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Apple AirPods Max Review (Noise Cancelling Headphone)

acbarn

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Indeed, I am.

In fact, you can add profiles from many sources —including Oratory's— directly into SoundSource with the integrated Headphone EQ feature (I fall short when I say this software is nothing but amazing).

Unfortunately, I don't like how they sound with the Oratory's settings (too mid-treble focused with very thin and artificial sound), I vastly prefer the couple of filters in the range band that Amir posted but with a little less gain, plus one peak filter of my own around 2800 Hz to narrow the gap between the two.

Besides, the lack of volume that Amir complain about is completely solved with the Volume Boost feature, making the drivers sing loud enough even with high dynamic range content, turning these into a great set of closed-back headphones, even in the realm of wired stuff.
I use FabFilter Pro-Q3 within SoundSource. Works great.

I wonder what’s up with Oratory’s EQ. The graphs look pretty good, the FR follows the Harman curve fairly accurately up to around 6-7 kHz.
 

Merkurio

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Spotify has a very basic five band eq in the iOS app. I tried to boost the 2KHz a bit and it might make the sound a bit better. The next band is a totally useless 15KHz. Need to experiment more. In any case, I will be selling my Bose N700 and Dan Clarke Aeon RT as well…

The problem with fixed bands is the scope of the filter bandwidth.

With the right filter settings and gain, these truly shine (being closed, wireless and premium built).

In fact, giving the fact that I used them primarily with PEQ on my Mac, they’re my endgame headphones for sure.
 
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MayaTlab

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I wonder what’s up with Oratory’s EQ. The graphs look pretty good, the FR follows the Harman curve fairly accurately up to around 6-7 kHz.

It's just that what's measured on an ear simulator may not be what happens on your own head below threshold of audibility, that's all :D.
To the point where the question of "follows the Harman curve" or even "what does the Harman target actually sounds like ?" is not a straightforward subject to answer IMO.

I think that most of us who have EQed headphones with presets based on ear simulator measurements would have noticed that headphones still sound different, occasionally quite jarringly so. There’s nothing new here, and it’s something that’s fully acknowledged by, for example, Oratory : https://www.reddit.com/r/oratory1990/comments/gbdi7v/_/fpay3b5
It’s something that I tried to illustrate, as far as my own experience is concerned, in this post from a few months ago, with on head, in situ measurements :
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...snt-like-this-curve.19668/page-22#post-844726

While I rarely measure headphones with EQ presets as, these days, I’m starting to get a fairly decent idea of where I prefer the FR to land anyway, I recently measured 8 headphones with Oratory’s EQ presets and without, with three different types of mics (DIY probe, in-concha microphones, blocked ear canal entrance microphones), in an attempt to get an idea of what the Harman target exactly sounds like.

Perhaps I'll share my experience in a more complete post with more headphones involved, maybe a new thread, after sending my own samples to Oratory if he's interested, and re-measure them with his generic profiles and profiles tailored to my own samples, at some point in time in 2022.

But for now that's how these eight headphones measure, relatively speaking, without EQ, with my DIY probe mics (averages of five individual traces, right channel only, normalised across one octave centred at 500hz - remember that the absolute values are inaccurate, and that these results are not valid for you, using the exact same tools and methodology on your own head would yield different results):

ATPmic noEQ R only.png


And how they measure with Oratory's latest profiles applied :

ATPmic Orato R only.png


How confident I can be in the relative results from that DIY probe is a long boring ass subject that would probably be best left to a new thread but involves criss-crossing the results from different types of mics and compare the "different difference" between their results in the range where they logically are the most relevant (ie, there are good reasons why my DIY probe and my in-concha mics with open ear canals are agreeing somewhat well in the 2-3kHz region, but the blocked ear canal mics don't). The TLDR is : not confident enough that it’s below threshold of audibility, but quite enough that the degree of inaccuracy is a good deal lower than the residual differences observed. See the spread at 2kHz after EQ ? Well at that frequency I'm very confident that what I'm actually hearing is similarly spread.
I'm also tempted to suggest, given the magnitude of some of the residual differences, that listening tests alone should be enough to attest to some these differences.

