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HIFIMAN Susvara Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 214 62.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 59 17.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 32 9.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 38 11.1%

  • Total voters
    343

Rhamnetin

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I have long been trying to find a Susvara review over here. (Only 2 months old) Then I gave up until a friend linked it to me.
There are some decent things over here, but a negative Susvara review is the final nail in the coffin for ASR for me. From all DACs sound the same, to I can’t recommend Susvara, I have seen rank absurdity over here. Btw that buffoon Amir is not half qualified to review audio gear. Keep fixating on arbitrary measurements which have no bearing on sound quality. I am out.

So you can't take constructive criticism... for a product you didn't design or fund? Well, that's your choice. I too happen to like a headphone that has some noteworthy performance flaws revealed by data here (and elsewhere). That just helps me understand what I like. It's irrational to get emotional and upset over it, the data is very helpful even for consumers.

How is Amir an unqualified buffoon? What qualifications does he lack? Who is qualified? How does measuring the... sound being output by a transducer, on a simulated ear rig that's far more precise than human ears, not have any bearing on sound quality?
 
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There’s got to be real life bearing of those objective measurements. Susvara is by far the best headphone to maintain sanctity of sound at loud volumes, that I have heard. Everything else distorts way quicker. I am not the one to worship expensive audio gear and I think Abyss Diana TC was poor when I had it but Susvara is leagues ahead and genuinely outstanding.
I wouldn't know how the Susvara would do for a multitone distortion measurement, but here is a comparison between a substantially EQed Meze Elite with hybrid pads compared to my HiFiMan Arya Stealth and HE1000se plus an EQed lower-end Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT:

2024-02-19 - REW RTA multitone settings.png

Figure 1: REW RTA multitone signal generator settings.

2024-01-31 - Arya Stealth and HE1000se OS Rs - RTA noise floor 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 1: REW RTA 4M-length rectangular window FFT noise floor with in-ear mics. The bass noise floor was a bit higher when I had the Meze Elite on my head which tends to aggravate heartbeat noise.

2024-01-31 - Arya Stealth OS Ls - 1_20 decade pink 91 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 2: HiFiMan Arya Stealth 91 dBA equivalent pink spectrum 1/20 decade multitone distortion. The multitone distortion (the "grass" between the main tones above the noise floor) generally tracks the harmonic distortion measurements from https://www.head-fi.org/threads/hifiman-he1000-se.886228/post-17863219 (post #4,787).

2024-01-31 - Arya Stealth OS Ls - 1_24 octave pink 94 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 3: HiFiMan Arya Stealth 94 dBA (similar to the opening of Mahler Symphony No. 5) equivalent pink spectrum 1/24 octave multitone distortion. For this simulation of a quite loud orchestral tutti (it probably reaches 100 dBA at an actual concert hall, though the cymbal takes up quite the bulk of those dynamics), the IMD floor is around 40 dB below the main signal, or around 1%, which I guess is plenty low enough at this listening level, but as you will see, isn't exceptional. Now, though my SPL meter registers louder for this denser signal with my EQed Meze Elite reference, the RTA displays a lower upper envelope to the FFT, so it's hard to say whether a denser signal or difference in crest factor actually incurs an increase in IMD percentage, else it seems to only make the IMD "noise floor" denser. Said IMD noise floor should completely block out any "details" sitting at 30 dB below, not like such would have been audible relative to the main signal in the orchestral tutti anyways.

2024-01-31 - HE1000se NS Ls - 1_20 decade pink 91 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 4: HiFiMan HE1000se 91 dBA equivalent pink spectrum 1/20 decade multitone distortion. Similar deal to the Arya Stealth for similar measured harmonic distortion levels for these drivers.

2024-01-31 - HE1000se NS Ls - 1_24 octave pink 94 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 5: HiFiMan HE1000se 94 dBA (similar to the opening of Mahler Symphony No. 5) equivalent pink spectrum 1/24 octave multitone distortion. Similar deal.

