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Billy86

Open- or closed-back cans for mixing?

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13 hours ago, Tezza said:

It's nice to have monitors because you don't want to be wearing headphones all the time but the truth is, unless your in a good acoustic environment for your monitors then you are probably better off using 2 or 3 pairs of headphones both to set up and mix and then use the monitors as reference.

A few more opinions...

The main music delivery system used to be speakers, so I mixed on those and used headphones as a reality check. Now the situation is reversed, I think at this point headphones may be the dominant music delivery system (I don't consider laptop speakers and their ilk as relevant, I mean what people actually listening to music use).

As such, a lot of people use earbuds. The ones designed for telephone use tend to be more like open-back headphones, but quite a few insert into the ear canal, and are more like closed-back headphones.

The conventional wisdom is to use open-back headphones because they sound more natural, i.e., more open than closed-back headphones and somewhat more like speakers. However, I simply don't know if that's equivalent to how most consumers hear music these days. 

My main headphones are the closed-back KRK KNS-8400, because of course, you  need closed-back earphones for tracking. But just as we used to mix over multiple speaker systems to get an average, I mix over multiple sets of headphones, and do the reality check on speakers. Mixes done on the KNS-8400 actually do translate well, but only when mixing on them at low volumes, because then you don't have any issues with sound waves bouncing around inside the cup, and you don't get the listening fatigue problems typically associated with closed-back earphones.

Ultimately, I think the best option is a set of closed-back headphones for tracking, open-back alternating with closed-back for mixing, and of course, good speakers. I start my mixes on headphones, and end up on speakers. Tweaks I make to accommodate speakers always make the mixes sound better over headphones as well. I also have multiple sets of headphones, from Ultrasones with treble that will rip your head off, to Beats that have a response worse than Apple's white iPhone earbuds, to the KNS-8400, to really nice open-back AKGs. A mix that sounds good on all my phones has at least a fighting change of sounding decent on playback over the zillions of different systems out there :)Hope this helps.

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Thanks everyone for weighing in with experiences, thoughts and insights. I found solid guidance as well on the Focusrite site, since I have a 2i4 interface. Specifically, by interface line, they report: 

As a general rule, higher impedance headphones require more power from the headphone output of your interface than lower impedance headphones. 

If unsure of what to purchase follow these general guidelines, though you may find that our products can actually drive higher impedance headphones than the values listed below without issue:

- For all Bus Powered Scarlett interfaces (Solo, 2i2 and 2i4), iTrack Solo and Saffire 6 USB look for headphones with a maximum impedance of 200 ohms.

- For all mains powered Scarlett interfaces (6i6, 8i6, 18i6, 18i8 and 18i20) look for headphones with a maximum impedance of 250 ohms.

- For all Clarett (USB and Thunderbolt variants) and Red (Thunderbolt) interfaces, headphones with impedances of up to 600 ohms will be fine.

https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/210708269-What-impedance-headphones-should-I-use-with-my-audio-interface-

Always something to learn... Billy

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21 hours ago, Tezza said:

I also posted this on another tread just recently, may be more relevant here:

 

It's nice to have monitors because you don't want to be wearing headphones all the time but the truth is, unless your in a good acoustic environment for your monitors then you are probably better off using 2 or 3 pairs of headphones both to set up and mix and then use the monitors as reference.

I also have 4 pairs of headphones at the moment as well and I find I mainly use those for setting up sounds etc.

HD 280 Pro - Best isolation of any studio headphone i've heard, great for getting a good sound from your acoustic guitar and separating harmonies but highs just a touch harsh, a bit clampy and weird looking on your head

HD 380 Pro - Really comfortable to wear for long periods and great for vocals and separating out midrange instruments, they look pretty cool as well.

ATH-M50X - cups are a bit small, just touch top and bottom of my ears, i don't have particularly big ears, they make everything sound good but not that accurate on midrange instruments. Brilliant for hearing drums and bass, toms, kicks, can hear really well, great for general listening and when your first putting stuff together and don't want to be bothered that much about what things sound like.

HD 598 - very light and comfortable, good for general mixing and vocal foldback monitors when there is no click involved, I don't care about bleed from instruments! I seem to be using these a bit more for general listening. They certainly seem more sensitive to anything that is not mixed right. Also great for identifying stereo placement.

