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allergictoeverything's avatar

Is there anyone out there who could give me any recommendations on sound equipment? =)

Asked by allergictoeverything (105 points ) November 9th, 2009

Do we have any audiophiles here on fluther? If so, what’s your take on the best brand(s) of personal headphones? What about computer speakers? Sound cards? Also. Is Asus Xonar relatively that much better than Creative’s Titanium series? And its been said that sound equipment with frequencies ranging from 20–20,000Hz are most preferably. Is this true? If so, why?

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22 Answers

Beta_Orionis's avatar

For headphones, I appreciate Skullcandy. (Don’t laugh!) They may look ridiculous and seem like a sugary brand, but even the earphones produce Bose quality sound at a more affordable price. Personally I own a pair of FMJ’s which produce a range from 16–20,000Hz, which probably includes more frequencies than I can hear, but makes me feel good inside. The cushions around the earbud speakers (you’re given three sizes with the better sets) makes an excellent seal, providing the same experience as low-level noise canceling headphones/earphones.

Bose, while expensive, is excellent for external speakers. I’ll be of no help regarding sound cards though.

It is true. The range is most preferable because it covers the entire (general) range of human hearing. Some individuals can perceive frequencies as low as 12Hz, but this is relatively uncommon and thus “overkill” in terms of sound equipment. The range is also important for full bodied sound. Most systems are incapable of producing the freqquencies on the lowest end of the spectrum, which leads to hollow, shallow sounding music.

Judi's avatar

I just emailed you question to my son. he used to be the Pro Audio manager at Guitar center. he may have an answer for you.

Landonscranton's avatar

If you are recording, I would not reccomend earbuds. Noise cancelation may be nice with skullcandy… But the professional sound engineer should be wearing a closed ear headset. I’m not sure if you’re recording yourself, but if you plan on making money with your purchase, it’s best to look professional to your client. Seinheiser makes excelent headphones. I own a pair of hd280 (which run for about $99 at guitar center, maybe cheaper now) and have been satisfied. These are not even the best they make, but maybe the best for the price. As for studio monitors, I don’t reccomend Bose. Bose makes an amazing home theatre system, but their car audio and studio equiptment is still in the “so so” range. Mackie is an awesome brand used by many professionals. KRK makes an economical speaker, that I would be happy to own. Remember, when purchasing sound gear, the name isn’t everything. Sometimes, you can find a diamond in the rough, but if you want to buy a name to look more professional, look at the companies who made their name in the recording sound industry. As for sound cards, call Dustin Meredith at guitar center in Bakersfield. He is probably one of the most professional salesmen I’ve seen in the industry. If he doesn’t know the answer, he will find it, and not try for the upsale. Tell him Landon said to call. He is really good at what he does. 661.396.3838.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

@Landonscranton, I was operating under the assumption that the OP is looking for sound quality for listening’s sake, because of “personal” aspect specified in the question. The mention of a sound card for a personal computer furthered that assumption. You have excellent advice on the professional side!

sndfreQ's avatar

There are many pro-sumer and pro websites that provide advice for audio enthusiasts; big question always is-what’s your budget? What are you using this equipment for-actual production (mixing, recording, editing, djing for example) or just enjoying audio/video from player software? As one mentioned before me, never a good idea to mix on headphones; but there are good cans out there for enjoying music, and for approximating a mix, or for music writing.

There are a couple of good websites that might clue you in, but my faves are the forum-style boards like http://www.soundonsound.com/ , http://www.head-fi.org/ , http://www.djtechtools.com/ , and http://www.gearslutz.com/board/

If you’re into specific recommendations on equipment (say monitors), those can be highly subjective; many recommendations are based on personal preference, and the type of music/audio you’re going to be listening to. Again, if you’re just looking for high-end consumer-grade equipment for gaming, watching movies, internet streaming, you don’t need to blow the bank on equipment to get decent monitoring.

As for pro-end stuff, you have to let us know what the application is (what will you be doing primarily with your set up) and then perhaps some recommendations can be supplied.

Judi's avatar

@Landonscranton ; Hi Landon!! (that’s my son!)

