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Why aren't there any "active" headphones with DSP based EQ?

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#1
Why doesn't anyone manufacture headphones with a powered digital input (USB?) and carrying a DSP based EQ to produce a Harman AE/OE 2018 target frequency response? Such a design would also make it easy to include really useful "loudness" function.

Too heavy? Warm? Expensive? No market?

I'd be interested :)
 
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#3
And what about analyzing the input signal loudness across the frequency range and then adjusting the Harman 'correction'? I've played with parametric EQing a bit, and a number of times, I realized that the track was already mixed in such a way that it sounded 'v-shapey' to me. Applying headphone 'correction' on top of that made it just unbearable. I know I can adjust the EQ, but I can't imagine doing that every time I change a song/album.

It would be nice to see this kind of 'input-adaptive EQ', at least in standalone DACs, if not headphones.
 
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thewas

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#4
Many modern ANC headphones have DSP and are tuned to some target curve even if its often different to the Harman target, the difference/advantage of above mentioned N90Q is that it also measures the response in the cavity and tries to adapt it depending of the individual ear geometry, like also this https://eu.jvc.com/audio/home-theater/XP-EXT1/
There exist now few other ones which try to do it with an optical method like https://www.genelec.com/aural-id
 

MayaTlab

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#7
The current headphones area seems to be completely irrational to me at the moment on so many levels. The craziest thing being that we're getting a slew of wireless, DSP enabled ANC headphones with rubbish, irrational FR curves (irrational as in they are way off the channel of "acceptable" dB values per frequency we know of either in terms of personal preferences or anatomical variations, ex something like this is unlikely to correspond to even a very small minority of human beings' personal preferences or HRTF variations and would probably frequently loose in blind tests to a lot of alternatives https://www.rtings.com/headphones/graph#813/4011) and that right now, at leat as far as FR curves on test rigs are concerned, the best measuring headphones we're getting are nearly all wired, passive and in the $100-$300 range, including closed ones !

I have a feeling that it is in large part because the headphones industry still hasn't experienced the consolidation it deserves (way too many small, boutique / garage companies "audiophiles" invariably find charming) and that rational product development remains difficult for a lot of them (even after more than a decade of consumer preference research I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a lot of acoustics engineers are still confronted with product managers asking them "hey we want to make a pair of super trendy headphones for young fashionable people so we need a lot of super bass !").

The only area that seems to me to be making strides forward is the sealing earbuds one where FR curves are getting less and less irrational.

It's really annoying as we're starting to get all the necessary individual pieces to make a decent leap forward in terms of fidelity, at least as a lab experiment. We can already start thanks to numerous databases of ear shape vs. measured HRTFs to confront a user's specific anatomy to these databases and come up with an algorithm that creates a decently working personalised HRTF for that user (for example with an algorithm using neural networks but other techniques have been published). If the ear cups are large enough to use optical sensors we can already use structured light to make a rough 3D map of the user's pinna to gather the user's anatomical data (think Apple's Face ID but for someone's ear) - and Apple is already considering other types of sensors to at least gather a rough image of the user's ear such as long-range capacitance sensors. ANC headphones already have internal mics to ensure that the bass / lower mids response corresponds to a desired target, and AKG's N90Q uses them to try to figure out a better, individualised response higher up. Internal DSPs can EQ the headphones to vary the target according to personal preferences. None of that is ever going to happen with passive headphones.

But nooooooo, what we apparently need is a pair of these with their magically shaped gorilla glass : https://www.rtings.com/headphones/graph#669/4012
 

Frank Dernie

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#8
I don't know why but they were not available for all that long.
Either they didn't sell or it did not fit into Harman's, who I think bought AKG soon after this headphone was released, product pkan.
Or both, I suppose. I bought some and like them but only use them very infrequently since I have lighter wireless alternative for the bus now.
 

pwjazz

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#9
Audeze uses hardware EQ extensively. They started with the EL-8 Titanium, and their current iSine, Mobius and Penrose models use it as well. They also provide software EQ in the form of their Reveal plugin. What they don't do is Target the Harman response now provide a loudness function.

FWIW the RME ADI2 DAC does include a loudness function.
 
