Carl, after all that's been written since the original post, I went back and reread your original post again: it's actually quite reasonable! I don't really disagree with any of it. You say that onboard sound cards and ipods have gotten quite good - correct. You say that there's very little difference between these and some of the most inexpensive DAC/amps, and speculate that there's probably an incredibly small difference between components that would cost much, much more - correct again. You say that the law of diminishing returns applies in hi-fi more than in many other things - correct again. You declare yourself uninterested in hi-fi anymore because of these things, and will now settle for mid-fi - I feel the same way! I didn't have enough money to get incredible headphones and an incredible amp, and I felt that I was wasting money buying an incredible amp and an incredible DAC to try and improve mediocre headphones. You correctly state that the headphones are the single most important thing, which is why I sold my expensive DAC/amps and used the money to buy the JH13s (used, at a VERY good price.)
So basically, I think everything you've said is eminently reasonable. The only thing that bugs me, and seems to bug a lot of other people as well, is that you additionally seem to be saying that hi-fi itself, in general, is just idiotic, that everyone who thinks they hear minor differences is just fooling themselves into wasting their money, and so forth. And your basis for this seems to be that everyone doesn't immediately adopt double blind testing in all their reviews.
But I just don't see the basis for these larger claims. On the contrary, I've found most of the posts on all kinds of equipment by serious reviewers are actually incredibly accurate and reasonable. They'll tell you that as you spend more and more, you get less and less. They'll tell you that two amps are virtually indistinguishable, even though one costs much more than the other. They'll tell you that a cheap amp and dac can sound as good or better than an amp twice or three times as much. They'll tell you how to build a fantastic sounding hi-fi setup for less than $150. All this is quite reasonable. I don't see anyone, except for the random crank, who goes around claiming that if you don't spend thousands of dollars on audio equipment your sound will suck. I just don't see that being the consensus view on any of the forums.
And the thing with DBT is not only how it's done, but what it actually proves. I'm sure we could find plenty of people who couldn't distinguish the JH13 from the apple IEM. Or the 580 from a decent set of $80 headphones. But what does that prove? Simply that that person's hearing is not that well trained (or may be physically deficient.)
If I were to do a DBT (which I will, for fun, once I get my JH13s back next week), I'm not going to listen to a source, and then listen to another source after a bit, and so forth. That's not a good way to distinguish critical details, because my (untrained) ear cannot remember sound that accurately. I'm sure they'd all just sound 'good.' Instead, I'd have someone rapidly switch between A (
macbookpro headphone out) and B (macbookpro to sparrow) over and over again, on the same piece of music, with the levels matched, and write down all the differences in sound I can find and which I find more preferable and why. Then I'll put the winner up against the D4.
If the onboard sound sounds better, GREAT, I'll sell the amps and have a cleaner desk. But if there's a small but noticable superiority to one of the new DAC/Amps, then I'm perfectly happy spending $180 to bring out the potential of the JH13s.