So Oratory’s profiles were quite successful to bring the headphones quite a bit closer to each others. That’s particularly the case for headphones with a significant departure from the target, even more so the case when it happens in the range where ear simulator are the most accurate to everyone’s experience (such as the headphones with a strong dip at around 1500Hz).

On the other hand the residual differences are still quite important and audible, whether it's because of sample variation, profiles incompletely correcting the FR, HPTF concerns, pads breaking in / wearing in, etc.

Some of the residual difference is “on purpose”, in the sense that Oratory’s profiles don’t correct for it. This is quite possibly because some of these nulls are of the “difficult to EQ” kind and Oratory preferred to leave them alone (the 3.6kHz or so null for the red trace for example).

While the question of sample variation is tempting to raise (and one of the reasons it could be interesting to have my own samples measured by Oratory - I have reasons to suspect that some of the HPs involved deviate from each other after correction indeed because of sample variation), I'm already pretty certain that it is far from being the sole valid explanation. For example, in the lot above there actually are two different samples of the same headphones, and both produce the same sort of peak at around 6kHz that the profiles don't account for.

And in the case of the APM sample variation is stupidly low. That's already something that I tried to illustrate in this thread.
But I realised that if I used the exact same pads at the same state of wear it's even better :
Screenshot 2021-12-01 at 14.04.17.png
Two APMs manufactured two months appart, average of five individual traces, same pads for both APM, traces not normalised (same volume set on the source device), blocked ear canal measurements, same channel.
It's not that the pads have poor tolerances, far from it. In fact I'm utterly impressed by their tolerances compared to other headphones. But I have some reasons to suspect that at least some ANC headphones are quite sensitive to some variables in the 1-5kHz region (here's a rather jarring example with the QC45 : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...d-fi-and-sean-olive.27017/page-12#post-935561)
The pads breaking in over a few weeks do have an influence in the 1-3kHz region BTW.

So that's why above 800Hz, I just don't know what the Harman target is supposed to sound like, or measure like (on my head). It's quite tempting to average all of the traces after EQ, but I have a lot of concerns about doing this as a way to extract what the Harman target is supposed to sound like. Let's just say that I am far more confident in the fixture to fixture and fixture to head translation of the Sennheiser HD650 than some other headphones.
And, interestingly, it also would mean that in the ear canal gain region, it would disagree quite audibly with the two Harman products I already have (K371 and 710BT), or with the headphones that I find somewhat acceptable as is in that region.
So it's a bit of a puzzle.

Below 800Hz however, the AirPods Max allow me to know quite well what the target is supposed to sound like as the fairly robust feedback mechanism combined with the lack of FR variation with volume means that they can deliver an exact dB value at my eardrum for a specific digital value, and that my on-head measurements can be "matched" with ear simulators, as long as the sample variation is low (which it is, particularly in that range), and the ear simulator measurements don't exhibit methodological issues (which can happen with the APM but less so when ANC is enabled).

In no way is this a criticism of ear simulator measurements BTW, I'd like to make this very clear. Nor is it a criticism of Oratory's profiles, far from it (in general they're the ones I tend to personally prefer and I quite enjoy how at least for the bass shelf they're designed to help with tuning for individual preferences). It's just a way to illustrate in a visual way that I think is reasonably representative of my own experience something that I would have otherwise been limited to simply say "still sounds different after EQ to the same target", and perhaps a way to illustrate that the question of following the Harman target is not quite clear-cut once you're experiencing your own samples on your own head.
 

DeLub

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In fact, you can add profiles from many sources —including Oratory's— directly into SoundSource with the integrated Headphone EQ feature (I fall short when I say this software is nothing but amazing).
That's not exactly true. Soundsource takes the settings from the Autoeq project. The settings for the APM on Autoeq are calculated by Autoeq based on the Oratory measurements. Oratory has published a different set of settings that I think sound better than the ones from Autoeq. If you want to use the Oratory settings you have to manually enter them in AUNBandEQ in Soundsource.
 

DeLub

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The problem with iOS accommodations option enabled is, although it improves the FR in a positive manner with the tone setting, it also enables the dynamic compression and make the "softer" sounds more audible, even in the lowest setting (you can't disable it, unfortunately).
Ah, so that's what's happening. It ruins the sound IMO.

