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Hi Wayne...

Rather than copy and paste those guidelines... I went ahead and set you up as an HTS Reviewer, just because I have read your review you sent me via email and I know you can review... and I am very comfortable this will work out for us both from our email conversations.

So... this thread here is still private... any thread you start here is private to the extent the public forum members cannot view it... only you and the staff here at HTS.

However, you can see our Reviewers Private Forum, which is located within the Home Theater, Audio and Video Equipment Reviews forum... it will be the first forum listed.

You can also see our reviews calendar: http://www.hometheatershack.com/forums/calendar.php

That link can be found under the Reviews dropdown menu in the navigation bar up top just below our logo.

You can check out the Sticky Threads in the Reviewers Private Forum... particularly the Formatting thread. There may be somewhat of a different format for headphones, I don't know, but if so... I am fine with that. It is a little different between receivers and speakers and the Formatting thread is mainly pleading for some sort of organization... uniformity in presentations, etc. Yet, we realize there will be some variations.
 

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Looks superb to me.

We will need to reduce the size of those pics up top to about 400 pixels wide (200 each). You could still use the larger ones at the end if you wanted to, but for the top, those have to flow through our home page featured threads. If we have viewers with low resolution screens, the larger images will mess things up. Only the first part of the review is shown, so larger images on down in the review or at the end are fine.

I would also include the manufacturer specs as a group within
Spoiler
tags for those that might want to see them.

Like this:
Spoiler
specs here


Did you keep any of the REW graphs that would be worth sharing?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
A couple of last tweaks.

Emotiva Pro Airmotiv 4 Powered Studio Monitor Review

by Wayne Myers



Introduction

When I first ran across the Emotiva Pro family of powered studio monitors, consisting of the airmotiv 4, airmotiv 5, and airmotiv 6 models, I wondered, "How can they do all that for the price they are asking?" All that included frequency response within 2 dB of flat, solid bass extension - down to 58 Hz for the tiny 4's (-2 dB), down to 52 and 43 Hz for the larger models, on-board bi-amplification, and the characteristic that kept me lingering the longest, flat off-axis frequency response. Having been on a quest for the grail of perfect imaging in recent years, the idea of well controlled off-axis response has seemed like an important quality to work with. And it all came in at retail prices of $349, $449, and $699 per pair, respectively. The airmotiv monitors quickly found their place high on my audio gear wish list.

Specifications

Frequency Response
  • 58 Hz to 23 kHz +/- 2 dB
  • 52 Hz to 27 kHz +0 / -6 dB
Size
  • 9.4" high x 6.1" wide x 7.3" deep
Weight
  • 20.5 lbs. (9.3 kg) per pair
Driver Complement
  • One 26 x 32 mm airmotiv high-frequency folded-ribbon transducer
  • One 115 mm (4.5 inch) airmotiv low-frequency transducer with Curv® polypropylene composite cone structure
High-frequency amplifier:
  • 25 watts RMS; S/N > 90 dB; THD+N < 0.05% @ 15W, 10 kHz
Low-frequency amplifier:
  • 25 watts RMS; S/N > 90 dB; THD+N < 0.05% @ 20W, 100 Hz
High frequency tilt control:
  • 4 kHz hinge frequency; 0 (calibrated), +2 dB, -2 dB @ 20 kHz
Low frequency shelving control:
  • 150 Hz turnover frequency; 0 (calibrated), -2 dB, -4 dB @ 20 Hz
HF gain, LF gain, and overall gain calibrated to standard within 1.0 dB

Crossover
  • Precision multi-pole phase compensated fully active crossover
  • Crossover frequency: 2700 Hz

Initial Impressions

Enter the budget-conscious airmotiv 4's. Right out of the box, the 4's landed on lazy-susan turntables so their imaging qualities at different angles could be easily explored. Every bookshelf sized speaker that I have played with in this way has been found to have a distinct ideal angle requiring careful aiming for decent imaging. Not so with the airmotiv 4's. The airmotivs are targeted for near-field monitoring applications, my favored music listening mode, and expectations were set for a wide sound stage with natural depth and sharp imaging. First impressions were that the little speakers were saying, "Aw, that's easy." Those expectations were more than satisfied through an impressively broad range of angles, with only slightly noticeable shifts in the frequency response.

Believing the room to be insignificant as a factor in all this, but wanting proof, the highly-portable pair was hefted out to the back yard for a half hour of semi-anechoic listening, and the results were the same. Nice.

Business Model, Specifications, and Physical Characteristics

Emotiva's manifesto, "superior gear, unmatched prices, 30-day trial," is clearly reflected in the airmotiv line. The three current models have impressive specifications for their price points, and are backed by a 5-year transferable warranty. A careful buyer can catch one of Emotiva's frequent price reductions and end up with an impressive value. The popular factory-to-customer marketing approach allows for the expected 30-day trial.

The airmotiv 4's being reviewed feature a 4.5 inch low-frequency driver and a folded-ribbon high-frequency driver in a solidly built 9.4 x 6.1 x 7.3 inch rear-ported cabinet. Each driver is powered by an on-board 25 watt RMS power amp. The magnetically shielded cabinet has a black textured finish that appears durable and easy to keep clean. There is a volume control on front, and the rear panel contains XLR and RCA inputs, along with high-frequency tilt and low-frequency shelf controls.

Frequency response is specified at 58 Hz to 23 KHz plus/minus 2 dB. Off-axis response, while not overtly specified, is near flat and well controlled to 10 KHz, as shown in plots on the Emotiva Pro web site.

Targeted primarily at the recording studio market for near-field monitoring, there is no grill covering over the drivers. That fact had me being extra careful removing them from their shipping carton. The speaker's compact design makes it appear not much bigger than a desktop computer speaker, and although it has a solid weight with its internal electronics, it perches easily on a light-weight speaker stand. I found myself using the inward-tapered tube of the rear port, positioned high on the rear panel, as a carrying handle. Although it seemed solid enough, that was my own idea; do so at your own risk.

Bench Tests

A session with Room EQ Wizard turned out curves pretty much like those on Emotiva Pro's web site, although rougher due to room effects. The airmotiv 4's are voiced with a bit of a bass lift peaking at 80 Hz to compensate for the rapid falloff below 60. Curves taken while exploring the off-axis response at higher frequencies showed that the response might actually be slightly smoother at about 15 degrees off-axis than straight on axis, and a note was made to explore whether that angle might optimize the imaging just a little.

Near-Field Listening Test

The speakers were set up for listening in a near-field configuration. The broad triangle measured 42 inches tweeter to tweeter, and 31 inches from tweeter to center-of-head. I like them close! They were aimed directly at each respective ear, and speaker height had the midpoint between the centers of the drivers - right at the surround roll of the low-frequency driver - even with my ears.

Settling down for some serious listening, Todd Rundgren's Healer album happened to be cued up in the media server, so why not start there?

Right off, the sound stage seemed just a bit strained, and I was quickly reaching to angle them out to that 15 degree off-axis mark. A deep and relaxed sound stage resulted, with no sacrifice in imaging quality.

Todd's voice first stood out as sounding rich and somehow even more musical than I had noticed before. Many of his early recordings were mastered on the bright side, and I have often used them as a sort of harshness test for speaker voicing and equalization. The airmotiv 4's refreshingly transformed the upper mids and highs of these denser synth tracks into musical information where many speakers would have me reaching to turn down the level or make a note to tame with EQ. Even at their brightest, those passages were never harsh or annoying or indistinct.

Another attention grabber was the punchy attack of the percussive tones - the toms and xylophones and percussive synthesizer sounds were given a palpable density as every note took ownership of its point in space. Passages dense with rich harmonics remained clear. Individual notes, even when crowded together in the sonic space, had breathing room.

If anything will reveal an inability of a speaker to keep the imaging where it belongs, it is a triangle or high bell with its sharp attack and complex harmonics, and the album contained many examples throughout. There was one triangle part that did not resolve all that well - it might have been recorded with dual microphones for effect - but for all other instances of bells and triangles covering a wide tone and size range, every strike stood impressively clear and strong with no smearing.

Mindy Smith's My Holiday: As with Todd's voice, I immediately noted the musical richness of Mindy's vocal tone like I had not before. The album's first song has become one of my trusted imaging test tracks, and the airmotiv 4's presented Mindy's voice with the kind of pinpoint sourcing that gives you that eery "there is someone here in the room" feeling.

Other details stood out in a new way with the help of the airmotiv 4's: a bit of reed noise from a clarinet, the breathy quality of Mindy's voice on softer, almost-whispered passages. The 4's had a way of eagerly pressing these details forward, "Here, try some of this."

My listening station's acoustics give some natural boost to tones in the 50 to 80 Hz range without getting boomy or muddy - a minor and completely accidental miracle - but I usually keep that emphasis in line with equalization. For now the airmotiv 4's were running without equalization and benefited nicely from that boost. All those factors together resulted in solid, surprisingly tight bass. And I do mean surprising. Several times during the review process I had to pause in admiration for the pair's handling of low-frequency material.

SikTh's Bland Street Bloom track: This is a dense metal track with heavy kick drum and plenty of up-front cymbals. I wanted to know how loud the 4's could go comfortably. Listening in the low to mid 80 dB SPL range up until then, I reached for the sound level meter and the volume knob and went for a measurement hovering around 93 dB. While there was no obvious clipping or high distortion, the presentation felt strained and compressed at that point, and the cymbals lost some clarity. Pulling the level down just a few dB to the 88 to 89 range immediately restored the relaxed, natural presentation and sense of dynamics. To their credit, those little 4.5 inch drivers handled the low end with authority throughout, and the bass and kick drum notes never lost their impact even at the higher levels.

Emotiva does not specify maximum SPLs for the airmotiv models, but an email response to an inquiry about it indicated that they had measured 97 dB out of airmotiv 4's, I assume with a music source. Admitting that my volume test did not have them breaking up, I trust that the 4's could handle even higher volumes without major misbehavior, but also suspect that for discriminating listening they would not be at their musical best. For typical listening, though, they handle even passages with wide dynamic range in room-filling fashion. I measured SPLs in the mid-to-upper 80s range from 15 feet away across my well-damped listening room while hearing no sacrifice in clarity.

Even after extended workouts, the rear panels of the speakers were never more than warm to the touch. The top-positioned rear ports might help provide ventilation to aid heat dissipation from the internal electronics.

Track Hopping

At this point I spent some time track hopping. Here are a few impressions from a variety of songs:

The deep, pulsing drum beat in Beth Nielsen Chapman's Beyond The Blue had strength and impact, not suffering the slightest in the absence of a sub.

I was alarmed when the guitar sounds on Buckethead's We Are One sounded muddy and messy. Then I realized that I was slumped well down in my chair. A down side of near-field listening can be the necessity of paying strict attention to the listening sweet spot. While the airmotiv 4's allow quite a bit of horizontal latitude in the listener's position, the presentation runs into trouble quickly when you move higher or lower by more than a few inches. The ideal position is right on the line midway between driver centers as one would expect. The loss of clarity during the Buckethead track made me realize that I was well below that sweet zone. Once I straightened up, the bright guitar became clear and tightly defined, to my relief.

I have noticed with other speakers that, while the toe-in angle for best imaging and sound stage can be fairly critical, once that angle is attained the width of the sweet spot can be quite broad. This held true with the airmotiv 4's. The sound stage allowed me to move around quite a bit in the horizontal plane, even in the forward direction. The height of that ideal listening area, though, did not allow much vertical flexibility for ear position.

The powerful bass while listening to the Time Warp CD, a dynamic combination of electronica and full orchestra from the Cincinnati Pops, had me checking to be sure I hadn't switched on the sub inadvertently.

Listening to favorites by the B-52's and Nickel Creek gave further confirmation that the imaging properties of the airmotivs were second to none in their near-field configuration.

More Imaging and Sound Stage Tests

Back onto the turntables, I just had to unravel the mystery of the imaging and sound stage vs. angle for the airmotiv 4's. I was rooting for their fairly-flat off-axis response to make them immune to listening angle.

So I turned them to straight on axis and decided to live with them there for awhile. And they do sound marvelous that way. Solid imaging. Respectable sound stage. But turning them off-axis 15 degrees and beyond definitely opens up the sound stage, making it wider and deeper, seeming to disconnect if from the speakers and make it more a part of the room. Hmmm, a mystery worthy of future investigation.

Attached in the spoiler pane is a set of measured freqency response curves showing off-axis response at my listening position with the airmotiv 4's.
Measurement Graphs
Unequalized frequency response at 0 (magenta), 15 (blue), and 30 (green) degrees off axis at my listening station, airmotiv 4's in near-field configuration, left speaker, measurement at left ear position, half-octave smoothing, measured with Room EQ Wizard.

Adding Equalization and a Sub

Being a bit of an EQ freak, I ran through the equalization routines with Room EQ Wizard, at the same time adding a sub to fill in the low end of the spectrum. A quick check with earlier tracks indicated the frequency response was silky smooth, but not without side effects. Imaging was still tight, but the sound stage had flattened and the tight impact of the 4's presentation was markedly subdued and softened. The listening experience simply wasn't as interesting. Halfway through a track on Dysrhythmia's Psychic Maps CD, I deactivated the convolution EQ being used, leaving the sub on and untamed - although it was barely needed - and left the EQ off for good. The clarity, the deep sound stage, the tightness, the impact - and the fun were all right back again. The dense instrumental recording seemed to relax and breathe with the change. Another mystery for further investigation.

Even the stark and quirky recording style of Deerhoof's Deerhoof vs. Evil tracks had fresh details to be revealed by the airmotiv 4's, as did those from their super-compressed Breakup Songs CD. Again the 4's showed their ability to release the captive details from simple and dense recordings alike.

Home Theater Setup and Listening Test

Next it was time to move the airmotiv 4's further away to a more typical home theater far-field listening configuration. Starting out with an equilateral triangle spacing, the speakers facing the listener and the close to the wall, the airmotiv 4's sounded quite boomy. The sound stage at that spacing was flat and the presentation a bit muddled. Pulling them out about 3 feet from the wall was enough to tame the bass. Upon widening the speaker spacing about 20 percent - the broad-based triangle's proportions now 1.2:1:1 - and angling the 4's out from the listening position to that same 15 degree off-axis angle, opened up the sound stage and cleared up the mud. The lively sparkle of the overall presentation was now surprisingly close to what it had been with the near-field listening setup.

The Civil Wars' recent Barton Hollow CD was now cracked open to be heard for the first time on the airmotiv 4's. I started out a bit concerned that the vocal duo's intimate style would not be as engaging with the speakers at that distance. No worries, with a twist of the volume knob the 4's pushed the voices front and center and handled the dynamic recording with ease. The larger space configuration seemed to present no difficulties for the speakers, even though designed primarily for near-field monitoring. As with earlier vocal tracks in the near-field setup, the rich vocal tones had a reach out and grab quality that was instantly pleasing.

Another new acquisition made its debut on the airmotiv 4's, still in the home theater arrangement, the Who's Feeling Young Now? album by the Punch Brothers. The progressive bluegrass recording borrows from heavier rock recording techniques, a surprising mix of clean and heavier sounding acoustic instruments plus hard-sung vocals - a lot of musical information for any speaker to resolve. I had to settle into the style for a few tracks before getting critical with the airmotiv 4's. I finally concluded that any occasional edge of harshness was in the recording and that the 4's were presenting it with faithfulness and clarity. Once I decided to listen to the music as rock instead of bluegrass, the experience was quite delightful. The bright impact-filled presentation of the big-little speakers was leaving out nothing: "Hey, man, you chose the CD, I'm just giving it to you the way it was meant to be heard." Another win for the 4's.

Then I went back to the Time Warp album for an electro-orchestral finish. The airmotivs handled the dynamic recording sounding much bigger and fuller than their size, resolving the nuances clearly at all levels, with the same percussive punch that had impressed me in the near-field setup. I was left looking forward to exploring more of my music library with the speakers set up in this wider spacing, which I simply have not used much in recent years, just to hear how they would sound.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The motto on Emotiva Pro's web site is, "Changing the world one engineer at a time." They pulled off a win with this reviewer. My only conundrum is, do I set them up in my project studio as I originally planned to, or keep them where they are in front of the comfy listening chair? Looks like I am going to have to start saving for a pair of 5's or 6's so I can enjoy airmotiv performance at both locations.

The Pros:
  • Great specs
  • Solid imaging and broad, deep sound stage
  • Excellent clarity at volume levels below 90 dB SPL, higher useful volumes available
  • Compact package
  • Built-in bi-amplification
  • Great value overall
  • Good placement flexibility
  • Try it for 30 days policy
  • Generous transferable warranty
Potential Cons:
  • No grill, exposed drivers
  • No available decorative wood finishes
Each of the models in the airmotiv line of powered speakers represents outstanding value in a compact package for its level of performance. They have a simple, elegant, form-follows-function technical appearance that looks sharp to me, but might not suit you if an elegant wood finish or imposing stature is important to you. The exposed driver cones might also be a concern in some home settings.

Emotiva Pro's airmotiv 4's are an easy recommendation for me for near-field use, either in a smaller studio or for near-field pleasure listening. For a home theater setup in a smaller apartment or den, they perform surprisingly well if listening SPLs in the 90s and above are not a priority. The support of a sub would be wise for home theater listening, and for the pickier music listener, but you might be surprised how well they handle bass on their own as the core of a music listening station. They would also shine as sides/rears in a surround setup, but remember they need AC power available. As their off-axis frequency response specifications suggest, there is quite a bit of flexibility in listening position and angle, but they do tend to perform best in a wider stance and at that off-axis "sweet" angle.

A larger control room or mixing station - I could even see them becoming a favorite in mastering rooms - would probably want the bass extension and higher SPLs offered by the airmotiv 5's or 6's with their larger drivers and power amps. The specs for the 6's make them a pretty good bet for main fronts in a larger home theater room, probably still with a sub to handle deep sound effects.

And the economical airmotiv 4's ability to image with sharp clarity, along with their ease in resolving detail through the mid and upper frequencies at moderate levels, makes them a great choice for the small-room home theater setup that doubles as a serious music listening station.

Emotiva Pro has made a fan of this reviewer. If you are looking for speakers to serve in any of these applications, I highly recommend that you give them your consideration.

Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver

 

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Discussion Starter #12
First Headphone Roundup Post - working model - will be edited - comments welcome

Headphone Primer

wow, there's a lot to cover

why they exist
  • history
  • reasons for use
vs speakers
  • psycho-acoustical factors
  • room simulators
usage categories
  • fashion, casual listening
  • travel, knock-around
  • DJ
  • noise isolating, noise cancelling
  • studio tracking
  • studio reference
  • serious listening
  • high-end listening
design
  • circum-aural
  • on-ear
  • circum-on hybrid
  • in-ear
    • buds
    • canal
  • ear characteristics - design challenges
  • technology
  • extreme examples
measuring
  • ear characteristics
  • reference heads
  • reference ears
  • specs, curves
burn-in
  • pro
  • con
  • my view
voicing profiles
  • flat
  • "scooped" mids
  • tilted mids-highs
  • bass + treble boost
  • big bass
price/performance ranges, popular examples
  • $0-50 throw away
  • $50-100 a few surprises
  • $100-150 lots of good-sounding choices
  • $150-300 (moving toward $400) high-end
  • >$300 ultimate
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
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this is the overview and methodologies post for the Headphone Roundup
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Home Theater Shack Headphone Roundup - Overview and Methodologies

by Wayne Myers



Introduction - The Trouble With Headphones

Let's start with two basic facts about headphones.

Fact number one: Headphones and headphone listening preferences tend to get very personal. They fit on your head and cover your ears. The music you hear is all inside your head. Listening with headphones tends to separate you from others, from the outside world. Exactly the point, most of the time. Headphones allow you to enjoy our chosen tunes without bothering others at home, on subways or airplanes, or at work. This personal, inside-your-head experience is hard to share, without having to grasp for words never meant for headphone descriptions. Sometimes these attempts end up sounding downright ridiculous.

Fact number two: Headphone characteristics are hard to measure. For the very same reasons. How do you measure what is going on inside a person's ears, inside someone's head, down at the end of the ear canal, at the eardrum? How do you put numbers on such an experience? Headphone measurements involve calibrated heads and calibrated ears and special microphones and special measurement transfer functions, and even then there can be disagreement as to accuracy and test methods. Reviewers are mainly left working in the realm of the subjective.

These facts make the headphone a somewhat unique type of animal in the world of audio, where there are already plenty of ways to misunderstand or disagree about what sounds good and what doesn't.

The Goal - A Different Kind of Headphone Review

This project was born during the summer of 2012 when I was visiting a fellow audiophile family member who had several sets of nice headphones I had not spent much time with before. In no time I was listening, comparing, taking notes, and before I knew it the idea for a quantifiable comparison method was being born. The approach centered on the following idea: why not take the subjective listening tests, find a way to turn them into objective tests, with an objective scoring method, and end up with an objective comparison from those subjective listening tests?

Lab tests with calibrated ears and heads and expensive dedicated measurement equipment are available to those with deep pockets. Subjective listening tests can be performed by anyone, and the only standardization for the results ends up being, "I trust her or his opinion," much like the way we end up trusting a particular movie reviewer. So why not develop a method involving very specific listening tests, right down to the test track and what is being listened for, taking the mystery out of the listening tests and giving direct comparisons between different headphone models? Transparency and reproducibility from subjective listening tests, that is what we are out to accomplish.

The Objective-Subjective Headphone Review - Details of the Approach

A spreadsheet was quickly born, test tracks were chosen, along with test criteria, and I was well on the way to having an objective–subjective test method which anyone could apply. When the opportunity presented itself here at the Home Theater Shack to give this project to home, I jumped at the chance.

One big reason for taking this approach, is to be able to put headphones across a spectrum of designs on an equal footing. Rather than dividing up headphone models by price range and then comparing those qualities within those ranges, the approach here will be to compare all have phones directly, regardless of price. Why? Sometimes there are surprise models that defy their price range. If a $100 headphone manages to sound as good as a $300 headphone - I have not seen it yet, but there are those that come close - then they should be allowed to compete directly. Each of the various listening tests, then, results in a score, weighting factors are applied, members get crunched and combined, and a final performance score is arrived at for each model of headphone.

As you will see below, six listening categories have been identified. Test tracks have been specified, listening criteria have been detailed, and a scoring method is outlined for each. There is a formula for combining scores to come up with a category score, and finally the grand Overall Performance Score gets crunched at the end. The scores are all entered into a comparison matrix, the Headphone Roundup Scorecard, which makes it easy to compare different models directly in these categories.

Notes
  • These tests are all comparative in nature. Reference headphones for each category are compared to, often switching back and forth several times, in determining what scores to assign.
  • The test tracks mentioned are personal favorites. In the case of the two chosen for high-frequency imaging tests, they are by far the best I have found for the task, nothing else comes close. In all other cases, there are many possible candidates. The formulas are set up to work with any suitable test tracks.
  • For the Imaging, Clarity, and Speed tests, it can take some time to catch just the right details necessary to make the evaluations. There is no need to rush this process. For the Soundstage and Frequency Response tests, the ear acclimatizes to whatever it is hearing after a minute or two, so these evaluations should be made fairly quickly, in a minute or less.
  • A good quality headphone amplifier is a must. The Firestone Audio Cute Beyond Headphone Amplifier with Class A output stage and the FiiO E10 USB DAC Headphone Amplifier were used for these tests. (It is highly recommended that you use a headphone amplifier with near-zero (under one ohm) output impedance. Both of the models used meet this requirement. Many headphones don't need this to sound their best, but some DO.)
  • Test tracks should be lossless or highest-quality MP3 files (320 Kb/s). The high-frequency imaging and clarity tests must be done with lossless files.
  • All headphones were either used or burned in for 100 hours or more before evaluation.
  • A tip of the hat to Tyll Hertsens, the man behind a good part of the useful headphone measurement data available on the web.
Categories for Scoring

Imaging

Imaging is the apparent ability for the listener to precisely locate the sound of a voice or instrument in space. Tight imaging, especially with a wide soundstage, can lead to the impression of voids between other well-localized sounds. This effect can take some getting used to. However, tight imaging can also be a transcendent quality of headphones in making a voice or instrument or sound seem in-the-room real.
  • My reference headphone: Sony MDR-V6
  • Test track and what to listen for:
    • 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, no smearing or imprecision. 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 appears rounder and wider because of the way it was recorded. With the standup bass, listen for the string buzz near the end of the song, it should also be laser sharp.
  • Scoring:
    • 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 round to the nearest 1/10.
    • 10: Perfect imaging, no smearing, spreading, or lack of distinction whatsoever, laser sharp throughout.
    • 8 - 9: Strong imaging but with occasional small amounts of smearing.
    • 4 - 7: Fair imaging, generally lots of smearing, image somewhat indistinct, may appear to spread out or move around on certain tones.
    • 0 - 3: Poor imaging very 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
Soundstage

One of the potential stumbling blocks for headphone listening is that the soundstage tends to be located inside the listener's head. The brain perceptually tries to move it back outside of the head and in front of the listener, because that is where the brain thinks sounds like that should be coming from. This psycho-acoustical effect occurs quite naturally for some listeners and not at all for others. Imaging for headphones will not sound the same as imaging can from loudspeakers. Speakers can deliver a very wide and deep two-dimensional soundstage, since the listeners' ears each hear sounds from both speakers. Headphones are generally limited to giving a one-dimensional soundstage, which can seem very wide but will usually have no depth other than the illusion of depth resulting from different volume levels for different sounds.

The key here is the perception of how natural the soundstage feels. With some headphones, the soundstage feels tense or uncomfortable or somehow false. Better headphones deliver a soundstage that is easy to imagine as open, natural, and real.
  • My reference headphone: AKG K701
  • Test tracks and what to listen for:
    • Ode To A Butterfly, Nickel Creek - The soundstage for this track should be wide and natural, may actually seem to have voids between the instruments.
    • Fanfare/You Know It, Tower of Power, Direct Plus - .
  • Scoring
    • 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
Clarity

Clarity relates most closely to distortion. Harmonic distortion is fairly easy to measure in the lab and is commonly stated by the manufacturer, but under listening conditions discerning clarity can be more difficult. Instruments with complex harmonics can be useful, especially on tracks with a lot of other things going on. My favorites are loud rock tracks with well recorded cymbals. Some of these tests have to be cranked up quite loud to be effective. Never dangerously loud, but well into the 90 dB listening range, only for a minute or two at a time.
  • My reference headphone: Sony MDR-V6
  • Test tracks and what to listen for:
    • Bland Street Bloom, SikTh - cymbals, loud track - The complex harmonics of these cymbals should be very clear and distinct. Poor clarity here will sound more like shaped noise than 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 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.
  • Scoring
    • 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
Speed

Speed defines the ability for head phones to handle tones with the fast or sharp attack time. "Fast" headphones handle the onset of those sounds cleanly keeping them feeling crisp and tightly defined, getting a sense of impact who each note. Sometimes you will hear the word "punchy" used in this context. Slower headphones give an impression of looseness or mushiness to the beginnings of those sounds.
  • My reference headphone: AKG K701
  • Test tracks and what to listen for:
    • 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.
  • Scoring
    • 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 clarity, generally somewhat soft, mushy delivery of sounds that should have an impact.
    • 0 - 3: Poor clarity, 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
Frequency Response

Frequency response is probably the single most important quality contributing to headphone performance. That said, it is somewhat difficult to score because there is no one type of frequency response that all listeners accept as the ideal. My own preference is for a fairly flat frequency response, but it would be unfair to score all headphones based on that one narrowminded requirement.

