I’ve had my Asus Xonar Essence STX and AD900 combination for a little while now; long enough to have a good listen and let the ‘phones burn in. It’s been a massive improvement over my old A900 + onboard sound combo so here’s my review detailing my thoughts on this setup! I’ve mostly just been listening to music but I do also game fairly often with my PC.
This was relatively painless as far as computers go. I’m always worried that something will go terribly wrong for absolutely no logical reason, as computer seem to like doing this to me. Putting the card in was a snap and driver installation pretty breezy too. The first thing I noticed was a new sound from my computer while booting: I can hear a click in the computer case and my headphones when the amp turns on! That gave me a warm fuzzy feeling the first few times.
The only hiccup was I couldn’t jump straight into playing games as it would crash my computer! Updating the drivers fixed that :)
Features and Functions
This is the main screen for the Xonar Audio Center.
(Clicking will open an image in a new window).
The most important features are the tick boxes that allow the Dolby surround options such as the 7.1 Virtual Speaker Shifter. Selecting Dolby Headphone allows you to choose between 3 different settings of surround sound room sizes, shown below. The 5 buttons in the bottom right seem to just switch between which Dolby room settings Xonar believes most suit games, music, Hi-Fi or movies. I don’t know what the button labeled GX does but apparently the ‘livelier room’ option best suits games and movies while the ‘larger room’ suits music the best. I’d have to agree, at least on the music option. (Click here to see the “room” options.)
I only realised recently I’d had the Dolby Headphone box ticked since I installed the card and hadn’t been listening to true stereo from my headphones. What I had on was the ‘Larger Room’ option and I do actually prefer the sound with this option on. It broadens the soundstage and seems to add more dynamic range to your music, mostly because it gives greater separation between the bass, mid, and high ranges. Mid range sound is more central in the sound stage as it mimics the purpose of a center-channel speaker for vocals etc. The main benefit to listening without this option is being able to more clearly hear the fainter little elements of music that don’t really add much in the way of melody.
I also played around with the Dolby Digital 7.1 surround sound option and at first enjoyed the extra oomph it seemed to give my music. For some reason it automatically boosts the volume when I turn it on, and I found myself turning it down constantly and becoming fatigued quite quickly. It’s definitely interesting in the way it positions sounds as though coming from a 7.1 home theatre, though all the bass notes come from the far right of the soundstage, which is the default virtual “position” of the subwoofer. In this case I definitely prefer stereo sound as the bass notes are completely butchered in music when they are so heavily directional. You do have the option to adjust and manually position the various virtual speakers by dragging them around the in the ‘speaker shifter’ box but the subwoofer is limited to only moving in closer or further away from the center of the soundstage (and always slightly to the right). One of the fun parts of this option is hitting either of the top 2 arrows in the red box I’ve highlighted. This sets the positioning to rotate around slowly and so your sound seems to rotate around in your head. Trippy!
I haven’t tried this function with movies or tv shows yet but I can easily see myself still preferring the basic Dolby Headphone sound over such a heavily augmented presentation. Mostly I just don’t like to hear such closed in bass. You shouldn’t be able to pinpoint the bass from a real subwoofer if properly positioned in a room, but the virtual subwoofer always sounds skewed to the right.
Versus onboard sound
The best way for me to go back and listen to the difference the STX makes was to plug the AD900s into my onboard and listen to some tunes! Here’s some of my favourite tracks right now that exemplify what I love in music
Younger Brother – Happy Pills:
Onboard sound loses out so much of the separation between the different noises in the music, particularly in the lower end sound. There’s a wonderful little bubbly melody that I love in this song that just gets destroyed by the bass notes and dominant highs. The AD900s still sound great here but definitely lose a huge amount of the vibrant dynamic range that the STX gives, which really brings this kind of music to life.
