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Objectively measured/designed headphones?

HooStat

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I was thinking of getting some over-the-ear, closed-back headphones. I have had IEMs for years for very casual listening (airplanes, office, etc). But one unit is no longer working and I wanted to try something new.

It seems like there are tons of options, and it looks like it is still the "Wild West" in this market compared to speakers. But is there any resource to identify good headphones < $500 that align with Sean Olive's research? From what I gather, flat frequency response, probably with a "Harman curve" seems promising. How would I find something that would fit that model?

My initial thought was to get the Neumann headphones since their speakers are so well regarded and I assume that their headphones are similarly well-engineered. But that is pure speculation.

Thanks in advance for any guidance anyone can provide.
 
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solderdude

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I was thinking of getting some over-the-ear, closed-back headphones.

Over-ear closed following Harman leaves only one option: K371.
It has some minor niggles but what headphone hasn't ?
HD600 is open and only follows Harman from 100Hz upwards and lacks the low bass boost Harman curve is famous for.
Still an excellent headphone and IMO one of the flattest affordable ones around but not suited for portable and plane duties as the OP asked for.

NDH20 does not follow Harman. It is overly bassy and too little 3khHz presence.
 
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solderdude

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That may be on the eye of the beholder.
They look, feel and are cheap to me but OP was looking for a closed over-ear close to Harman and that basically is the only one I am aware of currently being sold.
 
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HooStat

HooStat

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hey look, feel and are cheap to me
I agree completely. I like the Neumann look, but it looks like they need some EQ to get to the right curve. Although it looks like they tried to get in the ballpark. They seem to EQ quite nicely. I guess with the RME ADI DAC and 6-band PEQ I could nail it. I have never used PEQ but does that seem like it would work? I assume I can set them in the ADI DAC as described in the table below?
screenshot.png


screenshot.png
screenshot.png
 

raistlin65

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But is there any resource to identify good headphones < $500 that align with Sean Olive's research? From what I gather, flat frequency response, probably with a "Harman curve" seems promising.

It could be. But you might want to verify with your existing headphones that Harmon Target Response is what suits you, if you have headphones that can be EQ'd to Harmon Target.
 
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SpaceMonkey

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Find refurbished NAD HP50 Viso. They are cheap and actually pretty close to harman target. Actually one of the best headphones one can get as closed. Or Sennheiser hd600. Both developed by people who knew what they were doing. If you want to continue iem route go etymotic.
 

gorman

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Find refurbished NAD HP50 Viso. They are cheap and actually pretty close to harman target. Actually one of the best headphones one can get as closed.
Got them cheap when I bought my HD800 as I wanted a pair of closed headphones too. They sound great even without eq.

This is NAD HP50 Viso without any EQ. Quite close to Harman Target:

1599867814924.png
 

bobbooo

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I was thinking of getting some over-the-ear, closed-back headphones. I have had IEMs for years for very casual listening (airplanes, office, etc). But one unit is no longer working and I wanted to try something new.

It seems like there are tons of options, and it looks like it is still the "Wild West" in this market compared to speakers. But is there any resource to identify good headphones < $500 that align with Sean Olive's research? From what I gather, flat frequency response, probably with a "Harman curve" seems promising. How would I find something that would fit that model?

My initial thought was to get the Neumann headphones since their speakers are so well regarded and I assume that their headphones are similarly well-engineered. But that is pure speculation.

Thanks in advance for any guidance anyone can provide.

The highest rated headphone according to Sean Olive's preference rating formula I've seen is the PSB M4U 8:

20200912_045856.png


Only the sub-bass is a bit lacking. It's also a fully featured ANC Bluetooth headphone if you want that as an option (wired 3.5mm and USB connections also available). The NAD Viso HP70 is pretty similar too (same designer). I think you can find both for sale still.
 
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HooStat

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Wow. The PSB/NAD look great. The bluetooth seems great too -- no need for an external amp either. That might be optimal.
 

Rthomas

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I own the PSB M4U8 and can confirm that it sounds very good for an ANC headphone.

Sound quality is much better than my Bose QC35 but the Bose has better comfort and ANC.

My main headphone is an Audeze LCD4 which I EQ to the Harman Target.

I'd say the M4U8 is a no brainer. I think it's should be pretty easy to find an open box unit for less than $300.
 

Robbo99999

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Got them cheap when I bought my HD800 as I wanted a pair of closed headphones too. They sound great even without eq.

