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Desperately need a linear headphone, price no object, everything I tried is garbage Studio Headphones
Old 9th November 2016
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Desperately need a linear headphone, price no object, everything I tried is garbage

Hi there,

I will be taking a 3 week holiday and although I shall not be doing any actual mastering work whilst away, I must have the ability to accurately hear clients mixes to give critical mix feedback whilst I am away so I can maintain at least some level of service for my customers. This is important to me so I have set a budget of 5000€ (also about $5000). So I SHOULD be able to get something half way decent for that. However I am struggling epically to find anything remotely usable. I am a long term "speakers only" mastering engineer and so am new to the world of headphones and am fairly shocked at the poor linearity of the headphones I have been testing which are not at all cheap. Here are the headphones I have tested:

Audeze LCD 4 - there is a 6-8db hole around 3kHz and over pronounced air frequencies. Unusable.

Audeze LCD 3 - same hole around 3kHz and slightly less but still over pronounced air frequencies. Unusable.

Audeze LCD 2 - same hole around 3kHz and very slightly less over pronounced air frequencies than LCD3. Probably the best of the three for linearity despite the price but all unusable

Audeze LCD-X - the 3kHz hole is only semi corrected but then there is an abrasiveness which makes them even less linear than the already non linear 2 3 and 4. It's like choosing between getting punched on the nose and kick in the balls, both suck, especially for the money, especially in terms of the LCD4.

STAX 009 - despite the outrageous price tag, I felt these headphones were not substantially better to the extremely problematic audeze LCD3 and had a weird artificial bass reproduction, like an plumbers plunger on my eardrum. The upper mids were also too recessed to have a flat response.

hifiman 560 - there is an over pronounced presence which make certain instruments like snares and tambourines sound harsh and over emphasised and then the transient response isn't very good. Listening to noisy rock highlights how bad these headphones are.

Hifiman 1000 - better than the 560 but still has a strange upper mid frequency response which makes for a non linear headphone

sennheiser 800 - sharp and trashy sounding mids and a bit bass shy caused buy a bit of a dip in the center mids and an over emphasised upper midrange with an explainable scratchiness to them. Very good imaging and detail but just not particularly linear.

sennheiser 800 newer model - some of the scratchiness has been improved but the over emphasised harsh upper mids stays the same

sennheiser HD600 - sound very good, much better than audeze for example but severely lack bass

sennheiser HD650 - have more bass but somehow sound a bit weird compared to the 600 and I'm not sure if the added bass in exchange for a weirder frequency response is a positive trade-off

OPPO PM1 - I feel like this is the opposite of the audeze - lots of emphasis on the mids but also not linear

beyerdynamic 1990 - one of the best but unusable scooped mids, just so scooped.

beyerdynamic 770, 880, 990 - basically all just worse versions of the 1990 in various ways.

AKG K712 pro - very head position dependant to the point where you don't have a clue what the sound should be. Anyway sounds worse than HD600 or HD650

Shure - I can't remember which model, was around 600€ - totally bass heavy and inaccurate sound

audio technica - tried a couple of their headphones and they sounded widely inaccurate, like a built in comb filter.






Are there any other suggestions? Although I find it extremely unlikely I can get anything good under a few thousand, and especially not closed back, I have been told the NAD HP 50 are supposed to be very liner. Outside of that so far I'd say the HD 650 are in the lead but if that is the benchmark for audiophile headphones then



HELP!!!!!

Last edited by OneMillionMangos; 9th November 2016 at 02:18 PM.. Reason: typos
Old 9th November 2016
  #2
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Verified Member
The ATH M-50xs are really good IMHO. ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones || Audio-Technica US

Also the Beyer DT-770 Pros beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

Two of my favorites.

YMMV
Old 9th November 2016
  #3
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You simply aren't going to get speaker performance from headphones. Even the best ones have frequency charts that look like roller coasters. They can still be useful, but you might want to consider having a few pairs so that each can play to its strength. Sonarworks headphone correction software is worth a demo.
Old 9th November 2016
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
I have tried all of the beyer headphones and they all were semi good but very problematic IE sending to be scooped. The audio technica were unusable the ones I tried, was like a comb filter.


