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Head-Fi vs HiFi

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WigglyWoo View Drop Down
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    Posted: 10 Nov 2019 at 8:39pm
Am curious what everyone thinks regarding the relative merits of head-fi vs hi-fi... 

My first memorable experience of music reproduction was hearing the very first Sony Walkman at the tender age of 7 - the experience of hearing stereo sound in my head has stayed with me ever since ... In the following years most of my disposable income (from paper rounds and Saturday jobs) went on various music systems until my first proper HiFi comprising an Audiolab 8000A, Monitor Audio speakers and Sony CD player, soon to be enhanced with Arcam's Black Box (one of the world's first outboard DACs... and yes my parents thought I was nuts spending £250 on a DAC!).

Inevitably I grew up, got married and started a family after which the HiFi was packed away in the loft away from prying fingers and I went back to listening to music via headphones... this was the path that led me to Graham Slee - I can't remember when exactly I upgraded from my Rega Ear to the GSP Solo but it was a long long time ago... but what a great headphone amp - so transparent and musical.  In the intervening years I've upgraded my Solo to ULDE spec and worked my way up the Grado ladder to my current GS1000.  

Once the kids were old enough not to poke holes in my speaker cones or use the TT as a trampoline I started cautiously bringing the Hifi down from the loft and back into the living room... but I found it a frustrating experience and here's why - room effects.  Listening to music on headphones certainly has its disadvantages (and no doubt detractors) but it protects you from the phasing anomalies introduced by listening in a boxy room... I've played around with audio software (Fuzzmeasure) to measure and try and compensate for reflections and room modes as well as optimising the room listening position but it still leaves me unsatisfied, and as a result I'm still predominantly listening to music via headphones.

Am I alone?  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Graham Slee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2019 at 9:56pm
Originally posted by WigglyWoo WigglyWoo wrote:



Am I alone?  


No, not alone. Somewhere on the forum are my misadventures with room mode problems. I'd started out lucky room-wise, but my expensive workshop extension/listening room began a series of nightmares, and lost me a year's progress.
Not simple enough for Google-Bot to understand...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote miT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2019 at 9:56pm
Like you I discovered Graham Slee due to my Head-Fi requirements but after maturing in my system choices, I now find headphones slightly odd sounding. Music should be projected from a soundstage in front of you but headphones do not do this; music simply gets to your ears which my mind of late struggles to comprehend.

Interestingly there has been studies by Harmon to establish the preferred audio signature for headphones and speakers in a room appear to be preferred as the SQ adapts as it interacts with frequencies in the room. I will try to find the link.

Sadly like you, I now have prying fingers on the lose so my speaker usage has been decommissioned until a later date. However my main usage is while commuting so headphones can't be beaten for that.

I must add that the hassles of getting your room to sound right are a major negative but if achieved, I do think it is a better experience. How to acheive it without a purpose built room though?


Edited by miT - 10 Nov 2019 at 9:58pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ash Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2019 at 10:04pm
I have never been satisfied with speakers because they only sound as good as the room they are in. Then you need more than one driver per channel to get a full frequency response; single drivers won't reach into the lowest bass and once you start putting drivers in extensive enclosures, it messes everything up. I am now looking to DSP to give headphones convincing spatial information.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aussie Mick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2019 at 6:13am
Hi David,
  I think many of us have been frustrated by this question. Without a dedicated room and the money to get it treated, speaker based systems will always have troubles. Equally, headphone systems are compromised for other reasons. The only way I found out of the mess was to choose to define myself and my systems by what they do well.

I love my PMC setup for the soundstage it gives me, the vibrant colours and wonderfully articulate performances. I really enjoy my headphone set up for a more intimate and private listening session. 

I think it came down to finally realising I wanted to listen to music. Music is really great. I loved it as an eight year old when all I had was a Palsonic twin cassette deck, proof enough that I didn’t need the greatest of Hi-Fi or room to love music!
Mick.
Rega RP8 - Apheta 2 - Accession MC Enigma PS -Solo ULDE (Focal Utopia) - Proprius - PMC Twenty5.22
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote WigglyWoo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2019 at 8:20am
Originally posted by miT miT wrote:

Like you I discovered Graham Slee due to my Head-Fi requirements but after maturing in my system choices, I now find headphones slightly odd sounding. Music should be projected from a soundstage in front of you but headphones do not do this; music simply gets to your ears which my mind of late struggles to comprehend.

Interestingly there has been studies by Harmon to establish the preferred audio signature for headphones and speakers in a room appear to be preferred as the SQ adapts as it interacts with frequencies in the room. I will try to find the link.

Sadly like you, I now have prying fingers on the lose so my speaker usage has been decommissioned until a later date. However my main usage is while commuting so headphones can't be beaten for that.

I must add that the hassles of getting your room to sound right are a major negative but if achieved, I do think it is a better experience. How to acheive it without a purpose built room though?

Yes it's interesting and subjective of course; dCS have taken the approach of using DSP (as mentioned by Ash) to push the soundstage slightly out in front of the headphone listener (it might even be configurable - I can't remember) which would then give an SQ closer to the loudspeaker setup...

I've also played around a little with binaural recordings (listening on headphones) which was interesting but inconclusive IMHO...

As you say, they both have their merits - perhaps once the kids have flown the coop and I can reclaim the living room and have more time on my hands I'll start exploring room conditioning...



Edited by WigglyWoo - 11 Nov 2019 at 8:21am
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WigglyWoo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote WigglyWoo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2019 at 8:26am
Originally posted by Aussie Mick Aussie Mick wrote:

Hi David,

I love my PMC setup for the soundstage it gives me, the vibrant colours and wonderfully articulate performances. I really enjoy my headphone set up for a more intimate and private listening session. 

I think it came down to finally realising I wanted to listen to music. Music is really great. I loved it as an eight year old when all I had was a Palsonic twin cassette deck, proof enough that I didn’t need the greatest of Hi-Fi or room to love music!
Mick.

I totally agree - at the end of the day it's all about the music and sometimes it's nice to sit on the sofa and crank up the volume and other times to retreat to my study with my headphones for some private time away from the family melee :-)

I've got another question on how people discover new music but I'll post it in the music forum...
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