I'm now experimenting with Audiograms. I've created one where I put in that my hearing is -5dB down for 2kHz, and -8dB for 4kHz (as per Amir's PEQ). It does help a bit, but it still doesn't sound as well as when I do EQ with Soundsource on my Mac. But at least it seems that the dynamic compression is off, or at least a lot less heavy.
 

acbarn

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It's just that what's measured on an ear simulator may not be what happens on your own head below threshold of audibility, that's all :D.
To the point where the question of "follows the Harman curve" or even "what does the Harman target actually sounds like ?" is not a straightforward subject to answer IMO.

I think that most of us who have EQed headphones with presets based on ear simulator measurements would have noticed that headphones still sound different, occasionally quite jarringly so. There’s nothing new here, and it’s something that’s fully acknowledged by, for example, Oratory : https://www.reddit.com/r/oratory1990/comments/gbdi7v/_/fpay3b5
It’s something that I tried to illustrate, as far as my own experience is concerned, in this post from a few months ago, with on head, in situ measurements :
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...snt-like-this-curve.19668/page-22#post-844726

While I rarely measure headphones with EQ presets as, these days, I’m starting to get a fairly decent idea of where I prefer the FR to land anyway, I recently measured 8 headphones with Oratory’s EQ presets and without, with three different types of mics (DIY probe, in-concha microphones, blocked ear canal entrance microphones), in an attempt to get an idea of what the Harman target exactly sounds like.

Perhaps I'll share my experience in a more complete post with more headphones involved, maybe a new thread, after sending my own samples to Oratory if he's interested, and re-measure them with his generic profiles and profiles tailored to my own samples, at some point in time in 2022.

But for now that's how these eight headphones measure, relatively speaking, without EQ, with my DIY probe mics (averages of five individual traces, right channel only, normalised across one octave centred at 500hz - remember that the absolute values are inaccurate, and that these results are not valid for you, using the exact same tools and methodology on your own head would yield different results):

View attachment 169341

And how they measure with Oratory's latest profiles applied :

View attachment 169342

How confident I can be in the relative results from that DIY probe is a long boring ass subject that would probably be best left to a new thread but involves criss-crossing the results from different types of mics and compare the "different difference" between their results in the range where they logically are the most relevant (ie, there are good reasons why my DIY probe and my in-concha mics with open ear canals are agreeing somewhat well in the 2-3kHz region, but the blocked ear canal mics don't). The TLDR is : not confident enough that it’s below threshold of audibility, but quite enough that the degree of inaccuracy is a good deal lower than the residual differences observed. See the spread at 2kHz after EQ ? Well at that frequency I'm very confident that what I'm actually hearing is similarly spread.
I'm also tempted to suggest, given the magnitude of some of the residual differences, that listening tests alone should be enough to attest to some these differences.

So Oratory’s profiles were quite successful to bring the headphones quite a bit closer to each others. That’s particularly the case for headphones with a significant departure from the target, even more so the case when it happens in the range where ear simulator are the most accurate to everyone’s experience (such as the headphones with a strong dip at around 1500Hz).

On the other hand the residual differences are still quite important and audible, whether it's because of sample variation, profiles incompletely correcting the FR, HPTF concerns, pads breaking in / wearing in, etc.

Some of the residual difference is “on purpose”, in the sense that Oratory’s profiles don’t correct for it. This is quite possibly because some of these nulls are of the “difficult to EQ” kind and Oratory preferred to leave them alone (the 3.6kHz or so null for the red trace for example).

While the question of sample variation is tempting to raise (and one of the reasons it could be interesting to have my own samples measured by Oratory - I have reasons to suspect that some of the HPs involved deviate from each other after correction indeed because of sample variation), I'm already pretty certain that it is far from being the sole valid explanation. For example, in the lot above there actually are two different samples of the same headphones, and both produce the same sort of peak at around 6kHz that the profiles don't account for.

And in the case of the APM sample variation is stupidly low. That's already something that I tried to illustrate in this thread.
But I realised that if I used the exact same pads at the same state of wear it's even better :
View attachment 169349
Two APMs manufactured two months appart, average of five individual traces, same pads for both APM, traces not normalised (same volume set on the source device), blocked ear canal measurements, same channel.
It's not that the pads have poor tolerances, far from it. In fact I'm utterly impressed by their tolerances compared to other headphones. But I have some reasons to suspect that at least some ANC headphones are quite sensitive to some variables in the 1-5kHz region (here's a rather jarring example with the QC45 : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...d-fi-and-sean-olive.27017/page-12#post-935561)
The pads breaking in over a few weeks do have an influence in the 1-3kHz region BTW.

