B&K 5128 Target - Community Input Thread

As many of you may know, we’ve recently moved to the new B&K 5128 headphone measurement system. There are a number of reasons for this, which can be found in this video here, along with this FAQ here. Here’s an additional overview video:

Reference Curve Testing by the Community

This thread is a compilation of headphone measurements and EQ profiles for users to try out on the headphones they have with the purpose of providing feedback for how our reference target is perceived. We will eventually go through the results and combine them with our own internal testing to see what we do moving forward.

Our new reference curve has a strong theoretical foundation but we still need to test it on a wide range of users. While doing so in a forum setting like this lacks any and all controls required too make this even remotely scientific, we want to get feedback and input from users to indicate where we need to test further to see if additional adjustments should be made. Think of this more like a rough estimate for which direction to go rather than a clear indication.

For instructions on how to set up basic EQ, check out this video here.

For this particular test, make sure that you have pre-gain set to 0, and reduce digital volume on your player accordingly:

set to zeroo

Reduce this in your player or other digital volume:


The Setup

Each EQ profile also includes an adjustment filter a 3khz where you can increase or decrease the energy for ear gain level.

While we have comprehensive research on what people prefer for the distance between bass and treble and the overall ‘slope’ (Harman), this research is based on a two point preference adjustment, one for bass below 100hz and one for treble above 2.5khz. It does not specifically identify what people prefer at the strongest part of the ear gain at 3khz.

With that said, in the more recent version of the Harman research there is a built-in adjustment around 3khz, suggesting that this is a key element to listener preference worth investigating. Additionally, our recent interview with Dr. Sean Olive confirmed that this adjustment was made based on listener feedback.

Previous preference research does exist for this region (Gaetan Lorho target), which used just a single filter but didn’t include additional bass to treble adjustments. And, while this target isn’t commonly used, it’s yet another reason for looking into what people prefer for this region.

So, right now, we have a slope that’s a straight line that ‘tilts’ 8dB from bass to treble. BUT, what we don’t have is data on how people perceive this in practice, and whether or not it makes sense to have a variable slope to accommodate how people hear the strongest part of the ear gain at 3khz.

Here are some examples of research done on what kinds of slopes people prefer, you can see that for the most part the bass to treble delta is similar, however these slopes are also variable to some degree, with Harman being the strongest outlier when it comes to listener preference (perhaps due to anchoring bass adjustments to the subwoofer crossover).

The EQ profiles below are meant to get the headphones in question reasonably close to a straight slope reference curve. What we’re looking for is feedback on this slope, and IF you find the 3khz region in need of adjustment for your preferences, please indicate the level of adjustment you did in dB. If you prefer it without any adjustment, just indicate 0.

Feedback Template

Copy and paste the following template to provide feedback using my example here:

  • Listener age: 35
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD 600
  • Source: Zahl HM-1
  • Pad age: New
  • Score before 3khz adjustment (1 is low, 5 is high): 4
  • 3khz Filter: -3dB
  • Score after 3khz adjustment: 5
  • Notes: This sounds close to an even tonal balance across bass mids and treble with natural timbre reproduction for instruments and vocal tones. [If it sounds to warm, bright, strident, harsh, glaring, shrill etc. indicate that here, along with how it sounds before and after any 3khz adjustment]

EQ Profiles
Note that these aren’t perfect, and there is bound to be some variation depending on the unit, pad wear, or headphone coupling differences and related effects. If any of these profiles make things sound very wrong beyond merely preference adjustment, please indicate that as well.

ONE KEY THING! Despite the fact that after EQ the measured frequency response result will be similar for each of these headphones, that does not mean they will sound the same. It also does not mean that you’re necessarily hearing ‘the target’ - again because of variation across different heads, pads, units, etc. So if you have multiple headphones listed here, please try these out with each of them - that’s the best feedback we can get.

I’ll be adding more to this list as I create them, and for those wanting additional ways to read these filters, along with closer matched results, I’ll be putting those up soon as well.

