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10 Stages of Reading Headphone Measurements (by Resolve)

luft262

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If you really believe this, TurtlePaul, then perhaps you'd better take another look at some of the Toole videos and links posted above. ;) Some new data has been accumulated though in the last 25 years on the in-room and dispersive characteristics of loudspeakers, thanks in part to websites like this one.

I'm going to turn my thoughts back to the subject of headphone measurements though (at least for the moment). And some of the other potential relationships they could have with the measurements of loudspeakers imho.

These are the same two average sound power loudspeaker curves shown in one of my previous posts above. But with one minor change or addition...

View attachment 188123

Both of the curves have now been combined with the diffuse field HRTF response of HBK's new 5128 HATS measurement rig.

The diffuse field response of the 5128 is represented by the dashed purple curve on this ASR graph of the Sennheiser HD-650 headphone...

index.php


It's the curve with the brightest tilt or response on the graph. And is noticeably brighter in the treble than both Amir's recalibrated version of the Harman curve for the 5128, and also the measured in-ear response of the HD-650 (which is considered by some audiophiles to be a fairly neutral-sounding headphone in the midrange and treble).

To a casual observer, the 5128 DF curve looks way too bright to really be of much use for analyzing the in-ear responses of headphones (or anything else for that matter). What the purple DF curve represents though is the HBK 5128's HRTF response to a spectrally flat sound field that is essentially equal (or diffused) in all directions.

When you're listening to speakers in a room in your home, sound is also coming at your ears from all different directions, like in a diffuse sound field. The volume and timbre (and arrival time) of the sound is not the same though from all directions. Because both the directivity or dispersion characteristics of the speakers, and the acoustics of the room reflecting the sound back to your ears will change the timbral balance or composition of the speakers so they have a darker overall tilt than they would if you were listening to just the speaker's direct/on-axis response in a more heavily damped or non-reflective (aka echo-free or anechoic) space. This is because most speakers disperse their sound more broadly at lower frequencies than at the higher frequencies. So the room tends to reflect more LF back to the listener than HF. And the net result is an in-room response that's tilted more in favor of the bass, and less in favor of the treble (like my homey TurtlePaul just mentioned above).

So what does this have to do with my headphones, or the price of beans in Chile?... Well, it turns out that if you take something like a HATS measurement rig's, or any person's in-ear response to a spectrally flat diffuse sound field, and then combine that with a speaker's spectrally-tilted sound power (which is just a summary of it's diffuse response in all directions in a room), what you seem to get is something that looks awfully close to the speaker's probable in-ear response in an average domestic listening space.

It kinda makes sense when you think about it, because what the normal DF response of a measurement rig is generally missing is that darker "tilt" that you get when listening to speakers in a semi-reflective room. And the sound power of a neutral loudspeaker seems to fill in that missing timbral information quite nicely. So combining the two should give you something fairly close to an approximation of a speaker's in-ear response, if you were listening to them in a typical semi-reflective room (which is one of the models Harman uses in its spinorama calculations).

How that all works is still a bit of a mystery to me, since I'm not much of a math or engineering genius. But it seems to be borne out, at least implicitly, by much of Harman's data and research. And also the independent measurements I've looked at on both headphones and speakers, including the graphs in Pierre's spinorama database, and also raw and compensated headphone measurements by ASR and other headphone graphers/reviewers (such as Oratory1990, Crin, Resolve, Inner Fidelity, Rtings, the SoundGuys, and so forth).

This is not something which can really be proven though until there are more actual in-ear measurements of speakers to compare with sound power + DF HRTF results, like the ones that I've posted above.

These are the two average sound power curves modified with the 5128 DF curve, overlaid for a little easier comparison btw...

View attachment 188124

Note the slightly more pronounced dip in the mids on the pink curve (which represents the V-shaped speakers with some cross-over/directivity issues).

