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Headphones and the Harman target curve

Feelas

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#44
I've never recorded so is that really the case? It seems to me when mixing and engineering a record, it would make more sense to work with a pallet of frequencies with equal volume i.e. flat. The Harman target has a big bass boost.
Flat bass on graph is not perceptible flat bass, even skilled listeners in Harman used some bass boost, a bit less than the unskilled but still not flat.

Target curves are never, ever, flat, since only people targeting "flat" are near-field monitor users in highly dampened rooms, and some headphoners.

Honestly, "being accurate" with recordings is "having bias very close to what the engineer had".
 

KeithPhantom

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#45
The problem with all target curves is the human factor and their big heads/ears. Making a target curve mathematically 'flat' is straightforward, but subjectively, it doesn't sound good to us.

Harman and the other curves had a different testing process to achieve their conclusions. Free Field used pure anechoic chambers with ruler-flat bass, being this an unrealistic setting for any listening for the average listener. Diffuse field used locational-equal energy rooms with multiple speakers, being plausible but not representative of most stereo listening in a well-treated room. Harman ,for the other part, uses a more plausible listening room and adds the human factor while designing the test. Not only that, it measures the opinion of how the room sounded and allies for the curve to be tweaked by the tester on the fly, while DF and FF usually were set to one setting and didn't allow changes to be made, some of the tests even disregarding human input and using measuring heads instead. Those are my takeaways of all of this debate.
 

Chromatischism

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#46
These are some of the very same questions I have asked myself. Keep in mind that I am not as well-versed in the technical aspect as many others here, but I do try and apply scientific thinking to the whole equation.

With that said, I keep going back to the origin. That is, defining what the source of "neutrality" is. To me that would be fidelity to the original source, not the engineer's idea of neutrality. If the engineer has manipulated the recording away from the natural sound of the source, then neutral cannot exist.

This, however, leads to a circular argument, and once again we come back to "what is neutral"? Take a recording of orchestral music, for example. Already, any and all recordings will sound nothing like sitting in the audience of a music hall. Instead, the sound is all from on the stage. Is that fidelity to our "neutral"? Probably not. Is it fidelity to the neutrality of the instruments? More so, I say. What if then we change venues? Recording an orchestra in one hall as opposed to another will lead to different timbre and ambiance, within a certain threshold. We can all identify what a violin or clarinet sounds like no matter the venue; but the reflections and positioning will change our perception of so much of what we hear. When recording, do we take the venue into consideration, and is that then a "neutral" to draw a baseline from?

These are not easy answers even for myself who proposed them. I come back to this consistently. It's interesting from a scientific aspect; but sometimes I just want to enjoy the music. However I can do that has merit, in my opinion. But I want the sound as uncolored as can possibly be. In that case, it is faith to the recording that becomes foremost.
There is an easy shortcut to defining neutrality, at least as far as calibrating your playback system: all tones should be perceived as being at the same level. We can't control what happened in the studio but we can get to a baseline that works +/- a boost or cut here and there. Best we can do because of the circle of confusion.
 

Dreyfus

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#47
Did a few in-ear measurements today to check how well the Harman compensation curves based on Crinacle's and Oratory's data work for me in practice:

measurement_harman_eq_variation.png


NOTES: I used a self-made in-ear microphone which is made of a 7 mm electret capsule (EM273) glued to a memory foam plug. The mic was placed in the concha right in front of the ear canal entrance point. It is not officially calibrated but measures very similar to my Beyer MM1. The measurements do not include the ear canal resonances. Also the concha gain may be a bit underrepresented due to the limited insertion depth. That's why you see the treble region a few dB below the target. Do also keep in mind that the upper spectrum is highly dependent on the exact placement of the headphone and that the exact response does vary from sample to sample.

