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Headphones preference score ranking chart based on Harman target curve

3125b

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#21
Even when only comparing tonality, they should take "mortal sins" into account. The HD681 (ranking at 61) with their eardrum-shredding highs are a good example, they might be ok for my half deaf grandpa, but I, being in my early twenties, simply can not use them without EQ.

I happen to own one of the lowest ranking headphones on the list (HE-35X), and honestly, they sound pretty good. There is noting severely wrong.
 

solderdude

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#22
By the way you didn't answer my question either.
What exactly is its difference with the in this forum so much discussed Harman loudspeaker score??
Dips and peaks of heaphones are much larger and speakers are more room dependent.

But tonality is by far the most important and as Toole says, if that is wrong than nothing else matters (oops, the tonality of the Metallic song isn't great either :D)
Dale Thorn doesn't agree. He preferred the tonality of the DT48.

Tonality and smoothness of response is very important but not the only aspect. There are plenty of folks choosing wearing comfort over tonal accuracy or boomy fat bass over accuracy.

To me the list is just that, a list which puts some, but not the most important, apects in certain order. To me it has little to no value when looking for a headphone without listening to it.
 

PierreV

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#23
What exactly is its difference with the in this forum so much discussed Harman loudspeaker score??
The question wasn't for me and is a hot potato around here. Indeed, conceptually, I'd say that there isn't much difference.
I am not a huge fan of the Harman speaker's score btw, at least as a single parameter.

To qualify this, let me say that there are two FR curves I like, one of them being the Harman one, the other being close to the "secondary" Harman one (the bass boosted one).

All other things being equal, I tend to agree that the Harman curve is mostly my preferred one for general use. But the thing that bothers me when it is used as a single measure of speaker quality is that all other things never seem to be equal... Is it the speaker's design and its interaction with the room? Is it its directivity? Its distortion characteristics? I don't know and that's why I keep reading the loudspeaker's discussions around here.
In my experience - and I have quite a few speakers pairs I can compare side by side without and with equalization - there are often very significant differences other than their FR.

And as far as headphones are concerned, even if I am not a headphone guy (my speaker's spending over the last 10 years or so has been 200 times higher than on headphones), I find those differences even more striking when I use earphones or in-ears. Looking at this list, I realize I own some very highly rated in-ears in terms of correlation with Harman's curve, but that they are essentially trash in terms of resolution, transient response, imaging etc compared to very poorly correlated ones. (I also own the HD-600 which I find quite likable)

Also, one thing that struck me btw is that the current version of Amir seems to strictly go by Harman's curve in current evaluations, but the older version of Amir could not accept that mitchco equalized LS50 + subs were remotely similar to mitchco bigger speakers (and I think we can trust him on EQ). Now, the argument seems to be FR is all what matters, I still don't get why it wasn't the case back then.
 

solderdude

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#24
Like every statistic it won't work for everybody though, it is said that there exist even people who actually like the highs of a Ultrasone Edition 10 :p
That video is the best Tyll ever made ! I have heard 2 Ultrasone's and found both pretty unlistenable but some aspects of it weren't bad. :facepalm:

P.S. I don't think the list is based on the Harman target curve (it can't be) perhaps the thread title should perhaps say: based on eveness of response or something along that line.
 
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thewas_

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Thread Starter #25
Dips and peaks of heaphones are much larger and speakers are more room dependent.
Which both would make the metric even more important for headphones ;)

Dale Thorn doesn't agree. He preferred the tonality of the DT48.
So what, individual opinions and deviations vs. controlled statistic research and analysis. My deaf grandpa would also probably like the Ultrasone.

Tonality and smoothness of response is very important but not the only aspect. There are plenty of folks choosing wearing comfort over tonal accuracy or boomy fat bass over accuracy.
Comfort is a completely different aspect as said and about the fat boomy bass I wrote above.

To me the list is just that, a list which puts some, but not the most important, apects in certain order.
I find it weird to read that from you when in your (great) reviews FR/tonality and their improvement is (correctly) by far the largest aspect.
 
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thewas_

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Thread Starter #26
The question wasn't for me and is a hot potato around here. Indeed, conceptually, I'd say that there isn't much difference.
I am not a huge fan of the Harman speaker's score btw, at least as a single parameter.

