What makes a headphone sound good? The acoustics, psychoacoustics, and measurements that matter


Dr. Sean Olive and the folks over at Harman have been doing some research on the correlation between how headphones sound, headphone measurements, and their perceived spectral balance.

One thing that I’ve tried to understand myself is the subjective preferences and statements made by reviewers about how headphones sound.  There are a number of different variables such as the shape of one’s ear, the kind of headphone used (over the ear, in ear, etc.) and the different acoustical issues that come into play as a result.

One question in particular that I have is if an over the ear headphone is measures one way, will it be perceived the same way by all users given the different shapes of one’s ear.   This is a fascinating topic to me since I firmly believe that audiophile listening is shifting into headphones because of our mobile lifestyle.

Below is a YouTube video of Dr. Sean Olive’s presentation that was delivered on January 5, 2014 at the ALMA 2014 Winter symposium in Las Vegas.  The hypothesis presented is that a Headphone’s target response should ideally approximate an accurate loudspeaker in a reference listening room.

Check out the video for some great information on the topic.  As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Dr. Olive’s and the great research being done over at Harman.