Headphones vs speakers

Hi,
Is it possible to get an open sound like I do with traditional speakers in a headphone? I ask this because I’ve only tried cheapish closed-back headphones and have not really found any I like or are even close to the sound that traditional speakers give. I would really love to get a good set of headphones. I recently purchased the Vanatoo T1 Encore for my desktop and hot damn those things are crazy good in terms of dynamics, base,treble and have laser-like imaging.

I guess I’m just wondering if headphones can give you the same sense of space as traditional speakers.

In my opinion they can’t. my ears rank them

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Bone conductors

Though some might disagree on IEM’s and I gotta test earbuds to put them in. But I don’t think you’ll find many people telling you headphones beat out speakers

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Get the he400se and do the grill mod, huge soundstage and good imaging

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That’s good to know. I was really hoping to get a similar experience. With that said I’m still in need to get some good headphones for work now that Covid is calming down and I’m back in the office more.

I’ve never heard IEM’s before but just pulled the trigger today on the Moondrop Aria IEMs. I figured about $80 they were worth a try. I’m also looking at the HIFIMAN SUNDARA’s. I’ve never heard open back or Planar Magnetic’s so they looked like a good upper end entry set.

You’ll want at least an amplifier to get the best out of the sundys. Also realize they won’t isolate like your closed backs you’ve tried so you’ll hear everything in your office and people will hear what you are listening to.

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Fortunately, I have an office that I can close the door.

Welcome to HFGF :smiley:

Probably the closest would be something like the HSA-1b or Stax…but tbh they’re different use scenarios…If you love speakers and have the space then why would you use HP’s?

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Oh maybe an Audioquest Nighthawk would work for him too. That headphone sounds like speakers but without the sound of being in a room.

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Thanks for the welcome!

I’m mainly looking for head phones so I can crank up the music in my office at work which would be harder with speakers lol

I’ll have to do some research on the Nighthawk. Thanks for the recommendation!

They aren’t easy to find and they use an extremely low distortion driver so people either love or hate the sound. It sounds really veiled/dark until your ears adjust, then you start hearing all the little details in the music.

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Price to performance ratio: IEMs > Speakers > Headphones.

Price to performance above ~$1000: Speakers > IEMs > Headphones.

This is generally agreed upon subjectively among those who like all 3 presentations/sound mediums.

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The only way to get speaker-like presentation on your head is to buy something like the RAAL SR1a. Sorry to bust your bubble but you can’t cheat physics.

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I just looked the headphone up. Haha that’s about 3K more than I want to spend on headphones. I’ll have to lower my expectations :slight_smile:

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Price to performance ratio: Speakers > Headphones > IEMs

IEMs hits the worst for diminished return especially for something above $1000

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You got some nice replies here.

Here’s my two cents on it.

Can you get a speaker-like experience on a headphone? Kinda.

Does it cost a lot? Yes. RAAL SR1a is something you could be looking at for a speaker-like experience.

Can you get a speaker-like performance without leaking sound as much as a speaker? Nope. RAAL’s will leak a lot, but you will be getting that experience. Because the speakers of RAAL’s are closer to your ear, the volume levels would be lower than if you were listening to speakers.

You will need several thousands of dollars to achieve what you are looking for. I simply don’t think you can get something that sounds like a speaker at a budget price. Perhaps the Sennheiser HD800 series, but people said it doesn’t sound realistic and sounds larger than the music is supposed to sound.

I will say that a good pair of IEMs can give you a very open experience, but I don’t think it can be compared to loudspeakers. Spending 500-1000 dollars on IEMs does seem to be a valid option for you. Otherwise, you should go for some ZMF headphones (which are perceived to sound very open, depending on the model).

Hope I helped you out a tiny bit. From my understanding, you will be listening to music at work, and this really limits you as to what product you can use. If you go the IEM way, expect not to hear your colleagues.

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IEM’s offer insane performance for almost no money, but yes it does decline extremely rapidly above ~$1000. Many of the most expensive IEMs (+$4000) usually end up being subpar according to the majority of serious reviewers. The best IEMs in the world are probably 64 Audio U12T and UM MEST MK2 which are both well below $4000… so about half that.

Speakers offer a very linear performance ratio and in my experience only become better as you go up in price. I have heard $200, $1000, $2000, $30.000 speakers and the jump is substantial and undeniable each time. There does not seem to be a hard “limit” to performance. My current stereo setup is worth $6500 or thereabouts.

Headphones IMO offer subpar performance up until at least $1000 where it starts to pickup and perhaps overtake what IEMs can offer.

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Thank you everyone for being so helpful. I did buy some Moondrop Aria IEMs ($89.00) today just to get a feel for how IEMs sound. They should be in early next week. I’ve not listened to any yet so looking forward to getting my feet wet. My max budget for head phones is around the $500 mark. Any IEM’s or open backs I should be looking at? I have a good feel for speakers as I’ve been into that for a while now but headphones are brand new to me.

To your main question…kinda sorta but not really. Once you go up, arguably way up, in headphone quality you can get a soundstage that can become somewhat lifelike. Immediatley coming to mind are the big HiFiMans like the Arya or HE1000 series. Those can make it sound like you’re in the 3rd row of a concert, which could be interpreted as speaker-like to an extent. But, they still don’t do it as well as speakers. Speakers and headphones are fundamentally different listening experiences that both have major pros and cons.

As @A_Jedi points out, the laws of physics play a big role here (and everywhere, for that matter). Most headphones cannot move the same volume of air that speakers can and that equates to a different listening experience.

Biology, at least physiology, is also a large factor. Human hearing did not evolve to be at its best with sources of sound placed either inside or right at the ear opening and sound waves being fired directly down the ear canals. That’s a very unnatural way for us to listen for extended periods of time. Speakers have a distinct advantage in that way. Still, headphones and IEMs both present music in a different way that can be very enjoyable based on preferences and types of music.

Enjoy exploring! It’s a lot of fun.

What kind of sound signature are you looking for? Warm? Bassy? Bright? Bassy and bright? etc.