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Objectively measured/designed headphones?

Robbo99999

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#21
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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HooStat

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Thread Starter #22
Not yet. I couldn't find any of the HP50 but I do see the HP70 which I assume is the same, except wireless. And I do see the PSB versions of them. Still looking at the Neumann too.
 

Jimbob54

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#23
Not yet. I couldn't find any of the HP50 but I do see the HP70 which I assume is the same, except wireless. And I do see the PSB versions of them. Still looking at the Neumann too.
I would assume no two headphones are remotely similar just based on manufacturer and close siblings. Especially when it's wireless v wired.
 

bobbooo

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#24
Not yet. I couldn't find any of the HP50 but I do see the HP70 which I assume is the same, except wireless. And I do see the PSB versions of them. Still looking at the Neumann too.
The HP70 have a more extreme drop in sub-bass than the PSB M4U 8, I suspect due to different pads not creating as good of a seal. HP70 frequency response:

HP70.png
 

Robbo99999

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#25
Not yet. I couldn't find any of the HP50 but I do see the HP70 which I assume is the same, except wireless. And I do see the PSB versions of them. Still looking at the Neumann too.
Let us know how you go, and keep an eye on this thread if anyone else posts recomendations.

There are differences between HP50 & HP70:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/mjbp2dau2o3m680/NAD Viso HP50.pdf?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/3mi1qsqopayh5ws/NAD Viso HP70.pdf?dl=0

I like the look of the HP50 better than the HP70 in terms of greater bass extension and less peakiness in the +10kHz - looking at the frequency sweeps at those links. General treble area is a little less spiky than the HP70 too.
 

Robbo99999

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#27
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? View attachment 82562

View attachment 82560 View attachment 82561
Ended up ordering the Neumann. Will see how it goes.
Well as you recognised they EQ quite easily to the Harman Curve and without requiring lots of filters, but you do loose quite a lot through the -7.0dB preamp that's required, but I like how the EQ'd curve looks with great bass extension and no major peaks or troughs in the treble area, although it's not perfect at 7kHz with a bit of a dip there, which could probably be fixed with an extra filter applied at that point, but it's possible this would be unnoticeable. Not a bad choice you made I think, although I don't know anything about the headphone beyond what I've seen on their product page and the frequency response done by Oratory. By virtue of that it might be a bit more of a risky headphone purchase given that I don't think they have a solid audiophile reputation behind them like for instance the HD600, I do quite like the EQ'd frequency response of the NDH 20.

EDIT: what audio equipment references do you have to compare against when you listen to your NDH 20 when they arrive? Do you have some quality speakers that are Room EQ'd to the Harman Curve for instance? Do you have some other headphones that are also EQ'd to the Headphone Harman Curve? It's useful to have a solid point of comparison if you're gonna evaluate how good the NDH 20 really are when they arrive. Don't forget you can always return them if they're no good.
 

solderdude

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#28
Isn't the Neumann NDH20 a Sennheiser built headphone, acc to wishes from Neumann ?
 

Ilkless

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#30
Ended up ordering the Neumann. Will see how it goes.
The build on those is INSANE. I handled them at a store while I was auditioning some monitors. Measurements also indicate a very low-distorting driver (according to SBAF, Head-Fi and Sonarworks) but a response that's very heavy on the low end, even more than the Harman curve. That's good though. Much easier to cut response in that range than to boost it, and the driver will take EQ well on the upper-end too (though how the overall sound interacts with the ear might be an issue, at least according to Sonarworks).
 
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HooStat

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Thread Starter #32
Well as you recognised they EQ quite easily to the Harman Curve and without requiring lots of filters, but you do loose quite a lot through the -7.0dB preamp that's required, but I like how the EQ'd curve looks with great bass extension and no major peaks or troughs in the treble area, although it's not perfect at 7kHz with a bit of a dip there, which could probably be fixed with an extra filter applied at that point, but it's possible this would be unnoticeable. Not a bad choice you made I think, although I don't know anything about the headphone beyond what I've seen on their product page and the frequency response done by Oratory. By virtue of that it might be a bit more of a risky headphone purchase given that I don't think they have a solid audiophile reputation behind them like for instance the HD600, I do quite like the EQ'd frequency response of the NDH 20.

EDIT: what audio equipment references do you have to compare against when you listen to your NDH 20 when they arrive? Do you have some quality speakers that are Room EQ'd to the Harman Curve for instance? Do you have some other headphones that are also EQ'd to the Headphone Harman Curve? It's useful to have a solid point of comparison if you're gonna evaluate how good the NDH 20 really are when they arrive. Don't forget you can always return them if they're no good.
In the end, I didn't make the decision based on anything in particular, other than those appealed to me the most, and they seemed really well-built. Neumann and Sennheiser have a great reputation so I thought I would trust them to make a good product. PSB and NAD looked really nice as well as some AKGs.

I have no pre-conceived notions -- I use IEMs, but not often. Since the pandemic I found myself needing to use them more for sound isolation and then my good IEMs broke and I am left with a rather uncomfortable pair. And I don't find IEMs to be comfortable for the long-term (more than an hour). So, I thought I would try something over-the-ear to avoid bothering others nearby.

