[linux-audio-user] head phones processor

Florin Andrei florin at andrei.myip.org
Sun Feb 6 00:55:50 EST 2005

On Thu, 2005-02-03 at 13:28 +0300, Andrew Gaydenko wrote:
> Is there some kind of (software) head phones processor with the aim
> to eliminate an impression a sound is inside a head?

On Sat, 2005-02-05 at 13:01 -0800, davidrclark at earthlink.net wrote:
> He finds, as I do, that the "sound inside the head" problem tires
> him out as he listens.

"Ouch, doctor, it hurts when i do that!"
"Then don't do it!" :-)
Silly humor, but wise advice at the same time.

Whenever possible, listening should be performed on good-quality
loudspeakers. "Studio monitors" is the term used to describe
professional-grade speaker systems, which are highly recommended for any
serious music studio work. They're typically expensive and fussy
(especially the near-field ones, which must be used in a certain strict
way w.r.t. their relative positioning, the positioning of the pair
w.r.t. the room, and the positioning of the listener's head to the whole
thing), but well worth the trouble.
Some studio monitors have a good price/performance ratio, which means
they don't cost an arm and a leg while offering a pretty good sound. My
Alesis M1 Active MkII are currently worth about $400/pair, or even less
if you're Internet-savvy, and beat the crap out of any "HiFi" speakers;
true, they don't sound quite like a pair of Adam, but then again they
don't cost 10x more. A bit too bassy and a bit too harsh, but otherwise
crisp and authoritative.
Other popular monitors are made by Genelec, Mackie, etc.


If listening on speakers is not possible, whatever the reason, then i
guess one must use headphones. Even then, some phones are more tiring
than others, and the causes are two:
- ergonomics
- sound quality
Phones that do not fit well on your skull and ears will make you tired
very soon. Nothing more to say here, it's all obvious.
But also it's the sound of phones that can make you tired, in a subtle
way. Phones that are harsh, opaque, exhibit weird bumps or potholes in
the frequency response, trigger resonances, etc. will produce fatigue
even when they're ergonomically perfect. No amounts of EQ or processing
will fix that. The only fix is to use better phones (or even better, use
studio monitors). That's why i'm saying the answer to the initial
question in this thread is "no".
There are phones that are very good ergonomically, have a transparent
and airy sound and provide excellent sound fidelity. Those will not
produce fatigue, or will produce it only in extreme circumstances. They
are sometimes called "studio phones".
Recommended makes/models: Sennheiser HD650/600/580, Beyerdynamic DT 880,
AKG K 1000, pretty much any of the high-end Grado (although some people,
myself included, complain about the Grado ergonomics).
Avoid glitzy crap like Bose and the like, they aren't worth shit
(although I bow deep to anyone working in their marketing departments,
those people are true wizards).
Some reviews that i've seen are quite biased. A large collection of
reviews that i've learned to trust to the letter can be found on
headphone.com in the headphones section:


Myself, i swear by my Sennheiser HD600. I used them for many hours in
many different conditions, and i've yet to encounter listening fatigue.
The ergos are fantastic (they don't touch the ears at all and are very
gentle to the skull), and the sound is the most transparent and airy
i've ever heard in any listening device. I even fell asleep once while
wearing them; when i woke up in the morning, for a moment i forgot i was
still wearing them - no fatigue at all!
The HD580 are cheaper and sound pretty much as good as the 600 (speaking
from direct experience). I didn't try the newer 650, but they're
supposed to be even better. Don't bother with 595, 590, etc., they're
not studio phones.

For portable phones i recommend Koss KSC-55. Common sense says that $20
phones must sound like crap, but that's just not true for the KSC-55.
True, you can still hear the plastic, but they beat hands-down every
portable phones i tried so far. They're darker and boomier than the
HD600, and of course orders of magnitude less transparent, but have
amazing "correctness" for such a cheap piece of plastic.
The ergonomics are pretty bad, but i can live with that for casual
listening (while going to the gym, etc.).

P.S.: David, please fix your email program. It sends out messages as
attachments, making it awkward to read them, and making it difficult to
reply to them. Also, it breaks the threaded view on all email clients i
use, hence your replies appear isolated from the main discussion threads
- that will also break the list archives for future perusal of these

Florin Andrei


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