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I am here to ask some technical questions on the differences between some audio devices point by point. I am a beginner in audio devices and sound editing.

How are different types of headphones made? Is there a hardware difference or software difference between flat response headphones and bass headphones?

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  • Not sure what exactly you mean with bass headphones as I have never encountered a bass version of headphones in the same sense as bass (or sub-bass) loudspeakers. Most often headphones are designed to have a rather flat frequency response (to my knowledge at least) with differences between manufacturers of course. The subsequent bass boosting is most of the time performed electrically with filters. Some of them are designed to perform spectrum equalisation based on the estimated loudness of the audio signal too.
    – ZaellixA
    Jul 22, 2020 at 15:39
  • @ZaellixA, I just want to ask that what are the differences between bass boosted headphones and flat headphones in terms of hardware? I just want to get some technical knowledge on how are different types of headphones are made, what are software differences, what are hardware differences etc. Jul 22, 2020 at 16:07

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Generally speaking, headphone and loudspeaker design is a rather complex field. The transduction from electrical to mechanical and then to the acoustical domain along with their interactions are quite complex to model and the parameters that affect the various aspects of the complete system (crossover, driver, horn, box) are numerous.

That being said, it wouldn't be easy to state all of them and provide a complete presentation of the way they affect the final result. Nevertheless, the target of the design is most often, and for most applications, quite constant. Usually a perceived flat frequency response (if you see the frequency response of most headphones is not flat, but this is intended in order to cancel/counteract some phenomena such as the bass build-up or the missing fundamental due to the change from open-closed to closed-closed tube of the ear canal, etc.) is of major concern. Additionally, a good step/time response is a looked-for quality and of course, as the loudness war doesn't seem to be coming to an end anytime soon, the ability to handle (reasonably) high amounts of current and pressure levels (with a good enough sensitivity) is desired.

Now, I don't think any of the manufacturers design their products with the intention of being bass boosted. The target (frequency) response each manufacturer decides to implement may of course vary from one to the other (and even between models of the same manufacturer) and some may indeed have a somewhat more prominent low end. I don't think that this means that the intended use of a headphone model is to sound like bass boosted. Most probably the manufacturers want their products to be used in pretty much any (or at least most) application (from a certain range of applications per product of course. For example close-type headphones are mostly intended to be used in live situations where open-type in more controlled audio environments), so I believe their targets are somewhat "neutral".

Apart from the design, the user may decide to use some processing based on their preferences and/or application (type of music possibly). I don't believe there's any special design on the headphone side to accommodate the possible need for equalisation of the audio material to be reproduced though.

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Big question. I will try to make a short answer.

.1 Heapdhones are made to a perceived market demand

Always remember, every technical product on the market is a compromise between different requirements. In a market economy this is driven on one hand by the demands from the intended market and on the other hand by the costs of production, development and distribution. There is a difference in requirements between a mostly consumer oriented market (say listening when skate boarding), and professional markets (say hearing spoken word in the cockpit of an aeroplane).

.2 There are many technical solutions

In ear, on ear, around ear, open back, closed back, passive, with electronics, with active noise reduction, ...

.3 There are different sound ideals

Some consumers want as "true" or neutral reproduction as possible, generally implying not adding or removing anything. Other consumers want a specific emotional experience, as example added bass boost.

.4 How to achieve bass boost

Acoustically: modify the acoustic enclosure of the speaker element. It could include resonance chambers or using dampening material to decrease the sound volume of higher frequencys.

In a passive headphone (no electronics), the details of the winding of the speaker element does influence sound.

Electronically: all kinds of variations, from simple RC (resistor + capacitor) filters to sound shaping algorithms running in a microcomputer. Active noise reduction includes a microcomputer with algorithms that could change the sound any way you want.

A side note: if you are interested, do a bit of search for hearing aids. The modern ones are ultra small and can be reprogrammed to cater to your individual needs.

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