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How $1,500 Headphones Are Made

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the oiled-by-mother-nature dept.

Music 353

CNETNate writes "A tour of Sennheiser's Hanover factory reveals for the first time how its audiophile headphones are assembled by hand. The company recently announced its most expensive and innovative headphones to date, the HD 800, which discarded the conventional method of headphone driver design for a new 'donut-shaped' ring driver idea. Only 5,000 of these headphones can be made in a year, and this gallery offers a behind-the-scenes look at the construction process."

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Sarcastic or not? (5, Funny)

tpgp (48001) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207053)

From TFA:

moist-making and grin-producing...we-would-genuinely-consider-intercourse-with-these-headphones scale....Fo' shizzle...clarity was mesmerising....experiencing these headphones is akin to having your head oiled and massaged by Mother Nature herself.....Teflon-insulated oxygen-free cabling.....mouth-wateringly gorgeous and stunning

Honest to god, I can't tell real audiophile reviews from the parodies anymore :-(

Re:Sarcastic or not? (4, Informative)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207067)

Unless you're looking for labratory levels of precision imho there's no point once you're above the HD-555 range.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207113)

I'm not convinced there's a point anyway. With headphones, you get so much difference in sound just from how little or how much the foam pads are compressed that I can't imagine anyone being able to use the word "accurate" when talking about headphones unless it is tongue-in-cheek. For accuracy, nothing beats a well-designed listening room with good speakers. Headphones are fundamentally "ballpark" at best.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (5, Funny)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207129)

They are however excellent when it comes to playing games at a fun volume and getting decent positional audio.

And flattening my ears. And yanking things off my desk.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (5, Funny)

jsse (254124) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207419)

And flattening my ears. And yanking things off my desk.

Do you want my gf at less than $1,500? She could scream your ears to flat and yank things off your apartment.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207471)

I already have a psychotic ex with an underage boyfriend who's probably a roid nut and can lift me and her with one arm each like we weigh nothing.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207659)

Is that what you kids call it these days?

Re:Sarcastic or not? (5, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207517)

And yanking things off my desk.

Doom 3, Nightmare, in total darkness except for the screen. You know what happens when your cat touches you?

Re:Sarcastic or not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207567)

a cat splatted all over the wall?

Re:Sarcastic or not? (4, Funny)

Nobody Real (266597) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207729)

Your lack of scritches annoys her.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (2)

Starayo (989319) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207545)

I'm not a headphone nut, as long as they fit comfortably and I can actually hear stuff through them I'm happy with them - I miss my old $20 no-name headphones, they were comfortable and had a volume dial, unlike these irritating $70 sennheiser ones. Luckily, I didn't technically pay for them as they were bought with a gift card.

Aaanyway, while not big on headphones I do use voice chat a lot, but my headsets never last very long. I got a sennheiser headset for christmas - the sound was great, the microphone picked up everything perfectly, and the cord was nice and long. Seemed perfect! Finally, a headset to cherish for years to come. Right?

Well, they were amazingly comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that not even a week after christmas, I forgot I was wearing them, and walked off. And fell. And now they don't work anymore.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (4, Funny)

Yocto Yotta (840665) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207593)

Crappy comfortable headphones, what an obvious design flaw. My headphones pinch me every 30 seconds to remind me that I'm wearing them. Adds a bit to the cost, but you'll save money in the long run.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (4, Interesting)

Liket (63131) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207291)

I'm not convinced there's a point anyway. With headphones, you get so much difference in sound just from how little or how much the foam pads are compressed

Well.. No. No you don't. That's the thing -- one of the many differences between $5 headphones and $500 headphones.

I work with audio all the time (it's my job - I invent audio algorithms for broadcast, and related things), and I'm very happy with my HD650s. They were worth every dollar! However, if I get a chance to test the HD800s without having to buy them first, I certainly will. :)

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207311)

...and the room design, the speaker position, the number of speakers and the tons of other factors for a "well-designed listening room with good speakers" creates a much smaller difference in sound than the positioning / compression of the foam pads.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

DMalic (1118167) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207363)

Huh? This is the exact opposite of what most audiophiles say...

Re:Sarcastic or not? (5, Insightful)

ninjackn (1424235) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207413)

Wait... what? No.

You mention how much the compression of the foam pads makes the sound sooo different that you can't call headphones "accurate" yet speakers in a room some how end up more accurate? The number of speakers, the size of the room, the material of the room, the position of the speakers, the positioning of yourself and so many other factors arguably make the room and speakers far less accurate than headphones.