Tool – Ticks and Leeches:
Ugh, this sounds so muddy and sloppy without my STX behind it. The intro really loses most of its build up and impact and really doesn’t sound clean at all. Much of the guitar blurs together and it’s hard to distinguish between the bass guitar and drum kicks. In particular, there’s a specific bass note which I had thought was just a bass strum with some extra impact to it, but with my STX I can actually hear the drum beating in time with the bass guitar. It’s this kind of clarity and separation which remind me why I bought my ADs. Being able to hear all the instruments playing in such carefully orchestrated music is bliss.
Hallucinogen (remixed) – L.S.D
This is the kind of song where bass impact is something that can make or break how well it sounds. With onboard sound the song is completely lacklustre. Bass notes (which form my favourite melodies in this track) are completely swamped by the mids and high range. Even when there’s little going on other than bass it sounds completely recessed. Switching to the STX reveals so much of what I was missing it’s just insane. Impact is really brought out too and it’s actually quite punchy for AD900s. That’d be the built-in amp at work, however little it adds compared to a full desktop setup ;)
Everything improves with the STX. Greater separation and clarity, broader soundstage, more impact on bass notes, greater dynamic range, and ofcourse the various Dolby Headphone options to bring out even more from the music. There is no way I could describe the AD900 as “bass lean” from the STX because it’s pretty much perfect for what I listen to. There’s impact yet it’s still so quick and clean that it doesn’t drown out any other part of the song.
Games and sound effects
I have to point out that I don’t play hardcore twitch FPS games where hearing footsteps or item pickups is the be-all-end-all of soundstage. And most of the time if I’m gaming I’ll also be listening to music. I do still hear footsteps reasonably well in what I do play, but I’m generally the one sneaking up on my opponents and not the other way around!
Most of what I notice from the STX with gaming and general computer use is an improvement in clarity and dynamics in sound effects. My messenger program start-up noise is really vibrant and clear now; clear to the point that I can hear a very slight distorted buzz at the end of it which was never there before. There’s better separation between all the sounds in games too, ambient explosions or lightning stream weaponry for example could overpower most of my sound previously but it’s all nicely balanced now. Positional sound is definitely quite well defined but as I mentioned it really isn’t important to be amazingly accurate for my gaming. I’d expect it would serve incredibly well for games such as Counter Strike or Quake but that’s just not my usual cup of tea so I can’t comment on that in depth for all you fps junkies out there
I couldn’t be happier with the sound card at least (maybe I’d be happier with MS Pros) and the AD900s are absolutely wonderful when paired with it. There’s not much more I could ask for with musical presentation because the 900s suit all my music tastes brilliantly, from metal to all the bizarre stuff like Out Hud. As far as being an upgrade over my old A900 + onboard sound, any decent soundcard would do but I can hear how the onboard amp brings my AD900s to life, and I find myself preferring the sound from the Dolby Headphone option over what I get from the setup at work! I’ve only got two issues with my setup now and both are quite minor: when swapping between my onboard card and the STX I have to reset my computer, and the AD900s initially made the cartilage in my ears ache (I’m used to the deeper cups on the A900s, my ears stick out, and I had/have a fresh helix cartilage piercing) but I’m used to that now. I’m lucky in that I can actually use my hair as extra padding ;)
All in all, colour me a very happy customer!
Auditioning/testing headphones · Feb 10
This entry came about after noticing a regular question that people seem to ask is “what music should I bring when testing audio equipment”.
Now I don’t know if I’m in the minority or something, but to me the answer is simple:
Music you know and enjoy. Anything else is a waste of time.
If you’re never going to be listening to Mariah Carey on your new headphones, why bring some in to test them with?
Grab 3-4 of your favourite CDs, that cover your general listening tastes. Don’t be shy now, you won’t be judged for your tastes, so it’s ok to grab that best of Kylie CD if it is your favourite.
Once you do get to testing some equipment I strongly recommend against doing quick A/B swaps. I see people here in store frantically trying to switch between two headphones as fast as they possibly can so they can “hear the difference”.
You shouldn’t be listening for “the difference” you should be listening for what you like. However, if you must hear “the difference” I’ve found it’s actually a lot easier to hear differences between two models once I know how one pair sounds. Swapping back and forth rapidly doesn’t give me any idea of how EITHER one sounds really, and can often build false impressions.