HiFiMAN HE400se

EQ Profile

After EQ

HiFiMAN Sundara

EQ Profile
image (9)

After EQ

HiFiMAN Edition XS

EQ Profile
image (10)

After EQ

HiFiMAN HE-6 (with Sundara 2020 pads)

EQ Profile

After EQ

Sennheiser HD 560 S

EQ Profile

After EQ (this unit had a slight channel imbalance so I averaged the channels for this)

Sennheiser HD 600

EQ Profile

image (8)

After EQ

Sennheiser HD 800 S

EQ Profile:
image (7)

After EQ:

Audeze LCD-X 2021

EQ Profile

After EQ

Sennheiser HD 650 / HD 6XX

One thing to note with this model is that depending on the positioning, there are bound to be two common and… related results. Basically one of them has a more prominent 5-6khz peak, while the other one has stronger upper treble. So I’ve made EQ profiles for both positions. If one doesn’t work for you, it might be worth trying the other one. So please indicate which is which in your feedback.

HD 650 frequency response in position A (more upper treble)

EQ Profile A

After EQ A

HD 650 frequency response in position B (5-6khz peak)

EQ Profile B

After EQ B

Adding Meze Audio Elite with leather pads:

Meze Elite

EQ Profile

You’ll have to add those additional filters at the end there - I ran out of room.

After EQ

If you don’t see your headphones listed, please indicate which model you’d like to try and if we get enough requests we can make profiles for them - just keep in mind that we’re trying to keep it to accessible models for the moment before making them for the ultra high end stuff.



How about a profile for the HiFiMan Ananda OG. I have it and I bet quite a few readers have it, too.

Another one I have is the Focal Elegia, which Oratory1990 notoriously branded “an objectively bad” headphone.

Cheers :beers:

1 Like

Question for @Resolve: are you asking that we leave Pre Amplifying in Peace at 0 and to lower the digital volume instead because it allows us to easily toggle the EQ on and off to compare to stock while avoiding clipping? I typically create a “stock” preset but with the same lowered Pre Amplifying gain number as my EQ preset and then toggle between those to compare, leaving the digital volume at 100. So, essentially I toggle between the full EQ preset and the preset that only has the Pre Amplifying gain lowered as to mimic comparing “stock” to “EQ’d,” but with the gain lowered as to avoid clipping. Just curious to know if there’s an advantage to one over the other.


1 Like

Yup. It’s just to prevent volume based preference for default tunings. You can’t completely eliminate this because sometimes peak SPL does change. But it’s better than leaving pregain on.


Still seems to be missing the often promised Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 and while you have a number of Sennheiser, could you add the HD-650/6xx that so many of us have available?

  • Listener age: 28
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD 560S
  • Source: MacBook Pro Headphone Output
  • Pad age: Slightly worn, nowhere near pancaked
  • Score before 3khz adjustment (1 is low, 5 is high): 3
  • Notes: A little too CCW-tilted, eg. slightly bass deficient, quite low-midrange deficient (my biggest complaint here), upper treble emphasized. The emphasis on the 3kHz region makes drums sound like the compression settings used in mixing had too little attack; emphasizing “snap” over “weight”. Great for vocal intelligibility, not as great for subjective vocal naturalness. Electric guitars sound overall excellent without the 3kHz adjustment, though acoustic guitars are a little dinky, lacking in size. Before 3kHz adjustment, the spectral balance is mostly unproblematic and “collected” sounding, but just not warm enough. Bass is unengaging, treble is a little lispy, mids are slightly thinned.
  • 3khz Filter: -1.8dB, Q: 1.8
  • Score after 3khz adjustment: 3.5
  • Notes: After 3kHz adjustment, transients/drums overall sound more well-rounded and even between weight and snap. Vocals sound less pointy and urgent, more realistic. Unfortunately doesn’t fix the bass deficit, doesn’t fix the excess upper treble. Marginally helps low-midrange to upper-midrange balance, but IMO still needs more low midrange elevation over the center midrange in particular. Snare fundamentals still sound thin, kicks lack size, bass lacks note weight and primary harmonics/sounds hollow.

If it were me, I’d rather not even use a 3kHz filter and just tilt the whole response more overall.

  • Listener age: 25

  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD560s

  • Source: XMG Fusion 15 hp output.

  • Pad age: Few months old, in good condition.

