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Tag: Audio

The Recipe… Part 1

by on Mar.14, 2012, under The Other Stuff

Sennheiser HD555 Headphones
Image via Wikipedia

Everyone loves chocolate cake but can’t everyone make one from scratch. Same with listening to music. If you don’t have the right ingredients its not going to sound right at all. So here’s a few things to consider when firing up the sound cannons or just tuning in to WBPM NetRADIO.

Computers are rapidly becoming the platform of choice when listening to music.

Just think, not to far back (for some of you…I know who you are too!!) the only way you could take your music somewhere and hear it was to lug around bulky boom boxes (shoot, some of them were off the hook!!) or crates of records and tapes. I remember barely over decade ago I was tickled at the idea of rollerblading with my portable mini-disc player and not having to carry around a bunch of cassettes (CDs were out of the question).

Since then things have improved totally.

Today you can carry a tiny iPOD stuff with days of sound weighing less than the batteries used in the old cassette Walkmans. They sound a lot better too!

One problem though…today we are faced with a huge choice of headgear and not a lot of information as to which ones are best for our needs.Here’s a little information for those who care to know…

The word used for headphones by Djs and Recording folks and the like is “cans”.

There are basically four types of headphones.

Circumaural are the kind of headphones that completely fit over and around the ears. Check out the ones at the top of the page. These are sometimes called “full sized” headphones. They tend to be the largest and often the heaviest kinds of “cans”. They offer the most isolation from outside or external noise.

Supra-aural headphones sit on the ear. These were the headphones you got when you brought a Walkman back in the day. They don’t do a very good job of blocking external sounds from the listener. But are less expensive that the Circumaural type.

Ear Buds fit into your ear but not into your ear canal. Most personal sound gear comes with these now. The sound quality can vary greatly between manufacturers. When buying replacements compare the specifications on the backs of the packages.

Note: The higher the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) the better. healthy younger people generally can hear sounds between the range of 20Hz and 20,000Hz (or 20KHz) better than older folks. A person’s hearing gets worse with age.

IEM‘s or In Ear Monitors fit directly into your ear canal. They act like earplugs and headphones at the same time. There are two types universal fit and custom fit. To have a set of customs, a cast would have to be made of your ear canal. See the money burning yet?

There are all manner of engineering designs for headphones resulting in various methods of getting sounds from them into your head. But I want to keep this simple for practical purposes…

Headphones are generally “Dynamic” or “Electrostatic”.

Dynamic headphones work using the same principles are your regular speakers. Magnetic fields are generated to cause the voice coil to move the diaphram pushing air in order to create sound.

Electrostatic headsets have no voice coil. They have a diaphragm suspended between two perforated metal plates. Depending on the charge being applied to the plates at any given moment, the diaphragm is either drawn towards or away from the plates. This causes the diaphragm to move the air through the holes in the metal plates to create sound.

It can take a lot more voltage (like up to one thousand volts!) to make this method work as compared to the voltage needed for dynamic headphones.

So Electrostatic headphones are more likely to be less common and more expensive.

One of the benefits of Electrostatic headphone is that it tends not to have the problems dealing with distortion and higher frequencies that regular dynamic headphones have.

Electrostatic types tend to have much better sound quality. Unless you are mad serious about squeezing every iota of sound into your head at the utmost quality, go with the dynamics and save your beans.

WARNING: Turn them things DOWN! Listening to headphones with the volume turned up will ultimately result in hearing loss. It may be temporary (you’d better hope so) or permanent. So why take a chance.

I have permanent damage in my right ear after using (unknown to me) a faulty headset while in the military. I powered up the receiver and it made a loud cracking noise when and let’s just say things have not been the same since.

“Huh? What’s that?”

Here’s a few tips:

Don’t go for “cute”. Cute don’t stay cute for long if you discover you brought something that sounds like crap.

Consider how long you will be wearing the head gear. Look for comfort.

Consider what you will be doing while wearing the cans.

If your head is going to be moving about – say turning your head quickly – you really have to consider how secure the headgear sits on your head.

A very long time ago, (we are talking near dinosaur times) I was sitting in my basement jamming on some Rufus I was listening to the music through these niiiice Telephonic headphones. I had them cranking and Chaka screaming “Tell Me something goooood!!!” I had them headphones moving around on my head they were so loud.

My father was calling me and didn’t hear a thing. Dude stood right behind me calling my name and I never had a clue. So he walked up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder – scared the crap outta me. I spun my head so fast that I ended up looking into one of the “cans” (the part of the headphone that has the speaker and covers one of your ears) while the headphone remained on my head.

I looked so stoopid my Dad cracked up and said nevermind. But I digress…

Consider what kind of music you will be listening to.

Take into account where you will be using them. Will you be using them some place loudĀ  like say a… Subway? Would it be wise to be ignorant of your surroundings? Or somwhere quiet like maybe an office or library?

Very few things can be as annoying as hearing what you don’t want to hear while trying to listen to your headphones or earbuds. So…if you can, try the listening gear out in the store and compare how much background noise you hear with the volume down low and with it at a comfortable level.

The more you don’t hear, the better the headphones or buds block out the outside sound. Bear in mind that you don’t want them to totally block out the sound. Imagine being told to look out and you don’t hear the warning…nuff said.

If they are wired consider cable length, thickness and the quality of the plug/connector on the end. Nothing irks me more than discovering the wire insulation is breaking away from connector because I know soon the wire itself will break from bending and flexing. Also take a look at where the wires actually connect to the headphone. Say you get up and walk somewhere farther than the cord can reach. Does the cord look like it can take an accidental pull without ripping out of the headphones or away from the plug?

Check and see if there are adapters included with the headphones. Most headphones come with a tiny 1/8″ stereo plug on the end of the cable (see picture above). A lot of gear uses larger jacks for connecting headphones. Look to see if there is an adapter that converts your teeny 1/8″ stereo plug into a 1/4″ standard stereo plug. If not you can usually find them at electronics parts stores (Radio Shack) or you might find them in places like Best Buy. You can also check musical instrument stores Like Sam Ash or Guitar Center which by the way are good places to check out some of the nicer headphones!

Okay I could’ve turned this “novella” into a serial. There are tons of specs one can consider when buyin anything. I’m not into getting absolutely “scientifically ridiculous” about this. That’s why I didn’t get crazy about the specifications. The main point is get what is good for you and the music.

Next time, speakers….

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