Katz's Corner Episode 16: The Smoking Gun

[Editor's Note: Through a long and tedious process it was found that the Focal Utopia and Audeze LCD-4 reviewed here at InnerFidelity in numerous articles were found to be not representative of currently manufactured product. This article is therefore not entirely indicative of our current impressions of this product. To get a complete understanding of our evaluation the reader should start with this summary article and work back through the articles leading up to our current understanding.]

Looking Back
Episodes 13 and 14, The Big Shootout, generated a lot of controversy in the headphone community. As you may recall, in Episode 13, I picked the Audeze LCD-4 over the Focal Utopia, and it was a very clear victory. The Utopia sounded bright, thin, and edgy, especially compared to the smooth and natural-sounding LCD-4. I knew that Focal fans would not take this result sitting down and that was certainly true. So I decided to bring in a panel of listening experts in Episode 14, to express their reactions to the same phones. The amplifiers we used remained the same as I used for my shootout, but I did have to replace the DAC since I learned the Oppo portable DAC could not be run and charged at the same time. Bummer. Regardless, the consensus of the expert listening panel was very much in line with my own opinions.

After those episodes, conspiracy theories have abounded: Was it valid for Bob to use different amplifiers for the two headphones? First of all, it's necessary in this kind of comparison to match the loudness of each can for an A/B comparison. Not having two matched amplifiers, I used a custom-built AMB to feed the Focals and the Audeze Deckard to feed the Audeze. You may recall that my assistant and I did some careful comparisons of the two amps using the Focals and concluded that the amps seem to sound identical. But since I was not able to get enough driving voltage to feed the LCD-4s with the AMB, the AMB fed the Focals, and of course Focal fans on the net have complained that the AMB I used must be a bright amp.

The next controversy centered on my Svengalian "influence" on my assistant and friends as I administered the test. Somehow my brainwaves have managed to influence five strong-minded individuals in my direction. But don't forget that Paige Coley actually preferred the Focal for some purposes although she agreed with the rest of us on the nature of the sonic differences. Other than the few complainers around the net, most of you have accepted the results of this shootout. Some of you cited your experiences with different samples of the Utopias, one sample a reader auditioned mirroring our judgments. Keep your cards and letters coming, guys, we do appreciate them!

My shootout has awakened the attention of a couple of behemoths: Focal (the company) and Audeze (the company). Obviously, Focal is very concerned, and Audeze is very pleased. But we have to dig further, to be fair to both companies. For example: What's going on with Tyll's Utopia on the Wall of Fame? What's going on with his not-so-favorable review of the LCD-4s? What's going on with the estimable John Atkinson's rave LCD-4 review?

In this episode I intend to get to the bottom of this controversy! Here's how: Focal has asked Tyll if he would be willing to measure the Utopia that was used in the shootout. Ostensibly, if the shootout sample measures like Tyll's initially reviewed pair, then we would just have to accept the opinions of my six expert listeners as another data point in a long line of data points. Likewise, I think it important for Tyll to measure my LCD-4s which I sent along for testing.

The Test Results
Frequency response is not the only objective criterion we should pay attention to. And it's very subject to interpretation...we're very early in the science of headphones. Besides, the ears smooth out a lot of the ratty anomalies we can measure in headphones. So what parts of the measurements do we pay attention to? What parts do we ignore? Tyll and several other researchers are currently attempting to advance that part of the science. But I think that if we find some correlation between a measurement and an audition, that can buttress both the objective and the subjective evaluations. To be fair, we are biased ourselves, because we have to interpret the complex measurements. As you and I and Tyll examine the following measurements of the controversial headphones, keep in mind that I'm interpreting them through my own rose-colored glasses. Therefore I invite you, my readers, to present your view of these same measurements. I'll also be happy to analyze the data in a different way if you request it. All in the interests of science and progress.

Tyll has kindly provided me the raw data from three Utopia sample measurements: his initially reviewed sample (probably from the very first production run), a second Utopia sample he recently received from Focal, and the Utopia used in the shootout (both of which are likely from subsequent production runs. He's also given me the measurement spreadsheets of the LCD-4 sample that he initially reviewed and was not too thrilled with, and of course that of my own LCD-4. Let's look at some very revealing frequency response measurements. I have taken Tyll's average of 5 different headphone positions, then smoothed these with 1/6 octave smoothing.For example, here is a comparison of the left and right ear of Katz's LCD-4 averaged and smoothed:

KatzCorner_Ep15_Fig1

Fig 1: Katz LCD-4 left channel (red) versus right channel (green). Average of 5 different headphone positions. 1/6 octave smoothing

As you can see, the measurement shows that the left ear is brighter, sometimes by more than 2dB, from 2 kHz through about 8 kHz. To be honest, my listeners and I did not notice that in any listening test, though I'll be on the lookout for it when I get the cans back from Tyll. It appears that Audeze's manufacturer's tolerances ear to ear are not that great. For a $4000 headphone I would expect better L-R matching, at least up to 10 kHz.

Here's a similar measurement of the shoot Utopia:

KatzCorner_Ep15_Fig2

Fig 2: Shoot Utopia left channel (red) versus right channel (green). 1/6 octave smoothing, average of 5 headphone positions.

These two phones measure distinctly differently! We should not expect them to sound alike. In addition, the right channel of the shootout Utopia is consistently louder than the left by as much as adB over a wide range of frequencies, which I noticed in listening and which I compensated for during the shootout. So this measurement confirms one subjective judgment. Fortunately, I believe that the brain integrates the response of both ears (somewhat). Well, at least it's easier to interpret a single reading than a pair! Here (figure 3) is a comparison of the combined (average) response of both ears of the Katz LCD-4 versus the shootout Utopia:

KatzCorner_Ep15_Fig3

Fig 3: Shoot Utopia (blue) vs. Katz LCD-4 (green). Average of both channels, 1/6 octave smoothing

If this is confirmation bias, then I'll eat my hat! I think this comparison speaks for itself. It clearly confirms the sonic differences that we noted between the Katz LCD-4 and the shootout Utopia. I urge you to re-read Episodes 13 and 14 to see how eerily Figure 3 mirrors our subjective judgments.

Since "measures flat" is not the goal, I'll redraw this comparison between the two headphone models with 0dB representing "perceived flat." My compensation curve is definitely in progress. It's based on the Harman curve plus some fudging I did by comparing a set of LCD-X with my reference speakers until they matched as close as humanly possible. It's far from an accurate curve, but it's the closest I can come at this date. I took both of the headphone measurements, normalized each one's gain to match the Katz-Harman curve in the midrange, and then determined the difference between the measurement and the Katz-Harman curve. In theory, the closer each trace comes to the 0dB line the flatter the perceived response of the phone:

KatzCorner_Ep15_Fig4

Fig. 4: LCD-4 Katz (brown) vs. Focal shoot (green). Katz-Harman curve represents 0dB. 1/6 octave smoothing, both ears combined.

This compensated measurement also seems to correlate with the perceived responses. 0dB would be the "optimum" perceived response, provided that the compensation curve is accurate. The first thing we notice is that the Focal has a distinct steep rolloff below 200 Hz, while the LCD-4 stays a lot closer to flat. This correlates very well with the shootout descriptions of the Focal's weak bass response.

In the lower midband the Focal is boosted compared to the Audeze, which further increases the audible difference between the midband and the bass. From 1.2 to 2.5kHz both cans dip, but the Focal begins with a steep peak circa 1.3 k and a steeper dip while the Audeze's is a lot smoother and gentler. In general, sharp peaks and dips translate to a less smooth and ragged sound quality.

The real tattletale is in the 2kHz to 10kHz range, where the Focal trace is distinctively brighter and more ragged (bigger ups and downs) than the Audeze and in some ranges, significantly brighter than the 0dB line, brighter even than the compensation curve. Tyll is more of an authority on this but I suspect these ups and downs represent comb filtering inside the headphone cavity. These measurements correlate extremely well with our subjective judgments in the shootout.

The Smoking Gun
Now we compare various samples of the same model headphone. Below we compare the Katz LCD-4 sample against Tyll's review sample. Here's a left-right combined, 1/6 octave smoothed amplitude difference display:

KatzCorner_Ep15_Fig5

Fig 5. Amplitude difference between Katz LCD-4 and Tyll LCD-4 sample #1. Both ears averaged, smoothed 1/6 octave.

