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Imaging with headphones

hummerdude

Active Member
What kind of imaging does a great set of headphones provide? A good set of speakers allows me to hear to music presented in front of me with the same depth that I hear at a live performance. I can imagine instruments and voices spatially. However, with my new Sennheiser HD 650s, the imaging is completely different. I like the clarity and detail, but I feel as though I am listening to the music from the perspective of the performing artist rather than the audience. It sounds like I am in the middle of the orchestra or band. This is similar to listening to speakers in multichannel mode rather than stereo. But I find it very strange that vocals seem to be coming from overhead. It is like I am kneeling before the vocalist and she is singing directly over my head. Is this normal?
 

Zing

Retired Admin
Famous
hummerdude said:
What kind of imaging does a great set of headphones provide? A good set of speakers allows me to hear to music presented in front of me with the same depth that I hear at a live performance. I can imagine instruments and voices spatially. However, with my new Sennheiser HD 650s, the imaging is completely different. I like the clarity and detail, but I feel as though I am listening to the music from the perspective of the performing artist rather than the audience. It sounds like I am in the middle of the orchestra or band. This is similar to listening to speakers in multichannel mode rather than stereo. But I find it very strange that vocals seem to be coming from overhead. It is like I am kneeling before the vocalist and she is singing directly over my head. Is this normal?
I have limited experience with this - and only with 2 different headphones - but I'm going to go ahead and say that is normal. I don't think there's a pair of cans on this planet that can offer imaging and a soundstage like that which you'd get from a pair of speakers.
 

PaulyT

Behind the Curtain
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Superstar
Yes, the perception of the soundstage is IMHO very different with headphones. Not less precise, in fact I think it's easier to get a really good soundstage with headphones than speakers because you don't have the whole room acoustics factor. But yes the headphone sound is more... "in your head." Dunno how else to describe it, just takes some getting used to. The main issue is that the left ear gets ONLY the left channel, none of the right, unlike with speakers where there's always some mixing. You can get crossfade devices/effects that, by giving some fraction of each channel into the other, will give headphones a slightly more speaker-like presentation, in theory, but I've tried a few of those and it was not particularly effective in my experience.
 

hummerdude

Active Member
Thanks. I tried various types of music last night with the new HPs. Depending on the recording, I perceived the sound stage was either in my head, around my head, or often, on my head. I would have sword at one point that a miniature Anna Netrebko was standing on top of my head. With chamber music, I got terrific separation of voices and better detail than I have heard through my speakers, but the subjective experience was strange. I could hear distinct voices coming from very specific directions all around me including behind me. I think I like the HP experience but I'm going to have to adjust to the perception of many voices in, around, and on my head.

And for those of you wondering, no I don't usually hear voices in, around, or on my head without the HD 650s :)
 

Rope

Well-Known Member
Famous
Zing said:
Rope said:
Do you have the stock ear cushions on your 7000's, Zing?

Rope
Yes Sir.



If you'd like to improve the sound stage and imaging, either purchase a pair of Jmoney, or stuff the stock cushions. It also helps bass response, since the transducers are moved further away from the ear.

Rope
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
We use subtle shifts in phase and arrival time between our left and right ears to "locate" the sounds around us. To confirm what wr perceive, we slightly tilt our heads, shift our necks, and move about when "placing" sounds.

With speakers, when we make any movement, the sound reaching our ears alters and our brains create a more accurate soundstage of what we are hearing. With headphones no amount of movement changes the sound at all. Thus, we cannot modify or improve our understanding of yhe soundstage.

Unless they invent some way to get the sound to alter based on accurate reaction to head movement, headphone listening will never have as "realistic" a soundstage as an excellent speaker setup.
 

hummerdude

Active Member
Good explanation, Flint. Thanks.

Rope, those are some serious looking HPs you have there. Was it much trouble to install the cushions? I don't think I'm up for any "customization" right now or spending big bucks. However, I do have a Lyr on the way. Tonight I'm also going to try the Fiio E7/E9 combination if I can figure out how to connect all this stuff. Fun times!
 

GreatDane

Well-Known Member
PaulyT said:
You can get crossfade devices/effects that, by giving some fraction of each channel into the other, will give headphones a slightly more speaker-like presentation, in theory, but I've tried a few of those and it was not particularly effective in my experience.

What you're describing is called crossfeed. Crossfade is blending 2 audio tracks together.

Check out the Smyth Realiser (click on "How It Works"):

http://smyth-research.com/products.html
 

Rope

Well-Known Member
Famous
hummerdude said:
Good explanation, Flint. Thanks.

Rope, those are some serious looking HPs you have there. Was it much trouble to install the cushions? I don't think I'm up for any "customization" right now or spending big bucks. However, I do have a Lyr on the way. Tonight I'm also going to try the Fiio E7/E9 combination if I can figure out how to connect all this stuff. Fun times!

Congrats on the Lyr! Which tubes did you order it with?

I chose to do the Markl Mod to improve the sloppy bottom end, and clean up the muddy lower midrange of the stock Denon D5000s. One of the steps is stuffing the ear cushions to move the transducers further from the ear.

Rope
 

PaulyT

Behind the Curtain
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Superstar
GreatDane said:
PaulyT said:
You can get crossfade devices/effects that, by giving some fraction of each channel into the other, will give headphones a slightly more speaker-like presentation, in theory, but I've tried a few of those and it was not particularly effective in my experience.

What you're describing is called crossfeed. Crossfade is blending 2 audio tracks together.

Check out the Smyth Realiser (click on "How It Works"):

http://smyth-research.com/products.html

Whoops! Crossfade... crossfeed... too many terms to remember. Sorry!
 

