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How High is the Fi? Limits of Good Headphones - Page 4

post #46 of 153
There should be no reason to spend thousands for some good dynamic headphones. This is not magic, basically this is "just" two tiny voice coils and membranes. You can have very good speakers for a few thousands that will blow any headphone and which cost more to design and build. Electrostat it's another story, a little more complicated.
What's amazing, and many guys around know that now, it's the way an headphone like HD650 can scale with top-notch equipment. I have to say without arrogance or the need for ego boost that i'm the one who probably pushed this phone to the max with my custom Cardas Golden Ref headphone cable associated with some crazy 300B tube amp. My now "vintage" Studer D731 cdp with philips all aluminium pro CDM4 drive and Bitstream TDA 1547 is no slouch either, but i'll probably add a Weiss DAC1 to my arsenal in the near future and see how the HD650 scale again. It would be hard to get higher than that.

Like i said in the past on this site, before complaining there's no more thousands dollars headphones, start building a no compromise headphone setup with a no compromise source, then amp...etc. And for Chrissake it's not the price tag which dictate the sonic value of audio gear. The very high priced audio market is so full of crap i almost gave up going to audio fair. These guys must listening with their eyes!



Quote:
Originally Posted by PiccoloNamek View Post
Perhaps if the distortion is drastic it will be noticeable, but you cannot honestly say that you could reliably tell the difference between a can that has 0.05% THD, and another can that has very slightly less than that.
I think below 0.01% THD it would be very difficult to hear a difference, but between 0.1% HD600 and 0.05% HD650 yes. It tooks me 30mn to notice the much more natural sounding voices with HD650 because of lowered harmonic distortions.
post #47 of 153
Look at headphone technology compared to computer or even automotive technology since the 70's.

Dynamic headphones still look and work with same way, electrostatics are not much different.

Headphones still do not have the soundstage of speakers.
post #48 of 153
erm, the computer and the automobile still work the same way as they did in the 70s.
post #49 of 153
Haven't finished the whole thread, just wanted to say this is the most mature, intelligent discussion I've ever seen on the net.
post #50 of 153
I would like to offer a different definition of "high-end" headphones. Namely, I would define "high-end" offerings from a headphone company as products that represent what the designers thought to be ideal reproduction, given that they are provided with everything they needed to make what they think is the best thing they can make.

I'd like to think of designers of headphones, or any other transducer, as artists at bottom. Sure, 99% of the time they are constrained by business concerns, and try to balance their artistic visions with their companies' profit margins. But once in a while, when the bosses give them the go-ahead, they are allowed to make a statement product, an artistic statement of what they think perfect sonic reproduction should sound like.

Ironically these statement products are more likely to be polarizing to more people simply because they represent an uncompromised (or at least dramatically less compromised) vision of what the designers want, which is bound to rub some people the wrong way, which is why you get criticisms of even the very high-end headphones like the O2, K1000, Qualia, R10s, PS-1s, L3000s, etc.

But then again, some people (myself included), really like these statement products precisely because they are uncompromising in their statement, reflecting exactly what their designers wanted people to hear. Like any other artistic product, high-end headphones is about sharing a certain vision with other people. I may not agree with that vision, but I certainly admire the rationale behind them.

This doesn't mean that the middle-sector of the headphone market doesn't reflect what the designers wanted, but they are inevitably under more constraints of business. I can honestly say that the HD650s are fine for all-around use: they don't sound offensive, they are comfortable, they sound fine out of mid-level amps and sources. In this sense, they are better all-arounders than the top line stuff.

But there is something appealing to me about a designer telling me: this is the way I think how music should sound if I had all the resources in the world, and if you don't show my product the proper respect by pairing it with ****** sources and poor amplification, then you can get the **** out now Why? Because I think that shows a kind of artistic integrity, a firm commitment to one's own ideals.
post #51 of 153
This is an interesting discussion, but if you go to the real hi-fi sites, what it looks like to me is that people are letting their systems choose their music, because a large quantity of recorded stuff isn't that great, and that seems to be the limiting factor, really. Does anyone besides hyper-audio geeks know who Diana Krall is? I don't. I'd rather listen to what I want to hear on my iPod than stuff I don't care about on a $100,000 (to pick a number) system.
post #52 of 153
greggf, Thanks. I've been thinking about this since first reading head-fi and totally agree.

