The Objective, Subjective & Dejected Thread

Nice work @Resolve!

I think the only thing I would add is that if you are using EQ settings like oratory1990’s to tune your headphones to the Harman Target correctly, you should be setting the 105hz low pass filter to the level that you personally prefer. I think many audiophiles try oratory1990 EQ and think it sounds too bass heavy and give up on the entire concept. However he put that filter there as a low pass specifically so that you can adjust it without disrupting the correction aspect of the rest of the EQ.

If I understand oratory1990, setting this level is crucial not only because different people have different bass level preferences, but also because our perception of what is neutral varies in this region quite a bit - probably due to variation in the ear canal shape and ear drum acoustic impedance.

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Yup, that’s a really good point. I think in many ways the question of whether or not Harman is appropriate is characterized by what’s going on below 400hz. I don’t think there’s much contention about the rest haha.

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You know what, I have my Ollo S4X review just about finished, and you definitely covered a lot in the FR video on its own. I will watch the new video right now, but you have backed up everything you said and explained it well.

It seems like it is quite a complex subject. However, you did say that our ear anatomy may be different and individual, but at the end of the day it similarly impacts sound (you mentioned the pinna gain) - meaning that even though our pinna is individual, it similarly alters sound. This basically further strengthens what @AudioTool told me:

This will definitely leave me to question some of the things that I have already written, and I am sure I will get a better perspective after watching your newest video @Resolve

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Right so it’s not that we necessarily have the same experience as other people (due to differing expectations), but rather that our differing individual ear gain is normalized, so that what we actually hear should be similar if not the same as what other people do.

This happens with speakers too by the way:

(1) Flat speakers measured in an anechoic chamber = (2) A downtilted FR measured in a good listening room = (3) Something like Harman’s initial in-room target at the ear drum reference point.

The fact that (3) will look different depending on the individual person’s ear gain doesn’t mean they hear the (1) and (2) differently from other people.

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Exactly. But loudspeakers are a bit different than headphones, because headphones get affected by our ears, whereas loudspeakers can get altered with the room itself, and then we also have our whole body that can be interfering with the sound. If anything, headphones should have less variables that are affecting sound.

With more research hopefully we will make more conclusions and findings, so we still have a lot of work to do

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Yeah that’s right, all the additional factors play a role with speakers, and those can also vary depending on the person - but again it’s all normalized because we’ve each been living our whole lives with whatever gain factors we normally hear the world with.

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So very true, but what is common to both speakers and headphones is how as individuals we still all hear sounds somewhat differently, and age also comes into play. I’m 68 now and its not getting any easier for high freq’s.

Yeah, as I understand it, Harman’s research found significant variability in preferences regarding bass level. Perhaps AKG will come out with headphones that include adjustable bass like Beyerdynamic’s Custom One series.

One factor worth remembering is equal loudness contours. Folks who listen at lower levels will probably prefer more bass to make up for the perceptual loss at those levels. I wonder if audiophiles tend to listen louder than typical consumers and how much that accounts for their generally lower bass preferences.

Also, typical consumers may also tend to listen in louder environments where extra bass helps cut through the background noise.

I have no data on either of these hypotheses, but including environmental and listening level factors in future listener preference studies seems fruitful.

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Yeah these factors are influential, and as has been talked about in this thread earlier, other factors like coupling and seal, or how it’s worn positionally will have an impact as well.

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Only a few dB actually. I think it may have been more significant with IEMs, but there was also a general preference for something like a 6dB shelf.

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So, I published my Ollo Audio S4X review on Head-Fi.
If anybody is interested in the long review, you can read it here:

I’d love to publish it here as well, perhaps somebody has comments, but I did not find a dedicated thread for it. If @Resolve or somebody else from the core team would be okay with me publishing it here, I’d be happy to share it. As always, I have received no payment or financial benefit from Ollo Audio.

If you read it, you will see that I understood @NickZ’s original point that there would be no point in having a flat headphone on its own (a headphone that measures flat on a measurement mic). I understood that I was indeed wrong about many of my assumptions, and it definitely took me some time. @Resolve’s videos cleared up some stuff, and made me understand ear resonances much better (like pinna gain). This was crucial in my findings and I gave the well deserved thanks in my review.

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You can share your opinions here as well.