Beta_Orionis's avatar

@Judi Thought so, considering he posted such a professional and thorough answer framed within the aforementioned guitar center experience. :)

sndfreQ's avatar

Echoing some of Landon’s rec’s, I use KRKs for near-field monitoring (V6 v.2), along with the S-10 sub; great fidelity and frequency response with not-too-bad coloration for mixing pop and rock, and sound editing for TV/Film.

As for headphones, you’ll want a comfortable pair, and again, it’s very subjective. I have several pair, and prefer my Beyerdynamic DT-880s for pre-mixing (mostly for editing).

For startups and if you’re ear is not as trained to hear frequencies and the full spectrum (it does take training to recognize the bottom octaves and to hear general things like high- and low-frequency rolloff), you might consider the powered monitors from M-Audio (the company that owns M-Audio also owns Digidesign, who make the industry-standard DAW ProTools software), and also, their audio interfaces are not too shabby. The BX-5 series active monitors sound pretty decent for the price (~$250 for the pair, not including the sub; but they do go down pretty low).

Your best bet though, if possible, is to bring down your favorite music (either on CD or iPod, with a dual RCA cable), to your local Guitar Center, and plan on spending a couple of hours, and evaluate the range of monitors in their ProAudio mix rooms; you’ll be able to A/B their monitors, and if you have the style of music in your iPod that you are going to most likely be mixing/producing, play that through the monitors so you can hear what each set is doing. You’ll be surprised how much coloration some monitors have.

The Powered Yamahas are also pretty good (HS-80M); for the price. Now of course with all these recommendations, you could go high-end and spend many many more dollars, but I was recommending “entry level” parts here.

allergictoeverything's avatar

@Beta_Orionis Last month, I actually tried on some Skullcandy buds for the first time. Surprisingly…they weren’t that disappointing! In fact, for their price, I would actually even pick them over some of the lower grade Sony buds (which I absolutely hate, considering that I’ve had like…3 pairs die on me already). But aesthetics-wise…I think they need some drastic improvements =P

@Landonscranton No, I’m not recording; just an audio enthusiast. And I do agree with you, if I were recording, I wouldn’t use buds neither. And I see that you own a pair of Seinheisers HD280s! How are they? I actually have a pair of Shure 240’s, and I think that they’re awesome. They’re studio headphones (not buds), and personally, I think they’re alot better than Bose and Sony with regards to personal headphones. I actually bought a couple of pairs of Bose and Sony just to try them out, and I ended up returning every single one of them – buds and studios. However, I’ve never tried Seinheiser before. But judging by their rep, I highly doubt that they would be disappointing. Also. Has anyone heard of JVC bi-metals? I actually own a pair of these also, and let me tell you – they are amazing. You’d think that because they’re JVC they wouldn’t be on par with the more prestigious brands out there, but they’re really good. In fact, during my purchase of the JVCs, I actually bought a pair of Shure SE115’s, a pair of Shure SE210’s, and a pair Bose “in ears” to compare them, and I would have to say that JVC actually sounded better than all of them. Surprise surprise; we learn something new everyday. And by the way, for computer speakers, what’s your opinion on Logitech and Altec Lansing?

@sndfreQ It’s because profressional websites are so biased that I’m asking this question here! haha I always feel as if some websites are being paid to promote the products they review (ie. CNET) Also. Unfortunately, I actually haven’t ever heard of KRK before! Where are they manufactured? (I live in Canada, so they might not market them here)

@Judi…judging by your picture, I cannot believe that you have a son (hahaha I mean it in a good way) And thank you for bringing this question to his attention.

And by the way, has anyone here ever heard of Grados before? They are the funkiest looking brand of headphones, but I hear that the quality of their products are pretty superior.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

@allergictoeverything I know what you mean about the aesthetic. That’s (second to the frequency range) part of the reason I have the pair I do! They’re the more subtle of their kind. Which model did you try, out of curiosity?

allergictoeverything's avatar

@Beta_Orionis If i remember correctly…I think they were called…Full Metal Jackets or something. They had a hard metallic exterior, with transparent insulation around the cord.

allergictoeverything's avatar

OH! And before I forget, what do you guys think about Beats by Dre? (buds and studios) Does anyone here own a pair, or tried them on before?

sndfreQ's avatar

Beats are overpriced and pretty shrill, but the battery-amped digital bass enhance is crazy for headphones. I would venture to say that most listening on these will suffer hearing loss over time due to excessive levels.

