Equalized Headphones for Music

I didn’t do the listening comparisons with the m40x’s.
I was listening for changes in the feel of the transitions between the different segments. I sensed very little change when the m40x’s were played.
I would consider myself somewhat of an “audio nut” too and I too am aware of my loss of high frequencies. I too use an EQ to bring some of it back. But at the end of the day…those very high frequencies are nothing but harmonics. Sure a lot of the sounds produced from instruments can be in those ranges and can give depth to the sound but it’s almost imperceptible. This is a part of what I’m saying. It’s about the energy up in those harmonics. In a lot of cases the energy is minimal. Except cymbal interestingly.
This talks about loudness levels and for how long to take it before damage might occur.

You do understand that there are the same number of notes between 500Hz and 1KHz as there are between 8KHz and 16KHz ? You can be tested at half octave intervals if it helps.

Truly flat responses are unlikely as your driver unit will have an inherent resonant frequency(ies). You can square the circle using appropriate crossovers or through processing.

It’s all a bit irrelevant anyway, as your ear compliance isn’t standard, so there will be more or less volume and compliance/inductance in the structure than the headphone driver is designed to manage - so you won’t get what it says on the tin unless you get you headphones fitted with REM of another canal measure.

Thanks for sticking with me folks.

Yes Um_bongo. There seem to be a huge amount of variables in play. And the Fletcher-Munson effect makes everything even more confused. I know I can get the sound I want with lots of EQ. I guess it really does boil down to whether I would be damaging my hearing. So I think I can narrow it down to 4 specific questions:

1: Can anyone help me find an audiophile audiologist in the Houston area who can perform a ½ octave hearing test extending up to 16kHz?

2: Does excessively loud sound in a narrow frequency range damage hearing only in that range, or would it also affect my hearing at frequencies outside of that range?

3: If I start with music that averages 80dB, then replay it with 8-16kHz boosted 10 dB, what will be the measured average dB of that music?

4: If 85dB is a 1 hour limit for healthy ears, is this the same limit for folks with diminished hearing? If it is, hearing aid users would be damaging their hearing every day.

Hey Z10. Thanks for the 3 links. The tone generator is interesting, because if I use my source and headphones, I can kinda get rid of the need to figure out whether diminished hearing is due to my ears/brain or peaks and valleys in the headphones’ frequency response.

This is the curveball: Fletcher–Munson curves - Wikipedia
Its a set of curves showing the humans don’t hear low bass and high treble as well as frequencies associated with speech. Makes sense. As volume increases, our ears hear the ons and highs better and better relative to the mids. I think audiograms at the doc compensate for this, but don’t know about the frequency generator.

Trying to wrap my tiny mind around all of this.

Again…enter in your standard 8khz audiogram here and we can see what you have for standards. I went through a lot of this struggle before finally giving in to needing HA’s. Turn up treble, val salva, asking for repeats, frustration at not hearing everything, removing myself from hearing challenging situations etc.
Unless you’ve caused damage to your ears…it’s called presbycusis. In an easier word…age.

This works very well!

maybe this could help you dial in the exact curve that you what you want to hear…


I have a physical parametric equalizer tied to my audio system and I’ve always been able to get the sound I want, through any speakers I’ve owned or wired headphones.

Good luck

I thought I’d mention to you that the question of whether certain frequencies boosted enough in headphones so you can hear them is the same question asked repeatedly (including by me): Will hearing aids, which significantly boost certain frequencies to bring them into your hearing range, further damage your hearing long-term.

It is my belief that it probably will, though this has been much debated. For me it is a quality of life issue though, I guess I’d rather hear and understand now and not later, rather than barely comprehend evenly for the rest of my life.

Anyway I don’t think you’re going to find a satisfactory answer for that part of your question.

If you’re still interested, I can throw off my selection of headphones and a comparison of their characteristics

Guys & Gals… you don’t want to be doing simple equalization. That could actually be harmful at loud levels, and it won’t be enough at soft levels. EQ is only correct at one loudness level at each frequency. The correct amount depends on the frequency, the level of the signal at that frequency, and your particular hearing. You need nonlinear compression. Head over to refined-audiometrics.com and read all about it.

But it also depends on the program material and the way you listen to it. If the music is pretty much at constant loudness (hyper-compressed loudness war material), then perhaps EQ will be good enough for you since the dynamic range is restricted.

