Headphones R Guuuuuud

Discussion in 'Software & Electronica' started by pete, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    While I'm still in the middle of College Paper Hell, I wanted to mention this, because I'd assume that most of us like LISTENING to music as much as playing it.

    A couple years back, I got my first computer motherboard that had 7.1 surround sound. Great, but I only had my two (somewhat high-end and long discontinued) harman/kardon speakers. I was about 6 speakers short -- and I like headphones, anyway: the wife doesn't keep asking me to decrease the volume.

    Well, after briefly having wireless headphones (too much static to keep), I got the $70 Turtle Beach X52 5.1 headphones. Yes, I was still short two speakers, but there aren't that many 7.1 headphones out there. And it was good, for over a year. And then I broke off one side -- and repaired it with an awful lot of epoxy.

    I did some research on NEW headphones and found that 90% of audiophiles passionately hate 5.1 and 7.1 headphones. Stereo headphones are just fine, they say, and if you've got a Realtek 885-based (or higher) soundcard, you can do VIRTUAL surround sound, which sounds pretty decent.

    However, there are, literally 1.2 zillion headphones out there. The best names I heard of were Sennheiser, Grado and Audio-Technica. The Sennheisers, in my price range (around $70), didn't go completely AROUND ear. The Grado's were a tad expensive and the Audio-Technica's were ungodly expensive. Then I came across this forum. Hey: get the JVC HA-RX700. They're clones of the $113 Audio-Technica.

    So I did. For $33.

    * They're built much more ruggedly than my Turtle Beach cans. Metal connectors for the ear pieces to the frame, although the frame is mainly plastic.
    * Gold-plated connectors.

    Sound? Absolutely fantastic. I can configure my sound card to play each headphone, side-by-side, and the JVC is miles better than the TB. I played a couple of my favorite MP3s from Cowboy Bebop, "Pearls" and "Gotta Knock a Little Harder" and was extremely impressed with the clarity: I could even hear the rather faint cello accompaniment in "Pearls" without issue. Seriously, in comparison, the TB sounds like it has a layer of foam over the speakers.

    Now, I'd LIKE noise-canceling, because I can still somewhat hear my computer's fan with the headphones on and nothing playing ("noise canceling" cancels out repetitive sounds, only, so that's perfect for my purposes), but it looks to me that "audiophile quality headphones" do not exist with noise canceling. Maybe the $219 Audio-Technica ones, but there isn't a JVC equivalent. And I can think of other things to spend $219 on.

    The next test will be to try them with some DVDs. I might pop in The Matrix ....
     
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  2. Al Stevens

    Al Stevens

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    Not quite. Noise cancelling circuitry cancels external ambient sound, which is sound that originates from outside the headphones. It need not be repetitive. The circuitry uses a small microphone on the headphones' exterior to capture external sound and generates an opposite polarity copy, which, when mixed with the original signal, cancels low frequencies. High frequencies are typically already suppressed by the earcups' acoustic enclosures and foam cushions.
     
  3. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    You sold me Pete. I was looking for something exactly like this and thinking I'd have to spend more, so I ordered a pair. Thanks.
     
  4. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Yes, I agree. No, I don't agree. :)

    Even Wikipedia says (thus it MUST be true): "[Noise canceling headphones] work well for sounds that are continuous, such as the hum of a refrigerator or the sound in an airplane cabin, but are rather ineffective against speech or other rapidly changing audio signals." I've found that folks on those audiophile forums say about the same thing. So, I know you're correct in how noise canceling headphones do what they do, but in effect, they only really work well on continuous sounds -- which is really how they were first marketed, anyway: take 'em on an airplane, and you filter out the jet noise. They've also used the same technology in some hearing aids (we get a lot of those commercials out here in Phoenix): "You don't hear the droning noises around you, but can instantly hear someone talking 50 feet away!"

    ==========

    Anyhow, I may have become a person with headphone GAS, unintentionally! I've even convinced Groove!

    Further reviewage: I haven't gotten to the DVD, yet, but I have listened to MP3s (I ripped them from the CD I own at "highest quality") of Sean Osborne playing clarinet on American Spirit, where he plays Shickele's "Elegies for Clarinet and Piano". I can hear his breathiness. I also played "The Pines of Rome", "Bolero", "Fanfare for the Common Man", and Time Out. While all were really good, I really liked Time Out: I could hear the fingers of Eugene Wright sliding on the bass, which I hadn't before. I thought that was impressive.

