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#3100150 03/31/21 09:14 AM
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Boy, the questions posted here about headphones. So so many. Why?

Or more to the point:

- Why are headphones so important? Something more is going on here than just personal playing... not annoying the family or neighbors.
- Why are so many unhappy with what they have?
- Do crappy speakers and amplifiers have anything to do with it?
- Are headphones exposing crappy pianos?

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Bruce in Philly


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My guess is that for most DP players / practicers, they aren't important. But then again, they don't spend a lot of time posting on message boards. The gear / audiophile segment is strong on the Internet. I see the same thing in bass forums. It's cool, don't get me wrong: that is the purpose of a discussion forum. But it gives the appearance of more importance than I think there is.


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Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
- Are headphones exposing crappy pianos?


No! They’re exposing spoiled brats!

My first pair of headphones was a pair of empty cans of beans connected by a string, and I never complained. I listened to the songs in my head day-in/day-out.

But I’m not resentful, no, I’m actually glad I grew up so poor because that strengthened my inner core and prepared me to deal with anything in life; including living in a van down by the river.

Sure, you think I kid around, but you don’t know the half of it!

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In the days of the Walkman, and then the CDMan (was that the name?) on ear headphones had just one purpose, and everybody was just super happy. My views as a piano student:

- Why are headphones so important? Something more is going on here than just personal playing... not annoying the family or neighbors.

1. Headphones are important because I myself wouldn't like to hear 90+ minutes of piano tone which are basically exercises

- Why are so many unhappy with what they have?
2. I have been on the happy - unhappy - happy - unhappy - happy roller coaster. Along the way, I threw several hundred dollars out. Now I am just tired. But when I put on the first serious headphone I ever bought (SR60), it makes me smile. I guess I gave too much importance to 1) "what could be...", 2) reviews about what other people thought etc. etc. Without giving importance to what my God-given ears thought.

- Do crappy speakers and amplifiers have anything to do with it?

3. I don't think so.

- Are headphones exposing crappy pianos?

4. To some extent. With pure audiophile amps and headphones.


A man must love a thing very much if he practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practice it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.
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Many digital pianos lack speakers. And they sound pretty lousy through keyboard amps or cheap studio monitors. They sound quite good through headphones.

Also, no one wants to listen to you practice for very long, so it's a kind, considerate thing to do.

What I find odd is that so many people find that a particular set of headphones won't work with a piano. I've never had a pair of headphones that didn't work with my digital piano or any of my stereo equipment. But probably I haven't bought outliers in either pianos, stereo equipment, or headphones.


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Most young people just got GAS. Headphones are cheap/inexpensive relative to all the important stuff they can't afford like cars and houses. grin

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Of course a lot of people have issues with neighbours and such.

But for some like me its an issue of sound quality. Compared with the nearly perfect way in which good electronic equipment can reproduce sound, the front and back of the chain--microphones and speakers--are really bad. None of us can do anything about the microphone side of things, but headphones are small signal devices that need to generate good sound in a very small space. And so they eat even high end speakers' lunch. That being said, when playing, I always find the headphone experience lacking impact, and so usually go with the internal speakers rather than my headphone amp/headphone combo.

But getting into headphones can be a trip down the rabbit hole. Everyone has a range of sound qualities that they like and others that they do not like, and every model of headphone sounds different. I even use different headphones in different contexts, depending on the sound they produce. So for instance I tend to use HD650s on my high end DAC + headphone amp setup, but HD600s on my Yamaha N1X...

Last edited by NormB; 03/31/21 10:06 AM.
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Originally Posted by NormB
headphones are small signal devices that need to generate good sound in a very small space. And so they eat even high end speakers' lunch.

Headphones are more linear in some ways, but overall less realistic in others. If you consider how the majority of music is designed for playback on speakers, all headphones incorrectly images the sound signal spatially, quite a severe distortion. Good vs Bad, that's not descriptive. If you like the distortion then it's still good. The binaural recording is more scientifically correct, but sources are extremely limited.

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There's the issue of reverberation, as well. I've never completely understood the physics around why reverb sounds completely different through heads vs loudspeakers.


