in easier-to-drive 32-ohm versions.

    They're open-backed, and leak a bit. The DT-880 version is a bit more balanced in sound, apparently. The DT-770 is closed-back, and therefore a bit more tiring and boomier in bass.

    (NOTE: All the DT-series also come in the "Pro" flavour, which is not recommended, as they a) are as ugly sin - I mean, real/ly, really, Thom Yorke, and b) use a higher clamping force on the noggin - 3.5 Newtons as opposed to 2.5 Newtons. Yes. Those are the actual measurements. Beyer lists them. They are German. The tighter clamping makes them REALLY uncomfortable after an hour or so, and narrows the soundstage).

    My DT-990s have thick, chunky, wobble-your-earlobes bass. The mids are a bit cloudy - the 990s are a bit scooped in the mids; the 880s are meant to be clearer. The treble's clear and bright, though. There is still plenty of detail.

    They're really comfy, too. Plush earpads and soft leatherette. And built like a Panzer tank. The yokes, for crying out loud, are machined from stainless steel. Kevlar-coated cable is a bitch to ruin or cut. You can kick 'em around at LANs, and they'll come up begging for more (I may be taking this German thing too far).

    Speaking of LANs, they come with the sexiest black leather zippered carrying case, like with custom-cut foam. They're about $300-odd from BH Photo or Amazon.

    My other recommendation is to be turning Japanese (I really think so...).

    The Audio-Technica AD-700 is a great phone. It's bass-light, but BIG BASS ISN'T EVERYTHING. It's extremely detailed. And has one of the best, most accurate soundstages around (very important for gaming). The AD-900 is the next step up, by all accounts a much better 'can, and with a better colour scheme, too.

    The closed versions of these phones are the A-700 and A-900 (no "D"). Again, as with most closed phones, bass gets a little boomier, soundstage narrows, and they can become fatiguing.

    The best thing about the AD-series is the head band. You look like a tool wearing it, but the 3D-wing system is amazing. It's entirely self-adjusting, but extremely, comfortable, like being nestled in the jaws of some plush beast. They're nowhere near as robust as the Beyers, though. But few 'phones are.

    Again, amazing soundstage, clear and detailed, but the AD versions leak like sieve. And, really, wearing them is a revelation. Out of box, on head, fits perfectly, unless you've got a really small head. The 700s go for about $120-170US, the 900s from probably $190-300.

    But you're in the US. If you can get to some high-end audio store nearby (there'd be approximately a thousand in NYC, surely, if you can get there, - hell, that's where Grado is headquartered), TRY SOME PHONES OUT. I don't know if BH Photo lets you do that, but you should be able to find some stores that will do that.

    If you can, take a sample of the music you like to listen to.

    Sorry if this is overload, but I'm a firm believer of too much info is better than none.
     
  4. pizan

    pizan that's n00b-tastic

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    Thanks clegg and thil. I was looking at the ATH-700s. Would I need an amp with them?
     
  5. Cleggmeister

    Cleggmeister Of reasonable knowledge...

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    Sorry, ignore me if I said HD650's - I use HD600's and they're v groovy. They come with the small (3.5mm) and large jacks (can't remember the mm) but you will need to connect them to a proper output. You should have one on your soundcard (use the speaker output at a low volume) or breakout lead/volume control.

    If you do decide to get an amp connect it to a "Line out", which is fixed, which may well sound better.
     
  6. thil

    thil New Member

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    Hells no! They're 32 ohms. That's about as low as full-sized cans come. A cheap MP3 player'll drive 'em.

    Let's say low-impedance phones are under 100 Ohms; mid-impedance phones 100-250; and high impedance 250-600.

    The general rule is that low impedance cans don't normally need an amp (though some can benefit - it's said the 64 ohm AKG 701/702 do much better with an amp), but, of course, higher impedance phones will always need an amp, unless you're happy with really quiet SPL.

    Low impedance phones are easier to driver - the downside is that they're a bit more sensitive to external interference: since they can be driven by a tiny amount of current, it also means that any amount of EMI on the cable can induct enough noise to be annoying. With a higher impedance phone, the amount of current from such interference won't be enough to budge the drivers. But as long as you don't do anything silly like sit it next to a power cable, it's not a problem.