We will work with four frequency response profiles which hopefully cover in a reasonably unbiased way the different voicings given to headphones today. They are:
  • Frequency Response Profiles:
    • 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.
    • Bass-Emphasized - This profile is often preferred for popular music listening, with low frequencies highly emphasized, sometimes 20 dB or more.
  • My reference headphone: AKG K701 (Flat Profile), Sennheiser HD 600 (Tilted Profile)
  • Test tracks and what to listen for:
    • 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 - Pay special attention to the horn section. Headphones with an overly-aggressive "scoop" out of the upper mids may sound fine for many instruments, and even for male and female vocals, but will sound fakey or downright bad with saxophones or other horns.
  • Scoring
    • 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 was 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 bad 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

Overall Listening Experience

The Overall Listening Experience is a result of impressions during all the previous listening tests plus those from any other desired listening time. Other descriptors commonly used for headphones include words like "detail," and "resolution." It is my opinion that the above tests adequately cover possible additional description categories.
  • No test tracks are specified. Use impressions from all previous listening tests plus from listening to any other tracks desired.
  • Scoring
    • An integer score between 0 and 10 is assigned.
    • 10: Delightful. "I got chills, several times."
    • 9: Very good. "Really nice."
    • 7 - 8: Good. "I like them."
    • 4 - 6: Fair. "They're OK, nothing special."
    • 0 - 3: Poor. "Forget it."
  • Formula applied: OLE = n
  • Overall Weighting: x4
Comfort

Head and ear comfort.
  • Scoring
    • An integer score between 0 and 10 is assigned.
    • 10: Excellent.
    • 9: Very good.
    • 7 - 8: Good.
    • 4 - 6: Fair.
    • 0 - 3: Poor.
  • Formula applied: CO = n
  • Overall Weighting: x1
Design

Appearance, build quality, durability, form follows function, usability and portability features, cabling, accessories, special packaging.
  • Scoring
    • An integer score between 0 and 10 is assigned.
    • 10: Excellent.
    • 9: Very good.
    • 7 - 8: Good.
    • 4 - 6: Fair.
    • 0 - 3: Poor.
  • Formula applied: DE = n
  • Overall Weighting: x1
Non-Factored Scores

Several additional factors are considered which are NOT part of the overall scoring.
  • $100 reference headphone: Yes or No. I have a dream of identifying a $100 reference headphone with extremely flat frequency response and high scores in other categories.
  • Drivability with portable media devices: Yes or No. Is this headphone sensitive enough to easily be driven to strong listening levels using a smart phone or portable listening device?
  • Usability without equalization: Yes or No. Is the frequency response good enough that I would be comfortable listening with it as is, without wanting to tweak it with available equalization?
  • Isolation (if Closed design): For closed headphones, how good is the isolation from outside sounds, and privacy going the other way? An integer score between 0 and 10 is assigned.
The Overall Performance Score

And finally we get to the Overall Performance Score. The Overall Performance Score is a weighted RMS calculation, using the weightings defined for each category above. Here is the formula:

OPS = SQRT (((2 * (IM ^ 2)) + (2 * (SS ^ 2)) + (2 * (CL ^ 2)) + (2 * (SP ^ 2)) + (4 * (FR ^ 2)) + (4 * (OLE ^ 2)) + (CO ^ 2) + (DE ^ 2)) / 18)

Headphone Roundup Scorecard

And here is the scorecard. As each new headphone model is evaluated, it scores will be added here so they can be compared directly.

SCORECARD
SCORECARD
SCORECARD
SCORECARD
SCORECARD
SCORECARD

In Summary

There are a lot of headphones out there, and a lot of headphone reviewers. The purpose of all this is to give you a somewhat different kind of tool to help you decide, based on these objective-subjective scores, which headphones you might like and want to buy. Yes that is an ambitious goal. Please let me know how well it works for you. Also remember, I gave this my best shot, based on my experience and my best judgments, but your own ears will be your own best judge. I welcome your constructive feedback, but alas, of coarse I can not guarantee satisfaction based on the scores - short of joining you in a Venetian mind meld. That would cost extra. I do sincerely wish you the best in your headphone listening and purchasing decisions.

May your headphone listening sessions be many and awesome!

Wayne Myers
username AudiocRaver


Excel Spreadsheet Link

Coming soon. Check back for a link, you will be able to download the scoring spreadsheet and scrutinize it.

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Sennheiser HD 600 Audiophile Headphone Review

by Wayne Myers



Introduction

The Sennheiser HD 600 Audiophile Headphones have been around for quite a while, and, if you count all the reviews posted by individuals in various places on the web, have been reviewed a gazillion times. That is just an approximation of course.

Why review them again? Because they are still, after close to 20 years, one of the best sets of headphones you can buy, and are a good reference point for comparison. As we launch the Home Theater Shack Headphone Roundup, the HD 600s present a good anchor point for this upcoming series of headphone reviews.

Features

The HD 600s are an open-backed, around-the-ear design. At introductions, they were Sennheiser's finest headphone offering, and their accurate yet easy-going sound made them a favorite among serious listeners and among recording and mastering engineers and musicians. All too often, standby products like the HD 600s get upgraded or replaced, but with the 600s Sennheiser has wisely stood by their design. That design is durable and highly modular - almost any part can be easily replaced, yet they rarely need to be.

Features

  • Extremely lightweight aluminium voice coils ensure excellent transient response
  • Computer-optimised magnet systems minimize harmonic and intermodulation distortion
  • Neodymium ferrous magnets for optimum sensitivity and wide dynamic range
  • Detachable OFC copper cable, Kevlar-reinforced, with very low handling noise
  • Diaphragm optimized using laser interferometry, no standing waves; undesirable diaphragm distortions are virtually non-existant
  • Excellent wearing comfort due to the elliptical shape of the earpads
  • MSRP: $399.95
  • Street price: $300
Specifications

Sennheiser states the frequency response of HD 600s as being flat. It turns out that there are different techniques for measuring headphone frequency response. The two curves below, the first from Sennheiser and the second from an online review source, illustrate the differences that can arise. Sennheiser's "diffuse field measurement" is admirably flat. The second curve shows the slight downward high-frequency tilt that most listeners report.

Measurement Graphs

Sennheiser's published frequency response curve for the HD 600s.



Frequency response for the HD 600s as measured by an online reviewer.


Also worth noting is the impedance for the 600s. Nominally 300 ohms, it peaks at well over 500 ohms at the resonant frequency of 100 Hz. The 600s, as is usually the case with high-end headphones, really need a good headphone amplifier to sound their best, one with a specified near-zero output impedance (under 1 ohm) to fully tame that resonance point.

I got a kick out of the pictorials that Sennheiser used to portray the HD 600's specs in one of their publications. You can see it in the drop-down area below, along with a more conventional spec list.

Specifications

Sennheiser's published specifications for the HD 600s - the new fun way.



Sennheiser's published specifications for the HD 600s - the old boring way.
  • Frequency response: 16 - 30,000 Hz, -3 dB; 12 - 39,000 Hz, -10 dB
  • Frequency characteristics: diffuse field equalized
  • Ear coupling: around the ear
  • Transducer: dynamic, open
  • Impedance: 300 ohm nominal
  • Sensitivity: 97 dB at 1 mW
  • Power handling: 0.2 W
  • Distortion: less than 0.1%
  • Cable length: 3 m, straight, Y with L & R connections
  • Connector: 3.5 mm with 6.3 mm adapter
  • Weight without cable: 260 g
General Impressions

Sennheiser headphones definitely have their own look, and the HD 600s, with their black and gray mottled finish, stand out as unique. To me it is a very elegant, attractive look that says they are something special, and probably expensive. Which, of course, they are. Being fairly durable, you can read online of people using them as their "knock-around" headphones, but that would not be my choice. They remain stay-at-home cans for relaxed listening in the comfy chair or for duty as reference phones.

Their fit is a little tight, but the ear pads are comfortable enough that I am able to forget about the pressure after a few minutes. The effectiveness of the headband padding helps.

Their sound is as smooth as a baby's bottom. They are smoooooth-sounding headphones. I have heard none smoother. The frequency response tilt is just enough to give a laid back-impression, to make them easy to listen to for long periods, and yet retains all the high-frequency detail you could wish for. They sound good soft and they sound good loud. They sound good with any kind of music you can throw at them.

Comparative Listening and Scoring Tests

The measurement criteria for these tests are described in detail in the Home Theater Shack Headphone Roundup Summary.

Imaging
Scores: 9, 8, 10
Weighted average: 9.3
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Comments: Solid imaging, no smearing, just a little roundness on certain high-frequency content, only noticeable during the most critical listening tests, still very good.

Soundstage
Scores: 8, 10
Average: 9
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Comments: Slightly compressed, a bit crowded on an up-close instrumental track, very natural on a big funk band track.

Clarity
Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10, 9
Average: 9.8
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Comments: Slightly strained on loud symphonic strings, excellent handling of heavy bass and cymbals soft and loud.

Speed
Scores: 8, 8, 10, 9, 10
Average: ????
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Comments: Certain bass instruments felt a bit mushy, lacking impact.

Frequency Response
Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10
Average: 10
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4
Comments: Extremely well-balanced, never a noticeable deficiency or overemphasis on any range for any track.

Overall Listening Experience
Score: 10
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4
Comments: Delightful handling of voices and percussion. Well-rounded delivery for a variety of genres.

Comfort
Score: 9
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x1
Comments: The initial impression of tightness wears off quickly, headband padding is very good. Nothing touches the ears.

Design
Score: 10
Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x1
Comments: Nicely made, rugged feel, elegant look. Modular design is a big plus.

See Overall Performance Score and Value Score at the end of the review

Non-Factored Scores
  • $100 reference headphone: No
  • Drivability with portable media devices: Yes
  • Usability without equalization: Yes
  • Isolation (if Closed design): n.a.
Track Hopping

Back to the Beethoven Symphony, just because it sounded so nice, a bit of edge to the strings but only at very high volume.

Porcupine Tree's Deadwing, so well-balanced, loving the way the cymbals are handled again, love those complex harmonics.

Joni Mitchell's voice on her Blue album, especially on A Case Of You, very warm, very intimate.

The Gorillaz, Rhinestone Eyes, again I'm loving the way vocals, male and female, are handled by these headphones.

Dillinger Escape Plan, Sunshine The Werewolf, recorded just a bit harsh, and the downward high-frequency tilt of the HD 600s is just right for it.

Pink Floyd's Hey You, that big fat snare drum right in your face, as real as can be, and more nicely-recorded cymbals with their harmonics.

Conclusions

Okay, so they are not perfect. In some of these categories, where you really start picking at details, the HD 600s do not stand up to the scrutiny that some newer high-end headphones do. But for overall listening likability, they still stand very tall. And in NO category would you call them significantly weak or deficient.

The Sennheiser HD 600s are an excellent set of reference headphones, and are a top pick for critical or relaxed listening sessions.

The Pros:
  • Smooth, laid-back sound, non-fatiguing, plenty of detail
  • Solid performer in all tested categories
  • Elegant appearance
  • Durable
  • Modular design, replaceable cable
The Cons:
  • Tight fit
Would I buy or recommend them? Absolutely.

Overall Performance Score: 9.5 out of 10

Street Price $300

Refer to the Headphone Roundup Matrix for scoring and comparison details.

Wayne Myers
username AudiocRaver



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Discussion Starter #14
Pioneer SE-A1000 Top of the Line Audio Headphone Review

by Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver



MSRP: $149.00 -- Street Price: varies, usually $100 or under -- Currently available from Amazon for $61.17 and Beach Camera for $69.00

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Pioneer SE-A1000 Review discussion thread.

Introduction

Pioneer started out as an electronics repair shop back in the '30s. They grew to become one of the go-to receiver and speaker makers of the '60s and '70s, and are still a major player in the audio market. We know them as a prominent maker of Audio/Video Receivers (AVRs), and they make speakers, home theater gear, car audio, DJ equipment, all kinds of audio accessories... and headphones.

Anyone who has dealt with audio gear for long has run across Pioneer, yet the SE-A1000s are the first Pioneer headphones I have ever listened to. Pioneer's headphone line covers DJ phones, portables, and a few models aimed at the serious listening market. When Pioneer offered to have us review a set of their cans, the "Top of the Line" SE-A1000s looked like the ones to try.

Description

The SE-A1000s are an open-backed, around-the-ear dynamic design. They are not fashion phones, but then most high-end headphones are not designed for the trendy fashion headphone market. That said, they do have an updated look to my eye. The dual ball hinges on each earpiece allow them to fit comfortably on each side, and lend a unique and modernize look to the SE-A1000s. Some reviewers have complained that those ball joints were creaky and noisy in use - that was not my experience, other than when there were being placed or adjusted.

The headband is flexible and very comfortable, with elastic tensioning straps that give just the right amount of support. The earpiece pads are wide and fit completely around the ear. Unlike the previously-reviewed Sennheiser HD 600s, the depth of the earpieces is shallow enough that the padded inner transducer assembly sits lightly against the ear. When I noticed this, I was concerned that the pressure might become uncomfortable over time, but it was gentle enough that this was never the case. All in all, they turned out to be very comfortable in long-term use.

The SE-A1000s come packaged in one of those tough, sealed plastic containers that you have to tangle with to open. Inside you find the headphones, a 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm screw-on adapter, the safety/instruction sheet, a Velcro cord wrap, and a soft fabric storage bag. The fabric-covered straight cord, measuring at 6 meters, almost 20 feet, is the longest I have seen. The phones appeared to be well designed, with good build quality, and tough enough to last with reasonable care. The elastic tensioning straps supporting the headband bear watching, as they are thin and look like they might possibly be a wear point over time.

How do they sound? Quite good. One area of the frequency response is worth some discussion. Other than that they scored well in listening tests.

Here are links to the Pioneer USA website and the Pioneer Europe website.

Features

  • Very Comfortable, Lightweight Design
  • Dual-Stabilized Hanger and Free-Adjusting Headband
  • Comfortable Jersey Ear Cushions
  • Powerful Bass, High Clarity
  • Rare-earth Alloyed Magnet
  • Braided Cord
  • Velcro Cord Wrap
  • 6.3mm Adapter, Gold Plated
  • Plush Carry Pouch
  • MSRP: $149.00
  • Street price: $100

Specifications

The frequency response curve shows the SE–A1000s to be quite flat sounding, with a slight downward tilt to the frequency response profile. They will be bright and forward sounding compared to many high-end headphones, but that downward tilt on the high-frequency end keeps the brightness under control. It is common for there to be a bit of a scoop out of the upper midrange, usually in the neighborhood of 4 kHz to 8 kHz, the result being an easier sound without loss of detail. With the SE-A1000s, that notch in the curve falls in a lower range, covering the octave from below 2 kHz to almost 4 kHz. For a lot of music, including most pop, rock, vocal, and electronic, this works just fine. But when I tried the SE-A1000s with tracks containing horns or strings, I was not crazy about the result. Saxophones especially ended up with a fake sound that was bothersome at times.

Here is the frequency response curve for the SE-A1000s, as measured by a prominent online source.


Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 10 - 30,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 45 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
  • Max Power: 1,500 mW
  • Transducer: dynamic, open
  • Driver: 50 mm
  • Ear coupling: around the ear
  • Cord: 6 meters, one side, not detachable
  • Connector: 3.5 mm with 6.3 mm adapter
  • Weight (without cord): 280 g

General Impressions

I was quite pleased with the SE-A1000s overall. Despite the slight pressure on the ear, they never became uncomfortable. There are very sensitive and easy to drive. Imaging and soundstage were good, and they sounded fast and clean with most material.

Frequency response is a listening quality that the ear easily adjusts to and settles into, and that 2 kHz to 4 kHz notch becomes easy to overlook over time. This will depend on the listener, of course. Overall, the SE-A1000s are clean, bright, pleasant sounding headphones.