Below 1kHz the two samples are extremely close, far less than adB for the most part. The slight bass difference means that the Katz sample is about 1dB hotter than Tyll's sample below 60 Hz. Above 1kHz there is a significant difference between the two samples of the same model headphone. The Katz sample is depressed from 1kHz to about 4kHz by as much as 2dB compared to Tyll's sample. But what I think is significant is that the Katz sample is distinctly brighter than Tyll's sample from 4k to 10k. This could easily explain why I and my listening panel really liked the LCD-4 while Tyll felt it sounded closed in and not clear enough. The narrow difference circa 10k could be Fazor design? Fortunately, it's a narrow dip and above that we hope the differences are not that significant to the ear.

Editor's note: I hope Bob doesn't mind me jumping in here for a moment. While his plot above does a good job of showing the the differences between the two headphones, I also think it hides the balance of the headphone in and of itself. For clarity I'm going to add the raw frequency response plots of the two LCD-4 headphones reviewed.

KatzCorner_Ep15_EdNote

In my review I wrote:

"Well, the problem is the LCD-4 to my ears does so well in the bass and mid-range run-up to this frequency that when it all of a sudden goes missing (it's about 8dB down from where it ought be) it begins to stick out like a sore thumb. I have to say that all my commentary on the bass and mid-range performance was burdened by having to evaluate while being very conscious of this missing octave. When I switched form the Sennheiser HD 800 S to the LCD-4 it was like someone draped cloth over my ears...sort of."

I followed that by saying I also thought the top octave between 10kHz and 20kHz was too bright in comparison. Looking at the plots above, you'll see the very steep descent on my pair at 4kHz, followed by a rough descent to 8kHz that is overall steeper than Bob's unit. You can also see that the top octave is higher in level relative to the midrange on my review unit. The response between 3kHz and 20kHz is more "U" shaped in my review unit, and falls more evenly and closer to the shape of the Harman target response with Bob's LCD-4.

After this I compared the shoot Utopia against Tyll's early Utopia...the one he has on his wall of fame:

KatzCorner_Ep15_Fig6

Fig. 6: Tyll's Utopia sample, green. Utopia shootout unit, blue. 1/6 octave smoothed, both channels combined.

Figure 6 tells us that the shootout Utopia may be literally - defective, except that it closely resembles Tyll's sample #1 from 3 kHz on up. But the depression below 2 kHz would clearly make the shootout Utopia sound thin and bright compared to Tyll's early sample. This is a giant manufacturing discrepancy. Tyll has measured a third sample of the Utopia sent to him recently by Focal. Let's compare the shootout Utopia to that third sample:

KatzCorner_Ep15_Fig7

Fig 7: Utopia sample #2 (brown). Utopia shootout (blue). 1/6 octave smoothed, both channels combined.
To quote Groucho Marx, "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?" Utopia sample #3 and the shootout Utopia are for all intents and purposes, identical. Bravo for manufacturer's consistency, except that we now know these sound different than Tyll's Wall of Fame sample. Fig. 16-6 shows a big difference between Tyll's early unit and the latter samples.

Furthermore, the shootout Utopia has a weaker bass below 80 Hz, which would exacerbate our subjective judgment of the weak bass range of this can. Will Tyll audition Utopia sample #3? Does the Utopia still merit the Wall of Fame? If possible, Tyll needs to audition my LCD-4 sample, and if possible I need to audition his early Focal. (Sorry, Bob, Long gone.) But I'd rather wait till Focal send him a few more samples to determine consistency and which direction they may be trending. If they trend more towards the early version, so much the better. Likewise with the Audeze: Tyll reports that Audeze are sending him a few more LCD-4s for measurement and review.

We are living in interesting times. This comparison between headphone samples is the real smoking gun: evidence of manufacturer's inconsistencies. My friend has already contacted Focal for a replacement headphone and they are being very cooperative. For his sake, I hope he receives something more like Tyll's initial sample. For those of you considering the lovely LCD-4s, I hope you receive one like my own golden reference! Caveat emptor.

Editor's Note: Well then...wowie zowie! Past little while as Bob has been publishing his findings, I've been shaking my head wondering if we were even listening to the same headphones...turns out we weren't. Glad I'm not going deaf.

Thought I'd post this graph to put it all in one piece.

KatzCorner_Ep15_Graph_EdNote2

The thing that strikes me most strongly is how much Bob's Utopias deviate from the rest of the pack. It's got a 4dB hotter peak at 3-4kHz; it's got the most uneven run-up to the peak; and the spike at 6kHz and 10kHz are about 8dB hotter.

I've got three LCD-4 coming in from Audeze. I'm going to do some more listening and measuring, and then I'll probably post up some adjustments to the Wall of Fame and notes in past articles.

Thanks for digging into this one, Bob.

[Editors Note: See this post for Focal's comments.]

COMMENTS
TMRaven's picture

So the tldr moral of the story here is that these 4000 dollar headphones are grossly overpriced, badly manufactured boutique products?

pieman3141's picture

Kinda what I'm wondering as well. Do well-established players like Sennheiser, AKG (Austria), Beyer, and A-T have such inconsistencies as well, especially in their high-end offerings?

Beagle's picture

That was fun as well as revealing.

It would be nice if the headphone designers/manufacturers would go to the same extreme effort to find out what's bugging their $4K products BEFORE they release them.

Magoo's picture

Reading about Audeze HP's for a while but never had the chance to try a pair. Last month I visited the CanJam in LA. Tried on a pair of LCD 4's to hear what $4K sounds like...OMG....I don't care how good they sound as they slide off my head at almost any look down...I was flabbergasted that this rarely seems to get mentioned.

Also tried the Utopia's ...again was not blown away by what costs $4K! These are at least comfortable.

After all that premium listening, I am still way happy with my HD-800S's as none I listened to was 2X+ as good....not even the electrostatics. Which proves to me the diminishing returns of extreme priced gear.

I must say I though the TOTL Sony's Z1R's sounded pretty good for sealed phones!!

Inconsistencies for HP to HP of the same model must mean you have to actually listen to a few samples before buying. You would not think that would be the case considering their cost.

Maybe's picture

That's really funny.
To think that Focal would send Tyll a warmed up Version of their 4000$ headphone so he would like it more would be mischievous. However that would mean that their QC is rather underwhelming... Kinda like Audeze's. Guess they aren't so different after all.

Headphone4life's picture

I don't know if the Elear has the same production problems but I love the way mine sound. I got one from the first batch which I think is the same as what Tyll reviewed because I think it sound exactly has he described.

I really don't see the need for a $4000 headphone as they wont sound even twice as good as a $1000 or $1500 headphone. The fact that Hifiman is going to have a possible $6000 headphone is just laughable.

pieman3141's picture

It's simply unacceptable. Very few other industries have such QA issues for their top-end products. Even Lamborghinis, as much as they often need repairs, can be reliably driven to their marketed top speed. Here we have two mfrs. (if we don't include Hifiman), touting their flagships as being made by first-world magical wunderkinder, sending bad products to reviewers and customers alike.

Journeyman's picture

Focal must be soooo happy with these tests. The engineering and manufacturing departments are going to feel the burn for sure.
Heads will roll but I'm sure something good will come from this.

tony's picture

gets past you guys!

I can't recall how any Audio Gear Manufacturer ever had to face scrutiny like this.

Bob Katz owning and using his own Music "Standards", he gets "Highest" Credibility Status, an unimpeachable resource.

Tyll & Bob were the high point of Big Sound 2015.

Combined, I give this Team my first ever "Earned Confidence" Award.

Focal and Audeze will figure things out. They'll discover their causes of inconsistency, keep improving and the "beat goes on".

Tyll & Bob have raised the Bar to new heights! JA must be swelling with Pride!

Well done

Tony in Michigan

Bob Katz's picture

Tyll wrote: "Well then...wowie zowie! Past little while as Bob has been publishing his findings, I've been shaking my head wondering if we were even listening to the same headphones...turns out we weren't. Glad I'm not going deaf."