2024-01-31 - Meze Elite hybrid Rs V3_1 2 - 1_20 decade pink 91 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 6: Meze Elite with hybrid pads and "V3.1 PEQ" 91 dBA equivalent pink spectrum 1/20 decade multitone distortion. IMD levels around 15 dB better than the HiFiMans despite EQing the upper midrange up a fair bit.

2024-01-31 - Meze Elite hybrid Rs V3_1 2 - 1_24 octave pink 94 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 7: Meze Elite with hybrid pads and "V3.1 PEQ" 94 dBA (similar to the opening of Mahler Symphony No. 5) equivalent pink spectrum 1/24 octave multitone distortion. IMD levels are around 57 dB down, or 0.14%, which is perhaps properly overkill, though I wouldn't mind seeing even better results through the DCA Stealth or Expanse.

2024-02-04 -  ATH-M50xBT Rs - 1_20 decade pink 91 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 8: Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT "V3.1 PEQ" 91 dBA equivalent pink spectrum 1/20 decade multitone distortion. This was after EQing this headphone to a very similar frequency response to my Meze Elite's EQ profile. Despite similar harmonic distortion figures below 0.1% at 98 dB above 200 Hz, this lower-end dynamic driver headphone (albeit over an unbalanced connection, whether that matters) exhibits worse multitone distortion similar in level to the HiFiMans I measured.

2024-02-04 - ATH-M50xBT Rs - 1_24 octave pink 94 dBA 4M FFT.jpg

Figure 9: Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT "V3.1 PEQ" 94 dBA (similar to the opening of Mahler Symphony No. 5) equivalent pink spectrum 1/24 octave multitone distortion.

Addendum:

Harmonic distortion measurements for reference, particularly the comparison between the EQed Meze Elite and Audio-TEchnica ATH-M50xBT if that reveals a utility to multitone headphone measurements.

2024-01-31 - HE1000se NS Ls 3.jpg

Figure 10: HiFiMan HE1000se left driver 4M-length measurement. It so happened that my HE1000se units' left drivers had better distortion than the right independent of which in-ear mic was being used. Here, the mic used in the left ear has some bass and treble roll-off relative to the other/better mic. My Arya Stealth's right driver is a bit better than this in the upper midrange.

2024-01-31 - Meze Elite hybrid Rs V3_1 6 - distortion.jpg

Figure 11: Meze Elite hybrid pads and "V3.1 PEQ" 4M-length measurement. This is improved a bit with averaging over 8 repetitions (which requires that I sit still for 3 minutes for 192 kHz sample rate measurements); the lower midrange and upper treble are noise-limited, the bass getting as low as 30 dB and the upper treble as low as 21 dB after said averaging. This headphone and EQ was used to establish the dBA calibration.

2024-01-31 - ATH-M50xBT Rs V3_1 2 - distortion.jpg

Figure 12: Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT "V3.1 PEQ" 4M-length measurement. The noise floor line fluke is due to a noise artifact from prior to the actual test signal being played. I do not yet have an average measurement for this yet.
 

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srkbear

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This is definitely a general trend, rather than being 100% true all the time. Yes it has some exceptions. But the implementation of Stealth Tech in Hifiman planars has definitely compromised on quality. The OG He1000, Arya etc were more refined, less peaky and had a higher threshold before they distorted. This is in the subjective realm. Stealth was a necessity because people didn’t have huge amps generally and also mobility was desired. Btw HE1000SE cannot hold a candle to Susvara in my opinion.

Regarding Utopia, being a dynamic headphone this trend doesn’t apply as much to dynamics, but when we compare the Stellia to it, it is certainly born out. Stellia is designed for predominantly mobile use and has lower impedance and higher sensitivity than the Utopia. No wonder it distorts quicker as you raise the volume on a proper desktop amp.
How was the Stealth magnet in Hifiman’s flagships a quality compromise? First of all the Stealth magnet launched with the Susvara, which has a sensitivity of 83, quite a drop from the original HE1000 at 90, which you claim was superior—so that pitches your theory right out the window.

