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Topic: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

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  1. #1

    Red face Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    I had a nice answer to this from someone, regarding phase effects or something, but I have a nice new stereo amp, and yamaha monitors, and it always mystifies me why Giga sounds 10x better thru my sony phones than through my brand new amp/mixer/speakers. What is odd is that mp3s played of these same giga samples sound great through these speakers. It just sounds rather thin and empty by comp to headphones, which sound marvelous. I am playing the Steinway B from EW. Moreover, when I play my Roland A90ex through my amp/mixer/speakers it sounds fine, BETTER than the Steinway GIga. It's the complete opposite when I play through headphones--Giga sounds 10x better than Roland. Any more ideas, or am I doomed to a life of giga through phones?

    Noel

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    Impedance mismatch between your audio card and the amp?

    Hard to say. Sounds like an output level/impedance thing to me, though. Although, if it's the same audio outs that are playing the mp3, that's not it. In that case, could it just be a very reduced level coming out of Giga in comparison to your mp3 player?

    This just doesn't seem to make sense.

  3. #3

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    Bruce, I'm afraid I don't understand how to evaluate for this possibility you bring up. Here is what I have going:

    Delta Audiophile (from the spec sheet, the only reference to ohms):

    "Input Impedance: 10k ohms minimum."

    Alesis Multimix 12 FXD:

    "1/4 in. Outputs
    Main Mix, Ctrl Room, Aux 3/4, Ext Aux Send Level: +4dBu nominal, +20dBu maximum
    Headphone Output: 75 ohm output impedance
    >105mW into 75 ohms, > 40mW into 600ohms"

    Samson Servo 120 Stereo amp:

    "Output Power (typical all channels driven):
    4 Ω, 1 kHz, 1% THD, 83 W
    4 Ω, 1 kHz, .034% THD, 60 W
    8 Ω, 1 kHz, 1% THD, 57.5 W
    8 Ω, 1 kHz, <.019% THD, 52 W" and . . .

    "Headphone Output Level: 240 mW at 8 Ω (1 kHz)
    Input Impedance: >10 k Ω balanced/> 10 k Ω unbalanced"

    ****I'm plugging my headphones into the Alesis Mixer

    Speakers:

    Yamaha S8M Studio Monitor
    Impedance: 6 Ohms
    Power Rating: Noise 25W Program 50W Max 100W

    Given this info, do you see an issue that might be causing my problem?

    Noel

  4. #4

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    When you listen to the MP3's, are you in the same physical position that you are in when you are *playing* the Steinway?

    Other than that, I would have put the blame on a phasing problem with the Steinway, but as Bruce said, it doesn't quite make sense that MP3's would sound good through the speakers if that were the case.

    I certainly think that the Gigapiano (1) sounds quite terrible when played purely mono through headphones. It sounds better when played normally (stereo) through loudspeakers, but nowhere near as good as it does through headphones. I have heard that this phasing problem exists on other pianos for Gigasampler too, but I'm not sure about that particular Steinway you are using.
    Despite the apparent discrepancy between MP3 and listening directly to Gigastudio, perhaps do some more testing to eliminate phasing issues.

    One thing to try might be to record the Roland playing a passage, and then simply play the recording back using Gigastudio. See if it sounds the same.

    Greg.

  5. #5

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    The phones sound better because of the physics of accoustics. The phones against your ears create a sealed "tuned" pace, like a speaker cabinet is tuned........plus you are getting true "binaural reproduction with no interference from ambient space. The left ear hears what was in the left source space and the right as well.

    When you listen through speakers, you are not really listening to a "closed" system of just the the speakers and their tuned cabinets (like the phones), because you have to add the tuning of all the ambient space and positioning in the room (very complex physical modeling). Speaker manufactureers try to "engineer out" all this extra baggage when designing speakers to get as close to that ide of having the speakers against your ears as possible, but its all compromise at best.

    The bottom line is that all of the room conditions affect EQ, time shift, phase and other variables in the speaker environment, so you could never get the purity of sound reproduction in speakers that you do in headphones.......because there is no ambient space between your ears and the phones to affect the sound. This all translates to two distinct sounds of phones and speakers. (Its always tempting to mix through headphones because of this great advantage in sound realism but..........not really a good idea.)

    Hope this helps a little

    Larry

  6. #6

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    Also, absolute phase can make a huge difference to the way low notes sound sometimes. I've never experimented with absolute phase with acoustic pianos, but for electric pianos, it's amazing how the sound can change simply by flipping the phase. (yes, of *both* channels)

    Greg.

  7. #7

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    Something I do that will not help you in recording\mixing pianos but may give you much more enjoyment in playing at home: I found an old set of tall Panasonic stereo speakers (vintage 1985 or so) at a flea market for $50. Three cones, with 10" woofers (not as large as the cones on a good dedicated keyboard amp, but close). These are not studio monitors, just the usual stereo speakers, at one time state-of-the-art. These sit behind my keyboard, one on each end, turned slightly to face me. They sound great for pianos. I imagine a more recently made set would sound even better.

    Not to be trusted for mixes, as I say, because they color the sound, but for just playing and composing, they sound great, making the pianos sound much fuller and richer than my studio monitors. Helps that they sit on the wooden floor, too, so the sound seems to come from slighty below me, like the sound of a piano when you play, and are against the wall, so the bass response is good. May come closer to your headphone experience. (Obviously, try the best and biggest speakers you can find--I was lucky to find these big CS-CG7001 Panasonics for almost nothing.)

    My monitors sit on top of these, and my amp has a switch that lets me switch between the two sets of speakers.

    (Anyone else using big stereo speakers this way? Well worth experimenting with for piano sounds.)

  8. #8

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    (Oops--they're model CS-G7001 Pioneers.)

  9. #9

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    Thank you all for the information. I did go back and recheck wires and found one problem there. I also changed the phase (in the audiophile driver) and it does sound a bit better. I think there may be some issues with the piano sample itself. And I'm beginning to think my monitors are not too good. I will post another question on speakers and would appreciate the comments from any who do respond.

    Thanks,
    Noel

  10. #10

    Re: Again, why do my headphones sound WAY better than speakers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noel
    I also changed the phase (in the audiophile driver) and it does sound a bit better.
    Ah ha. ;^) Now, I wonder whether you are listening to it with the "right" phase, or not, now. (I realise you're not saying this was the whole problem, though)

    I once did a simple mod to a soundcard - the mod happened to reverse the phase of the signal. (in both channels) I spent days trying to figure out why it sounded so different - I was concentrating on frequency response, but the only problem was the phase. I was totally floored when I happened to invert the signal in a soundfile editor and then try it again - it sounded perfect again.

    Greg.

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