Tag: Sennheiser

Our Best Budget Headphones: Quality and Affordability

As the cost of basic necessities continue to rise, many conveniences once taken for granted are easily done away with. Fortunately, the sound quality of your headphones does  not need to be among the list of cutbacks. There are plenty of notably inexpensive headphones that deliver high fidelity sound without breaking the bank. The following list highlights some of the most noteworthy models that offer great sound at low costs.

Grado SR60i 

The highly revered Grado SR60i

No list of budget headphones would be complete, or even worth considering, if it failed to feature the legendary Grado SR60i from the notable Prestige series. Carefully crafted in Brooklyn, New York, the Grado SR60i perform marvelously in nearly every category. Featuring an open-back design and a unique vented diaphragm design, the SR60i have a broad sound stage that offers three-dimensional sound. The open-back design helps imaging by allowing the sound waves to develop naturally in space, each voice and tone to be distinctly placed and detailed. Each housing of the Grado SR60i is is designed to reduce unwanted vibration distortion. Moreover, each driver is matched within .1 dB to maintain consistent imaging.

The tonal character of the SR60i is balanced and smooth throughout the frequency range. The bass is not “boxy” and blends well with higher frequencies without muddling the clarity and ringing richness of the treble. The resulting overall reproduction is the distinguished and famed Grado warmth with a transparent and present midrange.

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro 

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, balanced and neutral

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro feature a closed-back design and are known for their exceptional versatility in reproducing various musical genres and for their superior sound isolation.

The versatility of the HD 280 Pro is often attributed to their neutral response. The reproduction is not artificially fabricated to unnaturally emphasize particular frequencies, this allows the HD 280 Pro to deliver the recording as it is originally engineered. For the critical listener or studio engineer who appreciates  exploring every layer of the recording, the accuracy of the HD 280 Pro is simply indispensable. With proper equalization, these headphones can perform just as well as other units in a much higher price range and deliver complexity and detail in the bass and treble frequencies.

Sony MDR-V6 

The legendary, MDR-V6

Lastly, the Sony MDR-V6. Initially introduced in the 1980s, the MDR-V6 has remained a popular model among studio engineers and avid listeners for over two decades. They are durably constructed and are reputed for their long lifetime. Aside from their construction and physical reliability, the Sony MDR-V6 are famed for their neutral reproduction and focused accuracy throughout their expansive frequency range.

While the tonal character of the MDR-V6 can tend to be slightly emphasized in the bass frequencies, they do not muddle the upper frequencies which are produced with clarity and fidelity.

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What It All Means: Frequency Response, Impedance, Sensitivity, and Drivers

As headphones of all types gradually become  fashion accessories, important technical measures of performance with unglamorous scientific measures seem to be preeminently targeted for exclusion by many manufacturers. Further still, even when manufacturers supply technical information, it can often be overlooked and placed beneath less pertinent factors to listening experience and sound reproduction such as model style, crafty novelty, and brand name. Just as one would not purchase a new set of reading glasses because they look “cool” without first considering the appropriate magnification, buying headphones requires that buyers are equally aware of the characteristics that best fit their particular needs. Whether it is a total suppression of relevant information or lack of knowledge surrounding the specifications that make a true difference in sound reproduction, purchasing headphones of any type based solely on emotive judgement can  result in an inadequate and unsatisfying listening experience. To help you make your next headphone purchase as a discerning and refined buyer, this blog will explain the importance and relevance of their most crucial technical specifications.

In the following sections we will define and explore the effect on listening experience of specifications including Frequency Response, Impedance, Sensitivity, and Drivers (which classify better as components rather than a characteristic, yet are imperative to sound quality). This list covers only the most common specifications and do not take signal quality or signal source into account.

Frequency Response

The Grado SR225i features a frequency response between 20 - 22,000 Hz, well within the average human range

Perhaps the most controversial specification among audiophiles, the frequency response uses Hertz (Hz) as a measure of sound waves per second where 1 Kilohertz (kHz) = 1,000 Hz. In reference to headphones, and speakers in general, the frequency response describes the frequencies a set of headphones can produce. Essentially, the lower end of the frequency response indicates the lowest frequency the speaker can produce while the larger number describes the highest frequency the speaker can produce. This, of course, does not necessarily translate into sound heard. The reason for this is because human hearing averages between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. What makes this measure particularly polarizing is the general assumption that a frequency response with a lower Hz measurement translates into a better bass reproduction. While a frequency response lower than 20 Hz can be taken as a strong indicator of the potential bass reproduction, measures beneath roughly 16 Hz are felt as sound pressures rather than audible tones. The same logic that applies to bass applies to the treble scale. Sound above roughly 22 kHz tend not to be audible. As a general principle when shopping for headphones, buyers should at the very least be sure to accommodate for the average audible range for human hearing with a safe amount above and below the human hearing range. For example, a set of headphones with a frequency range of about 16 Hz – 23 kHz is  adequate for most casual listeners. Nevertheless, frequency response should not be the lone factor in deciding a purchase, there is plenty more to consider.

Impedance

The Sennheiser HD 650 features an impedance of 300 Ohms making it practically impossible to play with only a portable device

Without complicating matters too much, impedance basically indicates the power demand of a headphone and is most useful to buyers as an indication of a headphone’s application. Impedance is measured in Ohms and when thinking of impedance it is useful to separate into low and high impedance categories.

Low impedance headphones ranging from around 32 ohms to around 100 ohms are particularly well suited for portable applications. Because low impedance headphones require less voltage to produce high volume, a battery powered MP3 player or a portable device like an iPod have enough voltage to allow the voice coil and magnet to push and pull the speaker in the appropriate direction.

On the other hand, high impedance headphones are intended primarily for high-powered applications. High impedance headphones require more voltage from the source in order to reach comparable volumes to a lower impedance headphone. Nonetheless,  at a higher impedance, the tightly wound, thin voice coil wire creates resistance and results in a greater magnetic field that allows a more responsive diaphragm allowing high impedance headphones to push and pull the speaker with greater ease. High impedance headphones can be used with portable devices if they are paired with an appropriate headphone amplifier that will provide the high impedance headphone enough voltage to convert the electrical signal into music.

Sensitivity

In direct relation to impedance is a headphones sensitivity. While impedance describes the voltage necessary to power the headphone at a specified volume level, sensitivity is describes the amount of electrical signal that is converted into sound.  The relationship between sensitivity and impedance is such that sensitivity is a direct result of voltage. In other words, sensitivity tells users about the volume level, measured in decibels (dB), at a specified voltage.  So, if you know the impedance of a set of headphones and the power supply, sensitivity can give users a good idea of the volume you can expect for a set of headphones.

Drivers

Finally, the driver. Easily the most important part of a set of headphones as this is the place where the music happens. Although there are many types of drivers available to consumers, perhaps the most common is the dynamic driver. All the specification discussed up to this point directly affect the performance of the driver. Of particular importance is the driver size, as this most often indicates the type of frequency the driver will best suited to reproduce.

The old adage that bigger is better is only partially true in regard to headphones. For instance, if the goal is to get the most bass out of a pair of headphones and have made sure to see that the frequency response of the headset is sufficiently low, then a large driver may be the best option. Because a large driver with a larger surface area will push more air through the chambers, the large driver is best suited to provide the best bass response. Moreover, because of the large surface area, the pressure of inaudible frequencies will be more noticeable.

However, if your musical tastes and demands tend toward the higher frequencies, a larger driver is antithetical to your purposes. Higher frequencies travel in faster and tighter waves than the broad bass frequencies. This means that your driver will need to respond quicker and fluctuate faster than it would need to with low frequencies. Smaller drivers, with a smaller surface area and reduced mass, are much easier to move making it the most appropriate option for mid to high frequencies.

Conclusion

Despite the continuing trend toward marketable and trendy headphones, these devices are complicated and technologically advanced pieces of equipment that have developed over many years. Understanding how to get the most of a set of headphones require a dedicated degree of commitment and personal investment. Ultimately, the diligence necessary to fully appreciate the characteristics of a pair of headphones can be the difference between just another mundane experience and a lifetime of enjoyment.

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Polar Patterns (Demystifying Microphones, Part 2)

 

In the first Demystifying Microphones blog entry, we focused on two of the most common types of transducer principles of microphones: dynamic and condenser. In this blog, we’ll be learning about the various “polar patterns,” of microphones.

Polar what?

First of all, no; polar patterns have nothing to do with cold temperatures or the North/South Poles, so feel free to toss that idea out of your head right now. Polar patterns are simply directional measures of microphones’ sensitivity to sound. Not simple enough? Okay, let’s break it down some more.

