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How do you hear headphone 'soundstage'

How do you perceive headphone stereo image (without any trickery/Binaural)

  • In my head (Left, Right and inbetween)

  • In the back of my head (Left, Right and inbetween)

  • Slightly in front of my head (Left, Right and inbetween)

  • a full 3D image (all around me)

  • a 2D image clearly in front of me

  • I don't care about this aspect

  • It depends on the headphone (from between to in front of me)


Results are only viewable after voting.

solderdude

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This poll is born out of a 'soundstage / imaging' discussion.
I am just curious how people hear headphone 'soundstage'.

Note this is with 'normal' recordings so NO binaural recordings and without any processing/plug-ins like crossfeed, stereo enhancers and 3D emulators.
Just a plain headphone...

And yes ... some are wider than others but its the placement I wonder about.

Sound image between the ears, somewhat in front, above, after the head etc.

When this is headphone dependent for you please note which headphone does that for you.
 
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This poll is born out of a 'soundstage / imaging' discussion.
I am just curious how people hear headphone 'soundstage'.

Note this is with 'normal' recordings so NO binaural recordings and without any processing/plug-ins like crossfeed, stereo enhancers and 3D emulators.
Just a plain headphone...

And yes ... some are wider than others but its the placement I wonder about.

Sound image between the ears, somewhat in front, above, after the head etc.

When this is headphone dependent for you please note which headphone does that for you.
Noting the headphone that does that for me: DCA Aeon 2 Noire
 
Depends on headphone.

DT 770: from left to in front to right arc

Arya/Ananda: In front, kinda like inside of the music. Not much left right. More like 3D i think. Images are kinda like AR. More info and dimension to images/instruments and they are big. It's like swimming inside of holographic images.

Edition XS: It's like Ananda and Arya but have more far left/ far right. A bit more stereo like 770 and more distant.

Sundara: In my head. Inside my skull.

X2HR: It's like 770 but more open and distant. A bit of emptyness going on in the stage.

Edit: And btw, this is the most important aspect for me when it comes to headphones.
 
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The HD800 is weird in that it can sound in your head in terms of its center image on a lot of recordings but exhibit great depth on others. I do find that on most headphones the presentation is in front of my face. So far the DT900 has had the most correct left to right imaging I've heard with a solid center image and good depth forward but mostly because the treble is so bright and thus more full sounding.
 
Caveat Emptor: Everything I will write is subjective:
Depends on headphones or IEMs for me as well:

DCA Expanse: A full 3D image with less hard panning than HD800
DCA Stealth: Slightly in front of my head with less 3D depth than Expanse
DCA Aeon X Open / Aeon 2 Noires: Slightly in front of my head without the 3D depth of both Stealth and Expanse
DCA Voce: In my head without the 3D depth of both Stealth and Expanse

AKG K712/K702: A full 3D image with less hard panning than HD800 (closest to Expanse though K712 pans sideways more than Expanse while Expanse has better depth perception)

Raal SR1a: Slightly in the back of my head with ultra-wide panning
HD 800 (S): Slightly in the back of my head with ultra-wide panning
Warwick Aperio and Bravura: Slightly in front of my head with less 3D depth than Expanse
Hifiman Susvara and Focal Utopia: Slightly in front of my head with less 3D depth than Expanse

IEMs:

headstage in this context is defined as not perceiving soundstage as out of the head

CA Andromeda: Full 3D image with out of my head soundstage
AK Pathfinder: Full 3D image within headstage
Oriolus Traillii: Full 3D image that's slightly wider and taller than Andromeda (yes it's more spacious than "headstage")
Vision Ears EXT: Full 3D image that's slightly wider and taller than Andromeda (yes it's more spacious than "headstage")
AK x EE Odyssey: Slightly in front of my head (yes it's more spacious than "headstage")
64 Audio U12T: Slightly in front of my head (yes it's more spacious than "headstage")

Last but not least: Airpods 3 + Custom Spatial Audio: Full 3D image that's more spacious than "headstage"
 
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I haven't voted yet, as I'm not sure I can pick one, but I'll think about it as I write. To me the soundstage can vary depending on my absorption level into the music and my mood (I don't do drugs by the way beyond relative occasional alcohol and daily caffeine), and is also heavily dependant on the headphone in question as well as the tracks being played. With my best soundstage headphones which are K702 and HD560s then on the right tracks and right absorption level of me into the music then it can feel 3D - with some effects circling my head front to back & left to right, with the K702 showing a wider soundstage than my HD560s, but HD560s images more precisely in terms of smoother panning and more finegrained ability to pick specific angles of direction - for instance when 3 people are singing on one of my tracks it's a lot easier with the HD560s to place each of the 3 singers at consistent slightly different angles to each other. I also have found that after I've done a session of Virtual 7.1 Surround fps gaming (where I use sound heavily to pinpoint 3D directional positions of enemies) that afterwards I'm more sensitive in detecting changes in the image & soundstage created by headphones when listening to music in headphones - and it seems more expansive & realistic. I think there's a large element of mood/absorption/"training" in how the headphone experience unfolds, combined with the inherent soundstage ability of the headphone in question and of course the track being listened to.......and of course the EQ, to me the best soundstage EQ's are literally the EQ's that sound the most balanced to me, which is always some take on the Harman Headphone Curve - I think it's important to have a balanced frequency response where nothing is pushed too far forward into the mix, so that you can let your mind flip between the different elements/instruments of the track you're listening to - so I think that enhances soundstage ability of the track in question. Right Headphone / Right EQ / Right Mood & Absorption / (Right "Training") / Right Track.

