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  1. #1
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    Headphone Surprise!

    Lately, I've found myself listening to less music and watching more movies and television. The music I was hearing, including my old favorites, just wasn't doing it for me any more. A friend of mine, upon hearing of my dilemma, recommended that I try listening to music through headphones...said it might lend a different perspective. I decided to give it a try, but I wasn't about to risk hundreds of dollars on something that might not change anything. So I did my homework and placed an order through Amazon for a set of Audio Technica M20x's. The reviews had been very favorable and, for $49, I figured I couldn't get hurt too badly.

    Wow!

    The last time that I had done any serious listening through cans was back in the 60s. Even through the gaseous haze that was omnipresent at that time, I don't recall music through headphones sounding this good! The ability to pick out individual instruments and singers, even to their positioning in the soundfield, is intoxicating! I'm now going through my collection, disk by disk, and happily listening to all the nuances that I never heard before!

    The headphones that I listened to back in the 60s were bulky, heavy, cost my listening companion a couple of week's salary, and, as best I recall, didn't sound near this good. These things are lightweight, comfortable, detailed, sound great, and are only 49 bucks! Isn't technology a wonderful thing?

    BTW: out of the box, the bass response was a little reticent, a little flabby. After just a few hours, it tightened up to match the rest of the spectrum and there is now a seamless and precise presentation from top to bottom.

    If you are, as I was, experiencing musical doldrums, you might want to give this a try!
    Last edited by RoyY51; 04-15-2015 at 10:18 AM.

  2. #2
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    Cool. I find headphones really start sounding as they should after about 24 hours or so. What are you plugging your headphones into? If the enthusiasm is still there after some time you might want to consider a headphone amp.

  3. #3
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    That's awesome! Anything that brings you back to the music is a good thing. Life is fraught with drama and distractions and many times the very things that allow us to center ourselves are the first casualties. Vinyl did the same thing for me, not only by highlighting how bad digital music had become, but also by stoking the fire to start looking for new music, something I hadn't done for years. Congrats on finding the spark again.

    BTW, one advantage I've found with cans is that my family can still watch tv/play video games using the main rig while I enjoy music and read plugged directly into the source. I've got Sony MDR 7506's and with their 10' cord, everyone wins

    Enjoy!

  4. #4
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    Mr Peabody and topspeed: thanks for chiming in! To answer Mr Peabody's question, I have the phones plugged directly into the headphone jack on the front panel of my Marantz receiver. And, although the phones continue to open up, I do feel that there is some "meat" missing from the presentation. I've got all the detail, all the "sizzle", but I find myself wishing for a more flesh and blood sound. Would a headphone amp help in this regard? If so, do you have any recommendations? Please keep in mind that the phones were only $49, and I am not likely to spend many multiples of that on an amp. Home Depot just doesn't pay that well! And topspeed: I agree with you 100%! Life's too short not to enjoy music on a daily basis...and I intend to make up for lost time!

  5. #5
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    Marantz usually seems to be a fairly warm sound. As you stated the cans were only $49.00. I think a headphone amp would add a bit of drive and a tubed amp could give more "flech on the bone". I'm not sure what to recommend for a budget amp. If some one was familiar with some of the Chinese import tube head amps that might be an affordable option. Have you tried the "direct" mode on the receiver to see If that helps? I'm not sure exactly what Marantz calls it but it's the stereo mode that bypasses all the internal processing. You could also try plugging into the source directly but my experience has been direct to source typically isn't as smooth as from the receiver or head amp. You might try a search on Amazon as well to see what comes up for brands & pricing. If listening to CD's just curious which type of connection you are using, digital where the receiver decodes to analog or an analog (red/white) connection where the CDP decodes? This to may be a place to experiment to see which sounds best.

  6. #6
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    In addition, if you are streaming or using mp3 there probably isn't much you can do to help that sound much. Unless streaming from one of the high res services.

  7. #7
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    I'm a soundstage fan. None of the headphones I've ever tried do anything but place music in a straight line through the middle of my head from one ear to another. Do they sound clean, clear, full bodied (well there's no visceral bass)? I suppose so. However, without a soundstage they will forever be relegated to on the go or temporary use. Regardless, I keep trying to find some that produce a soundstage for me. I'm currently thinking of buying a pair of Stax SR 207's. With the energizer that comes to $790, a not inconsiderable sum for someone retired.
    ARC SP9 MKIII, VPI HW19, Rega RB300
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    Marantz CD63SE, Yamaha DVD-S1800
    DAC's: MSB Link, Behringer UCA222, Emotiva XDA-2, HiFimeDIY, Accuphase T101 tuner, Teac V-7010
    Emotiva UMC-200 processor, 2 Adcom GFA-545, 2 modified Dynaco MK3's, 2 bridged Crown XLS-402, Behringer CX2310, DBX223sx, Behringer DSP1124P,2 12" Transmission Line Subs (PASS DIY El-Pipe-O), Magnepan 1.7 (fronts), Acoustat Model 1 ESL's/SPW-1 Woofer (rears)

  8. #8
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    JoeE, I remember reading on Head Fi about some of their devices making more like a traditional speaker soundstage. I've heard this done in a car with DSP and was totally amazed, it was great. I'd find it distracted as a driver it was so good. Of course, the rest of the system was mega bucks as well which helped.

