Macrodynamics is one of those things that I feel like I’ve been able to hear but not properly explain. I perceive good macrodynamics as a high dynamic range between soft sounds and loud sounds. One of my favorite tracks on which to hear macrodynamics is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tin Pan Alley” on Couldn’t Stand the Weather. It’s got this relaxed bass line and quiet drumming laying down the rhythm, with Stevie singing in what sounds almost like a loud whisper and mostly just kind of improvising softly on the guitar, and is then punctuated with these sudden loud guitar licks that really stand out from the rest of the playing. That difference between the soft bass and those loud guitar licks is what I think of as macrodynamics.
I’ve been playing with EQ a lot lately, and just by chance noticed that when I’m messing with the area around 3-5 KHz, it makes a big difference to the perceived macrodynamics in this song. Armed with that little bit of knowledge, some Google searching led me to learn that a lot of the attack of electric guitar tends to live in that area.
When I compared the HD58X to the Elex, I noted that the HD58X sounded like it has the stronger macrodynamics, largely on the strength of its performance with this song. Looking at Head-fi’s measurements of the HD58X and Elex, we see that the HD58X has a more pronounced peak at around 5 KHz, so that might be what accounts for the difference.
The LCD2C is another headphone that, unequalized, can tend to sound a little flat. Perhaps not surprisingly, its 2-5 KHz region is quite recessed.
So, what does this all mean? I can’t make broad claims about macrodynamics generally, but I can say that in this particular case the reason that I perceived differences seems to have been frequency response. When listening to music, large dynamic shifts will sometimes be associated with different instruments (e.g. a violin concerto in which a full orchestra might join in a crescendo following a prolonged violin solo) or different techniques (e.g. switching from bowing to plucking a string on a double bass). These different sounds will interact with headphones’ frequency response in different ways, such that perceived macrodynamics can vary depending on the source material.