So that's why above 800Hz, I just don't know what the Harman target is supposed to sound like, or measure like (on my head). It's quite tempting to average all of the traces after EQ, but I have a lot of concerns about doing this as a way to extract what the Harman target is supposed to sound like. Let's just say that I am far more confident in the fixture to fixture and fixture to head translation of the Sennheiser HD650 than some other headphones.
And, interestingly, it also would mean that in the ear canal gain region, it would disagree quite audibly with the two Harman products I already have (K371 and 710BT), or with the headphones that I find somewhat acceptable as is in that region.
So it's a bit of a puzzle.

Below 800Hz however, the AirPods Max allow me to know quite well what the target is supposed to sound like as the fairly robust feedback mechanism combined with the lack of FR variation with volume means that they can deliver an exact dB value at my eardrum for a specific digital value, and that my on-head measurements can be "matched" with ear simulators, as long as the sample variation is low (which it is, particularly in that range), and the ear simulator measurements don't exhibit methodological issues (which can happen with the APM but less so when ANC is enabled).

In no way is this a criticism of ear simulator measurements BTW, I'd like to make this very clear. Nor is it a criticism of Oratory's profiles, far from it (in general they're the ones I tend to personally prefer and I quite enjoy how at least for the bass shelf they're designed to help with tuning for individual preferences). It's just a way to illustrate in a visual way that I think is reasonably representative of my own experience something that I would have otherwise been limited to simply say "still sounds different after EQ to the same target", and perhaps a way to illustrate that the question of following the Harman target is not quite clear-cut once you're experiencing your own samples on your own head.

Thanks, this is all great info. The vagaries around individual HRTF, different fixtures, seating, pad wear, etc., would seem to make this all a bit of a guessing game. I was surprised though, how much the responses tightened up in your second graph when using Oratory's curves. This aligns with my experience, where I have a half dozen headphones EQ'd to Harman, and while they do sound different, they sound more similar than one would expect given the variables.

At least for myself, Oratory's curves work well enough to get me in the ballpark, after which I make small adjustments to preference. This approach has been satisfying to the point that I don't feel the need to take it much further.
 

acbarn

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Ah, so that's what's happening. It ruins the sound IMO.

I'm now experimenting with Audiograms. I've created one where I put in that my hearing is -5dB down for 2kHz, and -8dB for 4kHz (as per Amir's PEQ). It does help a bit, but it still doesn't sound as well as when I do EQ with Soundsource on my Mac. But at least it seems that the dynamic compression is off, or at least a lot less heavy.
The issue for me is that I'm never going to use the AirPods Max at my Mac. When I'm stuck at the desk, I'm always going to opt for the HD800S being fed by an RME from the MacBook. This limits my use of the AirPods to iOS, which unfortunately doesn't seem to offer a satisfactory solution for EQ at this point.
 

MayaTlab

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I was surprised though, how much the responses tightened up in your second graph when using Oratory's curves.

This seems to be indeed statistically true when considering a large sample of headphones and most of the spectrum.

This is even more so the case if extending the spectrum down to 50Hz, here with blocked ear canal microphones, averaging the right and left channels (still averages of five individual sweeps, so ten individual sweeps per trace), without EQ :
Screenshot 2021-12-01 at 20.18.23.png

And with Oratory's profiles :
Screenshot 2021-12-01 at 20.19.00.png

Of note here is that only one of these eight headphones is very susceptible to leakage issues (no it isn't the lone blue trace at the bottom post-EQ, that one's a passive open dynamic), and while the right and left channels show a lot of discrepancy when measured on my head, luckily they average to a decent level when combined.
Also, while the residual difference is quite small in dB, as it affects such a large bandwidth, it is audible (particularly the blue trace at the bottom).

But occasionally the profiles, at least for my own samples, on my own head, and for my own tastes, will do more harm than good.
For example, these four headphones have a response in the 1-3kHz range that I find... somewhat tolerable :
Screenshot 2021-12-01 at 19.53.11.png

Applying the profiles increases the delta between them in a way that I find... less tolerable for the top traces :
Screenshot 2021-12-01 at 19.53.36.png
 
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acbarn

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This seems to be indeed statistically true when considering a large sample of headphones and most of the spectrum.

