The Worst Sounding Headphones You've Ever Heard And WHY

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by E_Schaaf, Aug 24, 2021.

  1. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I bought the original HE-400 when they went on close out for cheap after being hyped on headfi for being so awesome. They sounded so disjointed and incoherent. Like if someone decided to build their first 3 way speaker by randomly selecting parts and picking bad Xover points. Maybe they were defective but I sent them back after a couple of weeks.

    then I went to K-701s. These were better, comfortable, but had no soul. I think I had an original Vali at the time and then a Lyr 2. I just couldn’t listen to more than a couple songs at a time. Replaced them with HD-598s and was a lot happier.
     
  2. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    This is pretty accurate. But there is a lot of wiggle room in earpads, baffle design, cup design, grill design and most importantly damping. I've actually done a lot of mods to my LCD-X despite the large driver mostly filling the earpads. And I do a fair amount to the HE6se as well.

    I think Audeze drivers are the best ortho drivers ever made (that I know of, who knows about all those weird clandestine Russian companies). But there are a lot of problems with the acoustics that hold them back.

    But my most complex mod is my T50rp MK3 for the reasons you mentioned. It's very complex and takes me 3 days to put together (partly due to health problems that limit my energy). But you're right about why - smaller driver in a closed back cup. I just sent mine to Marv for measurements so it will be interesting to see how I did. I worked on it a long time and really got the best I could from it. The MK3 is harder to work with than the MK2.

    I still think that most drivers are pretty shitty. Including most modern ortho drivers. I've heard some modern orthos that just sound like absolute garbage and it's the drivers as well as the implementation, but it was obvious to me that no modifications could fix them. The Either CX sounded plastic-y, boomy, hollow, grainy, rough, underdamped, etc. It clearly had a poorly designed driver along with bad acoustic implementation.

    And I think most electrodynamic drivers are crap too. I mean you picked one of the only electrodynamic drivers I have respect for as an example - the HD800 driver. What about the original John Grado drivers?

    I agree with you that acoustic implementation is very important, but I also think you need a driver that isn't peaky, resonant and breaking up. I think most headphones have crap drivers in thoughtless enclosures.

    If you want a real challenge, I challenge you to take an original John Grado SR325 driver and make a flat, clean headphone out of it. :)

    But in all seriousness, I agree with you, I think we see things the same way. There is very little creativity in enclosure design with any headphones. Most electrodynamics have no damping whatsoever even if they're closed back. Not to mention other aspects of the cup design. I think with most companies the drivers and enclosures are designed by different teams and then slapped together. And the enclosures are highly based on aesthetics, not acoustics.
     
  3. Tekker

    Tekker Acquaintance

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    Second pair of Hifiman HE-400i - bought in late 2016. The first pair I used to have in March 2016, actually sounded very good. Had to sell it to get the funds to repair my laptop at the time.

    This second pair however, was the most sibilant headphone I’ve ever heard until this day.

    AKG K540 - my first ever “expensive” headphone purchase back in 2012. Was tuned to the Harman Curve (boosted bass which I actually liked, recessed lower-mids, way too forward upper-mids and lower treble, neutral upper-treble). Yeah, as a noob I heavily disliked the Harman curve, it sounded too harsh with too little body and too much recess in the male vocals.

    Oppo PM-3 - Purchased in 2017. Could be my relatively weak dac/amp at the time (Geek Out 450), but they sounded extremely distant with very weak bass and highs, basically no dynamic range at all.
     
  4. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    This is a very very far aside, but my first audition of an Audeze was on an EC ZD-T (those who know, know). I was introduced to Audeze through Craig and his LCD-1 proto and another very passionate + friendly head-fi'er (Balderon) also has been bringing his LCD-1(s) to meets ever since I've known him. And luckily - he has a bad-ass Balancing Act still and it just amazes every time. He just sits there and shares it because it is wonderful.

    Ninja Edit: In regards to headphone cups - no enclosure best enclosure. (RAAL / K1000 / MA900 / PFR-V1 / Grado.. etc..) But you need to couple because of the sciencey shit that I'm not qualified to talk about.

    Car audio guys know what rolling down the windows does on a bumpin' system. I've done the 1kW per-coil thing in my life.

    Imagine going over to an equally inferior hobby, car audio, and complaining to Alpine, Pioneer, Clarion, JVC, JL, Focal, etc. etc. etc. - We all moved to DIY for the same reason - manufacturers have no need. We've reached peak electrodynamic driver status currently LOL. Dan Wiggins shifted from Subwoofers to Headphones to make a quick buck over at Periodic. He talks about all his background but he doesnt back it up. His Subs are better.

    Check out Qudelix - they have a neat little 20 dollar + 20 dollar shipping headphone that is a very novel solution that should basically shut up every IEM person. (*requires a BT dongle unfortunately, but that is where we are heading)
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2021
  5. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    @stratocaster tamed Grado long ago. Threads here or on changstar.

    edit: Which reminds me, @E_Schaaf I challenge you to finish modding my Emu already. :) kidding, no rush. Seriously though, its been like 5months. Kidding! Send me a loaner GenG to tempt me to upgrade. Not kidding. :D
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2021
  6. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    I personally thought Rhydon's early work with the full-metal "V4" Mangum reminds me quite a bit of the Joseph Grado sound. The V5+ ventured away from that sound for more mid-bass punch and what I think was resolution also increasing along the incremental upgrades. Ultimately it still just the peak performance of that type of driver.
     
