Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 250-Ohm
Sennheiser HD 600
Note: Small amounts of individual high-frequency hearing loss in one ear or the other can cause apparent image smearing on either of the high-frequency test tracks. Ain't It A Shame, the B-52's - very high-frequency imaging - Cindy's vocals have a glossiness to them which shows up in the octave between 7 kHz and 14 kHz. All aspects of the sounds of her voice should remain precisely centered. Especially listen for smearing on the "S" sounds, the sibilants. With headphones that do not image well parts of the S's will appear to smear left or right, or will be all over the place, difficult to locate precisely. The harmonica tones also contain complex harmonics which will seem hard to localize precisely if imaging is weak. Precise imaging keeps all these sounds perfectly together as a pinpoint source, no smearing or imprecision, no sense of broadness or vagueness, no wandering of any part of that sound on any notes. Some headphones do not have a high enough frequency response for that glossiness to be heard. In that case, they are not penalized since the imaging is not degraded, and the formula is modified to leave out that one factor. Reasons Why, Nickel Creek - high-frequency imaging - Sara's lead vocals contain strong sibilants, falling in a slightly lower frequency band than with the previous track. They will remain precisely centered with no sign of smearing on headphones that image well. Ode To A Butterfly, Nickel Creek - general imaging - With precise imaging, it is as though you can precisely locate in space the point where pick meets string for the mandolin and guitar throughout this piece. The fiddle will also will seem pinpoint precise throughout its range. With the standup bass, listen for the string buzz near the end of the song, its location should appear laser sharp.
The result of each of the three Imaging tests is given an integer score between 0 and 10. I settled on assigning integer evaluation scores so I wouldn't spend forever splitting hairs with fractional scores. All calculations thereafter are rounded to the nearest 1/10. 10: Perfect imaging, no broadening, smearing, spreading, wandering, or lack of distinction whatsoever, laser sharp throughout. 8 - 9: Strong imaging but with slight broadening or occasional small amounts of smearing. 4 - 7: Fair imaging, generally lots of smearing, image somewhat broad and indistinct, may appear to spread out or move around on certain tones. 0 - 3: Poor imaging very broad, indistinct, and unstable. Formula applied: (IM.very.hf + IM.hf + (2 x IM.general)) / 4, rounded to the nearest 1/10th. For headphones with weak highs, the formula is modified to: (IM.hf + (2 x IM.general)) / 3 Overall Weighting: x2
Ode To A Butterfly, Nickel Creek - The soundstage for this Bluegrass track should be wide and natural, may actually seem to have voids between the instruments. Fanfare/You Know It, Tower of Power, Direct Plus - The big Funk band should appear evenly spread across a wide, natural soundstage.
The result of each of the Soundstage tests is given an integer score between 0 and 10. 10: Perfect soundstage, wide, natural, convincingly real, totally comfortable. 8 - 9: Good soundstage, but not quite convincing or natural for certain types of music. 4 - 7: Fair soundstage, generally feels somewhat unnatural, difficult to place instruments and voices. 0 - 3: Poor soundstage, very uncomfortable and unnatural. Formula applied: SS = (SS1 + SS2) / 2, rounded to the nearest 1/10th. Overall Weighting: x2
Bland Street Bloom, SikTh - cymbals, loud track - The complex harmonics of these cymbals should be very clear and distinct. With poor clarity, the cymbals will sound like shaped noise with no distinct harmonics. Bland Street Bloom, SikTh - bass, loud track - The bass should be very clear, not distorted. Disruptr and Heaven Send, Devin Townsend - cymbals, quiet track - During the quiet passages, the complex harmonics of these cymbals should be very clear and distinct. Disruptr and Heaven Send, Devin Townsend - cymbals, loud track - During the loud passages, the complex harmonics of these cymbals should be very clear and distinct. Poor clarity here will leave the cymbals sounding like shaped noise with no sign of distinct harmonics. With good clarity, those harmonics might almost sound out of place in the midst of the other loud, distorted instruments. Beethoven, 7th Symphony, Second Movement, Chicago Symphony, F. Reiner conducting - strings, loud track - When the movement reaches its loudest point, the strings should remain clear and natural sounding, no edge or impression of there being "something else" going on there.
The result of each of the Clarity tests is given an integer score between 0 and 10. 10: Perfect clarity, bass is always smooth and distinct, complex cymbal harmonics are always clear and easily discernible, strings always smooth and natural, none of these ever distorted, no edge or impression that something is not quite right about it. 8 - 9: Good clarity, but occasionally a bit messy or slightly distorted, not quite perfect. 4 - 7: Fair clarity, generally somewhat messy sounding, often distorted during louder passages. 0 - 3: Poor clarity, very messy sounding, quite distorted most of the time. Formula applied: CL = (CL.cymbal.1.loud + CL.bass.1.loud + CL.cymbal.2.quiet + CL.cymbal.2.loud + CL.strings.loud) / 5, rounded to the nearest 1/10th. Overall Weighting: x2
Beyond The Blue, Beth Nielsen Chapman - deep bass - Focus: deep pulsing drumbeat. Good Stuff, the B-52's - lows - Focus: bass guitar. Inchworm, Battles - mids - Focus: drums, especially toms. Pulse, Todd Rundgren - upper mids - Focus: xylophone. Healing Part I, Todd Rundgren - highs - Focus: triangle.
