Listening to Metal through Headphones vs Speakers

Heavy Metal: Headphones or Speakers?
Heavy Metal music is technically an offshoot of traditional rock music, developing in the 1960’s. Heavy Metal is often just shortened to Metal, although there are plenty of offshoots, including Death Metal, Black Metal, Nu Metal, and Glam Metal. However, these sub genres are all rooted in basic Heavy Metal.

Metal music is known for being loud, aggressive, and powerful. It often boasts highly amplified distortion, intense vocals, and dense drums and bass lines. The typical Metal lineup is a drummer, bassist, rhythm guitarist, leader guitarist, and the vocalist. The vocalist may or may not be one of the instrumentalists. In some situations, a keyboard is introduced to create a fuller sound.

Metal has a deep culture around it rooted in machismo, aggression, and pure loud noise. Jeffrey Arnett described it as “The sensory equivalence of war.” For fans of Heavy Metal, the listening experience is revered and treasured. This discussion is well documented at metalmadnessblog. This blog is a leading resource on Metal music and culture and may help when deciding how to listen.

When listening to Heavy Metal music, often the first priority is to create the most ‘Metal’ environment. Headphones can offer a personal and immersive experience, but speakers can better imitate a concert environment.
Headphones keep being developed to have the clearest sound and most accurate listening experience. For example, many headphones offer a stereo experience now. They are developed to cancel out as much environmental noise as possible, leaving the user alone with the music.
However, the environmental noise will almost always leak into the headphones anyways. This is more prevalent with earbuds but is still a concern with traditional headphones. It is possible to increase the volume of the music to mask environmental noise.

The loudness that is required for this will often begin to distort the music and cause it to sound completely different than it is supposed to. This level of sound will also damage hearing if used consistently. Many times people try to increase the sound in their headphones to try and imitate the concert experience, but headphones will seldom live up to expectations.

Speakers, however, prevail in all ways that headphones fail. One speaker will often increase the quality of sound and allow the music to reach most of its potential. Two speakers will create the ultimate stereo experience.
Speakers can reach high levels of volume without losing the sound quality. Speakers will pick up on the intricacies of the low-end bass sound, the density of the drums, and the complicated electric guitar riffs. The only distortion in the music is the intended distortion the musician amplified.
Speakers also harness more power than headphones do. So much of the metal experience is wrapped in power and being loud and aggressive. This is difficult to fully experience when the sound is going directly into the ear canal. Speakers bounce the sound around the room, creating a fuller sound and more immersive experience.

A large, high-quality speaker will always trump headphones for bass punch or general impact. This is often a critical factor in Metal music, as the bass uses a low-end sound to create the traditional “Heavy” sound that makes Metal music unique.
Overall, speakers will provide the most traditional Metal musical experience. However, the speakers needed for this are much more expensive than headphones. Headphones are often considered good enough for most listeners. The portability also adds to their appeal.
In the end, the decision is personal preference and interest in the exact intricacies of the music. There is no wrong answer.

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