Although these curves have a fairly "Harman-ish" look to them, there are a few differences between them and the over-ear headphone target Harman developed for it's own GRAS and KEMAR-based measurements, particularly in the treble. So these curves are mostly useful for comparison just with the other HBK 5128 measurements made by ASR, or by Jude at Head-Fi. And by one or two other sites that are starting to use HBK 5128 systems for their reviews (like some of the recent 5128 headphone plots by the Sound Guys).
Those are some interesting graphs! It seems to me that the Harmon in room graph from 25 years ago is closer to what most people are shooting for in their house curves. Both have a steep roll off above about 15kHz, but I'm not sure how much that matters to most listeners. I'm 36 years old and my hearing maxes out at about 16 to 17kHz. What happens above that won't be audible to me. Both curves appear to have about a 10dB boost in bass above 75Hz with a roll off from there to about 200Hz to baseline. The newer graph has more of a boost around 3kHz, which is interesting, because from what I understand that is where the ear is most sensitive. Audyssey even gives users the ability to decrease the output in that range. It seem that the jury is still out on preference curves, but most would agree a 10dB boost from baseline in bass is preferable.

I'd like to see more information about how lower listening levels or deviation from reference levels affects the preference curve. Audyssey have a dynamic EQ feature that supposedly causes mids and highs to decrease at a faster rate than bass frequencies when decreasing the volume. From what they're saying the lower the listening level the more of a difference between the bass vs mids and highs there needs to be to maintain psychoacoustic balance. I'd like to see what the preference curve looks like at 55db vs 85db.
 
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Those are some interesting graphs!

I think they're pretty cool too! But then I'm slightly biased. :) Thank you though.

It seems to me that the Harmon in room graph from 25 years ago is closer to what most people are shooting for in their house curves.

I wouldn't know much about this. I generally think the best use of EQ for speakers is to correct errors in the direct/on-axis response though, rather than using some kind of in-room target.

However, if the goal is to compare the response of a pair of speakers to some headphones, then the in-room and the sound power responses of the speakers seem to be about the only way to go for that.

Both have a steep roll off above about 15kHz, but I'm not sure how much that matters to most listeners. I'm 36 years old and my hearing maxes out at about 16 to 17kHz. What happens above that won't be audible to me.

As long as the direct response of a speaker is reasonably flat up to the max frequency you can hear, you should be doin ok. I don't mean to sound like Dr. Toole's parrot... But what happens off-axis at the higher frequencies is probably somewhat less important, since the direct sound of the speaker is more dominant in that range.

There are other kinds of speakers which roll off a bit less in their off-axis HF response though than speakers with a more V-shaped response. And some of those would fall into what I call the "L-shaped" category.

Both curves appear to have about a 10dB boost in bass above 75Hz with a roll off from there to about 200Hz to baseline.

I haven't looked at the in-room responses of speakers as closely as sound power. But the sound power responses of good loudspeakers tend to be close to a -1.0 to -1.5 dB per octave slope (excluding the falloff in the sub-bass).

Since there are 10 octaves between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz (the typical range used on an FR graph), that means there is a general rise of about 10 to 15 dBs in a speaker's sound power response from the highest frequencies in the treble to the lowest frequencies in the speaker's (sub)bass. The two average SP curves I posted earlier follow this general pattern as well...

index.php


There are some similarities in the shape of a speaker's sound power and in-room responses. But the speaker's sound power always has a steeper overall tilt or slope, that is more attenuated in the higher frequencies.

The newer graph has more of a boost around 3kHz, which is interesting, because from what I understand that is where the ear is most sensitive. Audyssey even gives users the ability to decrease the output in that range. It seem that the jury is still out on preference curves, but most would agree a 10dB boost from baseline in bass is preferable.

Be careful not to confuse the in-room (or in situ) response of a speaker with its in-ear response. Because these are two different things, luft262.

The in-room response of a speaker is generally measured from outside of the ear at the listening position with an omni-directional mic. Though it can also be estimated from anechoic measurements (iow measurements made in an echo-free chamber). So it is not effected by the shapes and resonances of the torso, head, pinna or outer-ear, and the ear-canal, like the in-ear response is. And it will be much closer to something resembling a slope, with maybe a bit of a dip or two somewhere in the midrange frequencies.

This is what the estimated in-room response of the Revel F208 speaker looks like, for example, based on Harman's measurements...


To get a rough estimate of the Revel F208's raw in-ear response on the 5128 HATS measurement rig, we can (imo) combine the speaker's diffuse sound power response with the 5128's diffuse field response, which produces a frequency response curve that looks like this...