However Hifiman and Dr. Bian aren’t fools—the Stealth magnet was a rousing success when it emerged in the Susvara in 2016 (Crinacle still ranks it the second best headphone of all time, below the $60,000 HE-1!). I personally disagree with that ranking, but the Stealth magnet was so well-received that they’ve retrofitted it into every subsequent headphone in their entire lineup—the HE1000se, Arya, Ananda, HE1000, Audivina and Edition XS. Because it sucks?

The Stealth magnet arguably opened up higher frequencies above 9,000hz or so, which on earlier attempts such as the HE1000se led some to find it fatiguing—but they’ve addressed that to a great extent in their latest HE1000 Stealth, Arya Organic, Ananda Nano and Edition XS. If it was such a quality “compromise” it sure fooled all the ritzy tastemakers at Stereophile, Master’s Switch et al, because to this day, eight years past launch, they still speak in vaporous, slavish terms about the Susvara. And plenty of your apparent audiophile lesser minds are still shelling out six grand for the thing. Besides, again it has a sensitivity of 83! Which should delight you based on your hypothesis—lower than that and you’d have to power it with polonium.

What headphones do you deem worthy of serious consideration then, and paired with what amp? You must be tied down to a tank when you listen to music and be a purveyor of some rarified headphone brand that requires an atom-splitting energizer that is only reserved for gods.

As for your comments about the Utopia and Stellia, I’m completely flummoxed—the $3,000 Stellia was designed as a portable? I own the Utopia and it has a sensitivity of 104 SPL/mw, just two points lower than the Stellia at 106. It’ll play just fine off of a dongle, although of course I advocate for more robust amp pairings.

I suppose you’re going to counter this now by claiming that this sensitivity/quality issue doesn’t apply to dynamic drivers? Planars have linear impedance across all frequencies, and minimal inductive resistance—liberating the diaphragm from the voice coil theoretically lends them to more power efficiency by design. But before your posts I had been completely unaware that in 2024 headphone technology was still too primitive to produce a quality headphone that didn’t require extremes of power! The audiophile market has expanded so exponentially in the past decade to wider markets that this has demanded that the technology advance to accommodate more accessible amplifiers. Do you only own electrostatics?

Based on your comments en masse I question whether you’ve even heard all these crappy, efficient headphones you’re denigrating. Your profile indicates that you’ve been a member here since December of 2022. What have you been reading?
 
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Don't forget that you can't "EQ to a common target" using a test fixture as those EQ profiles can incur quite different results on your own head even if they were derived from the same test setup (e.g. headphones.com), this "at worst" causing the EQed Meze Elite for me to sound "sweeter", though with the exquisite distortion performance I came to measure from it in addition to exquisite comfort and looks (the Tungsten version), I have no regrets.

Sure, tonality and hence "sonic performance" may be the same, but note that for a number of people, tonality isn't the only thing about a headphone (and no, for the "other things", I don't mean "holography" or other crazy things). If people say that headphones "EQed to the same target" still don't "sound" the same, then the FRs for their ears are not actually identical, or like with the small differences between the Arya Stealth and HE1000se I measured, other factors are at play that amplify perceived differences which I do not hear when primed with a volume-matched situation. If the headphones still sound different even after matching the magnitude and phase response with in-ear mics like below, I'd say at that point, what they are describing is no longer truly differences in sound so much as the subjective effects of the pad size and clamp force and the driver size and distance. You could perhaps get the same sound at your ear drum from different headphones or IEMs, but they could still present quite a different experience. Now, if you could get me an HE1000se with DCA Stealth levels of distortion and driver matching for $500, that would be grand.

For interest, here are some REW measurements from my recently painstakingly using my in-ear mics to EQ an HE1000se with large third-party pads to the same free-field target as my Meze Elite with hybrid pads for binaural head-tracking. The measurements are for the left ear's free-field response to a neutral speaker positioned 30 degrees left of center. The sample rate is 44.1 kHz as limited by the SPARTA AmbiBIN binaural head-tracking chain. The measurement length was just 256k for haste.

