Headphones Measurements with miniDSP EARS

Headphones are among the most popular ways to consume music and well as multimedia such as video games and streaming shows plus movies. Thanks to the countless options at every imaginable price point and form factor, choosing the right headphones—whether for exercise, travel, home listening, gaming or other uses—can be daunting.

As far as headphones measurements go, there are already some very sizeable databases out there already. Whether it’s Tyll Hertsens at innerfidelity, Jude Mansilla over at head-fi, or the fine folks over at rtings, you’ll find charts galore online. But that’s the point, it’s a useful tool and one I want to make sure is included in my kit as well. So…

Effective immediately, I will begin measuring the frequency response, distortion, sensitivity, and passive noise attenuation of headphones that I review, by using a miniDSP EARS system. This affordable, minimalist measurement rig is modeled after a pair of generic human ears and calibrated to be accurate to within +/-1 dB from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

While other reviewers may have more expensive mannequin heads to use for measurements, one of the coolest things about EARS is it’s a consumer product. You can buy it and use it to measure your own headphones. Furthermore, that measurement can be used to create a parametric EQ compensation curve, so that get better performance from your cans when using compatible gear (or even an app).

While I do not have an anechoic chamber, I will perform these measurements in my concrete-floored basement, which is very quiet with all HVAC turned off. Plus, Paul Barton of PSB Speakers (a pioneer in the science of accurate audio reproduction) has kindly offered his help to ensure I offer accurate measurements.

Of course, since I’ll have the headphones on-hand, I’ll also make a short video review. These measurements will not be without context.

As you can see in this image, I already have a stack of headphones to measure and more are on the way. I love headphones and have been wanting to take this deep dive for some time. The time is now!

Photo by Mark Henninger

If you have specific suggestions for headphones you’d like to see measured and reviewed, please leave a comment. The more the merrier.

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