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General Hardware Advice

Greetings!
This is my first time posting here. I've been lurking here for some time and now finally want to request some advice.
This post can be roughly broken down into these contents:
  • Introduction
  • Current Equipment
  • Limitations and requirements
  • Scope & Conclusion

First of all, thanks a lot for reading this post. I know a bit about codecs (lossless and lossy), the concepts of quality control, audio perception, ripping, etc. I may not know so much, but I guess I know the basics. So, please correct me whenever I'm wrong. Anyway, I feel good hardware is essential for experiencing high resolution audio (along with a good sense of hearing). I have experimented on different codecs at different qualities and did numerous ABX tests. But my current hardware can only do so much. I have an old Sony headset (which I don't even know the model of) and a pair of Samsung in-ear headphones. You can guess the hardware is pretty bad by now, which is the reason why I'm thinking of buying a new headset. I can differentiate between 192 kbps MP3 and FLAC fine, but I think the sound is pretty inaccurate, cheap and bad. I don't think my headphones are fit for playing all kinds of music. The main issue here is that I'm from a country where the prices are very high (like I can't afford headphones like HD 650 or MDR V6).

So, here's the limitation: I can't buy headsets that cost more than $60 (~4000 INR) (yes, I'm disappointed that I should fix this price). The one thing I want to know here is: should I go for full over-the-ear headphones (like this) or do any in-ear headphones do well at this price point? Also, I want to clarify if headphones can create isolation as good as good in-ear phones in case if I should use them while traveling.

Also, I want to clarify one thing here: the main differences between different headphones is that they have higher frequency cut offs, have less distortion, can output a large range of frequencies efficiently, have a better resolution of sounds and isolate better; am I right?

I want to know if headphones at this price range can deliver high resolution audio well, provided my ears are keen enough to listen. Please correct me if I'm wrong here; also give some tips on how to increase the sensitivity of ears. I thought maybe wireless (bluetooth ones) aren't very good for listening hi-res audio as they have low transfer speeds. As far as I have browsed until now, here are (I think) some picks that might be good:
Please suggest more in case I've missed any.

I hope the details are clear enough. Any help would kindly be appreciated. Thanks.

Edit: Oh and also the previous post was an accident. And I couldn't figure out a way to delete it.

 

Re: General Hardware Advice

Reply #1
I can't give you a recommendation.  I own a pair of Koss Porta Pros, and a higher-end Grado headphone (which probably sound similar to the more affordable Grados) but these are both "hear through" on-the-ear headphones.
 
Quote
The one thing I want to know here is: should I go for full over-the-ear headphones (like this) or do any in-ear headphones do well at this price point? Also, I want to clarify if headphones can create isolation as good as good in-ear phones in case if I should use them while traveling.
There are "high isolation" over-the-ear headphones but I don't know if they give as much isolation as in-ears.  (I like to be more-aware of my surroundings, but that's a personal choice.)

Quote
Also, I want to clarify one thing here: the main differences between different headphones is that they have higher frequency cut offs, have less distortion, can output a large range of frequencies efficiently,
Almost the only thing that affects "sound quality" is frequency response.     The "interaction" between impedance of the amplifier/driving device can sometimes affect frequency response.    Distortion is rarely an issue.   Usually the amplifier/device will distort before the headphones themselves, although the sensitivity of the headphones will determine how loud they will go before the amplifier distorts.   The other factors that affect sound quality don't apply to regular headphones/earphones.

Unfortunately, published specifications are mostly useless.   Headphones/earphones are notoriously difficult to measure because of they way they interact differently with the shape of different ears, different manufacturer's use different measurement methods and some "cheap" manufacturer's fudge the results and/or they publish frequency response with no dB tolerance, etc.  

Reviews & recommendations can sometimes be helpful but different people have different preferences and different opinions  and there is a ton of nonsense in the "audiophile community".   And you'll read lot's of terminology ("detail", "imaging", and lots of other useless words)  that seem to mean something, but don't have any definable or measurable relationship to things that are defined in science or engineering.    It's best if you can listen and judge for yourself, but that may be impossible with in-ears.

Isolation & comfort are personal preferences.

Quote
. You can guess the hardware is pretty bad by now, which is the reason why I'm thinking of buying a new headset. I can differentiate between 192 kbps MP3 and FLAC fine, but I think the sound is pretty inaccurate, cheap and bad.
It's not that your headphones are "bad", and your hearing is probably not bad either.   It's that lossy compression can be pretty good!    You might be able to train yourself to hear compression artifacts at higher bitrates, but are you sure you want to do that?   ;)   Then, you'll be listening for defects/artifacts and you'll have to go-back and check the uncompressed original and maybe do an ABX test...  Almost every time I've thought I've heard an artifact (mostly V0 MP3s) the same "defect" is on the original CD.  

Re: General Hardware Advice

Reply #2
Thank you for the response. Codecs have certainly improved a lot over the years. I thought being able to point out the artifacts would be educational and fun, though it would leave us with no other choice than lossless. I still can't decide over in-ears or over-the-ears.

I really hoped for good recommendations. Anyway, I further did some search and made this list: please help me pick the ones which would be good :) . Some of them were already mentioned.

  • Audio-Technica - ATH-M20x
  • Beyerdynamic - DTX 910
  • Sennheiser - HD 4.20s
  • Koss - Porta Pro
  • AKG - K52
  • RHA S500 Universal

Thank you.

Re: General Hardware Advice

Reply #3
You'd have to make the decision about in-ear and over yourself as it's very personal. I prefer in-ear and a good set provides amazing noise reduction without any fancy noise cancelling technology, plus I find you need less volume due to the driver being so close to your ear.

Re: General Hardware Advice

Reply #4
Being in a country where fancy, high-end gear also have prohibitive prices, I still think that starting from the bottom up pricewise is not that bad an idea - as long as you stick to reputable brands.

So much so that, in my own case, owning a pair of old, higher-end, over-the-ear circumaural Sennheiser HD580 (bought when I lived in another country) hasn't detracted the least from the pleasure I derive from listening to my music (portably or not) with the likes of more affordable Koss Porta Pros or Sennheiser CX-100 or PX100 headphones. These are just my two cents.

Edit: whether they should be in-ear headphones or not, is, as probedb pointed out, up exclusively to personal choice.
Listen to the music, not the media.
Qualidade em MP3

 
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