View attachment 342740
Figure 1: HiFiMan HE1000se with NMD (NTRAX Mod Design) bespoke "Type A6" pads. Pretty comfortable with yet more space around your ears, but at the cost of a large 2 kHz dip that needs to be EQed up.

View attachment 342741
Figure 2: Meze Elite with hybrid pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ magnitude and phase response.

View attachment 342742
Figure 3: HiFiMan HE1000se with Type A6 pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ magnitude and phase response. With minimum-phase EQ, even after going through some manipulations in SPARTA AmbiBIN before EQing that result to free-field, the phase response is also effectively the same other than the HE1000se having a more pronounced 13.6 kHz null that can in no way be EQed; the Meze Elite for my ears has shallower nulls, whereby the only trouble is headphone and in-ear microphone positioning consistency.

View attachment 342743
Figure 4: Meze Elite with hybrid pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ impulse and step response. With both very similar magnitude and phase responses, the impulse and step responses are also very similar. The highest-frequency ripples are from the last unshown peaks preceding the measurements 22.05 kHz cutoff.

View attachment 342744
Figure 5: HiFiMan HE1000se with Type A6 pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ impulse and step response. The HE1000se might have a slightly dirtier decay, though the high-frequency stuff at the start could be from a 20.5 kHz peak involved in the free-field PEQ, though the trailing 4 kHz resonance is still quite pronounced despite having been EQed down. Subjectively, when playing the single sample transient in http://pcfarina.eng.unipr.it/Acustica-samples/Dirac.wav, this EQing process has probably helped make both headphones sound more similarly incisive where I previously found the Arya Stealth and similarly HE1000se to be the most incisive headphones I had ever heard (barring the Stax SRM-T8000 not being able to drive the Stax SR-X9000 loud enough to really judge this for it; my impulse response measurement which I can't show did at least confirm a very fast step response rise time), the transients probably also sounding quite "tonally" similar, but at extreme loudnesses, I suppose the HE1000se and likewise my Arya Stealth are probably simply encountering distortions or nonlinearities that cause the transients to start sounding more aggressively sharp and intense or like you are hearing the distinct sound of a given headphone's diaphragm being flicked.

View attachment 342745
Figure 6: Meze Elite with hybrid pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ group delay.

View attachment 342746
Figure 7: HiFiMan HE1000se with Type A6 pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ group delay. I had found that holding up a piece of thick acoustic foam next to the grille cleans up the group delay and CSD measurements a bit I suppose by preventing the interference of room reflections; after this, the main artifacts are either from the internal cup and pad reflections or the driver. The Meze Elite is perhaps a bit cleaner here, though I had measured my Arya Stealth and HE1000se as typically having pretty clean bass group delays unlike headphones that show some notches or peaks in that curve; I don't know if this could have any bearing on subjective transient quality.

View attachment 342748
Figure 8: Meze Elite with hybrid pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ magnitude and phase response. I didn't have time in that measurement session to take higher-resolution and lower noise floor measurements, but it should still be visible that the Meze Elite's CSD envelope is lower than on the HE1000se. I personally think these decay products are only audible when playing isolated transients like http://pcfarina.eng.unipr.it/Acustica-samples/Dirac.wav very loud.

View attachment 342749
Figure 10: HiFiMan HE1000se with Type A6 pads plus 30-degree free-field EQ magnitude and phase response.

Subjectively, they indeed sound quite similar (to the best of my A/Bing ability and doubt of differences; I would expect no differences in "timbre" except very subtle upper treble differences), though I can tell that I probably experience some small subjective differences to the "feel" of the sound due to the difference in pad feel (cool and luscious sheepskin versus smooth, soft, sure, and slightly fuzzy synthetic fabric; the Meze Elite here probably does feel smoother and cleaner while the HE1000se feels a bit airier; or one recording had harsh strings through the Meze Elite, but on the HE1000se despite precise FR and volume matching, maybe the openness, pad feel, and higher distortion allowed those same harsh strings to be "enjoyed" as "airy") and size. I could probably do the same EQing exercise with my Jabra Elite 85h and ATH-M50xBT, but which presentation of this tonality is going to be more "enjoyable"?
An important amendment regarding my in-ear speaker HRTF measurements. I had lately used threshold of hearing EQ whence I had found that my blocked ear canal measurements were indeed failing to account for differences in canal gain between the 30-degree speaker incidence and the 90-degree headphone incidence and coupling. As such, when using in-ear mics to calibrate headphones to a speaker response, though the blocked canal measurements may show greater ear gain levels than measured through existing neutral headphones, after compensation, the ear gain levels will become more comparable. See "Calibration using threshold of hearing curves" in https://www.head-fi.org/threads/rec...-virtualization.890719/page-121#post-18027627 (post #1,812).
 

