Open back headphones: are they easier on the eardrums?

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Open back headphones: are they easier on the eardrums?

Post by Panason » Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:32 pm

I use the ATH M50x headphones. They are very nice but when working with bass-heavy material I notice that my ears get tired fairly easily. . .

I'm wondering if a pair of open back headphones such as the highly acclaimed AKG 702 will be easier on my ears?

I went to a shop and compared them to the ATs and couldn't really hear any difference in terms of sound clarity/accuracy, stereo field etc... except that the AKGs were a little more quiet at the same volume setting. Obviously I coudn't stand there for 3 hours to do a fatigue test...

I've read that open back headphones are better for studio mixing work when sound isolation is not needed.

I'm thinking that there will less pressure on the eardrums from sub bass when using open backs....

Any thoughts?

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Post by sutekina bipu-on » Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:00 pm

ATH M50x aren't very good man, they are loved for some reason by the reddit going types which doesn't make sense because they have a bizarre and very un natural frequency response to the point where almost any M50x user uses the same FIIO amp with it because it was designed to fix the M50x's shitty freq response.

The good thing is nerds have been insisting they're the end all be all under $250 for so long, they hold their value. I would say sell them, get a set of Sony V6 which are closed back but way easier on the ears and much more natural sounding.

If you are going to go with open backs get something comfortable and affordable. No mix done entirtely on headphones in history has translated well to all kinds of speakers, so don't worry too much about minute details especially because any headphone that "wows" you with detail and stereo field and shit like that once you put it on becomes tiring much much quicker than a "plain" sounding headphone.

Just my 2 cents, and I even used to own some very high end in ear monitors and headphones, now i dont want to hear anything but my sony v6.

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Post by DiscoDevil » Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:44 pm

I use Sony V6 and Sennheiser HD 650. It's nice to have both for contrast.

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Post by Panason » Sat Mar 03, 2018 6:09 am

Thanks guys. No I am not mixing anything on headphones, they're just for playing in the evenings so I don't drive my neighbours insane. I chose the closed backs for doing live sets so I can have some sound isolation.

The HD650 is well above my budget unfortunately!

But about protecting the eardrums in the studio... Does an open back make any difference? I guess not..
almost any M50x user uses the same FIIO amp with it because it was designed to fix the M50x's shitty freq response.
which amp would that be?

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Post by shroom81 » Sat Mar 03, 2018 6:20 am

Akg 701/702



or Beyer Dynamic dt 990



Both excellent headphones, Akg are more accurate for mixing due to truer low end. Fuck closed back headphones for home use and Audio Technica may burn in hell with their craphones.

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Post by Panason » Sat Mar 03, 2018 6:32 am

lol, ok :hyper: You make a strong case for the 702 which I was already looking at.

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Post by megaohm » Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:30 pm

Keep in mind that headphone opinions are extremely subjective.
I only have mid and low range headphones at the moment.
The best I have is Audio Technica ATH R70X. Got them for $200 return/ding sale from zounds.
You can find rave reviews and bad reviews (like every set of cans!) but as for comfort these are a world apart from the rest I have.
Extremely comfy and I sometimes keep them on for awhile after the record ends. Normally I want headphones off the moment the music ends because I get that pressure discomfort. I don't get that discomfort with the R70 and it made a huge difference to me.
Haven't tried the AKG or Sennheiser varieties but would guess they are very good.
In my narrow experience, open backed is much more comfortable.
You will be pleasantly shocked by the difference!

Note: I love the R70 but the ear cups are smaller than most open backs.
I have freakishly small ears so I never noticed but at least one reviewer reported they were too small for his. The AKG and Senn have huge cups which makes them very appealing.
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Will work for pistachios

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Post by Panason » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:54 am

Thanks

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Post by calaveras » Mon Mar 05, 2018 7:45 am

Sony V6? Ouch.
Those have that same icepick treble that the 7506 and the rest of the Sony 'pro monitor' series have.
If people like that, good for them, but I would never advise anyone to go to Sony for any other reason than that they are good durable field production cans.
The AKG K240 are cheap and have a flatter response, though less bone rattling bass. But they have that nice open back sound which is more natural. The Beyerdynamic DT770, 880 etc also great, though they have a high impedance so if your headphone amp on your mixer/interface is not very strong you may be left wanting. I think they have some lower impedance models?

I switched from Sony to Shure cans a while back. I find the Shure to be less itchy sounding, and just as durable. Though they do have a couple midrange bumps so I would not mix on them. But then, you really should only use cans for tracking and to supplement mixing on nearfields.