I was going to choose between these headphones but instead have decided to keep them and get a headphone bag to put them all in.

Word of warning my black official Senn headphone bag....black rubs off on the Cream headband of the 598s.  I baby my headphones and they basically look abused b/c of that bag.  I also imagine this might be the reason for the color change on the 599 headband.  

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3 hours ago, Billy86 said:

Thanks everyone for weighing in with experiences, thoughts and insights. I found solid guidance as well on the Focusrite site, since I have a 2i4 interface. Specifically, by interface line, they report: 

As a general rule, higher impedance headphones require more power from the headphone output of your interface than lower impedance headphones. 

If unsure of what to purchase follow these general guidelines, though you may find that our products can actually drive higher impedance headphones than the values listed below without issue:

- For all Bus Powered Scarlett interfaces (Solo, 2i2 and 2i4), iTrack Solo and Saffire 6 USB look for headphones with a maximum impedance of 200 ohms.

- For all mains powered Scarlett interfaces (6i6, 8i6, 18i6, 18i8 and 18i20) look for headphones with a maximum impedance of 250 ohms.

- For all Clarett (USB and Thunderbolt variants) and Red (Thunderbolt) interfaces, headphones with impedances of up to 600 ohms will be fine.

https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/210708269-What-impedance-headphones-should-I-use-with-my-audio-interface-

Always something to learn... Billy

Something to think about, just because Focusrite say that a particular interface "can drive" a particular set of headphones, doesn't mean you end up with a good sound. I had the 2i4 and to be honest, I wouldn't go over 60 or so ohms on that, in fact using 32ohm varieties would be best. When you turn up the headphone amps on those USB powered devices, they sound terrible, harsh, brittle and gritty would be my description, but with lower ohmage headphones where you don't have to turn up the volume on the unit to get the same volume in your headphones, they are fine, in fact quite good. I was mainly using my 54 ohm HD380's with that unit and they were fine.

In addition, the headphones themselves if they are higher ohmage, need a good amp driving them to get the sound they are intending to make. Typically, if the power source is not what they are expecting, the sound will have reduced bass and overall presence.

The last thing to understand is that just playing back music is one thing. It is when you use the headphone jack to track, then you may find you have to really turn up the volume to balance the direct in with the sound coming from the DAW, that's where I notice the difference, voice can sound terrible at loud volumes on higher impedance phones but fine on lower ones.

I would say that for the best sound, to cover yourself in all situations and give you some headroom, the true ohmage limit for each device would be one third of what they are saying. so about 65, 85 and 200. This is the guide I would use and only my opinion of course.

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1 hour ago, Brian Walton said:

Word of warning my black official Senn headphone bag....black rubs off on the Cream headband of the 598s.  I baby my headphones and they basically look abused b/c of that bag.  I also imagine this might be the reason for the color change on the 599 headband.  

Thanks for that Brian! I don't have the black senny bag, they are put in a draw, but in me moving them into a large bag with the other phones, this is timely knowledge!

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14 hours ago, Sonarman said:

A plugin like Toneboosters Morphit is really useful for this. 

Thanks for reminding me, yet another plugin that I have that got lost, I'll see if I can find it. For those that don't know, this is a plugin that you put on the master track and engage it when using headphones, it is supposed to make the headphones more neutral for mixing or you can supposedly make your headphones sound like other headphones. There are much more expensive versions of this same type of plugin. I haven't tested it sufficiently enough to provide an opinion on it.

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Then, there’s always this recommendation, apparently an industry rule of thumb when matching headphone impedance to the output-source impedance:

”...we recommend following the rule of thumb, known in the audio industry as the 1/8th rule - the output impedance of the audio source headphones are connected to must be 1/8th or less than the input impedance of the connected headphones. For example, if you have headphones with 32 Ohm input impedance (e.g. default in-ears coming with Samsung Galaxy 8, BOSE QC35 in passive, wired mode), the output impedance of the audio source should be 4 Ohms or less (1/8th of 32 is 4).

The above is from Sonarworks: https://sonarworks.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360010041394-Does-the-impedance-of-my-headphones-and-amplifier-matter-

 

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I must admit that I'm so used to closed back cans that I can't use open ones. I actually just bought a pair of Sennheiser HD700  for new inspiration or something equally silly, but I hated the sound.  Distant, polite, and strange  awkward  lows to my liking.  I have used  my old Denon  AH-D750  until a couple of years ago when they surrendered (partly) and had hard time finding a suitable replacement. I ended up with Audio Technica ATH-M50x and have been quite pleased with them, even with  the known treble issues. They seem quite reliable for the things I do.

My problem when making music is that I write, arrange, record and mix  at the same time (yes a suicide recipe for great audio). All with family noises in the background. So that limits my choices quite a bit. And closed back ones give me the familiar tight bottom which I can't seem to live without. Obviously if I was only recording, or only mixing, or only doing acoustic stuff my choices might be different to start with.

The bottom line: demo as many as you can with familiar music and pick what ever gives you the best vibe, regardless of design or price (within your budget of course). You must also like using them, not only just follow agreed standards for checking precise frequency content or soundscape (which is more or less utopia anyway).

 

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Posted (edited)

Tezza, man, the voltage of the power supply has NO effect on the quality or the amount of "power" an amplifier or a DAC has.

That being said, most USB DACs do have an option to have their own power supply. The problem is not voltage, it's total current draw from a USB port.

Saying that 5V versus 12VDC matters tells me you haven't got a lot of knowledge about electricity, or possibly, audio, in general.


A USB port limits the total Amps you can draw.  However, you do not need more amps than a USB port can provide to effectively drive a pair of HD6xxx cans.

The problem with laptop audio is  NOT ONLY  to do with the total RMS wattage output of the laptop audio interface, it has to do with the extremely LOW quality of the analog elements of the amplifier circuit and the digital to analog (DAC) convertor stages on board your laptop sound card.

Google "DC to DC convertor", Tezza, my dude.    You can turn a 5 VDC signal into a 12 VDC signal.    What you can't do is exceed the total power in DC watts (volts times amps) that a particular source can provide, and that source, in both cases, is pretty weak.  Good thing it's not a problem of power, but rather of clean signal, high fidelity, rather than "power".    We absolutely don't need more power than a laptop can provide to drive headphones.

These cans are not high resistance, they are high impedance.   So many audiophile websites on the web are so full of nonsense.
Headphone amps are overcoming impedance with a higher signal level. So far so good.  The thing is that your laptop and your usb powered DAC absolutely have enough power to provide a much higher signal level. We're not driving a 10" speaker here. We're driving some cans.  A 10x higher impedance means a 10x higher signal than needed to drive earbuds.  All well within the capacity of your usb DAC.

USB3 can deliver 900 mA, almost an AMP.   USB2 can deliver half an amp.  5 vdc at half an amp can probably drive any headphones in the world.

 

 

Edited by Warren Postma

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Warren Postma said:

Tezza, man, the voltage of the power supply has NO effect on the quality or the amount of "power" an amplifier or a DAC has.

That being said, most USB DACs do have an option to have their own power supply. The problem is not voltage, it's total current draw from a USB port.

Saying that 5V versus 12VDC matters tells me you haven't got a lot of knowledge about electricity, or possibly, audio, in general.


A USB port limits the total Amps you can draw.  However, you do not need more amps than a USB port can provide to effectively drive a pair of HD6xxx cans.

The problem with laptop audio is nothing to do with the total RMS wattage output of the laptop audio interface, it has to do with the extremely LOW quality of the analog elements of the amplifier circuit and the digital to analog (DAC) convertor stages on board your laptop sound card.

Google "DC to DC convertor", Tezza, my dude.    You can turn a 5 VDC signal into a 12 VDC signal.    What you can't do is exceed the total power in DC watts (volts times amps) that a particular source can provide, and that source, in both cases, is pretty weak.  Good thing it's not a problem of power, but rather of clean signal, high fidelity, rather than "power".    We absolutely don't need more power than a laptop can provide to drive headphones.