Doltonius

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Of course there are. We don't do it to pass the time.
You cannot disprove a person's preference for a sound that objectively measures worse (lower fidelity, that is) with objective facts. Preference and taste are fundamentally subjective. I guess that is the point.
 

Doltonius

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So no matter what is measured, who measures it, and what the measurements are.... They would never show that something sounds bad?
It makes one wonder what you are doing in a forum like this. The other people come because we believe amirm does us a favor by providing hard data AND an impression.
If somebody just prefer the horrendous airline free earbuds to everything else, what measurements can you use to convince that they are wrong? Individual preference is just radically subjective and no objective fact can or is needed to prove or disprove it. Although "average preference" could be objective and that objective correlations might be established between measurements and average preference. However, this is not done here. Harman investigates the correlation between frequency response and average preference. But I don't think anyone has done enough scientific research on the correlation between group delay or harmonic distortion at 114db and average preference. And also, there is no reason that an individual buyer should be much concerned with the average preference in the first place, unless their preferences match the population average. This is why interpreting the measurements here (or anywhere) as objective and absolute indication of sound quality that is relatable to yourself is misguided.
 

Doltonius

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Sure, go on apologizing for a $6000 kit made clearly for charity with the very original "you never heard it" argument in an industry trying to drown us in every bit of nonsensical drivel for a profit.
Nobody will buy these before hearing them in person. But if you have heard them, and you have enough money to spend, and indeed you subjectively prefer this to everything else that is cheaper (though this part better be verified through double blind testing), there is nothing wrong with buying it, and nothing wrong with the company capitalizing from these situations.
 

Doltonius

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One of the hardest things for me as an objectivist is reconciling and trying to make sense why a lot of headphones I love measure like s#!t. Though it was never a problem for me to accept it as is. I'm more than happy enough to have saved bucket-loads of money already from getting out of the dac/amp/source gear stuff. I don't really have a horse in this race, and I'd love to just have a HE400SE and 7hz x Crinacle Zero:2 and be done with it all myself, but I keep listening to some of my more expensive, often poorly measuring sets and I can't bring myself to let them go...
It means that some of the things measured here are not that important sometimes for personal preference. For example, distortion at 114db is hardly relevant for anyone who doesn't want to be deaf. Distortion at 60-80db probably much more relevant for most people, but the vast majority of headphones won't perform bad at these levels, so there is not enough differentiation. Messy group delay, as Amir has even observed, sometimes correlate with great spacial capabilities. Also the harman target is supposed to predict "average population preference frequency response", but your own preference target could well be something different.
 

Doltonius

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Well, just food for thought.
Material attachment is a real challenging thing, stuff IS cool and fun.
It can be real hard to let go of something one loves/loved even after it is truly useful to the individual.
Maybe get rid of them and replace them with a good feeling so it isn't just empty for you.
Like selling the stuff on eBay an use the $ to buy gifts for struggling families. Or as a high fi lover use the money received to buy an extra couple dozen excellent budget headphones to regularly give to people, sharing your love of great sound?
Kickstarters and the like are fun for some as well & many are audio related
Just ideas. I'm kind of in the same boat with to much gear.
Amir's reviews consistently omit discussion of treble above 8khz. He himself acknowledges that the measurement is inaccurate and that his hearing is unreliable in that region. However, I think most of the extra stuff that more expensive headphones can offer on top of the good budget options resides in the treble. The two zeros don't have good treble compared to well received iems in the $200-500 price bracket, for example. There are plenty of iems that have very similar response to those, with the difference lying almost entirely in the treble.
 