Quote:
Originally Posted by explorer View Post
You simply aren't going to get speaker performance from headphones. Even the best ones have frequency charts that look like roller coasters. They can still be useful, but you might want to consider having a few pairs so that each can play to its strength. Sonarworks headphone correction software is worth a demo.
The reason why the curves look inaccurate is because the human ear hears headphones different to speakers because they are directly on your ears and so the idea response would be a fairly flat bass then rising fairly steeply up to about 3kHz and then peaking and coming back down towards 10kHz. If you take the audeze LCD2 for example and add a bell boost at 3kHz by 8db, that sounds extremely useable. The problem is, without this boost to fill in the whole, the headphones are obviously trash. The HD600s do not have this huge hole but just lack sufficient bass. There must be a pair of headphones which gets it at least semi right for 5000€!!!!
Old 9th November 2016
  #5
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I own a pair of HD800s, and they are very low distortion (much lower than any loudspeaker system) if that is what you mean by "linear". But the effective frequency response is not flat, and neither is the frequency response of any other headphone system that I'm aware of. Also own a pair of Stax SR-404 electrostatics, and they're very good cans too, but they don't have flat frequency response either.

Some initial experimentation I've done with the HD800s suggest that if you equalize their frequency response to achieve a flat effective response, then they become useable for typical mastering chores like EQing, etc. Actually much preferable to speakers, because you are taking the room and its modes out of the monitoring equation. How you would go about equalizing the headphone for "flat effective response" certainly is not obvious, and requires a fairly complex set of EQ networks. Not something you can go and "dial up" on your favorite parametric equalizer.

So good luck in finding a "linear" pair of headphones, because their is no such thing out there that I'm aware of.
Old 9th November 2016
  #6
Gear Addict
 

May not be your cup of tea but have you tried anything from Grado? The last time I tried out their high end offerings, I actually thought the RS1 had the most natural response. (Not their most expensive headphone by any means, although they used to be.)

Haven't tried any of their newer GS1000/2000. I remember the PS1000 striking me as sounding way overhyped in the top end and scooped (also $1000 more than the RS1) but I made these comparisons awhile ago and they have since updated their line. ("e" models are the newest, the ones I was trying were the "i" models.)
Old 9th November 2016
  #7
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spaceman's Avatar
Oppo PM-3
Old 9th November 2016
  #8
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Verified Member
I think you are looking for something that is impossible to find. Headphones are not speakers. The one main problem with headphones is that people are use to hearing sounds in open spaces and not close up at your ear. Without some type of cross feed or X-Feed circuit headphones will never sound normal or correct and that has nothing to do with frequency response or curves that look like the Rocky Mountains at a distance. There are devices with this technology built in but...it may not be what you are looking for. Best of luck!
Old 9th November 2016
  #9
Gear Nut
 
Karlsson's Avatar
 

You might also consider/try the Sony MDR-7520. They blew me away.
EDIT: if you try them be sure they're already burned in. Makes a big difference.

I also have listened to their upcoming hi-fi/-end model, the MDR-Z1R (2000€).
Incredible soundstage and depth but have to listen to them again once they are out to make sure if it's more of a white lie or serious tool.

For crossfeed I use Goodhertz CanOpener.
Old 9th November 2016
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tpad View Post
So good luck in finding a "linear" pair of headphones, because their is no such thing out there that I'm aware of.
The thing is, there is no consistent problematic trend. For example, not all headphones have holes at 3kHz and not all headphones lack bass and not all headphones have a scooped sound. This means, the perfect headphone is possible because there does not seem to be any limiting factors in terms of frequency response. I think most hifi manufacturers create headphones to have deliberate nonlinearities to make a more "luxurious", "exciting" or "warm" sound. Very few of the high end manufacturers have linearity as their main selling point. Most high end headphones are marketed on visual style. I'm confident there must be SOMETHING half way decent out there. My sennheiser ear buds are more linear than the LCD4 for example.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Teej View Post
May not be your cup of tea but have you tried anything from Grado?
I have not tried grado but their test data does not look very convincing at all, I'm fairly sure just by looking at the data (which admittedly is never the best idea) that they will not fit the bill

Quote:
Originally Posted by spaceman View Post
Oppo PM-3
I have tried the more expensive PM1 which were extremely problematic. I'm doubtful that the much cheaper PM3 would outperform the PM1
Old 9th November 2016
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
B Elgin's Avatar
 

Are you able to try any of the new offerings from Focal?

