View Full Version : amazing headphones - how do they work?

09-16-2009, 07:13 PM
I've noticed that there are lots of sound type things that have a switch that makes the sound better. Like xi-fi sound blaster cards, bose headphones with enhance switch, or panasonic headphones with the enhance switch.

Anyways, I can't speak for what the other ones do, but I tried the panasonic headphones, and when I switched on the switch, everything sounded absolutely amazing. What exactly is going on when this switch is turned on? The only way I can explain it is everything sounds better. My other question is why aren't mixing engineers doing this to effect to their tracks? Wouldn't that make everything sound better, or is the effect unique to those headphones - like it flattens out that headphone's specific frequency response problems?

Please inform me of what is going on - thanks

09-16-2009, 07:28 PM
Some of those are combinations of EQ, stereo widening and maybe some excitation (which are the elements that I think are at play with the Windows Media Player WOW feature).

Pulling back the EQ mids (or pushing up the low and high frequencies) can give the illusion of a thicker more clear mix. The reason artists don't just blindly do it to all of their tracks is it messes with the relative volume of the instruments, it can make the bass sound muddy and indistinct, and it can make the highs sound harsh, amongst other things.

Stereo widening can be done in a number of ways, but the common method involves taking a stereo signal and delaying one channel by a few milliseconds then panning the two signals. This gives the illusion of more depth, but it messes with the timing of certain instruments and gives the music a looser feel, imo. More advanced methods minimize these problems, but getting the song to have lots of depth is best accomplished at the mixing stage through panning, reverb and other stuff.

Excitation of higher frequencies gives the illusion of a higher 'quality' song by taking some of the high frequencies and amplifying the volume of their higher harmonics. That's all well and good, except too much of that leads to a song that's tiring to the ears and possibly harsh, depending on the quality of the exciter.

Bottom line is, while those "make music sound better" buttons do give a cool effect, most of them come with side-effects that artists just don't want in their tracks, or at least want to have more control over than what they offer.

09-16-2009, 08:19 PM
I've noticed that there are lots of sound type things that have a switch that makes the sound better.

And they're all completely useless.

The X-Fi stuff is switched off for audio production. Besides, it wouldn't be of use anyway - whoever's listening to your work doesn't have the same gimmick switches.

Make sure it sounds amazing on a regular speakerset. There's no black magic involved, and the EQ / stereo widening / "vitalizer" effect works on the regular mix, too.

Harmony is right; it's not something you just smear on top of it like an improverizer effect.

Hy Bound
09-17-2009, 10:53 PM
I'll just add that if musicians added that same thing to their mixes, when you turned on that sound "enhancer" it would basically be multiplying what the producer put in the mix and it would sound poopy.

Its also the same reason musicians don't pad up the bass in the mix even though most everybody likes more bass than what is put into the mix. Producers are supposed to tune in a "flat" mix so that it can be enhanced the way the listener likes with their own equipment.