Mooch
post #53 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mastergill View Post
What's amazing, and many guys around know that now, it's the way an headphone like HD650 can scale with top-notch equipment. I have to say without arrogance or the need for ego boost that i'm the one who probably pushed this phone to the max with my custom Cardas Golden Ref headphone cable associated with some crazy 300B tube amp. My now "vintage" Studer D731 cdp with philips all aluminium pro CDM4 drive and Bitstream TDA 1547 is no slouch either, but i'll probably add a Weiss DAC1 to my arsenal in the near future and see how the HD650 scale again. It would be hard to get higher than that.

Like i said in the past on this site, before complaining there's no more thousands dollars headphones, start building a no compromise headphone setup with a no compromise source, then amp...etc. And for Chrissake it's not the price tag which dictate the sonic value of audio gear. The very high priced audio market is so full of crap i almost gave up going to audio fair. These guys must listening with their eyes!
I think that's the whole point of this thread: how hi-fi can you take a headphone, especially one that may be more well known as mid-fi. And I agree that it's not just the dollar that dictates the sonic value of gear, but there is a correlation, even if some of that gear becomes no longer worth the price to some indiviudals. I'm not talking about $200,000 speaker systems (never heard one so I don't know), but what I know about hi-end headphones and systems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by humanflyz View Post
I would like to offer a different definition of "high-end" headphones. Namely, I would define "high-end" offerings from a headphone company as products that represent what the designers thought to be ideal reproduction, given that they are provided with everything they needed to make what they think is the best thing they can make.


Ironically these statement products are more likely to be polarizing to more people simply because they represent an uncompromised (or at least dramatically less compromised) vision of what the designers want, which is bound to rub some people the wrong way, which is why you get criticisms of even the very high-end headphones like the O2, K1000, Qualia, R10s, PS-1s, L3000s, etc.

But then again, some people (myself included), really like these statement products precisely because they are uncompromising in their statement, reflecting exactly what their designers wanted people to hear. Like any other artistic product, high-end headphones is about sharing a certain vision with other people. I may not agree with that vision, but I certainly admire the rationale behind them.
I like that definition, and I think most of us here are trying to get that ideal reproduction, which is why we're drawn to the hobby in the first place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
This is an interesting discussion, but if you go to the real hi-fi sites, what it looks like to me is that people are letting their systems choose their music, because a large quantity of recorded stuff isn't that great, and that seems to be the limiting factor, really. Does anyone besides hyper-audio geeks know who Diana Krall is? I don't. I'd rather listen to what I want to hear on my iPod than stuff I don't care about on a $100,000 (to pick a number) system.
Many people know who Diana Krall is who are not into audio gear. I think it depends on what type of music you listen to, and maybe how old you are. Where I work pipes in a jazz station all day. Diana Krall is on every couple hours.

I don't think listening to well recorded music on a good speaker or headphone system and listening with an ipod needs to be exclusive to an individual. I have and like all three. What worries me a little about your statement is not its simple matter of factness about preference, but more the attitude underneath: poorly recorded music, or music that can only be downloaded at a certain rate, needs to be accepted, and we should just dumb down our systems to make the bad seem good. If the purpose of audio gear is to get to the best possible reproduction of music (e.g., close to live as possible), why shouldn't we want the actual music to be given to us (mastered, etc.) with care? If more people insisted that music sounded better, record companies and the itunes people or whoever might start paying attention. Yours is the opposite attitude of someone who loves music and wants to hear the music we love sound as good as possible. I'm not saying that you don't love the music you do, but if everyone who loved a certain artist whose new cd was mastered like garbage bombarded the record company with complaints, something might happen. Please let's not get all "but most people don't know crap from good and it will never happen," I know, but I'm talking hypothetically here, and if more people were exposed to good as opposed to crap, then they, too, might not want to accept poor quality again.

To segue this back to the OP's post, if mdarnton's attitude become the norm, not just in the general population, but in people who frequent audio forums (and I'm seeing a lot more of it around here), we needn't worry about any good headphone gear. We wouldn't want to listen to it because it would make everything sound worse not better.
post #54 of 153
Interesting topic, all the more interesting now that I have my new GS1000 to compare with my old HD600.