How about Abyss?

Aside from Grado's high-end line, those are really the only others I know of which aren't on your list yet.
I've not had a chance to try either, but liked the lower level Grados (SR225, 325) for casual listening.

FWIW I also like the HD600s despite their lack of bass. That's honestly easy for me to compensate for with a low shelf (as opposed to trying to get tweaky in the midrange) - and I've used them for over 12 years now so I'm very used to them.

I like the HiFiMan range too, and didn't find their transient response lacking.

What are you driving them all with?
Old 9th November 2016
  #12
Lives for gear
 

You're right …. there is no consistent problematic trend. I've looked at a lot of published headphone measurements and none of them are flat.

I also own a pair of HD600s as well as numerous other over-the-ear brands/models, and every time I've tried to EQ with any of them, the results haven't been very good when compared to what I hear over my KH120s. As I mentioned in my initial post, equalized HD800s appear to workable solution, so that is what I'm aiming for. Designing and constructing the equalizer isn't a trivial thing.

You can't beat a good pair of headphones for resolution and detail. I hear all sorts of minuscule background detail over the 800s that just isn't audible over speakers. And their absence of nonlinear distortion is just incredible.

ps - the Focal's aren't flat either. Big bucks too!
Old 9th November 2016
  #13
Gear Head
 
pingaton's Avatar
 

If you are OK to combine hardware (headphones) with a software (plugin), you could check Sonarworks.
They can "calibrate" your headphones or you could just buy a "calibrated" headphones:
Overview - Sonarworks
Old 9th November 2016
  #14
Old 9th November 2016
  #15
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spaceman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by OneMillionMangos View Post
I have tried the more expensive PM1 which were extremely problematic. I'm doubtful that the much cheaper PM3 would outperform the PM1
You'd be surprised : How to choose the best studio headphones?
Old 9th November 2016
  #16
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Miles Flint's Avatar
 

IMO it's much more important to "know" your headphones than have them sounding linear, therefore you can give mix feedback on any headphones if you know them well. I never use headphones for mastering, neither would I give critical feedback based on what I have heard with them.
Old 9th November 2016
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miles Flint View Post
IMO it's much more important to "know" your headphones than have them sounding linear, therefore you can give mix feedback on any headphones if you know them well. I never use headphones for mastering, neither would I give critical feedback based on what I have heard with them.
Learning the non-linearities of a subpar piece of equipment is not a good idea in my book. Neither is EQing speakers and headphones to achieve a more linear response because you mess up the time domain properties. The only thing which works is to get a good sounding linear piece of equipment.

To reiterate, the HD650 pretty much have the best all round performance of any headphone I have tried and every other headphone I have tried, regardless of price, has other downfalls which outweighs it's cons. For example the increased transient resolution and extended bass response of the audeze LCD4 is more than outweighed by the gigantic hole at 3kHz.

Can it really be that 4700€ more cash cannot get me an improvement over the two a penny throw away HD650???!?!?!?!? The HD800 has better resolution but is less linear. I don't understand. Why can money not buy a better headphone than a ****ty 300€ piece of plastic junk?
Old 9th November 2016
  #18
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Miles Flint's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by OneMillionMangos View Post
Learning the non-linearities of a subpar piece of equipment is not a good idea in my book. Neither is EQing speakers and headphones to achieve a more linear response because you mess up the time domain properties. The only thing which works is to get a good sounding linear piece of equipment.
Yes, when it comes to speakers... I don't EQ speakers, or HP... Spending 5k for headphones is wasted money in my opinion because they are kind of pointless for mastering. Why not save the 5k and stretch your holidays to 5 weeks..? :-)
Old 9th November 2016
  #19
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lowland's Avatar
 

Verified Member
IMO, the Sennheiser 600s (which you liked but felt lacked bass) improve quite a bit in that area when you 1. use the 650's cable with them (it's thicker and more robust as well) and 2. remove the foam from around the transducers. This last won't be for everyone, but I felt the 600s lost a significant amount of what I can only call 'squashiness' to their presentation by doing it.