These cans are not high resistance, they are high impedance.   So many audiophile websites on the web are so full of nonsense.
Headphone amps are overcoming impedance with a higher signal level. So far so good.  The thing is that your laptop and your usb powered DAC absolutely have enough power to provide a much higher signal level. We're not driving a 10" speaker here. We're driving some cans.  A 10x higher impedance means a 10x higher signal than needed to drive earbuds.  All well within the capacity of your usb DAC.

USB3 can deliver 900 mA, almost an AMP.   USB2 can deliver half an amp.  5 vdc at half an amp can probably drive any headphones in the world.

 

 

Thanks for that post, Warren.  When I was impressed with the Sennheiser HD 6xx at Sweetwater I asked 3 of their employees and finally got one to take a more serious interest in me - I asked them, "Is there a preamp behind the wall that is driving the Sennheisers which have a 300 ohm rating, because they sound almost as loud as the others?"

They were all pretty convinced that there was not an additional piece of equipment behind the wall, but they said "Let's test".  And we were able to pull the cords out and plug the 1/8" plugs of a few of the headphones on their wall into my smartphone which has my entire CD library on it as MP3s.  The Sennheiser HD600 still sounded great, but were not as loud (finally) as the 32 and 55 ohms of a couple others.  

So when I asked a question on Gearslutz on the Sennheiser thread, and explained that I will be using the headphones primarily coming out of the headphone jack of my Mackie CFX-12 Mixer, another user of the HD650 told me that he does not use a preamp and that the signal coming out of the headphone jack of his Mackie Onyx mixer board is plenty.  He told me he seriously doubted I would need a separate amp, but "buy them first and try before laying out the money for a headphone amp."

Warren, here's my question based on what you just posted, as I too do not understand electronics much:

Is there a number I can gather from my Mackie Mixer owner's manual to know how much power will be coming out of the headphone jack, or is it based on which power amplifier (primarily a 100W  per channel into 8 ohms) I am using and can you tell me what number on the amplifier I might be able to use to ascertain if my headphone out will have the amount of level I am hoping to have?  Basically, how does one determine the power signal (right lingo?) coming out of the headphone out  to drive a 300 ohm impedance cans?

Edited by Toddskins

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Posted (edited)

You will get better sound if you buy a headphone amp for your high end headphones.  It's NOT about the total RMS output.  There's a lot to audio signals and high quality DAC and well engineered audio analog stages, you WILL be able to hear the difference.

That being said, if you're happy, it's good enough.  No measurements needed. Your ears are the measure.  But if you haven't A/Bd the difference, you won't know.

 

Edited by Warren Postma

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On 7/6/2019 at 9:36 AM, Billy86 said:

 Some good things to think about here. In researching, I noticed on some headphones I’m considering the ohm rating.  I don’t use a headphone amp, I’m coming straight out of a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.   From what I’ve read, the higher the ohms rating the more power it takes to drive headphones 

Will my set up efficiently drive a pair of headphones rated at 250 Ohms?   Or should I look for a lower rating? 

It's actually about current versus voltage rather than power (which mostly comes down to the speakers' efficiency rather than their impedance). You should have no problem driving 250 ohms with your Focusrite. Just don't expect crazy high volume. Which of course you don't want for mixing and editing anyway.

You'll only have an issue if you decide to use those cans with a portable battery-powered device that can't deliver the necessary voltage to sustain high fidelity at higher volumes. Have a look at the Sennheiser HD-558, which sound-wise is nearly identical to the HD600 but half the price and (IIRC) 50 ohms.

 

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On 7/7/2019 at 6:24 PM, Brian Walton said:

Word of warning my black official Senn headphone bag....black rubs off on the Cream headband of the 598s.  I baby my headphones and they basically look abused b/c of that bag.  I also imagine this might be the reason for the color change on the 599 headband.  

Yes I saw this. Definitely looking at the 599 now as well. Thanks much!

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6 hours ago, Warren Postma said:

Tezza, man, the voltage of the power supply has NO effect on the quality or the amount of "power" an amplifier or a DAC has.

That being said, most USB DACs do have an option to have their own power supply. The problem is not voltage, it's total current draw from a USB port.

Saying that 5V versus 12VDC matters tells me you haven't got a lot of knowledge about electricity, or possibly, audio, in general.