Doltonius

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"fast" is such trolling lingo. How can "reverb-ery" be fast? Reverb stretches input signal into longer, "slower" signal.
Being fast has more to do with the frequency response; transients are after all fourier transformed into pure sine waves by the inner ear, and fast transients require the correct amount of treble frequencies to realize. but spatial properties do correlate with group delay, this even Amir has observed.
 

Doltonius

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Yep, agree with all of that although not so certain that the 114dB distortion line is applicable, but certainly agree with all your other points. I mean for me personally, last time I measured my headphones on my miniDSP Ears rig at my normal loudest listening levels it was only 86dB for 1khz during a 0dBFS sine sweep, so if you add 10dB to that to account for an enthusiastic bass EQ in some headphones then I'm only at the equivalent 96dB in the bass region for the distortion measurements and likewise only 86dB at 1khz for the distortion measurements, and even less in the real world considering music is not recorded at full sine wave for all frequencies.
If you listen at any health volume, no peak ever is going to reach 114db. That is absolutely one of the most irrelevant for real use cases for most people in amir's measurements.
 

Doltonius

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The reason Stax headphones are found to have 'faster transient response' is the peak nearly all of them exhibit at around 1kHz.
Add the same peak to a HD600 and it sounds 'faster' or lower that peak on the Stax and the 'fastness' of the Staxes is removed.
Arguably the HD600 is 'fast enough' as it can do well over 20kHz. It is a long standing myth about Stax headphones (the speed and transients).
The 'attack' people hear is in the 1-3kHz range. No 'fast membrane' needed for that.
Below some Stax headphones (and HD600/650) to illustrate the point:

index.php






and the HD600:

HD650:
I think only the sr009 and l300 can be described has having a 1k peak. Lambda pro doesn't have it. The sr007 is better described as a large dip between 2k-4k.
 

solderdude

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Lambda pro has a peak around 1.5kHz, same effect.
007 has it too but also has a dip in the earcanal gain band so it is less obvious as it lacks in clarity (which some folks prefer).
 

Robbo99999

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If you listen at any health volume, no peak ever is going to reach 114db. That is absolutely one of the most irrelevant for real use cases for most people in amir's measurements.
We're not necessarily talking about peaks reaching 114dB in order for the 114dB distortion line to be relevant in Amir's measurement. It's more about bass EQ. Let's say absolute worst case scenario you have to put in a +20dB bass EQ if you've got a pair of headphones that rolls off in the bass a lot when combined with someone who is a major bass head that likes even more bass than Harman Curve. In this scenario your 1kHz point (for arguments sake) would in the region of -20dB down due to the bass EQ (negative preamp), so 114dB minus 20dB equals 94dB at 1kHz. So in that example Amir's 94dB blue line would be relevant for the mids & treble, and the 114dB green line would be relevant for the bass, and that would be worst case distortion because music is not recorded at 0dBFS. So the 114dB green line in Amir's distortion measurements are very rarely relevant, but in outlier cases of headphones that roll off a lot in the bass combined with someone who likes above Harman bass levels then 114dB green distortion line could be relevant, but rarely. The example I gave in the post of mine you quoted which is my own use case then Amir's blue 94dB is only the real distortion measurement of relevance to me because I don't boost bass beyond Harman and I don't listen at loud levels. Me personally I pay attention to Amir's blue 94dB line and the red 104dB line (to allow for "nice to have" overhead).
 
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solderdude

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If you listen at any health volume, no peak ever is going to reach 114db. That is absolutely one of the most irrelevant for real use cases for most people in amir's measurements.
Indeed but have a look at this:

This part of the recording below was playing uncomfortably loud. It is the type of level where you turn up the volume because you either like the song very much or want to listen ‘deep’ in the recording to evaluate.
Not a level you would gladly endure for the whole song though.

