can i use my headphones to judge IC neutrality?

i am comparing a couple cables as they burn in- LAT IC D100 II and signal cable analog 2( i know, big price difference)- so far they give a fairly different presentation
- since i don't have a reference cable to gauge where neutral is, i was wondering if the signal direct to my Grado SR80's from the cdp would be a good basis for comparison- or are there too many other factors involved?
I hear enormous differences when changing interconnects between my cd player and the energizer box of my Koss ESP-950 electrostatic headphones. While the changes heard may not be the same on my living room rig, I think the very revealing headphone system lets you hear the true nature of a particular cable. The difference between the Monster M1000 and the DHLabs BL-1 Series II was incredible. Every change I've made into my headphone system has been audible - including power line conditioners.
I did this very type of test when I was trying to decide on some Taralabs RCS Air 3's. The cable ran from my Meridian 508-24 to the Sonic Frontiers Line 2, which then fed my headphones: Grado RS-1. I was quickly able to differentiate between cabling. The previous writers have made some excellent points: 1) that the results via headphones may not exactly match a full system response 2) that this type of test is of dubious value if the headphones are run out of the CD player directly. Having said that, I felt that this stripped down sonic system got to the heart of the detail of the cable a bit more directly than a full system test, which has more layers of gear. I'll say again that I was comparing cables, not trying to ascertain some mythical benchmark of "neutrality". I also discovered that this combination sounded so good as to make me weep. I'd have to spend a lot of money on better power amps and speakers to match certain qualities that the RS-1 can deliver with a good front end.
that is correct- as an update, i spoke to Stan Warren who lives here in town, and i'm going to audition his homemade cables- now this is going to get interesting- he charges $50 as well but he cryos his cables- anyone had experience with this?
Viggen, what I interpreted the poster to be saying was that they wanted some sort of benchmark to judge "neutrality" by. I assumed the way such a test would work (although it wouldn't actually succeed), would be to listen to the disk through the phones attached to the CDP, then compare that to the sound of the same disk played back through the system first with one IC, then with the other. The objective would be to determine which IC, in the system, sounded most like the supposed "neutral" benchmark set by the headphone reproduction. So the IC's would not be listened to at all through the headphones.
i agree Zaikesman- and from my chair and in my system, the sub-$50 signal cable is doing about all of what you say a bit better than the $170 LAT's- interesting- the lay's sounded impressive and dynamic at first, with a plump fullness to the sound, which, after extended listening seems to be a distortion rather than the truth (again, in my system which has a CJ cav 50)- the signal cable just seems to exceed the LAT's in transparency and imaging- it's truly more holographic than i've ever heard in my system- both the treble and bass seem more extended as well- pretty impressive for 50 bucks- thanks
I don't get it. You want to test two interconnects, and you do this by listening to your headphones that is connected to the cd player? Unless the inteconnects connect the grados to the cd player, I don't see how this can be done.

At least, you need a preamp/receiver with headphone out.
No, there are too many factors involved, as you put it. You don't actually say where these interconnects are destined to be placed in the system, but I guess I can assume it's in between the CDP and the preamp/integrated/receiver/processor/whatever. Regardless, you're going to ultimately be listening to these wires through your amplifying electronics and speakers. Try the headphone comparision you propose, and I think you will quickly come to understand that there is almost nothing in common between the way your 'phones sound plugged into your player, and the way the same disk sounds played through your system.

In fact, judging what is "neutral" is a loaded question from the start. Since your source material, player, electronics, speaker, room, and even your ears (not to mention your headphones) are all *not* neutral, there is no "neutral" baseline from which to judge the interconnects.

Instead, what you need to do is audition the interconnects in exactly the placement and manner in which they will be used, and form your opinions based on what you hear and prefer. Since you say they give a distinctly different presentation, this should not be too hard. Just try to use a variety of the best recorded, most natural source material you have, and audition using both A/B comparisions and extended listening sessions.

Listen for which one sounds most lifelike in your system. Some individual factors you can try to focus on include extension of both bass (weight and power) and treble (airiness and openess), eveness of response (nothing sucked out or sticking out, or top-to-bottom coherence), bass definition and detail, treble smoothness (freedom from imposed textures like grain or glare), image focus and separation, image roundess or 3-dimensionality, soundstage width and depth, articulation of transients and decays, resolution of fine details, dynamic freedom on peaks, ability to transmit very low-level info without veiling, and a general lack of 'electronic' sounding artifacts on well-recorded acoustic instruments and voices.

The most noticable properties will be overall tonal balance trends and extension, but listening for the spatial, transient, and dynamic qualities, as well as textural purity, will tell you a lot about ultimate fidelity to the source, because these factors will let you know which cable is less guilty of smearing, constricting, blunting, contaminating, or otherwise distorting the signal. As I said, the overall perception of "neutrality" will have a lot to do with the balance of your system as a whole made of imperfect constituent parts, so while you want synergy, don't get too hung up on achieving complementary compatability at the expense of other factors that can have as great an impact on ultimate transparency. I would personally rather have an IC that reveals imperfections in my source material and gear than one which glosses them over.