So instead of quick swapping, listen to at least one track (a whole CD is ideal, but not everyone has the time or patience for that) you know and like all the way through on one pair, then swap headphones, start the track again and listen to the track again.
Try to relax and ask yourself “am I enjoying this sound?”, don’t lean in and try to hear a difference.
It’s always better to listen to the whole track than just little bits. I understand that some people might want to “compare the bass” on two models, but you should be listening to the big picture, not just one aspect of it.
As a side note, judging headphones based on how they look is a really, really stupid thing to do. Stop doing it.
If you’re wearing the headphones in public I can understand people wanting something that suits “their style”, but if audio is at all important to you it really shouldn’t be a massive deciding factor, ESPECIALLY if they’re only going to be used at home, unless you spend all your time in front of the mirror preening yourself.
It’s generally worth noting that if you listen to headphones in store here, I (or whoever helps you out) will leave you alone to do your listening, it’s not because I hate you and don’t want to be near you, it’s because I like to let people come to their own conclusions and to not feel pressured, but if you have any questions, or you want to discuss your thoughts, feel free to start chatting away.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to be “an audiophile”, and you really don’t need to know what you’re listening “for”. As long as you like the way the headphones sound, or more specifically as long as you like the way your MUSIC sounds on said headphones, you’ve made the right choice.
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about amps, in fact there’s a lot of misunderstanding about audio in general, but I’ll concentrate on amps for now.
What does an amp do?
Well, the short answer is easy : it makes things louder. The problem is, that’s not all an amp will do. The better any audio equipment is, the less it does to the signal (other than increase volume) and conversely, the worse the equipment is the more it does to the signal (you’ll always see me say that your audio setup only ever sounds as good as the worst component).
The headphone jack that’s built into your portable player is basically designed to “do the job” – it will drive headphones, and in fact it will probably provide enough volume to almost any (except high end/inefficient/high impedance models) headphones, but the problem is that it will actually fiddle with the sound while doing so, resulting in less than optimal sound quality.
Some of what your average headphone jack does is reduce the dynamic range and add some distortion, which leads to things sounding less than ideal. A good headphone stage will provide nice clean power resulting in good volume and overall clarity, maintaining important things like dynamic range.
Now I’ll deviate off topic for a second to address another thing that a lot of people seem to think, or argue, and that’s “I can’t hear a difference”. Actually unless you have hearing damage it’s generally very easy to hear the difference between good and bad audio equipment. It gets more difficult when you’re comparing super high end stuff, but I’d be surprised at anyone who can’t hear the difference between stock ipod buds and something decent, and the same goes for headphones straight from a headphone out on an iPod vs a decent headphone amp.
Anyway, back on track.
If you’re going to buy decent headphones for your portable device, it’s well worth considering a portable headphone amp. Something like the Corda XXS is a fantastic place to start.
BUT WAIT! There’s no point adding an amp to an amp (the headphone out on portables has to have a small amp circuit so it can drive headphones), if you’re going to use a headphone amp you need to be running it from a lineout (if your source has one). If you’re an iPod user you’re probably in luck as you can just use a LOD adaptor such as the ZY Cable to bypass the headphone out on your ipod (iPod -> Zy Cable -> Portable amp -> Headphones -> Happy Ears).
The search for perfection is never over. Or as I once said (unintentionally), I’m working on being a perfectionist, but I’m not quite there yet.
The Sennheiser PC350 · Apr 8
Sennheiser PC350 Headset.
Well I finally got around to testing one of these out, and I was kind of vaguely looking forward to it.
Every now and then a product comes along that makes me stop and go “wow!”
Well, the PC350 did that for several reasons.
First, the packaging made me go “wow! they sure don’t want you getting to your headphones, do they?” Seriously, this has to be the most retardedly difficult packaging to get into ever. It’s even worse than plastic blister packs. There are even instructions on the box that tell you how to get into the box, but they’re not very helpful as I still had to struggle to get them out. Maybe I got a faulty box.
