Headphones can do many things better than loudspeakers, but they have an innate weakness in one discipline: If they are to reproduce the room in which a sound event is taking place, they will be embarrassed.
In the best case, they paint a wide stage, maybe even convey an impression of spatial depth - but nothing more.
Your problem is: They cover the outer ear, the very part of our hearing which, with its specific geometry and corresponding reflection patterns, creates the conditions for all directional perception. Headphone designers have come up with countless recipes to get around this problem. In some listener models, for example, specially arranged transducers direct the sound specifically towards the auricles in order to include them in the sound formation. Other solutions start with music production. In the 1970s, canned artificial heads were in vogue, i.e. recordings with two microphones stuck in the ear canals of a cardboard comrade with a human face and neat auricles. Their digital heirs are now part of the tools of all major streaming providers.Not only with Apple Music, more and more canned music are electronically pre-stamped in such a way that they convey a three-dimensional feeling of space when enjoyed over headphones.
Well and beautiful, thinks Yamaha, but would prefer to leave this task to the digital inner workings of its active headphones YH-L700A, so that normal two-channel music can also unfold into the depths of the room. The manufacturer has been researching for a long time how to represent acoustic environments virtually; the surround sound programs in the brand's home theater receivers testify to this.
Does the digital bag of tricks also work in the headphones? We put on the weighty, somewhat angular-looking model, costing 550 euros, to listen to. The YH-L700A prefers to get music wirelessly via Bluetooth and supports sound-saving encodings such as Aptx. The radio bridge also establishes the connection to the headphone app, which manages all effects. A jack cable supplied also works. Then the app pauses and a 3D button on the right earpiece steps through the range of acoustic models. The receiver electronics can do even more: Adaptive noise suppression dampens noise and, if desired, lets part of the ambient noise through, monitors the maximum volume and, if necessary, carefully reduces it to a beneficial level.
If all effects have a break, the Yamaha proves to be rock-solid, bass-friendly headphones. The fun really starts when the digital programs create an open-air, concert hall, studio or cinema atmosphere. Then it amazes with 3D perspectives that are even more impressive when the head tracking function is switched on. It causes the sound to stop when you move your head. We already know this from some gaming headphones, the Yamaha really masters this technology convincingly. We also liked how digital electronics help older, sometimes overly sterile recorded repertoire treasures, such as the early albums of the jazz rock formation Chicago, to a fresh life. Is that still HiFi? More than that.Keywords: