In this modern tech era, it is vivid to notice that soundstage is one of the finest things, which headphone enthusiasts look for.
As far as the term "soundstage" is concerned, the headphones enthusiasts have picked it out of loudspeaker fanatics who use it to mean the placement of gadgets while listening to stereo sounds and that sound can be heard using the Soundstage headphones.
What Is a Soundstage?
There can an outstanding headphone, but it is possible that it doesn’t have an excellent Soundstage. The reason can be, maybe because the headphone has a closed back.
Moreover, a closed-back is perfect for providing a low-quality 3D image. In addition to that, a closed-back headphone is not a good option as it makes you get tired really quick.
Basically, in simple words, a soundstage is the ability of a headphone to provide you with a 3D, high-quality sound image. If present in a headphone, it guarantees an out of your head and remarkable kind of experience.
It is capable of separating both the vocals and instruments hence allowing you to differentiate between them and know exactly where there are on the stage. There are a lot of brands making big claims that their headphones have the ability to produce similar effects, but to be honest that’s not at all true.
What Is a Soundstage Speaker and When It Matters?
If you are planning to do critical listening then you must have a soundstage, a good in-front and out of the head type of soundstage. Even if you are in a home theater or planning to go gaming, there it’s also important to have soundstage.
The soundstage is extremely important because if a headphone has it then you are going to get a sense that the music is happening exactly where you are sitting, you’ll feel it’s happening just in front of you.
Moreover, you won’t get that feeling of vacuum kinda thing in your head. The fact is that it is really difficult for a headphone to create a great soundstage, and right now there are no headphones that have the ability to produce a speaker type of soundstage.
People are not well aware of the concept of the soundstage, maybe that’s the reason people are fine with headphones with soundstage missing in them.
The possibility is that the majority of people might not even know that the soundstage is missing from their headphones. Until and unless you compare a small soundstage with a good speaker like soundstage, you won’t know the difference.
How Does It Work?
To have a perfect headphone’s soundstage you’ll need to have a perfect loudspeaker setup, in a perfect room. However, you should know that there is nothing like a perfect setup that exists in the real world. This is all just a theoretical explanation for an ideal soundstage and determining its various components.
Based on a theoretical explanation, there are three main differences between the headphones and loudspeakers. Those differences are as following:
As far as headphones are concerned, the music is essentially in your ears. Whereas, when it comes to loudspeakers the music is present in a room. In that specific room, the sound various surfaces and reflections affect the music.
Angle and the sound source
In so far as the position of loudspeakers is at a thirty-degree angle and out in front, however, the headphones are in close proximity to the eardrum and mostly at a ninety-degree angle. The outer ear called pinna is an important part of a human’s ‘head-related transfer function’. It has an important role in allowing the auditory system of an individual to locate the sound source and the specific angle.
Additionally, the shape of the pinna is not that simple, it is quite complex and very uneven. It is complex both vertically and horizontally thus it depends highly on the locality of the source.
When talking about a stereo loudspeaker and its setup, you should know that your right ear will get some of the sounds from the left speaker and your left ear will get some sound from the right speaker. The reason for this is because there are no barriers to the present.
But as far as headphones are concerned the right driver will not get into the left ear and neither will the left driver get into the right ear. This is because of the shadow that your head creates.
How Soundstage Is Made in Headphones?
If you want to learn in-depth about the way audio works then you should definitely go through the Handbooks produced for Yamaha by Gary Davis and Ralph Jones’ Sound.
When it comes to headphones, you should know that regarding all the aspects of sound, most importantly the soundstage depth, it doesn’t have to do anything with their ability to produce high-quality out of head sound. This is because of speakers’ design masters this quality, not headphones.
In general, the soundstage depth is produced because of the fact that the low-frequency sound waves are not dissipated either absorbed easily, only high-frequency waves are absorbed and degenerated with ease. That’s the reason you can hear the sound of thunder even if you are miles away.
On the other hand, it is not possible for an individual to hear the sound of a high-pitched siren from several miles away or even a quarter-mile away. Even you can only hear the bass from a distant home but the words of the playing song.
The brain works amazingly, it is capable of calculating the differences in amplitude of frequency’s harmonics and fundamental frequency. The main tone is made of a fundamental frequency; on the other hand, the harmonics are numerical multiples of the fundamental frequency. It is a fact that lower frequencies are absorbed slower by the atmosphere as compared o the higher frequencies.
The reason your brain thinks that the sound is in close proximity to you is that there are high harmonics present as compared to the fundamental. You might have heard the term ‘presence frequencies’, it is basically the higher harmonics, so which means more ‘presence frequencies’ is equal to an individual hearing the sound closer to them.