I am well aware that higher amperage is important which is why I choose higher amperage audio interfaces but the fact remains USB powered devices have lower voltage and amperage than the 12 volt firewire and pci devices. I learned the difference between the two and the effect on quality of computer audio about 20 years ago. I could write a long list. There is no need to be insulting and demeaning.

6 hours ago, Warren Postma said:


A USB port limits the total Amps you can draw.  However, you do not need more amps than a USB port can provide to effectively drive a pair of HD6xxx cans.

I am aware of the low 500ma restriction on USB devices which is why I avoid them. Saying you can "drive" high impedance headphones with USB power, well you certainly can, just as you can "drive" active monitors with USB powered devices but if you knew anything at all about computer audio production, you would understand that there's a big difference between "driving" something and getting good quality audio and no, it's not just about the quality of components.

The 12 volt 1 amp circuit from the computer sounds much better than the 5 volt 500ma circuit, simple as that, the bass is tighter and the volume is way louder and can more effectively run professional devices, probably not as noticeable at lower volumes, but the headphone output will be clearer and has to work less to produce the same volume. It's just higher quality, when you turn the amps up on those USB devices, for either headphones or active monitors, they don't sound good.

But then again, this is fairly basic information.

6 hours ago, Warren Postma said:

The problem with laptop audio is  NOT ONLY  to do with the total RMS wattage output of the laptop audio interface, it has to do with the extremely LOW quality of the analog elements of the amplifier circuit and the digital to analog (DAC) convertor stages on board your laptop sound card.

I am aware of this but again, I was talking sheer volume and the laptop internal audio at 12volts 1 amp beats the pants off the USB 500ma devices, sounds fuller as well to me, although this might just be adding bass to make it sound better. Where the laptop audio fails is in the upper register, the clarity and clearness and cleaness of the signal, which I have already said in a previous post, which you have apparently not read.

 

6 hours ago, Warren Postma said:

So many audiophile websites on the web are so full of nonsense.

We are so lucky to have you here to spread your great wisdom that is above all others!

 

6 hours ago, Warren Postma said:

Headphone amps are overcoming impedance with a higher signal level. So far so good.  The thing is that your laptop and your usb powered DAC absolutely have enough power to provide a much higher signal level. We're not driving a 10" speaker here. We're driving some cans.  A 10x higher impedance means a 10x higher signal than needed to drive earbuds.  All well within the capacity of your usb DAC.

Actually, we are driving speakers, although usually not larger than 8 inches, remember an audio interface for a DAW usually drives active monitors as well, the more power the better, and again, no, USB powered devices won't sound as good driving cans or speakers, especially when you turn the volume up. Sounds to me like you've come from some audiophile site, you don't seem to understand a lot about music production. 

 

6 hours ago, Warren Postma said:

USB3 can deliver 900 mA, almost an AMP.   USB2 can deliver half an amp.  5 vdc at half an amp can probably drive any headphones in the world.

Finally, something I didn't know, I wasn't aware USB3 delivers 900ma. Again, you use that word "drive" you can drive anything with anything, doesn't mean it sounds good.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Warren Postma said:

Tezza, man, the voltage of the power supply has NO effect on the quality or the amount of "power" an amplifier or a DAC has.

That being said, most USB DACs do have an option to have their own power supply. The problem is not voltage, it's total current draw from a USB port.

Saying that 5V versus 12VDC matters tells me you haven't got a lot of knowledge about electricity, or possibly, audio, in general.


A USB port limits the total Amps you can draw.  However, you do not need more amps than a USB port can provide to effectively drive a pair of HD6xxx cans.

The problem with laptop audio is  NOT ONLY  to do with the total RMS wattage output of the laptop audio interface, it has to do with the extremely LOW quality of the analog elements of the amplifier circuit and the digital to analog (DAC) convertor stages on board your laptop sound card.

Google "DC to DC convertor", Tezza, my dude.    You can turn a 5 VDC signal into a 12 VDC signal.    What you can't do is exceed the total power in DC watts (volts times amps) that a particular source can provide, and that source, in both cases, is pretty weak.  Good thing it's not a problem of power, but rather of clean signal, high fidelity, rather than "power".    We absolutely don't need more power than a laptop can provide to drive headphones.