This is even more so the case if extending the spectrum down to 50Hz, here with blocked ear canal microphones, averaging the right and left channels (still averages of five individual sweeps, so ten individual sweeps per trace), without EQ :
View attachment 169440
And with Oratory's profiles :
View attachment 169441
Of note here is that only one of these eight headphones is very susceptible to leakage issues (no it isn't the lone blue trace at the bottom post-EQ, that one's a passive open dynamic), and while the right and left channels show a lot of discrepancy when measured on my head, luckily they average to a decent level when combined.
Also, while the residual difference is quite small in dB, as it affects such a large bandwidth, it is audible (particularly the blue trace at the bottom).

But occasionally the profiles, at least for my own samples, on my own head, and for my own tastes, will do more harm than good.
For example, these four headphones have a response in the 1-3kHz range that I find... somewhat tolerable :
View attachment 169429
Applying the profiles increases the delta between them in a way that I find... less tolerable for the top traces :
View attachment 169430
Again, that second graph is striking. It shows that the technique of manually entering Oratory's PEQ curves works quite well. Of course, personal preference will always be a factor, which gives this approach a major advantage over AutoEQ, I think.
 

MayaTlab

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Again, that second graph is striking. It shows that the technique of manually entering Oratory's PEQ curves works quite well.

I think that what it rather shows is that, for over-ears, industry standard fixtures are fairly well representative of what you'll experience below 1kHz provided sample variation isn't too high or you're getting the level of seal the headphones were designed for. AutoEQ settings would have resulted in something quite similar if based on the same measurements (but without IMO the much better design of Oratory's filters at lower frequencies).

Of course if you're not getting the right level of seal any bets are off :
Screenshot 2021-12-01 at 22.06.27.png
That's the individual L and R channels, after EQ, still normalised at 500Hz, for five of the eight headphones, three of which seem quite well behaved. Red trace guy is a bad boy (although that's partly because of the normalisation at 500Hz).

Where I think that Oratory's method of listening to the headphones (or at least having access to them) and partially manually designing the filters is potentially superior is that it allows for more extensive testing to determine whether a specific feature of the FR is worth EQing or not or fine-tuning the filters to take into account some specific aspects of a pair of HPs.
For example I'm starting to think that I should be doing more tests concerning pads warming up during use with my Hi-X65, that's typically the sort of thing that can't be performed if you don't have access to the headphones.
 

wisechoice

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That is a first: full compliance with our reference curve all the way to 1 kHz but then the wheels fall off. Why so little amplitude there? This is going to create a dull headphone with little spatial qualities.
Am I the only person who read this and wondered how this should be so, given Apple's focus on spatial audio (which, unlike lossless, actually works on AirPods Max)? I've been listening to Dolby Atmos mixes on my QC 35 II and 5.1 loudspeaker setup, to great effect, so I'm not sure what the APM might add for me, even though I'm fully embedded in the Apple product matrix.

But I'm curious… Is there any way in which this frequency response would complement, or be rectified by, the rendering of Dolby Atmos on a pair of headphones that have been specifically designed for it? Will it be better or worse for spatial qualities than a closed back, relatively balanced headphone with ANC, like the QC 35 II?

Perhaps someone who has them can verify if these, ostensibly most spatial of headphones, actually do lack spatial qualities when used in this specifically "spatial" way?

Obviously the adaptive EQ of the headphone can incorporate any calibration that Apple wants while playing Atmos.

And you can also "spatialize" stereo with these headphones since iOS 15.

The cynical side of me wonders whether maybe this is a combo marketing/engineering trick, in that spatial audio sounds best with APM, and APM "reveal" the spatiality of Atmos because without it, the FR is deliberately out of whack. But that's just me being cynical, pay no mind…

If that were the case, and being an Apple prisoner, I might enjoy "spatializing" everything, including stereo, with these headphones. Maybe I'd be happy in that prison, as long as it had head tracking, ANC, sub-bass and low distortion.
 