This resulted in the following (rounded off) numbers:

RMS levels = 510mV = 0.81mW = 97dB (average)
Peak levels = 9.16Vpp = 3.24VRMS = 33mW = 113dB
calculated DR = 16dB for that 10 sec part of the song
(this was the intro of the song by the way)

uncomfortably loud for listening into recording



And as most of those peaks are low frequency low (bass) and this is without bass boost you might be able to see why testing (frequencies below 200Hz) as being relevant.
Of course, no one will listen at 114dB average let alone 114dBA.
 

Doltonius

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Indeed but have a look at this:

This part of the recording below was playing uncomfortably loud. It is the type of level where you turn up the volume because you either like the song very much or want to listen ‘deep’ in the recording to evaluate.
Not a level you would gladly endure for the whole song though.

This resulted in the following (rounded off) numbers:

RMS levels = 510mV = 0.81mW = 97dB (average)
Peak levels = 9.16Vpp = 3.24VRMS = 33mW = 113dB
calculated DR = 16dB for that 10 sec part of the song
(this was the intro of the song by the way)

uncomfortably loud for listening into recording



And as most of those peaks are low frequency low (bass) and this is without bass boost you might be able to see why testing (frequencies below 200Hz) as being relevant.
Of course, no one will listen at 114dB average let alone 114dBA.
of course in recordings there can be 114db peaks. The question is will anyone play them back so that the peaks measure 114db at the eardrum?
 

solderdude

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114dB SPL in the bass... yes, when shortly playing a song at loud volume and useful to measure. If only to check useful limits of the headphone in question.
Many percent distortion in the low bass is not detrimental but one has to realize that 'riding along' on those excursions there is also the rest of the spectrum which (at that moment) also is modulated a bit. Fortunately those peaks are very short and loud and the rest of it (just after the peaks) is at much lower levels.
Distortion is not a big issue for planars but for some dynamics it is.
I have measured (observed) compression (illustrated by increased 3rd harm distortion) above 80dB SPL already in the bass. This means that even at 70dB average levels there is already an increased amount of distortion. The audibility of that remains to be seen because of the short moment events this is happening in.

The measurements I posted are real and show this SPL can occur IRL. I even described how loud it felt. Of course not all energy was in the bass and some of it was also in another spectrum but the peak SPL reached (the excursion needed) shows measuring a headphone at 114dB SPL is a good idea. Granted, one could stop the measurement above 300Hz.
 

Doltonius

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114dB SPL in the bass... yes, when shortly playing a song at loud volume and useful to measure. If only to check useful limits of the headphone in question.
Many percent distortion in the low bass is not detrimental but one has to realize that 'riding along' on those excursions there is also the rest of the spectrum which (at that moment) also is modulated a bit. Fortunately those peaks are very short and loud and the rest of it (just after the peaks) is at much lower levels.
Distortion is not a big issue for planars but for some dynamics it is.
I have measured (observed) compression (illustrated by increased 3rd harm distortion) above 80dB SPL already in the bass. This means that even at 70dB average levels there is already an increased amount of distortion. The audibility of that remains to be seen because of the short moment events this is happening in.

The measurements I posted are real and show this SPL can occur IRL. I even described how loud it felt. Of course not all energy was in the bass and some of it was also in another spectrum but the peak SPL reached (the excursion needed) shows measuring a headphone at 114dB SPL is a good idea. Granted, one could stop the measurement above 300Hz.
They of course "occur in real life". I could make it even louder and subject my ears to it. But I won't do that, this is clearly not a healthy (or for that matter, enjoyable) level to listen to music. I don't think it should be considered as part of regular usage of such a product. I don't think we need to skew our assessment of headphones so heavily in favor of performance in these very rare scenarios that don't last long.
 

solderdude

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The thing with testing is that you want to know how it performs in 'normal' circumstances AND near the extremes where is (sometimes) might be used by some people.

How everyone (mis)uses their headphones and ears is an entirely different matter and is not related to measuring certain aspects at the extremes.
 
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