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How Often Do You Listen on Headphones at Home?

As a die-hard home-theater geek, I love listening to movies, TV shows, and even music on my multichannel speaker system. But speakers must overcome several obstacles—room acoustics, placement issues, and a sleeping family late at night to name a few. Of course, you can avoid all these problems by listening on headphones, the main subject of our new website On the other hand, headphones mostly provide a 2-channel experience, though systems such as Dolby Headphone, which is available in several AVRs, and the Smyth Research Realiser (profiled here) simulate surround sound in a pair of cans.

These musings lead me to wonder how often you listen to headphones in your home theater? Do you prefer them over speakers, or do you use them only to promote domestic tranquility after everyone else has gone to bed? Do you have an AVR with Dolby Headphone, and if so, do you use it? What make and model of headphones do you have? I really hope you leave a comment after voting with some of these details.

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

How Often Do You Listen on Headphones at Home?
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Jarod's picture

I must confess that I have never used my headphones in my home theater. I only use them for roadtrips or on walks with the iPod. For late night movie watching when the wife is asleep THX Loudness Plus on my receiver really does a good job of keeping the same dynamics of high level listening intact at low levels. Ive really grown to love low volume listening because of it.

aopu.mohsin's picture

Due to my software programming related jobs, I have to use my desktop/laptop quite extensively. So recently, I have started listening to my digital music more often than my analog ones, using my headphone and DAC combinations. So, I voted for 75%. (BTW, most of my digital music are in FLAC, ALAC, etc. lossless format and in pure stereo.)

For my desktop at home, I use Cambridge Audio DacMagic as my external DAC and WooAudio WA3 as headphone amp. I have few headphones that I use with this combination. AKG K-702 - mostly to listen to my Jazz, Easy Listening, Classical music, and Denon AH-D2000 - to listen to anything else. I'm also planning to get Sennheiser HD-650 in near future. And trust me, it's a musical bliss when I listen to my music using those headphone + DAC + Amp.

For my laptop, if not at home, I use NuForce uDAC-2 external DAC and Klipsch Image S4 headphone. And I thoroughly enjoy my music, as well, using these.

I do not have any dolby headphones and do not plan to buy any either. For surround music, I always trust my home theater and bluray.

Ropro's picture

I voted 'All The Time' because every dvd, cd, vinyl that I've purchased has been inspected and enjoyed through various Sennheiser and AKG headsets. And, even though I enjoy a good surround mix played through a well-calibrated system, if I want to hear exactly what a band generated before some technician 'enhanced' the whole procedure to 'simulate' an 'as-if-you-were-there' experience. (latest example: Jeff Beck honouring Les Paul dvd)
As for movies, I've heard no system that brings out the countless subtleties, that foley and sound magicians come up with, the way a good listen on decent headphones can. (example: Microcosmos)

buffalosoldier's picture

I wish I could listen to headphones. My theta casablanca doesn't have the necessary jack. We recently had a baby and we listen to movies at so low a volume it makes the extreme dacs worthless. I'm jealous of those that can just pop on a set of headphones and happily crank it up!

Toeknee182's picture

I actually bought my Sony headphones about a year ago and connected them to my desktop to use them with Skype and listening to my ripped (lossless) music collection. I probably used them less than 5% of the time. However, ever since I bought the iPad and now the Asus Transfsormer and sat next to my wife I would put them on as I refuse to use the earphones of my Zune or iPod.


notabadname's picture

I have to disagree with comments that claim better reproduction of sound through a headphone (no matter how good).

Human hearing is comprised of two distinct and fundamental paths, the sum of which result in the full audio experience as sensed by the brain's auditory system. Those are:

AIR CONDUCTION: A sound wave enters the ear canal and hits the eardrum (tympanic membrane), causing a vibration. This vibration triggers movement in the three small bones of the middle ear, commonly known as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup due to their unique shapes. Movement of the stirrup causes pressure waves in the fluid-filled inner ear. These pressure waves cause movement of microscopic sensory hairs, which stimulate the auditory nerve in different ways depending on the frequency of the original sound waves.

