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Good pair of headphones for practice?

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  • Good pair of headphones for practice?

    Hello everyone,

    I recently acquired a Johannus Opus 1400 three-manual organ in order to practice at home. The organ is in remarkable conditions (except some key contacts that need cleaning) and sounds great from the powerful speakers.

    However, for obvious reasons, I would like to perform and practice mostly with headphones. So far I've managed with a pair of Samsung earphones (I think they came from a mobile phone bundle) but there was some distorsion even with low volume and softer stops. Moreover, I felt that the sound coming out the phones is fairly "dry" when compared to the ample reverb provided by the internal speakers. I'm not sure whether this is due to low quality of my earphones or it is a common feature of every instrument.

    Anyway, I may be comfortable with the the dry sound but I would really enjoy a pair of good heaphones/earphones that can exploit the sound capabilities of the instrument at best. Being a newbie in the digital sound world, I would kindly ask your advice for a good set for this purpose.

    Budget: the cheaper the better! Seriously, I don't need anything professional, but I'd rather not compromise on sound quality too much.

    Thank you for your advices.

  • #2
    The sound will be drier with headphones than with speakers. You may want to consider adding a reverb unit if it's possible with your organ, and you might find a cheap used one on Craigslist.

    If the Samsung earphones don't distort with other devices then there may be something wrong with the organ. Does the sound distort with speakers?

    Personally I'd recommend over-the-ear headphones which are comfortable to wear. You can do a search for 'comfort headphones' and see what turns up, or go to a local music shop (Sam Ash, Guitar Center, etc.) and try out some pairs to see how they feel.
    Viscount C400 3-manual
    8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
    Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers

    Comment


    • #3
      The basic requirement for headphones is frequency response and SPL levels. I find that the more expensive units give a better balance in frequency response. I use a $50 Sony for most computer sound/video casual listening, but for TV viewing I prefer my Grado SR125 as it gives me better dialogue clarity and more natural sound, - possibly because the Sony emphasises the midbass and bass range more than midrange through the treble range.

      Comment


      • #4
        Florentinus,

        At work, I've ordered the Sony MDR-ZX110 Stereo Headphones, and they work well in music class. The guys often comment about the bass response. Drawbacks: The cord is only 4', and they are specifically engineered with a left and right side. Another model I've used and like are: Sony MDR-ZX310 On-Ear Headphones. They also have extended bass versions of both models, and both models are under $20 American.

        Regarding the reverb, can someone mention whether or not the Nanoverb (or similar) will work on a headphone jack?

        Michael
        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
        • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you for your replies.

          rjsilva - no, the sound doesn't distort without headphones and speakers have clear and nice sound even at high volume settings. Since the distorsion occurs in coincidence with extreme frequencies or stops with considerable amount of harmonics I argued that it is due to earphones limitations.

          Regarding the reverb - the organ has an integrated reverb unit which works remarkably without earphones. For some reasons the same reverb is not achieved through phones. Raising the reverb more than halfway causes distorsion when playing more substantially (still the speakers have no problems at all with full volume reverb).

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          • #6
            I wonder if maybe the volume pot for the headphones might need to be cleaned. If you work the volume knob a lot, up and down repeatedly, does that help any?

            It seems really unlikely that the earphones would be at fault, but you could easily test that using another pair (borrowed from a friend?).
            Viscount C400 3-manual
            8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
            Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers

            Comment


            • #7
              Florentinus,

              It sounds like the headphone line out comes before the reverb is added. Maybe you can tap into the line afterward rather than before reverb? I'm sure the actual techs on the Forum could weigh in on that one.

              Michael
              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
              • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm rather sure that the headphones output comes out after the reverb, since adjusting the reverb deepness and volume it can be heard changing rather significantly. I'm still convinced that my earphones don't have the capabilities to support such a large instrument. They do a good job playing MP3 files, which have little to do with real audio, and I suspect they implement a sort of frequency boost forcing the user to keep the volume at minimum (they should have very low impedance, too).

                Right now I'm away from home so I've not the opportunity to try on another headset. I have the opportunity to borrow an AKG K550 but I'm not sure what I should look for when trying it; do you think this is a good headphones set for organ practice? I know that AKG is a reputable company making great quality product but this doesn't mean that they are good for organ!

                Comment


                • #9
                  It sounds like you're believing that organ audio is different from other audio sources. In terms of a headphone output it should be no different. There's nothing especially taxing about organ audio for most audio equipment at reasonable listening levels in the home (except maybe 32' stops for subwoofers)—some organs may have higher line-level outputs (like pro equipment) or otherwise customised which might not be good to use with consumer-level audio but for headphone outputs it would be very strange if your Johannus organ had some non-standard headphone requirements.