I feel the same way! - Bob

JVG's picture

Alright, guys. Thanks to you both for your efforts to get to the bottom of this strange and disheartening mystery. It is clear that both of these companies are dealing with significant QC/consistency issues—something we already knew about Audeze but did not know about Focal. I agree with most of this analysis, although I have a couple of niggles, namely that I think you are unfairly evaluating the channel matching issues. I agree that the shootout Utopia channel imbalance is an issue and unacceptable for this level of headphone. However, I think the same is even more true of the shootout LCD-4. It would seem to me that the Utopia’s less-than-1db, relatively consistent mismatch would be less problematic than the LCD-4s roughly 3db discrepancy between 3k-7khz, an area where problems and extra energy seem to naturally stand out. But you noticed the Utopia mismatch and not the LCD-4 mismatch, so perhaps not. I also think, as Tyll pointed out, that you undersold the overall balance discrepancy between the two LCD-4 samples. His annotated graph tells the tale there.

All that said, the difference between the two Utopia samples is huge. Extremely huge—so big that Focal had better get ready for a rough stretch if this turns out to be a widespread issue. And though I stand by most of the criticisms of the methodology (and tone) of the original shootout that I posted in my comment to that article, it is clear now that the main cause of the shootout result is the massive difference between the shootout Utopia and Tyll’s Utopia. Furthermore, the difference between those two is so huge, and yet the shootout Utopia and the third sample are so consistent, that this seems to point less toward unit-to-unit manufacturing inconsistency and more toward a significant change of voicing between batches, whether intentional or unintentional. This is obviously just as worrying as unit variation, if not more so.

This brings me to the next obvious topic. My subjective listening impressions of my Utopias jive much more with Tyll’s original review and measurements than with Bob’s shootout results and the measurements of those Utopias. But of course, I don’t have any other pairs of the headphones to compare them with, nor measurement equipment. So, let’s talk serial numbers. It would be very helpful, Tyll, if you could tell us what the serial numbers (at least up to the last couple digits) are for the three Utopia samples you tested. This is something you’ve done in the past when product variation crops us, and this is obviously a case of that. And if others could chime in with their serials/experience, perhaps that will allow us to figure out where the different batches begin and end and get some more data points from people’s impressions of samples from different batches. (LCD-4 serials would of course be helpful too.) Also, Tyll, did you run a complete set of measurements on these additional Utopia and LCD-4 samples? If so, it would be very helpful if you could add full measurement sheets to the database so that we can more easily and completely compare the samples.

The bottom line is that this investigative work has revealed problems and concerns that a customer spending this kind of money of state-of-the-art, TOTL, statement-level headphones should never have to worry about. Unless Audeze is willing to start sending people 4 samples of every headphone and picking the one that functions properly / they like the best, and Focal is willing to refund anyone who purchases a headphone based on reviews that don’t describe the product they may actually receive, then both companies have some real engineering and consumer-relations work to do.

thefitz's picture

This is unbelievable. The channel matching between these two >$4k sets is unacceptable. Forget how one set sounds relative to another - they sound different relative to themselves!

This is Trump's fault, amirite? His rhetoric made headphone manufacturers feel unsafe and therefore butcher channel matching.

sszorin's picture

Please no mentioning Trump on this forum whatsoever. The Trump comparison/analogy/swatting has become very worn out and tiresome. What's next ? ..selling baby nappies with Trump pictures ?

24bitbob's picture

This is an excellent piece of investigative work, your efforts have to be acknowledged for the thoroughness and persistence in getting as far as you did. Where this leaves the high end headphone industry is anybody's guess, since neither Audeze nor Focal come out of this in a good light. Any consumer paying $4,000 for a headphone has a right to expect that what they are buying will perform to a level commensurate with that cost. Neither Focal nor Audeze pass that threshold.

Could it be that headphones at this end of the market are so leading edge that manufacturing control simply can't match the engineering that evolved during their development, or is something else at play? How about other TOTL headphones on Tyll's Wall of Fame, are they subject to the same variability in performance across individual units? How many samples of a headphone need to be tested to confer Wall of Fame status? Maybe the Sennheiser HD800 still reigns supreme, since its performance may be flawed, but it consistently produces the sound that it does? So many questions, and not just about Focal Utopia or Audeze LCD-4.

I just checked the Focal Utopia website. It declares:

They are the result of 35 years of innovation, development and manufacturing of high-end speaker drivers and loudspeakers. Equipped with exclusive technology, they offer striking realism, neutrality, dynamics and clarity, for sound with unrivalled purity. They are the result of 35 years of innovation, development and manufacturing of high-end speaker drivers and loudspeakers. Equipped with exclusive technology, they offer striking realism, neutrality, dynamics and clarity, for sound with unrivalled purity.

I hope Focal loudspeakers perform more consistently than their headphones appear to. I also hope that Dynaudio speakers show the level of consistentcy required for a ToTL reference (It was Dynaudio loudspeakers that were used as the benchmark, to recall). One wonders.

Focal also claim a frequency response of 5 Hz to 50 kHz. THD is quoted as: <0,2% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL . With the level of variation you detected in your testing those specifications have to remain suspect. The same has to be asked of Audeze and their LCD-4. Could it be that you, Bob, struck lucky with a good pair of LCD-4's and many others haven't?

I also note that on the Focal website, the Utopia headphones are shown alongside numerous quotes from reviews, every single one being fulsome in their praise for the headphone. But every single one is dated June or July 2016. The same headphone, or each produced from the same batch?

From a Quality Assurance perspective the headphone industry has a lot of questions to answer, particularly for flagship headphones. The level of variability is not acceptable. It's not acceptable from Focal, and it's not acceptable from Audeze. How do other flagship manufacturers compare? As consumers, can we trust HiFiMan or Mr Speakers or Sennheiser or Stax, any more than we can Focal or Audeze?

I think the work done for this article is very revealing and very, very important for those who enjoy headphone listening. The smoking gun is not just about Focal, there are wisps of smoke coming from Audeze's direction too. Perhaps the smoke is even more widespread.

MRC01's picture

This is excellent investigative work. You set a great example for the audio community. This will listeners better understand products and help manufacturers improve their products.

What happened to episode 15? Katz's corner jumped from 14 to 16.

davidespinosa's picture

Yeah, where's episode 15 ? It's buggin' my OCD !

avens's picture

I'd like to know if these huge inconsistencies also happen in the manufacturing of factory-made quality headphones, such as the HD600's.

avens's picture

Also I would like to know if inconsistencies as huge as those are present in top of the line speakers, and also in factory-made speakers. Thanks.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Stick with the Sennhieser Hd800's -1 db tolerance ;), 2500$ less as well,
Even hd650 also has a 1db tolerance, only sells in the neighbourhood of 350$.
I may understand Audeze, due to them being relatively new and are working with planar magnetics,
(though if your selling a 1000$+ headphone that's no longer a good excuse) but for Focal this is unacceptable, since they decades of experience in the speaker industry, is working with dynamic transducers and is selling a headphone for 4000$+ that doesn't measure better than even an HD800, which was released nearly a decade ago now and costs substantially more.

They may not be the most shiny and new headphones, but at least they can actually can guarantee their sound quality of their products, pair to pair. Sharing my own personal anecdote, i don't think the hd800 should have ever been removed from the wall of fame, since the hd800s only did 1 thing better, and that was a smoother treble response, though it has looser bass transients and more coloured and uneven harmonics (THD) and it was 300$ cheaper. In terms of accuracy, which what people bought the original Hd800 for was worse. People wanted better bass extension/transients as well as a more ben treble. Sennhieser fixed one issue (treble issue) but introduced several small ones and priced it 300$ more expensive. The bass had noticeable less extension and tightness, the harmonics (THD) were higher and were more uneven and the general response as a whole was had more dips and hills. While more subjectively pleasing maybe yes, but I feel they could have improved this headphone in other ways that didn't compromise the strengths of the original to make a true successor, to me it's Hd650 and HD600 deja vu all over again.