But for listening to wide dynamic range symphonic material you will really appreciate what nonlinear compression can do for you, and also not knock you out of your chair when the trumpets blare in the 3rd movement of Scheherezade.

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The legendary DB McLean I presume? I went there but I need an intro to the intro to this stuff. Any recommendations for real-world products for dummies?

If you use a Mac computer for listening to music, or you can pipe your music through a Mac, I can provide a solution to you by having you download from

If you need outboard hardware solutions, independent from any computer, then I still have a few systems laying around. But that costs about $3,000, versus free on the Mac.

Thanks. I have friends with Macs, so I might be able to try it out. Hmmm, I’m still feeling guilty about the 400AUD I spent on the Nura. Not that I was ever in any danger of sending it back in the 30 day trial period. I might try it out on some wide dynamic range material and see how it goes.

Interesting… I hadn’t heard of the Nura. So thanks for putting me on to it. Mine just arrived this afternoon.

While I think the premise of otoacoustic emission measurements, possibly leading to more accurate room-level audiology, is intriguing, the jury still seems out. I have to state, that after a number of hours carefully listening to it, it is lacking quite a bit. Either their measured audiology for my hearing is poorly done, or the premise of otoacoustic emission measurements doesn’t work very well after all, or else, what they do with that information to correct the sounds is poorly done. I strongly suspect the latter.

I could tell by listening to extreme dynamic range material that they are using some form of compression. The difference between very soft and very loud was not as great as what I know it to be in the recordings. And that by itself is not particularly damning. It is likely a linear dynamic range compression over the entire loudness range, and not particularly frequency specific.

But they aren’t restoring anywhere near what I am accustomed to hearing with Crescendo. The Nura playback sounds flat and lifeless, compared to an enthrallingly deep and wide soundstage that you could just tumble into with Crescendo.

In general, just about anything you do for hearing assist sounds better than doing nothing. And whenever you listen to something new, it can also sound better, even when it might not be. But I am severely disappointed in Nura. It is very bass heavy, even after turning “immersion” all the way down. And that bass extends well into the lower mid-range to around 200 Hz. The highs are enhanced, above doing nothing, but not nearly enough to recapture the extreme highs that are in there. And I can’t escape the feeling of lifelessness in the Nura playback.

For a good test of dynamic range response, try listening to a recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade. The very beginning has the first violin playing solo in a very high register and pp levels. Then at the other extreme, the 4th movement contains some jarringly loud trumpets.

If they were doing something as lame as mere equalization, then I shouldn’t be able to hear much of the violin, while the trumpets would have knocked me out of my chair. I know that from experience with a graphic EQ from way back when I didn’t know anything about hearing.

But the Nura playback did allow me to catch some of the pianisimo high register of the first violin, yet not all of it. And the trumpets sounded rather tame - perceptibly louder to be sure, but not blaring as they really are. So that argues for linear dynamic range compression, much like car stereo playback systems. And maybe it even has some frequency selective behavior, but certainly not tuned to each critical band of your hearing. Perhaps a half-dozen bands or fewer.

Maybe, in the face of market realities, these devices are not really aimed at those of us with hearing loss. Perhaps for wider audience with more normal hearing, the Nura customized playback sounds good to them. And perhaps, for fear of possible damage liabilities, they are intentionally limiting what it could do for the hearing impaired audience.

It was worth a listen, to see if any progress has been made on the other side of the universe. And perhaps some progress has been made. But it still falls disappointingly short, by a long shot. At least they didn’t turn oboes into muted jazz trumpets, like most hearing aids do.

At any rate, what you need, for impaired hearing (sensioneural hearing loss) is nonlinear compression, to counteract your recruitment hearing.

You can approximate what you need with something called NYC compression, where over several different frequency bands, you use a linear compressor and add back to the direct signal. That creates a ski-jump shaped compression curve for you. Corrects most strongly at soft levels, and does almost nothing to the sound at loud levels.

Linear compression, alone, sounds better than doing nothing, but it can only be correct at two loudness levels, at best. Everywhere else it under-corrects the very faint sounds, and overcorrects the mid-level sounds.

Simple EQ only sounds correct at one loudness level, different in each frequency region. Definitely under-corrects the soft sounds, and massively overcorrects the loud sounds. Don’t do this to yourself.