MayaTlab

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But I'm curious… Is there any way in which this frequency response

I'll sound like a broken disc but I can't insist enough : will you actually be experiencing that response once they're on your head ?
As far as I'm concerned that isn't the case, so I'm not certain that I can answer your question from that perspective.

would complement, or be rectified by, the rendering of Dolby Atmos on a pair of headphones that have been specifically designed for it? Will it be better or worse for spatial qualities than a closed back, relatively balanced headphone with ANC, like the QC 35 II?

Perhaps someone who has them can verify if these, ostensibly most spatial of headphones, actually do lack spatial qualities when used in this specifically "spatial" way?

I think that all un-EQed headphones that I've tried lately are performing less well for surround sound simulations applications (such as playing Returnal on PS5, my favourite example to date) for me than headphones that have been EQed to a personal target, particularly for front / back / up / down discrimination.

Whether that target is similar to Harman or not, as I said I can't know for certain, but I have no reason to think that it's much different from it.
The only thing that I know is that in the 1-3kHz region it's different from the average of the eight headphones that I've tried with Oratory's profiles and closer to how Harman's own HPs (371 or 710BT) or the Sennheiser HD650/HD58X measure on my own head. Coincidentally or not the AirPods Max are quite close to it in the 1-3kHz region. In general it's quite close to that personal target below 3kHz (no more than a dB away from it at any point I think). In the 3.5-6kHz region my "personal target" is quite close to the average of the eight headphones with Oratory's profile (but no individual headphone succeeds in reaching that average after application of Oratory's profiles, the individual traces are all quite far from the average).

An interesting question that I'm asking myself is whether or not that "personal target" should be different between different binauralisation processes or between stereo and spatialised content. But so far whether that's for listening to music in stereo or Dolby Atmos, or playing games, I'm more satisfied with a single personal target than without EQ or with EQ profiles based on ear simulators (Yes I am aware of that Facebook article). It's as if the basal FR of most HPs is just too poor for this question to matter before personalised equalisation. But it's difficult to extract what's the fault of the headphones per se, from what's the fault of the binauralisation process (lack of individualised HRTF for example), or the original recording itself. It all forms one system.

In the case of the AirPods Max the entire 3-6kHz region is problematic to me. 3-5kHz because of a broad depression that's quite easy to EQ. 5-6kHz because of a deep null around 5800Hz or so that's resistant to EQ and is only solved when pressing on the cups (the entire bottom rear quadrant is barely compressed as far as I'm concerned because of how the APM's headband to cup attachment is designed and the shape of my head). Above 6kHz there's a bit more energy than I prefer but the main problem is how uneven it is. But that range is less important to get exactly right IMO than below.

So to answer your question, nope, I don't find the AirPods Max particularly great for surround sound simulations purposes, whether that's using Apple's own solutions or, for example, Sony's solutions on the PS5, but then I don't find most un-EQed headphones particularly great either and the AirPods Max are far from being the worst I've experienced.

Also, the head-tracking has nowhere near enough resolution to be convincing IMO, and I disable it, even for videos.

Obviously the adaptive EQ of the headphone can incorporate any calibration that Apple wants while playing Atmos.

Adaptive EQ is just Apple's fancy way of calling the AirPods Max' feedback mechanism, it isn't an EQ profile per se. It's just a way of ensuring that a specific digital value produces a specific dB value at your eardrum throughout its operating range (in all likelihood up to around 800Hz, there's no evidence that it can maintain the FR stable above that), regardless of several variables (leakage, pad compression, etc.).
I am not aware of any evidence that would suggest that Apple applies a fixed EQ profile change to the AirPods Max's FR when fed spatial or spatialised content (but the binauralisation process itself may introduce some changes).
 
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wisechoice

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I'll sound like a broken disc but I can't insist enough : will you actually be experiencing that response once they're on your head ?
As far as I'm concerned that isn't the case, so I'm not certain that I can answer your question from that perspective.



I think that all un-EQed headphones that I've tried lately are performing less well for surround sound simulations applications (such as playing Returnal on PS5, my favourite example to date) for me than headphones that have been EQed to a personal target, particularly for front / back / up / down discrimination.