And just what do you mean by "accurate"? For the sake of argument lets say accuracy is sounding as close to real life as possible. So we have our hypothetical concert with ourselves seated in the 2nd row. We can get a dummy and shove two microphones into his dummy ears for recording the sound. Do you think a 2/4/8 speaker setup would be more "accurate" than headphones? The headphones are practically stream audio directly into the ears.

Consider the professionals. What do you think all those stage technicians, sound engineers, etc. etc. use when dealing with audio? That's right, headphones.

Maybe... maybe we're not dealing with music. Maybe you just want "accurate" sound reproduction and ignore things like audio positioning, head transfer functions and the likes. Take for example an explosion. Then I guess the headphones loose out to the sub woofer.

And I also bring up the car metaphor. Headphones are the motorcycles of the audio world. Sure the top end cars are faster/better but motorcycles are so much cheaper. Buying a $1500 pair of headphones is a lot more accessible than buying a well designed room with speakers.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

hexapodium (1265360) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207553)

Consider the professionals. What do you think all those stage technicians, sound engineers, etc. etc. use when dealing with audio? That's right, headphones.

Actually, stage techs and live engineers use headphones for isolation, so they can hear what they're doing. They'll pull them off for listening to what the overall mix sounds like, and in a studio, where you can get reasonable quiet on demand, they'll listen on a set of frighteningly expensive ultra-flat powered monitors, since (you guessed it) in a well designed listening room, with good speakers and decent isolation, headphones don't even come close.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207679)

They'll generally also listen on crap speakers to hear what it'll actually sound like for the average listener. It used to be Yamaha NS-10s which are crap in exactly the right way to figure out a lot of mix translation problems.
Bottom line: a well-designed, well-treated room with flat speakers sounds reasonably to very accurate with good translation to most listening situations (from home use to club listening with extended bass response). Phones are great for isolation and accuracy especially when your room / speakers are crap, but their bass response is not as good as big speakers and your stereo image will generally not translate well to speaker systems.

Super-accurate headphones are great. For scientists trying to prove a point or cork-sniffer audiophiles. If you're in popular music production, most of your music will be listened to in mp3 format on rubbish ear-buds at ear-bleeding levels, or on car stereos. You don't need accuracy half as much as you need to know your mixes will actually still sound passable in these situations.

But I'll take good speakers in a good room over sweating ears in great isolation accurate headphones for long-term work, that's for sure.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

dontPanik (1296779) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207441)

I would disagree. As a pasttime I sometimes record music and other things, and from my personal experience and from what I've read and heard on the subject, you always use headphone to listen to what you are recording.
One of the reasons for this is that when you record something, another person listening to the recording could be listening on any sort of speaker system (home theatre, ipod headphones, a radio). Therefore it is important to have a good baseline to mix your music on, the perferable baseline being listening to the music through a good pair of headphones.
And really there is no beating the immersion factor of headphones. I guess I have no way of objectively argueing this, but IMO the music is much clearer in headphones and one is able to pick out much more nuances in music using headphones.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (3, Informative)

MindVirus (1424817) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207445)

Wow, way off. Mod parent down.

Speakers are themselves fundamentally flawed. Headphones can send sound to the exact location needed while speakers are "ballparking" where the listener will be.

Space limitations are null, audio positioning is null, and annoying your neighbors is null.

Furthermore, good headphones have the capacity to send much less-distorted, higher-quality sound than speakers.

Good headphones will always produce better sound than good speakers. If you don't believe me, ask your local audiophile/audio professional. I guarantee you, if he takes himself seriously, he'll agree.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (2, Interesting)

not flu (1169973) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207171)

There's a point [headphone.com] well past the $100 mark - the question is is it worth the money, which depends on how much money you happen to have sitting around doing nothing as well as the relative objective quality of the product.

That said I'm not buying anything more expensive than the HD555 in the foreseeable future. In fact with digital room correction techniques I might not be spending anywhere near that much on headphones again, ever.

Also headphones are not just for the sound, they have to feel comfortable too. And personally I would not be happy to pay 1500 bucks for headphones that LOOK like the HD800s. :-P

Re:Sarcastic or not? (4, Interesting)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207307)

These days, even Sennheiser's low end is "good enough" for the non-snob audiophile. I picked up a pair of HD202s and I'm thoroughly happy for now. (I don't bring my 555's to school.)