And BONE CONDUCTION: Sound waves cause the bones of the skull to vibrate. This vibration is transmitted directly to the fluid-filled inner ear, where the pressure waves are picked up by sensory hairs.

This is easily demonstrated by plugging your ears as tightly as you like, even with ear plugs and a pair of over-ear protectors as well. You can still hear, via transmission of sound through your skull. This is also why we hear our own voices differently than how others hear them, or when played back on a recording (the sound is colored by more internal vibration effects since it is generated from within our body as compared to how the sound enters all other listener's auditory system).

So when you actually hear a symphony live, or any sound, it takes these two paths. It is not possible for even the very best of headphones to stimulate (to any significant degree) your auditory system's bone conduction system. Sound is not just about the purity of the source of the wave, which is the first half of sound if you will, but also the "receiver" and stimulation and interaction of those waves to finally be "heard" as sound, the second half of "sound". So any good system that can produce the full, audible-to-human- hearing, frequency spectrum (on a flat curve, etc) will have a more true-to-life interaction with the listener and his/her perception of it, if it is allowed to affect the entire skull, and not just be channeled into the ear canal.

Finally, the other part of the auditory response in humans is infrasound. These are frequencies generally 10 to 100 Hz, which as we all know crosses into audible by the average ear above approximately 20 Hz. Interestingly, the human chest cavity resonates around 50-80Hz, and of course, our sense of touch actually works in conjunction with hearing well below 20Hz, picking up vibrations that we "perceive" as sound. But everyone on this site knows that, and a high percentage of us own subs for that very reason. So my point being that this third perception, while technically not part of our ear, is certainly importan to the auditory experience, even when our ear can also register the frequency.

So next time you enjoy your favorite band, symphony or soundtrack (even at tame listening levels), remember, no mater how good it may be, a headset can never "move you", and all your parts, from skull to toe, the way a traditional (quality) speaker system can and the way a live performance does. Listen with your body, not just your ear canal ;)

Ropro's picture

'notabadname' is trying to compare apples to oranges.
Sound heard 'live', whether artificially through sound systems or naturally from one's environment or non-amplified instruments, obviously is perceived by the whole body - including hairs on skin if intense or loud enough.
But even recordings of 'the great outdoors', like the 'A Week In Hawaii' series or Bainbridge's 'Sonic Booms' - clearly aimed at someone who wants to transport the entire listening area elsewhere - will reveal subtler detail to the listener wearing headphones.
The 2 methods offer very different listening experiences.

notabadname's picture

They are different, but that is the topic of the thread. I merely offered my opinion as to why I don't prefer headphones over a quality speaker system, weather listening in stereo or multi-channel. I agree, and posted why, the two different methods do provide very different listening experiences due to the limits of the headphone's interaction with the body. I however disagree as to the headphone option revealing subtler details. A great set of headphones may do better when compared to a low quality speaker system. But I am sure I can find plenty of audiophiles that can suggest many speaker/audio system setups that can provide every nuance of sound that can be produced by any headset. And that system will affect the listener in ways mentioned in my prior post that a headset cannot. And it does not take deafening sound to produce a 20 Hz sound (or lower), which has an interaction with the body that is nuance in itself, even at soft listening levels. It is that very nuance that a headphone cannot reproduce in the body, even if able to produce a response in the ear. If you have ever stood in earshot of Niagra falls, you know the goosebump-inducing sonic treat that it is. And you can be far enough away that it isn't loud at all, but you can still "feel" the sound. It truly is a moving experience audibly as well as visually. To me that is just one example of a sound that, yes, can sound truly wonderful in a headphone. But at equivalent listening levels in the ear canal, it would sound very different on a top-notch speaker system. And to me, just an opinion, would better recreate every detail of the real life listening experience. But to each their own. It really is whatever each listener enjoys most, for whatever reasons.

liweifr's picture

yes,always ,i love my music.

liweifr's picture

yes,always ,i love my music and my Headphones

giohepara's picture

Точно говорят, что новое это хорошо забытое старое.Это мы наблюдаем в статье выше. И все равно актуально!!!

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