But I think Sennheiser have the right idea, because the packaging looks great. It’s as if they wanted you to stop and just admire the packaging, leave your headphones in there and put them on the shelf. Kind of like buying action figures to leave in the box and admire, not to take out and play with.
Which is fair enough too, because the second thing that made me go “wow!” was the sound quality.
Wow, it’s really bad for the price!
These basically have the sound characteristics of the HD515, with less soundstage than the HD215.
Bass is probably something gamers might like, it’s not very powerful, or prominent, or well defined, but it’s boomy. So basically in games explosions will give you plenty of one-note action.
Midrange is actually ok, so for a headset they’ve done a good thing here because voice comms should be fairly clear, if you can hear them over boomy explosions. But you know what, if you’re just using your headset for voice comms, and you don’t care a bout other aspects, you can get away with spending a lot less than these things cost.
Treble is dull and lacks definition or detail, so again I suppose for games and voice comms it means you could listen to them forever and not get listening fatigue, but that’s if you can manage to stay awake.
Soundstage is poor, which makes me wonder why gamers would want them in the first place. Positional audio in games relies on soundstage and definition of sound, the PC350 lacks both of these things.
I grabbed a pair of Alessandro MS-1 just to quickly compare and it was like a breath of fresh air. The MS-1 had much better soundstage (and that’s saying something), much better separation, clearer and more punchy bass, better midrange, better treble, in fact there’s not one thing that the PC350 did that the MS-1 didn’t do better, oh except isolate. The MS-1 is also a lot lighter and, to me, about 10x more comfortable than the PC350.
I thought that the PC350 would at least have decent soundstage seeing as it IS designed for gaming use, but alas.
The microphone on these isn’t very adjustable either, it sticks out quite a long way and the bendy bit in the middle isn’t very bendy. I know a lot of people want a headset that has a nice flexible mic, well you won’t get it here.
So what do I like?
Well… they offer good isolation from outside noise, and they seem pretty rugged overall, although being able to fold up introduces some more weak points.
The volume control and mic mute is always handy to have, but in my experience it’s the very first thing to fail on headsets that have such a feature.
The packaging looks cool, I guess they might make a good collectable, but they won’t be worth much in 10 years time, unlike your New In Box Star Wars figurines that I know you have shelves full of.
I realise that a lot of people are going to ask how this compares to the Beyer DT234pro, because they’re what I normally recommend, but instead of giving a straight answer, here are some pros and cons:
Pro DT234pro – lighter than the PC350
Con DT234pro – supra-aural instead of circumaural.
Overall – some might find the DT234pro to be more comfortable, others will prefer the PC350.
Pro DT234pro – more accurate bass response, better treble detail.
Con DT234pro – PC350 has heavier bass, which some people might like.
Overall – If you absolutely must have a bit more bass, the PC350 will probably be slightly more suitable.
Pro PC350 – better isolation than the DT234pro.
At a LAN, this will matter, otherwise it probably won’t.
Pro DT234pro – soundstage is slightly better than the PC350.
This is a no brainer really, there’s no counter point for the PC350.
Con DT234pro – not as durable as the PC350.
If you have a habit of mistreating your headphones, the PC350 will likely take a bit more of a beating.
Bottom line: the PC350 is not better than the DT234pro in enough ways to justify the price. If you want better sound than the DT234pro, you can get it easily by using a separate headphone and mic combo.
Pick your favourite pair of fullsize headphones and attach a mic to them and you’ll get better results. Remember: the DT234pro is just a DT231pro with a mic, so something like the AD700 with a $10 clipon mic is going to blow them away. Even if you’ve got something like the Sennheiser HD555 or 595, you’re going to have better sound than the PC350.
There is a great deal of variance in headphone styles, most major manufacturers have their own construction designs, but there is some crossover here and there where obviously “generic” structures have been used. Now I don’t mind this much when the design is good, but why is it that some manufacturers insist on extremely poor choices?
I’m looking at you, Beyerdynamic and Ultrasone. The entire full size range from Ultrasone uses the same headband design, which is shared by the Beyer DT440, 660 and 860 models. Someone, somewhere must have chosen this particular headband design, but I get the feeling they took about 5 minutes to do so.