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207429)

I'm not an audiophile, but if you can't tell the difference between the 202s and 555s+ you definitely aren't one either. I own the 595s and the 202s and there is a huge difference. The 202s are good, but not "good enough" for people who want something better. And no, those people aren't necessarily snobs.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207577)

Can you recommend a good pair of headphones that have a 1/4" input jack as shown on the HD800? Preferably something under $120. I checked and it looks like from the pics on amazon the input cable is permanently attached to the headphones. I'm sure the cable detaching from the headphones isn't a big issue on higher end 'phones but that's been the mode of failure for my last 4 sets of $30+ headphones over the last five years or so.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207591)

The cables on the HD800 are removable, however as far as I know there are no aftermarket/replacement cables available yet.

There are many options available for the HD580/600/650s, including balanced cable options.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207651)

It looks like the HD800 uses a stereo 1/4" to two mono 1/4" cables? Or am I mistaken?

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207689)

I've never actually seen them, but from what I've heard they use some rare connector [head-fi.org] that can be purchased individually, but for a crazy price. And more annoyingly, its a different connector as used on the other Sennheisers.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (2, Informative)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207699)

Re:Sarcastic or not? (3, Informative)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207239)

I was upset when these came out, my HD-650s [sennheiserusa.com] aren't top of the line anymore.. That said, man are the 800s ugly.

My SR-80s [gradolabs.com] are very good headphones for the money (~$100) and rival the HD650s. One of these day's I'm going to listen to a set of RS2is [gradolabs.com] , one of their upper-mid level headphones.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207313)

So, how do you have "laboratory levels of precision"? I mean how do you know that a speaker can reproduce sound within 0.1% of perfection if you don't have a microphone that can record it within 0.1%? And how would you know if the microphone was if you didn't have a speaker that could? Isn't that a catch-22?

Re:Sarcastic or not? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207325)

Signal generators.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

highways (1382025) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207533)

Why not use autocorrelation of white noise?

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207723)

Any idiot can hook a signal generator up to a pair of headphones, but how do you accurately measure the sound coming out of them?

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207365)

Labratory levels of precision are soooooo 2005. This is 2009, give us golden retriever precision or nothing.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (2, Insightful)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207465)

I was trying to decide between the HD-555s and 595s about two years ago. I went with the 595s, and I'm confident I made the right decision (for myself). At the time, I had only the reviews for the two, with a pretty consistent conclusion: the two are very similar. Pretty much same comfort level, and maybe 10% better sound. For double the price.

So why were the 595s the correct decision for me? Because I use my headphones for about 4 hours a work day, 50 weeks a year. At 1000 listening hours a year, I expect to get *at least* 5,000 hours out of these headphones, probably more. Worst case, that's like three cents an hour.

Frankly, even if I could only subconsciously detect the difference between the 555s and 595s, the 80 extra dollars I spent on my headphones are virtually nothing compared to the peace-of-mind that I didn't skimp on something I use so much.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207075)

Nice macro pictures on the front page. No way I'm going to click through 10 pages just to read a story though.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207159)

Honest to god, I can't tell real audiophile reviews from the parodies anymore :-(

I bet you're reading it on a cheap LCD display that discards all the engrams in the article so it is impossible to spot parody, irony or sarcasm. If you really want to be able to appreciate this sort of thing you need to read the page on a real man's display [engadget.com]

Re:Sarcastic or not? (2, Informative)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207183)

Meh. If I want audiophile headphones, I look across the border from Germany: Austria's AKG.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207321)

I have a pair of 600 ohm AKG K-240s, and while they are nice headphones, they do not rival Grados at the same price point.

I have never heard any of their more expensive headphones like the K701s, so I can't comment on those, but lots of people swear by them.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

sakonofie (979872) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207243)

My hypothesis is that all this talk about ring shaped diaphragms got 'em all hot n' bothered.

moist-making and grin-producing

experiencing these headphones is akin to having your head oiled and massaged by Mother Nature herself

we-would-genuinely-consider-intercourse-with-these-headphones

Also Nate Lanxon, I am keeping my sennheiser headphones away from you.

Re:Sarcastic or not? (3, Funny)

TransientAlias (683322) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207255)

buy them, take them home, and a few minutes later you have plugged them into your Ipod and all is for naught...

Re:Sarcastic or not? (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207287)

What makes you think there is a difference?

It must be a challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207063)

But the photo captions deserve a win for biggest douchebaggery.

Bravo.

Re:It must be a challenge (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207225)

Yes! Glad i wasn't the only one who cringed.
See picture 5/10

Oops, someone's halo fell down! And how inconvenient -- she's trying to inspect a ring transducer, and doesn't have a spare hand. We would've helped, but, y'know, we were busy and stuff

(That halo is exactly where it should be, you actually want to look through the middle like that)

All headphones are hand-made... (4, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207077)

it's just that Sennheiser includes those quality control steps that the Chinese factories skimp on. They also take more than 0.85 seconds to solder the wires, and they use solder of reasonable quality.

Re:All headphones are hand-made... (3, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207167)

Well, at least you know they won't skimp on the lead in the solder.

Re:All headphones are hand-made... (4, Informative)

Dogun (7502) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207333)

I've owned a large number of Sennheisers.

And no, that's not because I collect them, it's because the damned connections keep failing, on everything from 212-pros up through a set of 595s.

I'm not ready to call Sennheiser reliable, even if they are more reliable than a lot of the low-end competition. Headphones could be a LOT more reliable if someone would take some damned time to find a more reliable way to deliver signal than a tiny wiggly wire and a bit of rigid solder.

Re:All headphones are hand-made... (1)

eh2o (471262) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207557)

HD650 has a detachable cable. Maybe they've finally learned?

Re:All headphones are hand-made... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207649)

No. Although I could replace the broken cable of my HD-500 with another expensive Kevlar-coated cable, this won't repair the slack joint in the jack..

Re:All headphones are hand-made... (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207571)

Headphones could be a LOT more reliable if someone would take some damned time to find a more reliable way to deliver signal than a tiny wiggly wire and a bit of rigid solder.

Aw, c'mon. There's no profit in that. Like you said: you keep buying Sennheiser, even though they're not reliable.

Re:All headphones are hand-made... (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207631)

I noticed these have a 1/4" input jack. I'm in the same boat as you, far too many of my headphones have failed where the cord meets the 'phones. Of course if you're spending more than $100 on headphones and they break more than likely a) they're still under warranty and if not b) any competent TV repair shop should be able to fix the headphones for $20 in less than half an hour. I'm gonna keep browsing this thread, hoping someone posts a link to an affordable brand of decent headphones that has a 1/4" input jack. If not I'm going into business selling quality gamer/audiophile headphones with exactly that feature - I already own the correct domain name for such a business - nearlydeaf.com :)

or else (4, Funny)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207081)

Only 5,000 of these headphones can be made in a year... OR ELSE

Re:or else (2, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207323)

I myself had a hard time hoarding 100 cute kittens per year as a sacrifice for the safety of our numerous gadgets from gremlins. 5,000 cute kittens a year is no joke but kudos for them in making sure that unfathomable things would not happen to their customer's headphones.

Hanover -- Hannover (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207085)

The city name is "Hannover", home of CeBit Fair and Hannover Fair.

Re:Hanover -- Hannover (2, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207695)

No, it's "Hangover." As in the sick feeling you'll have the morning after you realize you just blew $1,500 on a pair of goddamn headphones.

You get what you pay for (2, Interesting)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207093)

A few days ago, I bought the cheapest pair of computer speakers with subwoofers I could find in the neighborhood, $USD 15.

They were Chinese made. With a sticker - "QC PASS" [i.e. Quality Control pass]

LOL, the damn connectors right next to it didn't work properly and I had "bend" the connector ever so little to make it work again.

Yes, these were probably assembled by hand too. But, not in a factory originally named with coolest name I have heard in years "Laboratium Wennebostel".

I wonder if that was hand made too, the name.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207361)

I would have recommended the Logitech S220s. I bought a set for my nephews for Christmas for $25 CAD. When I saw how small the box was that they came in I thought that they were going to be crap, but they were surprisingly decent for the price and loud enough to annoy the hell out of my sister.

Not monkeys? (1)

Mishotaki (957104) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207103)

I was sure that, for that price, they were made by well-trained monkeys! If not, they should be!

1) Slashdot advertisement 2) Appropriate for Onion (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207125)

Is it fraud, or an April Fool's Day joke? In my opinion, this is an inappropriate story for Slashdot: 1) It may be an advertisement that seems to try to take advantage of the weaknesses of sound enthusiasts. 2) It is more appropriate for Onion [theonion.com] , "America's Finest [Not] News Source". Even Onion doesn't often do as much leg-pulling as that story. 3) To have a good reputation it is necessary that publications always disclose if they have taken money. 4) April Fool's Day is 2 weeks away.

Re:1) Slashdot advertisement 2) Appropriate for On (2, Insightful)

solarmist (313127) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207147)

Nope, this is an honest review, but its just not very professional.

