The paper describes some double-blind headphone listening tests conducted in four different countries (Canada, USA, China and Germany) involving 238 listeners of different ages, gender and listening experiences. Listeners gave comparative preference ratings for three popular headphones and a new reference headphone that were virtually presented through a common replicator headphone equalized to match their measured frequency responses. In this way, biases related to headphone brand, price, visual appearance and comfort were removed from listeners’ judgment of sound quality. On average, listeners preferred the reference headphone that was based on the in-room frequency response of an accurate loudspeaker calibrated in a reference listening room. This was generally true regardless of the listener’s experience, age, gender and culture. This new evidence suggests a headphone standard based on this new target response would satisfy the tastes of most listeners.
The paper should be available for download from the AES e-library in a few weeks. In the meantime, you can find a PDF of our presentation here or view the presentation on YouTube.