Why Balanced Armature Drivers Suck

Discussion in 'Audio Science' started by purr1n, Oct 2, 2021.

  1. HHS

    HHS Facebook Friend

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    This explains a lot. I don't spend much on IEMs because I can never find any combination of tips and design that seal AND are comfortable with my right ear for more than an hour or two (probably because of a early childhood surgery I had on that ear). It seems like a waste to drop much money on them.

    So I always suspected my issues with BAs were because I was getting the bargain stuff, not necessarily inherent issues with driver design. Even the few BA based IEMs I've tried that sounded decent at first reveal their flaws with closer listening.

    DD based IEMs almost always seem to win out for me in the end. I would say I've heard some decent hybrids. The Sony XBA-N3 are still one of my favorites, so I guess the hybrid design is making up for some of the BA shortcomings
     
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  2. lemon07r

    lemon07r Rando

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    This is my new favorite thread. I didn't expect to finally get a real answer. Have felt at a loss all this time trying to figure out why I couldn't make myself like the dusk more than my starfields lmao. It really does feel like iems have been stuck in the same place or taking steps backwards on the technical side of things. Things like est and planar are cool but still too immature and still lack displacement/note weight which makes me feel they should belong in a more niche market than the marketing fad they've become. As for DD iems, what do we even have that's really an improvement from years ago? It seems to me the only thing that has improved are the iem tunings, which don't get me wrong is great, I'm glad for that but then I l look at stuff like the JVC FDX1 and think to myself wow these were so many years ahead that we still don't really have anything better on the technical side without having to spend exponentially more. Correct me if I'm wrong here, I could just be talking out of my ass, this is just how it feels like to me so I'm basically here trying to confirm if I'm right or wrong. Like what have we had in recent years since the tanchjim oxygen and fdx1? Maybe the 3dt, but that's about it. The Hana 2021 is cool I guess if you want a good value iem. The kato coming out fits the same bill but is otherwise just a slightly better kxxs. There's the Dunu Falcon Pro, but these have been a bit lukewarm coming out of the gate so far. These same companies that made those iems, tanchjim, moondrop, unique melody seem too focused trying to cater to the what the market thinks is cool, like these crazy hybrid configuration iems to care about making better DD iems.
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Anyway, here is some real data on metal or weirdo material tweeters. The reason I'm setting this forth is because I know some of you have expressed to me directly that you dislike the Focals. To put things in the proper context, I don't care what you like or dislike, and you shouldn't care what I like or dislike. What we are trying to do there is understand why. I like the Utopia headphones, but I totally get why people don't like them because of their treble timbre. Many tweeters in the speaker world exhibit funky timbre. I wanted to get some examples, show you their FRs up to 40Hz and give you my two cents on them.

    SEAS Prestige Titan 27TAC/GB Alum/Mag
    [​IMG]
    I think I've use this one before (or another similar model - Seas has 100 models). I paired it with aluminum woofers. I love Seas because they are brutally honest in their datasheets including measurements up to 40kHz. This tweeter is OK. TBH, I would prefer not having to use this tweeter again. I would pick this over any of the lower end Focal inverted domes.


    Accuton C30-6-358 High-End Tweeter Ceramic
    [​IMG]
    Accuton tends to smooth the shit outta the FR on their datasheets with measurements going up only to 20kHz as if they were hiding something. That's because they are. This FR graph came from AudioXpress. Their ceramic tweeter isn't that bad sounding. Better than most aluminum. Not as nice a soft fabric dome or old school JBL compression drivers like their buttcheeks. TBH, I don't hear any resolution advantage with their ceramic tweeters over fabric domes. They are a bit faster at a tiny cost in timbre. Different. Tradeoffs.


