In this article I cover the basics of the art and science of voicing headphones. It’s not intended to be the definitive guide, but a practical guide that when combined with some experimentation, will get you to an awesome sounding pair.
Before I built my first pair of headphones, I searched high and low in books and online for info on how to voice headphones. Unlike loudspeakers where there are theoretical models of great practical application, for headphones there were none. John Borwick’s Loudspeaker and Headphone Handbook has plenty of theory, but little of practical use. Therefore I had to figure if all out from scratch. This article is a distillation of my main findings.
If you’re interested in digging deeper into my work, you can read about the test setup here and see the results here.
Before you start, you’ll need a means of measuring frequency response curves. Professional equipment costs mega-bucks, so here are two affordable options:
- MiniDSP EARS: this is the easiest, but at USD$199 not the cheapest option. In my experience, repeatability is not great, so you need to average multiple measurements to be sure a design change is causing the change in response, not measurement variation. One advantage of MiniDSP EARS is that you can make meaningful comparisons to other peoples’ measurements made with EARS.
- DIY rig: the cheapest option is to create an MDF rig to hold a microphone. It should have two plates approximately one head width apart and hold a microphone to the centre of one side. This won’t compensate for the ear’s effect on the frequency response, but you can achieve very repeatable results. In my opinion, the repeatability makes this the best option. Microphone options include MiniDSP UMIK-1 and Dayton Audio EMM-6.
For software, I recommend REW, which can be downloaded here for free.