The Hd800 may perhaps be a little worse than the Ether's currently on the wall of fame, though we have to take into account that the hd 800 as of right now only sells for 1499$ USD retail, while they cost significantly more. I use my hd800 for a lot of things, hours on end, mostly for movie's and t.v and I can say that it is almost unparalled by any other headphone in terms of sheer accuracy and imaging capabilities, other than the 009 + other stax offerings or maybe some Hifiman offerings, this is irrefutably evident in the dozens of measurements from Tyll, Golden ears, or even sennhiesers own measurements . For 1499$ USD in terms of imaging and accuracy, this headphone is unbeatable at it's price point for those looking for solely for accuracy and a tool to work with. To top it off, it's the most lightweight and comfortable flagship headphone in it's class, unparalleled, though the Ethers come close respectably. In this world of the rise of planar magnetic headphones, the comfort on the Hd800 is completely unique to Sennhieser and can't be found anywhere else. In some of my most gruelling work sessions while editing video and recording, which can last even beyond 10 hours straight, never once has the hd800 ever made me feel the slightest discomfort. The HD 800 is not the best headphone for music enjoyment, unless there is little tampering with the recording, such as symphonic and acoustic based music, or simply well recorded music. Though it's headphone that truly excels at Movies and T.v (Since what you hear is essentially is just what goes into the microphone and out and the less jumbled and complex nature of recordings. Rather you hear far more real life sounds doing with regular dialogue, ambient sounds and room acoustics) and of course professional work such as editing and recording.

Not gonna argue with people that the HD800 is bad for quite a bit of music, since it is, since most music today is not well recorded by any means, and is festered with altercations having to do with DNR (The loudness wars) equalization, poor mic-ing, and digitalized synth effects, which is why in the 80's and 90's people hated cd's and digital recording s in general, since it exposed all the recording flaws studio's actually had. But for recordings with little tampering such as film materials, T.v shows or symphonic/acoustic based music, nearly unbeatable in it's price range. If you have truly well recorded materials (Think modern Japanese music recordings) the hd800 is an incredibly rewarding experience with such material, when your source material is clearly produced well, the headphones can sound far more incredible than other headphones that may colour the sound for enjoyment purposes.

it remains the cheapest way to have a Flagship level headphone that actually has the Qc control, unparalleled ergonomics/comfort, and unparalleled accuracy at it's given price point. You can also take it a step further and improve it even more to somewhat fix it's treble problem with a mod that cost less than 5$ and is completely reversible, which is why the hd800 was the most favoured headphone in the polling data gathered in Big sound 2015, and it would be a mistake to think that the HD800's didn't have any worthy competition.

It's not the best headphone for music listening for most people, heck lots of people find it unenjoyable, but for professionals who want the highest level of accuracy and comfort at the lowest cost, and a headphone to use with source material that's not tampered with to much such as movies or T.v (Microphone in and out) it is irreplaceable.

Along with that there IS a decently sized community of people who find this headphone pleasing for music listening, flaws and all. This "peak" that's constantly bashed about, is only 5db high.

To this day, I'm seriously wondering why Tyll removed it from the wall of fame, it baffles me.
I have to remind myself this is Tyll's personal website and those are his beliefs, but I just cant help but think this was a mistake. Tyll in my opinion needs to draw a line and he may already have but i'm just going to throw this out there - Is innerfidelity's "wall of fame" a resource for Tyll's personal bias and subjective, or is it a resource representing both him the writer, the industry and it's professionals and us consumers and customers. Tyll has done a relatively good job over the years, though his ability to represent and identify with readers to accurately represent the industry and it's professionals, us customers and consumers and the line between the objective and quantifiable, to the subjective and qualitative has been growing quite vague over the past few years, and innerifdeilty while the single most engrossing resource for measurements and data, still somewhat leans towards Tyll's subjective and bias. To me what separated innerfidelity from all the other publications ranting on about with fancy adverbs, was his sole and unique professional experience with the actual raw technical data and mechanics, which allowed him to quantify subjective impressions and separate the two well.

The biggest representation of this problem it the wall of fame, if you care to read the daily comments within articles regarding Wof picks, quite a handful, myself included don't agree with a lot of Tyll's picks and choices.

I still don't know why the HD600 remains on the wall of fame when they're are clearly better more modern alternatives, and I don't know why the AKG k7xx or Dt880 was shafted in favourability towards the hd600, this includes the HD650 as well, I still am confused with the Utopia wall of fame induction, why the Hd800 was removed in favour of the Hd800s, the huge gapping hole remaining in the 400$ to 900$ price point on the wall of fame and some great headphones removed in the sealed headphone category. The wall of fame needs some kind of update, seriously, I don't get this behaviour about removing similarly performing headphones at a lower price point in favour for newer more expensive models. If the wall of fame is or was intended to represent the best buys at certain price points, the wall of fame certainly has trouble doing so, both in representing general consensus around products as well. I know this publication covers a lot more audio hobbyist related material, but that certainly doesn't mean people don't value their money and can just slap 4000$ to buy the "next" gadget,
a byproduct of that is why so many hobbyist visit conventions, to actually audition potential purchases,
instead of buying it blind because they do care about their savings.

I've already in the past voiced my suggestions regarding headphones that should get a consideration for the wall of fame, so please read some of the suggestions made by others such as myself or anybody willing to offer them in the future.

MRC01's picture

I agree the HD-800 is a great headphone in many ways. But it has a spike in response around 5-7 kHz that makes it unnaturally bright and throws off the voicing of natural acoustic instruments. It sounds "detailed", but it's artificially amplified detail. That may be great for mastering professionals who need a scalpel of a headphone. But live acoustic music doesn't sound like that. The detail is subtle - it's there but you have to listen for it. And while the HD-800 has excellent bass response for a conventional driver headphone, good planar magnetics like the LCD-4 (even the LCD-3 and LCD-2) are superior: cleaner (lower distortion) and more linear (flatter frequency response).

sszorin's picture

About the "the huge gapping hole remaining in the 400$ to 900$ price point on the wall of fame and some great headphones removed in the sealed headphone category."
The new Beyerdynamic Amiron would fit on that wall very well.

MRC01's picture

I'm not trying to impugn the HD-800, but only point out that it's not necessarily a better headphone or a better value than the LCD. Well-recorded natural acoustic music (chamber music, baroque, classical, vocal) sounds more realistic to my ears on the LCD than it does on the HD-800. The HD-800 sounds more detailed, but the LCD has more realistic midrange voicing and cleaner more accurate bass.

Each to his own, we all have a different HRTF and preferences.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Though all LCD headphones except the lcd 2 and below ARE significantly expensive than the HD800, quite a bit more, they should be superior in all aspects no? The X is 300$ more, the 3 is around 400-500$ more and the LCD 4 is 2500$ more, aren't they supposed to be better? in terms of dynamics, mid range and extension on the low end, you gotta hand it to the Audeze, though there is a Huge amount of missing energy from 2khz to 10 kHz and a lot of peaks and hills that can be up to 15db or more, tyll's graphs show most of his audeze having 20db dips, 20 DB !!!.. The hd 800 consistently maintains a Fr response only within a 5db-10 range consistently, regarding dips and and peaks. In terms of raw accuracy of the Fr response, despite the peaks, a Stax 009 and some hifiman offerings are more suitable comparisons. missing energy within the treble region is far more emphasized on lcd headphones than a lot of products out their. while the HD800 may have 5db or so to much emphasis, the lcd headphones series also lacks 10-15db depending on your pair in the 10-15khz range.

The THD looks better on Tyll's graphs because his graphs have a bias. i don't know if you ever noticed or not, but his graphs hugely emphasizes the 0-1kz and deemphasizes the visual perspective for higher frequencies. so the distortion no matter how small will show up easy do to him spreading out the graph to emphasizes it, and when you go further up the frequency response he dramatically shortens the intervals each 1khz you go up (Each line from 1khz and up represents the next 1khz up the frequency)

But if you actually look at it correctly you will see that from 3khz to 10khz the audeze headphones actually have FAR more distortion than the HD800. That's a 7000khz range of the frequency a HUGE part of it, and the most important part since our ears of course boost that range due to that being the vocal range. The Audeze prove to have better power handiling and only better distortion from 0-2khz , I'll give you that, but for the rest and most important part of the frequency response? The hd800 is clearly better, that is an unrefutable fact shown throughout many samples that Tyll has taken of both the HD800 and Audeze headphones, time and time again.

It's not your fault for misinterpreting the graphs, it's very easy to overlook, it's just the way Tyll's graphs have a bias, visually you are seemingly correct, but if you actually dig down into the mathematics of it, you are mistaken. This doesn't even take into acoutn the Tyll also doesn't even measure data about 10khz-11khz...