    Accuton Diamond - BD20-6-031
    [​IMG]
    I found this to sound best horizontally slightly off-axis and quite a bit vertically off-axis. This is an on-axis measurement. I think it's buried in Accuton's site or may have been removed. Note the obvious massive smoothing. Fast, great transient snap, seems to stop on a dime. On a good day really good, on most days, it sounds like ass. It can sound "hard", like a diamond.


    Focal inverted dome (Chorus 8**) Alum
    [​IMG]
    Focal's entry level inverted dome. This one flat out sounds like ass. Note the amplitude of the peak and the proximity of it to the audio band.

    P.S. It would be nice to get FR past 20kHz to 40kHz for headphones and IEMs with metal drivers.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Not at all. I totally get you. It's not my place to decide what you like or don't like. However, I feel duty found to understand and demonstrate (through science and inquiry) the reasons why may you like something. One of the things that gives me the greatest joy is when folks look at the full set of measurements, notice something specific, and say "I'm out" when it comes to the loaner program.

    I can say with a straight face that I think BA IEMs sound like ass and yet at the same time also say that some of my favorite IEMs are BA: UERM, Gaudio Nair, CFA Ara.

    I'm still waiting for that DD that ticks all the boxes. I loved what I heard with the IE900 and DUNU ZEN. However, the frequency response of those two sounded like they were voiced by Sean Olive turned into a twisted Mentat working for the Harkonnens.

    Paging @shotgunshane
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Not quite apples to apples and no H5, but this should give us an idea. The levels are a bit higher from 90db to 104db. I picked 907Hz because that spot didn't look like it was in a transition band and it was close to the 1kHz of the other plots.

    upload_2021-10-3_11-9-23.png

    I would say that only claim to fame of this T-shaped Armature is that it took everything that was bad about BA drivers, did nothing to tame the bad, and added a heavy dose of second order distortion. The M7 sounded like it too - lacked clarity - rubbery lows. This is like curing a cripple one with bad leg by breaking the other good one.

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/sony-ier-m7-measurement-and-review.11006/
     
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  6. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    Omitting the fr extension in graphs sure can hide things we perceive, however I say there is a lot of stuff wrt speaker drivers that no regular measurement shows. Tweeters sound different w a y before their respective breakup zones. Already in the low treble Be membrane beats the crap out of most other things. <-- keeping it apples-to-apples. Not to pick out an awful contender for Be and an excellent one for soft fabric. Lots of the modern tweeters are available in the same chassis with pretty much the same motor, only membrane is different.
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I think the measurements for tweeters are possible... just no one has the trifecta set: FR, CSD, HD + Attack/Decay beyond just simply FR. Most of the time we see only FR and maybe a CSD.

    FR alone was great in 2011 because we never had any of this information. It was just random impressions. Ten years later, FR alone sucks balls for the following reasons:
    1. Because it doesn't tell us what we already know by listening
    2. It can be misleading with respect to tonal signature (perceived) for a variety of reasons
    3. If we EQ an HD800 into frequency response perfection, it still sounds like an HD800. Same goes for everything else.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
  8. Tekker

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    I salute this real science. If the same question would be asked on ASR, the response would be to just get a low enough distortion of a driver and EQ to whatever sound you like the most.
     
  9. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    Here is a nice comparison review I should have linked in the previous post already. It is the same tweeter with different membrane materials. If nothing more it is an excellent academic research project, as I have not tried the particular items myself yet:
    https://hificompass.com/en/reviews/bliesma-t25a-6-t25b-6-t25d-6-t25s-6

    The results go quite well along my own impressions with all of the tweeter membrane materials I have heard in various top tweeters.

    There is one measurement that I feel correlates well with quality assessment form listening tests, it is the step response.
    That said, it can be misleading when splitting hairs.
    Here are some by HifiCompass that I have tried in speakers: tweeter step comp.png
    Based on my listening, the quality goes : cvd >> Be > Hi-end Softdomes > artificial sapphire > not the best softdome / alu
    All of those except the bottom two have heroic modern motor construction.