I'll think about which option to pick in the poll.....I voted "Full 3D Image" but that's mainly at it's best (most optimistic) and only with a few specific effects within a track (like electronic effects in a track that might have been designed to sound like they're looping around your head as it pans from left to right and back again), it's not like there are specific instruments or voices located permanently behind. Otherwise I would have chosen "Slightly In Front of my Head" or also added my own new option in the poll of "In my head for centre, out of my head for left, out of my head for right" - and I tend to flip between all of those mentioned votable options depending on any combination of the stuff bolded in the previous paragraph.

EDIT: I wouldn't mind being able to pick more than one option in poll, because it varies.

EDIT #2: There can always be some kind of depth associated with listening to a piece of music, it's easy to imagine particular singers are further away or closer to you within a piece of music, especially when more than one singers are singing, and even more so when it's the same singer but they've got say 3 seperately recorded tracks of themselves singing at the same time. But, that's a bit different to what I was talking about earlier re occasionally having the sensation of some effects coming from behind you as they pan around the soundstage.

EDIT#3: I have to close my eyes to properly picture the music as if I leave my eyes open then that disturbs the process - to me soundstage of a track be it through speakers or headphones is a very visual experience, and having my eyes open disturbs that (less so with speakers though).
 
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Almost all the headphones I have or previously owned are constrained to inside my head. One exception would be the Philips Fidelio 'phones, but they irritate me in various ways so I don't use them.
 
Since special software and recording techniques can simulate source positioning with almost any pair of headphones, provided the noise level is low enough to accommodate such illusions, it would seem to me that the most likely characteristic accountable for a listener's perception of any "soundstage/headstage" is a result of each driver's frequency response.
 
Mostly just in front of my head. Soundstage width is the same for me, going from IEMs to an HD800.
 
Predominantly like a teeny, tiny band in my forehead, with occassional sounds a little further out.

I read or hear reviewers talk about soundstage for IEMs and headphones, but I don't pay much attention to that aspect of headphones, the differences, for me, are so minimal as to not be worth worrying about. Whereas, if the tonality is off, piercing highs, shouty midrange, or muddy bass, that's going to be really obvious.
 
All Headphones have always just been 'In My Head' with nothing perceived outside. Even Binaural recordings fail to do anything outside the confines of my head.

I've tried open, closed and noise-cancelling headphones, all with the same effect. For me, headphones are something to use only when loudspeakers are inappropriate. I wish they weren't, as life would be easier if I could use headphones with as much pleasure as loudspeakers, but they don't work for me.

S
 
Mostly around my forehead.

I hear hard-panned sounds coming directly from the headphone, basically "injected" directly into my ear.

I get the same thing no matter what headphone.

I don't listen to headphones every day and it doesn't bother me that I don't get a good soundstage illusion.

I tried Dolby headphone a couple of times with a surround track and it made a more "spacious" sound with the direction harder to locate, but definitely no sense of sounds coming from behind.

I don't get much of a "soundstage" with speakers either. I can hear the hard-panned sounds coming from the appropriate speaker but sounds in the center or toward the center are more vague. (That's with 2-channel stereo. Of course with surround I can hear the center speaker.)

I also never get a sense of stage "depth" with speakers or headphones.
 
Some peeps say they cannot hear outside their head. Try this. The bell is far right outside. Definitely a outside of the head stage'ing.
Very nice, but my mind flips between inside and outside my head when it comes to that bell. I have a similar result over loudspeakers, with the bell threatening to sit to the right of my speaker. But listened from the beginning as I really like this track.
 
Very nice, but my mind flips between inside and outside my head when it comes to that bell. I have a similar result over loudspeakers, with the bell threatening to sit to the right of my speaker. But listened from the beginning as I really like this track.
First time I heard it I swore the bell was coming from the front door.
 
I also have experienced some sounds coming from far across the room every now and then.
Usually a sound I do not expect to be in music or is recorded from quite a distance.
When this happens I start the track again and sure enough its in the track. My brain can make that illusion based on what comes in. Is not headphone dependent.
Most recordings inside my head, left to right.

HD800 gives me the best imaging. Stable and easy to pinpoint. Surprisingly the X2HR came in second. HD560S was just behind.
The K701/702/712/7XX/812 don't do it for me.

Also HE400i/400SE/Sundara/Edition XX nor other planars work that well for me in this particular aspect.
 
I also have experienced some sounds coming from far across the room every now and then.
Usually a sound I do not expect to be in music or is recorded from quite a distance.
When this happens I start the track again and sure enough its in the track. My brain can make that illusion based on what comes in. Is not headphone dependent.
Most recordings inside my head, left to right.

HD800 gives me the best imaging. Stable and easy to pinpoint. Surprisingly the X2HR came in second. HD560S was just behind.
The K701/702/712/7XX/812 don't do it for me.

Also HE400i/400SE/Sundara/Edition XX nor other planars work that well for me in this particular aspect.
Definitely echo your findings here, for me the HD560s has better staging than the He400se. I remember sharing a Santana track in the HD560s owner's thread that literally made me jump out of my chair in bemusement from the staging.
 
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