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#10
the best measuring headphones we're getting are nearly all wired, passive and in the $100-$300 range
Marshall MID is a wireless one from that price range and seems to have measured quite well. I have the non-ANC version, but use it almost only with cable (no support for higher-grade BT codecs and I can't stand the glitches which happen from time to time on BT). Overall a nice mobile setup (superb isolation as they're on-ear with a tight clamp) and the build quality is like 10x better than the ATH-MSR7b, which (used to) cost twice as much.

Sorry for driving a bit off the topic.
 

Feelas

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#11
Marshall MID is a wireless one from that price range and seems to have measured quite well. I have the non-ANC version, but use it almost only with cable (no support for higher-grade BT codecs and I can't stand the glitches which happen from time to time on BT). Overall a nice mobile setup (superb isolation as they're on-ear with a tight clamp) and the build quality is like 10x better than the ATH-MSR7b, which (used to) cost twice as much.

Sorry for driving a bit off the topic.
When comparing between portals, remember that Rtings uses a hybrid Harman/DF curve, thus the compensation is different.

I have a feeling that it is in large part because the headphones industry still hasn't experienced the consolidation it deserves (way too many small, boutique / garage companies "audiophiles" invariably find charming) and that rational product development remains difficult for a lot of them (even after more than a decade of consumer preference research I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a lot of acoustics engineers are still confronted with product managers asking them "hey we want to make a pair of super trendy headphones for young fashionable people so we need a lot of super bass !").
I remember how confused I were when starting in 2011/2012, when all that was available were InnerFidelity's measurements (albeit for selected models) and merely a sea of opinions, not even a dime spoken about FF/DF curves or anything that'd at least touch something measurable on many forums. Harman makes one thing right: it forces people to wonder what works and what doesn't.

As for crazy/boutique companies - remember that there's the misunderstood principle, that you have to differentiate yourself from the rest to survive. Cargo culting of difference, while many survive merely by imitating, see whole Android market running after each iPhone invention.

Punching Sennheiser might be funny, yet they've put new Orpheus on the market... which seems to conform to Harman w/o bass profile (or is Crinacle using a different one) a lot and cost $60k. Also, most of the ANC headphones work on a feedback-principle, thus even (old) QC35 II work with a smart DSP. Yet, these types of headies are mostly mocked by the audio community for many reasons. The technology is already there for years, but the clientele doesn't seem to be interested.

It'd be much easier if vendors would just understand, that stuff can (and will) be measured by consumers and provided everything out of the box. And pretty much, as for the "no-neutral Olufsens on market" - remember, that customers pretty often look for the "wow" factor, not even interested whether the "wow" is well-founded. And who are we to judge, if they're happy in the end?
 
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Cahudson42

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#12
Why doesn't anyone manufacture headphones with a powered digital input (USB?) and carrying a DSP based EQ to produce a Harman AE/OE 2018 target frequency response?
1. Buy your preferred wired HP
2. Buy short balanced 2.5mm cable
3. Buy $110 Qudelix 5k DAC/Amp/PEQ
4. Visit Oratory1990 for Harmon Curve PEQ

Virtually any HP you wish. Upgrade any time without throwing out the whole works. Whats to lose?..:)
 
OP
Colonel Bogey
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Thread Starter #13
1. Buy your preferred wired HP
2. Buy short balanced 2.5mm cable
3. Buy $110 Qudelix 5k DAC/Amp/PEQ
4. Visit Oratory1990 for Harmon Curve PEQ

Virtually any HP you wish. Upgrade any time without throwing out the whole works. Whats to lose?..:)
Well, thats about what I do now - Focal Clear Pro w RME ADI-2 and the Oratory filter settings for Clear/ADI-2 (with some help from this forum)

Great sound, but really, really expensive... I was more curious about why similar technology wasn't available in simpler packaging. Got a lot of answers in this thread, thanks all :)
 
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Ilkless

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#14
The current headphones area seems to be completely irrational to me at the moment on so many levels. The craziest thing being that we're getting a slew of wireless, DSP enabled ANC headphones with rubbish, irrational FR curves (irrational as in they are way off the channel of "acceptable" dB values per frequency we know of either in terms of personal preferences or anatomical variations, ex something like this is unlikely to correspond to even a very small minority of human beings' personal preferences or HRTF variations and would probably frequently loose in blind tests to a lot of alternatives https://www.rtings.com/headphones/graph#813/4011) and that right now, at leat as far as FR curves on test rigs are concerned, the best measuring headphones we're getting are nearly all wired, passive and in the $100-$300 range, including closed ones !