Soundstage depth is created by speakers from two different areas, they are as followed:
- The first one has to do with the position of the microphone and EQ’ing i.e. pulling out the ‘presence frequency’ which has the ability to make the sound of the instrument appear as if it’s farther away or in close proximity. For creating good soundstage depth engineers mostly prefer microphone positioning over EQ’ing. The reason is the microphone positioning is much easier and doesn’t have to undergo many complications.
- Let’s take an example of an instrument which has a large range, for instance, a piano used for grand concerts is quite difficult to move with the help of EQ. The reason is that the lowest registers have different presence frequencies as compared to the highest registers. However, if you use microphone positioning, you can easily control the soundstage depth.
- The second concept is very simple; it is the distance between the speaker and the listener. This gives you a feel that sound is not directly being pumped into your brain, it allows you to understand and enjoy the performance. The distance between the individual and the speaker will knock some of the presence frequencies off.
Hope now you have some idea that the headphones will have a few fundamental issues when it comes to the soundstage. You might have noticed that a headphone has a driver in close proximity to the ear. You can’t do anything to knock the extremely high frequencies. That means that even a flat measuring headphone will give a very high pitched sound.
On the other side, speakers are meant to provide flat frequency response, however, this is not possible with headphones.
Some of the headphones are capable of rolling off high frequencies. But if we see realistically, it is still not an ideal solution. This is because it’s very difficult to roll off the high frequencies as that happens naturally in the air. It is a bad idea similar to the one where one tries to EQ an instrument to create good soundstage in a studio.
Now you might be wondering how some of the headphones have such good soundstage depth. The truth is that many of the headphones don’t focus on soundstage depth, all they aim is to beat it. To achieve this they pull back and boost specific presence frequencies.
One of the most accurate examples will be AD700. It creates a great sense of depth by pulling back the vocal presence. However AKG K701 works in totally opposite to this, it pulls drum and bass presence backward. Besides that, it pushes the vocal presence of females forward thus creating a soundstage depth for female vocals.
Is It Possible for Headphones to Have too Wide of a Soundstage?
The apparent depth and the width of the sound coming from the headphone drivers is basically the soundstage. Let’s look at an example. Suppose you are sitting in the middle of an auditorium hall, however, you have put on your headphones. For a moment you close your eyes and concentrate on what you are actually listening. For instance, if you feel as if the orchestra present in the auditorium is playing from all the sides then this is a wide soundstage. But if you feel like the orchestra is playing from far away then that is known as a congested soundstage.
The headphones which offer a reduced isolation level between you and the environment are known as open-back headphones. They give you an excellent listening experience by giving the impression that you are listening to a great soundstage speaker. The only problem is that they leak way too much. They are not an ideal choice to use outdoors as they may disturb the people around you.
Excellent choice for open-back headphones:
According to our research Sennheiser HD, 800 S can be called great open-back headphones. The best thing about these headphones is that they give you a very comfortable listening experience. For all the audiophiles out there this is one of the best options as they provide outstanding sound quality.
However, as compared to Sennheiser HD 800, the Sennheiser HD 700 is more affordable and sturdy. They provide spacious soundstage and an exceptionally well frequency response. The only issue is that their audio reproduction is not up to the mark.
If you want an open back set of headphones with the same performance as Sennheiser HD 800 but at an affordable price then you can give a try to HiFiMan Ananda. Overall they are good but obviously not as good as Sennheiser HD 800 itself. Ananda is not that good looking, besides that they also fail to offer a spacious soundstage. But if you are on a budget then it is a good option because all in all, they are good.
The plus point about HiFiMan Ananda is that it offers a balanced audio reproduction and comes with more bass. As compared to other soundstage headphones they are well-built and have fewer issues related to hinges. Furthermore, they have longer life hence making your investment worthwhile. If you are a critical listener then Ananda is a great choice, even better than Sennheiser because they are inexpensive.
If you want to buy the best headphones under $200 then Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is a good option. It is apt for critical listening; however, it is not as good as HiFiMan Ananda or Sennheiser HD 800 S as it doesn’t have spacious soundstage. For some of their sound can be a little sharp, especially if you are listening to a bright track.
On the other hand, Beyerdynamic DT 990 headphones deliver good performance according to their price. They are well-built and never fail to deliver good sound; as far as instruments and vocals are concerned they do a great job. Atop they are perfect for bass-heavy genres as they come with more bass as compared to ordinary headphones.
1. Sennheiser HD 700
- Exceptionally well frequency response
- Audio reproduction is of a low standard
2. HiFiMan Ananda
- Offers a balanced audio reproduction
- Comes with more bass
- Not good in appearance
3. Sennheiser HD 800
- Brilliant sound quality
- Open Back Headphone
So as mentioned earlier, the soundstage is one of the premium effects, headphone enthusiasts seek out. So, if you too are looking for that astounding effect and want to get excited while enjoying music, you can opt for one for the above-mentioned soundstage headphones.