Well, 2 reasons. First; it’s uncomfortable. The headband has a very small pad at the top, and the headband and combined ear cups together are quite heavy which means the entire weight of the headphone is distributed over a very small surface area at the top of the head, so after about 5 minutes it gets quite uncomfortable.
The second reason is build quality. Anyone who picks up a headphone that uses the headband design in question will be able to feel instantly that it’s not as solid as it looks. If you gently flex and twist the headband a little you can hear it creak under the strain, and I can honestly say that our initial sales of all headphones that use this headband were plagued by returns because the headband would crack and break, usually in multiple places, sometimes straight out of the box (fortunately it’s covered under warranty).
Apparently they’ve changed the material used in construction and this has been “fixed” but honestly, I’ve stopped promoting any headphones that use that particular headband design if I can avoid it, because I don’t want to have to deal with angry customers.
So why don’t the manufacturers do something about it? My guess is cost. They’ve probably bought a few thousand of these headbands and don’t want to dump them all in the bin (which is where they belong, in my opinion).
Well, it’s your loss, Beyer and Ultrasone, because I’d love to promote your products more heavily, but until you fix the comfort and durability issues I’m not going go. At least Beyer have plenty of models that do NOT use the crappy headband design and it’s limited to 3 of their products, but Ultrasone’s entire range uses it.
While I’m waving my arms in the air, AKG need to do something about the headband on the K701. It’s the only thing I don’t like about them, being a little too hard and not soft enough, so it leads to a sore head-top fairly rapidly. Fortunately there’s enough space there to stick a little extra foam, and it’s the only real thing worth complaining about as their build quality is fantastic otherwise (plus their sound quality alone lets me forgive the comfort issues I have).
Now I’ll return to Beyerdynamic again to say that their DTX700, 800 and 900 are truly fantastic sounding headphones for the price, but they have, yet again, cheap designs overall. The ear cups are too small, and the headphones themselves feel cheap and plasticy. Fortunately they are actually built a lot better than they feel, and we don’t get any returns, plus while the ear pads are a little too small, they’re still reasonably comfortable. But the thing is, it really wouldn’t take much to turn these “good” headphones into “great” headphones. A cheap feeling construction does not instil confidence in customers, and the ear pads are just an odd size. Why, Beyer, Why?
Finally, many people complain about cables breaking. The thing is, cables don’t break by themselves (except some of the Shure models, but apparently they’ve addressed that issue now), so something has to be causing your cables to break. It’s either you, your dog, or your chair. Look after the cable and it will last a lot longer ;)
Helpful Headphone Hints. · Sep 18
Adjusting your headphones for better comfort.
If you find your headphones are a little tight out of the box it is generally something that will get better over time.
If you want to accelerate the process, check the headband.
If it’s made out of metal (like the Alessandro or Grado range of headphones, some portables and some higher end models) you can simply flex the headband outwards so that the pads exert less pressure.
If the headband is made out of plastic, putting the headphones over something roughly the size of, or slightly larger than, your head when you aren’t using them will gently flex them out making them much more comfortable!
Oh no! There’s a buzzing in one side of my headphones!
Bees are a common problem…. no wait, HAIRS are a common problem with headphones. They gradually work their way through the foam or cloth cover or grille over the headphones and sit on the driver, causing it to buzz or vibrate, especially with lower notes. Often taking the earpads off and cleaning out any hairs with a pair of tweezers will fix this.
One thing you should NEVER do is use compressed air to try and blow the hairs out as it is very likely to damage the drivers.
Eww, my earpads are icky and horrible.
It’s time to clean them then. In the case of cloth or foam pads you can simply remove them and wash them, either by hand or in the wash with your socks. If they’re pleather or leather pads, a damp (not wet) cloth is fine for rubbing them.
Don’t ever use solvents or similar, you may damage the earpads, or worse – the headphone drivers.
If your earpads are beyond a wash, it’s probably time to replace them!
Why do my headphone cables keep failing?