These cans are not high resistance, they are high impedance.   So many audiophile websites on the web are so full of nonsense.
Headphone amps are overcoming impedance with a higher signal level. So far so good.  The thing is that your laptop and your usb powered DAC absolutely have enough power to provide a much higher signal level. We're not driving a 10" speaker here. We're driving some cans.  A 10x higher impedance means a 10x higher signal than needed to drive earbuds.  All well within the capacity of your usb DAC.

USB3 can deliver 900 mA, almost an AMP.   USB2 can deliver half an amp.  5 vdc at half an amp can probably drive any headphones in the world.

 

 

I think we disagree on what "effectively drive" means.  Will you hear sound that comes out?  Yes.  Will that sound be as rich sounding as it would with something of the same fidelity but drives it better?  Nope, it won't. 

 

Thus they are not a good match.  250 ohms is too high for the way that particular interface is designed. 

 

Edited by Brian Walton

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A bit OT but as Morphit and Sonarworks were both mentioned I thought I'd give them a go.  Sonarworks seems to  work as  promised but Morphit does exactly the opposite on my  ATH- M50x:  it boosts where Sonarworks cuts!  My other phones are not  listed. Have you guys any experience with these? I put them both on same master bus and a-b:ed them back and forth one at a time. Like night and day. The graphs  presents exactly what I hear.

corrections.jpg

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On 7/7/2019 at 11:42 AM, Craig Anderton said:

A few more opinions...

The main music delivery system used to be speakers, so I mixed on those and used headphones as a reality check. Now the situation is reversed, I think at this point headphones may be the dominant music delivery system (I don't consider laptop speakers and their ilk as relevant, I mean what people actually listening to music use).

As such, a lot of people use earbuds. The ones designed for telephone use tend to be more like open-back headphones, but quite a few insert into the ear canal, and are more like closed-back headphones.

The conventional wisdom is to use open-back headphones because they sound more natural, i.e., more open than closed-back headphones and somewhat more like speakers. However, I simply don't know if that's equivalent to how most consumers hear music these days. 

My main headphones are the closed-back KRK KNS-8400, because of course, you  need closed-back earphones for tracking. But just as we used to mix over multiple speaker systems to get an average, I mix over multiple sets of headphones, and do the reality check on speakers. Mixes done on the KNS-8400 actually do translate well, but only when mixing on them at low volumes, because then you don't have any issues with sound waves bouncing around inside the cup, and you don't get the listening fatigue problems typically associated with closed-back earphones.

Ultimately, I think the best option is a set of closed-back headphones for tracking, open-back alternating with closed-back for mixing, and of course, good speakers. I start my mixes on headphones, and end up on speakers. Tweaks I make to accommodate speakers always make the mixes sound better over headphones as well. I also have multiple sets of headphones, from Ultrasones with treble that will rip your head off, to Beats that have a response worse than Apple's white iPhone earbuds, to the KNS-8400, to really nice open-back AKGs. A mix that sounds good on all my phones has at least a fighting change of sounding decent on playback over the zillions of different systems out there :)Hope this helps.

Very good advise and when he can afford them, get good studio monitors, headphones can be deceiving.

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20 hours ago, lmu2002 said:

A bit OT but as Morphit and Sonarworks were both mentioned I thought I'd give them a go.  Sonarworks seems to  work as  promised but Morphit does exactly the opposite on my  ATH- M50x:  it boosts where Sonarworks cuts!  My other phones are not  listed. Have you guys any experience with these? I put them both on same master bus and a-b:ed them back and forth one at a time. Like night and day. The graphs  presents exactly what I hear.

corrections.jpg

Wow. That’s insane. Polar opposite. WTH???

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4 hours ago, Billy86 said:

Wow. That’s insane. Polar opposite. WTH???

Yes! Go ahead, they're both available to demo yourself! I first tried Sonarworks and was kind of impressed (yes it sounded flat-ish). But then I thought, how about the other (cheaper) one?  Which, due to the results,  of course made me think the same: wth? I hope someone can provide other results with other headphones. But as it is, I will continue with no 'correction' on my master bus.

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Posted (edited)

Maximum power transfer occurs when source impedance is exactly matched to load impedance. This is the answer to life. -:)

Edited by rabeach

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