Audio Explained: The Sound of a Headphone

So you’re just coming from Beats by Dre, Skull Candy, or any other overpriced fashion headphone and you know nothing about audio, well then, this is for you.  While I am not the most audiophile of audiophiles I have a lot of experience with it. Headphones have many different aspects of sound including Bass, Mids, Treble, Soundstage, and instrumental separation.

Bass is the part of the sound that most people know and most people recognize. The amount of marketing campaigns that go into this one part of the sound signature is enormous. The bass part of the sound encompasses drums and bass impact. , Most of the time, companies like Beats by Dre tend to focus more on the impact of the bass rather than the clarity of it. When the bass of a headphone is clear you can hear the bass from lower sound frequencies. You can clearly hear the difference when you put on any metal music. Headphones with clear bass will not even slow down on the fastest of drum impacts. Headphones that respond slower to bass impact because they want to “Shake your head” with bass cant register these sounds correctly. If the bass isn’t controlled correctly then it might bleed into the midrange and make the midrange recessed.

The Midrange is my personal favorite part of the sound as it encompasses vocals and guitars. When the midrange is smooth, like the Phillips Uptown, you can hear the singer clearer but not too clear. Sometimes the Midrange is forward, when the vocals and guitars become very dominant. With a lot of fashion headphones, midrange is not cared for and is recessed. The midrange becomes dominated by the treble and the bass. A great midrange is crucial for pop and rock

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The Treble contains strings, organs, cymbals, high hats, and other instruments. Treble is the highest frequency of the sound signature. Treble is the 2nd “explosive” sound that a lot of fashion headphones like to boost without care,  This leads to sibilance, harsh “s” sounds” and harshness in general with the treble. Good treble is also linked with good soundstage.

The Soundstage is a much overlooked and not talked about part of the sound of the headphone. Soundstage is about how spacious a headphones sound is. For example, can you hear instruments to the left, to the right, and in the middle? Headphones with good soundstage can make good recordings seem like you are actually there, listening to the artist.

Instrument Separation is when you can hear the differences between each instrument. With some headphones, instruments can get muddled together and you can’t tell where the instrument is. Having good instrument separation comes in handy with rock music as there are many instruments at one time. Headphones can also have a lot of detail depending on the sound source. 320kbps mp3/aac or FLAC are the best sources. Most good headphones will show a difference between 250kbps and 320kbps but not many headphones show a difference between 320kbps and FLAC. You know that you have good detail when you can hear the twanging of the guitar strings or hearing the reverb of the drums.

Most headphones do not display their true sound characteristics right after the first listen. Rather, they require “Burn-in” in order for the sound to be fully fleshed out. There are 2 different types of earphones, dynamic and balanced armature. Dynamic earphones require more burn in to achieve their final sound signature then Balanced Armature earphones. Most sub $100 earphones are dynamic not balanced armature. Knowing all of these facts about headphones can help you choose the best headphones for you.

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Hydro Ninja

Hey, I am Hydroninja9. I have been in the tech writing biz for 2 years now and I joined TeckComesFirst in February of 2013. I am a gamer , technophile and audiophile. Of course some info about me isn’t known; blame mind control chips for that. I also make YouTube videos on a regular basis.

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  • PDTechHD

    Amazing article bro, I remember seeing something similar to this in the past, very well written and I’m sure it will help others. I’ll definitely refer to it, if and when I review headphones, keep up the great work! 🙂