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Why do my headphones sound worse than my speakers?

iopgh

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#1
I was listening to one of my records, and I noticed it sounds way more detailed on my relatively cheap speakers (https://www.amazon.com/Bose-SoundTouch-wireless-speaker-works/dp/B011IH685E) than they do on my Sennheisers (https://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-HD-599-Open-Headphone/dp/B01L1IICR2, which are plugged into this headphone amp https://www.amazon.com/Schiit-Magni-Headphone-Amp-Preamp/dp/B07KWJ9QMN). Specifically, there are horns on a particular build during a track that sound way more distinguished on my speakers, and I really had to watch out for them in order to hear them on my headphones. I'm curious if anything can be done to make my headphones sound as "clear" as my speakers are.

I'm using an AT-LP60X turntable (https://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-AT-LP60X-BK-Automatic-Belt-Drive-Turntable/dp/B07N3X7KPX), and I'm using its built-in preamp. The speakers are plugged into the turntable via a 3.5mm male to RCA female adapter cable.
 

solderdude

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#3
A: You can't compare headphones to speakers
B: Room and other aspects are at play with speakers, not with headphones
C: the tonality and sound quality of decent headphones varies a lot more than with decent speakers
 

maxxevv

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#4
Chances are, there are some distortion artifacts in that chain out for your speakers that you have interpreted as "extra details".

Or the reverse being something in your headphone chain that has smothered the details of the audio being fed into your HD599. Or your HD599 is a dud.

What you observed doesn't sound reasonable, all else being equal, in that assuming all things are functioning correctly.
 

pwjazz

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#5
Because of how headphones interact with your ears, it's more difficult to get a perceptually flat frequency response than with speakers, especially in the high mid-range and low treble.

Looking at the Rtings measurements one can see that the 599s have a mid bass hump and slight recession around 1-2 KHz. I don't know how the Bose measured, but bring a small speaker I would guess that it has rolled off bass. The relatively higher bass in the headphones could be masking some higher frequency content that you perceive as detail. Also, the dip between 1-2 KHz could take some of the stridency out off horns.

In general, my experience with "detail" is that it's largely driven by frequency response, and deviations from neutral will accentuate certain details and bury others. Yes at some point stuff can distort to the point where the distortion actually masks detail, but I find that to be the exception rather than the rule.
 

flipflop

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#6
I'm curious if anything can be done to make my headphones sound as "clear" as my speakers are.
If you're running Windows, I can make an EQ profile for you in Equalizer APO & Peace GUI.
 

Cosmik

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#7
Blumlein stereo is designed for use with speakers. Here the cardioid microphones are coincident but turned at different angles, so there is no time-of-arrival difference between the microphones; the only indication of direction is the volume difference. Interestingly, panpot stereo also provides a level-only difference between the channels.

It is the crossfeed from each speaker to the 'wrong ear' combined with the direct feed that synthesises a time-of-arrival difference that provides a crystal-clear stereo image with speakers even for panpot stereo.

Heard through headphones, Blumlein stereo is not nearly so interesting as it results in only a volume difference between the ears, not time-of-arrival.

In practice, recordings may be made with coincident mics, or spaced pairs which do provide time-of-arrival differences that would be suitable for headphones. Or any combination of mics and panning techniques.

The upshot is: many recordings will genuinely sound much better over speakers than headphones.
 

Soniclife

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#8
Blumlein stereo is designed for use with speakers. Here the cardioid microphones are coincident but turned at different angles, so there is no time-of-arrival difference between the microphones; the only indication of direction is the volume difference. Interestingly, panpot stereo also provides a level-only difference between the channels.

It is the crossfeed from each speaker to the 'wrong ear' combined with the direct feed that synthesises a time-of-arrival difference that provides a crystal-clear stereo image with speakers even for panpot stereo.

Heard through headphones, Blumlein stereo is not nearly so interesting as it results in only a volume difference between the ears, not time-of-arrival.

In practice, recordings may be made with coincident mics, or spaced pairs which do provide time-of-arrival differences that would be suitable for headphones. Or any combination of mics and panning techniques.

The upshot is: many recordings will genuinely sound much better over speakers than headphones.
It's a mono speaker in this case, so I don't see how imaging comes into it.
 