REVEL F208 PLUS 5128DF.jpg


This should be a familiar looking shape to those acquainted with raw headphone FR graphs. But maybe not to some speaker buffs, because speakers are rarely ever measured from inside the ear.

The approximately 10 dB peak at around 3 kHz in the upper mids of the above graph is primarily caused by resonances inside the ear. Especially from the concha and ear canal, as shown on the diagram below, which illustrates the approximate responses of different parts of the body, head and ear...


When the frequency responses of the different parts of the head and ear are all combined together (as they would be when making measurements of speakers from inside the ear, at the eardrum reference point), they will tend to produce a fairly pronounced peak in the upper mids, usually around 3 kHz or so, like on the estimated in-ear graph of the Revel F208... And on most raw FR plots of headphones you'll see on ASR and other websites (such as Rtings, Headphonesdotcom, etc.). This would include the ASR graph of the Senn HD-650 that I previously posted above.

EDIT: Fixed the broken ear resonances diagram link above.
 
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I'd like to see more information about how lower listening levels or deviation from reference levels affects the preference curve. Audyssey have a dynamic EQ feature that supposedly causes mids and highs to decrease at a faster rate than bass frequencies when decreasing the volume. From what they're saying the lower the listening level the more of a difference between the bass vs mids and highs there needs to be to maintain psychoacoustic balance. I'd like to see what the preference curve looks like at 55db vs 85db.

This is another interesting subject which I'll try to comment on another time. What you're referring to though is something known as the Fletcher-Munson effect.


Research is still ongoing on the subject of equal loudness at different volumes, and at different frequencies! So I would stay tuned for more interesting stuff to come from some of the academics on this topic, perhaps in the not too distant future.
 
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luft262

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I think they're pretty cool too! But then I'm slightly biased. :) Thank you though.



I wouldn't know much about this. I generally think the best use of EQ for speakers is to correct errors in the direct/on-axis response though, rather than using some kind of in-room target.

However, if the goal is to compare the response of a pair of speakers to some headphones, then the in-room and the sound power responses of the speakers seem to be about the only way to go for that.



As long as the direct response of a speaker is reasonably flat up to the max frequency you can hear, you should be doin ok. I don't mean to sound like Dr. Toole's parrot... But what happens off-axis at the higher frequencies is probably somewhat less important, since the direct sound of the speaker is more dominant in that range.

There are other kinds of speakers which roll off a bit less in their off-axis HF response though than speakers with a more V-shaped response. And some of those would fall into what I call the "L-shaped" category.



I haven't looked at the in-room responses of speakers as closely as sound power. But the sound power responses of good loudspeakers tend to be close to a -1.0 to -1.5 dB per octave slope (excluding the falloff in the sub-bass).

Since there are 10 octaves between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz (the typical range used on an FR graph), that means there is a general rise of about 10 to 15 dBs in a speaker's sound power response from the highest frequencies in the treble to the lowest frequencies in the speaker's (sub)bass. The two average SP curves I posted earlier follow this general pattern as well...

index.php


There are some similarities in the shape of a speaker's sound power and in-room responses. But the speaker's sound power always has a steeper overall tilt or slope, that is more attenuated in the higher frequencies.



Be careful not to confuse the in-room (or in situ) response of a speaker with its in-ear response. Because these are two different things, luft262.

The in-room response of a speaker is generally measured from outside of the ear at the listening position with an omni-directional mic. Though it can also be estimated from anechoic measurements (iow measurements made in an echo-free chamber). So it is not effected by the shapes and resonances of the torso, head, pinna or outer-ear, and the ear-canal, like the in-ear response is. And it will be much closer to something resembling a slope, with maybe a bit of a dip or two somewhere in the midrange frequencies.

This is what the estimated in-room response of the Revel F208 speaker looks like, for example, based on Harman's measurements...


To get a rough estimate of the Revel F208's raw in-ear response on the 5128 HATS measurement rig, we can (imo) combine the speaker's diffuse sound power response with the 5128's diffuse field response, which produces a frequency response curve that looks like this...

View attachment 188611

This should be a familiar looking shape to those acquainted with raw headphone FR graphs. But maybe not to some speaker buffs, because speakers are rarely ever measured from inside the ear.