  7. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Oh this is easy, HE-400s. 100% wtf. Why? they sounded like the drivers were made of wet paper bags with an EQ of +24db at 14kHz. Entirely unlistenable - I ripped them off my head after maybe 10 seconds.
     
  8. 7seven

    7seven Acquaintance

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    Same here.
    The stand out quality was how unnatural and fatiguing it sounded... which weirdly enough was rooted in the low end.
    Only HP that I found truly unlistenable.
    To be fair I only used them with the O2+ODAC, though nothing to date was ever near THIS bad with the O2 and if anything it prefers higher impedances.
     
  9. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    I don't know if there was one "worst" headphone, but the HD660/s was probably the biggest disappointment. Not sure if it was b/c it had the burden of living up to the HD580/600/650 which are all legendary in their own way. Enough has been said about how these sound so I'll leave it at that.
     
  10. Roderick

    Roderick Facebook Friend

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    Worst would propably be some unbranded headphones. The kind you can buy from Alibaba for 50c/piece when you order 1000 units.

    Besides those generic cheapos one headphone is a true stand out pos above others. Flare Audio Reference R1.
    [​IMG]
    According to Flare it's a worlds first truly open headphone. They have achieved the unique openness with their their Space™ and Vortex™ technologies. There are bunch of vents with shaped canals on both sides of the driver. This is what it looks under the baffle and propably it's something similar under behind the driver too. I assume that is the Vortex™ tech there. No idea what Space™ is. Those vents are supposed to create equal pressure on both sides of the driver which makes it "truly open".
    [​IMG]
    In reality full metal housing with those cavities causes ton of echoes, ringing and midrange boost. Thats pretty much all sound it makes. Ton of shouty ringing mids.

    I'm all for innovation but I think people at Flare fell in love with the idea and refused to turn back when it became apparent it was a very poor idea to begin with. Combine the sound with fierce clamp, stiff and thin vinyl earpads, non-detachable cable with poor flexibility and msrp of $800. I actually recommend this headphone if you can find it for cheap because I think it's rather unique, sort of a benchmark in what happens when EVERYTHING goes wrong with headphone design.

    Edit: I was looking for my own measurements but found Tyll's instead.

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Aug 28, 2021
  11. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Dear god that frequency response is awful. Like an anti-Harmon curve
     
  12. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Are you sure those are headphones, and not a vacuum cleaner? The measurements even look like it.
     
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  13. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    Mitchell and Johnson MJ2

    [​IMG]

    Billed as the world’s first portable electrostatic headphone, but there are many things wrong with this claim. They are not electrostatic, they are hybrid dynamic / electret. First portable electrostatic I believe belongs to Stax SRS-002. And electrets and hybrid electrets have been around for decades with designs from big name brands. The most famous hybrid is the AKG 340. Electrets were all over with varying topologies with most bleh and a few were great from: Technics, Sony, Beyerdynamic, Audio Technica (who also manufactured for lots of other companies like Stax), and I'm probably forgetting more. I think M&J later skirted the issue by calling them electrostatz with a z instead.

    But wait that's just the shameless tip of this audacity.

    This headphone started as a kickstarter. M&J begging for help to launch their passion project. But in reality, the MJ2 was just an expensive (original msrp was like $700) rebrand from a chinese oem supplier. M&J boasted its unique technologies, meanwhile there were already the exact same drivers available in other headphones in the marketplace such as these cyberdrives for like $25.

    M&J made other claims like a sophisticated crossover. Turns out it was just a single high pass filter on the electret. And here is how it worked out, by diyah.:


    It appears that the dynamic driver is simply a full range driver with a somewhat lower output above 400Hz. There is no low pass filter for the bass/midrange driver.
    The electret starts from 500Hz (connected via the high-pass filter) and runs all the way up to at least 30kHz.
    Acc. to the manufacturer the crossover is at 4kHz. This certainly is merely advertising talk and far from the truth.
    Unfortunately the dynamic driver still plays 10dB louder than the electret driver. Thus the dynamic driver is twice as loud above 500hz.
    On top of that the electret also shows big dips and peaks. Even higher than those of the dynamic driver.
    In essence it looks like the electret is more of a gimmick than a real contributor to the sound as the dynamic driver is always much louder.
    Listening to the dynamic driver alone gives the same tonal balance as with the electret combined. Still.. with the electret playing as well there is slightly more ‘sparkle’ (for whatever one can talk about sparkle which it lacks big time).