Due to the 15db dip within 2khzto 10khz, it would be nonsense to say this headphone, in terms of sheer and raw accuracy regarding the FR, completely removing the subjective and enjoyment components of it. is not an accurate headphone by far.

It gets worse since the quality control has always been out of wack, I still have my original audeze Frequency response measurements I had for the LCD3F, and they massively differed from my friends measurements they got from Audeze, while my graphs I got from senhhieser consistently almost looked identical to many other people's graphs they got form senhieser measuring their own personal HD800. I can literally PM both documents so you can yourself go around to compare them to other people's graphs, just tell me your email.

Not to mention Audeze headphones don't compare at all to the level of comfort that can be gotten with a HD800, audeze weigh like bricks. Expect me to where these headphones more than 3hrs? forget it, I have tried with my own LCd3f. The Audeze weigh 100-300 grams more depending one the model and have a huge form factor as well.

The older Non Fazor models were far more comfortable for those with large protruding ears and they so happened to measure better in most area's, the old versions while they had slightly messier transients, actually faired quite bait better in terms of bass and treble balance, there weren't these weird issues in the treble like their are in the current audeze headphones. The only Audeze headphone worth buying right now are perhaps the X and the 2, the LCD3F and the LCD2f right now has gotten worse in my opinion (Listening experience - Graphs) they are definitely more imbalanced in the treble compared to previous iterations such as the LCD rev 2.

Not gonna argue that the Audeze are more pleasant for music, and they are, but a person who uses headphones for T.v, film, and recording/editing, for the vast majority (80% of the time), it's a far better tool, just recheck the several measurements and make sure you read them correctly like I've explained already and you'll see, try to focus on just how many db and for how much and how long the audeze dips for, and you'll noticed how flawed it is if you try to use it as a recording tool. Never once I mention how these headphones "sound" or that they're better for music. I'm just pointing out the measurements because you can make that argument All Day long, it's a pointless exercises regurgitated on forums like headfi. You even have people arguing about USB cables, laughable.
I also never said they were detailed because of the peak, I don't understand the the argument your trying to make, I didn't even use the word detail, since it's such a poor word to use since it's so vague and subject to different interpretations. No headphone gives more detail, it's just a headphones job to preserve the detail from the recording, it's far more about composure and preservation if anything else.

You're presumably just a hobbyist, so for your needs, which mostly centres around music listening which I assume is the case, the audeze will fit your needs far better than any Hd800, however again your just a hobbyist. The Audeze headphone's were clearly designed for Hobbyists, remain so, and excel at doing so, so it's perfect for you, a hobbyist, where the HD800 doesn't do this as well, which is why you can see many people selling them on classifieds like hotcakes Bwahaha.

Keep in mind PRICE!! PRICE!! PRICE!! PRICE!! every headphone audeze offers from the Lcd3 and up are more expensive, 300+ more expensive depending on the model, they should be better for all accounts. Though for raw accuracy you can even use for demeaning applications such as audiometric use, HD800 is unbeatable AT it's given price point. Which is why what the HD800 truly excels at is Film materials, T.v and symphonic music or really well recorded music in general, it's actually the most rewarding if your listen these instead of music. it's also a headphone that's nearly 10 years old, keep in mind.

MRC01's picture

The bias you claim about Tyll's graph is because they are logarithmic in frequency. Showing the graph this way is actually more accurate because humans perceive frequency logarithmically. Seems strange for a guy who later suggests "dig down into the mathematics of it" not to know that.

The HD-800 is more consistent than the Audeze headphones. However, the Audeze has lower distortion, tighter, deeper bass and flatter frequency response from subsonic through the midrange. This is also true of the LCD-2 which is cheaper than the HD-800. Both the LCD and HD-800 have non-linearities in the treble; which is "better" is a matter of taste.

When I listen to well recorded natural acoustic music on the HD-800, it sounds like a hyper-detailed hi-fi caricature of the the sound. When I listen to it on the LCD-2, it sounds more like the real thing. I understand that's entirely subjective.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Your correct, though Im also right as well, though you need to realize distortion in between 2-10khz is far more noticeable than distortion below that number, since our hearing boost that frequency substantially. The graphs are biased to better suit human interpretation, it does have a purpose your correct. That does not change the fact that human hearing emphasizes the range between 2khz to 10 kHz and it so ha[pens through that 7khz range, the Hd800 is far cleaner, please i insist that you look again. This distortion within this range is far more important, which is why at the Big Sound 2015, people hardly even noticed the severe amount of distortion on the Enigma acoustics headphone until Tyll pointed out that fact. I think your ignoring that fact.

Hey your correct, but I never diapered with you in the first place. The audeze is cleaner from0-2khz, but to2khz-10khz? the hd800 proves to be far cleaner and more linear over all. All audeze headphones have problems with distortion in this range.

Since this range is more emphasized due to human hearing, it has nothing to do whether or not what humans perceive "Flat" to be, logarithmic or not. I would have never mentioned that humans boost the range of hearing between 2khz -10khz if I did not already know this. that's why pink noise sounds more flat than white noise, which is actually flat. Regardless of this, humans are very sensitive to this range, so more distortion in this range is far more than others. The perceived distortion and the measured distortion are higher both on the LCD headphones.

Once again, you're correct that this logarithmic "bias" within the graph is more accurate for human hearing, which I never disagreed with you in the first place, since that bias actually has a purpose,
but your wrong that the audeze have less distortion, both measured and perceived. This is because humans boost 2khz-10khz and this range is far more important for distortion due to this emphasis, which once again I remind you that the Hd800 is cleaner and flatter, which having flat harmonics is extremely important, otherwise they stick out. The lcd series of headphones fail to do this. There's so much data and research on the human curve having to do with the concha and pinna and inner ear, I won't even bother, it's already been established that this range is where humans are most sensitive the actual fluctuations in transients, distortion, and the tonal quality.

Also, lcd headphones have far more dips peaks and spikes,

They are deeper, more emphasizes, abnormal and unnaturally uneven, and last longer.
The hd 800 has one peak that is only 5db high, the peak dips and valleys on lcd headphones can last be up to 15-20db, 15 to 20db!!!! IT gets worse since the the QC control is out of waco, you don't know what your going to get with a purchase from Audeze. Please acknowledge this fact .
Tyll also has offered solutions for this treble problem that prove through measurements to be every effective in taming this peak (Read the "Anaxalius mod" it's a small felt mod that can be applied like a sticker it cost less than 5$, the problems with Audeze headphones massive 15-20Db dips can't be fixed through any means, modded or not)

Check every single graph of the Hd800 please, the response constantly and consistently held within a 5-8db threshold, the Audeze headphones don't even come close to this. Just proceed to check every single AUdeze graph available, the answer is clear. Please read the Bid sound 2015, the polling Data gathered shows that many people preferred the HD800 over any other headphone, far more than the audeze headphones, which included the X and the 3F.

Now now, yes please stop arguing that they are more enjoyable for music, THEY ARE, I agree 100%!!!
For a hobbyist they are great headphones. You can use all the colourful abjectives and adverbs you want, I get it, it's a fun headphone, I've had the luxury to personally experience that as well.

However you completely misunderstand the argument I'm trying to make, which is for recording, editing, and untampered with materials (music almost always is tampered with with equalizers, you rarely find recordings that try to equalize with mic set ups alone, unless you personally are their to confirm otherwise, music is not a reliable source for "untampered with" recordings) and MOST importantly comfort, the HD800 is irreplaceable. Your right, I'll repeat what I've already said, but apparently you'e skimmed over " for Bass, Mids, dynamics and distortion below 2khz you gotta hand it to the Audeze headphones"

Again I get that, though this is a question of accuracy, not enjoyability, I keep stressing that fact in my attempt to avoid this conversation since it's a silly exercise. I'll stress again that that's far from what I'm actually trying to get at. While the hd800 may have a measly 5db peak from being completely neutral,
the audeze on the other hand can dip 15-20db in return, so while the HD800 is somewhat artificially emphasized or "detailed as you describe it, isn't the Audeze in exchange "Artificially" smooth sounding as well? in this sense the Audeze headphones have far more coloration's than the HD800, that's irrefutable, i feel like a nincompoop that I actually have to argue that with someone.