STC

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#10
t is the crossfeed from each speaker to the 'wrong ear' combined with the direct feed that synthesises a time-of-arrival difference that provides a crystal-clear stereo image with speakers even for panpot stereo
Are you referring to crosstalk corruption? Speakers at 30 degrees at each side will always have constant delayed sound of about 250microsecounds at the “wrong” ear irrespective of the microphone technique.
 

Cosmik

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#11
Are you referring to crosstalk corruption? Speakers at 30 degrees at each side will always have constant delayed sound of about 250microsecounds at the “wrong” ear irrespective of the microphone technique.
It's not corruption: it's an essential part of how Blumlein stereo works over speakers - I wish I'd known it myself many years ago instead of labouring under the misapprehension that there was something fundamentally wrong about stereo over speakers.
 

STC

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#12
It's not corruption: it's an essential part of how Blumlein stereo works over speakers - I wish I'd known it myself many years ago instead of labouring under the misapprehension that there was something fundamentally wrong about stereo over speakers.
Crosstalk is always bad . It causes comb filtering. If you eliminate them then you have a better spatial information of the recording.

For first time users , it is normal to feel the headphones sound lacks treble. Some of might if forgotten but that what happens when sound fed directly to the ears from 90 degrees as opposed to sound coming from the front loudspeakers.
 

Cosmik

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#13
Crosstalk is always bad . It causes comb filtering. If you eliminate them then you have a better spatial information of the recording.

For first time users , it is normal to feel the headphones sound lacks treble. Some of might if forgotten but that what happens when sound fed directly to the ears from 90 degrees as opposed to sound coming from the front loudspeakers.
I don't think you quite understand the significance of what the article is saying. If you get rid of the crosstalk then you get rid of the subtle stereo separation - for many recordings. No doubt the opposite is true also for other recordings (the OP was about why a certain recording sounds better on speakers than headphones).

And I am not totally convinced by the comb filtering thing either. I have a hunch the brain cancels it out* in the specific case of stereo from speakers. Blumlein stereo seems so clever and counterintuitive that I suspect it does even more than we suspect :)

* We know that anti-phase in headphones sounds terrible even though no physical comb filtering or cancellation has occurred. It seems possible to me that the opposite might also be true in certain complementary/symmetrical circumstances.
 

STC

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#14
I don't think you quite understand the significance of what the article is saying. If you get rid of the crosstalk then you get rid of the subtle stereo separation - for many recordings. No doubt the opposite is true also for other recordings (the OP was about why a certain recording sounds better on speakers than headphones).

And I am not totally convinced by the comb filtering thing either. I have a hunch the brain cancels it out in the specific case of stereo from speakers. Blumlein stereo seems so clever and counterintuitive that I suspect it does even more than we suspect :)
I have been doing crosstalk cancellation for over ten years.
 

STC

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#16
I don't think you quite understand the significance of what the article is saying. If you get rid of the crosstalk then you get rid of the subtle stereo separation - for many recordings. No doubt the opposite is true also for other recordings (the OP was about why a certain recording sounds better on speakers than headphones).

And I am not totally convinced by the comb filtering thing either. I have a hunch the brain cancels it out* in the specific case of stereo from speakers. Blumlein stereo seems so clever and counterintuitive that I suspect it does even more than we suspect :)

* We know that anti-phase in headphones sounds terrible even though no physical comb filtering or cancellation has occurred. It seems possible to me that the opposite might also be true in certain complementary/symmetrical circumstances.
The OP did perceive the sound of headphones correctly. It is normal for sound without pinna filtering to sound less bright ( like cutting the treble by few dBs). The highs can give the perception of more details as opposed to headphones.

There are scientific literatures on how the pinna alters the frequency response before entering the ear canal. I will post the frequency response chart of sound from various angle at the ear canal later.

With headphones, the sound is hitting directly from 90 degrees to the ear where the pinna’s filter is minimized. This will let you hear the sound relative flat which in turn will sound less bright. IIRC, the response at high frequency can be boasted as high as 30dB for sound waves coming from the front.

And in regards to crosstalk, please try this experiment. Play some speech recording through your left speaker only. Play it at low volume where you can just hear them. Now plug in your right ear with your finger. Do you notice the shift in the image? Plug in you left ear and watch the image shifts towards the center. What happens when you rely on stereo where phantom images are mostly created by intensity difference?
 

Cosmik

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#17
The OP did perceive the sound of headphones correctly. It is normal for sound without pinna filtering to sound less bright ( like cutting the treble by few dBs). The highs can give the perception of more details as opposed to headphones.