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Post by Panason » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:39 am

Can't fathom why the DTs do not have a detachable cable -an essential for me - so I'm going with the AKG 702 or 240, depending on budget.

I was doing FM synthesis on the Nord 3 (which is amazing) last night with the ATH M50 and I got that headachey pressure in the skull feeling again after a couple of hours... :ripbanana:

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Post by Hovercraft » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:11 am

Open vs. closed back headphones don't normally relate to listening fatigue. However, it's harder to design good closed back headphones, so they're more likely to have an uneven frequency response. Can you be more specific about the source of your discomfort? That would make it easier to recommend an upgrade. In general, if you don't need the isolation of closed back headphones, you're better off getting a pair of open backs.

Massdrop frequently sells the HD6XX, a cosmetically different HD650 for $200. It's worth stretching your budget to get that or something of comparable quality. Most people can wear an HD650 for hours without any fatigue. Agree with calveras's comment on the Sony V6/7506--the upper mids are peaky--great for spotting problems when you're field recording, but not ideal as studio monitors.

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Post by Tristana » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:49 am

I have both ATH-m50x's and Sennheiser HD600s.

To be completely honest, the Sennheiser's make it incredibly clear just how terrible the ATH-m50x's are from an audio engineering perspective. Nowadays I just use the latter for casual listening on the go; they sound super muddy in comparison to the crystal clear detail the HD600s bring.

As for your original question regarding listening fatigue- both headsets will wear me out after a while. I don't find that the open-backed design helps to reduce fatigue any.
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Post by Tristana » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:51 am

shroom81 wrote:or Beyer Dynamic dt 990

The DT990s (and 880s for that matter) fatigue me in less than a minute. The sibilance and cymbal hiss on those is painful to me. I realize they're a go-to standard for many but my youthful ears just couldn't cope with them. The 880s are a little less aggressive than the 990s, fwiw.
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Post by Panason » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:19 pm

Thanks for your replies. Yeah, I wasn't sure that listening fatigue has much to do with closed or open back. I probably just need to take more breaks.

I get a slight ache in my ears/ head similar to what you might get when landing or taking off in a flight from the pressure change... it's not intense but I don't want to end up with tinnitus. I thought the open backs won't put as much pressure on the ear drums.

BTW I'm in the UK, so US shops and prices don't apply!

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Post by Hovercraft » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:49 pm

Panason wrote:...

I get a slight ache in my ears/ head similar to what you might get when landing or taking off in a flight from the pressure change... it's not intense but I don't want to end up with tinnitus. I thought the open backs won't put as much pressure on the ear drums.

BTW I'm in the UK, so US shops and prices don't apply!
That ache is a warning signal--you need to change something or you'll end up with hearing damage. Lower the volume, and keep your sessions shorter. Consider switching to monitors, and dropping or reducing your headphone use.

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Post by Panason » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:58 pm

Yep, will do. Thanks!

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Post by orangehexagon » Mon Mar 05, 2018 1:59 pm

Hovercraft wrote:
Panason wrote:...

I get a slight ache in my ears/ head similar to what you might get when landing or taking off in a flight from the pressure change... it's not intense but I don't want to end up with tinnitus. I thought the open backs won't put as much pressure on the ear drums.

BTW I'm in the UK, so US shops and prices don't apply!
That ache is a warning signal--you need to change something or you'll end up with hearing damage. Lower the volume, and keep your sessions shorter. Consider switching to monitors, and dropping or reducing your headphone use.
This x1000

even switching to monitors can damage your hearing. as someone who's been engineering records for over 15 years, i suggest mixing and recording at low volumes and only turn it up to check final mixes or takes for brief periods. also, you might be overcompensating for a bad mix or a poorly written part by pumping up the volume. you'll only end up fooling yourself mentally and destroying your most valuable asset as an audio person (your ears)

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Post by Panason » Mon Mar 05, 2018 2:54 pm

Yep, I did some work with the monitor speakers at low volume recently and noticed things I had been missing.

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Post by popvulture » Tue Mar 06, 2018 10:03 pm

I have some Grado SR325 headphones that are super comfortable for listening and playing, but I wouldn't say ideal for any kind of detailed audio work (in my experience, at least), as they don't seem to be tolerant of deep low end. Despite the metal housing, they feel surprisingly light on my head, probably owing a lot to the pretty thick foam ear cups. But yep, super low in terms of fatigue.
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