Whether that target is similar to Harman or not, as I said I can't know for certain, but I have no reason to think that it's much different from it.
The only thing that I know is that in the 1-3kHz region it's different from the average of the eight headphones that I've tried with Oratory's profiles and closer to how Harman's own HPs (371 or 710BT) or the Sennheiser HD650/HD58X measure on my own head. Coincidentally or not the AirPods Max are quite close to it in the 1-3kHz region. In general it's quite close to that personal target below 3kHz (no more than a dB away from it at any point I think). In the 3.5-6kHz region my "personal target" is quite close to the average of the eight headphones with Oratory's profile (but no individual headphone succeeds in reaching that average after application of Oratory's profiles, the individual traces are all quite far from the average).

An interesting question that I'm asking myself is whether or not that "personal target" should be different between different binauralisation processes or between stereo and spatialised content. But so far whether that's for listening to music in stereo or Dolby Atmos, or playing games, I'm more satisfied with a single personal target than without EQ or with EQ profiles based on ear simulators (Yes I am aware of that Facebook article). It's as if the basal FR of most HPs is just too poor for this question to matter before personalised equalisation. But it's difficult to extract what's the fault of the headphones per se, from what's the fault of the binauralisation process (lack of individualised HRTF for example), or the original recording itself. It all forms one system.

In the case of the AirPods Max the entire 3-6kHz region is problematic to me. 3-5kHz because of a broad depression that's quite easy to EQ. 5-6kHz because of a deep null around 5800Hz or so that's resistant to EQ and is only solved when pressing on the cups (the entire bottom rear quadrant is barely compressed as far as I'm concerned because of how the APM's headband to cup attachment is designed and the shape of my head). Above 6kHz there's a bit more energy than I prefer but the main problem is how uneven it is. But that range is less important to get exactly right IMO than below.

So to answer your question, nope, I don't find the AirPods Max particularly great for surround sound simulations purposes, whether that's using Apple's own solutions or, for example, Sony's solutions on the PS5, but then I don't find most un-EQed headphones particularly great either and the AirPods Max are far from being the worst I've experienced.

Also, the head-tracking has nowhere near enough resolution to be convincing IMO, and I disable it, even for videos.



Adaptive EQ is just Apple's fancy way of calling the AirPods Max' feedback mechanism, it isn't an EQ profile per se. It's just a way of ensuring that a specific digital value produces a specific dB value at your eardrum throughout its operating range (in all likelihood up to around 800Hz, there's no evidence that it can maintain the FR stable above that), regardless of several variables (leakage, pad compression, etc.).
I am not aware of any evidence that would suggest that Apple applies a fixed EQ profile change to the AirPods Max's FR when fed spatial or spatialised content (but the binauralisation process itself may introduce some changes).

Wow, thanks for this elaborate response.

I'm curious, have you tried using the new headphone accommodations feature in iOS?
 

MayaTlab

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I'm curious, have you tried using the new headphone accommodations feature in iOS?

Yes but only shortly as its impact on FR doesn't solve the issues I have with them (it just shuffles them around), and only works with iOS, so it isn't an appropriate solution. Typical use case for headphones like the APM for me is where EQ isn't a possibility (unfortunately).
 

wisechoice

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I'll sound like a broken disc but I can't insist enough : will you actually be experiencing that response once they're on your head ?

It seems like Amir was able to experience what it was that he measured.

I think that all un-EQed headphones that I've tried lately are performing less well for surround sound simulations applications (such as playing Returnal on PS5, my favourite example to date) for me than headphones that have been EQed to a personal target, particularly for front / back / up / down discrimination.

How did you arrive at your personal target (and sorry if you've already answered this before--feel free to link to a previous post)?

and closer to how Harman's own HPs (371 or 710BT) or the Sennheiser HD650/HD58X measure on my own head

What are you using to measure the FR on your head? Binaural mics? The HD650 is, of course, considered to be a very neutral headphone, though probably lacking in bass relative to the Harman curve. I'm not familiar with the others.

Yes I am aware of that Facebook article

Sorry -- which one?

It's as if the basal FR of most HPs is just too poor for this question to matter before personalised equalisation. But it's difficult to extract what's the fault of the headphones per se, from what's the fault of the binauralisation process (lack of individualised HRTF for example), or the original recording itself. It all forms one system.