This is NAD HP50 Viso without any EQ. Quite close to Harman Target:

View attachment 82586
Find refurbished NAD HP50 Viso. They are cheap and actually pretty close to harman target. Actually one of the best headphones one can get as closed. Or Sennheiser hd600. Both developed by people who knew what they were doing. If you want to continue iem route go etymotic.
I second what you're saying here re NAD HP50, I've got a pair and they're very close to vocal abilities of my Sennheiser HD600 when the NAD HP50 are EQ'd to the Harman Curve. I do think the HP50 needs to be EQ'd though because the hump in mid bass makes them a bit muddy. I did my own EQ to the Harman Curve using Oratory's measurements as a basis, and I managed a closer fit to the Harman Curve whilst also requiring less negative preamp than Oratory's EQ, in fact for me my EQ brings these HP50 alive and up another level from the Oratory EQ....Oratory made a decision to have 9kHz be signifcantly below the Harman Curve as well as 10kHz+ and to me this hurts vocals & overall clarity of the headphone, he also didn't fix the 80Hz hump as he described that to me as an earpad resonance but to me it sounds better with the bass completely aligned to the Harman Curve......give my EQ for the NAD HP50 a go if you like (P.S. don't use Filter #10 in my pic, that was part of my development process for the EQ but it's discluded from the following curve, which is why the the checkbox for that filter is not ticked.)
NAD HP50 Oratory my own EQ.jpg

I apologise to people getting bored of me posting my EQ for this headphone, I've done it pretty much in every closed back headphone thread for the past week, lol!
 
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SpaceMonkey

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I second what you're saying here re NAD HP50, I've got a pair and they're very close to vocal abilities of my Sennheiser HD600 when the NAD HP50 are EQ'd to the Harman Curve. I do think the HP50 needs to be EQ'd though because the hump in mid bass makes them a bit muddy.
I apologise to be people getting bored of me posting my EQ for this headphone, I've done it pretty much in every closed back headphone thread for the past week, lol!
Do continue :) . I broke a headband on my pair a while ago and hacked it back together with a better headband. Then the ****** pleather earcushions started failing and i just removed all "pleather" goo and it is mostly fabric now. I didnt measure them but it feels like the mid base hump is much lower and mids are clearer (although i might be imagining) .
Either way it is a fun heaphone to hack and quite inexpensive.
 

Eetu

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I second what you're saying here re NAD HP50, I've got a pair and they're very close to vocal abilities of my Sennheiser HD600 when the NAD HP50 are EQ'd to the Harman Curve. I do think the HP50 needs to be EQ'd though because the hump in mid bass makes them a bit muddy. I did my own EQ to the Harman Curve using Oratory's measurements as a basis, and I managed a closer fit to the Harman Curve whilst also requiring less negative preamp than Oratory's EQ, in fact for me my EQ brings these HP50 alive and up another level from the Oratory EQ....Oratory made a decision to have 9kHz be signifcantly below the Harman Curve as well as 10kHz+ and to me this hurts vocals & overall clarity of the headphone, he also didn't fix the 80Hz hump as he described that to me as an earpad resonance but to me it sounds better with the bass completely aligned to the Harman Curve......give my EQ for the NAD HP50 a go if you like (P.S. don't use Filter #10 in my pic, that was part of my development process for the EQ but it's discluded from the following curve, which is why the the checkbox for that filter is not ticked.)
View attachment 82628
I apologise to be people getting bored of me posting my EQ for this headphone, I've done it pretty much in every closed back headphone thread for the past week, lol!
Could you share how you got the headphone response imported to REW? I think I have the Harman OE target already as a txt file.
 

Robbo99999

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Could you share how you got the headphone response imported to REW? I think I have the Harman OE target already as a txt file.
Sure, ok. I got the *.csv file from here: https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/blob/master/results/oratory1990/harman_over-ear_2018/NAD Viso HP50/NAD Viso HP50.csv which shows the measurement data from Oratory's EQ. Basically that guy jaakkopasanen has used somekind of software to visually scan Oratory's pdf files that show the raw data in graph form, and he's turned that graph into data points. You literally just highlight the "Frequency" and "Raw" columns at that link and copy & paste them into a text file. You then go to REW and click on the Import Frequency Response option which is in the menu somewhere in the top left of the REW screen. You then change the View in REW to see just +/- say 12dB, and then in the Target Level box of the EQ screen you choose 0dB as the Target Level and then just use the +/- buttons next to the Target Level to fine tune moving the Target Curve for best (most sensible/efficient) alignment on your measurment before you EQ. I EQ'd it completely manually by selecting frequency points and adjusting it manually to fit the target curve....REW doesn't really do it accurately enough when done with Auto EQ as I think it's only possible to tune to +/-1dB as the highest accuracy, but given the headphone frequency response is measured with only say a +/- 12dB window then autotuning EQ feature is not accurate enough, therefore I do it manually.

