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Can headphones get damaged from low frequency tones?

Rhaston

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So this is an odd question but I went on a website someone posted here before that claims it can reproduce any tone and I played with it for maybe a minute, just curious to test my hearing range. The website in question was https://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/ but there are many others like it. I was using my headphones and did nearly a full sweep of all frequencies. I don't think I went all the way to the bottom but I might have gotten around 5Hz, maybe even below that? Now after the fact I realized that this is probably not good for the headphones, I know that low frequencies can blow speakers / subwoofers and I assume the same is true for headphone drivers.

I was using the (US) Apple dongle on Windows with them with my normal listening volume so no high gain amp but my pair is quite sensitive, the Apple dongle is very loud at 10% volume - it's the DT 900 PRO X, rated as follows: 48 ohms, 100 dB SPL (1mW/500Hz) & frequency response 5 - 40,000 Hz. Now the pair is fairly new in my collection, I only had them for about a week so I'm not totally familiar with their sound yet but after the fact I felt like the bass on them (which was always very good, especially for open back btw) might have gotten stronger, more boomy? Maybe it's because of the ringing in my ears caused by the tones, my ears are not super trained either and as I said I'm not super familiar with the stock sound of those yet but some part of me is worried that I might have caused damage to the drivers. Am I crazy or is this theoretically possible? Or would the volume need to be very high for damage to occur? Is there any way to tell if something bad happened (other than when the damage is so severe that they stop working or start producing noticeable crackling sound)?

As a side note, part of me is now starting to wonder if what some people believe to be "burn in" could actually be damaged drivers due to weird frequency noises people used to play in order to "burn in" their gear, I remember this being a trend like 15 years ago.
 

staticV3

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It's theoretically possible to damage a headphone by playing test tones at too high of a volume.
Though in practice, the US Apple dongle is simply not capable of such feats.

Even if you set it to 100% volume in Windows and played the tone at 0dBFS amplitude, the dongle would only produce 21mW of power, whereas the DT 900 Pro X's maximum short-term input power is 100mW.
Even the maximum continuous input power at 30mW is higher than what the Apple dongle can muster.
 

kemmler3D

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Most likely you are fine. I use that site myself for testing headphones and speakers and have gone below 20hz many times.

In theory, yes you can damage headphones by putting very low frequencies into them - but you asked a good question:

Or would the volume need to be very high for damage to occur?

The answer is yes.

The way the headphone would get damaged is by heating up the coil too much, or by pushing the membrane so far that something mechanically broke.

If they still sound more or less normal it's unlikely you hurt the coil. And if you didn't hear nasty loud clicking / buzzing noises during the test you probably didn't break anything.

If you hear a difference it's very likely just that you're worried about it and focusing on the sound you hear differently. Very unlikely that you would hurt that headphone with an apple dongle at normal volume regardless of what frequency tone you used.

If everything still sounds basically normal, you have nothing to worry about. In general when headphone drivers are damaged it's pretty obvious.

If you are still concerned, run a full sweep (at low-medium volume) slowly and listen for any buzzing, clicking, or otherwise "off" sounds. If you don't hear anything wrong, well, nothing is wrong.

And welcome to ASR!
 

Dunring

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Those are just rated for 30mw of input power, unlike the other DT series rated for 100mw. They're easier to overpower than a lot of headphones. I have an Apple adapter and it packs quite a punch for such a little thing. Try familiar songs with bass and compare or ask a fresh set of ears to test listen without telling them the problem you suspect.
I've had the DT900 and they sounded good, the bass was crisp and didn't hear anything to complain about. I liked the lower treble peak compared to the 600ohm DT990 I had to compare which can be really jolting.
 
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