There are scientific literatures on how the pinna alters the frequency response before entering the ear canal. I will post the frequency response chart of sound from various angle at the ear canal later.

With headphones, the sound is hitting directly from 90 degrees to the ear where the pinna’s filter is minimized. This will let you hear the sound relative flat which in turn will sound less bright. IIRC, the response at high frequency can be boasted as high as 30dB for sound waves coming from the front.

And in regards to crosstalk, please try this experiment. Play some speech recording through your left speaker only. Play it at low volume where you can just hear them. Now plug in your right ear with your finger. Do you notice the shift in the image? Plug in you left ear and watch the image shifts towards the center. What happens when you rely on stereo where phantom images are mostly created by intensity difference?
But the OP didn't use the word "bright"; they said "distinguished" and "clear". Maybe they're referring to frequency response, but maybe they're not.

I am sure that there are all sorts of low level things to do with ear shapes and frequency response, but I was specifically referring to the stereo separation that speakers give with certain (Blumlein-type) recordings, that you don't get with headphones. This would fit with the OP's description.
...Michael Gerzon emphasized that one of the benefits of wide-stage stereo is "directional unmasking." When two similar sounds arrive at the listener from the same direction, they tend to be heard as a single composite sound whose character is dominated by the louder component. But if the sounds are separated by even a small angle (5 degrees or so), they are easily resolved by the ear as individual sources.

...stereo provides a basic improvement in the quality of the sound, giving you more to hear---making it easy, for instance, to resolve the individual sounds of two similar instruments playing in the same frequency range (eg, a duet between clarinet and English horn in the middle of the orchestra). It also allows you to resolve the reflections of these sounds as they bounce off the walls of the stage, giving you a sense of the width or depth of that stage.
https://www.stereophile.com/content/stereo-soundstage-page-2
 

STC

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#18
But the OP didn't use the word "bright"; they said "distinguished" and "clear". Maybe they're referring to frequency response, but maybe they're not.

I am sure that there are all sorts of low level things to do with ear shapes and frequency response, but I was specifically referring to the stereo separation that speakers give with certain (Blumlein-type) recordings, that you don't get with headphones. This would fit with the OP's description.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/stereo-soundstage-page-2
Gerzon probably talking about DSP crosstalk cancellation which will widen the width. it is true when you hear a mono sound through stereo speakers they will not sound as accurate as as hearing them with single speaker.

The OP started the post with “details”.

I apologize if it meant another thing.
 

Cosmik

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#19
Gerzon probably talking about DSP crosstalk cancellation which will widen the width. it is true when you hear a mono sound through stereo speakers they will not sound as accurate as as hearing them with single speaker.
What I am saying is that Blumlein stereo *needs* the crosstalk in order to produce its time-of-arrival separation between the channels - and it is accurate in the sense of reproducing the correct angle. And then Gerzon's quote applies to that.

Without it (i.e. in headphones or crosstalk cancellation - if that worked fully), it would produce only a vague interaural level difference which is far less distinct than the time-of-arrival difference, and probably not even 'correct' in terms of its apparent angle of origin.

This may not be true for all recordings (where headphones or crosstalk cancellation may improve the separation), but it will be true for panpotted stereo or recordings that use genuine Blumlein pair mic techniques.

This might be what the OP is experiencing.
 

daftcombo

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#20
I was listening to one of my records, and I noticed it sounds way more detailed on my relatively cheap speakers (https://www.amazon.com/Bose-SoundTouch-wireless-speaker-works/dp/B011IH685E) than they do on my Sennheisers (https://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-HD-599-Open-Headphone/dp/B01L1IICR2, which are plugged into this headphone amp https://www.amazon.com/Schiit-Magni-Headphone-Amp-Preamp/dp/B07KWJ9QMN). Specifically, there are horns on a particular build during a track that sound way more distinguished on my speakers, and I really had to watch out for them in order to hear them on my headphones. I'm curious if anything can be done to make my headphones sound as "clear" as my speakers are.

I'm using an AT-LP60X turntable (https://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-AT-LP60X-BK-Automatic-Belt-Drive-Turntable/dp/B07N3X7KPX), and I'm using its built-in preamp. The speakers are plugged into the turntable via a 3.5mm male to RCA female adapter cable.
Do you have a frequency response measurement of your speakers?
 
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