The approximately 10 dB peak at around 3 kHz in the upper mids of the above graph is primarily caused by resonances inside the ear. Especially from the concha and ear canal, as shown on the diagram below, which illustrates the approximate responses of different parts of the body, head and ear...


When the frequency responses of the different parts of the head and ear are all combined together (as they would be when making measurements of speakers from inside the ear, at the eardrum reference point), they will tend to produce a fairly pronounced peak in the upper mids, usually around 3 kHz or so, like on the estimated in-ear graph of the Revel F208... And on most raw FR plots of headphones you'll see on ASR and other websites (such as Rtings, Headphonesdotcom, etc.). This would include the ASR graph of the Senn HD-650 that I previously posted above.

EDIT: Fixed the broken ear resonances diagram link above.
The in-ear vs in-room response curve differences were very enlightening. Thank you for pointing that out as I was confused why headphones and speakers seemed to be following different curves! Very helpful!
 
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The in-ear vs in-room response curve differences were very enlightening. Thank you for pointing that out as I was confused why headphones and speakers seemed to be following different curves! Very helpful!

Glad if it helped to clarify anything.

This is how the in-ear approximation of the Revel F208 was calculated btw...

REVERL F208.jpg


The first curve above is a rough plot of the F208's sound power curve. This was combined with the HBK 5128's diffuse field curve just below it. And the net result of the two is shown in the Analysis Panel at the bottom. This was all done with a "stack" of variable GEQs in Equalizer APO's Configuration Editor.

This process can also be reversed btw. And the raw in-ear frequency response of a headphone can be compensated with the inverse of the 5128's diffuse field to get a rough approximation of the headphone's sound power response.

Here's an example of how that might work...

SENN HD650.jpg


The first curve above in this example is a rough plot of the Sennheiser HD-650's raw in-ear response, as measured on the HBK 5128 rig. To get an idea of the headphone's approximate sound power response, the resonances of the ear (and head) can be subtracted from its raw FR by combining it with the inverse of the HBK's 5128 diffuse field response. This is the same DF curve shown in the previous Revel F208 example above, only flipped upside-down. And the final result (with ear resonances removed) is shown in the Analysis Panel graph at the bottom.

Some peaks and valleys in the treble are expected on a compensated headphone graph like this. This is primarily due to the fact that the raw measurement of the headphone's response is much more detailed and precise than the somewhat more generalized DF curve used to remove the ear resonances. So what matters is more of the overall shape or pattern of the peaks in the treble, rather than the smoothness of the curve in that range.
 
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SENN HD650 PLUS SLOPE.jpg


The graph above gives an idea of how the DF compensated plot of the Senn HD-650 would compare to a slope between -1.0 and -1.5 dBs per octave (the approximate slope of most good loudspeaker's SP responses). A precise match would just be a straight line. So It's pretty close from about 100 Hz in the bass up to at about 16 or 17 kHz in the treble.

If your target is a linear sound power response, that's not too shabby. The only area where it's falling rather short is in the sub-bass response.
 
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Glad if it helped to clarify anything.

This is how the in-ear approximation of the Revel F208 was calculated btw...

View attachment 189154

The first curve above is a rough plot of the F208's sound power curve. This was combined with the HBK 5128's diffuse field curve just below it. And the net result of the two is shown in the Analysis Panel at the bottom. This was all done with a "stack" of variable GEQs in Equalizer APO's Configuration Editor.

This process can also be reversed btw. And the raw frequency response of a headphone can be compensated with the inverse of the 5128's diffuse field to get a rough approximation of the headphone's sound power response.

Here's an example of how that might work...

View attachment 189161

The first curve above in this example is a rough plot of the Sennheiser HD 650's raw response, as measured on the HBK 5128. To get an idea of the headphone's approximate sound power response, the resonances of the ear (and head) can be subtracted from its raw FR by combining it with the inverse of the HBK's 5128 diffuse field response. This is the same DF curve shown in the previous F208 example above, only flipped upside-down. And the final result (with ear resonances removed) is shown in the Analysis Panel graph at the bottom.

Some peaks and valleys in the treble are expected on a compensated headphone graph like this. This is primarily due to the fact that the raw measurement of the headphone's response is much more detailed and precise than the somewhat more generalized DF curve used to remove the ear resonances. So what matters is more of the overall shape or pattern of the peaks in the treble, rather than the smoothness of the curve in that range.
That's good to know. I feel like that should be talked about more. Maybe everyone already knows this, but it's important and new information to me. I always wondered why speaker response and headphone curves looks so different. Now I know they are basically the same when compared correctly.
 