It should be noted that the diagrams below are relative to the “address type,” of the microphone. Fortunately, those aren’t difficult to understand, as there are only two: side address and top address, which just mean microphones pick up sound from either the top or the side. Easy, right?

Anyway, as of now, there are 7 main types of polar patterns:

Omnidirectional:

Omnidirectional

An omnidirectional microphone, as you might infer, is one that picks up sound from all directions (hence the prefix “omni”). Technically, such a thing is physically impossible because the microphone’s body itself gets in the way of sound pickup. Try picking one up and recording something with the capsule facing away from the sound source and you’ll hear what I mean. Regardless, the idea is that it picks up sound from all possible directions, which can be fantastic for recording natural ambiances for use in post-production or video games.

Subcardioid:

Subc

If you were to do a Google search on “subcardioid microphone,” (as of the date of this blog) you’d find one Audio-Technica microphone in particular (the AT808G) and a few separate microphone capsules. The idea with this polar pattern is to combine the advantages of both omnidirectional and cardioid patterns; specifically, a fuller low-frequency response but less “proximity effect” (which is just an increase in bass that occurs when the microphone is placed close to the sound source), and clearer, more accentuated side and rear sound pickup than a cardioid. The usefulness of this polar pattern is debatable due to its relative scarcity.

Cardioid:

Cardioid

Cardioid, plain and simple, is the most common unidirectional microphone, and is named such because of its heart shape. This pattern is most common due to its rejection of sound reflections (or “reverberation,” or “echoes”). It serves to reduce feedback (which can be terrible if it gets out of control, believe me), and can be particularly useful for picking up a specific sound amidst noisy environments. However, they are susceptible to “plosives,” (popping wind sounds that occur with “P” and “B” words) and the aforementioned proximity effect. Despite its shortcomings, the pros of this polar pattern certainly outweigh the cons.

Supercardioid:

Supercardioid

You know, it seems like whoever came up with the names for these polar patterns probably should’ve given it a bit more thought. Rather than having 5 variations (that I know of) of “cardioid,” it seems like these other patterns could’ve had more descriptive, or at least more creative names. Anyway, I digress. The “supercardioid,” is a slight variation of the cardioid pattern, as you can see in the diagram. It does well to capture direct sounds and it has a little lobe in the back to pickup more natural reflections; great in situations where you want a little more environmental sound in the mix.

Hypercardioid:

Hypercardioid

Hypercardioid is pretty much the same thing as supercardioid, but with a slightly larger lobe in the back to capture a little more environmental sound.

Bi-Directional or Figure 8:

Figure 8

Now, we have the bi-directional – or Figure 8 – pattern. Microphones with this pattern pickup sound equally as well from either direction. Most often, you’ll find this pattern in ribbon microphones. You’ll usually see bi-directional microphones used in headsets and broadcast microphones due to their natural, uniform sound quality.

Shotgun:

Shotgun

At last, we have the shotgun polar pattern. Unlike their ammunition-filled counterparts, microphones with this pattern are highly directional. Due to their slim frames, shotgun microphones are often used in film and theater in order to pick up sound while remaining relatively out of sight. Shotgun microphones have a unique design that has the pickup capsule located behind an interference tube with tiny slits on the sides. This interference tube significantly diminishes sound from the sides because of phase cancellation. In short, the longer the tube, the tighter the pattern, thus greater sound rejection from the sides and greater focus in the front.

So, that’s that! For now, at least… I hope you all enjoyed and learned something valuable from this.