In my opinion there isn't a person on earth that would need reproduction that accurate. Seriously 6Hz?

Re:1) Slashdot advertisement 2) Appropriate for On (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207629)

In my opinion there isn't a person on earth that would need reproduction that accurate. Seriously 6Hz?

Look up "infrasound."

-:sigma.SB

Reproduction accuracy (3, Informative)

Eternal Vigilance (573501) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207669)

In audio equipment, reproduction accuracy is all there is.

You personally might be willing to accept distortions of various kinds (we all make our own tradeoffs), but the point in audio design is that the equipment attempts to recreate as faithfully as possible the original sound. The fact that people are willing to accept less than outstanding audio fidelity is analogous to people being willing to eat fast food. Most people being willing to eat fast food doesn't mean that a world-class chef using the finest ingredients doesn't create a fundamentally different gustatory and nutritional experience, or that there aren't people who can discern and appreciate the difference.

In this case, pushing transducer response farther and farther beyond the audible range of hearing improves the linearity of the response within the audible range. The same way that a 192k sampling rate doesn't mean people can hear up to 96kHz, it means that the filter response in the audio band is better, driver response down to 6Hz or up to 50k doesn't mean Sennheiser is suggesting people can hear down or up to those points, but that the response from 20-20k is better.

In the audio work I've done (music recording and film sound), we've worked very hard to achieve the most accurate reproduction possible...because we can hear it.

The best analogy for how that could even be possible is the way one's hearing adapts to quiet. At first, compared to normal environments, a 20dB room seems very quiet, even silent. But spend time in that 20dB room and then move to a 0dB anechoic chamber and that previously quiet 20dB can seem surprisingly noisy. Another visual analogy is the way that some people don't notice compression artifacts in images at first, but see them easily once they know what to look for.

I'm reminded of the early days of HDTV equipment manufacturers trying to convince us (where I was at the time) it was finally possible to use HD for feature film principal photography. Some manufacturer or other had brought in their latest and greatest camera demo reel, where they had shot footage on film and then at some secret point cut over to footage shot on HD. One of the people in the screening room wasn't really a technical person, and quietly asked us (quite reasonably) that if the quality of the images was really so hard to distinguish what they could look for to tell when the images switched from film to HD. Our (only half-joking) answer was "just look for when the film guys start vomiting." :-D

Re:1) Slashdot advertisement 2) Appropriate for On (1)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207403)

You must be new here. :)

Seriously though, take a look at the past couple of stories posted on the front page. Yeah - this story isn't out of place at all, unfortunately.

Re:1) Slashdot advertisement 2) Appropriate for On (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207653)

weaknesses of sound enthusiasts

I believe that the target market here is best described as the "audiophule."

Drivers? (1)

cip123 (1496915) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207131)

discarded the conventional method of headphone driver design for a new 'donut-shaped' ring driver idea

At first I thought it was talking about software drivers...

Ream-a-matic headphones (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207135)

So do audiophiles just bleed from the ass constantly? The combination of anal rape level prices for "expert equipment", and the need for all that unwarranted and pathetic pretentiousness to burst out somewhere... man, just doesn't seem worth it so you can act all audiophiley to your friends who, you should know, laugh their heads off when you are out of the room. And they laugh at you, not with you. You people are worse than the "I don't even own a TV, and I must work that fact into every conversation that I have in this life" douchebags.

A friend of mine once referred to headphones as "cans" so we threw him through a plate glass window. That made a believer out of him.

Error in summary (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207153)

These headphones are not Sennheiser's most expensive headphones to date (not even close, in fact).

Enter the HE90 - also called the Orpheus. It is most likely the most expensive headphone ever produced. It had a very limited product run, and it sells these days for around $15, 000.

Just to give you an idea of what they're like, if I recall correctly the amp has it's own -ignition key- ;-)

$1500 headphones (4, Informative)

Anti_Climax (447121) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207165)

While I could never justify paying $1500 for headphones, I have to say that I've been consistently impressed with the sound quality from Sennheiser 280-HD headphones. I'm sure there are better headphones to be had, but probably not for anywhere near $80.

Re:$1500 headphones (1, Interesting)

simplexion (1142447) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207237)

I don't see how anyone could justify that expense for headphones. It's moronic.

Re:$1500 headphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207299)

uhhh someone who works with sound? maybe? oh oh oh one can say.. Why waste 3 days of your life setting up you video card on Linux when you can do it in 5 minutes on Windows. You do it because YOU CAN.