    The headphones are also significantly louder than my TB ones: I had my computer volume at 100 to hear some things. It's now at 20 - 50.

    The headphones are also decently comfortable, even after listening to appx. 2 hours of music. I wear glasses and my ears don't hurt.

    According to the audiophiles, the headphones sound better after 100 - 200 hours of use ("burn-in"). I can say that I think the high midrange is just a bit too high, currently, and I wouldn't mind more bass, but the audiophiles say that these "problems" are corrected after burn-in.

    Seriously, I can't remember ever making a better purchase for $33. And buy.com delivered for free and in two days.
     
  5. Al Stevens

    Al Stevens

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    I guess I had in mind very high quality noise cancelling hardware. Aka expensive. And I don't know that it has ever been installed in headphones. But we did some interesting things with isolation booths back in my Maxwell Smart days. "Lower the cone of silence, chief."

    To test the concept aim two speakers of the same kind at one another. Send them both the same audio signal but with opposite polarity, which you do by swapping the leads on one. If they are properly aimed at one another, they cancel out each other, and you hear nothing. Dead silence at all frequencies. Put your hand between them and you hear some of the signal.

    Cool stuff. Now if they can just come up with a tinitus-suppression algorithm that we can afford...
     
  6. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I'd settle for one at any price...

    My ear ringing comes from excessive exposure to noise largely generated by the air cleaners on the M48A3 tanks that I commanded during the late unpleasantness in RVN. As the loss is "service connected", not only do they send a few extra buxs my way every month in the disability check, they also treat the condition to the best of their ability.

    (While exposed to a lot of explosions up close and personal, the principal cause of this was the powered air cleaner systems on the tanks, with the squelch noise in the interphone headphones being a close second. Of all of my service connected conditions, it's the most intrusive to my day to day life.)

    "My" audiologist, a very pleasant young woman from Chicago, has worked through every method known to man help me deal with the problem, up to and including fitting me with a pair of tiny hearing aides that cost you taxpayers about three grand. The things are so small that they look like large pills or a piece of candy.

    Her theory is that increased acuity of my somewhat diminished hearing (mostly in the high frequency end of the audible frequencies) might help with the problem. Unfortunately, they don't help a bit.

    This evening, as I am winding down from the weekly hockey game, it is loud enough in my right ear to make hearing Sex In The City on the television - not that that is a bad thing. It can be a real nuisance during business conversations, as well as with normal day-to-day chit-chat.

    We've tried the drops, and the folk medicines, but they work no better. Bummer. Lucky for me that playing a horn seems to cancel it out well enough.
     
  7. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    The wife occasionally asks me if I can hear the ringing in her ears.

    For the ringing in MY ears, provided I have some sound of some kind in the background, it doesn't get too bad. Another way of looking at it is that complete silence isn't natural, anyhow. (Well, that rationalization works for ME, at least.)

    Makes me wonder about how tinnitus works: is it an oversensitivity of the nerve? Undersensitivity? Failure of some other component of the hearing mechanism? Brain problem? So many directions. Just remember: I might have had that figured out for you, if I had accepted that biology scholarship 25 years ago, instead of going into music :).

    BTB, regarding hearing frequencies, I can hear relatively high, still: there is a product that's called "The Mosquito" that plays a very high pitch sound and is designed to keep those darn kids off your lawn -- because they can hear the pitch and most folks over 20 can't. I can and I'm assuredly over 20. By a lot.

    ===========

    I've played a couple of DVDs, now and they sound ... pretty good. I think I do have to queue up something like The Matrix or some such, because the anime I watch really isn't big-time on the audio front, but at least it's a test!
     
  8. Dave Dolson

    Dave Dolson Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Pete: Thanks for the heads-up on those headphones. I just placed my order, too. DAVE
     
  9. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    I think I'll order up a set of these.