The result of each of the Speed tests is given an integer score between 0 and 10. 10: Perfect speed, every test example is delivered with crisp, tight impact. 8 - 9: Good speed, but occasional instances that are delivered slightly soft or mushy, not quite perfect. 4 - 7: Fair speed, generally somewhat soft, mushy delivery of sounds that should have an impact. 0 - 3: Poor speed, very soft and mushy delivery. Formula applied: SP = (SP.deep.bass + SP.lows + SP.mids + SP.upper.mids + SP.highs) / 5, rounded to the nearest 1/10th. Overall Weighting: x2
Flat - Preferred by many listeners and especially by those who use headphones as part of an engineering, mixing, or mastering process. This profile allows for small amounts of low frequencies or high-frequency boost. Tilted - A fairly flat but tilted response curve, downward in the high-frequency direction. This is a more laid-back profile which is often preferred for general listening as it can be less fatiguing for long listening sessions. This profile often includes a certain amount of "scooping" as described next. Scooped - A region of the frequency spectrum, usually in the upper midrange, is pulled back, or "scooped" out of the curve. If not too extreme, the ear doesn't miss those frequencies since they are in a region where the hearing is more sensitive anyway, and the result is a laid-back sound without loss of the highest frequency range, containing the "detail" for many sounds. Emphasized Bass - This profile is often preferred for popular music listening, with low frequencies highly emphasized, sometimes 20 dB or more.
Revolution Earth, the B-52's - This track has all ranges quite equally represented. It should sound bright and lively, not harsh, with solid bass tones, but not overly strong. Glory Bound, Wailin' Jennys - This track contains deep standup bass tones which should give a strong, deep thump without being overbearing. Fanfare/You Know It, Tower of Power, Direct Plus - All of the instruments and voices in this direct-to-master recording from the early 80s were given minimal treatment, kept sounding as simple and natural as possible. Pay special attention to the horn section. Headphones with an overly-aggressive "scoop" out of the upper mids may sound fine for many instruments, even for male and female vocals, but will sound fakey or downright bad with saxophones or other horns.
The result of each of the Frequency Response tests is given an integer score between 0 and 10. Over-emphasis of a frequency range stands out more to the ear than under-emphasis, and therefore is scored more negatively. Each of the following frequency ranges is evaluated while listening to each track:Deep bass Lows Mids Upper mids Highs When evaluating frequency response, there has to be a reference band. This will usually be the Mids, but with some headphones it may seem more natural to use another frequency band. Whichever band is chosen as the reference band always gets a score of 10. The other frequency bands are scored relative to the reference frequency band. If a frequency band sounds perfect for all the test tracks it gets a 10. If it sounds off, over- or under-emphasized on any of those tracks, it gets the lowest of the possible scores for all the tracks as defined below. For example, if the "highs" sound slightly emphasized on two tracks, and emphasized on another track, the emphasized score of 4 would be given for the "highs" frequency range for that headphone.Highly emphasized: 0 Emphasized: 4 Slightly emphasized: 8 Just right: 10 Laid back: 9 Weak: 7 Very weak: 3 Formula applied: FR = (FR.deep.bass + FR.lows + FR.mids + FR.upper.mids + FR.highs) / 5, rounded to the nearest 1/10th. Overall Weighting: x4
Deep bass Lows Mids Upper mids Highs
Highly emphasized: 0 Emphasized: 4 Slightly emphasized: 8 Just right: 10 Laid back: 9 Weak: 7 Very weak: 3
An integer score between 0 and 10 is assigned. 10: Delightful. "I got chills, several times." 9: Very good. "They are really nice." 7 - 8: Good. "I like them." 4 - 6: Fair. "They are OK, nothing special." 0 - 3: Poor. "Forget about it."
An integer score between 0 and 10 is assigned. 10: Excellent. "I could wear these all day." 9: Very good. "Very comfortable, an occasional minor annoyance." 7 - 8: Good. "Comfortable, but there are limits." 4 - 6: Fair. "I can put up with them if I have to." 0 - 3: Poor. "Forget about it."
An integer score between 0 and 10 is assigned. 10: Excellent. "Wow, this is so cool in every way." 9: Very good. "Great design, only a minor annoyance or two." 7 - 8: Good. "Nicely done, but there are some flaws that are hard to overlook." 4 - 6: Fair. "OK, but some major problems." 0 - 3: Poor. "How could they get it so wrong?"