At least Germans are on track and not sitting in their asses bitching and moaning because the economy is bad.

Re:$1500 headphones (0)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207671)

It took you 3 days to tell your package manager to install the binary blob? I've heard of hunt-n-peck keyboarding, but damn... just ask someone next time.

Re:$1500 headphones (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207329)

It's easy for someone whose ears haven't been shredded by blasting Fifty Cent through earbuds at 110 dB.

Re:$1500 headphones (1)

bob whoops (808543) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207373)

The 60-80 dollar range seems to be a "sweet spot" for headphones. Grado's SR-60s are $70 and the best headphones under $100 I've listened to. More expensive ones can be better, but you quickly run into diminishing returns.

Re:$1500 headphones (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207473)

Mod parent up. The Grado SR-60 is an amazing headphone. It'd be nice to have a decent closed-cup headphone at this price, though.

In case there's someone here that doesn't know... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207177)

If accuracy across the audio range is of primary importance, headphones will always severely pale compared with a set of reference monitors (a.k.a. speakers) due to their physical limitations. The most I've spent on headphones thus far has been around $300 - I've spent around $600-$700 for four different sets of cans - and I've yet to find headphones that aren't severely flawed. Headphones are a second-choice option, albeit one that comes up a lot in every day life.

Most people, though, don't want accuracy and just want something that sound pretty. You can get reasonably pretty sounding headphones for cheap, though the limited range will still show up in some fashion or another. I recently bought a copy of Closer by Plastikman, and even playing it at modest volumes results in the bass mangling the speakers.

I guess I don't know ... (2, Interesting)

deek (22697) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207293)

Is there any reason in particular that headphones cannot accurately reproduce sound?

The only thing I can think of that a headphone would have trouble reproducing, is a deep, loud bass. That's only because it doesn't have the displacement to highly compress low frequency. Monitor speakers suffer the same problem though.

Still, because headphones sit right next to the ear, they're _much_ more efficient at delivering sound waves to the ear. This allows them to deliver sound at a comparable volume, with much less effort. As far as I can tell, there's no theoretical reason why a set of headphones can't match monitor speakers for accuracy.

Re:I guess I don't know ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207385)

I'm no audiophile, but compared to a good set of monitors, I would imagine headphones would be limited because they only have one full-range driver (per ear) whereas monitors can (and usually do) have multiple drivers which can help deliver a flatter sound. Making a flat speaker is hard and it's often (always?) easier to do it with multiple drivers of different ranges than with a single full-range driver.

Re:I guess I don't know ... (1)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207435)

I love my headphones, and I love my speakers, but they are two different beasts, and different moods and styles of music usually dictate my choice of speakers vs headphones, and which speaker or headphone to use.

I have multiple sets of both, and my favorite speakers are a set of Full-range Fostex FE206Es. They are pretty flat [fostexinternational.com] , but its more than just the driver that makes a speaker flat.

It might also have to do with the specific amp that I can only use with very efficient speakers. Its amazing how much volume 5 watts can get you with the right speakers.

Re:I guess I don't know ... (3, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207641)

Nah, you are getting that one the wrong way around:

The reason speakers need multiple drivers is because they have to create the sound waves "into infinity", while the headphones only have to create a wave in a small volume of air between the coils and the earsdrums.

A typical rule of thumb is that frequency reproduction of a headphone is about as good as of a speaker 25 times its price.

Re:I guess I don't know ... (3, Informative)

eh2o (471262) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207467)

Yes, there is a reason, which is that they would sound terrible if they had a flat frequency response and nobody would buy them.

So, why is that: well, the "natural" way we hear sounds isn't "accurate" in the sense that not all frequency transduce with the same efficiency. The sound is modified by the geometry of your head and ears, also called the "head related transfer function" or HRTF for short. The HRTF is direction-dependent, it is also person-dependent as no two people have exactly the same head. Your auditory system understands your HRTF at a subconscious level and "factors it out" in determining the direction of sound and so on (for example sounds at higher elevation tend to have a bias towards higher frequency content created by the ear pinnae).

Now, headphones include a filter that applies a "simulated HRTF" that places the sound approximately directly "in front" of the listener. If they didn't include this, the sound would be very strange.

The downside to this is that the headphones' HRTF isn't individualized to your own head, and it can't be changed, and its exact specification varies from one model to another quite a lot. Usually the companies don't say exactly how the filter is constructed, and it requires some very fancy equipment (like dummy-heads and so on) to measure the headphone response accurately enough to make an inverse filter. The Sennheisser HD580 is one model (no longer in production) that we have some fairly extensive data for, and that is why it is still the standard for most auditory psychophysics research.