    Below a plot with dynamic driver, electret driver separately and when these 2 drivers are combined.
    [​IMG]


    Our scrupulous friends at Massdrop began to sell the M&J line of headphones at a whopping discount of $100+shipping. I ordered the MJ2, and ordered the Cyberdrive at the same time from Amazon. The Cyberdrive arrived first and after listening I left a bad review with evidence to its relation to MJ2 on Head-Fi which was swiftly argued against by shills of M&J. Besides the drivers very bleh sound, the plastic cups of the Cyberdrive rang horribly which ended up being the MJ2's one improvement with its wooden shells (M&J also sold a simply rebranded version of the cyberdrive headphone called the GL2 or something but with wood accents...). The M&J arrived from Massdrop in a mouldy box which I consider lucky because it was the reason why Drop let me return these droppings. You cannot hear the electret driver outside of possibly some echoey effect to add some sorta texture at best, and the dynamic driver was weaksauce.

    Such a rip off. M&J had aligned support from some music producers on their site to backup their creds. Here is an advertising video of theirs as evidence of their brazenness.


     
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  14. Roderick

    Roderick Facebook Friend

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    Lol! That would explain alot. :D Another funny thing is that @Psalmanazar reviewed R1 on head-fi and said: "Sliding freely along two nails, they must be pressed against your ears for the headphone does not clamp at all. This is the least comfortable full-size headphone I have ever used." Apparently Flare "fixed" the headband later making the clamp extremely tight which makes it least comfortable headphones I have ever used. At this point I think it's perfectly plausible that someone at Flare knew what R1 sounds like and to protect the company did their damnedest sabotagin the headband so people would be unable to take a listen. :D
     
  15. Scubadude

    Scubadude Almost "Made"

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    The worst sounding headphones in my book typically have bass emphasis or a dark tilt ... maybe it says more about my preferences than about the headphones.

    Having said that, counting down in Youtube fashion, the worst I've heard are:

    5. Audeze LCD2. This one was on-off-on-off-on affair for me. It was the first high end headphones I heard, and, in pre-fazor trim, the sweet noises it made on a Lake People amp reminded me of a good speaker set-up. Then I got the same pair for extended home trial and thought it was awful - needed as much as a 12dB boost in places to bring out the detail I love so much. Once my ears had tuned into the darker nature I appreciated it for what it was and I bought a pair of PF's. But over time it became too much of a good thing and fell into disuse. I had my hopes up with the Fazor, hoping for a more focused LCD2, which it was but also had a strange nasal colouration. The best version I've heard is "defazored" late model ... it had the improved driver of the Fazor but without the Fazor elements and acoustic nasties it brings. I imagine this is what the Classic sounds like.

    4. Focal Elear. Exciting listen which begs the volume to go clockwise, only to be fatigued by a harsh and grating upper mid timbre. How can a dark headphone sound bright? So much promise this one had for me ...

    3. Audioquesy Nighthawk. What on earth were they thinking? A steaming pile of terribleness.

    2. Sony XB300. Maybe this one met its design objective and I just don’t get it. This is the marketing blurb: "Experience bass like never before with these groundbreaking Extra Bass headphones. Engineered to reproduce ultra-low frequencies, they deliver deep, hard-hitting bass from 30mm drivers. Say goodbye to your old headphones and hello to the massive power of the MDR-XB300 Extra Bass headphones. From the powerful 30mm diaphragm driver units to the incredibly high level of sound isolation, the Extra Bass headphones deliver the dramatic bass effects you crave.”

    1. Sony MDR-XB90EX Extra Bass IEMs. I know we're not talking IEM's but this one is particularly awful and should come with a health warning as the overpowering bass induces vertigo and/or nausea.

    Dishonourable Mention: Technics EAH820. Late 70's relic planar magnetic. Best thing about it is the beautiful serpentine driver. The worst is the underdamped mess of a sound signature.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
  16. David Smolinski

    David Smolinski Rando

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    Audio-Technica ATH-M50X: The trebble was sometimes extreme. I haven't heard painful sound from other headphones. Free headphones sound better.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2021
  17. KaiserTK

    KaiserTK Rando

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    I know most people weren’t interested in this headphone here in the first place, but after listening to it today I must say - DCA Stealth is easily one of the worst sounding headphones I’ve tried.

    Timbre of instruments/vocals was shifted all over the place, details were smeared, head-stage/imaging was non-existent, like did anyone actually listen to music with these headphones when tuning it?

    Honestly I wasn’t expecting much, but I thought Ether 2 and Aeon 2 were alright headphones, and Ether Open-back was a fun sounding headphone. Voce certainly had some issues, but wasn’t egregiously bad.

    Stealth was egregiously bad, and gave me Ultrasone flashbacks.
     
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Dang. That's too bad. Wasn't this supposed to be tuned to the Harmon target?
     
  19. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    The worst that I've heard...

    1) the rare original Grado HF-1... those who think the original SR325 was bright would probably shred their ears on the this. Do you guys remember the video of Tyll listening to the Ultrasones and wincing in pain? Basically that, but with a Grado.

    2) the Headphile Vixen... how someone was able to take a grado 325 driver, a Beyer cup, two individual components known to produce peaky treble responses, and somehow turn it into the mushiest soggiest English-before-they-invaded-countries-for-spices oatmeal ever, I'll never know
     
  20. KaiserTK

    KaiserTK Rando

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    I haven’t seen the published frequency graphs of it, but I would hope at that price tag that’s not the only thing DCA were tuning it for.
     

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