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Sennheiser: Sonic History


Sennheiser

In 1945 Berlin shortly after the end of WWII DR. Fritz Sennheiser founded a small electronics company he called Laboratorium Wennebostal, often affectionately referred to as “Labor W,” the small half timbered house not far from “Checkpoint Charlie” Dr. Fritz Sennheiser
would grow from a meager manufacturer of testing equipment and measuring devices to one of the largest producers of professional and high end consumer audio products in the world.
In 1946 Per the request of the electronics company Siemens, Sennheiser designed their first microphone and supplied Siemens with the DM1. The following year Sennheiser released the much more sophisticated and commercially successful DM2. In 1949 the first noise compensating microphone the DM4 was developed as well as the DM3 where the sound port and transducer were separated coining the nickname the “Invisible Microphone”
Sennheiser HD650Sennheisers designs continued to innovate branching out into the manufacturing of amplifiers and more sophisticated microphones and in 1968 developed the worlds first open headphones the HD 414 which proved to be a smashing commercial success as the HD 414s prompting an adapted version by NASA and a license from a small Japanese company called Sony who would use the headphones for release with a revolutionary new device The Walkman.
In 1991 Sennheiser began distributing also family owned German company Neumann microphones bringing arguably the finest microphone manufacturer in the world into the Sennhieser family.
In the Years that follow Sennheiser has continued to innovate with the development of more and more sophisticated headphones and microphones and has now grown be the Juggernaut we know it today.
Now Sennheiser continues to innovate and produce some of the finest headphones on the market including the HD 650, the HD 25-1, and the HD 280s.
Sennheiser MKH 416
Today Sennhieser microphones are considered world class and are industry standard in all facets of professional audio production. The ENG100 series as well as the MKH 416 are considered industry standard for electronic news gathering, field audio production, location sound for professional video and film production, as well as post production and voice over work.
Few companies have impacted the technology of personal electronics or professional audio like Sennheiser and as they continue to innovate we here at Sonicelectronix are proud to bring these products to you.

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Wireless Microphones: UHF and VHF


EW100ENG-G3

The benefit of wireless microphones

Wireless microphones free you from being tethered to cumbersome audio equipment giving you the ability to move about during a performance or engage your audience in a way that otherwise would take a very long microphone cable. Wireless microphones also eliminate tripping hazards as well as simplify set up and tear down as there are no cables to wrangle and detangle. You may find wireless microphones in a number of different designs in fact there are just as many wireless microphone designs as there are wired mics as almost all wired microphones can be converted into a wireless system with the implementation of a transmitter such as the SKP 100 G3 plug-on transmitter which can be found in the Sennheiser EW100ENG G3 wireless microphone pack pictured above.

How They Work

Wireless microphones use two major components. The first being a transmitter which operates like a little radio station transmitting anything the microphone picks up. The Second being a receiver which just like the radio in your car receives the radio signals from the transmitter and converts them into a line level audio signal to be amplified or recorded.
The radio signals are broadcast using frequency modulation (FM) which is a process of encoding the audio being transmitted in a carrier frequency using phase variance. This is exactly the way the FM dial on your car radio works. There is another process used less often for this application called amplitude modulation (AM) which uses varying levels of signal strength or amplitude to encode the audio. If that sounds familiar it’s because that’s exactly how your AM dial on your cars radio works. Depending on the manufactures design the transmitter and receiver may have only a fixed carrier frequency on which they operate or variable frequencies that can be selected based on the available of frequencies in a particular area.


In order to truly understand this process it’s important to understand how radio signals are broadcast. Radio waves are waves of electromagnetic radiation that oscillate or vibrate back and forth a number of times in a second. The term “frequency” simply states how “frequently” the electromagnet wave vibrates in a second. We use Hertz (Hz) as a standardized unit of measurement for all broadcast applications. This is named after Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the German physicist that first demonstrated the existence of electromagnetic radiation in the mid 19th century.
That being said there is only a finite amount of “bandwidth” which wireless microphones can operate on. Bandwidth is a term used to describe the range of carrier frequencies the transmitters and receivers can use i.e. the amount of information that can be transmitted.


Freq Spectrum

The range of the available bandwidth can be seen in this image of the electromagnetic spectrum where youll notice the two classifications of available bandwidth VHF (very-high frequency) and UHF (ultra-high frequency). VHF ranges from 30 MHz to 300 MHz meaning 30 million oscillations per second to 300 million oscillations per second. UHF ranges from 300 MHz and 3 GHz meaning 300 million oscillations per second to 3 billion oscillations per second.

UHF vs. VHF

Due to the higher frequencies UHF equipment use physically smaller waveforms meaning the receiver anteni can me much smaller making UHF receivers much more compact. The downside is the smaller waveform carries less energy so the operating range of the system may not be as great as a VHF system. For this very reason the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) allows for UHF transmitters to be more powerful. This is great but as a side effect battery life may be sacrificed. The FCC limits transmitter power of UHF equipment to 250mW compared to VHF 50mW limit. Given the larger VHF wave these systems have more ability to punch through walls and their designs typically yield longer battery life.
So what does this all boil down to? UHF systems are typically the choice of professionals for higher fidelity and operating range due to power regulations. VHF is often chosen as an option for situations where direct line of sight isn’t an option as the waves can punch through obstacles.

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