Through the upgrades in my system these past few months, my HD600 have scaled an incredible ammount. It felt like there was no roof in the headphones after a while. They just kept sounding better and better as I upgraded. And now, with my GS1000 on my head I can only agree with Tyll's statement. Why aren't there more high-end headphones?

While my HD600 sounds amazing on my rig, the GS1000 sound is in a league of it's own. I think it's a worthwhile investment to buy more expensive headphones if you have gear to back it up. If you don't, stay with your current headphones.

I realized as I upgraded that people seem to overestimate the value of headphones somewhat. Don't get me wrong. They are the thing that introduces the sound to your head. I mean it in the sense that they think their HD6X0, Beyers or AKG's aren't good enough, so they would rather spend another few hundred (or thousand) bucks on new headphones than on source and amplification material and see their current headphones scale to new levels.

My two cents for now. Got to read up on the topic more. :P
post #55 of 153
I'm a firm believer in the notion that all of your gear..source, amp, phones...should be on the same level. If you have an L3000, then you should have a similar level amp and source driving those headphones. If you have an HD650 headphone....you get the point. There is probably some formula floating around out there for pricing of these levels, but it was probably derived by vendors of hi-fi audio equipment similar to the 2 month salary rule on a diamond ring which was created by the diamond sellers. Of course, there are some headphones that can scale with higher end sources and amps, but even those headphones have a limit.

As for better or not. To me...the term "better" when used to describe headphones is a package deal. Detail is just one of the qualities of a headphone that I use to determine if one is better than another. In many cases, I consider headphone A to be better than headphone B even when the detail of Headphone A is not as good as Headphone B because the other qualities of Headphone A are superior.

And finally, do I personally think buying a $3000 pair of headphones is ridiculous? Absolutely...but that is because I have other priorities than my listening rig. It's not that I can't afford it, I just can't justify to myself spending that kind of money. Do I think other people are ridiculous for spending that much on headphones? Absolutely not...it's their money. Will I argue that my phones are the same as theirs? Only if I have heard both of them and to my ears they do sound the same. Of course, I would find it quite shocking if an R10 didn't sound better than an HD650...
post #56 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecclesand View Post
Of course, I would find it quite shocking if an R10 didn't sound better than an HD650...
The R10 does many things better than the HD650 but it also loses in some areas; for example, mid-bass quantity, impact and body.

Whether one sounds better than the other can depend on the listener, the type of music, associated gear, source quality, etc. I prefer the R10 over the HD650 and think it is the superior headphone. But I still own and listen to the HD650, as well as other headphones.

-

greggf's comments seem to me the viewpoint of one who's a music lover but not necessarily an audiophile.

I'm not satisfied with the K701 or HD650 and endeavor to find ways to improve their sound. I'm also willing to buy and experiment with higher cost gear such as the R10, L3000 or Omega II.
post #57 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by greggf View Post
I sometimes wonder if we confuse "better" with "more detail."
Better for me is overall superiority in both sound quality, detail and musicality.

Quote:
Perhaps the 701, 880, and 650 are the absolute "best" headphones, because they often show less detail, and as much or more flow or organicity or "music" as the (rare) higher-end phones.
Perhaps they aren't? I've owned HD600 for a good seven years or so and heard them on a great variety of rigs. They are great headphones, no doubt. But I wouldn't compare them with my new GS1000 for example.

The tonality is just totally different. But even so, the sound quality, detail and musicality is superior to that of the HD600.

Quote:
Perhaps this is why manufacturers are loathe to produce more expensive headphones. They know that they tend to be less "musical."
Sony, Grado, Sennheiser, Stax and so on, all create high-end headphones that are aimed at thoes with "bigger" wallets. Listening to my Grados, this is the most musical headphones has ever been. These are some of the biggest headphone manufacturers in the world and they all have reasonably high-end headphones.

Quote:
Does the K1000 really "sound better" when it comes to music? Or does it sound more obsessive, more compulsive, more anal, when it comes to detail?
I personally haven't heard them, but yes, I would think so. I'm sure they sound amazing without taking away that special feeling from the music.