Individual Test Scores

Measurement Methods

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Imaging
  • Test Scores
    • Very-High-Frequency: 8
    • High-Frequency: 8
    • General: 9
  • Weighted average (x1, x1, x2): 8.5
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Soundstage
  • Test Scores
    • Bluegrass track: 8
    • Funk Band track: 10
  • Average: 9.0
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Clarity
  • Test Scores
    • Cymbal, loud track: 6
    • Bass, loud track: 9
    • Cymbal, quiet track: 9
    • Cymbal, loud track: 7
    • Strings, loud track: 6
  • Average: 7.4
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Speed
  • Test Scores
    • Deep bass track: 9
    • Lows track: 10
    • Mids track: 9
    • Upper-mids track: 9
    • Highs track: 6
  • Average: 8.6
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Frequency Response
  • Frequency Response Profile: Flat
  • Test Scores
    • Deep bass track: 9
    • Lows track: 8
    • Mids track: 10
    • Upper-mids track: 3
    • Highs track: 10
  • Average: 8.0
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4
Overall Listening Experience
  • Score: 7
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4

Listening Tests

Imaging: 8.5 - The imaging with the SE-A1000s's, while not perfect, was very solid. It was a little wider and less distinct at high frequencies, but this was barely noticeable with most tracks. I did find that I had to adjust the positioning of the earpieces to get ideal imaging, a minor annoyance. This is usually not necessary with other tight-imaging headphones I have used.

Soundstage: 9.0 - For some material, the soundstage did not move out of the head as naturally as with other high-end headphones, but generally speaking it felt wide and natural.

Clarity: 7.4 - The SE-A1000s get a fair-to-good rating for clarity. That nice, clear sound of well-resolved cymbal harmonics came across well except on loud, heavy tracks, where the cymbals lost some of that clarity. The test track with loud strings came across with only fair clarity, but this was a bit hard to judge because of the previously mentioned odd sound of the strings.

Speed: 8.6 - The SE-A1000s scored well on all my listening tests except with the attack on a high triangle, which seemed soft and a little dead.

Frequency Response: 8.0 - Frequency Response Profile: Flat. While the frequents the response curve for the SE-A1000s has a slightly downward tilt, they sound pretty flat to my ear, with a bright, forward presentation. Points were deducted for Deep Bass being laid back, for Bass being slightly emphasized, and for the Upper Mids being very weak.

Track Hopping

An intended few minutes with the wonderfully-recorded Good Stuff album by the B-52s turned into track after track of listening. The synthesizer sounds on some tracks sounded a little unnatural, but to be fair, I have heard most of the these tracks a hundred times or more and it is difficult for me to expect less than perfection with them. For the most part, the B-52s sound great on the SE-A1000s.

I have always enjoyed the recording quality of the bass on this album, and it was handled nicely by the SE-A1000s. Bells, tambourines, and high percussive sounds came through with wonderful clarity. Having settled in with the SE-A1000s and their voicing, Vision of a Kiss, the buildup of acoustic guitar strums, bass and organ, female vocals, percussion, electric guitar, all presented in a way that turned this track into a listening FEAST. I actually used that word, all uppercase, in my notes. This kind of music is fun on these headphones. On the last track, Bad Influence, I could not resist cranking up the volume. As sensitive as the SE-A1000s are, it is easy to get them going loud, so handle with care.

Jonathan Coulton's Code Monkey sounded fuller than usual, but still well-balanced. The SE-A1000s, despite the appearance of the measured frequency response curve, comes across with a bit of boost in the range of bass guitar fundamentals. This was usually just noticeable, but occasionally boomy. This particular track benefited and felt more solid as a result.

I had a hard time getting past the fake sound of the strings on Prima Donna, from Phantom of the Opera. During the earlier evaluation tracks, while listening to the Beethoven Symphony, I found myself wondering if some listeners might like violins the way the SE-A1000s make them sound, extra-silky, like from a '70s British orchestral soundstage (a sound which never quite worked for me). Then I thought of Beethoven putting on a pair of these headphones, hearing the Symphony, and exclaiming, "What have you done with my orchestra! Those aren't violins!" My response would have been, "Apologies, Maestro, it's the cans."

On Joni Mitchell's Help Me, while Joni's vocals sounded great, the low-register flutes were muted. Then on Free Man in Paris, the flutes, now I'm a higher register, sounded fine; again the vocals and vocal harmonies sounded good through the SE-A1000s. Vocals are handled well by these phones, as are acoustic guitars, like on the People's Parties{/U} track.

The low percussion sounds on various tracks from Todd Rundgren's Healing album received a nice boost from the SE-A1000s's. Occasionally a tiny bit boomy, the bass response is usually solid, not overbearing.

On Adam's Murmur, by Cynic, the hard "S" vocal sounds were downright harsh. The SE-A1000s might end up voiced a little bright for listeners who are used to a laid-back headphone presentation, but I like their forwardness. Only occasionally, like on this track, did they seem too forward. The rapid double bass drums were handled very well. I enjoyed the way the 1000s dealt with punchy percussion.

Porcupine Tree's {U}Deadwing
starts out with soft synthesizer and quiet background sounds from a train or subway station. Those sounds seemed unclear, perhaps an indication that the SE-A1000s might be lacking in handling extremely broad dynamic range material. This was the only track that gave such an indication. The guitar and cymbal tones were definitely affected by that frequency response scoop. And the hi-hat was not always as clear as it should have been. There I am being supercritical on a favorite track again. The well recorded cymbal sounds through the rest of the track were handled nicely.

I put on several John Coltrane tracks from a Rhino Very Best Of album, expecting the saxophone to sound fake. At this point I had been listening for quite awhile, and with the settling-in of the ears, they had pretty much tuned out that frequency dip. Even with my negative expectation, the saxophone sounded pretty good. It was not hard to hear that missing frequency band if I thought about it, but it did not stand out like I expected it to. Our ears can get used to a lot if we give them the chance. I expect there will be those who like that sound, but if precise realism is what you are after, these headphones might not suit you. Another point: these tracks might not be the best to judge the SE-A1000s by, as the micing and mixing were innovative, perhaps even odd to some ears.

The Sheffield Labs track That's Not Me from their Drive test CD is the track I heard with saxophones that really stood out as odd-sounding with these headphones, way back when I first cracked them out of the box before burning them in. I returned to that track again.

Critical listening is a funny thing, and I do mean funny. While there are details that we get better at hearing over time, there are other details we might like to hear that our ears are busy covering up for us, keeping us ever ready to hear something new or different. Stopping for a half hour and then putting that same track on fresh ears - I did this several times through the evaluation of the SE-A1000s - always gave me an immediate "What IS it with those saxophones?" response. At this point, after listening with them for a couple of hours, the saxophone sound was barely objectionable, but still not hard to catch when I listened for it.

I finished up with Close to the Edge, an old favorite by Yes. Percussion and cymbal sounds stood out fresh and clear. Drums, cymbals, and percussion are handled with punchiness and clarity by the SE-A1000s's on tracks like this.​

Overall Listening Experience: 7 - Settling on this number was a struggle. There is a lot to like about these headphones, but every once in a while that dip in the upper mids stood out again. But that is accounted for in the Frequency Response score, so this score shouldn't get dinged for it, too. But it DOES get in the way on certain types of music. See what I mean? Without that flaw, they would get an 8 or 9 here. With it, if I listened primarily to orchestral and big band music, they might only get a 5 or 6. Splitting the difference makes it a 7. Wanting to ere on the side of generosity, feeling the need to be honest. Sigh. Seven (7) it is, still a good score for a likable set of headphones.
Non-Listening Scores

Comfort: 9 - The headband and surround pads are very comfortable. The transducer assembly sits against the ear slightly, the padding and fabric cover were comfortable enough that this did not bother me. A user with ears highly sensitive to pressure might find this to be a problem.

Design: 8 - Well-designed, not compact by any means, but this is typical of high-end headphones. The design is sturdy and easy to work with. The supplied plus bag is roomy and easy to use. The headband is a little bit floppy and the elastic support straps look flimsy, but neither of these minor complaints was a problem in actual use.

Overall Performance Score: 7.9 out of 10
Other Factors - not part of the Overall Performance Score
  • $100 reference headphone: No
  • Drivable with portable media devices: Yes
  • Usable without equalization: Yes
  • Isolation (if closed design): n.a.

Conclusions

The $100 mark is where the headphone market really starts to open up in terms of there being lots of good sounding models to choose from. The street price for the Pioneer SE–A1000s varies, but there always seems to be someone with a retail price of $100 or less, and at this writing, even close to $60. At that price, they are cans worth considering for serious open-phone listening.

The Pros:
  • Bright, forward presentation
  • Very sensitive, easy to drive
  • Performed well in all tested categories
  • Solid design, extra-long cable
The Cons:
  • Frequency response not ideal for brass or strings
Performance Summary and Overall Performance Score
  • Imaging: 8.5
  • Soundstage: 9.0
  • Clarity: 7.4
  • Speed: 8.6
  • Frequency Response: 8.0 (Flat Profile)
  • Overall Listening Experience: 7
  • Comfort: 9
  • Design: 8
  • MSRP: $149.00
  • Street Price: $100
  • Overall Performance Score: 8.0 out of 10
Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Pioneer SE-A1000 Review discussion thread.

Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver



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Pioneer SE-A1000 Top of the Line Audio Headphone Discussion Thread

by Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver



MSRP: $149.00 -- Street Price: varies, usually $100 or under -- Currently available from Amazon for $61.17 and Beach Camera for $69.00

Introduction

Anyone who has dealt with audio gear for long has run across Pioneer, yet the SE-A1000s are the first Pioneer headphones I have ever listened to. Pioneer's headphone line covers DJ phones, portables, and a few models aimed at the serious listening market. When Pioneer offered to have us review a set of their cans, the "Top of the Line" SE-A1000s looked like the ones to try.

Conclusions

The $100 mark is where the headphone market really starts to open up in terms of there being lots of good sounding models to choose from. The street price for the Pioneer SE–A1000s varies, but there always seems to be someone with a retail price of $100 or less, and at this writing, even close to $60. At that price, they are cans worth considering for serious open-phone listening.

The Pros:
  • Bright, forward presentation
  • Very sensitive, easy to drive
  • Performed well in all tested categories
  • Solid design, extra-long cable
The Cons:
  • Frequency response not ideal for brass or strings
Performance Summary and Overall Performance Score
  • Imaging: 8.5
  • Soundstage: 9.0
  • Clarity: 7.4
  • Speed: 8.6
  • Frequency Response: 8.0 (Flat Profile)
  • Overall Listening Experience: 7
  • Comfort: 9
  • Design: 8
  • MSRP: $149.00
  • Street Price: $100
  • Overall Performance Score: 8.0 out of 10
Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the full review.

This thread is open for discussion about the Pioneer SE-A1000s and the SE-A1000 review.

Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
This post is for working on editing and corrections, may change several times. The final review post will go in the Reviewers area.

Performance scores not yet updated.

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Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium Stereo Headphone Review

by Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver



MSRP: $365.00
Street Price: $349
Currently available from Amazon for $320.23 (normally $349.00) and Full Compass for $349.00

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Review discussion thread.

Introduction

Audio companies that make precision microphones and headphones belong to a special category in my mind. The production of instruments like these demands a special kind of engineering attention to detail that sets them apart. Beyerdynamic is one I have long admired, and I looked forward to reviewing their DT 880 Premium headphones. These are the first Beyerdynamic headphones I have had the pleasure of listening to, and as a result my assessment of the company has moved a solid couple of notches higher.


Description

The DT 880s are high-end headphones meant for critical listening. They come with a luxury leather carrying case, an informative instruction book with details about the company and the products they make, the headphones, and a screw-on 1/4-inch adapter. The design is simple, made for comfort and made to be reasonably resilient for use in a home listening environment. The cable is straight, single-sided, coming out of the left earpiece as usual. The metal parts have a brushed aluminum finish, and the overall look is functional and simple, not flashy. The DT 880s were not made to knock you out with their looks. Their sound is another story.

A couple of points need to be noted about selection options. First of all, the DT 880s are available in two versions, the Premium in this review, and a Pro version which costs about $100 less. The Premium version is also referred to as DT 880 Edition. The product carton I received was printed with "DT 880 Premium Stereo Headphone," and had a stick-on label on the side with "DT 880 Edition."

According to Beyerdynamic's website, the Pro version is made for studio and front-of-house applications, is built tougher with thicker headband padding, and has a "compressed" sound more suited to the volumes required for those applications. The Premium version is said to have a more open, natural sound. Based on this description, the Premiums were the clear choice for this evaluation. I have not heard the Pros, but "open and natural" describes the Premiums well, and I would be hesitant to sacrifice those qualities for greater volume or economy.

Another selection option is that there are three impedances available, 32 ohm, 250 ohm, and 600 ohm. I can imagine the pressure that was felt by the engineers who were first presented with the challenge, "Design a no-compromise high-end headphone with three available impedances and sensitivity levels, and make all three models sound the same." The voice coil design, the type, shape, and gauge of the coil wire, its resistance, the way the coil is wound, these and numerous related variables are critical to the way a headphone will end up sounding. Having to vary those design parameters to get a different impedance and sensitivity and not change the sound significantly would have engineers grumbling at the water cooler.

The reason for offering those different models, however, is good marketing. The 32-ohm model is sensitive enough for portable devices. The 250-ohm model has a higher damping factor for tighter transducer control, but is harder to drive so it needs either an AVR headphone output or, ideally, a solid headphone amp. The 600-ohm model is intended for use with headphone amplifiers that have a higher output impedance, like tube models.

Here are links to the Beyerdynamic website, and to the DT 880 brochure.

Features

The Beyerdynamic website contains a wealth of information about their products, the design choices made for them, and the theories behind those design choices. The DT 880s were designed using diffused-field equalization principles, meaning they are modeled to present sounds as we would hear them in a highly reflective environment. The result is an open, natural soundstage especially suited for acoustical instruments and orchestra. It works just fine for rock 'n roll though, too.

These headphones are very comfortable. As I first put them on, I was reminded of once shopping for a suit, trying on different brands, coming upon a pricier but higher-quality suit, and immediately feeling, " Oh, yeah, that's the one." The headband has adequate thickness and fits across the crown of the head just right. The earpieces are thick and super plushy. I noticed right off that the inner surface of the right earpiece barely touched the surface of my ear, but not on the left side. The phones were reversed to verify that the asymmetry was in my own construction, not that of the headphones. This was the case.

A couple of times in either placing them on or taking them off, there was a creak from the hinge joint on one side. This was only a minor curiosity, it never occurred while the headphones were in use. Construction is rugged enough for home use; for demanding applications, the Pro model appears to be built tougher.

Features
FEATURES

  • Semi-open back design
  • Rugged headband construction
  • Single-sided cable
  • Soft headband pad
  • Excellent sound location
  • Gold-plated 1/8" mini stereo jack plug (3.5 mm) and 1/4" adapter (6.35 mm)
  • Made in Germany

Specifications

The frequency response curve for the DT 880s suggests what I call the "Scooped" profile, with a scoop, or dip, in the curve that bottoms out between 3 and 5 kHz, then rises back to the nearly flat level at 8 kHz, rolling off beyond. The bass side of the curve extends smoothly down to almost 20 Hz before falling off a mere 3 dB, promising deep low-frequency extension. The overall shape of the measured curve looks quite smooth, and that is the way they sound.