Also, in real life, things are meant to be diverse, some things can sound terrible and irritating while other things can sound calm and soothing. The Audeze headphones make everything and everything rolled off to give a sense of smoothness and warmth, when in reality, some things and recording are meant to sound bad and terrible. You'll have a hard time distinguishing bad recordings from good one's with the Audeze headphones due to the severe flu cations in the frequency response. Of course for music this design principle is optimal, but for other use that requires accuracy, nope.

Also you expect me to where a brick like the Audeze LCDX for more than 3 hours?

Fuggeta bout it!!! since I can where the HD800's for 15hours and forget they are even there.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Since sound travels faster at higher frequencies and slower at lower frequencies it does make sense to have his graphs set up logarithmically and simply due to the fact that probably due to evolution we simply perceive many things other than sound or decibels as logarithmically and not as a linear step pattern. however, the emphasis of sound in the lower frequencies is actually far lower than the emphasis at higher frequencies such as 2khz-10khz for human. I agree this is the correct way to have the graph set up, but it still emphasizes problems that aren't at as prevalent as in real life. Which is why at the Big sound 2015 everyone and Tyll himself had trouble actually hearing the massive distortion artifact in the enigma acoustic headphones below 100hz.

How humans perceive frequency logarithmically to have more even time distribution is correct. But because our hearing is quite weak below 50hz, and stronger and sensitive in the 2khz10khz range, much stronger, the problems in this range due to the logarithmic step pattern not being a linear step pattern de-emphasizes (visually anyway) problems within the 2khz-10khz range, which are actually far more noticeable when it comes to distortion and artifacts in general. So since we are listening to music and other recordings not logarithmic frequency sweeps, and since we have a hard time perceiving low frequency below 60hz and emphasize 2khz-10khz far more, artifacts regarding distortion are far more noticeable in this range. A logarithmic step pattern was designed simply compensate for how we humans perceive even time distribution throughout the range to be, and it makes complete sense however it still remains the fact that humans are more sensitive to the 2khz-10khz range, which is why it's very hard to hear 40hz and below wave in real life, much less a recording - unless you actually generate and amplify one. The mathematics I'm talking about has to due with the response curve of the ear, it's my mistake that I worded or explained myself wrong.
What I'm trying to get at is despite the logarithmic step pattern for the graphs being correct,
they still don't tell the whole story, as they seemingly give the perception that de-emphasizes fluctuations and artefacts by narrowing them down visually, while correct, it doesn't represent how humans are far more sensitive in the 2khz-10khz range. Which is why the uncompensated plots (the raw plots) are very important.

Humans are supposed to hear sound emphasized in the 2khz-10khz naturally, we don't hear flat, that's the point, but the Audeze headphones severely dip in that region, very much altering how the sound is supposed to sound when talking from an accuracy standpoint, unpleasant or not by it dips 15-20db at that!! though I do understand the hd 800 does this as well, it's to a much smaller degree, since the response consistanly stays within a 5-8db threshold, simply get a ruler and see which response is more flat and you'll see that the fluctuations within the treble are far more emphasized, numerous and uneven on Audeze headphones.

I'l repeat myself the Audeze headphones fluctuations within the treble are Far more emphasized, numerous and uneven, they are 15-20db steep a lot of cases.

I repeat again 15-20db deep dips on the Audeze headphones. It's laughable to call this an accurate headphone, when you have headphones such as the Stax 009 and perhaps the Hifiman HE1000 or some Etherflow headphones that that maintain a frequency response within 5-8db, this is especially the case with the Hd800,bIn terms of accuracy, accuracy alone, setting aside on whether accurate is actually natural sound or enjoyable, the LCD headphones do not fit the niche or role of being accurate at all. This can be quantified and clarified by a simple glance at the frequency response graphs. Not to mention it's laughable for professional use along with that since they weigh so much due to the double sided neodymium magnet arrays and just the sheer amount of dense hardwoods and metals they use, they can't be worn for very extend period of time.

People don't normally apply a logarithmic pattern to their recordings unless it's implemented in say a guitar or bass amp, much less a whole recording, since it would completely mess up the timing and authenticity and perception of the actual recording. They may play with equalizing effects, though messing with time distribution regarding step patterns would really mess things up, which is why they aren't, unless of course were actually talking about synth effects then that of course, is just another story since it's just designed for effect, not for the purpose of perceived even time distribution between frequencies. So how humans perceive sound logarithmically is generally hard to notice if your just listening to music, unless they have many sweeping phenomena happening within the recordings.

In that respect, since if your run a linear sweep which of course has an actually even step pattern, naturally humans hear it as if there is less time spent in those frequencies, due to many reasons, such as how we have a hard time perceiving that range in the first place. The sweeping phenomenon only happens on a small scale in recordings, such as if you bend the pitch or do vibrato on a string instrument, so it's important, though not everything of course, since sounds just happens at multiple locations throughout the frequency response at vary times at the same time.

So since sounds naturally seems more present in the 2khz-10hkz in general,
having a logarithmic step pattern for a frequency response for graphs in my opinion de emphasizes more problems clearly more audible and emphasizes problems that we otherwise have a hard time perceiving in the first place, such as the ranges below 100hz, again which is why at the Big sound 2015 and Tyll himself had trouble actually hearing the massive distortion artifact in the enigma acoustic headphones. The distortion may seem less overall on the Audeze's on paper, but in practice due to the human ear response curve and the non linear distortion peak on Audeze headphones, the distortion stands out much more on Audeze headphones, which is why in comparison even tell acknowledge that the Audeze headphones sound grainy in comparison to the Hd800 and other headphones, complaining about distortion below 50hz is kinda moot, since people can barely perceive sounds below their anyway.

You fail to understand I'm not arguing about taste, I opened a discussion about accuracy, which in many applications people actually need just as much as a musical sounding headphone. The "Accuracy" i'm talking about is the kind that can be quantified through measurements, most of what your talking about is your own qualitative impressions, completely different from the point of the conversation. Accuracy is about how little something alters the original when reproducing it, this of course directly relates to graphs and measurements. I'm emphasizing the importance of accuracy not for hobbyist, but more for professional that needs to do such things as tracking, editing and recording, I tried my best to avoid having conversation regarding personal impressions. Please refrain from the adverbs and adjectives, I won't be available to make those silly arguments since I don't have the time to do so, nor the inclination like you have.

For example: the Imaging of the Hd800 can be quantified by seeing how little the headphones frequency response changes when you move it around and position it differently, there are also graphs here on innerfidelity on one of the articles Tyll has done that measures just how even the sound distribution is within the ear cup. And of course you can look at the multiple measurements as well.

BUT I'm not going at all start an conversation about subjective impressions, not going to beat a dead horse. hence why i was on changstar and now on SBAF and not on Headfi, where they ban discussion about DBX testing and argue about USB cables. My impressions are mine and mine alone, not gonna share them since they will inevitably will conflict with others who want to change my opinion of what I experienced alone, when it's not of their business or experience and I'm not going to make it anyone's business by posting about it.

MRC01's picture

It's ironic that you want to avoid talking about subjective impressions and prefer objective measurements, because your posts have factual errors that suggest you don't understand the physics of sound.

All sound frequencies travel at the same speed. Humans perceive both frequency and loudness logarithmically (interestingly, to two different bases, base 2 and base 10 respectively). Objectively speaking, the LCD-2 is indeed flatter (more linear), and lower distortion than the HD-800 from subsonic to around 2 kHz. From there up, they both have their non-linearities, neither is perfect so choose your poison. The audibility of non-flat FR depends on the slope (rate of change) as much as the amplitude. The LCD attenuate the upper mid to lower treble, but they do so in a smooth, linear curve that makes it sound natural. The HD-800's 5 kHz peak is a sharper bump.

Our hearing is not weak below 50 Hz. 30 Hz is easily and clearly audible, and it's not unusual to be able to hear below 20 Hz. Humans have some of the best low frequency hearing of all mammals on Earth. Many animals trounce us in HF hearing, but we can hear low frequencies they cannot. The most sensitive Human frequency range, the peak in an HRTF curve, is typically between 2 and 3 kHz - not all the way to 10 kHz. Frequencies above 10 kHz contribute to our perception more as clean transient response and "air" than as actual harmonics. And frequencies from 10 kHz on up tend to attenuate with distance, so sitting next to the musicians on stage has a completely different timbre or voicing than the 1st row of audience, or even the 5th row back. That's why close miced recordings can sound artificially bright and unrealistic. But, exciting for people who don't know what the live event really sounds like, or prefer this artificially bright version of it.