    I also have tinnitus and find it gets worse if I play in a lot of loud environments. Most of the time I don't notice it too much. I have a much more annoying issue with background noise. If there's a lot of it I probably won't hear a word you are saying. :)
     
  10. Al Stevens

    Al Stevens

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    Likewise. I find it helps to look at the person speaking and read lips. When I do that, consonants become magically audible. I discovered that phenomenom in a restaurant years ago. Looking away from someone at an adjacent table, I could hear her voice but could not understand her speech. When I looked at her face, I understood every word. I guess the brain uses visual clues to fill in missing information.

    Google delivers lots of hits on "tinnitus cures." Snake oil?
     
  11. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    One of my friends tried the frequency therapy. He said it really didn't work.

    I think one of the reasons that so many people are searching for a cure is that they define tinnitus rather broadly. I have the high pitched ringing but I know people who have a low pitch sound that they say sounds a lot like the ocean. I'm also not aware of any standardized testing for it. It seems like you go to the audiologist and say "my ears are ringing" and they say "oh you have tinnitus".
     
  12. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Ed, are you sure that's ringing and not the voices in your head?

    Unintended consequence of the headphones: (as a for instance) while I really, really like the tune Elegies for Clarinet and Piano, I'm now thinking that Sean Osborne's playing blows. Literally. He's too breathy. (Well, I thought he was only somewhat average before .... I need to write a review of this CD, sometime.) I have a cassette (from 1979) of this same piece with Richard Stoltzman playing and, while I think his tone is a bit thin, it's a better performance.

    However, I'm really liking hearing some things: I've got Schickele's string quartets on both CD and MP3 and he uses col legno in several places (using the wood side of the bow, not the string, to make a sound: it's like a muted bowing with added percussion effect) and that technique is VERY hard to hear unless you a) are expecting it or b) can see the players. I can hear this quite well, now.

    It's possible that the reason I'm hearing more detail is because of something I mentioned earlier: a greater dynamic range. The TB was 20 - 20,000hz. The JVC is 8 to 25,000hz. Or they're just better headphones :).
     
  13. Dave Dolson

    Dave Dolson Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    My headphones (JVC's referenced above) arrived today by FedEx. They are HUGE, but . . . they seem to work on my iPod just fine. They had a nice, full sound to them.

    They came both with a mini-plug and a larger plug into which the mini-plug was inserted.

    I am not a sound-wank. I haven't yet compared them to the ear-buds and other VERY small headphones I've been using with small devices like iPod and my iPhone, and without doing a side-by-side comparison, I'm guessing the JVC's are equal in sound.

    What the JVC's DO provide is 1) an easy way for me to almost immediately tell which is the left side and which is the right side (they are clearly marked and there is no need to squint and search before putting them on); and 2) they stay in place while the ear-buds and other small headphones are constantly displacing.

    I use them mostly to rehearse alone with one of my saxophones or clarinet. Put the headphones on, crank up the iPod, find the tunes I want to rehearse, play my saxophone along with the band. Works for me. DAVE
     
  14. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Suzy, my wife, and a wicked smart RN, has found out so much for me in the world of health. For example, in college she correctly diagnosed my head aches as caused by artificial sweetener that we had just started to use. When we stopped using that, the head aches disappeared.

    For my tinnitus, she has discovered that if I am slightly dehydrated my ears ring. Don't ask me how she figured this out; now when my ears ring I go drink some plain ol' water and it works for me.
     
  15. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I had been diagnosed with two things, awhile back: wicked high cholesterol and cluster headaches (think migraines, only stronger, but shorter, but more often. Google "suicide headaches"). Due to the former, I went on a very fat restricted diet. Considering I was dieting anyway, I decided to cut out sugared soda: hey, if I squint really hard, Coke Zero tastes like flat Pepsi with a bad aftertaste. I noticed, very, very quickly that the sweetener in Coke Zero (and simular) would trigger my headaches. I switched back to my full-test Coke. Headaches haven't gone away, but drinking regular soda at least doesn't cause them.
     
  16. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    I rarely drink artificially sweetened drinks.

    The only way nutri-sweet got approved by the FDA was when someone from Searle was in charge for a short time or so the story goes. Doesn't make me comfortable.

    I generally prefer water anyways. I do make my own sports drinks for when I go bicycling.

    The headphones arrived yesterday and I gave them a quick listen. They are huge as Dave mentioned. They sound pretty nice. I'll have to compare them to my Sony Studio Monitors should I be able to get them away from my wife. :D
     

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