Headphone listening

I’m coming to the conclusion that I’d probably listen to my system more often if I was using headphones. I mean the system is frequently playing as background music but there often seems to be some reason or other why I’m not actually sat down, in front of the speakers partaking of the full experience e.g. SWMBO complaining she doesn’t like what I’m playing or it’s too loud, or too much noise coming from the kitchen/dishwasher/washing machine/etc…

I wonder if getting some fairly descent head phones is a way forward. I have some hundred quid 'phones which are okay but not brilliant so I think I’d have to push the boat out a little if I was to be serious about this idea.

So does anyone else use a pair of cans as their primary listening mode?

When you say you’re not always sitting in front of the speakers, that suggests that you need a portable headphone setup. So you need to compromise either by using Bluetooth headphones, or carrying a portable player around with you. So you would first need to decide which of these routes appeals.

Actually I might be sat across the way from the hifi rather than in front. So easily within reach of a 5m headphone cable.

That makes life simpler, but what’s your system, and does it have a headphone amp?

At the moment I’d be using the 'phone outlet on the CA2 pre-amp but if the idea takes off I’d probably improve this.

Personally I prefer the sound from the speakers, their interaction with room modes, to feel the sound waves and the bass impact in the chest when the volume goes up; also, the listening with headphones is tired and more sacrificed to me, both for cervical if they are high level and, fundamentally, for ear punishment and hearing loss.


Not an answer to your question, but if background noise is a problem, or if you will be sitting near anyone else in a quiet room, closed-back design is dictated. The only problem there is that it seems it is that closed back presents greater challenges to sound qualitythan open back, so good ones tend to be more expensive. Certainly that’s what I would go for if I ever did the same, because the intent would typically be to allow same room occupancy as my wife, either watching TV (=background noise) or silently reading a book and not liking my music. Based on reviews, one that would be on my audition list is the Audese LCD-XC, but there are quite a few others, both more and less expensive…

Much easier to try than speakers, with no shifting around to try, though if it were me I’d take my source, and amp if relevant unless they have same on which to try. I seem to recall that HiFi Lounge In Biggleswade is one with a good selection.

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Only if you play headphones at higher sound level at your ears than speakers

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And the rest of your body… I agree that headphone listening is very different - but it may allow musical enjoyment at times otherwise not possible.

Absence of adverse room interaction, including resonances, cancellations, smearing by near reflections, surely is an advantage of headphones - but with loss of the feel factor.

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ISTR reading it’s to do with not being able to ‘feel’ the music. I mean we judge loudness, to some extent, by feeling the vibrations on our body which you lack with headphones.

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Yes that’s what I mean :slight_smile:

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It is really quite difficult to avoid it with hi end cans; moreover, the point of emission is not omnidirectional, as with speakers, nor is its proximity…

I enjoy Audeze LCD-XC (plus AT W1000 Sobereign and AKG Q-701 QJ): they’re extraordinary, but even though they’re closed-type, they still sound pretty close, and they weigh a lot, 650 g., so they’re very tiring for prolonged listening, beyond an hour I’d say.

I use Sony WH1000-XM2 for the same reasons. With Bluetooth APTx HD transmitter connected to my NAC72.

The noise cancelling is good and I can spin up the 301 whilst the wife watches ‘Grand Designs’, however my ears do seem to fatigue quicker than if listening to speakers. I do wonder if this is something to do with the ‘anti-noise’ beaming into your ears in addition to the wanted sound.

Yes, my only headphones are noise cancelling for travelling (Bose), and I do find them tiring in an indefinable way, whether I play music, listen to films or just have them on silent - I put it down to the active cancellation process. (But better than incessant aeroplane or train noise.)

Headphones have found a place in my listening in the last 18/12 for the first time with some modest investment in decent 'phones and a dedicated headphone amp; Quad Era-1and Trilogy 933.

I really enjoy them but I cannot see it becoming my main route for listening. They demand a level of concentration because of the quality and detail that makes them enthralling for really careful listening but even though they are comfortable I rarely last more than an album. I find them great in the early morning when I like to read and listen downstairs before my wife gets up. I’m an early riser!

I use my Focal stellia while Kids are araound and Utopia after we put them to bed.

Using them with Bryston amp connected to 552 and with cd555/nd555 as source… both Focals have long cables

İt is different from speakers but still very good, they are getting more air time than my speakers without rocking the house

I couldn’t live without my headphones - almost every night they enable me to have the luxury of music (necessity, surely :slight_smile: ) after my darling wife has gone to bed. Even low volume on speakers is too much and disturbs her sleep.

And now I have Audeze 'phones, I am truly hooked. I can boogie in perfect peace!


I use my Stax SR-L700’S with the SRM 006ts energiser. Not cheap but fantastic sound to my ears!


Before I had a dedicated music room I used a heavily upgraded Musical Fidelity X-Cans v3 in line from my CD5 with a pair of Sennheiser HD650 cans. The best pair of ‘phones for the price ever made!!! I would definitely factor a dedicated headphone Pre Amp in to the budget - they really make a huge difference. I demo’d a Headline but found the valves of the X-Cans more to my taste