When you consider that every person has a different HRTF due to varying shape of head, ears, nasal & oral cavities, etc., the FR curve of a headphone is much more subjective than speakers. It's possible that the HD-800 matches your HRTF where the LCD-2 matches mine. Or, we have different subjective preferences.

My point is that the LCD-2 sounds more REAL, not that it is more musical or entertaining. As an amateur musician I hear the absolute reference - the sound of live acoustic instruments - every day, and the LCD-2 sounds much closer to that than the HD-800. Of course this is my own subjective observation.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture
Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

5 db peak vs 15db dip? which is more linear?

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD800modbooklet.pdf
Check the THD measurements on a couple more samples of the HD800 compiled in this booklet,
you'll also see some of thee effects of the anaxalius mod which can mitigate that 5db peak at 5-7khz

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

While power handling is an important aspect, which the Audeze do better than the Hd800's in general in terms of the 100db THD plot, people realistically don't listen to music at 100db, which is very loud by the way, especially for long periods of time. That's why the 100db THD measurements don't really as much as the 90db THD measurements.

Unless you want be diagnosed with tinitus or degrade your hearing sensitivity or eventually go deaf, 100db shouldn't be a level one should listen at, and people generally don't, people that do get hearing problems . Even 90db can damage one's hearing, but it's still a far more realistic level to listen at than 100db.

Since people don't listen to music that loud and shouldn't due to it being unhealthy, The hd800 in almost all cases will have less distortion at 90db, and even less so going down in volume. so when listened to at normal listening volumes say 80-90db, the hHD800 proves to have less distortion almost across the entire board.

Listening at 100db nominally for extended periods of time is very near rock concert level, it's also as loud as a train passing by. Which is why, if you've ever had a construction job or a manufacturing job, almost all the time, safety policy would state the use of ear plugs, since it's workplace safety to protect your ears from noises above 85db. So The 100db THD measurements are simply just to test power handling, it's not a relevant measurement in practice and when listening when listening at healthy and proper volume level. I believe Tyll has already explained this. If you read the instruction manual for the HD800, you'll see sennhieser also acknowledges this fact, that these headphone should be listened to at a medium listening level, I believe you can find this kind of loudness warning on all instruction manuals that come with headphones.

MRC01's picture

On second look distortion looks about the same to me. The LCD is slightly lower in the bass, the HD-800 is slightly lower in the treble. The LCD slightly lower at 100dB, the 800 slightly lower at 90dB.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

I was mistaken about how different frequency travel at different speeds, I mistaken it for a similar concept, how lower frequencies travel further than higher one's my bad.

We all have different HTRF, what we hears in real life differs from other people never mind headphones or recordings, that doesn't change how accurate a headphones is, and how it's able to reproduce sound. Even if a headphone is 100% accurate or were all i the same room in the same spot in a live concert we'll still hear it differently, but if were listening to the original or a 100% accurate reproduction of it, enjoyable or not, that's how it's supposed to sound when accurate. The hd800 does not match my HTRF perfectly, I would gladly pick other headphones, however, at it's given price point, if I was solely looking for accuracy and comfort for professional use, 1499$ there is no better by for that specific purpose alone.

I made mistakes, you made plenty as well, since you clearly wen't on about how the distortion on LCD headphones are better but if you look at the graphs I linked and look at all the other measurements one Innerfidelity this is clearly not the case. Me making a mistake about the sped of sound really doesn't have to do with the primary point of what i'm trying to make, nor does it pertain to the me being qualitative, it's a mistake don't confuse the two.

Also the peaks, dips, and valleys are FAR FAR more emphasized and far Far more numerous on audeze headphones, some dips can be 15-20sdb!! You're wrong that that the LCD headphones are more linear, they are not, since the hd800 only has a 5db peak and it's entire frequency response stays within a threshold of 5-8db. I made a mistake, but never once have I actually shared how i actually thought the headphones sound, in ways that couldn't be directly quantified through measurements. And you've certainly made mistakes as well, since it's clear you didn't even read most of the Audeze measurements at all. I'm not saying the Hd800's sound more real, they just prove to be more accurate, not ifs, ands or buts.

Your point about the Audeze? I AGREE WITH YOU, what kinda argument are trying to make with a person that agrees with you that the Audeze are more pleasing and can sound more natural for music?
I repeated that fact multiple times, I don't know what the heck you are on about. However I won't say they are the most accurate for their price point, far from it. But of course accurate doesn't mean pleasing. A lot of times recordings sound shrill because of the mic-ing setup, you may even be in the exact same room or perhaps even playing the very instrument, but unlike a microphone your ears aren't going to be right next to an amp or vocalist, you'd be at least 5-10ft away, also other problems such as poor microphones can affect the authenticity of the recording as well, like headphones, you can't guarantee a microphones complete accuracy either.

Sorry but, I can't verify nor can you verify your or my experience regarding recording, so as a result I really can't acknowledge anything you say regarding that. so please leave that out of the conversation.
I only brought up my experience since it pertained to comfort and accuracy, those things can be quantified through measurements regarding the headphones weight (330grams I believe) and graphs here at innerfidelity, i Also suggest you do a comfort test, try to wear your Lcd2's for as long as you can, then try the HD800, the answer is clear. By the way you never specified the actual LCD 2 you have at all, I don't know if it's the rev 1, rev 2 or the Fazor, you're keeping it pretty vague buddy, never mind Htrf or subjective preferences, like until now, you've just said "The Audeze Headphones" like which ones?

If your talking about the Rev 2 then your opinion would make more sense, but if it's the X, 3. or 4 then I would have to disagree with you, since the LCD 2 rev is the only 1 that has that seriously great amount of balance and linearity, the rest have a lot of weird and very severe fluctuations in the treble.
But that's just an exception of an exception due to the shoddy Qc control at Audeze, and they are also discontinued now.

MRC01's picture

Here's an analogy to how I perceive the LCD-2 vs. the HD-800, imagined as a video monitor.

The HD-800 has overall excellent dynamic range, contrast, color saturation. But it has a spot near the center of the screen that is noticeably brighter and more contrasty. The LCD-2 fades toward the edges, and it fades more than the HD-800 spot is bright. But the fade is so smooth and gradual it's harder to notice. When I watch the HD-800 that spot is so obvious it's constantly distracting me from the picture. When I watch the LCD-2 it is more linear and consistent, there's no single thing that draws my attention away from the picture, even if toward the edges it fades more than the HD-800 does.

I own 2 pair of LCD-2: the original 2014 Fazor, and the revised 2016 Fazor. I love them both but the 2016 is a touch tighter in the bass with cleaner impulse/transient response. I auditioned the X, it's a bit cleaner & faster, but the midrange voicing didn't sound as natural and realistic.

Note: I do record acoustic music ensembles using various mic configurations (usually use a matched pair of Rode NT1A set up as a Blumlein pair), and my flute sounds about 12" from my ear, and I sit right next to the violin with the viola & cello in a circle, and I also listen to chamber music from the audience, so I have direct experience with what it sounds like in these various ways.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Your hearing of course may be different, but for an average human being I think your mistaken,
Please read this article and look at response curves regarding the human ear, below 50hz hearing starts dropping off, though audible, it still not nearly as strong as something within the realm of 6khz.
20hz is where it, for most people drops off completly and where both audio formats and microphones drop off as well. 20 hz is not easy to hear, even if it's a sine wave. of course as you go up and up it get easier to hear, 50h and above is definitely coherent, though below it starts getting harder to hear.

A lot of times people throw around the whole 20hz-20khz, but that really doesn't reflect people hearing, since even teenagers and kids would have a hard time hearing past 13.5khz, please I suggest you look further into this or ask your doctor on people's average human hearing range or whoever you might get a hearing test. I can only hear up to 17.5khz max. and the general curve of my hearing very much aligns with these curves found in the link. Although I can hear 30hz and 17khz, my hearing still drops off on both ends like most people. Keep in mind such graphs are averaged out, and is not completely accurate person to person, it isn't 100% for me either, but it's pretty darn close.
These graphs clearly show a descending drop below 50hz

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/headphone-measurements-explained-fr...