Loudspeakers on the other hand (in particular, reference loudspeakers for mastering) are actually designed to have a flat frequency response. Getting a good listening room isn't easy either, but if you work with a measurement microphone it is possible to check the results pretty easily.

On the subject of bass response, the impedance of air in the ear canal when closed off by the headphone is much much lower than the impedance of the driver in open air, which is why phones can deliver a quite good bass response with a very small driver.

Re:In case there's someone here that doesn't know. (5, Insightful)

Liket (63131) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207339)

If accuracy across the audio range is of primary importance, headphones will always severely pale compared with a set of reference monitors (a.k.a. speakers) due to their physical limitations.

Loudspeakers have to be placed somewhere.. Usually in a room. The acoustics of the room (echo / reverberation / cancellations) will severely impact the sound of speakers, and there's no way around it without spending thousands on deadening and soundproofing the room. Yes, you can RTA and EQ, and get speakers sounding almost as accurate as cans, but it will never be as tight, unless you have a sonically dead room.

A pair of reference cans, on the other hand, interface with your ears much more accurately, and are not at all affected by room acoustics. If they have flat frequency response on one pair of ears, chances are they will have flat frequency response on most other pairs of ears too.

My work requires me to critically listen to music almost constantly (I write audio algorithms / processors for broadcasting). I normally listen to music on calibrated speakers, but when it's time for extra critical listening, my I put my HD650s on. Speakers are no substitute -- they hide too much, smooth over problems. Reference cans give you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (whether you want to hear it or not!).

I currently own a pair of HD650s and they were worth every penny at around $500. Electrostatic cans (STAX brand) would be another step up in accuracy, but comes at a hefty price (cost, fragility, special high-voltage amplifier etc). Until I can audition a pair of HD800s for free, I'll stick with what I have. :)

Re:In case there's someone here that doesn't know. (2, Insightful)

eh2o (471262) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207541)

There are many different standards for "accuracy", including "repeatability" and "flat", which are not the same. Headphones are superior to speakers for repeatability, when measured at the ear canal entrance. But they are not "flat" because they include a built-in simulated "free field response" HRTF that modifies the signal (at least, all consumer-market 'phones include this filter), plus some other geometric design issues.

With some work it is possible to get loudspeakers to give a flat response at a fixed reference listening position, but given two individuals it is impossible to guarantee that they will hear the "same" thing at that spot since there is no control over the HRTF--so, the repeatability isn't really there.

Also there is a difference between listening for artifacts (e.g. compression artifacts) and listening for mastering. Usually headphones are preferred for the former, but for mastering people usually prefer loudspeakers.

BTW I use the HD650 also, they are awesome.

Re:In case there's someone here that doesn't know. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207589)

The idea of a flat frequency response on a set of cans is laughable. Even a $27,600 pair of ADAM mastering monitors can't provide a flat frequency response, so don't mislead casual readers into thinking that your HD650s are flat -- here is their "flat" frequency response. [headphone.com]

One of the completely ignored problems with headphones (other than ones I'm sure you've heard before) is that physical positioning (distance and angle) of the speakers relative to the user's ear canal makes a big difference in the sound heard by the user, but the standard for putting on cans is generally just put them on how they're comfortable. It's been a little while since I went shopping for cans, but I haven't heard of any headphones employing a way of making sure the speakers will sit precisely right for every user.

Rooms do provide problems with frequency response using monitors, but people like Ethan Winer help you to figure out how to measure, reduce, or compensate for them. How do you compensate for that frequency response curve of your HD650s?

Headphones can provide a better transient response time compared with single speaker monitors because cans are smaller, but that's a very limited notion of accuracy - and one that goes away when you get a monitor with more than one speaker. Heck, I bet some small-coned cheap-ass computer speakers could match the transient response of headphones but I doubt you'd recommend them for accuracy.

Headphones may well be better for your usage, but their abilities are very limited compared with monitors when the ultimate goal is accuracy. Not to mention, broadcasting is not exactly a forum where accuracy reigns supreme - e.g., high compression and scooping are usually the end goal, not an aberrant occurrence.

Re:In case there's someone here that doesn't know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207703)

Liket: Sorry my post is a bit aggressive-sounding. I should have revised it, but I also should get to work.

Re:In case there's someone here that doesn't know. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207427)

I recently bought a copy of Closer by Plastikman...