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That's good to know. I feel like that should be talked about more. Maybe everyone already knows this, but it's important and new information to me. I always wondered why speaker response and headphone curves looks so different. Now I know they are basically the same when compared correctly.

This is my opinion, luft262. And I think it's also backed up by a good bit of the Harman research, and other available measurements and opinions re what constitutes a "neutral" response. But this still needs to be verified through additional in-ear measurements of speakers imo.

Diffuse field compensation has been around a long time though. It seems as if alot of the science behind it has been either forgotten or lost though.
 
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Last graphs I'll share tonight (I think?).

HD650 VS AVERAGESP.jpg


This is basically the same as my last graph above, except I've replaced the inverted -1.25 dB/octave SP slope with an actual sound power response curve, which is based on an average of 10 fairly well-extended speakers with a flat direct response. The SP curve of the 10 speakers is also inverted in this case, so we can see the difference between the HD-650's compensated diffuse field response and the SP response curve.

So the graph in the Analysis Panel at the bottom shows (in a general sense) how well the HD-650 might approximate this average sound power response. And it suggests some potential areas where the HD-650's frequency response could possibly be tuned a little better.

This is a more detailed view of the HD-650 difference curve shown in the Analysis Panel above. The vertical divisions on the graph are in steps of only 1 dB though, rather than the 5 dBs steps used above. And the light blue line represents the average sound power response of the 10 well-extended speakers. So that is our potential target for this example.

HD650 VS AVERAGESP SCALED.jpg


Possible bass EQ tweaks:
The level at around 140 Hz in the bass appears to be about right. But the area between 200 to 300 Hz in the upper bass could probably come down by almost -1 dB. And the area around 40 Hz in the sub-bass should come up at least a few dBs, if that can be done effectively without the bass noticeably distorting (which can be a bit difficult on some open-back dynamic headphones, like the HD-650).

Possible midrange EQ tweaks:
The areas between 400 Hz to 1 kHz, and 2 to 3.5 kHz are conforming pretty well to the target. The area around 1.3 kHz could come down about -1.0 dB though. And there is a very small dip at around 2.5 kHz that could maybe also come up about +0.75 dB.

Possible treble EQ tweaks:
This is the most difficult area to assess. The peaks and valleys in the treble should generally be left intact though. And only coarse adjustments should be attempted based on their overall levels. Generally speaking, the peaks in the curve at around 3 kHz, 8 kHz, and in the upper treble around 15 kHz should touch the target in light blue. The level at 3 kHz is pretty good. But 8k probably needs to come up a bit, maybe +0.5 dB. 15k probably needs to come down by -1.5 dB, or so. There is a fairly pronounced depression at around 5 to 6 kHz as well, and that area probably also needs to come up, maybe by as much as a couple dBs. The peak at 5k can (and probably should) be a bit below the target though.

A negative preamp should also be included, so that any increases in the dB levels with the EQ don't cause clipping.

Since I don't own an HD-650, I unfortunately can't listen to any of the above tweaks to see if they will actually improve the headphone's accuracy or neutrality.
 
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In addition to Snaidero et al, Hammershøi & Møller 2008 includes HRTF measurements of the KEMAR, HMSII.3, and 4128C, and some comparison and analysis vs. average population HRTFs.

Incidentally, acquiring more data on variation between anthropomorphic measurement fixtures is an interest point for me - I have a KEMAR head and a 4128, and someday I'm hoping to acquire a HMSII.3 (I was outbid at an auction semi-recently, to my sorrow), both for headphone and speaker-room system measurements.

It would be interesting to see some of your results on this, if or when you feel like sharing any them, Mad_Economist. Especially if you also have some headphone data for comparison.
 
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Imo, the most reliable way to get the sort of detail that Resolve and others want in the higher frequencies is to do some in-ear measurements of neutral speakers. The problem is that he and Headphonesdotcom do not have a suitable measurement rig for this purpose.

The next best approach, imo, is to compute an average response curve based on headphones which come the closest to a neutral response in the treble. This is essentially the approach I've been using with my DT-770's described here...

