Why does my music appear to very slightly rise in pitch when I switch from computer speakers to computer headphones (cheap foam, mic boom integrated)?


  1. Might this be due to a pressure change on my eardrum as another poster noticed when he yawns?

  2. Maybe my headphones actually change the frequency of the output? I can't picture how that would work...

  3. Maybe I'm perceiving the doppler shift as I move the speaker toward my ear, and I'm distracted from the reverse shift by the mechanics of putting the earphones in place?

  • 1
    Re: 1. I once had an ear infection that had me hearing left & right at about ¼ tone apart, for a week. I wouldn't have believed it possible if I hadn't experienced it.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 18:04
  • It's a known thing, apparently: healthyhearing.com/report/51055-Understanding-diplacusis Very weird! Probably unrelated to this question, though. Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


Most likely you are either imagining the pitch change or you are unusually sensitive to pitch, which is a subjective interpretation that is also dependent on volume. So you might try turning down the volume when you switch to headphones.

You might also or instead hearing a change in frequency balance and interpreting it as a slight pitch change. All speaker and headphone systems have different frequencies they emphasize, so you will hear a difference any time you change your playback system.


Well, I used to mix with closed-cup headphones, and I did notice after extended wearing that all the pitches seem to have gone sharp, compared to when I checked the mix without them afterwards.

Makes sense since warmer air is less dense, I guess.

I switched to open-cup headphones last year, and the side-effect has lessened a lot. I can keep them on for over 30 min. at a time w/o pitch-shifts. I was surprised how quickly the air inside headphones heat up once you put 'em on, but what do I know!

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