To qualify this, let me say that there are two FR curves I like, one of them being the Harman one, the other being close to the "secondary" Harman one (the bass boosted one).

All other things being equal, I tend to agree that the Harman curve is mostly my preferred one for general use. But the thing that bothers me when it is used as a single measure of speaker quality is that all other things never seem to be equal... Is it the speaker's design and its interaction with the room? Is it its directivity? Its distortion characteristics? I don't know and that's why I keep reading the loudspeaker's discussions around here.
In my experience - and I have quite a few speakers pairs I can compare side by side without and with equalization - there are often very significant differences other than their FR.
I also find especially the Harman loudspeaker preference model quite limited but same like the headphone one for now they are the only ones we have and hope they will be further enhanced or others will come in the future.
 

solderdude

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#27
Its weird to read that from you when in your (great) reviews FR/tonality and their improvement is (correctly) by far the largest aspect
It is one of the aspects, certainly not by far the most important. Otherwise I would have kept the K371 and HD600.
I also emphasize dynamic behavior, 'air' and comfort as aspects, not only tonal accuracy.

I do admit that tonality is an important aspect, as well as even response and in fact modify so it can be achieved a bit more accurate.
I also work towards an Harman-ish tonal balance. However, the chart isn't about that it seems but only about even-ness in response.

To get the A800 and HD600 to have a similar tonal balance EQ would certainly be needed but may only have to be gradual without any sharp bandfilters.
 
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thewas_

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Thread Starter #28
t is one of the aspects, certainly not by far the most important. Otherwise I would have kept the K371 and HD600.
I also emphasize dynamic behavior, 'air' and comfort as aspects, not only tonal accuracy.
But as far as I know you modify or EQ them to a better tonality, I personally would always prefer a headphone with worse "dynamic behavior or 'air'" which is tonally correct than one which is better in those aspects but tonally wrong (we are talking always about the case of a casual user that doesn't know or want to mod or EQ)
Poor comfort or functional problems (like battery lifetime) are of course also exclusion criteria, but they don't belong to the sound so I think they should be discussed in a different topic.
 

solderdude

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#29
Yes I modify them to sound tonally as correct as possible (can't get it exact regardless of the used method).

When they sound 'dull' despite measuring 'flat' I still don't prefer it over a potentially flat one but with more 'air' and better dynamics or 'pin point accuracy/stability' in a stereo image.
I guess that's where priorities and focus lies on which may well differ between individuals.

While comfort and battrey life/functionality/cable microphony/pad depth/comfort/cable 'hang'/weight/hot-sweaty pads etc have nothing to do with the sound these aspects can still break or make the choice of a headphone., just like looks, functionality, dimensions, and whatnot makes a big impact on our purchase descisions of a DAC/amp.

There are no separate 'tables' for these things so describe them in my evaluations and let those in the market make a choice what they find important.
Just like tonal accuracy or smoothness of response is rarely a decision to buy a headphone on.
That was my point. It was a list that ranks acc. to 'smoothness' of response (not even to tonal balance or Harman curve) which is only an aspect.
An important one for accuracy seekers... sure.
My point is that this isn't an aspect the vast majority of prospective buyers would find important at all. Yet when seeing this chart may be basing their purchase on aspects that may be what they aren't looking for at all.

Chances of this happening when listening and taking the time for it are less likely to go wrong. I do agree with you that people buying quickly based on 'impressive' sound may regret that later... Lesson learned one would hope. I don't think it is a worse decision than buying based on that list.
 

Sean Olive

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#30
https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/blob/master/results/RANKING.md

Headphones ranked by Harman headphone listener preference scores.

Tables include the preference score (Score), standard deviation of the error (STD), slope of the logarithimc regression fit of the error (Slope) for both headphone types and average of the absolute error (Average) for in-ear headphones. STD tells how much the headphone deviates from neutral and slope tells if the headphone is warm (< 0) or bright (> 0).

Keep in mind that these numbers are calculated with deviations from Harman targets. The linked results use different levels of bass boost so the slope numbers here won't match the error curves you see in the linked results.