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Trouble with headphones and speakers is that after prolongued and heavy use, they'll lose their edge. The cones and stuff get flabby, and so the treble may lack bite. That's my experience over the years.
My ears may also exhibit similar . . .
This could cost us all money as we grow older. Be prepared!

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I regularly use five pairs of headphones:

Sennheiser HD 595 (open, 50 ohms): Hooked up to my stereo
Sonnheiser HD 569 (closed, 20 ohms, high efficiency): Usually hooked up to my phone
Sony MDR-7605 (closed, 63 ohms): Hooked up to my audio interface for monitoring
Sony MDR-1000X (closed, wireless bluetooth, noise canceling): My traveling headphones
Yamaha HPH-150 (open, 48 ohms): Hooked up to my Yamaha P-515

And I'm happy with all of them. They were all affordable with the exception of the wireless phones, because NC seems to demand a hefty price tag. So the total amount spent is much less than what some people pay for one set of high-impedance audiophile headphones.

Each pair has their specific purpose. The HPH-150 are very lightweight with a thin cable, so they are the least distracting during practice while still sounding much better than the built-in speakers of the P-515. The MDR-7605 are well insulated, so I can monitor myself next to my condenser microphone without causing feedback. At the same time its spiral cable prevents creating a tripping hazard. The HD569 gets the most out of weak-output sources while doubling as a handsfree if someone calls. When I sit down to listen to a real CD the HD595 delivers the necessary fidelity. And last but not least traveling with noise canceling MDR-1000X while listening to classical music is a great experience.

Considering the alternatives: My stereo has great floor speakers, but the phones outperform them by a margin. Same goes for the digital piano. Monitoring a live microphone with speakers simply causes feedback. And phone "speakers" ... nuff said.


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Why headphones for the obvious reasons: not bothering others, being able to go as loud as I want. But, it's also a poor mans hi-fi, you get much more sound quality per dollar than you can with speakers.

That said, I only use them when I have to. Like with my es920, I can hear the improvement in sound quality (esp the lowest registers, but overall as well), and yet I still prefer hearing it thru speakers. I'll often use one of my 8" 2-ways to augment the onboard speakers, which does a terrific job of filling out the sound while still getting the full stereo effect from the onboards.

Headphones have limited use for me because even with open back phones, like my Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros, it quickly feels like the space is too confined, it feels a bit uncomfortable usually like within 10-20 minutes, like the air doesn't have enough room to breath. I prefer hearing sound in an open space.

My favorite place of all time has been when I was playing music in Golden Gate Park with friends: I'd bring my keys and amps, friends would bring their guitars and hand drums- besides being a beautiful place to make music, the sound was very open, no walls to bounce off!

Would have loved having an AKG model I saw on the NAMM floor one year. It was designed to sit AWAY FROM your ears (1" or so if I remember correctly), which is taking open back to the next level. I imagine they'd be useful for mixing engineers who want the speaker experience but need to be quieter about it.


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The AKG702 is really nice. I use it to play the piano without disturbing my neighbours.

I am lucky to find it at 130€ : https://www.amazon.fr/AKG-2458X00190-K702-Casque-Studio/dp/B001RCD2DW/ref=mp_s_a_1_3

But Amazon dot com proposes it at $383 quite the double !!! https://www.amazon.com/AKG-Referenc...phones/dp/B0798Y6Y6C/ref=mp_s_a_1_2_sspa

Last edited by Frédéric L; 04/01/21 03:14 PM.

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Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
- Why are headphones so important? Something more is going on here than just personal playing... not annoying the family or neighbors.
I don't know about others, but personally using headphones isolates both ways, since I live in a pretty poorly soundproofed building. I feel more in my bubble with my headphones on because 1- I can't hear my upstairs neighbors screaming and 2- I don't have to worry about the entire building hearing me get excited on my piano (it really cramps me up if I feel I'm bothering people).

Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
- Why are so many unhappy with what they have?
People will be people. I've upgraded headphones twice and every time I tried to go back to the previous pairs I thought "wow, they sound so flat and dull".
I'm quite happy with my current BeyerDynamics DT 770pro 80ohms (been using them for 3-4 years), but maybe if there's another model that I feel outdoes them, I'll change.

Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
- Do crappy speakers and amplifiers have anything to do with it?
Maybe it can really make a difference in lower-end DPs. I've personally never encountered a DP where my first thought was "it's a shame the speakers are not as good as the sound/action".

Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
- Are headphones exposing crappy pianos?
At least they provide a common reference point between pianos. It's sometimes hard to compare when there are different speaker systems, and headphones really help with that (especially if they're yours), so they help you choose I guess.


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Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
Boy, the questions posted here about headphones. So so many. Why?

Or more to the point:

- Why are headphones so important? Something more is going on here than just personal playing... not annoying the family or neighbors.
- Why are so many unhappy with what they have?
- Do crappy speakers and amplifiers have anything to do with it?
- Are headphones exposing crappy pianos?

Peace
Bruce in Philly

There's two simple answers to this (IMHO), and they both boil down to "money" . . .

(a) I can get much better sound quality, [i]per dollar spent[/], using headphones, than by using loudspeakers.

(b) I can listen to music any time, at any volume, without disturbing my spouse or neighbors, with headphones;

. . . Doing that with loudspeakers would require _very_ expensive
. . . modifications to my townhouse.

"Why are so many unhappy with what they have?" -- I think a lot of that is driven by (relative) affordability of headphones, compared to loudspeakers.

If you have a good set of speakers, getting a _better_ set is usually way more expensive, than upgrading (or just changing) a good set of headphones.

So it's cheaper to get GAS (or "climb the upgrade path") with headphones.

I'm quite sensitive to distortion, but my high-frequency hearing is poor -- I'm 75. These discussions are less and less important to me, as I get older.


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We all get flabby with age. But at least you can replace headphones and speakers. smile
Originally Posted by peterws
Trouble with headphones and speakers is that after prolongued and heavy use, they'll lose their edge. The cones and stuff get flabby, and so the treble may lack bite. That's my experience over the years.

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This is curious ...
Originally Posted by Meap6
Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
Do crappy speakers and amplifiers have anything to do with it?
Maybe it [crappy speakers] can really make a difference in lower-end DPs.
I've personally never encountered a DP where my first thought was "it's a shame the speakers are not as good as the sound/action".
I've found that nearly all digital pianos have crappy speakers and also mediocre tone generation ... hence the need for virtual instruments and a proper sound system.

The N3X certainly was an exception when I tried one some time ago. And I'm hoping that the affordable N1X will likewise prove to be so.

But those aside ... the sound system is the weak spot of all the others I've tried.

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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
This is curious ...
I've found that nearly all digital pianos have crappy speakers and also mediocre tone generation ... hence the need for virtual instruments and a proper sound system.
The N3X certainly was an exception when I tried one some time ago. And I'm hoping that the affordable N1X will likewise prove to be so.
But those aside ... the sound system is the weak spot of all the others I've tried.
Huh. Maybe I just subconsciously don't pay enough attention/care since I mostly tried them with headphones !
Action & sound are basically the only things I look at since 99.5% (give or take .5%) of time I use my DP is with my headphones.

Last edited by Meap6; 04/02/21 04:37 AM.

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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
We all get flabby with age. But at least you can replace headphones and speakers. smile
Originally Posted by peterws
Trouble with headphones and speakers is that after prolongued and heavy use, they'll lose their edge. The cones and stuff get flabby, and so the treble may lack bite. That's my experience over the years.

hahaha, this guy!... smile

Anyway my neighbor, once a week plays music so loud, you can here it two houses down the street. Her excuse, the speakers needed their exercise to maintain performance... laugh crazy


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For me, it's entirely about not disturbing family. I've got young kids who are doing work, taking naps, etc. I wake up at 4:30am to get a couple hours of practice in few times a week, and that's all the time I have. Doing that isn't possible without headphones.

If I could play and practice during the day without bothering anyone, I'd have an acoustic grand right now.


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