MRC01's picture

Yes the 20 - 20k range is used for round numbers more than anything else. At age 49 my hearing range tests at 16 Hz - 15 kHz.

MRC01's picture

PS my upper threshold tested to 18 kHz when I was younger, but we all gradually lose HF perception with age, and 15 kHz is OK for my age. My personal pain threshold is low so I always wore earplugs when using power tools, firearms, loud concerts, etc.

coldassault's picture

I'm kind of disturbed by this walls of text. I don't know if it's the length, the plentiful language errors (as if you used speech technology "wear where" is "theirfour" one and the same word - this certainly would explain the incoherence and speech-like form factor of your book)

I think however more of it has to do with the tone. I seldomly have seen such an arrogance and paternalizing attitude where there is no invitation to think along your lines, but where you do nothing but insisting, keeping on repeating and stressing, commanding (be it that the imperatives often get a "please" added to them) or even feeling like a nincompoop to actually have to argue something with anybody.

You could have posted the same in a 10th of your actual blabber, but you just never cease on repeating the same arguments over and over again. Let me rob you of this illusion very swiftly: saying the same thing 5 times, but just in other words, doesn't convince anyone more. It only makes for an utterly frustrating and annoying read.

Yes, now I do wonder why on earth I put myself through reading the whole (whale) thing.

I strongly suggest (read: I don't insist on) refraining from polluting the great and high quality work displayed at this website by arguments that are better fought out in a more personal environment.

Thank you!

sszorin's picture

Planars have their own unsurpassable problems. I am familiar with LCD2, LCD-X and LCD-XC. LCD2 is, to me, a failure. The tonality of LCD2 is unnatural, murky, the depth of the soundscape / soundstage is minimal, practically flat and the worst thing, the treble is MIA [missing in action]. LCD-X and LCD-XC are unlistenable - the units I heard had ear grating upper mids distortion and their treble extensions was also lacking. These headphones are clearly meant to be for music enjoyment and not for the transparency and accuracy of sound; one can forget about and forgive the skewed tonality of Audez'es but the unpleasant upper mids distortion of LCD-X and LCD-XC indicates that the planar magnetic audio technology also has its own inherent problems.

MRC01's picture

It's interesting how different people hear such different things. My ears, and measurements, both say the LCD-2 is close to perfection from subsonic to about 2 kHz. And the extreme treble is definitely not MIA, even on the LCD-2. A good recording of castanets is ultra crisp and natural, makes the HD-600 sound like a lot bit rate MP3 in comparison. Yet I agree with you that the frequency response in between, from about 2 kHz to 12 kHz, is uneven. How much this affects people varies. I wonder how much of this variation is due to subjective preferences, versus hearing differently (different personal HRTF variations).

100VoltTube's picture

The LCD-4's consistency is poor, but the consistency between the two newer Focals, and the difference from the older one makes me wonder if Focal has made a revision to the Utopia since Tyll's first sample was made. Lots of companies do it. Beyerdynamic, for example, have made many silent revisions to the T1, although most of those were viewed as improvements.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Heh Yep, your right, I honestly hate it, since they can simply tell consumers they've updated and tweaked newer units and encourage more sales perhaps, Akg and Sennheiser also have been been a guilty as well. Silent revisions suck, your always left wondering. At least Audeze had the respect to update their products with public announcements, and it has worked well, for their sales, and the community.

Anyways, it seems people just really don't care about consistency and whether or not their actually guaranteed good sound quality. like Helooo!! your spending 4000$ here!!

Beagle's picture

I have been reading "Specifications subject to change without notice" on hi-fi gear manuals since the 70's.

MRC01's picture

Audeze also does these silent revisions without changing model numbers. It's nice to see them always improving products, but when they don't change the model number it's confusing for users -- did you get a 2014 umpty-squat or the 2016? Which month? What's the serial number?

Dadracer's picture

I didn't understand either why the HD800S was removed from the wall as it effectively won the Big Sound comparison test of all the then TOTL headphones. Then it struck me, It's Tyll's wall so he can make the rules and decide what goes and what gets added.
On my wall I have both the HD800 and HD800S as I have found them better overall headphones than anything else I have heard including the Utopias and Elears. I'm not saying that my wall is more correct or relevant to you or anyone else than me and I still enjoy and respect the work which Tyll is doing.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

it's kind just like a dumbed down version of the Utopia, While I actually think the Utopia is amazing sound for music, not 4000$ so, in fact if it were 1500$-1700$ thad be optimal. The Elear is a decent headphone, though certainly not Wof worthy, Considering the existing headphones such as LCD2, Ether and Hd800's.

I saw Tyll's HD800 initial induction as out of respect for it, not necessarily that he personally liked it for listening, and I liked that attitude, since he put a lot of people other opinions and priorities, such as those within the professional realm, more into account than his personal impressions. It lead me to believe that the Wall of Fame was every bodies wall, and it represented a larger amount of people, I guess I was somewhat mistaken.

But lately a lot of the headphones on the wall of fame are sort of these more polite and darker sounding headphones, albeit while the Ether and Focal headphones are very dynamic, they certainly have some energy chipped off at the top and upper mid range. Still agree with some such as the 009,
albeit it is 5k plus a 5k amp, but it's a truly unique product that it's measurements, comfort, and build quality are hard to find in any other headphone.

Beagle's picture

..is that we all have varying opinions on what sounds good and what is "right" and what does and what does not matter.

For me, if I have identically matched drivers, I'm a happy camper. The odds of both being out of spec is quite remote, and I have proper imaging.

Two sets of the same headphones, each with identically matched drivers, but they sound different? That would make me wonder..

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Sadly even if you sped 2000$, no 4000$ on a headphones such as the Audeze, you can still get some odd channel issues, and inconsistency pair to pair. Audeze makes the situation worse since, along with people's preferences, listening habits and listing materials now have the same model headphones, though headphones that actually sound different despite being the same model. Which is exactly what happened with Tyll and Bob Katz and many others, and unlike Tyll, unless you have a measurement system and you buddy has one as well, theirs little ways to actually know.

The argument I tried to make is how The HD800 defiantly without question excels at accuracy and comfort, which is perfect for professional and at the given price point if irreplaceable. This is more quantifiable than just my mere listening impressions since terms such as Accuracy, Imaging and comfort can be quantified by measurements. All here on innerfidelity ;)

Prashanth's picture

I recollect this motion picture it was not inquired about one seen they demonstrate all the radiation executed creatures and everything you can hear is the humming of the bugs. On the off chance that the radiation can slaughter a 800lb cow every one of the creepy crawlies over the ground would be dead and in addition every one of the general population.

Prashanth's picture

I recall this film it was not asked around one seen they exhibit all the radiation executed animals and all that you can hear is the murmuring of the bugs. In case the radiation can butcher a 800lb cow each one of the dreadful little animals over the ground would be dead and moreover every one of the all inclusive community.
Tech data solution

isquirrel's picture

I have both Headphones, the LCD-4 I have is the original version 100 ohm's. I use a very powerful valve amp which allows me to run any Headphone in either low output impedance mode or high output impedance mode.

Can you tell me which is preferable ? I generally find the High Impedance gives me a brighter sound with more power the Low impedance gives me less power but I feel it gives more bass. I am very interested in your input. The amp is Woo 234, tuning Elrog 300B's and KR HP 274B's with a TSRP 6SN7 driver tube.

Cats_Paw's picture

I remember an old post in head-fi that showed a few things a Kilobuck+ headphone SHOULD have.
Very few made it past the baseline you expect from a Flagship, so this is not surprising.

I for one preferred the LCD-2s to the LCD-X and LCD-3, and the HE-560.
Who knows.

Reticuli's picture

I get that this is an issue for Koss with the complicated, exotic ESP 950 and the fact they're just a shell of a company anymore without probably even an engineer, let alone an engineering staff, but this is alarming. When they were a real force with a real staff, Koss sent out headphones with Tyll's type of measurements on each of their high-end units. If you're spending more than a few hundred bucks on a headphone, the actual unit you're buying should be extensively tested, you should get its printout, and it should have a warranty that guarantees close to that performance for a certain length of time.

samsandy's picture
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