In Quest Of Neutral Headphones [Reviews / Measurements]

Discussion in 'Audio Science' started by Magnetostatic_Tubephile, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Hopefully you will find some useful information here! Despite me being the author, I find it a great help to have this hosted here (my thanks to SBAF!) so that I can check back anytime needed. I actually do it quite often when looking into other headphones. (Which I do continuously.)

    To answer your question, it is indeed intentional. My two encounters with Utopia left me so unimpressed (metallic timbre, forward nasal mids) that, after also checking reviews from trusted users, I pretty much discarded even Clear from candidates for this thread.

    I buy everything reviewed here with my own money and, after a decade of chasing, consider headphones more of a tool for music listening than an obsession on its own. Therefore, I am very picky, must get really interested. There must be a promise of something appreciably better/unique compared to what I already have, granted reasonable price/performance ratio.

    Quite a few headphones might be worth it to some in context of this thread, just havent been convinced myself as of yet:
    • ZMF Aeolus (w/ the right pads) / Eikon
    • Aurorus Borealis
    • Focal Clear
    • Stax SR007
    • LFF Code-6
    • Sennheiser HD580 / HD58X
    • Mrspeakers Ether 2 / Ether CX
    • Erzetich Phobos
    • HEDD HEDDphone
    • ...
    Anyway, give me a headphone with Auteur's tonality, PMx2's timbre, and MA900's comfort... and I will be forever grateful :)
     
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  2. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    The Borealis and the Code-6(if you find one) seem like good contenders. The Ethers might be interesting to evaluate, since there's nothing but praise for their comfort. In any case, this thread is full of valuable feedback :) cheers for doing this.
     
  3. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    It was indeed very useful. I wanted to ask you how you hear timbre. I have the HD6XX and the Verum 1 and I hear the HD6XX as having better timbre. The Verum 1 don't pull out the micro details and dynamics in the midrange as well and so dont convey the texture of instruments as well (to my ears). For example, a bowed instrument like a cello or violin is a little smoothed over and doesn't have the rough bowed vibrations with the V1.

    I assumed this was a dynamic driver vs Planer thing and so was surprised when you had the PMX2 over the Auteur for timbre.
     
  4. Garuspik

    Garuspik Tovarisch Ukrainian Terminator MOT - Verum

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  5. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Schiit BF2 > Shortest Way 51. I also had the Head Amp Gilmore Lite 2. Also several portable sources.

    The Verum 1 sounds great with 'smooth' timbres like piano, female vocals or woodwind instruments. But for something with a rougher sound like a bowed instrument, male voice or crunchy guitar, it doesn't have the same grit or tactile-ness of the HD6XX for me.

    Being my first planer headphone, I thought a smoother timbre might be a characteristic of the technology.
     
  6. Garuspik

    Garuspik Tovarisch Ukrainian Terminator MOT - Verum

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    @Stuff Jones shortest way 51 is a tube amp and they don't like such low ohm load as Verum.
     
  7. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    You did say that you enjoy your headphones with a Magni 3?
     
  8. tommytakis

    tommytakis Gear Cycler SoCal Edition

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    Yeah I agree with @Garuspik that verums don’t sound that good on SW51+. Solid states like Asgard 3 is a much better match even though for most dynamics SW51+ just sounds amazing.
     
  9. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Yeah but even with the Solid state amp I sold I had the same impression.

    Is it not accurate to say that in general, dynamic drives do texture/microdynamics better than planars?
     
  10. tommytakis

    tommytakis Gear Cycler SoCal Edition

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    i think @Garuspik was just pointing out that the amp is not a good match for the Verums, not about microdynamics. If I remembered correctly, better microdynamics and detail is what he’s trying to achieve for Verum 2 because he felt that was lacking on the Verum 1.
     
  11. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Yeah I didn't mean all this to bash the Verum 1, which I really enjoy.

    I brought the Verum 1 - HD6XX up to illustrate my understanding that DD>PM when it comes to one key aspect of timbre and to wonder how that translated to the OPs comparison of the PMX2 and the Auteur.
     