The purpose of the Scooped profile is to be easier on the ears in their most sensitive range, around 3 kHz, while preserving detail above that, in the 7 to 10 kHz range. The risk is always that too much will be lost in that frequency dip, and the upper midrange will sound dead. This was all accomplished just right in design of the the DT 880s. That dip in the frequency response allows you to move in close to the music without it becoming overbearing. More on this later.

The nominal 250-ohm impedance varies between 230 ohms and 300 ohms, so a low-impedance drive is needed for best performance. I always recommend having a headphone amplifier with near-zero output impedance (1 ohm or lower). Distortion specs are quite good; only on extreme test tracks was clarity less than first-rate.

Specifications
BEYERDYNAMIC'S TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Transducer type. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dynamic
Operating principle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Semi-open
Frequency response. . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 - 35,000 Hz
Nominal impedance . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 O / 250 O / 600 O
Nominal SPL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 dB
T.H.D.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . < 0.2%
Power handling capacity . . . . . . . . . 100 mW
Sound coupling to the ear . . . . . . . . Circumaural
Nominal headband pressure . . . . . . approx. 2.8 N
Cable length and type . . . . . . . . . . . 3 m / straight cable
Connection. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gold-plated 1/8" mini stereo jack plug (3.5 mm) and 1/4" adapter (6.35 mm)
Weight without cable. . . . . . . . . . . . 290 g

General Impressions

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 250 ohm headphones sound fabulous! They scored extremely well in all categories, and listening was simply a treat. Track hopping turned into full album sessions which went on for hours at a time. This evaluation experience goes down as a new favorite on my list of headphone listening experiences. The frequency response goes deep into the bass, is strong but never overemphasized, the mids and highs are smooth, and the dip in the upper-mid frequencies only drew attention to itself on a few tracks, but never enough to be annoying or distracting.

They run clean and smooth, really shining on vocals and acoustical instruments and orchestra. They perform just as well on rock tracks. Their unassuming look might give the impression that they are nothing special, but their sound will quickly tell you otherwise.


Individual Test Scores

Measurement Methods

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Imaging
  • Test Scores
    • Very-High-Frequency: 8
    • High-Frequency: 8
    • General: 9
  • Weighted average (x1, x1, x2): 8.5
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Soundstage
  • Test Scores
    • Bluegrass track: 8
    • Funk Band track: 10
  • Average: 9.0
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Clarity
  • Test Scores
    • Cymbal, loud track: 6
    • Bass, loud track: 9
    • Cymbal, quiet track: 9
    • Cymbal, loud track: 7
    • Strings, loud track: 6
  • Average: 7.4
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Speed
  • Test Scores
    • Deep bass track: 9
    • Lows track: 10
    • Mids track: 9
    • Upper-mids track: 9
    • Highs track: 6
  • Average: 8.6
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Frequency Response
  • Frequency Response Profile: Scooped
  • Test Scores
    • Deep bass track: 9
    • Lows track: 8
    • Mids track: 10
    • Upper-mids track: 3
    • Highs track: 10
  • Average: 8.0
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4
Overall Listening Experience
  • Score: 7
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4

Listening Tests

Imaging: 8.5 - Imaging with the DT 880s is as good as I have ever heard with headphones, giving a sense of reach-out-and-touch reality to acoustical performances. Never was there a hint of smearing, never a sense of broadness or vagueness, all imaging was distinct and precise.

Soundstage: 9.0 - The soundstage is open, wide, thoroughly relaxed and natural. The sensation of the soundstage moving out of the head and in front of you is fully convincing.

Clarity: 7.4 - Not quite perfect, but very good. On heavy rock tracks with cymbals, those delicate individual cymbal tones could get slightly fuzzy. The DT 880s handled the loud orchestral string test passage wonderfully with no sense of harshness, taking advantage of that upper-mid-frequency dip.

Speed: 8.6 - The DT 880s handled these test tracks admirably. Published square-wave response plots show ringing to be average for high-end headphones, and I never heard any lack of snappiness while listening.

Frequency Response: 8.0 - Frequency response is very smooth, with excellent deep bass extension, a good sense of detail in the high frequencies, and just enough of that scoop, or dip, in the upper mids to avoid harshness with the volume turned up.



Track Hopping

Once I realized how nice the DT 880s sound, there was very little track hopping. Many albums were listened to end-to-end. The first, Cosmic Thing by the B-52s, was chosen because of its clean, simple recording style, its mix of male and female vocals, and the variety of instrumentation. The resonances of drums were felt as much as heard. Cymbal crashes were bright and clear, crisp and clean, had impact. The soundstage was wide and effortlessly natural.

On The Tubes' Love Bomb album, it became apparent how nicely the DT 880s handle vocals. The airy quality of close-up vocals really stood out. Drum resonances seemed to be bottomless and detailed enough to show the dimensions of the individual drums.

Joni Mitchell's Blue album ends up being included in every one of my listening tests. Her voice was still very young and fresh at the time of its recording, and the small-ensemble acoustical arrangements match the intimacy of the way her voice was recorded. That vocal airiness added to the feeling of closeness to her as she sang. I could almost see right down her throat at times.

At this point, the sense of intimacy of these headphones became crystal clear. The ability to move in close, closer, really close to the performance, where private details are revealed, with no sense of harshness, was nothing short of delightful. The acoustical instruments were right there within arms' reach. This kind of listening demands the use of FLACs or lossless files, as so much of that detail is contained in the frequencies that get compressed out of MP3s.

The only potential problem with hearing that kind of detail is being able to hear compressors pumping, a buzz in the piano action, imperfections in your favorite tunes that you might not want to know about. I love the sense of reality it gives you. And there are discoveries to be made. I did not realize that "California" had such an interesting drumbeat before.

This album sounded so beautiful on the DT 880s that I listened to it end-to-end twice in a row, and two more times later on. The DT 880s were made for this album. I could picture a boxed set of the two together.

On Beth Nielsen Chapman's "Beyond the Blue," the deep, thumping low drum could be felt in the chest, those low frequencies making their way through the head and air passages clear down into the lungs. This was also the case with the deep stand-up bass tones on "Glory Bound" by the Wailin' Jennys. Nice. The low-frequency extension and smoothness really stood out on these tracks. Other tracks on Chapman's Sand and Water album, as well as the tracks on Handsome Moves, by the Peach Kings, also with well-recorded female vocals, kept bringing that word intimacy to mind.

You know you have been smitten by a set of speakers or headphones when you find yourself tuning into music that you normally do not listen to, simply because you know it will sound really good on them. There were tracks to be enjoyed by Lucinda Williams, Little Big Town, and Shania Twain, mainly to hear how their voices sounded on the DT 880s, and none were disappointing.

For a change of pace, the Rev. Horton Heat's "Galaxy 500," a dose of barely-contained psychobilly chaos, gave the DT 880s a chance to show how balanced they could sound with driving drums, distorted guitar, deep standup bass, and a strong male singing voice.

Listening to Todd Rundgren's Healing album was the first time I noted any shyness in those upper-mid frequencies. Some brighter guitar and synthesizer sounds were pulled back in the mix by that scoop. The effect was noted and quickly forgotten. Higher register bells and triangles were not affected.

At this point it was becoming apparent that having different headphones specifically for different kinds of music could be a lot of fun. The DT 880s held their own on other rock tracks, only occasionally feeling slightly subdued. Each time, the effect was noted but never distracting. The voicing of the DT 880s was so perfect on so many tracks that it was impossible to subtract points for that upper-mid dip. To me it is a carefully calculated design choice, not a design deficiency or error.

Symphony number seven, by Beethoven (F. Reiner, Chicago Symphony), all four movements, gave me another chance to see how close I could get to the action. With the volume up, it felt like I was standing right beside the Maestro, the soundstage wide, relaxed, and natural, the imaging precise, and details apparent that you would not hear from out in the seats. The tap of a fingernail, the crackle of a page turn, the hint of scratchiness of violin bowing up close, the little collisions and frictions involved in playing an instrument, these occasional little reality sounds could be heard from this vantage point, not distracting from the performance but giving it a human quality. More than once one of those sounds had me looking around to see if it had been made by something in my room.

The strings sounded beautiful, never shrill even at high volume. I noticed a little solo melodic handoff from oboe to flute to clarinet to bassoon that had never caught my attention before. Thumps of the double basses were felt deep in the chest. A timpani strike had me turning my head for a look, and the finale with all the strings being plucked at once had me seeing individual fingertips on strings. Each instrument's location throughout was imaged with the precision that temps the psycho-acoustical brain to believe you have been transported somewhere else.

After a listen-through of the complete Symphony, a replay of the second movement with the volume turned very low allowed the DT 880s to show how dynamic they could be. Even with the quieter passages at the edge of hearing perception, there was no sense of anything being lost, rather the movement seemed fully dynamic even at that level.

The DT 880s had no trouble handling rock 'n roll. Radiohead's Amnesiac album had some previously hidden imperfections to show, but the new details heard in the jazz band on "Life In A Glasshouse" made it feel like a freshly-found tune.

The prominent and well-miced cymbals on Around the Fur (Deftones), Undertow (Tool) , and Dancing Undercover (Ratt) give plenty more chances to test for clarity. Only when running well into the upper 90 dB SPL zone was there any hint of the complex cymbal tones beginning to lose some clarity, and even then they still sounded pretty good. Even the density of Meshuggah's "Nothing" did not phase the DT 880s' ability to resolve detail and image with sparkling clarity.

Porcupine Tree provided the finale. Their Deadwing album is such a favorite that it is only played on special occasions, and I had to hear it on the DT 880s. Porcupine Tree's music covers a range of styles and sounds and levels of heaviness. They are more dynamic than most rock bands, even those in the Progressive genre. "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" is a prime example, and with the DT 880s you can turn up the volume to move in close on the quieter passages and have it remain comfortable through the metal-heavy parts moments later.

The string crescendo in, "Collapse The Light Into Earth, " an excellent recording by rock standards, gets a little shrill at its loudest due to compression and clipping, but the DT 880s' frequency response profile attenuated that shrillness and made it barely noticeable.

Overall Listening Experience: 7 - I almost felt guilty not being able to find anything to complain about with the DT 880s. As mentioned, the upper-mid-frequency dip was apparent on a few tracks, but never really detracted from their enjoyment.
Non-Listening Scores

Comfort: 9 - Comfort is second to none. You can wear these all day and forget you have them on. The tightness level is just right to keep them in place without excessive pressure.

Design: 8 - The design is adequate for home use. The provided carrying case has enough padding that a drop onto bare concrete would not have you concerned. The occasional creak in one hinge was a curiosity, but not really a concern about reliability or possible breakage, and it never made noise during listening. They are easy to put on, easy to adjust, and will stay in place with normal movement. They are more compact than many high-end headphones. They do not fold, but collapsed down to about as small a size as you could hope for with its design, the two ear pads snug together.

Overall Performance Score: 8.0 out of 10
Other Factors - not part of the Overall Performance Score
  • $100 reference headphone: No
  • Drivable with portable media devices: No. The 32-ohm model should be, but was not tested. The 250 ohm and 600 ohm models need plenty of drive level, plan on a headphone amplifier.
  • Usable without equalization: Yes
  • Isolation (if closed design): n.a.

Conclusions

By now you have figured it out. I fell in love with the DT 880s. There were times during the scoring when I felt like I should take a point off here or there out of principle, to not seem like a soft reviewer, but I could not do so with honesty.

Other reviewers have taken off points for the scoop in the upper-mid frequencies. I recognize it as a design choice. Some headphones are designed to have heavy bass for those who like it. To penalize them for having stronger bass would be like declaring that there is only one way to enjoy listening with headphones, a silly notion. There you go, I am a liberal in this regard, thus the frequency response profiles and categories used in this scoring method. For the Scooped frequency response category that the DT 880s are designed to occupy, I cannot imagine it having been accomplished more expertly.

While the 32-ohm and 600-ohm models were not tested, Beyerdynamic hints that the 600-ohm version sounds very much the same as the one tested, while the 32-ohm version provides stronger bass.

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 250-ohm headphones are not for the budget conscious. They are in good company at the $350 price point, where discounts are hard to find, so I have to call them a good value regardless of the serious dent they will put in your A/V gear fund. I highly recommend the DT 880s for your consideration, especially if your listening tastes favor vocals and acoustical instruments. They handle rock 'n roll just fine, too, and let you push the volume a lot further than you normally might with other headphones or with speakers. Watch those SPL levels and please keep your precious hearing safe.

The Pros:
  • Sound great with any style of music, particularly well-suited for vocals and acoustical instruments
  • Allow intimate close-up listening without harshness
  • Laser sharp imaging; wide, natural soundstage
  • Very comfortable design, good for long listening sessions
  • Leather carrying and storage case
The Cons:
  • A headphone amplifier or AVR is needed to drive them to a listening good volume
Performance Summary and Overall Performance Score
  • Imaging: 8.5
  • Soundstage: 9.0
  • Clarity: 7.4
  • Speed: 8.6
  • Frequency Response: 8.0 (Scooped Profile)
  • Overall Listening Experience: 7
  • Comfort: 9
  • Design: 8
  • MSRP: $365.00
  • Street Price: $349
  • Overall Performance Score: 8.0 out of 10
Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Review discussion thread.

Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver



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Beyerdynamic, DT 880, review, subjective, objective, scorecard, comparison
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this is the summary for the first post in the discussion thread
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Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium Stereo Headphone Review

by Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver



MSRP: $365.00
Street Price: $349
Currently available from Amazon for $320.23 and HeadRoom for $349.00


Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Review discussion thread.

Introduction

Audio companies that make precision microphones and headphones belong to a special category in my mind. The production of instruments like these demands a special kind of engineering attention to detail that sets them apart. Beyerdynamic is one I have long admired, and I looked forward to reviewing their DT 880 Premium headphones. These are the first Beyerdynamic headphones I have had the pleasure of listening to, and as a result my assessment of the company has moved a solid couple of notches higher.

Conclusions

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 250-ohm headphones are not for the budget conscious. They are in good company at the $350 price point, where discounts are hard to find, so I have to call them a good value regardless of the serious dent they will put in your A/V gear fund. I highly recommend the DT 880s for your consideration, especially if your listening tastes favor vocals and acoustical instruments. They handle rock 'n roll just fine, too, and let you push the volume a lot further than you normally might with other headphones or with speakers. Watch those SPL levels and please keep your precious hearing safe.