    But remember: higher impedance means higher impedance. It does not necessarily mean automatically better sound. Yes, a lot of higher-end phones are mid/high impedance, like Beyer and Sennheiser, but there're also a lot of low-impedance ones, like the A-Ts, AKGs, and Ultrasones.

    Amps are nice, sure - but it's a complete fallacy to think that, given an identical signal, an amp will make a given set of headphones sound automagically better. I'm getting a bit pre-emptive here, but most of the times I see someone asking about headphone amps, they seem to think that the amps will somehow make the signal better. They don't. All they do is increase its power.

    While I'm at it...

    Same goes with bass response: bass response dictates bass response. One of the most annoying things about reading computer-geek headphone reviews is seeing something like "These cans have 55mm drivers, which promises some pretty good bass response". Not true. In terms of bass quantity and quality, driver size doesn't mean much. The 40mm drivers of the Beyer DTs I mentioned pump out much deeper, more prominent bass than the 53mm ones of the A-Ts. But please remember that bass volume shouldn't be the sole criteria for picking 'phones.

    I suppose, in short, sound quality dictates sound quality. Trying to infer something from a headphone's raw specs is a very speculative exercise.
     
    TWeaK likes this.
  7. smc8788

    smc8788 ...at least I have chicken

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    Sorry but this is just plain false. While it of course varies from setup to setup and some cans may see minimal improvement with the addition of an amp, if you've got a decent source (e.g. mid-range CD player or lossless audio files from a PC to a dedicated DAC) and a set of headphones that are revealing enough for you to be able to hear differences in each stage of your audio chain then you would most certainly be able to hear the nuances of different amps, even with an identical 'signal'. Some may sound better or worse depending on your individual preferences.

    Amps can be neutral, warm, bright, revealing, thin and light or meaty sounding, they come in all different varieties and even affect the soundstage and imaging of headphones. This is why it is important to not only ensure you have adequate amping depending on how hard your headphones are to drive, but to ensure that your amp is well suited to your particular headphone(s) as well as your personal tastes.
     
    Last edited: 29 Jan 2012
  8. thil

    thil New Member

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    I was talking about a theoretically perfect amp. Which doesn't exist.

    Those nuances, as far as amps go, are bad: amps should in no way colour, degrade, manipulate or otherwise alter the signal. That doesn't happen, of course, but the less the better.

    If you're buying an amp just for the way it EQs the sound, then that's silly. It's like buying a car because you like the way it protects the concrete on your driveway from weather damage when it's parked there. Or like buying a GTX 590 because you need to heat your room, to use a more geek-friendly analogy.

    Not everyone needs a dedicated amp; the AD-700s most definitely do not need one bigger than the one found in every MP3 player, mobile phone, sound card, or mobo onboard.

    To spend several hundred pounds/dollars on amp just to use one of the amp's side affects to tweak the sound of the headphones is an extreme waste of money.
     
  9. smc8788

    smc8788 ...at least I have chicken

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    Maybe you should have clarified that then, since the way it's written makes it sound like amps are not beneficial for headphones full stop, which in my experience is most definitely not the case.

    We're getting quite off topic here though so I will just leave it at this: I respectfully disagree with the notion that all amps are created with the intention of producing a purely neutral sound. Sure, some are, and even fewer achieve it. In a studio monitoring situation I would agree that this is definitely a desirable characteristic, however, for home listening....not so much. There is no such thing as a 'correct' sounding headphone or amp. As I said before, we all have our own preferences so what may sound good to one person will not to another. Personally, I prefer more of a warm/dark sounding headphone as it suits the music I generally listen to, and I prefer the slightly rolled off treble to a bright headphone as it allows me to listen to them for longer without them becoming fatiguing. Another person might criticise such a headphone for exactly the same characteristics.

    I have tried so-called 'neutral' headphones and amps before, but more often than not they left me feeling uninvolved with the music - it's not about what is technically 'right' on a FR graph, it's about what sounds good to my ears...at least for me anyway. In my case, if I spend £600 on a pair of headphones, I want it to sound as good as it possibly can. Unfortunately I'm not going to get that by plugging it into the headphone jack on my PC (to use the car analogy - it would be like buying a Ferrari but never being able to afford to put fuel on it, so it sits on the driveway all the time). As another example, people who spend £1000 on a pair of HD800s often prefer the warm, analogue sound of a tube amp over high-end neutral sounding amps, because it complements them better. Perfection isn't always a good thing.