  12. Garuspik

    Garuspik Tovarisch Ukrainian Terminator MOT - Verum

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    In my experience when people speak about microdynamics from headphone X is better then on headphone Y it's just means that X is brighter and have some treble peak. Indeed Hd600 has more energy at 6khz. And imo excessive energy around this point.

    p.s. Can't find a funny meme about treble peaks and details ;)
     
  13. Garuspik

    Garuspik Tovarisch Ukrainian Terminator MOT - Verum

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    Update: Indeed, I've checked Oratory1990 preset for HD600
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/dm0m6u3s3b4zqzl/Sennheiser HD600.pdf?dl=0

    To be close to Harman Curve you'll need to EQ 5900hz by -6 db

    What disadvantage Verum 1 really has - slightly recessed mids in 2-4khz region. Absolutely same behaviour in Audeze and Hifiman. That's because of planar nature. But I really disagree about resolving capability in comparison with HD600.
     
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  14. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    @Garuspik - The HD6XX are the HD650. I had the HD600s and found the mids on the 650s more detailed and with better timbre.
     
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  15. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    I really do agree that the 650s have better resolution from about upper midrange on up, but the Verums beat them handily for frequencies below that, which do include a decent portion of what's typically defined as midrange (125hz-2khz). Also there might be a discrepancy in what gear is being used to drive these headphones, where garuspik seems to have a preference for low output impedance high power solid state gear that would bring out the best of the Verums versus the weirder stuff we'd use here to bring the HD6x0s out.

    On the subject of PMx2, they're not like the Verum 1 in that they're not using serpentine trace and bar magnets but ring magnets and spiral trace, which would more resemble the planned Verum 2. According to Meze who worked on the Empyrians incorporating both types in one driver, the concentric ring magnets design is better at higher frequencies as it avoids some weird breakups that the serpertine design might introduce. Subjectively, the PMx2s are probably the smoothest sounding headphones in both FR and CSD you'll ever find anywhere, though I thought it sounded kind of boring but that may have been non-optimal synergy.
     
  16. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    I am waiting on more info regarding Borealis but, based on measurements and some impressions so far, they seem to be more of an 'improved Focal Clear' kind than something I would personally be blown away of. But lets see, plenty of time to wait. Code-6 I find problematic since they are based on old Hifimans with annoying inherent traits (upper mid / low treble hardness and etch, mid treble 'zinging', too energetic/intensive for relaxed listening) that probably cannot be fully mitigated. I am grateful for all the posts made by @E_Schaaf on the topic. I have owned HE6 in the past, therefore not very likely interested in anything similar to it.
    Evaluating timbre seems mainly subjective, opinions might differ wildly. For me, roughly speaking, timbre represents all I hear that directly "accompanies" immediate frequency response of headphones. Based on what I noticed, timbral differences heard among various driver technologies tend to be a considerable decision factor, for instance.

    Timbre-wise, I personally favor planar magnetic headphones as sort of a middle ground between physicality/graininess of dynamic headphones and ethereal/smooth/soft nature of eletrostats. Thats why I favor Verum 1 over HD6XX, despite both being very good here. That being said, I agree that Verum 1 does seem a little too 'soft' and 'smoothed over' dynamically when compared critically with worthy competitors. And my girlfriend finds HD6XX great for live recordings as they provide the 'grain' and forward upper mid response desired to 'feel' singer's voice. Frequency response does have a lot to do with it but I am not convinced this is entirely it. PMx2s are also subdued in upper mids but do not have the described traits I hear with Verums IMHO.
    There is something to the Oppo driver that is different. To my ears and preference, PMx2s have a more correct timbre compared to any planar magnetic headphone I heard so far. It is indeed tonally very smooth headphone, arguably a bit overdamped and therefore somewhat lacking in air and natural resonance. That being said, timbre-wise, its neither too grainy nor too smooth, neither too physical nor too ethereal. Also very pure sounding, without artificial distortions or resonances. And thats a big deal to me.