Hey. I didn’t mean to induce you to waste your money!

They are definitely not marketed to the hearing-impaired. When the product was first announced, one of the admins here (I think it was) interviewed one of the designers who specifically stated it was aimed for those in the ‘normal’ range. Anyway, one of the other participants here enthused about his a while ago and that piqued my interest. A special came up and I chatted with a Nura support guy who said basically ‘why not try them?’. Why not indeed? The same guy said after I bought them that they don’t work for everyone with a significant hearing loss.

Now my hearing loss is quite severe. You can look up my audiogram. My ability to enjoy music had been compromised for a long, long time. I tried all sorts of buds and headphones (these are the most expensive headphones I’ve owned though) equalised in various ways- on my phone usually. Don’t judge me! I’ve tried hearing aids within a pair of headphones, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro. Before the Nuraphone, I tried the Audheara headphones which include an inbuilt conventional hearing test which then informs the equalisation. They absolutely didn’t work for me, whereas the Nuraphone’s otoacoustic transmission test seems pretty accurate for me.

So, I came to these headphones being out of practice in listening to music at all, let alone carefully. I lost my audiophile sensibilities many years ago. I believe everything you say but we’re coming to this from very different places. I’m just damned grateful for a product that gets me anywhere close to how music is supposed to sound. By the way, in case you haven’t already discovered, they are quite sensitive to placement. I’ve found that gets better with practice.

Not a waste of money. It becomes a business expense for me. I do like to keep up on the latest attempts.

I also have pretty severe hearing loss. A pair of woofers with 24dB/octave rolloff above 1 kHz. At 4 kHz I have a threshold elevation around 60 dB and gets worse going higher from there. Normal hearing in the bass, normal recruitment starting at 1 kHz, hyper-recruitment around 2 kHz in a narrow band, and then decruitment above 4 kHz.

I can’t tell, because of their construction, whether much of the fault with Nuraphone is due to the headphone itself. That could be part of the problem. Too much bass, especially. I normally use Sennheiser HD-650 reference headphones for all my listening. And these are about as spectrally flat as you can get. I use a touch of flattening EQ going into them: 8 dB peaking @ 20 Hz, -4 dB low shelf at 250 Hz, and 6 dB high shelf at 3800 Hz. My DAC are usually a Cranesong Solaris or a Benchmark DAC3.

And believe it or not, good headphones make a big difference, even for us hearing impaired. I’m not crazy enough to go much beyond the HD-650, but these are good enough for studio mixing and mastering work.

I normally run Crescendo with an assumed threshold elevation of 60 dB at 4 kHz. My audiology exams have been all over the place, depending on the way that audiologist deals with my tinnitus. I totally flunked the last hearing exam, and they pronounced me profoundly deaf - which is garbage.

Attempting to perform threshold audiology on people with very impaired hearing, especially in the high kHz frequencies seems like a fool’s errand. So rather than trusting those hugely imprecise measurements, I try to find a decent elevation around 4 kHz, then use physics to model the threshold growth at all other frequencies.

We humans seem to have pretty consistent viscosity in our cochlear fluid, and I find that everyone measures between 3.5 and 4 dB/Bark in their threshold elevation growth. Using this modeling goes a long way toward removing the “Audiologist’s Excess” at the 1 kHz cliff, around 1-2 kHz - the pain frequencies - and the reason so many of us hate hearing aids.

Playing around with a bit of outboard NYC Compression and some reverb on the tracks going into the Nuraphones. That helps.

Hey, lurker here. Could you inform me more about this Crescendo program you’re using? I’m trying to find something to enhance my listening experience now that I’ve got NIHL @ 6-8 khz.

More (and better) than merely Equalized. What you need is something that can compress the whole dynamic range of music into a narrowed range of perception in your damaged frequency bands. And the shape of that compression is important and dictated by physics.

You could also think of it as dynamic equalization - providing more help at faint sound levels and not so much help at loud levels. Damaged hearing becomes very nearly normal for loud sounds. So plain equalization, which provides constant boost regardless of sound levels, would be wrong, and sounds wrong, and can actually be dangerous to your remaining hearing.

You can read tons of information about my Crescendo at refined-hyphen-audiometrics-dot-com .