The Pros:
  • Sound great with any style of music, particularly well-suited for vocals and acoustical instruments
  • Allow intimate close-up listening without harshness
  • Laser sharp imaging; wide, natural soundstage
  • Very comfortable design, good for long listening sessions
  • Leather carrying and storage case
The Cons:
  • A headphone amplifier or AVR is needed to drive them to a listening good volume
Performance Summary and Overall Performance Score
  • Imaging: 8.5
  • Soundstage: 9.0
  • Clarity: 7.4
  • Speed: 8.6
  • Frequency Response: 8.0 (Scooped Profile)
  • Overall Listening Experience: 7
  • Comfort: 9
  • Design: 8
  • MSRP: $365.00
  • Street Price: $349
  • Overall Performance Score: 8.0 out of 10
Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Review discussion thread.

Wayne Myers
AudiocRaver
 

·
Banned
Joined
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4,838 Posts
Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
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Audyssey MultEQ FAQ and Setup Guide

1 - Introduction

Audyssey MultEQ is a room- and speaker-tuning technology that is built into many Audio-Video Receivers. It is designed to be simple to use with minimal special knowledge, and it is a powerful tool. But getting good results with Audyssey MultEQ does take some careful attention to detail. And it is possible to get marginal or even poor results in some situations. The purpose of this Guide is to help users maximize their chance of success using Audyssey MultEQ without frustration or trouble.

This User Guide is organized in the following sections:
  • 2 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and General Information about Audyssey MultEQ
  • 3 - How Audyssey MultEQ Works
  • 4 - Room and Speaker Setup Fundamentals
  • 5 - Audyssey MultEQ Usage Guidelines
  • 6 - Good and Bad Setup Mic Patterns - Priorities and Tradeoffs
  • 7 - The Room EQ Process and Recommended Mic Patterns
  • 8 - How To Get Help If You Are Still Having Trouble
Abbreviations & Terminology:
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  • AMEQ = Audyssey MultEQ; it is commonly referred to as "Audyssey," but the Audyssey company also makes a number of other audio technology products, so we will refer to it by its proper name, MultEQ or Audyssey MultEQ (AMEQ)
  • the Audyssey MultEQ AVR Sequence = the sequence of steps built into your AVR to run the AMEQ automated process; you will run this Sequence as part of the bigger Room EQ Process, maybe several times
  • AV = audio-video
  • AVR = audio-video receiver
  • DRC = Digital Room Correction, correction of speaker and acoustical frequency response deficiencies (and phase response, with some products, including AMEQ) by software which analyzes those deficiencies then applies digital filtering to correct them
  • FR = frequency response, tonal quality
  • the Guide = this set of documents
  • HT = home theater
  • HTS = Home Theater Shack
  • IC = image clarity or imaging
  • LFE = low-frequency effects channel that goes to your subwoofer(s)
  • LP = listening position or seat (see PLP)
  • LR = listening room
  • MM = measurement microphone, the AMEQ Setup Mic
  • Outlier = An outlier in Statistics terminology, is a data point that for some reason lies outside the "normal" range of data points. In our case, assuming you have a number of listening positions (LPs) grouped together that sounds very similar, the "outlier" is the LP, probably in another part of the room, that sounds markedly different from the other "normal" LPs.
  • PLP = primary listening position or seat, the best/main seat in the HT or LR (see LP)
  • PLPC = position of the center of the listener's head at the PLP
  • REW = Room EQ Wizard, the free audio analysis software package from HTS
  • Setup Mic = the mic that came with your AVR for Audyssey MultEQ setup
  • the Room EQ Process = our recommended step-by-step process for getting good results with AMEQ; it involves running the Audyssey MultEQ AVR Sequence

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2 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and General Information about Audyssey MultEQ

Subsections:
  • General FAQ
  • Accessories you Will Need
  • The Setup Mic
  • Running the Audyssey MultEQ Analysis Routine
  • Results
  • Audyssey MultEQ Versions
  • Time/Phase Correction
General FAQ

What is Audyssey MultEQ and where do I find it?
Audyssey MultEQ (AMEQ) is Digital Room Correction (DRC) software that comes built into many audio-video receivers (AVRs) for Home Theater and Stereo audio systems. Its purpose is to make frequency response and time delay adjustments to optimize the performance of the sound system. The software is designed and supplied by Audyssey Laboratories, a California-based U.S. company.

How does Audyssey MultEQ work?
MultEQ plays a series of sounds through each speaker and measures the result at your listening position(s) using a special microphone supplied with your receiver. It then calculates and stores frequency-dependent correction factors to optimize the frequency response of your system. It also stores timing correction factors so signals traveling different distances from speakers different distances away all reach the listening position at the same time. Plus it manages crossover frequencies for your subwoofer and for bi-amplified speaker systems.

While the exact algorithms are proprietary, in principle AMEQ goes through a process of averaging the measurements for each speaker and determining the frequency and time response adjustments that will optimize audio system performance. Those settings are stored in the AVR's memory and are always at the ready when the AVR is turned on for use.

Is Audyssey MultEQ easy to use?
Because it is built into the AVR, there is no need to make any connections to run Audyssey MultEQ other than plugging in the Setup Mic, a single connection into the front of the AVR. All controls are menu driven, selected by operating five buttons on the AVR remote.

How do I know if my system will benefit from using Audyssey MultEQ?
Most audio systems will benefit from AMEQ, some more than others. Exceptions are top-performance systems made up of high-end speakers in rooms with excellent acoustics needing little or no correction. At the other end of the scale are systems with poor speakers and/or poor acoustics. The best candidates for benefiting from Audyssey MultEQ are systems with good speakers in rooms with fairly good acoustics, needing some fine tuning.

Can Audyssey MultEQ correct the acoustical shortcomings of my room?
AMEQ can not change the acoustical properties of a room, nor can any DRC program. It can attempt to compensate for some types of acoustical shortcomings, sometimes very effectively. Highly reflective rooms or rooms with irregular layouts are often beyond being helped substantially by any DRC software, including Audyssey MultEQ. This is not to say that the software lacks in capability, but rather that the complexities of many room acoustical problems simply cannot be addressed in this way. Where serious acoustical problems exist, it is always best to address them with acoustical treatments before attempting to correct with AMEQ. Home Theater Shack's Home Audio Acoustics Forum contains a wealth of helpful information, plus special questions can always be posted for individualized help.
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Can Audyssey MultEQ correct the shortcomings of my speakers?
Where moderate frequency and/or phase response irregularities in speakers are the main problems being addressed, Audyssey MultEQ can be very effective in providing correction.

Don't some audio experts say that "Equalizing speakers above 200 Hz is a bad idea?"
Yes, there are those who make blanket statements like that. In my view, it is a matter of relativity. If you were to compare your Audyssey-MultEQ-corrected system to one where acoustics were treated and the room and speakers (probably more expensive than what you have now) were carefully matched, you would probably agree that the "other" setup sounds better. For "everyday people," AND for many fairly serious audiophiles, who want an easy way to tune their system a bit without going overboard, Audyssey MultEQ can give very satisfying improvement. (Watch out for absolute blanket statements like the one above. Blanket statements tend to be smothering. And tend to ignore the fact there are tradeoffs in every set of decisions.)

Just what is Audyssey MultEQ adjusting for?
There are many factors that contribute to the sound of a Home Theater or Stereo sound system. No speaker or room is perfect, and every combination of speakers, room, and layout will sound different. DRC software attempts to overcome these combined imperfections for the listener. The goal of DRC software like Audyssey MultEQ is to make the frequency response, and - with some DRC solutions, including AMEQ - the time/phase response at the Listening Position (LP) match what it would be if the speaker and room imperfectons did not exist. Of course, this can never be accomplished perfectly.

What types of speakers work best with Audyssey MultEQ?
It is recommended that the front and surround speakers have matched characteristics and that all be have well-controlled frequency response down to 80 Hz, the recommended LFE crossover frequency for the Dolby Digital and DTS families of surround processors.

Can I choose a powered or unpowered subwoofer to use with MultEQ?
Yes, you may use either a powered (active, with its own built-in power amp) sub or an unpowered (passive, powered by the AVR's power amp) sub. You will be asked which is in use. Active subwoofers are by far the most common, as the amplifier characteristics can be matched to the transducer's. It is recommended that the subwoofer have well-controlled frequency response up to 80 Hz, the recommended LFE crossover frequency for the Dolby Digital and DTS families of surround processors.

I am thinking about purchasing a new AVR. What is the advantage of purchasing one with Audyssey MultEQ included?
Low cost and ease of use.

If Audyssey MultEQ is not built into my AVR, can it be added? Or can I run it on a computer or some other audio processing hardware external to my AVR?
No. AMEQ is only available built into AVRs as sold, it cannot be added later or run on any kind of external hardware.

Will Audyssey MultEQ make an AVR more expensive?
Yes, there are licensing fees that must be paid by the AVR manufacturer to Audyssey Labs. Audyssey MultEQ technology is an advanced feature and, like all features, will add to the cost of an AVR. AMEQ usually comes on more capable AVR models, so it is difficult to separate out its cost adder. An educated guess would be $30 to $50 added to the price on receivers costing %500 and up.

Does Audyssey MultEQ add distortion or negatively affect the sound performance or power consumption or heat dissipation or reliability of the AVR in any way?
In pure theoretical terms, yes, but probably not in any measurable way. The perfectionist Audiophile will sometimes insist on an absolute minimum of circuitry and no digital processing in the signal chain to keep the signal unchanged from the source signal. AMEQ can always be deactivated if needed and turned back on again at will, although the modern AVR usually has some digital signal processing at work. Distortion added by the DSP calculations involved is kept extremely low - well below the limits of audibility according to blind listening tests, although some discerning listeners will claim otherwise, and we will not get into those arguments here. The additional power consumption and heat dissipation from running with AMEQ active will be negligible compared to that from other circuits in a modern AVR. Today's AVRs are also extremely reliable. Adding AMEQ will make use of circuitry and processors that already exist and will not measurably affect AVR reliability.

Can Audyssey MultEQ be used with surround processors like Dolby Digital or DTS?
Yes, AMEQ is compatible with all surround processors.

What if I add more satellite speakers or an additional sub in the future?
Then you must re-run the MultEQ process. Each time it is run, it checks all the outputs on the receiver for available speakers and includes all that are connected.

What if I move speakers or rearrange furniture or add curtains or a throw rug?
It is recommended that MultEQ be re-run when any change is made to the layout of the room or furnishings, including carpeting, rugs, drapes, blinds, windows, tapestries, and wall hangings, especially if the acoustical "hardness" of a surface area changes (hanging a picture with a glass covering on a painted plaster wall is probably OK, but hanging a large, thick tapestry on that wall would warrant re-running AMEQ). Small knick knacks are OK. If it is the size of a lamp or bigger, re-run AMEQ.

Some of your recommendations are different from what I have seen on other web sites. Why is that, and why should I trust your recommendations over others?
There are a few differences, yes. The reasons for them are well explained and are backed up with data and listening tests. If someone can prove any of these findings incorrect, I will gladly make the appropriate changes.

Accessories You Will Need

What accessories or other equipment will I need before I can start running Audyssey MultEQ?
Here are some items that will come in handy:
  • A tape measure.
  • A laser distance meter - OPTIONAL. Some measurements can be a little tricky to make accurately, and a laser distance meter can make them a lot easier. If you do much with speaker setup and audio measurements, you will find one invaluable. I like the Bosch DLR130K Digital Distance Measurer.
  • A good quallity laser pointer. This can really help with speaker alignment, especially if you are trying different speaker locations or angles. Put a piece of tape or an adhesive dot on a wall or piece of furniture to line up on. Then if a speaker gets bumped or moved after you found that perfect listening angle, the laser pointer can be used for a quick alignment check and correction. Be sure you get a quality model that has the laser beam straight on the axis of the body of the pointer. Place it on a flat surface, push the on button, and roll it back and forth through 3/4 of a turn without releasing the on switch. The laser beam pointing at a distant wall should not move up or down - if it does, the beam is not aligned properly. I like the Quartet Executive Metal Laser Pointer MP-1350Q. Be sure you buy a model with a metal pushbutton switch. Switch failure is the most common failure point for laser pointers.
  • SPL meter - OPTIONAL. If you are serious about getting even frequency response through the subwoofer range, this will come in handy. I recommend getting the Galaxy CM-140 through Cross Spectrum Labs, a reputable firm with excellent customer service which works closely with Home Theater Shack forum members. The Verified+ ("Verified Plus") version is not cheap at $140 plus shipping, but comes with frequency response calibration so you can verify low-frequency response through the subwoofer range using downloadable test tones. But before you buy an SPL meter, consider this:
    • For less money you can buy a calibrated microphone. That along with an existing laptop and Room EQ Wizard (free) can get you into making serious measurements, but the complexity factor can be downright scary.
    • The SPL meter with its calibration chart and some downloaded test tones is an extremely simple combination to take measurements with.
    • Our downloadable test tracks plus your ears will help you catch the worst problems. You might give that approach a try first.
  • A microphone stand or camera stand. This is for the Audyssey MultEQ Setup Mic. The mounting thread on the microphohe is 1/4 in, made for a camera stand. I prefer a mic stand, which requires adapters listed below. The DR Pro DR256 MS1500BK Low Profile Mic Boom Stand is a nice smaller model. I also have a full-sized mic stand with a boom, the On Stage Stands MS7701 Tripod Boom Microphone Stand.
  • Swivel-head adapter, 3/8 in female base, 1/4 in male head (for the Audyssey Setup Mic): Giottos MH1004-320
  • Thread adapter, 5/8 in female to 3/8 in male: AKG KM216
  • If you have more than one mic stand, 2 quick release mic clip adapters: On Stage Stands QK2B
  • Tape or adhesive dots
  • Favorite test tracks:
    • A music track that you are familiar with that is even (the same instruments, vocals, and mix throughout), full-range (includes solid bass tones, high frequencies like cymbals, all tones in between, played and mixed evenly throughout), and a single female vocalist recorded cleanly and simply.
    • A favorite movie test track.
The Setup Mic

What is special about the Audyssey MultEQ Setup Mic?
Every AVR that comes with Audyssey MultEQ build in has a setup microphone supplied. This is the microphone to use for all Audyssey MultEQ analysis with that AVR. That microphone has been selected for its frequency response characteristics, and there is a complementary correction curve programmed into the AVR for that microphone model.

Over the years, there have been several models of the AMEQ Setup Mic supplied with AVRs that contain AMEQ technology, and that model AVR has the appropriate calibration curve programmed in for the Setup Mic model that will be supplied with it. The different Setup Mic models have different frequency response characteristics, so the Setup Mic supplied with one AVR might or might not work properly with another model AVR, even from the same manufacturer.