  • Score before 3khz adjustment (1 is low, 5 is high): 2.5

  • 3khz Filter: -1dB

  • Score after 3khz adjustment: 2.5

  • Notes: In general, everything sounds too thin. It is not that it is bad, it’s just that it isn’t an improvement of the headphone’s tuning, and with this profile, I’d rather listen to the headphone just without EQ. While there is some nice presence, a lot of weight is lost. Tuned drum machine snairs lose their heft. In high-frequency percussion based music, the ear gain region is quite hot while higher up regions feel left behind. To put this into perspective: EQ-ing to Harman AE/OE 2018 results in less reduced upper treble, and thus in my opinion, a more balanced treble. :smiley: (I did a volume-matched comparison.)

    My experience of the B&K target might be that it emphasizes the midrange too much?? Bass is there, but I don’t feel it as much as I want to. Once again, Harman 2018 does it better in my opinion - I not only feel the subbass kicking me like it should be, listening to footwork, but it’s balanced better towards upper bass/lower treble, something that also is apparent with male vocals. With the B&K target, male vocals feel dull, as if Caramelo in “Transfermarkt” woke up in a slightly bad mood :frowning: (and Skee Mask having to deal with a grumpy rapper), something that obviously doesn’t get better with reducing the ear gain. Reducing 3k makes certain tracks less fatiguing (good!) while other tracks loose detail and shine (not good!) - shoegaze is especially affected by this.

    All in all, the target is not bad, but I prefer Harman AE/OE 2018 10 times out of 10.


One thing about the HD 560 S, I think you could give it a bit more bass energy, as it’s slightly shy of the target there. Our unit unfortunately had a channel imbalance so I had to base it on the average and be a bit more conservative overall. I may try and get a different one in for that.

Seems like you’d prefer a shelf option rather than the slope. That’s good feedback!

1 Like

Indeed! I prefer the shelf :smiley:

Good to know! May be good to get one with better channel balance yeah. Also, not sure if you’ve seen Crin’s two samples of HD560S but the low-end/midrange tilt seems to be quite variable unit-to-unit.

Points for Crin’s approach :smiley: I could very well see shelf + downward slope @ 250Hz being a good idea.

You’re just stumping for 24dB target :wink:



Jokes aside, my preferred tilt is a 1.2dB total delta between bass and treble

Fixed it for you.

I couldn’t help it! :crazy_face:



I am being bullied for my preferences :sob::sob::sob:


Lol. We do it because we like you my friend. Haha


You and @taronlissimore have similar preferences I imagine. Nothing ever has enough bass for him. Maybe we can do a Taron Target version :wink:


I’m more aligned with the “Taron Target” too LOL.

Given that people have different preferences, do you think that a single target even makes sense? Or do you think that you can go from one to another with a simple adjustment, e.g. add a bass shelf to get to the “Taron Target”?

So… a single reference point or ‘target’ does make sense, because it denotes a reference response on a given measurement system. With that said, it should not be a single curve or line for it like is commonly shown (including ours for now). Regardless of what we go with for the slope, there will need to be boundaries, or like… a preference ‘window’ around the target, because we know how much variation there is in preference - especially for bass.

  • Listener age: 29…okay fine, 42

  • Headphones: Audeze LCD-X 2021

  • Source: RebelAmp

  • Pad age: About a year old - they are the leather pads and are in really good shape

  • Score before 3khz adjustment (1 is low, 5 is high): 2.75

  • Notes: The upper bass and lower midrange is lacking warmth and weight, especially with male vocals; more would bring things into balance. The upper midrange comes across a bit shouty, but the lower treble region is much improved, lifting the slightly muffled and dull “veil” of the stock tuning. However, the mid treble has too much ting, tizz and sss, being quite accentuated, even hot at times. The cymbals on Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” and Joe Satriani’s “Rubina” have far too much presence and became distracting. The air region sounds more controlled, though.

  • 3khz Filter: -1.5 dB

  • Score after 3khz adjustment: 3

  • Notes: After the 3KHz reduction, vocals sound more balanced and guitars have less sheen and aggressiveness, with the tradeoff being the mid treble issues being further exacerbated. It’s an improvement, albeit a slight one. Removing the EQ filter at 10500Hz dramatically improves the mid treble, at which point I’d raise the score to a 3.5 out of 5.

    My preference would be no upper bass and lower midrange “tuck,” a larger bass slope below
    200Hz and a more aggressive downward slope/tilt, perhaps 10dB instead of 8.