Over-ear table includes headphones measured by oratory1990. In-ear table includes headphones measured by oratory1990 and Crinacale. Measurements from other databases are not included because they are not compatible with measurements, targets and preference scoring developed by Sean Olive et al.
True, the ratings are strictly based on frequency response and tonal balance. So, if a headphone has high audible distortion it would not be accounted for with this model. In general, we have not found distortion to be the dominant factor in sound quality. Frequency response is a fairly reliable predictor of its sound quality. We also did not consider any spatial qualities.

And yes, it is always important to try a headphone out before purchasing to make sure it fits and its comfortable, and leakage is not an issue. Rtings.com actually provide some measure of this on their website.
 

Sean Olive

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#31
Dips and peaks of heaphones are much larger and speakers are more room dependent.



Dale Thorn doesn't agree. He preferred the tonality of the DT48.

Tonality and smoothness of response is very important but not the only aspect. There are plenty of folks choosing wearing comfort over tonal accuracy or boomy fat bass over accuracy.

To me the list is just that, a list which puts some, but not the most important, apects in certain order. To me it has little to no value when looking for a headphone without listening to it.
Yes, you should always listen to it first before purchasing. But the measurements and the predicted scores will help you avoid wasting time listening to worse sounding models so you can focus on the top 10-15%..
 

Sean Olive

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#32
Yes I modify them to sound tonally as correct as possible (can't get it exact regardless of the used method).

When they sound 'dull' despite measuring 'flat' I still don't prefer it over a potentially flat one but with more 'air' and better dynamics or 'pin point accuracy/stability' in a stereo image.
I guess that's where priorities and focus lies on which may well differ between individuals.

While comfort and battrey life/functionality/cable microphony/pad depth/comfort/cable 'hang'/weight/hot-sweaty pads etc have nothing to do with the sound these aspects can still break or make the choice of a headphone., just like looks, functionality, dimensions, and whatnot makes a big impact on our purchase descisions of a DAC/amp.

There are no separate 'tables' for these things so describe them in my evaluations and let those in the market make a choice what they find important.
Just like tonal accuracy or smoothness of response is rarely a decision to buy a headphone on.
That was my point. It was a list that ranks acc. to 'smoothness' of response (not even to tonal balance or Harman curve) which is only an aspect.
An important one for accuracy seekers... sure.
My point is that this isn't an aspect the vast majority of prospective buyers would find important at all. Yet when seeing this chart may be basing their purchase on aspects that may be what they aren't looking for at all.

Chances of this happening when listening and taking the time for it are less likely to go wrong. I do agree with you that people buying quickly based on 'impressive' sound may regret that later... Lesson learned one would hope. I don't think it is a worse decision than buying based on that list.
Well, I respectfully disagree. Surveys of consumers purchasing audio components always list sound quality as one of the top 3 most important factors in their purchase decisions. Maybe they just say this but behave differently, but sound quality cannot be ignored.

These measurements are the single best indicator of how it sounds based on our research, much like the spinorama measurements published in audio science review are for loudspeakers. If sound quality doesn't matter to consumers then why are we all here?
 

Sean Olive

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#33
The question wasn't for me and is a hot potato around here. Indeed, conceptually, I'd say that there isn't much difference.
I am not a huge fan of the Harman speaker's score btw, at least as a single parameter.

To qualify this, let me say that there are two FR curves I like, one of them being the Harman one, the other being close to the "secondary" Harman one (the bass boosted one).

All other things being equal, I tend to agree that the Harman curve is mostly my preferred one for general use. But the thing that bothers me when it is used as a single measure of speaker quality is that all other things never seem to be equal... Is it the speaker's design and its interaction with the room? Is it its directivity? Its distortion characteristics? I don't know and that's why I keep reading the loudspeaker's discussions around here.
In my experience - and I have quite a few speakers pairs I can compare side by side without and with equalization - there are often very significant differences other than their FR.