There are no model numbers or serial numbers or markings to differentiate these Setup Mic models, and different models sometimes look exactly the same in design and color. Some AMEQ-capable AVRs had the Setup Mics produced by the AVR manufacturer and some have been made by Audyssey Labs. Audyssey Labs has produced two different Setup Mic models, identical in appearance but with different frequency response characteristics. Since 2007, all AMEQ setup mics from Audyssey Labs have been the second of these two models, all with the same frequency response. Each microphone is tested at by Audyssey Labs to match the reference curve within +/- 2 dB over the usable frequency range.

What this boils down to is: only use the Audyssey MultEQ setup mic that was supplied with your AVR. Don't borrow one from a buddy unless it came with an identical model AVR. If you have to replace your Setup Mic, only use one that comes either from the AVR manufacturer or from Audyssey Labs specifically for that model AVR.

There are other sources on the web that sell AMEQ setup mics. It is not recommended that you trust them. Counterfeit setup mics have been identified that look perfect but perform horribly. Bottom line, only use the Setup Mic that came with the AVR or a replacement from the manufacturer or from Audyssey specifically for your AVR model.

If you have two different AVRs with AMEQ setup mics, better mark them first thing so you do not mix them up. They might be different models.

The Audyssey MultEQ setup mic is also unique in that it has a 2-conductor connector 1/8 inch (tip, sleeve) rather than the typical 3-conductor 1/8 inch connector (tip, ring, sleeve) like most computer microphones.

Audyssey MultEQ Setup Mic Models:
  • ACM1 - first by Audyssey
  • ACM1H - follow-up, replaces ACM1, different calibration curve, 2007 and after
  • ACM1HB - black color
  • APM1 - professional model, comes with Pro Kits
Running the Audyssey MultEQ Analysis Routine

Should I run the standard receiver setup process first?
There is no reason to do so, as Audyssey MultEQ replaces those values with its own. The AMEQ-calculated values should always be used, with a few exceptions that follow.

What is the purpose of the short MultEQ Setup routine?
This routine calculates speaker frequency ranges, the crossover frequencies for transitioning from each speaker to the subwoofer or low-frequency effects (LFE) channel, the distances from each speaker to the Primary Listening Position (PLP), the LFE channel level. Then those values are stored in your AVR's speaker setup settings for use by other AVR programs. If you are getting ready to run the complete MultEQ correction process, this will all be done anyway, so there is no reason to run MultEQ Setup first.

Is it possible that running MultEQ could damage my speakers?
No, even though the levels may seem loud, they are low enough in power that your speakers are completely safe, less than one watt.

How many listening positions will MultEQ allow to be analyzed?
This depends on the version. See the comparison chart below.

What is the advantage of doing this?
Especially in home theater settings, where a number of viewers may be watching together, the MultEQ averaging process finds a "happy medium" setting that allows all viewers to benefit from the equalization process to some extent (see the next topic).

Is there any disadvantage to averaging multiple viewer locations?
The process determines an equalization setting that is a compromise across the listening locations. As a compromise, no averaged location will sound as good as one location will with an "ideal" setting. The exception would be a well-treated room with minimum variation across the listening positions. I suggest that you first run MultEQ for a single ideal listening location to hear it "the best it can be," then determine if averaging is right for your room. A detailed process follows.

Can any of Audyssey MultEQ's settings be adjusted or fine-tuned by hand?
Only with the Pro Installation Kit using an external computer.

What is the difference between the target curves that can be selected after setup?
The Music target curve is a very flat frequency response. The Movie, or Reference, target curve has attenuated high frequencies for the reverberant characteristics of typical rooms. The Music, or Flat, target curve usually works best in highly-treated rooms.

Can Audyssey MultEQ be used in a way that improves image clarity, or imaging, at the same time that it is improving frequency response, or are the two goals mutually exclusive?
It is possible to achieve both good image clarity and good frequency response using AMEQ. This will be discussed in later sections.

Is image clarity worth even considering in a Home Theater system?
As long as there are sounds that come from in between pairs of speakers, yes it is.

All this sounds way too complex for me. Can I just hire someone to do the room tuning for me?
Yes, there are many Audyssey MultEQ Authorized Installers around the U.S. and around the world. Visit the Audyssey Labs web site to locate one.

Results

I tried Audyssey MultEQ when I first set up my AVR and it did not help. What did I do wrong?
There are many possible reasons a user might get results that do not seem to help or that might even sound worse than without, especially after a quickly done setup by a first-time user. Do not assume that AMEQ will not help your system without reading through our Usage Guidelines and following our Setup Process in the following sections. Even Audyssey MultEQ's advanced design can be easily undone through simple user errors or oversights. Attention to surprisingly small details can make a huge difference in your results.

What are the most common reasons for an Audyssey MultEQ user to get unsatisfactory results?
In order of most to least likely:
  1. A poorly chosen setup mic pattern.
  2. Imprecise setup mic placement.
  3. Poor room acoustics and/or room layout.
  4. Poor speakers or speakers that are a poor choice for the listening room and layout.
  5. Other electronic or signal processing problems or interaction with the Audyssey MultEQ processing.
Once the MultEQ values have been stored, is it always active?
MultEQ can easily be switched off or on using your remote.

Can I change the speaker setup values after the Audyssey MultEQ tuning process has been run?
No, because AMEQ's correction is dependent upon these values. There are exceptions, though. One value that is occasionally incorrect is the distance setting for the left- or right-front speaker or for the center channel speaker - they are set in 1/2 foot increments and one will be off by 1/2 foot every 5th or 6th time through or so, and the L, C, R settings might be 8 ft, 8 ft, and 7.5 ft, for example, or 8 ft, 7.5 ft, and 7.5 ft - C slightly closer than L & R is fairly common, but L and R should always match. When this happens, the image clarity is totally non-existent. These values should be checked every time AMEQ is run, and if one of the values is not correct, AMEQ should be run again.

Other values that can be adjusted with minimal impact are the level settings for each speaker. LFE crossover settings should not be changed, nor should speaker size. Distance settings for speakers other than L, C, and R should not be changed. Subwoofer distance setting can be changed if it is found to fix a frequency response smoothness problem at the LFE crossover frequency.

Can I use Audyssey MultEQ with other types of equalization?
You always have the option to tailor the sound to your liking after AMEQ setup. You may like more bass or less treble, and can use other AVR controls along with AMEQ, or an external equalization processor. Be sure that other filters and equalization are turned off when running Audyssey MultEQ, it will not automatically deactivate them for the setup process. You can turn them back on later. There is an exception to this guideline for advanced users where an external notch filter is used to tame one or two particularly annoying frequency response peaks that AMEQ has trouble controlling on its own - this is a useful technique with low-frequency peaks from room modes and requires precision measurement equipment to do properly.

Is it possible to store multiple versions of MultEQ's settings for comparison or for different listening situations?
Only with Audyssey MultEQ Professional Installation Kit, which will work with either MultEQ XT32 or MultEQ XT. With standard versions, only the last stored set of values is available. The complete MultEQ process must be run any time a change is desired, and previous results are lost. Because of this, it is wise to write down the Setup Mic positions used each time you run an analysis, so you can repeat results in the future.

Is it true that in order to get really great performance with Audyssey MultEQ the user needs to be able to make precision audio system measurements with a calibrated microphone and computer?
This is always an option, but AMEQ was designed to make it unneccessary. The majority of "fairly picky" users probably do this and will insist that it is necessary. But good performance is possible without it. Subwoofer frequencies can be a bit problematic. See the following topic...

The low frequencies from my subwoofer seem uneven. Will Audyssey MultEQ correct this?
Getting even bass response is one of the more difficult tasks, even for a powerful program like AMEQ. The first challenge is placement of the subwoofer(s) in the room for good response at the PLP and hopefully as many other LPs as possible. Even after achieving that through trial and error with detailed measurements (special equipment is required for this), including smooth integration with my left, right, and center speakers, AMEQ sometimes managed to turn that into a more uneven result with a serious dip at the LFE crossover frequency, requiring subwoofer distance (delay) or phase setting adjustment to compensate. In my experience, getting really even subwoofer response through the crossover frequency without some way of measuring the result is difficult if not impossible. But - keeping to the pushbutton simplicity approach that many users insist upon - following setup guidelines and letting AMEQ do the rest will usually give pretty good results.

How do I get started making precision audio measurements so I can optimize my sound even further?
You will need a calibrated microphone, possibly an audio interface (depending on the microphone), a computer, and an audio analysis software package. Plus a lot of time and patience if this is all new to you. This is a big step and involving expense and learning curve. The Audyssey MultEQ Pro Installation Kit is one way to get the calibrated mic and audio interface covered, along with access to AMEQ's inner workings that cannot be achieved otherwise. Other mic and interface options abound. Either way, you will need an good audio analysis package. Home Theater Shack offers one of the best audio analysis software packages available - Room EQ Wizard (REW) - at no charge - simply by registering as a forum user - also at no charge. The Room EQ Wizard Forum and the built-in Help files give the guidance you need to get set up and started, all beyond the scope of these articles.

Audyssey MultEQ Versions

What are the differences between the versions of Audyssey MultEQ?

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* Up to 32 measurement positions with MultEQ Pro.

Time/Phase Correction

Note: There is debate among audio experts about the sensitivity of human hearing to slight phase shifts caused by room correction filtering. Some claim it makes little or no difference and is completely inaudible. Others claim that the result can be audible, specially with signals that have fast attack times, like a sharp cymbal crash or handclap or gunshot. For the purpose of this explanation, it is understood that the designers of the Audyssey MultEQ system and products believe that the phase shift can be audible and that phase correction is important as part of the room and speaker tuning process.

What do the terms "frequency domain" and "time domain" mean?
As they relate to filtering and room correction, frequency domain refers to corrections of the gain of the system at different frequencies, making changes to the frequency response. Time domain refers to the timing and phase of the different frequency components of the signal. Depending on the filtering approach that is used, it is possible for the the filter's phase relationships to slightly affect the timing of the different frequency components to be shifted relative to each other by the filtering process.

Do different room correction systems address the frequency and time characteristics of the audio signal differently?
All filters, by their nature, have an effect on the phase and timing of the different frequency components of the audio signal. Some filters use the simplest approach to frequency correction without regard to effect on the phase and timing of the signal. The type of filtering involved is referred to as minimum phase filtering. It is often chosen because its implementation uses minimum Digital Signal Processing (DSP) overhead and can be processed quickly with minimum overall delay of the audio signal. In signal processing terms you will hear these types of filters referred to as infinite Infinite Impulse Response (IIR) filters.

Filter types which work in both the time and frequency domains together are able to accomplish frequency response correction while preserving the phase and timing characteristics of the signal, and can even correct for phase and timing problems that have been introduced elsewhere in the sound system. These types of filters can involve more DSP overhead and can introduce slightly longer delays in the audio signal path. In signal processing terms you will hear these types of filters referred to as Finite Impulse Response (FIR) filters.

How does the Odyssey MultEQ approach to room correction address frequency and time correction?
Audyssey's MultEQ room correction uses FIR filters and works both in the time domain and the frequency domain, so frequency response corrections are accomplished with minimal phase and time distortion. Audyssey starts in the time domain by selecting the number of filter points needed to accomplish the necessary frequency response correction while preserving phase response and correcting system time domain problems.

Does MultEQ correction take a lot of processing overhead?
The Odyssey MultEQ approach to room correction carefully determines the number of filtering points needed, prioritizing where the latest amount of frequency correction is called for. The MultEQ system has been finely tuned to choose just the number of filter points necessary, to set them at the right frequencies, and to accomplish time and frequency correction with minimal signal processing overhead.

Does MultEQ correction create long signal delays, and will I hear them or notice that audio and video are out of sync?
The slight time delays introduced are automatically compensated for in the implementation of MultEQ in the AV receiver or system processing hardware. Audio and video signals are always kept precisely synchronized.

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3 - How Audyssey MultEQ Works

The exact algorithms used by Audyssey MultEQ are proprietary. The following descriptions are accurate in principle.

Listening Positions With Similar Tonalities


This first diagram shows what the frequency response measurement curves at the Yellow, Red, and Blue seat positions with sound coming from Speaker A. At 2 Khz, the Yellow seat measurement point is 1 dB "hotter" than at the Red LP, which is 2 dB hotter than at the Blue seat - small differences but nice for visualization purposes.

It is vital to remember that these relationships are acoustically fixed. Audyssey MultEQ can do nothing to change those relationships at that frequency, nor can any electronic device or technology. If gain at that frequency is cut by 4 dB, it will be cut by 4 dB at every point in the room. The only way to change those relationships is acoustically, by moving or changing walls or speakers or furniture, adding acoustic treatment materials, making physical changes to the listening room.



Next we can see what the result would be if AMEQ correction was calculated with a measurement from the Blue seat only. The FR at the Blue seat would end up flat and the Yellow and Red FR curves would change by the same amount in dB terms, in some cases possibly ending up closer to flat and in some cases getting worse.



With AMEQ calculating an average of these FR curves, AMEQ can determines a correction curve to flatten that average line. The result is far more useful. Even with those fixed relationships, the Range and Variance for those curves is limited. This is what Audyssey MultEQ does well, what it was really designed for, to tighten up a FR curve family for LPs that are fairly similar.

At the same time, AMEQ has been working in the time domain to minimize variations in time delay variations across frequency, or phase response. While the effects of this are less audible with one speaker running, they are important to image clarity between speaker pairs - more on this in a moment.

So we see that AMEQ does its job well when dealing with LPs that are similar in tonality. When there is more variation in tonality among LPs, the result is not so nice.

The "Outlier" Listening Position


This diagram shows the uncorrected FR curves with the Blue seat as an outlier at low frequencies, being very dissimilar from the other seats. An outlier in statistical terminology, is a data point that for some reason lies outside the "normal" range of data points. In our case, assuming you have a number of listening positions (LPs) grouped together that sounds very similar, the "outlier" is the LP that sounds markedly different from the other "normal" LPs.



The corrected curves above show how the bass suffers at the Yellow and Red seats for the sake of improvement at LP Blue.



Purposely excluding the Blue seat from the averaging process allows the others to sound their best.



The Blue seat in this scenario is wisely left empty, or removed, or left as the last seat for the unappreciative or low-priority listener.

[Note that for a sound coming from Speaker A, there is a unique frequency response curve at every possible measurement point in the room. The frequency response curves for sound coming from another speaker, Speaker B, are also unique at every point in the room, and are all different from the FR measurement curves for Speaker A.]