    How the materials might apply to IEM driver membranes is to me just speculation. None of the IEM membranes are even close the size of a proper tweeter.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 4, 2021
  10. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    If I may ask, what's your take on hybrids?
     
  11. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Is there anyone with, comparative, focal HPs measurements between 20 and 40? Would this correlate with the speakers in any way?

    When the OG Clears were released and I stated that they sounded like ass, with that piercing metal timbre, I rustled some feathers, because it was a new release and people seemed to be impressed by them, specially on the other forum, and I couldn't understand how people were/are ok with it.

    Time went by and it seems to always fall into the I love them/burn then with fire, categories, with little to nothing in between.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    With the exception of a few standouts, hybrids sound more problematic because the timbre of the lows and highs (or lows, mids, and highs) sound too different, thus making the timbre of the entire audio spectrum disharmonious and incoherent. I'm the same way for speakers where I dislike the use radically different types of drivers, although somehow I am good with big woofers and compression drivers / horns (if properly implement). Then again, compression drivers are basically the same kind of tech with the same distortion profile as cone woofers with voice coils.

    One gets accustomed to it.
     
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  13. Cellist88

    Cellist88 Friend

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    I think the problem also with hybrids is that, in order to tune the drivers to make them sound similar, you take away some of the strengths that driver had in the first place. For example, in order to make a DD sound cohesive with a BA you have to make it faster, lighter, and tighter, making it less DD.
     
  14. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Thanks! And we're on the same page on large bass drivers plus compression drivers in horns. Lots of things to like about their sound if done right.
     
  15. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Campfire Audio really stands out from all other iems I've heard in terms of timbre. Yes, they still have a bit of BA sound, but the Andromeda 2020, Are, and og Solars have barely any BA timbre. Every other BA iem I've heard has a pervasive plastic timbre, they are for example unable to properly reproduce the timbre of cymbals. But thees TOTL Campfire iems somehow don't have this plastic timbre at all cymbals sound like cymbals. They still don't sound quite right, but they are way more correct than every other BA iem I've heard.

    Is there anything in their measurements that show this? It would be interesting to compare the Andromeda 2020 to the Soranik iems or the Gaudio Nair, both of which have this plastic timbre.
     
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  16. Stuff Jones

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    I have to disagree based on what I've heard at least. I found the OG Solaris, Andros and the Aras to all have worse BA timbre than the Sony M9 and MD Plus. But it could be that the latter two's warmth mask it.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 9, 2021
  17. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    wow. If the M9 has the same sound in the low end as the M7 which all reason leads me to believe (I think the M9 just adds a high treble driver and the rest is the same) then we hear very differently. The M7 has the worst rubbery low end to me, worse than much cheaper iems. Though I do like it’s treble, which is why I think the M9 is so ridiculous adding a treble driver - not what the M7 needs.
     
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  18. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I dipped back into IEM's a few months ago by signing up on several SBAF tours, owning the CA Ara for a couple of months, etc. I do agree with Marv that the CA Ara had less BA timbre than is normal, but to my ears its advantage (let's call it a 40% drop to put a number on it) was not enough in that the BA timbre was still the primary sin of commission. I found it just impossible to not be distracted by it, particularly in the mids with voices/mid centric instruments. For my preferences, BA timbre is a 'fatal flaw' that as of yet no manufacture that I am aware of has adequately designed around
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    CFA and Nair: The same BA distortion pattern exists, but overall distortion is kept lower and is fairly consistent from low to highs.
     
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  20. Stuff Jones

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    Yeah I guess we just have different sensitivity areas for timbre. Mine is in the mids where to me timbre is most important. I just discount BA bass as BA bass, or think of timbre as texture there, which is probably wrong. Anyway, other than my trusty MD Plus which make for perfect travel IEMs (and which earned my loyalty going through the wash unscathed), I don't think I'll go back to BAs again. Or hybrids that don't have DDs in the bass and mids.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 9, 2021

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