Ah, the ultimate irony of audiophiles! They get so distracted by picking out which gear meets their exacting and nuanced specifications that they forget they're listening to shitty music.

Why only 5000/year (-1, Troll)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207199)

It basically looks like they take a regular set of speakers, rip out the cone and surround, put in a little flat plastic cone instead, add a headband, and then laser etch a random number into the ironwork.

Oooh, snazzy. I can do the same with some 2 inch mids and a set of hearing protectors.

Re:Why only 5000/year (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207247)

While I completely agree with your sentiments, I doubt your 2inch mids would produce 18-20000Hz with a relatively flat response rate.

I could buy an incredible set of monitors and enough foam for a large room with 1500 that would blow these guys out of the water though. I just dont understand the obsession with headphones, especially when they are going to be pumping 160Kbps AAC out of an iPod.

Re:Why only 5000/year (1)

Liket (63131) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207357)

I just dont understand the obsession with headphones, especially when they are going to be pumping 160Kbps AAC out of an iPod.

That's not what these headphones are used for. In fact, they'd be lousy for it -- TFA even talks about how acoustically transparent they are to the surroundings (i.e. they're not earplugs), so I couldn't imagine using them on the subway with my mp3 player. For that, I'd use my Etymotic ER-4P canal-phones instead ($200 or so). 20dB attenuation across the board -- essentially earplugs with near-reference-quality headphones built in. Indispensable in an airplane!

Troll? WTF Mods? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207259)

Disagreements with the article does not make one a troll...

Needs good media (1)

garphik (996984) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207223)

If you are listening to mp3s which seems to be most popular media, you just won't notice the difference.

Probably needs a media which is not only uncompressed, but also contains redundant data (kidding)

Sennheiser HD600 and HeadRoom (3, Informative)

loom_weaver (527816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207351)

I was fortunate enough to purchase a good set of HD600s and a headphone amp to go with it. I've used them as my primary computer sound system for over a decade now.

I'd describe the Sennheisers as very detailed and precise. I can hear things with them that I have a hard time picking out with my stereo and other cheaper headphones. In addition the soft donut pads make the headphones a joy to wear. I can wear them all day without my ears feeling sore or my head feeling fatigued.

Shameless plug for HeadRoom at www.headphone.com where I purchased my gear. These guys make headphone amps and also spend lots of time testing all sorts of headphones to go with them. They're a wealth of information for anything headphones.

1/8" stereo plug that doesn't fail after 6 months. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27207381)

All I want is a 1/8" stereo plug that doesn't start failing after 6 months. There's nothing more annoying that having to diddle the wire near the plug so the sound stops cutting out.

I tried buying an end plug from Radio Shack and getting it to work but I couldn't. It's only 4 wires... yeah I suck.

Re:1/8" stereo plug that doesn't fail after 6 mont (2, Informative)

Liket (63131) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207415)

All I want is a 1/8" stereo plug that doesn't start failing after 6 months. There's nothing more annoying that having to diddle the wire near the plug so the sound stops cutting out.

I tried buying an end plug from Radio Shack and getting it to work but I couldn't. It's only 4 wires... yeah I suck.

Tip/Ring/Sleeve.

Tip is left signal. Ring is right signal. Sleeve is common ground.

Expensive headphones use thick, proper cables that don't fail just because you stumble. It might yank the socket right out of your laptop, but at least you'll still have headphones :)

I'm sorry... (1)

DynamiteNeon (623949) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207387)

..but those things better do a lot more than play sounds if I'm going to pay $1500 for them, like wash my dishes or give me a happy ending.

what a waste (1)

Unclenefeesa (640611) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207479)

I just can't help but think about how many other good uses could those those 1500 USD gone to. One thought: Starving children in Africa !!

Re:what a waste (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207719)

Perhaps, but that would not solve the problem, only paste over it.

Audiophile... (2, Interesting)

tiny69 (34486) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207497)

...someone who listens to the stereo, not the music.

// Been said before. Will be said many times after this.

Re:Audiophile... (1)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207525)

Well, close...

There are some albums that I listen to solely because of their production - like Eric Clapton's Me and Mr. Johnson. None of the songs are that great (compared to some of the other albums he's played on), but the sound that he can get out of a guitar sucks me right in.

It is the Clapton album that sounds the best, and because of it I listen to it at least as much as his others.

I've always liked Sennheiser headphones, BUT.... (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#27207681)

I could never tell the difference between their top-of-the-line and midrange/economy models. Maybe I miss out on a musical nirvana, or maybe I just save a lot of money, you be the judge :D

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