Botch

I.Y.A.A.Y.A.S!
Superstar
Has anyone here ever experienced "binaural" recordings? These are made by recording a live performance with a plastic "human head", with a precision mic in each ear canal. This way headphones can play exactly what each ear picks up during the live performance, including "crosstalk". They must be played thru 'phones, not speakers, and they can't (yet) simulate the slight head movements Flint mentioned. I never have but would love to hear one.

And this reminds me of a post I made awhile back, either here or at S&V; my Mom came to visit and couldn't hear the difference between stereo and 5.1. When I realized she had hearing aids in each ear, it led me to believe that one human ear does have the ability to sense direction; a hearing aid would eliminate that ability.
 

GreatDane

Well-Known Member
Botch said:
Has anyone here ever experienced "binaural" recordings? ...

There are some threads at Head-Fi with several links. Here's one:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/223165/legally ... ings-links



From that link I posted, here's what Flint was commenting on re head movement and how Smyth addresses that shortcoming when listening with headphones:

Head tracking

In the real world, the direction of a sound remains stationary as we move our heads -- in fact, we deliberately move our heads to discern the stationary direction more finely. With headphones, the sounds move with our heads. This is highly unnatural and a prime cue that we are listening to headphones, not the real world. For sound with picture, the fact that sounds move with the head while the screen remains fixed destroys the credibility of the experience and greatly weakens the association of picture and sound.

The Realiser system includes a small device atop the headphone headband and another small device at the front of the room, which together monitor the position of the listener's head every five milliseconds. As the head moves, and no matter how rapidly it moves, the Realiser recalculates all the HRTF factors, seamlessly and in real time, maintaining accurate localisation with respect to the screen and room. The importance of this to the perceived reality of the experience cannot be overstated. The sense of wearing headphones disappears.
 

hummerdude

Active Member
I went with the stock tubes on the Lyr. I really didn't know enough to choose otherwise. We'll see how I like them tomorrow.
 

Rope

Well-Known Member
Famous
hummerdude said:
I went with the stock tubes on the Lyr. I really didn't know enough to choose otherwise. We'll see how I like them tomorrow.

JJ's or GE's? They're both offered as stock tubes. The JJ's are all but midrangeless. The GE-6BZ7 grey plate is a well balanced tube, from top to bottom, and you'll notice an increase in gain. Both can be had for around $8.00 a pair.

Rope
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
GreatDane said:
Botch said:
Has anyone here ever experienced "binaural" recordings? ...

There are some threads at Head-Fi with several links. Here's one:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/223165/legally ... ings-links



From that link I posted, here's what Flint was commenting on re head movement and how Smyth addresses that shortcoming when listening with headphones:

Head tracking

In the real world, the direction of a sound remains stationary as we move our heads -- in fact, we deliberately move our heads to discern the stationary direction more finely. With headphones, the sounds move with our heads. This is highly unnatural and a prime cue that we are listening to headphones, not the real world. For sound with picture, the fact that sounds move with the head while the screen remains fixed destroys the credibility of the experience and greatly weakens the association of picture and sound.

The Realiser system includes a small device atop the headphone headband and another small device at the front of the room, which together monitor the position of the listener's head every five milliseconds. As the head moves, and no matter how rapidly it moves, the Realiser recalculates all the HRTF factors, seamlessly and in real time, maintaining accurate localisation with respect to the screen and room. The importance of this to the perceived reality of the experience cannot be overstated. The sense of wearing headphones disappears.


I'd love to see the block diagram of the circuit, because the amount of processing required would be massive to fully recreate the real motion of the head. Our ears are acoustically directional, so when one ear is more directly pointed at a sound source, it will have a different frequency response, phase response, and micro-reflection characteristic than when the ear isn't pointed at the source. That same thing is true about the vertical direction of the sound. When you tilt your head back, the tonality slightly changes and similarly when you tilt your head down.

I would love to see how the designer addressed every aspect of this effect.
 
D

Deleted member 133

Guest
Flint said:
I'd love to see the block diagram of the circuit, because the amount of processing required would be massive to fully recreate the real motion of the head. Our ears are acoustically directional, so when one ear is more directly pointed at a sound source, it will have a different frequency response, phase response, and micro-reflection characteristic than when the ear isn't pointed at the source. That same thing is true about the vertical direction of the sound. When you tilt your head back, the tonality slightly changes and similarly when you tilt your head down.

I would love to see how the designer addressed every aspect of this effect.

You may want to check out the laserBIRD2 http://www.ascension-tech.com/realtime/laserBIRD2.php

Quite a number of years ago we worked with them and used an early system to do head tracking in a research helicopter. We found it to be a huge improvement on old mechnical and magnetic trackers. (In that application - synthetic vision piloting - any lag in visual input really messes with the pilots brain!) Given the applications that they cover with their current system, I would guess that processing is not an issue. I'm not sure what else would be involved in a headphone-based system, but keep in mind that even back when we worked with them, we were inputing tons of "visual" (video, radar, laser, etc.) sensor data into the whole system, and as far as I know it was all done with PC technology available at the time. Again I don't know for sure, but combining tracking and audio input should be in the same ballpark as far as required processing.

Jeff
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
I've seen the military application of tracking, but they are relying entirely on placement of sound sin a soundfield in order to give the pilot an audible representation of where things are around him. In fact, my oldest brother worked on one of those very early prototype systems in the early 1990s. That said, the amount of processing power required to pull off the simple task of moving the soundfield in realtime is significantly more than most people are willing to buy for home systems. And that (as far as I know) still doesn't modify the frequency response and phase response of the sounds - it just places them appropriately. Also, these are not high fidelity systems which a low THD and wide frequency response. The amount of processing needed for a 100 to 10,000Hz range with moderate THD & noise isn't nearly as much as it takes for a 20-20,000Hz system with inperceivable THD + noise.
 
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