    Have you looked at the Oppo headphones, they are supposed to be electrostats. I'd like to try a pair of the less expensive ones but really don't listen to cans much.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular hifitommy's Avatar
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    peabody---the oppos are PLANAR MAGNETIC which is to say more like magneplanars. no energizing unit needed, reputed to be better than regular dynamic types, but that is just opinion. the cheapest ones are only $400.

    not having heard them for more than a few seconds, its hard to venture my opinion. there are plenty of those at: Forums where the headphone addicts reside.
    ...regards...tr

  10. #10
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    I can hear a soundstage in some well set up car stereos. It's most likely because the speakers are mostly in front of me and not hanging off my ears.

    There are now quite a few planar (orthodynamic) headphones. I've listened to some. As usual none of them produces a soundstage for me. I'm still set on a pair of Stax (real ESL's). I'm not expecting to hear a soundstage from them either.

    There seems to be a difference of opinion as to exactly what a soundstage actually is. I follow the standard definition which is based upon the word "stage". That's stage as in musicians performing on a stage in front of you. Sounds that exist only/mostly in a straight line between one's ears do not constitute a soundstage.
    ARC SP9 MKIII, VPI HW19, Rega RB300
    Marcof PPA1, Shure, Sumiko, Ortofon carts
    Marantz CD63SE, Yamaha DVD-S1800
    DAC's: MSB Link, Behringer UCA222, Emotiva XDA-2, HiFimeDIY, Accuphase T101 tuner, Teac V-7010
    Emotiva UMC-200 processor, 2 Adcom GFA-545, 2 modified Dynaco MK3's, 2 bridged Crown XLS-402, Behringer CX2310, DBX223sx, Behringer DSP1124P,2 12" Transmission Line Subs (PASS DIY El-Pipe-O), Magnepan 1.7 (fronts), Acoustat Model 1 ESL's/SPW-1 Woofer (rears)

  11. #11
    Forum Regular hifitommy's Avatar
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    the soundstage i have had in my HEAD with headphones didnt disturb me as for some. some images can come from behind, especially if encoded with a surround matrix like sq or qs.

    another thing was a trick my friend did in his stereo store. he recorded in binaual, music from the stereo using the dummy head. after a few minutes, he spoke from behind and said "now what do you think of that?" and let the music continue.

    he would have the custome put on the headphones with that music playing and when they were sufficiently involved, he left the room and watched them invariably they would spin around to answer the question to nobody there. quite amusing to see.

    binaural recordings played back on headphones are uncannily realistic as to sound source placement.
    ...regards...tr

  12. #12
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    IME/O only binaural recordings actually produce a soundstage with headphones. I have a few binaural recordings and all of them produce a soundstage on every pair of headphones I've ever used to listen to them.

    BTW: IME/O binaural recordings do not translate well to speaker listening.

    I'll stick with my definition for soundstage that depends on the word "stage". Sound coming from inside one's head does not constitute a soundstage. A soundstage is the illusion of a three dimensional space in front of you where musicians are performing on a stage. That's why it's called a "soundstage".
    ARC SP9 MKIII, VPI HW19, Rega RB300
    Marcof PPA1, Shure, Sumiko, Ortofon carts
    Marantz CD63SE, Yamaha DVD-S1800
    DAC's: MSB Link, Behringer UCA222, Emotiva XDA-2, HiFimeDIY, Accuphase T101 tuner, Teac V-7010
    Emotiva UMC-200 processor, 2 Adcom GFA-545, 2 modified Dynaco MK3's, 2 bridged Crown XLS-402, Behringer CX2310, DBX223sx, Behringer DSP1124P,2 12" Transmission Line Subs (PASS DIY El-Pipe-O), Magnepan 1.7 (fronts), Acoustat Model 1 ESL's/SPW-1 Woofer (rears)

  13. #13
    Forum Regular hifitommy's Avatar
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    headphones do give an altered image effect, with some info seeming to come in the back of your head. many of the new phones popular with the younguns, the ones they wear as a STYLE, are boomy just like most car stereos these days (i have to back the bass off to about minus 4 or 5 in the car to make it sound natural. this has proven to be true with my last 3 or 4 cars). so reticent bass may be more preferable and one COULD add a little if need be.

    my daughter got the same ATs and i noticed that they have the easy swappable cable. a lot of high end cable companies are making upgraded wires. one could go to various levels of improvement. were i to do this, i would want returnability as a condition of purchase. local dealers may be more amenable to that.

    one could query the guys at the head-fi forums about price and quality levels.
    ...regards...tr