    Not sure if I would call my rev2 pair with velour pads from rev1 version to be 'boring' sounding. Indeed a bit overdamped and tonally warmer but otherwise timbraly 'vivid/colourful' and, given its rich bass response, 'punchy'. Anyway, this is just my subjective judgement.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2020
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  17. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I like how you put this, and I myself wish I had a better grasp on the relationship between FR and timbre. For example, I rate the ZMF Eikon's timbre better overall than the ZMF Verite C, even though the technical microdetail/transient speed and treble of the Verite C is quite obviously superior. In this comparison, I believe that a FR difference leads to a nasally quality, possibly from a bass-to-mid bleed, in the vocal mid region of the Verite. With strings this leads to the Verite having more of that tactile cruncy "woodiness" (too which @Stuff Jones refers above), but without the overall (FR based?) naturalness of the Eikon. Which is better (with strings)? Hard to say, though on most of my favorite recordings I prefer the Verite, all the while missing the Eikon....damn this hobby :p
     
  18. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    I purchased a Clear (since it's basically what I wanted out of an Elear) and already have a Borealis. I'll let you know what I think. Looking at measurements, the Clear and Borealis look similar, but probably sound more different than alike.

    Frequency range basically shows how much louder or quieter a frequency is compared to other frequencies in the range. It's a small factor in actual timbre, but it's there.

    Timbre is basically overall quality and accuracy of the headphone when it plays a note. It's a combination of Attack/Decay (or how fast/slow a frequency plays/decays,) Harmonics (basically plankton/resolution,) and dynamics (how accurately a headphone reacts to differences in volume within the same note/song.)

    You can't look at a FR and determine if it has good timbre or not. Timbre is something you have to hear.
     
  19. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Yet, it's even more complicated it would seem. For example, just how is FR related, and is it really a "small factor"? For example, most everyone on this forum knows to some extent what "bass bleed (into mids)" sounds like. Even beyond the combination of Attack, Harmonics, and Dynamics, do we not also talk of the "plastic" timbre of certain orthos, or the "metalic" timbre of the Focals? I am not disagreeing with your summation I think, but I think I am wondering out loud if it is not too neat so to speak. All to say it is an exasperating subject for me at least.
     
  20. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Based on the data and info available so far, I would expect Borealis to be tonally somewhat brighter than neutral, with a tendency for "Focal-ish" emphasis on 1-2kHz and overall treble uneveness/peakiness. A bit worried about subbass extension too. Apart from Clear, headphones such as Auteur /w Auteur pads or even HD600 with fresh pads could share some similarities with the Borealis tonally, as it seems to me.

    Not sure about timbre qualities but would definitely want to compare with HD650 for mids to treble realism. I suspect Borealis might have very good timbre qualities.

    If you would feel otherwise based on your hands-on experience, please do enlighten us!

    Indeed.

    One moment from recent months when the difference got to me very clearly was when putting Auteur for the first time on my head.

    After like 30 seconds, I was like: "Wow, thats a really balanced sound, everything from bass to treble just integrates well together into a coherent presentation. My brain does not even need much time to get used to the sound." (Tonality)

    Then, after additional 5 minutes, I was like: "Hmm, there is something a bit unnatural to the way everything decays. Like all the reproduced sounds are being almost instantly covered in a slightly greyish, synthetic blanket." (Timbre)

    Well, you could say that frequency response tends to highlight issues with timbre. The more elevated the upper bass response relatively to other frequencies, the more difficult it is for the headphone to "control" the emanated sound waves of such frequencies. Therefore the tendency for bass bleeding into mids in a subjectively unnatural way is way more probable.

    You could also say that frequency response helps to hide timbre issues. Cheap headphones tend to be bass cannons since this also helps to cover a lot of timbral issues in mids (e.g. nasality) and treble (e.g. raspiness). Or, seen vice versa, relatively low treble response = harder to spot any timbre issues.

    There are probably other examples of how frequency response relates to perceived timbre. :)
     
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