Originally Posted by Wmcmanus
What I think might change this perspective one day, and perhaps one day soon, is when headphone technology takes a big turn in a positive way into the future. The most amazing thing I've come across since listening to some binaural recordings several years ago was the demo at CanJam '08 of the Smyth Research "head tracking" device (whatever it's called). Essentially, this kind of technology has "breakthrough" potential which could have major implications for the high end headphone market. Suddenly there will be a REASON why typical speaker-based audiophiles would become interested in headphones. When they hear how realistically headphones (using this kind of technology) can reproduce the environment of a 5.1 or 7.1 listening room, of course they're going to want a top notch pair of headphones to go with the package.
I heard the same demo and it was amazing, but I (tentatively) draw the opposite conclusion. Once you get past the way-cool up-front experience of surround sound
that sounds (almost) just like your speaker setup, you realise that you're hearing sound
that sounds (almost) like your speaker setup. That mimicry capability could have a big impact on the market. Your relatively ordinary headphones can be made to sound like ... just about anything that produces music. (Yes, there will be lots of limits - you can only get so much bass out of a pair of headphones, no matter how much the speakers you are trying to replicate put out, they can't reproduce faster transients just because there's fancy processing going on) - but the world has changed. If the computer-in-the-box can make the music coming out of cheaper headphones sound just like the music coming out of just about any pair of more expensive speakers or headphones, you may not need the high-end headphones to get a high-end experience. There may even be research into headphones that are particularly good for use when combined with that type of processing, but may not sound particularly good on their own. Unless of course you're a purist who won't have any of that DSP stuff in your signal chain...
...but we'll have to wait and see. It's all speculation until we hear it with our own ears.