And as far as headphones are concerned, even if I am not a headphone guy (my speaker's spending over the last 10 years or so has been 200 times higher than on headphones), I find those differences even more striking when I use earphones or in-ears. Looking at this list, I realize I own some very highly rated in-ears in terms of correlation with Harman's curve, but that they are essentially trash in terms of resolution, transient response, imaging etc compared to very poorly correlated ones. (I also own the HD-600 which I find quite likable)

Also, one thing that struck me btw is that the current version of Amir seems to strictly go by Harman's curve in current evaluations, but the older version of Amir could not accept that mitchco equalized LS50 + subs were remotely similar to mitchco bigger speakers (and I think we can trust him on EQ). Now, the argument seems to be FR is all what matters, I still don't get why it wasn't the case back then.
When we do controlled listening test comparisons of loudspeakers, frequency response, directivity and distortion are all factors considered in the listeners' final preference rating. In the end, when we look at the listeners' ratings and the measurements (FR, distortion, DI) it's the family of curves on the FR graph that seem to matter. I've looked closely at distortion as has Floyd Toole, and it is a very poor predictor of sound quality, at least using the type of loudspeakers, playback levels and music signals in our tests. (this is NOT true for small powered Smart or BT speakers where the speakers are highly nonlinear and the chosen playback level will determine which speaker wins the test).


Taking two different loudspeakers equalizing them to the same target and comparing them in a room is likely not a valid test. Unless the speakers have identical directivity or at least smooth directivity, the on-axis and off-axis frequency responses will not be the same. You need comprehensive measurements to ensure they are. And unless you have a speaker mover, you will be hearing positional differences. These differences are not subtle (they can change the score by 20-30%) and can influence which speaker you prefer. That is the reason we spent over $100k on a speaker shuffler back in 1998. For the same reason, it's important that you measure and calibrate your loudspeaker when you are setting it up in your home. Some equalization below the 200-300 Hz or the use of multiple subwoofers to destructively cancel modes and create a wider sweet spot can significantly improve the bass.
 

Jimbob54

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#34
Well, I respectfully disagree. Surveys of consumers purchasing audio components always list sound quality as one of the top 3 most important factors in their purchase decisions. Maybe they just say this but behave differently, but sound quality cannot be ignored.

These measurements are the single best indicator of how it sounds based on our research, much like the spinorama measurements published in audio science review are for loudspeakers. If sound quality doesn't matter to consumers then why are we all here?
Uh oh, the technical expert's expert is in the house ;-)

An impertinent but interesting question please if you will indulge us. What is your favourite headphone that you've had any time with? We wont judge you too harshly if it neither comes from the Harman family, nor measures well against any curve your work is associated with.
 

Sean Olive

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#35
Uh oh, the technical expert's expert is in the house ;-)

An impertinent but interesting question please if you will indulge us. What is your favourite headphone that you've had any time with? We wont judge you too harshly if it neither comes from the Harman family, nor measures well against any curve your work is associated with.
I've listened to a lot of headphones (both Harman and competitors') ranging in price from $29 to over $4000 in the past 8 years, mostly very briefly and in a critical listening situation. None of them deliver the same immersive/tactile experience as listening to loudspeakers in a room. I have a stereo setup in my living room (Revel Salon 2), and I just setup a Dolby ATMOS 7.2.4 system in my family room and kick myself for not doing this earlier. What a treat!

In the future, it may be possible to get an experience close to speakers in a room through headphones when up-mixers, binaural renderers, individualized HRTFs improve and become more common, as well as more immersive content (Universal Music, Sony et al, have recently released ATMOS and Sony 360 Reality music titles on Tidal + Amazon, and hopefully that trend continues). But right now listening to stereo in headphones is a spatially-deprived mostly in or near-head experience. But at least, we know how to design them to provide a relatively neutral balanced timbre. 7 years ago, headphones were like loudspeakers 40 years ago: all over the map.

So for me headphone listening is mostly for traveling, Webex calls, and editing audio in situations where I need better SN.

For AE types I have AKG N700 ANC, and AKG K371. For IE types, I have AKG N5000 using the Comply Foam tips. The new AKG N400 TW sold by Samsung looks very nice and nails the Harman Target Curve. I will be looking into getting a pair of those soon to try.
 
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Jimbob54

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#36
I've listened to a lot of headphones (both Harman and competitors') ranging in price from $29 to over $4000 in the past 8 years, mostly very briefly and in a critical listening situation. None of them deliver the same immersive/tactile experience as listening to loudspeakers in a room. I have a stereo setup in my living room (Revel Salon 2), I just setup a Dolby ATMOS 7.2.4 system in my family room and kick myself for not doing this earlier. What a treat!