I have a feeling that it is in large part because the headphones industry still hasn't experienced the consolidation it deserves (way too many small, boutique / garage companies "audiophiles" invariably find charming) and that rational product development remains difficult for a lot of them (even after more than a decade of consumer preference research I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a lot of acoustics engineers are still confronted with product managers asking them "hey we want to make a pair of super trendy headphones for young fashionable people so we need a lot of super bass !").

The only area that seems to me to be making strides forward is the sealing earbuds one where FR curves are getting less and less irrational.

It's really annoying as we're starting to get all the necessary individual pieces to make a decent leap forward in terms of fidelity, at least as a lab experiment. We can already start thanks to numerous databases of ear shape vs. measured HRTFs to confront a user's specific anatomy to these databases and come up with an algorithm that creates a decently working personalised HRTF for that user (for example with an algorithm using neural networks but other techniques have been published). If the ear cups are large enough to use optical sensors we can already use structured light to make a rough 3D map of the user's pinna to gather the user's anatomical data (think Apple's Face ID but for someone's ear) - and Apple is already considering other types of sensors to at least gather a rough image of the user's ear such as long-range capacitance sensors. ANC headphones already have internal mics to ensure that the bass / lower mids response corresponds to a desired target, and AKG's N90Q uses them to try to figure out a better, individualised response higher up. Internal DSPs can EQ the headphones to vary the target according to personal preferences. None of that is ever going to happen with passive headphones.

But nooooooo, what we apparently need is a pair of these with their magically shaped gorilla glass : https://www.rtings.com/headphones/graph#669/4012
We know enough about spatial audio perception that the Princeton 3D3A team could synthesise a speaker in a room with headphones so accurately that the speaker's own designer declared it "completely faithful" to the speaker, while others in the demo regarded it indistinguishable from the speaker - and the gear voodoo fetishists are still banging on about how headphone "soundstage" or imaging can't be measured. So much cognitive dissonance. And I agree that there's too many of these boutique kinds thriving off the ignorance (and even anti-intellectualism) of the headphone community, by claiming that every design choice is as legitimate as every other because subjective variance is unlimited when as you have correctly pointed out, it is bounded by human anatomical variations.
 

MayaTlab

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#15
Punching Sennheiser might be funny, yet they've put new Orpheus on the market... which seems to conform to Harman w/o bass profile (or is Crinacle using a different one) a lot and cost $60k.
They've made much better than that (as in engineered something the hard way instead of throwing money at a problem) :D : https://www.dropbox.com/s/7amvtfabcizrc12/Sennheiser HD560S.pdf?dl=0
It's not perfect and may not sound quite as well as it measures when mounted on some people's head, but it's probably their best rounded product in years if not decades. And it's passive and costs €200.
They should put it in a fancy "acoustics-grade carbon fibre composite with specially tuned dampening nano-fibres" casing and sell it for $2000.
 

ernestcarl

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#16
"... with DSP based EQ"

Even some of Sennheiser's older wireless headphones did have some EQ processing applied to follow some idealized curve or preferred "house sound". I believe my HDR180s were modeled after the HD600/580 or something. Not quite successful IMO, but the effort was made anyway.
 

m_g_s_g

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#19
1. Buy your preferred wired HP
2. Buy short balanced 2.5mm cable
3. Buy $110 Qudelix 5k DAC/Amp/PEQ
4. Visit Oratory1990 for Harmon Curve PEQ
:)
Great advice. My take:
1. Done
3. Done
4. Or wait for Amir’s review and try his suggested EQ parameters
2. Not at this prices :eek:! Solder a 2.5mm TRRS connector or extension (8$) to your existing cable and (optional) buy a 2.5mm TRRS balanced to 3.5mm TRS unbalanced connector to keep compatibility with your existing unbalanced equipment.
 

stevenswall

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#20
Don't we already have this? Ultra powerful DSP you walk around with all day that has the ability to accept any format of digital audio and EQ any frequency to any loudness you want? (I use Wavelet on Android) Sonarworks TrueFi is similar. This is better than a headphone with digital inputs/USB etc because it works with more than one headphone.

I think active crossovers would be interesting though. JH Audio did something like that with the JH3A if I recall correctly.
 
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