I was considering recording impulse responses in my own living room, using binaural mics in my ears, but as it's an untreated space, I'm worried that I will just reproduce the deficiencies of the room. I'm actually not sure how one could get a clean personalized HRTF without an anechoic chamber.

I don't find the AirPods Max particularly great for surround sound simulations purposes

Assuming you have Apple Music, do you prefer listening to Atmos mixes on the APM, or stereo mixes on e.g. the HD650 or another pair of headphones with EQ to your liking? Personally, I find the Atmos most convincing on the QC 35 II vs my Shure SRH-1840s, which are open and very close to the HD650 in tonality.

I've read that angled drivers (e.g. on the HD 800S) are best for simulating surround sound. But I've never tried them.

I am not aware of any evidence that would suggest that Apple applies a fixed EQ profile change to the AirPods Max's FR when fed spatial or spatialised content (but the binauralisation process itself may introduce some changes).

Oh, I'm not aware of any evidence, either. On the other hand, it's almost certain that the binauralization process introduces such changes, since FR is a big part of what produces the illusion of 3D space.
 

Rayman30

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I found that (Filter 2: ON PK Fc 4011 Hz Gain 7.0 dB Q 2.0) was a little more to my taste, the 8.0 dB was just a little to hot. But otherwise these EQ settings improved the sound tremendously.
 

Merkurio

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I found that (Filter 2: ON PK Fc 4011 Hz Gain 7.0 dB Q 2.0) was a little more to my taste, the 8.0 dB was just a little to hot. But otherwise these EQ settings improved the sound tremendously.

Same for me, I find 5-6 dB of gain in that region better for my taste, otherwise is too hot.
 

MayaTlab

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It seems like Amir was able to experience what it was that he measured.

And I see no reason to object to that.

I believe that there could be mechanisms beyond sample variation that could explain people experiencing the same headphones differently, and in the ear canal gain region particularly so for some ANC headphones (for example, cf link above regarding how extremely non-linearly the QC45 behaves under pad compression for example, at the opposite end of how very linearly most fully open dynamic headphones like the HD650 behave up to around 3-4kHz), but you'll have to ask an actual acoustician in regards to the exact causes.

The rest under spoiler so as not to clog up the thread. Feel free to PM me.
How did you arrive at your personal target (and sorry if you've already answered this before--feel free to link to a previous post)?

I really want to emphasise that it might be no different to any signifiant degree from the Harman target - at most points it falls within the spread of the residual difference after application of Oratory's profiles.
Also, since I can only perform relative measurements, it's a "relative target" that can only be displayed relative to other curves.

I most likely arrived at something similar to where I am now by EQing headphones after ear simulator measurements (I started doing so before Oratory and autoEQ presets were a thing) and fine-tuning by ear listening to music or sweeps. Having a pair of half-decent near-fields + Dirac at my disposal was a great help to ground the fine-tuning process I believe.

Measuring headphones on-head made the whole process far faster and provided an extra level of understanding, rationalisation and precision (but not good enough to make fine-tuning by ear optional, particularly above 7kHz or for headphones with audible seatings to seatings and average to average variation), that's all.


What are you using to measure the FR on your head? Binaural mics?

Different microphones, which results I compare between each others (that's the key bit IMO).
For example : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ed-harman-oe-curve-at-home.28130/#post-975888
A lot of microphones that fall under the "binaural mics" label don't seem superbly appropriate to me to measure headphones.
I'm in the process of adding other mics into the mix to answer some concerns I have with the results I'm getting so far.

Assuming you have Apple Music, do you prefer listening to Atmos mixes on the APM, or stereo mixes on e.g. the HD650 or another pair of headphones with EQ to your liking? Personally, I find the Atmos most convincing on the QC 35 II vs my Shure SRH-1840s, which are open and very close to the HD650 in tonality.

Just like with stereo mixes there are Dolby Atmos mixes that I enjoy and others I don't.

But I don't find them a good way to know whether or not a headphones' (or a surround sound simulation process in general) capability to transcribe sound localisation cues is effective or not as we have no known physical space as a reference to know whether or not the voice we heard at 5 o'clock was meant to be there by the sound engineers.
Video games are a much better way to assess the quality of the entire surround sound simulation process as we have a 3D physical space as a reference to know wether or not the enemy that we heard at 5 o'clock was truly there or rather at 7 o'clock for example.
 
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