Struggling with headphone shouty-ness

My ears and headphones don’t always get along: when using cans my ears seem to have a sensitivity in the 1.5KHz-3KHz range that make the majority of headphones I put on sound shouty. Likely, it’s because headphones bypass the outer ear and fire sound directly down the ear canal. I don’t have this problem with speakers and usually prefer them, but love music and like to listen in places and at times where it’s headphones or bust. Anyone else have this problem? Any of you found a solution? What did you do?

For background, here are the 'phones I’m most familiar with:

DT990 32ohm (low impedance b/c got before an amp, these actually have the best midrange in this group I’ve heard and better mids than most speakers, no shoutiness, but…that…treble…woof)

VModa Crossfade M100 (not terribly shouty but is objectionable at times, good workout headphones because they stay on well)

M1060 (terribly shouty until paper towel mod and Dekoni Elite Velour pads for Audeze, now just on the edge of ok/too shouty but overall much better sound than stock)

Sony WH-1000XM3 (noise cancellers for traveling, similar sound signature to M100 IMO and so similar shoutiness complaint)

Thanks for any thoughts!

I’m not really sure I know what you mean.

But I do have a pair of dt990’s (in 250 ohm) and m1060’s (unmodded with stock pad) and I used to own the m100’s.

I kinda miss the m100’s sometimes, they were crazy durable and I had a fucking awesome set of the shield plates from the vmoda shop that I loved, but alas, even with the XL pads, I just didn’t them comfortable

I can pop in some tracks if you can give me some examples of what you’re talking about, if you can describe the parts of the song that bug ya.

Maybe I can see what you mean, and compare those parts to other cans I have?

Maybe try an eq? can match you’re headphone frequency response to a Harman curve and work to from there.

If you’re using foobar, then you can set an eq curve into a dsp and then assign a keyboard shortcut that will activate or deactivate that eq, so you can switch between headphones and speakers with a simple shortcut.

@Doommantia, Shoutiness, as I understand it anyway, is the introduction of the tonal quality heard in the “ou” portion of the word “shout.” The sound produced has overall coloration that sounds like it’s been filtered through that sound making vocals sound like they’ve been shouted. Lenny Kravitz and Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) are 2 male vocalists I’ve most experienced hearing this. Adele’s voice is 1 female vocal acid test. I thought unmodded and un-eq’d M1060 were particularly vulnerable here.

@ohmboy and @morasuru, thanks for your feedback. I’ve used Equalizer APO. It solved the problem but also generally flattened the midrange, reducing detail and realism of the instrumentation in the same upper-mid frequencies. It also is bypassed by WASAPI/ASIO, and had to be reinstalled every time Windows updated. I’ve not used Foobar much, preferring Audirvana because I frequently stream from Tidal and now Qobuz, and Audirvana integrates them. I’ll keep exploring headphone, amp, and DAC combos and mods as time and budget allow.

Hmm, as you’ve described it…I guess I’m not sure what you mean. Sorry!

No worries. Ears are different. Thanks for taking the time to try to help.

Have you tried these on a different DAC? I know you mentioned the XM3 and those are wireless NC’s but I could not for the life me figure out why mine sounded shouty as until I swapped out the DACs.

I’ve tried a few DAC/Amps, yes. On budget models, ie Fiio E10K and K3, and FX-Audio DAC-X6, the DT990 has smoothest mids but is way too sibilant. Of those 3 the K3 is best on the shoutiness problem with the M1060 until you pump up the volume, then the upper mids really become pronounced. I got a Schiit stack (Modi 3 + Magni 3) for Christmas and with the modded M1060 is very listenable/enjoyable. There’s only a hint of shoutiness now and then. I snagged an SMSL SU-8 on a recent Drop and have a JDS Atom ordered, but it’s on backorder. When those arrive I’ll have more combos to try. But realistically, it’s probably going to require a major headphone upgrade to fix. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be a hearing issue many reviewers suffer from so it’s really hard to tell what’s going to work before they get here. But, with the Magni and soon the Atom I know I’ll have enough amp power that I can order just about any headphone and know that I’m going to be able to drive it sufficiently. Now getting the money…

Maybe a try a Little Dot mkII or DarkVoice 336se…a smallish investment in tubes might be wise?

I had not considered tubes beyond exploring a general curiosity someday when budget allows. Mostly this is because my understanding of tubes is that they tend to warm or accentuate the midrange, and that’s where I’m having the issue. Do I have a misconception here?

Yeah should have some different sounds to play around with by the looks of that. I think the SU-8 will make the difference you are looking for.

Till then, sounds to me like you are sending an overall very “thin” sound signal to your amp which gets amplified and causing the issues.

See maybe if you can EQ out some of it using this:

Different tubes do different things. From what you described you need a bit of warmth in your overall sound signature I would say.

Yep you can roll tubes to give a slightly different emphasis to the sound, here in the UK do a Little Dot tube rolling upgrade kit, i’m sure if you are US based there will similar options?

Thanks, @Acidleak and @Ohmboy. I was surprised by your recommendations, as I thought surely MORE mids would be going the wrong way. But as time, money, and gear allow I will explore this.

The Atom is on the way and I’m excited to compare it to the Magni and build good headphone systems at both home and work!

1 Like

Yes, US based but I know tube rolling happens this side of the pond as well. Thanks!


Switching from the Magni 3 to the Atom was a noticeable improvement. Using the modded M1060s the shoutiness almost - but not quite fully - disappears. Still waiting on the SU-8, which probably won’t ship until next month. I’m optimistic it will remove that last little bit of the issue.

Thanks again, all.