                  The differences you'll see with some headphones vs others are wider or more accurate frequency response, greater power handling (for more powerful headphone amps), bass enhancement, etc. If your current earphones are distorting at quieter listening levels but not with external speakers there's most likely either something wrong with the earphones or the organ's headphone amp.
                  Viscount C400 3-manual
                  8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
                  Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by rjsilva View Post
                    It sounds like you're believing that organ audio is different from other audio sources. In terms of a headphone output it should be no different. There's nothing especially taxing about organ audio for most audio equipment at reasonable listening levels in the home (except maybe 32' stops for subwoofers)—some organs may have higher line-level outputs (like pro equipment) or otherwise customised which might not be good to use with consumer-level audio but for headphone outputs it would be very strange if your Johannus organ had some non-standard headphone requirements.

                    The differences you'll see with some headphones vs others are wider or more accurate frequency response, greater power handling (for more powerful headphone amps), bass enhancement, etc. If your current earphones are distorting at quieter listening levels but not with external speakers there's most likely either something wrong with the earphones or the organ's headphone amp.
                    I think rjsilva's diagnosis is spot on... headphones typically make stereo/reverb-enhanced music sound better than typical speaker arrangements, not worse. As long as the reverb effect is being added to the signal before the headphone out line (confirmed either by reviewing a schematic or perhaps an astute visual inspection), unless your headphones are simply trash, it is likely the problem rests in the headphone line itself.

                    Checking the potentiometer function (static while rotating the headphone volume knob?), any issues there might be addressed with some "pot cleaner" - or perhaps replacement of the volume pot.

                    Worse concern: there's something else corrupting the signal to the headphone line out, like the headphone amp if there is a separate one inside your organ.

                    You might explore tapping into the speaker output to test your heaphones (or using any other headphones that sound even halfway decent on an mp3 player - even cheap $5 earbuds) to see whether you can get a decent headphone sound out of the same signal that seems to sound great through your speakers.

                    Again, unless your organ is setup in a cathedral with delightful reflective acoustic surfaces, the reverb effect from artificial stereo sources will almost always sound better when more fully separated by left/right headphones than you can typically achieve in a home room environment bouncing off the walls, carpets, furniture, etc.

                    This was a long-winded way of saying I think rjsilva has properly identified the most likely source of your problem above. I just added a few thoughts on how you might better confirm it.

                    - OneWatt

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I can concur with rjsilva.
                      A headphone is a transducer that has certain abilities to reproduce audio - regardless what the source is, i.e. mp3, organ, general audio etc. The main criteria is sound pressure levels (SPL), distortion, frequency response and sensitivity. The AKG K550 headphone has a sensitivity of 114dB/mW (presumably with low distortion) and an impedance of 32 ohms. This means that it takes 179mV rms into the headphones to create an SPL of 114dB within the main frequency response of the headphones. There is no loudspeaker I'm aware of that can produce 114dB of SPL with 179mV. So, you will need to pay attention to how hard you are driving a headphone from an organ amplifier to ensure you are not over driving it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thank you everyone for the useful insights.

                        Looking at schematics, it seems that there is not a separate headphones amplifier. I'm not very good at reading schematics but it looks like the amplifier is unique. Regarding the volume potentiometer, there are only two of these: general volume and reverb volume. The schematics confirms that the headphone line has no volume control itself. It is very likely that the general volume potentiometer needs some cleaning, however I fail to see how this would affect the headphone line only.

                        When I'm back home I'll do some testing (with better headphones too) and I'll let you know.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          In the case of a Johannus organ that I'm familiar with, they use a 100 ohm resistor, in series, from the amplifier to drive the headphones. Thus a 32 ohm headphone will see an attenuation with the 100 ohm series resistor. Your organ may be different.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Peter, with the Johannus organ you're familiar with, what could cause distortion like Florentinus describes (besides the earphones)?
                            Viscount C400 3-manual
                            8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
                            Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Basically, headphone overdrive.
                              He indicated that " the sound doesn't distort without headphones and speakers have clear and nice sound even at high volume settings. Since the distorsion occurs in coincidence with extreme frequencies or stops with considerable amount of harmonics I argued that it is due to earphones limitations."
                              This suggests to me that the drive to the headphones is too high. According to the headphone specs of the AKG K550, it only needs a 179mV to give it 114dB (i.e. very, very loud!). If the organ produced 60watts into 8 ohms then the speaker voltage will be 22V rms. If the 100 ohms series resistor is part of the amplifier output for headphones and the headphone is 32 ohms then the headphone voltage will be 22V x 32 ohms / (100 ohms +32 ohms) = 7v rms. This will overdrive the headphone significantly. What I don't know if the 60 watt level to the loudspeaker will produce 114dB at 1 meter from the loudspeaker. One could change the 100 ohm series resistor to some value that produces a similar SPL with the headphone as the loudspeaker produces at 1 meter (or what typical distance the listener is from the loudspeaker). It is this drive level that I suspect is the cause of the headphone distortion. Lowering the amplifier output may help to ascertain this theory is correct, or not.

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