Although I don't master music with headphones - the speaker setup I have here works well for me - my modified 600s are the go-to for QA; also for speech editing such as audiobooks - with that I'll do a fair amount of small level adjustments to individual words and syllables where time and budget permit, and the 600s for me have outstanding clarity and accuracy and promote a nicely polished feel which translates well, helping bring out the best of the voice artist's performance.
Old 9th November 2016
  #20
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OneMillion - corrective equalization of speakers or headphones straightens out the time domain properties not mess them up if it's done properly. You've got it backwards!

Typically this requires some sort of minimum phase EQ network, and trying to perform the correction with popular digital equalization solutions probably wouldn't be the "proper" EQ and could very well cause time domain anomalies to occur. That is why I mentioned that designing the EQ networks isn't a trivial pursuit. Some of us DO know what we're doing!

The HD600s and 650s also have resonances in the upper-mid treble range, it's just that they are different frequencies than the 800 (6 kHz for the 800 and 7 kHz for the 600). I've tried EQing program material with both the 600 and 800, and the 800 with partial corrective EQ works much better.
Old 9th November 2016
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tpad View Post
OneMillion - corrective equalization of speakers or headphones straightens out the time domain properties not mess them up if it's done properly. You've got it backwards!
If this was the case then room correction would sound good. It doesn't. Or digital speakers like barefoot would sound better than good passive speakers paired with a good amp, and they don't.

I have universally found that room correction or EQ calibration systems sound worse than getting more linear equipment in the first place. Otherwise I could buy a pair of PA speakers and a Trinnov and have the best mastering speakers in the world.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lowland View Post
IMO, the Sennheiser 600s (which you liked but felt lacked bass) improve quite a bit in that area when you 1. use the 650's cable with them (it's thicker and more robust as well) and 2. remove the foam from around the transducers.
I like mods but it seems to me that the foam is probably there for a reason, IE damping. I can imagine that changing the shape or type of foam may offer interesting tonal changes but removing it sounds like a disaster otherwise they would have no put it there in the first place. However, I'm still keeping an open mind and would love to hear it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Miles Flint View Post
Yes, when it comes to speakers... I don't EQ speakers, or HP... Spending 5k for headphones is wasted money in my opinion because they are kind of pointless for mastering. Why not save the 5k and stretch your holidays to 5 weeks..? :-)
Without sounding like a jerk, money isn't the issue, if I wanted a 1 year holiday I could leave tomorrow, but when I got back I would no longer have any customers. I'm going for as long as I can perceivably go for without destroying my company but even to go for this long I need a solution to hear mixes on holiday. It could mean buying some speakers on holiday and making a make shift studio setup in my hotel room, but I thought it would have been a cleaner solution to throw some money at a pair of headphones, problem sorted. But not, I just opened up a can of worms and I can't throw money at this problem as there doesn't seem to be a single ****ting pair of headphones with any semblance of liniarity on the market regardless of cost. I'd increase the budget if I found something good, but there basically is nothing by the looks of it.
Old 9th November 2016
  #22
Gear Maniac
 
Chris Chapelle's Avatar
 

I'm using Sony 7506 since 20 years. I never had regrets when I had to make decision with.

They cost 100$. Just need to upgrade with Beyer dynamic foams.

Matter of taste.
Old 9th November 2016
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miles Flint View Post
I never use headphones for mastering, neither would I give critical feedback based on what I have heard with them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tpad View Post
good luck in finding a "linear" pair of headphones, because their is no such thing out there that I'm aware of.
Quote:
Originally Posted by explorer View Post
You simply aren't going to get speaker performance from headphones.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
I think you are looking for something that is impossible to find. Headphones are not speakers.
There is a theme developing here...
Old 9th November 2016
  #24
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by explorer View Post
There is a theme developing here...
Yeah dude I know I'm not about to sell my lipinskis and my near acoustically perfect studio room and start mastering from my laptop with a pair of headphones. I've been a mastering engineer for over a decade and in that time exclusively worked on speakers.