Probably because you keep wrapping them around your ipod, or rolling over them in your chair.
The majority of headphones we receive back under warranty have something wrong with the cable, and in most cases it’s because people simply don’t look after it. If you look after the cable it will last a lot longer.
I’m using onboard sound from my PC and…
Please, do yourself a favour and upgrade your soundcard. There is absolutely no point having decent headphones, or speakers, if you’re using a poor quality source. However, don’t ask us for advice on soundcards, we’re headphone specialists, not soundcard specialists.
That’s my random set of tips and advice for today!
Is it uncool to have good hearing? · Jul 31
“If it’s too loud, you’re too old” and “wearing hearing protection makes you look like a dork” are statements that we come across often.
So how cool do you think you’re going to be wearing a hearing aid in your mid 30s?
If you enjoy music now, would you like to continue to enjoy it in 20 years time? 30? Longer?
Sunglasses are considered a fashion accessory, but they serve a purpose : to protect your eyes, why is hearing protection “uncool”?
Earplugs are almost mandatory these days for pubs, clubs, live venues and the likes.
This graph gives you an idea of safe levels of weekly exposure:
It’s pretty frightening when you consider after about 9 minutes of exposure to “blues bar” levels you’re suffering permanent hearing damage.
Let’s just emphasise that word: permanent. That’s right; that ringing in your ears that lasted 3 days? That’s your ears way of saying “hey, we’ve never going to work as well as we did before that gig you were at the other night”.
Ok, so you hate wearing earplugs because they muffle the sound and it’s just not the same and you can’t hear anything properly etc.
Well, that’s because you’re probably using the wrong earplugs.
Enter the Etymotic ER-20. The ER-20 is designed to reduce frequencies as evenly as possible without reducing overall sound quality or clarity. This means if you use them at a concert, you can still hear the band clearly, and in some cases MORE clearly than without the earplugs, but at a lower and safer volume level.
As for how much safer – that 9 minutes it was safe for becomes more than an hour.
We’ve tested these many times, and every single time the concert/pub/club etc is much more enjoyable with the ER-20 than it is without.
As for being “uncool” the ER-20 are low profile enough to hardly be noticed, to add to this when an attractive member of the opposite sex approaches you and offers to buy you a frosty beverage of your choice, you’ll actually be able to hear what they’re saying ;)
In 20 years time you’ll be listening to your favourite album thinking “I’m so glad I can still enjoy this album, thanks Headphonic!”.
Noise cancelling vs Noise Isolating · May 30
Did you know that Noise Isolating products work a lot better than Noise Cancelling products do?
For example: The Etymotic ER-6i offers up to 35dB of reduction of ambient noise levels, whereas the best Active models offer up to 20dB. Furthermore, noise Isolation blocks all kinds of sounds across a wide frequency range, whereas Active headphones only cancel out regular recurring background sound, like engine noise.
If you want even more isolation, the Etymotic ER-4P offers up to 41dB!
This means if you’re using a model like the ER-6i on an aicraft, you don’t hear the engine noise, or the person next to you snoring, or the person behind you talking, or the kid running up and down the aisle screaming. All you hear is your music.
On the other hand, with the Active models you don’t hear the aircraft noise, but you can often hear all the other noises going on (unless you crank your music up, which will probably damage your ears).
It gets better too!
Passive noise isolating products don’t require batteries to work and are low profile. There’s no on/off switch, they just cancel everything as soon as you stick them in your ears, and because they are low profile you can use them comfortably while resting your head on a pillow. Ideal for long flights, and when you’re done you can stick them in your shirt pocket.
On the other hand, with Active models you not only need batteries for the isolation technology to work, but in many cases you need batteries just to listen to your music. Also, because they’re bulky they can be uncomfortable to use while sleeping, and there’s no way they’re going to fit into your shirt pocket!
But wait, there’s more!
In terms of value for money, when you buy a pair of Noise Isolating canalphones you get exactly what you pay for. So a pair that costs $200 sounds as good as most $200 headphones, a $50 pair sounds as good as $50 headphones and a $500 pair sounds as good as $500 headphones. You’re not paying for any extra technology.
