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Thread: "Serious" use of headphones

  1. #1
    [WBF Founding Member]
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    Apr 2010
    San Francisco - East Bay

    "Serious" use of headphones

    By serious, I mean use in your home system as a reasonable alternative to great speakers. I have a one-hour commute, and use Etymotic ER-4Ps with a portable amp on my ride. My commute has reduced my time at home and the Eytmotics, to a certain extent, have taken listening time away from my home system.

    Do you use headphones / earphones at home as part of your main system? What do you use for amplification?

  2. #2
    Site Founder And Administrator Steve Williams's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Coto De Caza, California on the 13th fairway of the south golf course
    Hi Jay

    I pesonally don't use headphones (even though I have heard some remarkable ones over the years) because of my underlying concern with long standing use and the risk of loss of hearing. Just my $0.02
    Steve Williams
    aka oneobgyn
    There's ALWAYS another Steve Williams BUT there's only "oneobgyn"
    International Distributor of Center Stage Feet and owner of PitchPerfect Sound (
    Dealer Lamm Electronics
    My System

  3. #3
    [WBF Founding Member]
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    San Francisco - East Bay
    Steve, I acknowledge that risk. But there are some situations where there might be a hearing benefit. My BART train ride is really loud (at least to me, others don't seem to care) and if I didn't use isolating in-ear monitors I would have to use ear plugs!

  4. #4
    [WBF Founding Member] audioguy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Near Atlanta, GA but not too near!
    I have several pairs of headphones, the most recent acquisition being the Sennheiser HD600. Great headphone. My ONLY use for headphone is to be able to hear what the room is doing to the sound and make adjustments accordingly in room treatment. This was particularly helpful when I was doing digital room correction installations.

    I mainly use my Benchmark DAC's headphone outputs but also have another headphone amp by HeadRoom.

    I also have a set of noise cancellation headphones I use when exercising or doing airline travel! (No. Not the Bose)
    "Iíve read the last page of the Bible, itís all going to turn out all right." Billy Graham

    My System

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Seattle, WA
    I am almost embarrassed to list all the headphone gear I have. This is from memory (really, the list is that long that I can't remember it all!):

    1. 3 versions of Stax Headphones ("earspeakers"). One transistor, two tube with one having differential circuits and the other not.
    2. Sennheiser (I think HD580) headphones.
    3. Various in-ear from Shure to Eytmotics.

    The Stax units are a revelation. They are not only accurate but so open and nice sounding it is hard to explain. Other than the headphone effect (sound being in the middle of your head rather than outside), I have not heard a room which matches it.

    I work in my den until late hours which is next to our master bedroom where my wife is often sleeping. Headphones then allow me to enjoy music without disturbing others. And of course on the airplane there is no better substitute than an in-ear unit that blocks outside noise.

    For professional work of analyzing audio distortion (e.g. audio compression), speakers are almost never used. Headphones rule and hence the reason I started collecting them. The level of detail you can detect simply cannot be matched with speakers.

    As to losing your hearing, there is definite danger there. Then again, once you do damage them, then you can use the headphones, play them loud to compensate .

  6. #6
    Addicted to Best! cjfrbw's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
    Pleasanton, CA
    I just acquired my first set of hi end phones, Ultrasound Edition 8. I have several headphone amps already for other purposes. I wanted something that I could use when I didn't want to fire up the main system, and something for low level listening while reading. Also, my wife and I have considered getting a small place in Santa Cruz for the weekends, where I couldn't fire up a big rig anyway but would be restricted to low level listening or headphones.
    I really like the Ultrasone Ediition 8's, I have no idea how they compare to other hi end phones. They are much better than my battered and broken Sennheiser 580s. The Ultrasones manage to make MP3 listening an acceptable audiophile experience, especially with a good headphone amp like the Manley Neo 300b, but manage to sound wonderful out of an ordinary ipod or my sony electronic reader.
    I tend naturally to listen to headphones at moderate levels, so I don't think ear damage is a factor, and they are so detailed that the detail tends to compensate somewhat for volume.

  7. #7
    Member Sponsor [WBF Founding Member] Johnny Vinyl's Avatar
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    May 2010
    Calgary, AB
    A friend of mine sent me this link to an audiophile cd mixed for headphones by Ultrasone. It is perfectly legal to download. Enter the code and press download. A new screeen will pop'll see a countdown screen and have to wait until that is done (30 seconds I think). Then choose free download.


  8. #8
    Hi All,

    I use SENNHEISER HD555 and use them mostly for recording. I think at play back we all use our "faourite" amplifier. Recording is a touch more sensitive, you want to hear it but you want silence in the backround if you know what I mean. This do it well for me and I can connect direct in my reel to reels or amplifier. It is confortable and sounds great!

  9. #9
    Steve, the risk of hearing damage is a function of volume at the ear drum, not the proximity of the driver to the eardrum. You can do every bit as much damage with a speaker system if you try hard enough. With a little caution, you should be able to enjoy headphone listening without damaging your hearing.

    I own headphones from Sennheiser, Etymotics and Audio Technica. I've been through numerous amps. The Etys and ATs don't need them. The Senns benefit noticeably from the additional current and headroom, but amplifying headphones, even very difficult ones, is not a big amplification challenge and I've found that the law of diminishing returns is very, very steep in headphone amplification. Amir is right: In terms of resolution of detail, speakers don't compete with reference quality headphones. Even great near field monitors in a treated room will not be as revealing. Of course headphones don't compete with speakers in creating a stage-like image, and cannot deliver the visceral dynamics that can only come from moving large amounts of air. A trade-off of compromises, but headphone listening is a great, affordable, audiophile experience that many more should try. You can put together a headphone system that, in terms of detail resolution, will smoke the most esoteric speaker systems, even in a great room, for a fraction of what many audiophiles spend on cables.

    In high-end audio, you can't even fight an opinion with the facts.

  10. #10
    Computer Audio [Technical Expert]
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by Phelonious Ponk View Post
    Of course headphones don't compete with speakers in creating a stage-like image
    A good cross feed might help.
    At least it reduces the STEREO effect inherent to headphone listening.

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