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Studio Headphone Confusion


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Dumb question alert ... from non-pro audio noob


I see tons of threads on the Helix about folks working to get their tone right through various amp/pa scenarios, and also with headphones, and how to get a faithful reproduction of what is heard through headphones from amp/pa's.  Along with these, there's been lots of recommendations for good quality studio headphones and once dialed with those, that usually translates to a good tone through a PA.


I personally use a pair of Yamaha HS8 studio monitors when I'm not using headphones and they sound great.


I also use a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort 25 noise cancelling headphones I've used for many years long before I got the Helix, and they sound really great with the Helix, too.


But I was curious and bought a pair of decent studio headphones, thinking maybe I'm missing something important - and what I hear from the Bose QC might not be translating to an accurate non-headphone tone.


The first thing I noticed from the studio headphones was they sounded harsh and fizzy.  Really pretty bad.  So I returned them and bought another pair.  Same thing.  This is with high gain amp settings.  I do use hi/lo cut on the cabs as I've learned to do, and that helps with the harshness, but it still sounds pretty bad even with those recommendations.


I go back to my consumer Bose QC headphones (which aren't cheap!, just not billed as studio headphones), and it's like the Helix is a chorus of angels by comparison.


All still sounds good through the studio monitors, though.


What am I missing?  Am I listening for the wrong things from studio headphones?  I'm pretty sure the studio phones aren't supposed to sound harsh and fizzy.  Are my tones all mess up and I just don't know it because haven't been using studio headphones?  Are my ears just not trained to hear the nuances from the higher accuracy of studio headphones?  I understand their frequency range and response is supposed to be very accurate.  If regular folks listen to your music using regular headphones / speakers, shouldn't that be what you dial in your tone for, at least for recording purposes (not live music, of course)?


Thanks for any enlightenment.  This question has been bugging me for a while, ever since I tried a couple of pairs of mid-range studio headphones.  Which were the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, 250 ohms and Sony MDR7520's, btw.


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Sony MDR-7506 Studio Headphones (just thought I would get that our of the way).


The main difference between studio headsets and consumer grade headsets, and there isn't a hard line, but in general, is consumer grade headsets are designed first and foremost to make whatever is coming through them sound good.   Same with speakers for that matter.  Full range speakers and headsets are designed to reproduce exactly what's going into them.  This is a generalization... so I'll elaborate on the details.


I use my choice of headsets because they can handle the volume and handle Bass with extreme clarity.  Much like my Event 20/20 studio monitors, that doesn't always translate to "sounding good" but I "hear" everything, and every nuance.   I use the same headsets when I'm mixing front of house and I have to audition delays or make subtle changes to eq in the heat of battle because I can hear the nuance, and the detail.  


That being said... your headphones shouldn't sound fizzy.  That's just wrong.    

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I'm not a huge fan of headphones in general because of the inherent limitations when compared to speakers, but I agree that if what your hear through your HS8s sound good, it should sound at least acceptable through your studio headset.


Most manufacturers will "sweeten" certain frequency responses in headsets to make them sound better listening to recordings.  The idea with studio headsets is they aren't supposed to do that.  But in my experience they ALL tend to do something to the sound.  No two headsets I've ever tried will make the source material sound exactly the same.  Because of that I simply don't trust them and prefer to listen to my source with speakers.  I have a pair of HS7's that I commonly listen to with my Helix, and I can't hear any difference between them and my live rig that uses a Yamaha DXR12 (other than projection issues if I stand too close to the DXR12).


To be honest, the only time I use headsets is when I'm doing a capture for a recording.  Playback and mixing is always through the speakers.

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Playback and mixing is always through the speakers.

...and every set of speakers 'in my experience they ALL tend to do something to the sound', too...


Dumb answer alert - from pro-audio veteran


Meanwhile I'm working with many different kinds of speakers and headphones - and to me they all sound: different (in the first place). Seems to be a trivial insight, but I'm not looking for 'the one and only' set of headphones anymore, which don't exist anyway!

I learned that it is necessary to compare sounds with different hardware setups  to  gradually lose that 'sound confusion'!


Of course there are big differences between hifi / studio / reference headphones (not only the price ;)).

For example, headphones (and speakers) with a more linear frequency response shouldn't sound just 'good'; they should sound (guess what) linearly - and then they do their job well! Furthermore you have to become familiar with 'hearing linear' - and that takes time and 'ear training'...

So if something sounds harsh or treble boosted it doesn't mean automatically that your headphones are bad; maybe they are doing their job really well?!


As my wise old zen master Klango Maleri said once:

'There is that difference between hearing and listening that can be explored with your ears, brain and heart' :lol:

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Thanks for the answers and insights, they are very much appreciated.  I realized I haven't actually used either of the studio headphones to listen to normal already produced music to see how that sounds.  That should help me compare what I'm getting from them with the Helix vs other sources.  I'm suspecting it's largely ear training on my part and just getting used to the linear response.  


Who'd have guessed what I've been listening to all these years as a consumer has been a vast conspiratorial lie from headphone makers! :)


I feel like I've just taken the Red Pill ... :)

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