The graphs confirm what I have always feared. There is a severe drop in bass intensity due to my rather slim head shape (leaving a gap behind the jaw bone) as well as my spectacle frame. To be fair, a little bit of loss may also be induced by the small gap around the mic cable (depending on the stiffness of the pads), though.

Subjectively, the Beyer DT 880 BE with its large pads gives me the best seal around the ear. That can be confirmed looking at the graph where the Beyer has the best low end extension. The HE4XX is also very decent.
At the other end of the scale there is the K371 which is obviously completely inappropriate for my head. The seal around the ear with the small pads is just awful. The plot pretty much describes my feelings about its sound quality. It just sounds as if the driver was cancelling out itself. Very disappointing to see such a bad sealing performance by an AKG headphone - the company who should definately know about the difficulties of individual sealing.

I will now try to fix the responses until roughly 800 Hz with Auto EQ, then listen how well it works.
 

Feelas

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#48
The graphs confirm what I have always feared. There is a severe drop in bass intensity due to my rather slim head shape (leaving a gap behind the jaw bone) as well as my spectacle frame. To be fair, a little bit of loss may also be induced by the small gap around the mic cable (depending on the stiffness of the pads), though.

Subjectively, the Beyer DT 880 BE with its large pads gives me the best seal around the ear. That can be confirmed looking at the graph where the Beyer has the best low end extension. The HE4XX is also very decent.
At the other end of the scale there is the K371 which is obviously completely inappropriate for my head. The seal around the ear with the small pads is just awful. The plot pretty much describes my feelings about its sound quality. It just sounds as if the driver was cancelling out itself. Very disappointing to see such a bad sealing performance by an AKG headphone - the company who should definately know about the difficulties of individual sealing.
Holy smokes, that's kind of enlightening! Can't imagine to listening w/ such a K371 curve... Are you sure that pair isn't actually broken? :O EDIT: It seems that a broken seal like that is in-line with @solderdude's K371 measurements.

Having a pretty slim head myself, as an experiment you can try tilting the K371s much more forward to the head, and they actually need a few minutes to warm up nicely, just like any memory foam does - but yes, they're a complete pain (which is absolutely nonsense for a - presumable - studio headphone that will be moving a lot) to get on right... The oval headies are, in general, very annoying with a boney face.

Which one of those sounds the best to you?
 
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Dreyfus

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#49
I will check the K371 on my flat plate to make sure it is technically intact.

Haven't listened to all of them, yet. Just rushed through my personal lineup to get some data. Out of the box I prefer the X2HR. With the Harman EQ, probably the DT 880 Black Edition.

Subjectively I really dislike that Harman attenuated the lower mids / upper bass. It lacks a lot of body for my taste.
 

Dreyfus

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#50
Here is the result of the flat plate measurement. The mic is the same. I applied some additional pressure to make sure the seal is good.

K371_flat_plate_in_ear.png


Looks like my sample is not faulty. It's just the design that makes the bottleneck.

The response does still look a bit different from those measured by Crinacle or Oratory. Probably because of unit-to-unit deviation and the lack of mic calibration on my side.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #51
Explains why some people can have a big change in sound by swapping pads I guess.
 

Ilkless

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#52
I recently started dabbling with EQ'ing my headphones (APO+Peace). I've been going back and fort with this with two of my headphones, the Hifiman Ananda and the Denon AH-D7200. With both of them, I think the Harman target profile sounds like shit. Especially with the Ananda it's like throwing a thick blanket over the sound. I also got the HD-650 but haven't done any testing with those yet.

I also tried the Oratory1990 settings, which is actually pretty good on the Denons but still crap on the Anandas to my ears since the soundstage gets smushed and the lovely airy and sparkly sound is gone.

Apparently, the Harman target curve tries to mimic the sound that the artist/engineer had in mind when creating the music. So I'm curious, do I just have a taste and hearing that differs from the majority, do people here generally like this kind of sound? I know plenty of people love the stock Anandas though, and there's a huge difference between the stock sound and the Harman target EQ'd sound.