And here are all the headphone measurments listed:
https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/tree/master/results/oratory1990/harman_over-ear_2018
 

Robbo99999

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Do continue :) . I broke a headband on my pair a while ago and hacked it back together with a better headband. Then the ****** pleather earcushions started failing and i just removed all "pleather" goo and it is mostly fabric now. I didnt measure them but it feels like the mid base hump is much lower and mids are clearer (although i might be imagining) .
Either way it is a fun heaphone to hack and quite inexpensive.
I also did an anti-vibration headphone mod on my HP50 which should hopefully have decreased the amount of headband resonance that is transferred between left & right ear cups. There was a guy on the internet that measured the headband resonance phenomenon and the HP50 suffered from that quite badly, therefore I wrapped some rubber (elastic bands) around the exposed metal headband adjustment zone to reduce transfer of resonances from one earcup to another. My own listening testing showed that this mod increased detail / clarity.....albeit how flawed subjective testing can be, but still I tested it with my favourite tracks that I know really intimately well, so I'm confident in my assessment.

Here's the guy who did the headband resonance testing on HP50:
https://www.hifinews.com/content/ringing-ears
https://www.hifinews.com/content/ends-earth

This is my mod:
HP50 Headband Resonance Mod (a).jpg

Basically all I did for my mod above was to take a thick rubber band and cut it so that it was just a single strand (not a loop), and then I wound it quite tightly around the whole length of the exposed metal bar section of the headband (which appears when you pull down the ear cups to fit your large head)....I then just used black insulating tape to surround the rubber band so that it doesn't look terrible and also to secure the wrapped rubber band in place....I actually think it looks better than the exposed metal bar because the black matches the headband and also it's thickened out to the same thickness as the rest of the headphone....so it looks less "spindly", lol! EDIT: I got inspiration for this mod from the fact that when playing tennis if you put just a small rubber vibration dampner on the centre string near the bridge of the racket then it almost totally cuts down all "long lasting" vibrations, so you end up with just the initial thud of the ball on the strings rather than an ongoing vibration....so that was the inspiration for this mod.
 
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Eetu

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Sure, ok. I got the *.csv file from here: https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/blob/master/results/oratory1990/harman_over-ear_2018/NAD Viso HP50/NAD Viso HP50.csv which shows the measurement data from Oratory's EQ. Basically that guy jaakkopasanen has used somekind of software to visually scan Oratory's pdf files that show the raw data in graph form, and he's turned that graph into data points. You literally just highlight the "Frequency" and "Raw" columns at that link and copy & paste them into a text file. You then go to REW and click on the Import Frequency Response option which is in the menu somewhere in the top left of the REW screen. You then change the View in REW to see just +/- say 12dB, and then in the Target Level box of the EQ screen you choose 0dB as the Target Level and then just use the +/- buttons next to the Target Level to fine tune moving the Target Curve for best (most sensible/efficient) alignment on your measurment before you EQ. I EQ'd it completely manually by selecting frequency points and adjusting it manually to fit the target curve....REW doesn't really do it accurately enough when done with Auto EQ as I think it's only possible to tune to +/-1dB as the highest accuracy, but given the headphone frequency response is measured with only say a +/- 12dB window then autotuning EQ feature is not accurate enough, therefore I do it manually.

And here are all the headphone measurments listed:
https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/tree/master/results/oratory1990/harman_over-ear_2018
Great, thanks a lot :)
 

Robbo99999

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I was thinking of getting some over-the-ear, closed-back headphones. I have had IEMs for years for very casual listening (airplanes, office, etc). But one unit is no longer working and I wanted to try something new.

It seems like there are tons of options, and it looks like it is still the "Wild West" in this market compared to speakers. But is there any resource to identify good headphones < $500 that align with Sean Olive's research? From what I gather, flat frequency response, probably with a "Harman curve" seems promising. How would I find something that would fit that model?

My initial thought was to get the Neumann headphones since their speakers are so well regarded and I assume that their headphones are similarly well-engineered. But that is pure speculation.

Thanks in advance for any guidance anyone can provide.
Have you decided which one you're gonna go with? It's true the NAD HP50 is quite portable especially as it needs no special amplification, and I recommend you go with that one and give my headband mod & EQ a try, but that's just me because with the mods I actually prefer my HP50 to the well lauded Senn HD600 - the HP50 is smoother and has nothing missing in the whole frequency range & experience, whilst I find the HD600 lacks lower end even when EQ'd up to the Harman Curve so is less of a complete experience whilst also seeming to have more harshness which I think is due to the peaky +10kHz.....I'm getting a lot more absorbed listening to music with my HP50 than my HD600, but do note both are EQ'd and the HP50 is slightly modded. HD600 has just slightly more resolution to the vocals but it's a more unbalanced experience with the vocals right there in your face in comparison to the rest of the music along with the other points I mentioned. It's possible HD600 would be my favourites for acoustic tracks that don't contain any bottom end. If you're not gonna EQ your headphones then HD600 is better than HP50 though.
 
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