I specifically got away from high-end audio about 6 years ago because of all the obsession with the imperceptible. So, I don't have a great reference either. Next up are some reasonably priced, nice speakers based on what I have learned here. I do enjoy my KEF Q300 and, in fact, I am looking at Neumann and Genelec active speakers as options.

But I should get them today, and I can start playing with them. Very excited about it. And your advice to return them if I don't like them is well-taken. Thanks!
 

KeithPhantom

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#34
Sennheiser with the HD 6X0 and the 8X0 line (diffuse field), AKG with the Harman target. Beyerdynamic also uses diffuse field as well. Etymotic uses its own curve.
 

Robbo99999

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#35
In the end, I didn't make the decision based on anything in particular, other than those appealed to me the most, and they seemed really well-built. Neumann and Sennheiser have a great reputation so I thought I would trust them to make a good product. PSB and NAD looked really nice as well as some AKGs.

I have no pre-conceived notions -- I use IEMs, but not often. Since the pandemic I found myself needing to use them more for sound isolation and then my good IEMs broke and I am left with a rather uncomfortable pair. And I don't find IEMs to be comfortable for the long-term (more than an hour). So, I thought I would try something over-the-ear to avoid bothering others nearby.

I specifically got away from high-end audio about 6 years ago because of all the obsession with the imperceptible. So, I don't have a great reference either. Next up are some reasonably priced, nice speakers based on what I have learned here. I do enjoy my KEF Q300 and, in fact, I am looking at Neumann and Genelec active speakers as options.

But I should get them today, and I can start playing with them. Very excited about it. And your advice to return them if I don't like them is well-taken. Thanks!
If you're gonna be getting some good speakers and you get a UMIK for measuring them and EQ'ing them in your room then you compare their tonality vs your EQ'd (or stock) headphones, and that way you can get a better grasp of which headphones are best and which you should keep. If you can get your headphones sounding like a good set of Harman EQ'd speakers then that's ideal. If you're not gonna go to the trouble of UMIK and EQ'ing your main speakers, then just listen to the headphone and see if you like it, don't stress about it in that case. (But it's always worthwhile to try Oratory's EQ though, because that's easy & quick to do.)
by the way, what is the "-7.0dB preamp"? Is this just an attenuation of the entire signal? I guess I should look that up.
That's basically meaning that the Total EQ Curve that's created from the filters that Oratory devises has at it's highest point a +7.0dB boost, therefore you require a -7.0dB preamp in order to avoid digital clipping (yes it attenuates the whole signal by 7dB).
 
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Jimbob54

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#36
by the way, what is the "-7.0dB preamp"? Is this just an attenuation of the entire signal? I guess I should look that up.
Yes. If you use an EQ at the source end, and the highest EQ adjustment is (lets say) +7dB @1khz, regardless of any other peaks and dips, you need to reduce the overall signal by that amount to prevent clipping on the 1khz signal when the recording has that freq pushing hard.

So a 7db reduction overall is quite noticeable. The signal will be noticeably less than with no EQ, so you will have to adjust your thinking about volume dial for those cans on that amp. One of the reasons I dont like very peaky EQ adjustments.
 
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HooStat

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Thread Starter #37
Yes. If you use an EQ at the source end, and the highest EQ adjustment is (lets say) +7dB @1khz, regardless of any other peaks and dips, you need to reduce the overall signal by that amount to prevent clipping on the 1khz signal when the recording has that freq pushing hard.

So a 7db reduction overall is quite noticeable. The signal will be noticeably less than with no EQ, so you will have to adjust your thinking about volume dial for those cans on that amp. One of the reasons I dont like very peaky EQ adjustments.
OK -- thank you. This is all starting to make more sense. At least these headphones are pretty sensitive, so that should be ok. But as soon as UPS gets here, I can find out.
 

Robbo99999

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#38
OK -- thank you. This is all starting to make more sense. At least these headphones are pretty sensitive, so that should be ok. But as soon as UPS gets here, I can find out.
Cool, let us know how you get on.
 
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HooStat

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Thread Starter #39
Well, there is plenty of low frequency energy with these Neumann headphones. Pretty cool actually -- never really got this kind of bass from my Westone ES5 IEMs. Definitely not bright either. And pretty comfortable although the pressure is probably a bit too high on my head. They are very clear. May start to play with some of the EQ settings once I figure that out.
 

Robbo99999

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Well, there is plenty of low frequency energy with these Neumann headphones. Pretty cool actually -- never really got this kind of bass from my Westone ES5 IEMs. Definitely not bright either. And pretty comfortable although the pressure is probably a bit too high on my head. They are very clear. May start to play with some of the EQ settings once I figure that out.
I can't remember if we linked you any EQ advice. If you're on PC you can use Equaliser APO combined with the PEACE extension as the tool for EQ'ing. PEACE extension provides a more familiar graphical interface that links with Equaliser APO......I just use Equaliser APO on it's own now without PEACE but it's less user friendly if you don't know how to use it so I recommend using the PEACE extension combined with Equaliser APO to begin with.
And here are the links to all the Oratory EQ's: https://www.reddit.com/r/oratory1990/wiki/index/list_of_presets
 
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