Was thinking about this over the weekend, and there is probably also a way of adapting some of the in-ear speaker response data from a rig with a mannikin (like the HBK 5128) for use by other measurement systems without a mannikin or accurate DF data. And this might allow the creation of target response curves for the other systems which are based more on actual speaker measurements than using the Harman curve.

If you have a set of headphone EQ curves which are based on a target derived from in-ear (or SP+DF) measurements of speakers on a mannikin, then you should be able to construct a comparable in-ear target for another type of system by simply applying those EQ curves to the same set of headphone measurements made on the other system.

Probably a little easier said than done. But seems like it should work.
 
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Was thinking about this over the weekend, and there is probably also a way of adapting the in-ear speaker response data from a rig with a mannikin (like the HBK 5128) for use by other measurement systems without a mannikin or accurate DF data.

If you have a set of EQ curves which are based on the in-ear (or SP+DF) measurements of speakers on a mannikin, then you should be able to cconstruct a target for another kind of system by simply applying those EQ curves to the same (raw in-ear) headphone measurements on the other system.

Probably a little easier said than done. But seems like it should work.

Do you mean a kind of calibration / compensation file?
I'm not an expert but it would probably work. I'm not sure how the Head & Torso change the overall acoustic impedance.

Ear Resonance.png


Like applying EQ compensation for the missing yellow and purple line?
 
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Do you mean a kind of calibration / compensation file?
I'm not an expert but it would probably work. I'm not sure how the Head & Torso change the overall acoustic impedance.

View attachment 189717

Like applying EQ compensation for the missing yellow and purple line?

I'd have to think a little more about the application to IEMs, Earfonia. It would probably work somewhat similarly to the way that Jaakko adapted the Harman curve for measurements on different systems in his AutoEQ project though.

I think the approach I have in mind with the EQ curves could be a bit more precise and accurate though... At least with over-ear headphones. I'm less sure about IEMs.
 
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I'm not sure how the Head & Torso change the overall acoustic impedance.

The head and torso effects are fairly crucial imo to achieving reliable in-ear measurements made at the eardrum reference point from a speaker in a room.
 

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Resolve is right, I have many headphones from cheap and expensive like hd6xx to HD800, Clear, Arya, Susvara etc and I do like to try and tune PEQ in Rew with multiple data sources from ASR, crinacle, oratory, autoeq...
The ideal/optimal target response for each individual will surely have certain deviations(even big deviations) from the Harman Target due to individual HRTF, hearing, listening level and headphone's different pinna interaction pattern(different shape of required dip around 9-10kgz) and lots of other detail parameters.
And my experience is that strictly/mechanically PEQ to the Target will have problems especially after 5-6khz. The dip around 6-7k and a small peak around 8k works better for me. We can also see that Amir never strictly eq to the target and usually he will just do a mild fix. So maybe use oratory's peq profile as a start point and spend more time to optimize for each individual is the only way to get even better results at the moment, though that may be a painstaking process to experiment different deviation from the Target and balancing with rest frequencies.
 
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Resolve is right, I have many headphones from cheap and expensive like hd6xx to HD800, Clear, Arya, Susvara etc and I do like to try and tune PEQ in Rew with multiple data sources from ASR, crinacle, oratory, autoeq...
The ideal/optimal target response for each individual will surely have certain deviations(even big deviations) from the Harman Target due to individual HRTF, hearing, listening level and headphone's different pinna interaction pattern(different shape of required dip around 9-10kgz) and lots of other detail parameters.
And my experience is that strictly/mechanically PEQ to the Target will have problems especially after 5-6khz. The dip around 6-7k and a small peak around 8k works better for me. We can also see that Amir never strictly eq to the target and usually he will just do a mild fix. So maybe use oratory's peq profile as a start point and spend more time to optimize for each individual is the only way to get even better results at the moment, though that may be a painstaking process to experiment different deviation from the Target and balancing with rest frequencies.

FYI, Resolve also recently posted some tips on EQing along the lines of what you're discussing above, tomtrp.


I think he may also be starting to warm up to the idea of doing more in-ear measurements of speakers as well though, based on some of his recent remarks re some of his own experiments along these lines in a couple of the recent Headphone Show livestreams. Here's hoping.
 
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