In the future, it may be possible to get an experience close to speakers in a room through headphones when up-mixers, binaural renderers, individualized HRTFs improve and become more common, as well as content (Dolby and Sony have recently released ATMOS and Sony 360 Reality music titles on Tidal + Amazon, and hopefully that trend continues). But right now listening to stereo in headphones is a spatially-deprived mostly in or near-head experience. But at least, we know how to design them to provide a relatively neutral balanced timbre. 7 years ago, headphones were like loudspeakers 40 years ago: all over the map.

So for me headphone listening is mostly for traveling, Webex calls, and editing audio in situations where I need better SN.

For AE types I have AKG N700 ANC, and AKG N371. For IE types, I have AKG N5000 using the Comply Foam tips. The new AKG N400 TW sold by Samsung looks very nice and nails the Harman Target Curve. I will be looking into getting a pair of those soon to try.
Thanks. Headphones or nothing for me due the (wife's) psychotic speaker hating cat. But yes, not a replacement for speakers. I've yet to explore multi channel but maybe it is the future.

Welcome to ASR.(except I've realised you're not new :facepalm:
 
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solderdude

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#37
Well, I respectfully disagree. Surveys of consumers purchasing audio components always list sound quality as one of the top 3 most important factors in their purchase decisions. Maybe they just say this but behave differently, but sound quality cannot be ignored.
Most people that are into better quality audio surely base their purchasing decisions on sound quality. Then there are lots of people that claim they bought headphones based on sound quality and or recommendations but a lot of them have terrible treble peaks which they think is great because they sound so 'detailed' or overly bassy/fat/warmpoo headphones with boosted bass and lows and claim it sounds natural to them. Willing to bet those folks have the bass turned up fully and have speakers tucked away in corners behind chairs. (Blasphemy !)

These measurements are the single best indicator of how it sounds based on our research, much like the spinorama measurements published in audio science review are for loudspeakers. If sound quality doesn't matter to consumers then why are we all here?
Oh ... it does matter and is why we are here. On the other hand of all headphones sold worldwide most only care about bluetooth, nice looks, tons of bass and play youtube videos on it or 128kbs streaming sounds. They probably wouldn't even know how a really good headphone sounds like.
Yes, If you let them hear how a good headphone sounds compared to the crap they walk around with I am sure they will prefer that.
Most folks, however, will put on their wireless crap and maybe, just maybe buy a Bose or Sony wireless when their headphone falls apart or stops working after a few years of usage.
I suspect that a relatively very small portion buys on sound quality. They get their info on various headphone sites which is a good thing.

Obviously I fully agree that measurements say a lot, are very helpful and all research in that direction increases quality. Also think sound quality of headphones is much improved over the years. The price as well....
Seeing how well the old DT880, HD600 and HD650 still can get along with the expensive ones and Stax already made stellar headphones decades ago the increase in performance isn't as hugely improved as most people think nor is taste changed much. More bass than the old days... yes.
 
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ahofer

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#38
Comfort is indeed very important. The weight of the headphone, the clamping force, the pad feel, and the pad ventilation are all important.Also, as someone who wears glasses, the amount of headphones that can’t fit my glasses is too dame high (ear cups/pads are too narrow, pushing my glasses forward).
Yes, I often listen to headphones while writing or coding/exploring in R. I have to wear glasses. The HD650s aren’t bad, but they still press the frame and cause an ache after a while. I would love to hear other suggestions. I haven’t tried IEMs, but perhaps that’s it.
 

raistlin65

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Yes, I often listen to headphones while writing or coding/exploring in R. I have to wear glasses. The HD650s aren’t bad, but they still press the frame and cause an ache after a while. I would love to hear other suggestions. I haven’t tried IEMs, but perhaps that’s it.
Or get different glasses. I found that frames with thin metal temples work better for me than thick plastic temples for wearing with headphones.
 

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#40
Or get different glasses. I found that frames with thin metal temples work better for me than thick plastic temples for wearing with headphones.
I have thin metal ones, but they go far enough behind my ear that they poke most ear cups, only a few earcups I have are large enough.
 
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