With the right headphone amp you can get clean, great results from most cans. I would also recommend trying to find some Grados-they sound amazing for the price, SR-80s or better; On the earbud side, Etymotic HD2, or the Klipsch line are pretty nice sounding too (good alternative to Shure line), Ultimate Ears are pretty nice but a bit shrill as well. For some good entry-level, try the V-Moda Vibe Duos (good for the $99 sticker). On the over-the-ear (circumaural) I stand by the Beyerdynamics, or the Senn’s HD280 or higher.

Judi's avatar

@allergictoeverything ; thanks. I strted young, but he IS my baby!

allergictoeverything's avatar

@sndfreQ Agreed. Beats are way too overpriced. Did you hear that when they were first trying to promote the “Limited Edition” white ones, they were going for $700! (I dont remember if this was in Canadian or American dollars). But $700!! That’s double the price from the original-already-a-jipp-$350!! And now, these so called “Limited Edition” white ones are sold at practically every Bestbuy and Futureshop there is out there! Man…I feel sorry for whoever purchased them when they were first being promoted. And I don’t know if you’re familar with computer technology, but did you know Dr.Dre collaborated with HP, and they have a “Limited Edition” Beats by Dre HP ENVY laptop?? This, however, I’d have to say looks pretty sexy lol (unlike the pricetag, which is highly unattractive…)

@Judi You sound like a good mother =) I find it pretty interesting that you’re internet savvy. No offense to all the mothers out there reading this, but moms and technology don’t usually go that well together lol My mom can’t even operate a VCR.

Judi's avatar

@allergictoeverything ; You haven’t been around here long. You will find that there are probably more people on this site over 30 than under 30! I’m WAY over 30!, and Landon will tell you I’m more Internet savvy than him:-)

Landonscranton's avatar

Sry I misunderstood the need. I hope I didn’t offend when i responded. The hd280’s are awesome. Personally, I use them for my own recording. I think they are the best for the price. You can go into a higher end, but if you’re just looking for quality sound for listening, I’d say look no further. They are super comfortable and amazing sound wise. I even use them for my iPod! I look ridiculous, but it sounds amazing!
My mother… Is way more tech savy than me. She had a myspace, facebook, askville, fluther, and iPhone before me! I hate that at 25, I have to go to my mom to ask how to convert a TIFF file to jpeg! Lol. I’m not sure where krk is manufactured, but if you google them you may even be able to find a better price that guitar center (tho, they will always price match!). I have sold so many monitors before, and what it comes down to is personal need and budget. If it is just for music listening… Bose is a good system. They made their name that way. I’d reccomend a system with a subwoofer and speakers over studio monitors for this need. You might be able to find what you’re looking for cheaper this way. To be honest, when um done mixing a track, I always load it on my iPhone and go listen in my car. Totally different expirance. The speakers are designed so that when I mix, I catch every detail, where as my car speakers are just for loud fun music.

sndfreQ's avatar

There is also something to be said of what sounds “good” versus what is accurate; a lot of audiophiles spec out headphones and monitors for the fact that they’re accurate, so that the recordings that are reproduced (played back) sound as they were originally intended to sound. When you have the right components (for example, playing back vinyl on a direct-drive turntable like a Technics SL-1200, with a $1000 stylus for a needle), then it becomes critical what the signal path from the source to your ears entails. That’s why once people go down that route, they become obsessed, saving and spending tons on preamplifiers, headphone amplifiers, headphones, etc.

That head-fi.org link can be hilarious if you look on some of the ridiculous (read: expensive) rigs people have to listen on headphones!

The HD-280s are renowned for their accuracy and comfort; you can listen to them for hours without any real “listening fatigue” and their shape (circumaural, and elongated ovals versus round) are great for “long” shaped pinnae.

My dad bought me some of those Bose triport circumaurals a few years back, and they sounded great, except they weren’t entirely accurate. The same can be said for those Beats by Dr. Dre…when I see someone walking down the street with those, I envision a word bubble above their headphones that says “tool.”

OutOfTheBlue's avatar

@sndfreQ Stop acting like you know what your talking about :p

sndfreQ's avatar

@OutOfThBlue: It’s all BS I just have a friend that works at Guitar Center ;)

OutOfTheBlue's avatar

I used to, he got fired though! i had the hook up!

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