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buonassi

Headphones vs Speakers.....Go!

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Why do you primarily listen on one or the other?  What advantages do you believe there are compared to the other?  

 

I'm ripe with opinion, but want to open it up to others to share......

 

 

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Speakers always for me.  Headphones are for portable use and airplanes.  I prefer the sound filling the room like real life, not a contraption strapped to my head.  Both have there benefits and drawbacks.  I do you use headphones at home for recording guitar tracks and mixing.

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Speakers all the time as much as I can.  I like an actual soundstage in front of me.

 

Well isolated bluetooth headphones when commuting and out for a walk.

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Mood dependant. I've yet to hear a 2 channel hifi render more recording detail than properly set up headphones. Now of course I am referring to high end stuff, not cheapola kit. You can just hear so much more information through cans. But obviously, there really is no deep, visceral, you are there feeling like a proper stereo in 3 dimensional space with acoustical treatment. So yeah, depends on what I'm in the  mood to listen to and how. Getting great sound from hifi means dealing with so many other factors too, mainly room and positioning. 

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Speakers for when I want to be in the sound field... headphones just can't pound the air in your chest the way a speaker does for a bass drum whack. Headphones for when I want a "4K" audio experience as  headphones are more nimble for detail.

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Headphones, even the best, leave me feeling like what I am listening to is quite artificial. Quality speakers don't do that as they disappear from the room.

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so I searched before creating this thread, and just learned the search function is broken.  So yeah, a topic that's probably been done a thousand times and I started anew!  Thx @semente.  

 

Headphones

Pros - incredible detail, linear bass with no standing wavs, binaural recordings, neighbor friendly.

Cons - nasty treble reflections that need to be notched out surgically using EQ, no frontal stage (in head sound), potentially uncomfortable

 

Speakers

Pros - most natural treble, true HRTF response, frontal stage, most music mixed with speakers in mind

Cons - always fighting the room, have to be in sweet spot, detail lost due to early reflections, bass management a PITA, phase and crossover headaches (2.1 or surround), EXPENSIVE

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4 hours ago, buonassi said:

Headphones

Pros - incredible detail,

This is especially true with high resolution planar magnetic headphones. It's sound is extremely detailed and accurate. No noticeable distortions. That's why I ditched speakers  and solely use planar magnetic headphones now. Downside is that it's revealing too much. I can even hear distortions of DSD! It's brutally revealing.

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8 hours ago, diecaster said:

Headphones, even the best, leave me feeling like what I am listening to is quite artificial. Quality speakers don't do that as they disappear from the room

Actually it's wrong to blame headphones for being artificial. The truth is with studio recording quality! Headphones are so detailed, you can hear artificialness of studio recorded music, manufactured by adding tracks with sound cutouts using equalizers. I don't like studio recorded music as they sound manufactured. I prefer live concert DVD music. Speakers cannot produce detailed sound. So you cannot hear manufactured-ness of sound from speakers. It's all with recording techniques.

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No contest, speakers for me, since forever. I only use headphones when I have to; for portability, monitoring vinyl rips and silence when my wife is asleep.

 

I'm glad to have them though. Headphones are about the music, my main audio system is about the music and audiophilia. Everything in my main system has to be just right or I'm very unhappy. With a headset, I can happily listen to music on my mobile phone, computer or tablet and not fuss about the quality. I do fuss about the comfort though. I can listen all day and all night through speakers and still want more. After two hours of headphones, I get uncomfortable.

 

I started out with Koss 4AA, then wore out a pair of Stax SR44, currently Grado SR60 and a surprisingly capable on-ear headset that I think came with a Walkman decades ago. I decided to get some better earbuds recently and bought a pair of 1More Triple Drivers. Dreadful sound due to a pronounced upper-midrange hump. Hyper-detailed but artificial sounding. They're going back. I'll try Beyerdynamic Byrons next.

 

There seems to be a clear preference for speakers in the responses so far. A poll would have been interesting. 

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14 hours ago, diecaster said:

Give me speakers every day of the week and twice on Sundays!!

 

I only use headphones when I have no other choice.

My experience  was that a better headphone solution didn't come cheap... I had to spend about 30% of what I spent on main system speakers and amplification on headphones and headphone amplifier to get competitive sound from headphone solution. My earlier attempts at lower cost solutions left me always listening to speakers.

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3 hours ago, Blake said:

Sorry, but that comment is absurd.

There is no "high resolution" speakers! Laws of physics does not allow large sized drivers move fast to produce detailed sound without distortion. Speaker sound you are hearing are blurred wobbly distorted sound. I found planar magnetic headphones are the real high resolution headphones.

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But detail does not equate to better sound quality. It is just one component. I listen for realistic sound, not extreme detail. Speakers do a much better job of recreating realistic sound and are much more pleasant to listen to as far as I am concerned.

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15 hours ago, hdo said:

Actually it's wrong to blame headphones for being artificial. The truth is with studio recording quality! Headphones are so detailed, you can hear artificialness of studio recorded music, manufactured by adding tracks with sound cutouts using equalizers. I don't like studio recorded music as they sound manufactured. I prefer live concert DVD music. Speakers cannot produce detailed sound. So you cannot hear manufactured-ness of sound from speakers. It's all with recording techniques.

 

IMO, headphones won't sound as natural as speakers simply because they are not in "free field" and you therefore miss out on your HRTF (which is really what natural sounds like).  But you can get close if you know how to EQ correctly.  Especially the treble needs EQ to notch out the spikes and bring up the nulls created by standing wavs.  

 

2 hours ago, hdo said:

There is no "high resolution" speakers! Laws of physics does not allow large sized drivers move fast to produce detailed sound without distortion. Speaker sound you are hearing are blurred wobbly distorted sound. I found planar magnetic headphones are the real high resolution headphones.

 

Of course speakers can provide a high level of resolution.  I'm not sure how else to respond as the assertion is empirically false.  Perhaps they can't match the transient speed at all frequencies, but that doesn't mean they aren't capable of high resolution.  Actually, some speakers can play up to 50khz easily, but I don't know of many or any headphones that can.

 

And I have to call you out on the planar comment.  Planars can be excellent, especially the super thin membranes.  But I find that they always have more reflections and nastier treble spikes for some reason I'm sure physics could explain.  TOTL Planars and TOTL dynamics are roughly equal with the amount of detail they can resolve.  Now electrostatics are a different tech and many claim they can do detail a tad better than even TOTL cans.  But I've never heard any electrostats.  

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14 minutes ago, buonassi said:

Of course speakers can provide a high level of resolution.

You need to take laws of physics into account: inertia and momentum of drivers. Speaker drivers are very heavy. They cannot move fast to produce accurate sound. This is well-known fact! That's why they adopt alternative technology such as magnetic planar and electro-static. Electro-static force is very weak force. So it cannot generate volume. Magnetic planar uses stronger magnetic force. Perfect for headphones. But it cannot extend to speaker level naturally. You need over-engineering like Magnepan speakers.

 

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