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    Marantz usually seems to be a fairly warm sound. As you stated the cans were only $49.00. I think a headphone amp would add a bit of drive and a tubed amp could give more "flech on the bone". I'm not sure what to recommend for a budget amp. If some one was familiar with some of the Chinese import tube head amps that might be an affordable option. Have you tried the "direct" mode on the receiver to see If that helps? I'm not sure exactly what Marantz calls it but it's the stereo mode that bypasses all the internal processing. You could also try plugging into the source directly but my experience has been direct to source typically isn't as smooth as from the receiver or head amp. You might try a search on Amazon as well to see what comes up for brands & pricing. If listening to CD's just curious which type of connection you are using, digital where the receiver decodes to analog or an analog (red/white) connection where the CDP decodes? This to may be a place to experiment to see which sounds best.

    Although I'm directing this query to Mr. P, I would appreciate any other observations.

    I decided to take your advice regarding the "Chinese import tube-head amps", and bought the Nobsound NS-08E from Amazon. I decided to take the plunge for three reasons: 1) It got a great review in Sound and Vision ("No joke, this thing is fantastic. Not "fantastic for $50" but legitimately fantastic"), 2) Mr. P thought it might put more "fletch on the bone", and 3) It was only $50! As I wait for the cables I ordered to arrive, it occurs to me that I don't have a clue how to hook it up...and that's where you guys come in.

    I have been running my phones directly out of my Marantz SR-5008's "phones" output on the front panel. but I have a suspicion that some other configuration may be required when adding a headphone amp. Can anyone tell me how to hook this thing up without frying something?

  15. #15
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    Hi Roy, I'm not sure what input your headamp has. I'm assuming an analog input and a connection for your headphones. I'd go from your CD player analog output into your headphone amp input. You'd be using only the headamp to drive the headphones.

    If you want to use other sources, the only way I can think of to do that would be to come out of the receiver's preamp output into the headamp's input. I'm not sure how that would effect listening to the receiver. You could also use a tape monitor loop, which would be best, but I'm assuming the receiver being A/V doesn't have a tape monitor.

  16. #16
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Roy if you decide to upgrade your phones, the AT-Mx50's have come way down in price the last year. We paid $180 for a pair almost 2 years ago. They can be had for about $110. Awesome headphones.

    Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones, Black, Blemished
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  17. #17
    Forum Regular hifitommy's Avatar
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    HAPPY DAYS ! $99 at gkluitar center--4th of july sale:

    http://www.guitarcenter.com/Audio-Technica/ATH-M40x-Closed-Back-Professional-Studio-Monitor-Headphones-Black-1384185555131.gc?country=us&currency=usd&source=4WWRWXGP&gclid=Cj0KEQjwhtO7BRCtwuO9gfTH-fQBEiQAdJ8FYzW1T1llwAkpPBMHU_B22oEaqnbvf5LR2_5dhEW PnjgaAvpA8P8HAQ&kwid=productads-adid^57619015002-device^c-plaid^137772952362-sku^1384185555131@ADL4GC-adType^PLA
    ...regards...tr

  18. #18
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    I think if I was to buy a set of reasonably priced headphones I'd try those Sony that was in the post Smokey stated on News&Rumors, I forget the model, but they were a Studio type can that got top bill.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoyY51 View Post
    Although I'm directing this query to Mr. P, I would appreciate any other observations.

    I decided to take your advice regarding the "Chinese import tube-head amps", and bought the Nobsound NS-08E from Amazon. I decided to take the plunge for three reasons: 1) It got a great review in Sound and Vision ("No joke, this thing is fantastic. Not "fantastic for $50" but legitimately fantastic"), 2) Mr. P thought it might put more "fletch on the bone", and 3) It was only $50! As I wait for the cables I ordered to arrive, it occurs to me that I don't have a clue how to hook it up...and that's where you guys come in.

    I have been running my phones directly out of my Marantz SR-5008's "phones" output on the front panel. but I have a suspicion that some other configuration may be required when adding a headphone amp. Can anyone tell me how to hook this thing up without frying something?
    Okay...I finally figured out the right connections, got the right cables and hooked up the Nobsound that I had burned in for 24 hours. I put on a Steely Dan Album, dimmed the lights, parked my butt in the Barcalounger, and prepared myself for $50 worth of Audio Nirvana.

    I was underwhelmed.

    Everything sounded, for lack of a better word, chaotic. There was such a mish-mosh of musical instruments that they actually sounded out of tune! The lead vocals and solo instruments were okay, but everything else devolved into a jumbled-up mess! I unhooked it and went back to the "phones" output on my Marantz, and order was restored. I changed back to the Nobsound and the chaos was back as well. Either I'm doing something wrong, or the S&V reviewer who called these "fantastic" was enjoying something more than a glass of Pinot! Any thoughts?
    Last edited by RoyY51; 07-11-2016 at 01:07 PM.

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