On the other hand, when you buy Active noise cancelling headphones you’re paying for the extra technology, so a ~$250 pair of Active noise cancelling headphones does NOT compare in sound quality to standard models, in fact you might find a certain $64 headphone sounds better than a certain $229 Active noise cancelling product.
“But I don’t like earbuds, they’re uncomfortable”
Canalphones are NOT earbuds. Earbuds use a hard plastic shell to stay in place, canalphones use soft tips, and they usually come in a range of shapes and styles. In some cases you get 9 different tips to try out, so you’re bound to find one that suits your ears, also different brand have different styles of tips, and as a final resort you can always get custom tips made up!
By the way, if you’ve used foam earplugs before you will have no trouble with canalphones.
So why are Active models so popular?
Because they’re easy to demo. When you head down to your local Buy Other Sound Equipment store to test out their Active product, they often have a “jet engine noise” simulator, with the flick of a switch on the headphones the engine noise disappears and your friendly sales guide says “works well, doesn’t it” to which you reply “yes it does!”.
But wait a second…. you heard him clearly through these “noise cancelling headphones”? Interesting!
If you were to demo canalphones, you wouldn’t hear the sales rep, or the engine noise. In fact if you play some music softly through your average noise isolating canalphones, you’re not going to hear a phone ring right next to you, or someone yelling to try and get your attention.
The next time you’re going on a long flight, it’s well worth considering some canalphones ;)
Posted in: at May 30
Open vs Closed headphones · Mar 26
One of the most common questions we get asked is: “What is the difference between open and closed headphones?”.
It’s pretty easy to answer really, but there are some catches.
Simply put; open headphones sound better, but closed headphones offer isolation.
By isolation I mean in terms of both sound leaking out from the headphones, and sound leaking in.
Unless you need isolation you should consider open models. You can get closed headphones that sound as good as open models, but generally the closed model will cost more.
That’s not to say that all open headphones are better than all closed models either, there are duds in both teams, as well as some models that break the mould.
Open headphones sound more ‘natural’ than closed models. Generally an open model will have much better soundstage (the ‘width and depth’ of sound), more natural bass (tighter and faster) and better separation (how well individual sounds/instruments/details are defined).
Closed headphones on the other hand tend to have a more ‘boxed in’ sound to them (where it sounds like the music is coming from inside your head) and boomier, more resonant (slower) sounding bass. Often this leads to closed headphones sounding bassier, but if you listen closely it’s normally just because the bass is stopping and starting slower, and less accurately, than it would on an open model. This is why using the term “better” can be very subjective. You might consider slow, boomy overpowering bass to be “better” than well defined and clear bass ;)
On the topic of isolation and leakage; this will depend on volume levels. Generally if you’re listening to open headphones at moderate volume levels people in the same room as you will be able to hear at least some of what you’re listening to. If you have your music loud, they’ll clearly be able to hear what you’re listening to. If people are going to be disturbed by this, you might want to consider closed.
Also, if the ambient volume levels around you are low, you shouldn’t be that disturbed by them with open headphones, however if you’re in a noisy environment (public transport, aircraft etc) then closed headphones may be a better choice as you might have to turn open headphones up to drown out background noise, and that’s potentially damaging to your ears.
For travel we recommend canalphones, as they offer the most isolation (and excellent portability) but that’s a subject for another day!
New website launched! · Mar 19
We decided it was time to refresh our website a little.
You should notice some fairly big changes, mainly to the products page. They include a much better way of sorting through the different categories of products we stock :)
There’s still a little cleaning up to do here and there as we’ve got some new stuff to play with at the back end of the site, but if you have any questions or comments regarding the new design please let us know!
Headphonic was established in 2002 and is responsible for bringing brands like Etymotic, Alessandro, Talisman and Meier Audio to the Australian market. Not only do we have the largest range of headphones and related accessories in Australia, we are TRUE experts and know just about all the products we sell inside out!
This blog is a means of bringing you latest reviews, rants and thoughts about the headphone world.
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