Quote:
I go through this when it comes to the "higher-end" tomatoes that I grow. The more esoteric, heirloom, harder-to-obtain tomato varieties do NOT taste better. They taste stranger, they have exaggerated flavors, they have unique colors or shapes, they have too MUCH flavor, etc. (And are harder to grow, less productive, less reliable, etc.).

I have a feeling that in all hobbies, some people go overboard. They mistake this excess, these exaggerated qualities, the anal details, for better quality, when all it really is, at best, is small differences at great cost that often have you going backwards.
Indeed, they taste different, but their unique qualities add to their character (in this case musicality). That's my opinion anyway.

I agree though. People go overboard in many cases, but honestly, it's all up to them to decide whether it's worth it or not. I'm no one to judge them on what's worth what. I would be considered mad by many people for spending $5000+ on my new rig this summer while some would applaud me and think I made a great purchase.

Small differences...? I don't know. The differences was huge going from HD600 to GS1000. Of course, it's two completely different manufacturers, but the principles that the headphones work under are identical. Backwards? I just leaped to the moon.

Quote:
Excess is not better, whether the excess is in money spent, time spent, space taken up, time waiting for equipment to be built by a (weird) specialist manufacturer, weird (1950's hot-rod-like) customization schemes (Darth-this, Darth-that, "tube swapping", modding), exclusivity, etc.
True. I believe that doing stuff mildly is best. I went pretty much all out this time though, but then again I love my hobby and I love my music. Couldn't agree with you more about the Darth-Beyers/Sens/whatever though. Not only do they look awfully vulgar (to me) but the money spent for the facial lift (feels like "Pimp my Ride" for headphones). But that's just me. If people want mods like that, feel free.

Quote:
Look at a picture of someone wearing a pair of K1000 (or Jecklin Floats, etc.): Is this someone that someone else wants to marry or spend time with? Is this someone you'd trust, any more than you'd trust a guy with a jacked-up monster-tired pickup truck?
I try not to judge people by appearance. I'm sure both can be equal douchebags but both could also be equally great guys.

Quote:
Look at the more exotic tube amps: isn't this a tasteless motorcycle or gun collection, a jacked-up SUV, a sign of an unstable personality?
All is in the eye of the beholder honestly.

Quote:
Isn't any $2000 headphone the same thing? Plus, most importantly, no better sounding, overall, than the HD595 or K601?
But they are better sounding. To my ears anyway.

Quote:
Anything beyond the HD600/K601/DT990 is --- just not necessary, if you listen to music rather than notes!
No. The details are different for sure. My GS1000 have far more detail than my HD600. But the character is totally different. The sound is so much more full bodied and fulfilling with the GS1000 compared to the HD600. And most of all, for me, they are more musical. Music has never been this "live" or this "real". HD600 is a great headphone, but they sound almost dead and quite sterile in comparison.
post #58 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
...
I am of a firm belief that we always choose between the best we can afford,
I personally like to not choose.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
and if someone can afford for example an R10 or Edition 9, they won't be looking at hd600 or dt880).
Owning and knowing top tier headphone has not stopped me yet from being interested in other ("lesser"?) models and in tinkering with mods and finding combinations with amps that make them sound (much) better. Just for the fun of it.
post #59 of 153
It boils down to value, $$$ budget, hearing perception, and musical enjoyment. We all have differing levels of each, so it only makes sense.

The headphone is the key component in determining how a system will sound. IMHO, once you find a headphone that you enjoy, the search is over... its now time to level up your source and amp to get the most out of that headphone. How high up the ladder you climb depends on your value scale, hearing perception and subjective enjoyment.

Classic examples:
KSC35 amped with anything
K701 amped with a GS-1 or MPX3
HD580 amped with a headroom desktop

Grados are kind of an exception because they really don't need tons of current/voltage to get the most out of them. They are not cheap too, so that further balances the scale. I for one would be perfectly content with an RS1 and an EC/SS or AE-2... paired with an open-moderately detailed sounding source.
post #60 of 153
Given the wide variance of transducer qualities it is going to be
much more subjective as to what is "high-end" unless you
look at other attributes such as finish and price.
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