I'm also curious if anyone got their own EQ settings for these headphones to share, I know many own the HD-650 here.
https://www.headphonesty.com/2020/04/harman-target-curves-part-1/

I wrote this explanatory series on the Harman target curves, it was later endorsed by Sean Olive. I believe the first step to understanding it is to understanding the premise behind it and their methodology, and tweak from there.
 

thewas

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#54
An experiment - what do you think about this config?
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ynN1yud5rN3oJpfYVLp7t44qjNglrkCw/view
Just drop it in your EQ Apo folder and add it with the "include" module. You can (but do not have to) add it on top of a Harman equalization.
I am curious about your opinions. :)
Am honestly sorry to disappoint you but it sounds to me similar and highly coloured (missing mids but bloated upper bass) like the Audioquest Nighthawk you mention inside it which for my taste is without EQ the worst sounding non-cheap headphone I have ever heard, but luckily can be transformed to something really nice thanks to its good drivers. The coloration can be especially heard when its switched off, but am curious who others will find it.
Tested with my HD600 without and with addition EQs like Oratory and Sonarworks.
 
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solderdude

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#55
Here is the result of the flat plate measurement. The mic is the same. I applied some additional pressure to make sure the seal is good.

View attachment 97010

Looks like my sample is not faulty. It's just the design that makes the bottleneck.

The response does still look a bit different from those measured by Crinacle or Oratory. Probably because of unit-to-unit deviation and the lack of mic calibration on my side.
Try to extend the cups of the K371 when measuring on the HATS . Probably seal will be O.K. at that point.
That's the downside of a HATS, on your head you can feel and instantly hear if the seal is O.K.
On a HATS it may appear the seal is good but secretly isn't.

Below is what seal does on the K371 (FP)

It's why I always post 'seal' plots unless there is no effect (some open headphones).
 

Dreyfus

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#56
@solderdude
I tried many positions and different amounts of pressure. The plot above is the best I could get out of it.

But I just remeasured the K371 with a better setup. The old coupler was made of thin plywood. Now I am using a piece of solid wood in 35 mm thickness. I drilled a hole for my Beyerdynamic MM1. This way I do not have to use the in-ear mic (EM258) which might have had some sealing issues with the cable on the front and maybe some roll-off due to lack of mic calibration.

flat_plate_2.0.png

This is what I get with the new flat plate coupler (w/o compensation):

k371_flatplate_2.0.png


Now I have the correct low-end extension without roll-off! :)

Does not change a thing with my personal sealing issues, unfortunately. Still good to know that my sample is within spec at least.

If you ask me, the flat plate and cheek simulators are of only little pratical use as long as you do not compensate for the tilt and at least a fraction of sealing inteference. That is also why most headphones models do not sound right to me when eq'd to Harman, based on generic measurements.

You are definately on the right track with the "seal plots". Too bad there is no common standard for bass evaluation and sealing, yet.

@thewas
Thank you for trying! :)

As already mentioned, I am one of those guys who rate the Harman target as too hard in the upper mids. The Nighthawk as a concept is interesting because it does do pretty much the exact opposite by attenuating that region instead of boosting it (as actually a lot of AKG cans do, which I rather dislike). Personally, I think that this attenuation takes away the hardness of the "forced" frontal localization and makes the sound much more long-term enjoyable and spatially diffuse.

Maybe I can encourage myself to adapt to the "hard" Harman for a longer period, as an experiment until say the beginning of January, then check my setting again and see if it still works.
Maybe you want to join this experiment, starting at the other end of the scale? :D

Regards
Dreyfus
 
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Feelas

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#57
Too bad there is no common standard for bass evaluation and sealing, yet.
Couldn't agree more. This is especially annoying in the covid-era. You literally don't know what you're buying online in that matter, even more in terms of physical fit and it's actually absolutely wrong (but obvious as to "why", honestly) that nobody ever tried to standarize that.

As already mentioned, I am one of those guys who rate the Harman target as too hard in the upper mids. The Nighthawk as a concept is interesting because it does do pretty much the exact opposite by attenuating that region instead of boosting it (as actually a lot of AKG cans do, which I rather dislike). Personally, I think that this attenuation takes away the hardness of the "forced" frontal localization and makes the sound much more long-term enjoyable and spatially diffuse.
You'd say it accounts for more "diffuse" field, yes? Which range exactly is "upper-mids" here?

Maybe I can encourage myself to adapt to the "hard" Harman for a longer period, as an experiment until say the beginning of January, then check my setting again and see if it still works.
Maybe you want to join this experiment, starting at the other end of the scale? :D
Unless you're going to get yourself tired, do it, you'll adopt, I'm sure. Have to ask yourself not to turn the EQ solely because it "sounds wrong" though, a great exercise in will. I'd happily tweak QC35-II to NightHawk-like and see what happens.
 

Dreyfus

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#58
You'd say it accounts for more "diffuse" field, yes? Which range exactly is "upper-mids" here?
I would say that it grants a better "roomfeel" and "spatial depth". Some say that the Nighthawk signature creates the impression of big speakers in a reverberant room. In my opinion the attenuation of the upper mids and lower treble (to be more exact) definately adds to this experience.

nh-setting.png


Unless you're going to get yourself tired, do it, you'll adopt, I'm sure. Have to ask yourself not to turn the EQ solely because it "sounds wrong" though, a great exercise in will. I'd happily tweak QC35-II to NightHawk-like and see what happens.
My ears adapt pretty fast to a stage where my brain accepts a signature to be more or less balanced, so I can just continue to focus on the content instead of tinkering around with the coloration. What will be interesting though is the way back to the Nighthawk-esk sound after a few weeks of consistent brain-in.

I am very curious about your impressions, as well! :)

Regards
Dreyfus
 

Feelas

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#59
My ears adapt pretty fast to a stage where my brain accepts a signature to be more or less balanced, so I can just continue to focus on the content instead of tinkering around with the coloration. What will be interesting though is the way back to the Nighthawk-esk sound after a few weeks of consistent brain-in.
Well, I just had the same, moving from overtly brightly-thin-yet-muddy KNS8400 into a Harman powerhouse K371s.

Now, I just have to recreate the shape with 9-band EQ...
 

thewas

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#60
@thewas
Thank you for trying! :)

As already mentioned, I am one of those guys who rate the Harman target as too hard in the upper mids. The Nighthawk as a concept is interesting because it does do pretty much the exact opposite by attenuating that region instead of boosting it (as actually a lot of AKG cans do, which I rather dislike). Personally, I think that this attenuation takes away the hardness of the "forced" frontal localization and makes the sound much more long-term enjoyable and spatially diffuse.

Maybe I can encourage myself to adapt to the "hard" Harman for a longer period, as an experiment until say the beginning of January, then check my setting again and see if it still works.
Maybe you want to join this experiment, starting at the other end of the scale? :D
You are welcome, thank you for posting it! :)

My reference are neutral loudspeakers on which I listen to 99% of the time as I prefer loudspeaker to headphone soundstage and which with good recordings don't sound annoyingly "hard" but like real instruments and voices and the same happens with headphones close to the Harman curve to me, while the AQ NH or your EQ sound unrealistically and coloured to me. A guess why you prefer this sound could be possibly very different to the average HRTFs. Do you have and use also loudspeakers for listening and if yes, which and how do you find their tonality? On some not so good recordings I also can like a mild presence dip between 2-4kHz but your EQ drops all the mids from 300 to 3kHz to almost 4 dB compared to the bass and then has an almost 6 dB peak between 5-6 kHz, which makes me think it could be a personal HRTF thing.

Hope though also other members will test your EQ here and write their opinion about it. :)
 
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