Verification With Measured Signals

DO NOT OPEN... DO NOT CLICK THIS BUTTON! >>>>>
As verification that the above theory hold true, the following measurements show uncorrected FR curves from 3 points in a room -

- their average (red) and the kind of correction (purple) that you would expect AMEQ to apply -

- the ideal curves we could hope for with correction applied -

- the actual measured curves after AMEQ analysis and correction (compare to the "expected" results above; they come pretty close) -

- and a comparison of the before (red) and after (blue) average values -

- the blue curve being admirably close to flat through most of the range (low frequencies are corrected more by Audyssey MultEQ when more LPs are included in the analysis). As expected, the acoustically-fixed relationships between the curves hold true, allowing for measurement repeatability.


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4 - Room and Speaker Setup Fundamentals

Room and speaker setup is a major topic in itself. Here are some important points that will help you in your work with Audyssey MultEQ.

  • Front Speakers should be equally spaced across the front of the listening area. Arrangement and spacing should be left-right symmetrical.
  • Front Speakers should be an equal distance from the center of the front row of seats (from the PLP if there is a center seat), ideally. Sometimes the center speaker is slightly closer or farther because of physical constraints. The left and right should ALWAYS be equidistant from the center of the front seating row.
  • Front Speakers should be at least 2 feet from any wall, unless they are designed to be wall mounted.
  • All seating should be at least 2 feet from any wall.
  • No seats should be at the exact center of the room, where room modes tend to be at their worst.
  • Because of the long wavelengths and the omnidirectional nature of low-frequency sound, there is some flexibility with sub placement. The best starting point is the front of the room even with the front Left & Right speakers, at least 1 feet from any wall, and at least 3 feet from any corner. Do not be bashful about experimenting with your subwoofer placement and phase setting, although you should re-run the Room EQ Process after every change to hear the result with AMEQ's correction in place.
Here is a link to an excellent
Dolby Labs Home Theater Speaker Guide,
with further suggestions.

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5 - Audyssey MultEQ Usage Guidelines

"Help me help you." Frustrated pro athlete agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) at one point in the movie begs his sole client, the often uncooperative Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), "Help me help you." Lets act like we are on the same side here.

Audyssey MultEQ wants to do a good job for you, but it needs your help. It is designed to be one-button simple - actually five buttons on your AVR remote, still pretty simple to use - but is totally dependent on the input you give it.

Here are the general guidelines for Audyssey MultEQ use. They are incorporated into our suggested Process, in a related post, but here are stated for clarity.



 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
PRELIMINARY
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to be part of the intro:

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Listening Priorities:

We opted for a wide soundstage, as most of the music to be experienced on these speakers will be the kind that is mixed with no soundstage scale realism in mind, like you might want for orchestra or a musical, but rather for effect, music where mix and effects and ambiance can be as much a part of the performance as the notes. Frequency response was allowed to fall where it may if placement ended up very far off-axis. This choice can be a matter or personal preference for different listeners. In our case we all agreed this would be the priority.

Imaging and soundstage work together closely. And although a wide soundstage often tends to stretch and widen the apparent individual images in a mix, we had high expectations for delivery of tight, concise imaging at the same time.

Speaker angling, or toe-in, is often a variable in getting the best soundstage and imaging. Speakers with wide dispersion will allow this with little affect on frequency response, as the listener might be well off-axis. Not all speakers are very forgiving in this respect. Even with frequency response a lower priority than the above qualities, we still expected it to be very good, with no obvious sacrifice being apparent in normal listening.

Listening volume level varied from whisper quiet (occasionally) to a strong 85 dB SPL much of the time, and got pushed well into the 90 to 95 dB range at times, where power handling could become an issue. Expectations were that no obvious breakup or clipping or bottoming out would occur even when being pushed hard.

Definitions for good imaging and good soundstage vary widely. Here us the way we discussed what we were hearing:
  • Imaging: The clear, precise location of a single voice, instrument, or sound source in the mix. At its best, the position and size of that sound is bedrock stable, not moving or shifting on different notes, never smearing or shifting or wandering, but owning its spacial location with authority, as though carving a spot in space. There is no doubt where it is located it is right there, you can measure it down to the inch, including distance from the listener - partly a soundstage quality, as the two are always intertwined.
  • Soundstage: The three-dimensional spacial arrangement of those individual sounds in the listening area in front of the listener, although sounds can come from surprising directions at times. The female voice early in Pink Floyd's Dogs of War can be just over your left shoulder. At its best, a soundstage is completely natural, seamless, cohesive, convincing in the illusion that you are in new room and setting altogether. A soundstage is primarily two-dimensional, with width and depth as controlled by the mix, but vertical effects are possible as well, resulting from speaker driver arrangement, room acoustics, and at times from mixing techniques.
The two work hand-in-hand. In our experimentation, the best speaker placement and angle for one was always best for the other, too.

The Listening Room:

The room was excellent for our purposes, a dedicated home theater room, symmetrical and rectangular, fully carpeted with acoustical treatment on side walls and ceiling, large corner bass traps, a centered Primary Listening Position (PLP), lots of space to work with, and well-controlled early reflections and ambiance. One slight drawback was the almost exact centering of the PLP in the room, a choice driven by practicalities and not a variable, a position known to be susceptible to standing waves and problematic for smooth bass frequency response.

RT60 diagram

etc

Inspection of the final choice speaker ETC and impulse diagrams revealed opportunities for further reduction of early reflections off the side and back (behind the listener) walls, a matter Sonnie is pursuing as I write, no doubt. The side walls already had absorptive panels properly placed for the cinema mains and center speaker reflection points, but the placement for 2-channel listening made for new reflection angles to be considered.

Speaker Placement:

We took all the time necessary to find the speaker position for the best imaging and soundstage possible. Sometimes it took a few minutes, sometimes it took half an hour. One pair was set up and well into listening evaluation when an impromptu experiment led to a placement improvement, and we started listening over.

Speaker placement invariably ended up well into the room, generally 6 feet or more from the listener and widely spaced. Toe-in (relative to on-axis with the listener) was almost always toe-OUT, aiming the speakers at the listener's shoulders or wider, sometimes much wider.

Sonic Results:

Soundstage and Imaging: Results were almost always very good - none of the speakers tested fell flat altogether - and were sometimes sensational. The best examples extended from wall to wall in width, 6 to 8 ?? feet beyond the width of the speakers on each side, and from listener to front wall of the theater room, a good 14 ?? feet, and floor to ceiling, with every sound source located with laser precision and sharpness. The effect was completely seamless, speakers simply disappeared allowing no clues that they were the true source of what we were hearing. The voices, instruments, and sounds had reach-out-and-touch reality.

Frequency Response: With optimum position for soundstage and imaging, we chose not to experiment with speaker setup if there was a portion of the frequency response range the seemed "off" in some way. The opportunity was there, but we had our priorities set and stuck to them. At no time in the setup experimentation phase did anyone notice an obvious sacrifice being made in frequency response as we played with off-axis angles.

Power Handling: Our standard became the Genie's deep voice in Three Wishes by Roger Waters. If that could not be handled, the speakers were out.

Listener Position Flexibility: Two-channel listening like this is a one-at-a-time experience. In order to share it, you give up the captain's chair, "You take a turn." With some of these speakers, the listener's head could move very little without losing the effect. In all cases, the soundstage shifts somewhat with head movement. This is the nature of the two-channel beast. Some listeners will sacrifice top-notch imaging and soundstage for listener position (LP) flexibility. We chose to sacrifice personal comfort (almost) for the sake of the listening experience. Don't want the sound to move around? Then SIT STILL! And enjoy it. No problem, we did.

LP flexibility varied widely. Some speakers allowed broad head movement with little sonic change. In a few cases, the soundstage remained distinctive, while not optimum, from almost anywhere in the room behind the PLP.

Speaker Placement Flexibility: Some of our specimens gave good results almost anywhere but really shone at their placement sweet spot, which could be fairly broad. Others had to be placed perfectly, as any other position a few inches or degrees off was sorely lacking. One pair could be placed almost anywhere - with room symmetry - with barely a shift in soundstage and imaging.

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each of the 8 reviews will follow this format

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The Speakers: Magnepan MG 12/QR

Configuration:

  • 2-Way/Quasi Ribbon Planar-Magnetic
  • Dipole Panel
  • +/- 3 dB, 45 - 22000 Hz Frequency Response
  • 4 Ohm Impedance
  • 86 dB/W Sensitivity
Sounds Like: Glass

Setup and Placement Flexibility:Overall Listening Experience:
Getting the MG 12/QRs set up right took some doing. Placement is absolutely critical. We were splitting inches to get them set up with absolutely perfect symmetry to the room and to the Listening Position, paying as much attention to what was behind them as to what was in front. On-axis means exactly on-axis with the listener's ears. When we got it right, More than once we had them "close" and decided to measure again, and a seemingly insignificant adjustment would dramatically change the soundstage.

There was no reason to be concerned about off-axis response sacrifice. They were dead-on-axis or nothing sounded right. Think digital when setting up Magnepans, it is right or it is wrong, no in-between.


Impressions:

When first hearing this pair of "Maggies," different descriptive words came to mind than usual when I am evaluating speakers, like:
  • Snap
  • Slap
  • Glassy
But what do they mean?

Frequency Response:
Plot, average of 6 responses, see definitions:

Room EQ Wizard .mdat file: Download

The MG 12/QPs definitely have grab power once you get them set up right.

Bass:



Imaging:


Soundstage:
Setup Flexibility:
Sweet Spot Sharability

not share


Clarity:




Speed:




Visual:





What These Speakers Are Best For:
 

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HTS Two-Channel Speaker Setup Guide

PRELIMINARY
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Abbreviations

CCC - Cedar Creek Cinema, Sonnie's home-based cinema and 2-channel listening room
LP - Listening Position


Introduction

This will be a developing thread. Here is the quick start version, diagrams will follow.

The data and methods given here represent the best we have learned from Sonnie's Two-Channel Speaker Evaluation Events hosted by Sonnie at his home-based Cedar Creek Cinema (CCC). This guide was put together to help answer questions the about speaker setup techniques learned during those events (links below). As further events occur and as pertinent additional information becomes available, it will be added to this guide.

$1,000 Speaker Evaluation Event, August 2013
$2,500 Speaker Evaluation Event, November 2013

Those events have been documented extensively, so they will not be discussed in this thread except where that discussion relates directly to stereo speaker setup for music.

Data from speaker setups in other rooms might be included if it clearly fits the approaches discussed.


Conditions and Caveats

These results occurred in certain room(s) with certain listening priorities. To summarize:
  • The primary goal is a wide, deep, detailed, cohesive, lifelike soundstage with sharp imaging and, where achievable, sharp soundstage depth acuity (few speakers can achieve really precise depth acuity, but when they do, your heart will stop - hopefully only for a moment).
  • The speakers go wherever they need to in order to sound their best, no consideration for WAF or convenience or pets or kids or anything else.
We are doing our best to convert the data into a useful rule-of-thumb setup guide format. But remember it all comes from the way certain speakers sounded to our ears and listening tastes in certain rooms. We hope our attempts here are useful, but they will certainly not apply to all.

There are many guides and approaches to room and speaker setup. This guide is specifically for reaching the goals stated above. We have pretty much ignored room modes. We might get into that more at some point.

We appreciate meaningful feedback, but will limit folding in data to that which we are confident meets our criteria and is compatible with our approach to finding that ideal speaker location. For starters, there is one data point from work in my home listening room. The setup was determined totally by ear without referring to notes about setting up the same speakers at CCC a few weeks earlier. The configuration arrived at independently matched very closely what we came up with at CCC in parametric terms, according to our rule-of-thumb approach. A single data point of confirmation, hopefully more will follow.


Defining our Terms

There will be a diagram for this eventually. For now, imagine a big letter T. The top of the T is the line from center to center of the fronts of the speakers (B in our table below), along the speaker plane. The "stalk" of the T (A in our table) is the line from the ears at the Listening Position, starting at the ear plane, to the center of that first line, the top of the T.

If your speakers are very close to front wall of your room (more guidance below), you will need to consider one more measurement. To illustrate it, we magically convert the letter T into a big + sign, with its vertical line going from the ear plane to the wall straight in front of the listener (C in our table).

Here is what our data shows:
Average B/A Ratio: 1.4 (ranges between 1.08 and 1.57)
Average C/A Ratio: 2.2 for NON-DIPOLES (ranges between 1.74 and 2.61)
Average C/A Ratio: 2.0 for DIPOLES (ranges between 1.59 and 2.31)

When C is above 2.5, where you are far from walls or using a close-up speaker configuration, you can ignore it.


Determine Your The Starting Points

Room limitations will usually get you started, the chair should be here, or the speakers fit best there. If not, start with the chair. Place it equally between the side walls, as room symmetry allows, and start with the distance from speaker to speaker as 1.4 units of length, the distance from the speaker plane to the LP as 1 unit, and the distance from the LP to the wall as 2.2 units (2.0 for dipoles).


Make Adjustments

With dipoles, point the speakers straight at the ears at the LP. While listening, adjust the angles outward by equal increments (check angle symmetry with a laser pointer along a flat surface of the speaker cabinet to reference points on the LP chair) until the soundstage depth appears - it will not take much of an angle change from the starting angles for this to happen with dipoles, probably only a few degrees.

With a non-dipole design, start with the speakers pointed straight forward, not at the LP at all, but at the back wall (0 toe-in), and adjust them inward by equal increments while listening until the soundtage appears with a strong center and good depth. This could occur anywhere from a few degrees of toe-in to 25 or 30 degrees, highly dependent on the speaker dispersion pattern.

If the deep soundstage never happens, or if the center of soundstage seems weak or empty or has poor image clarity, start over with the speakers spaced closer together. If the deep soundstage occurs but you want to try to make it deeper, start over with the speakers spaced farther apart. If the angle adjustments seem too sensitive, start over with the speakers closer to the wall. If the angle adjustments do not seem to make much difference, start over with the speakers farther from the wall.

Make positional adjustments 6" at a time and angular adjustments a few degrees at a time. A $4 protractor mightl help, but mainly verify symmetry. Measure, measure, measure. A laser pointing device is a must, a laser measuring device is better. (Verify proper alignment of the laser within the body of the pointer.) Be precise to the inch, check angle symmetry to reference points at or around the LP to the inch, or - even better - to the back wall for greater sensitivity, assuming the relationship of your reference points to the LP have been measured or are known to be symmetrical by room design & construction.


Table of Setup Data

Here is the data.

The calculation of the A/B Ratio includes data for all speaker types. The calculation of the C/B Ratio is done with an averaging of values for only dipoles and a separate averaging of values for all non-dipoles.

No code has to be inserted here.
(18.21+1.46)/14~1.405=1.4
(22.65+1.81)/11=2.22364~2.2


No code has to be inserted here.
5.85/3=1.95~2.0
 
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