I am not asking for much though, I am only asking for a headphone which is better than the HD650 so I can give reasonably accurate mix pointers and judge which stems I need (if any) for mixes to masters which I will then do at my studio when I get back off holiday!

I went out and bought an LCD2 and a HD650, I'm at my studio, I've been doing some listening tests between my monitors and the headphones and I can confirm that the HD650 is by a massive margin FAR superior to the more expensive LCD2 headphone, to the point where I am laughing at the LCD2 and would chuck it out the window for dramatic effect if I hadn't paid 1300€ for the piece of junk.

The HD650 is "fairly" close to my monitors. As close as I have experienced from a pair of headphones.

However the HD650 costs only 300€ and for an extra 4700€ can I really NOT GET ANYTHING BETTER????? Everything more expensive, or otherwise put, anything other than the HD650 seems to be WORSE in some way regardless of price. Can someone please take my money and give me something marginally better than a cheap piece of plastic run of the mill 2 a penny HD650 FFS???
Old 9th November 2016
  #25
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Antagonist's Avatar
I've been on a search for something similar for a while, and still haven't found it yet. I haven't had the chance yet, but I've been told to check out some of the custom in-ear monitors that you have to have ear casts made for. I've been told when they fit right, and you purchase high end model (Some have mentioned Ultimate Ears Pro Remastered for $999.) that they can really work to getting a flat/easy to mix reference sound. Maybe $999 and the cost of the ear doctor to get the casts may be worth it to you...
Old 9th November 2016
  #26
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Antagonist View Post
I've been on a search for something similar for a while, and still haven't found it yet. I haven't had the chance yet, but I've been told to check out some of the custom in-ear monitors that you have to have ear casts made for. I've been told when they fit right, and you purchase high end model (Some have mentioned Ultimate Ears Pro Remastered for $999.) that they can really work to getting a flat/easy to mix reference sound. Maybe $999 and the cost of the ear doctor to get the casts may be worth it to you...
Very interesting, I will research this immediately.

FYI sennheiser 650 seems to be the closest thing so far out of the approx 30 high end headphones I have tested but is still a bit problematic especially in the bass response.
Old 9th November 2016
  #27
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Jerrick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by OneMillionMangos View Post
sennheiser HD600 - sound very good, much better than audeze for example but severely lack bass
I think they perform really well with a correction curve applied. I also use Isone after that to have a "room".
Attached Thumbnails
Desperately need a linear headphone, price no object, everything I tried is garbage-hd600-curve.jpg  
Old 9th November 2016
  #28
DAH
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DAH's Avatar
For 600\580 senns try this curve and report back. Works well for me although you DO loose some headroom when used with a line out of an interface.
the scale is +18 db at 23 and -4.2 at 4534 Hz.
Some narrow dips might be staying in the presence - high range, but the whole FR curve is consistenly even down to about 30 hz, measured and perceived.
Attached Thumbnails
Desperately need a linear headphone, price no object, everything I tried is garbage-senn580eq.jpg  
Old 9th November 2016
  #29
Gear Nut
Ive got some 650's here, if you've just bought them id let them run in for a bit first before making any decisions, they get a lot better!

I thought they sounded kind of odd at first but they really open up after a good few hours use. (id say maybe 25-50 hours).
Old 10th November 2016
  #30
Lives for gear
After reading this thread, my thought is that you have to take "cost is no object" seriously. That should include less costly headphones. You have expressed dislike for, or reservations about, many extremely well-regarded and pricey options. If headphones exist that will satisfy you, they are probably some unlikely headphone or in-ear choice that is not going to be recommended by anyone in this forum. Ideally, if you can arrange a setup with an audio retailer, you should take a reliable source and listen to every model each reputable manufacturer makes. You will either have a eureka moment, or you won't.
It doesn't seem to me that anyone is saying they hear exactly what you hear, so their recommendations aren't likely to narrow the field for you.
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