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I think it would kind of trash the thread if I posted the full review under here - it’s quite long…

You can just make a new thread for that headphone if you like.

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I am still waiting for a few answers from Ollo Audio directly. Currently, to me it seems like they accomplished a headphone that would measure very close to flat at your eardrum (they did this by using ear simulators and mimicking how the ear would change sound). I believe they made two large dips due to the (assumption) that not all frequencies appear equal to the human ear (higher frequencies stick out more). The two dips seem to be strategically made:

  1. at ~3kHz - which is where the ear canal and the eardrum boost 3kHz frequencies
  2. at ~7.5kHz - which is where the pinna and concha slightly boost 7.5 kHz frequencies

This makes a lot of sense to me and would explain Ollo Audio’s approach. I personally believe they were successful (based on my research), but we have yet to hear from more people. The lower frequencies are elevated, but I believe less so than in the Harman Target curves

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The Duke Ellington line reminds me of an old review from a classical music critic - “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds…”

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In turn, that reminds me of certain scathing “inside” jokes musicians tell about their instruments (and each other). Example:

Q. What’s the main difference between a violin and a viola?

A. The viola burns longer.

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And drummers are a particular object of humor in many of these jokes - everybody has a good time with it!

Yeah this requires some background regarding how I view that stuff. Now… this is just my perspective on the matter, but I really think SINAD has the potential to be particularly misleading.

What you see on SINAD is just an index for one parameter that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sound quality past a certain point. In short, it’s useful to indicate if something is a flawed design, but beyond that it’s kind of meaningless since incremental gains are way beyond the audible threshold anyway.

Now to be clear, I’m not saying the data isn’t useful, but rather the representation of it in that index will often get taken the wrong way, and people are bound to make purchase decisions off of completely meaningless information. In my view, there are all kinds of additional things that contribute to ‘good sound’ than just this score, and I think this is also quite obvious when you have the opportunity to test the well-scoring equipment against the less well-scoring stuff.

For example, looking at an extreme example, a Magni 3 Heresy might do better on that index than something like a Bakoon Amp-13R (I can’t confirm this, but just imagine it’s the case), but when you listen to them side by side and volume matched with a high performance planar like the Susvara (I did do this test, and it did get loud enough on the heresy), it’s a night and day difference. You’d also reliably get this conclusion in a blind test. Similarly, the Rebel amp sounds noticeably better than the A90 to me (again, volume matched), even though the A90 measures incredibly well.

So, there’s way more to the story of what contributes to good sound than just scoring well on SINAD, and in my experience you can end up with some truly bad sounding setups if that’s all you go by. It’s no secret that I’m really not a fan of the A90, even though it measures well. To me it sounds sterile and mushy - and I know I’m not alone in that opinion.

To put it another way, in my view, scoring highly on SINAD is like saying “headphone A is better than headphone B because A goes to 50khz and B only goes to 30khz”. Human hearing at best only goes up to 20khz… and even then most people cap out considerably below that. Moreover, the more salient question about sound quality is less about how high up a transducer can produce sound, but rather the sound pressure level for various frequencies along the way. Another analogy would be like when gaming mice would all be marketed as having 8000+ DPI… when nobody playing competitively/professionally would be using anything above 1200 (there may be some exceptions here but you get the point).

TL:DR - as long as it’s not a broken or borked design, which would be quite obvious, you don’t have to pay much attention to SINAD.

Now with the question about scaling and the HD6XX vs the HD560s… I really think this is only something you can understand when you get the chance to hear it. If you can, go to a local shop and try an HD650 or HD600 off different equipment and see how different things sound when comparing an HD560s off those same sources. There’s a reason why some people consider the HD600 to be an endgame headphone off of certain types of equipment.

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Many people look at specs and seem to forget that the useful dB range is pretty narrow.

A “silent room” in an ordinary house or library will measure perhaps 40 to 45 dB, while sounds around 90 to 100 dB can cause hearing damage and pain. So, the useful range for music must be above background noise (e.g. 50 dB) and below pain – perhaps a 40 dB range of relevance.

SPL and electrical measurements don’t consider non-linear human perception either. Measured “volume” <> perceived “loudness.” Individual hearing differences also lead to difference preferences and intolerance of brands (e.g., Grado, Beyer, etc.).

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