    Anyway, this is all besides the point. I would actually agree that that ATH-700 doesn't need amping. It might benefit from it, but I also know many who have used it and raved about it without an amp, so I'm sure it will perform fine.
     
    Last edited: 29 Jan 2012
  10. thil

    thil New Member

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    They are extremely over-prescribed for low-impedance cans.

    And I say: I respectfully disagree that it's worth talking up headphone amps, with are expensive pieces of very specific kit, when they are not necessary merely confuses and daunts people, and encouraging people to spend tons of cash on something that has little-to-no effect only pisses them off.

    I also say it's foolish to pay several hundred pounds/dollars for a bit of hardware that, in many people's cases, is only to do the job of what the EQ slider in a sound card's control panel can do for free.

    And, no, perfection doesn't exist. But there's no reason you should try to increase the variables.
     
  11. pizan

    pizan that's n00b-tastic

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    Thanks a lot guys. I think I'm going to go with the A700s with my titanium fatal1ty pro. I'm not an audio file that needs perfection. Let me know f there is anything you recommend to add to the setup.
     
  12. The_Beast

    The_Beast I like wood ಠ_ಠ

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    Right now I have the AD-700s. I tried the Logitech G35 but they just didn't feel good on my head or even sound all that good. I returned them withing 3 days, I knew they weren't right after I put them on but I thought I'd at least give them a try.

    I researched for at least a week, like I do before I buy any keyboards/mice/monitor/headphones....... I read a ton of threads saying that the AD700 were good for gaming. I bought them and fell in love. At the time I was playing BC2, known for it's need for good sound to avoid being knifed. After hooking them up to my stock sound card, I was knifing more people and being knifed less myself. I could also tell where shots where being fired from without see them.


    They have a huge sound stage meaning that directional sound it excellent but it doesn't have a ton for bass. This isn't a huge deal for gaming and music doesn't even really suffer than much. Dubstep doesn't sound too bad but it won't satisfy a true bass addict. Anyways they are a great set of headphones for the money, however better can be had like the AD900s.



    Hope I helped ;)
     
  13. smc8788

    smc8788 ...at least I have chicken

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    You're right, they are probably over-prescribed for low impedance headphones, but they are still necessary for higher end cans with greater impedance (anything over 100 Ohm really). Headphones themselves to make the greatest difference when it comes to sound quality, but amps just provide that extra bit to make them really shine, especially if they synergise well with a particular headphone.

    My AKG K601's were like a completely different headphone when powered with a Burson Audio amp compared with the cheap old integrated stereo amp I was using before. I tried EQ'ing those over the years to try and improve their bass impact/response, but in the end the only thing that improved it was better amplification. Many things can't be improved through EQ'ing (which makes sense since all you're doing is increasing the volume of certain frequencies) - for example, amps can help to tame harsh treble, clear up muddy bass and improve bass response. The perceived difference may sound small to some people with some headphones and amps (particularly if the headphone does not really require amplification to maximise its potential), but sometimes the difference can be quite great - I probably would have sold my Beyer T1's on if I hadn't heard them with my current amp as the difference was so marked, it really brought them to life and made them more musical.

    Nevermind though, I get the feeling I'm not going to convince you otherwise, I guess you really need to hear a set of high-end cans through a high-end amp, a low end amp, and from an unamplified source to really be able to understand the difference a good amp makes.
     
  14. DK63

    DK63 Resident magpie

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    I read that and the song just popped into my head. Thanks for that!!!
    (You must be as old as me to remember it as well. :D )
     
  15. feathers

    feathers Well-Known Member

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    XFI Tit? Worst soundcard I ever owned.

    I like my sennheiser HD595.
     
  16. Cleggmeister

    Cleggmeister Of reasonable knowledge...

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  17. DK63

    DK63 Resident magpie

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    I have a set of Sennheiser PC-3500. Most comfortable headphones I've ever worn. They enclose your ears, not sit on them. Definitely recommended.
     
  18. dBass

    dBass New Member

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    I have the Sennheiser HD555's and would say the same thing. Open headphones that cover the entire ear are so much more comfortable for extended use IMO.
     
  19. pizan

    pizan that's n00b-tastic

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    I ended up getting ATH-AD900s. My sister works at a small documentery film studio and got me a deal on them.
     
    Last edited: 30 Jan 2012

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