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Headphone Redux - interesting article on the state of the high-end headphone market

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Interesting article posted on audiophilia today regarding the state of headphones.  The guy is making some interesting points, what do you all think?

 

http://www.audiophilia.com/wp/?p=5306

 

Headphone Redux

February 11, 2011 · 1 comment

in Headphones, Misc

 

by Anthony Kershaw

When did headphones become an important weapon of choice for audiophiles?

 

Let’s be clear of the Audiophilia (my) stance. Headphones are convenient, they are in the domain of thin-walled residents, and many significant others love them, but in no way do they represent what I think represents natural, musical sound.

 

I’ve heard the best. And, at length. Stax and Sennheiser Orpheus, chief among them. I own several sets of headphones. I’ve got some ear burrowing Etymotics inner earphones, the dreaded Apple buds for looking cool at the coffee shop and on the subway, and a set of Bose Quiet Comfort 15s for air travel and while my significant other is watching Criminal Minds and I want to listen to soccer podcasts.

 

Headphones are big business. So much so, that some audiophile writers are focusing many column inches on them. Sex sells, I guess. HeadFi is a huge forum with many advertisers and hundreds of thousands of posts. Good for them. A forum is a great way to discuss and suggest and learn.

But, the fact remains. All headphones give a constricted, two dimensional view of a musical event. If your brain can trick itself into a 3D repreentation of a great hall and orchestra, with life size images (not imaging), for example, good for you. Mine can’t. In my world, musicality is helped in no small way by reflections and other room interactions coming from (two, hopefully) point sources a distance away.

 

Like computers, corkscrews, and chainsaws, headphones are good tools. No more. As an audiophile, they are a last resort. With the advent of the MP3 and the iPod, headphones have taken on a power all their own. The lobby is powerful. Look, if money’s an option, get an iPod, a cheap DAC and some AudioEngine powered speakers. At least the brain has a fighting chance.

 

Audiophiles, we’ve had CDs, solid state, 5.1, audio files, iPods, etc thrust upon us as the next best thing. They’re not! And the same goes for headphones. Fight the good fight. If we don’t, nobody will.

post #2 of 10

Real audiophiles pay hundreds or thousands to get the best seat in the concert hall. They wouldn't use CDs and 5.1 audio files as tools to trick their finely-tuned brain into believing that that's music. 

post #3 of 10

So his article is about how headphones aren't like real life and that they're TOOLS? I think those are the only words of any relevance in his article.

 

Can you recommend speakers for the most intimate experience? How about in the smallest form? Or in the quietest form? Or even the most convenient? Headphones are better than speakers in so many ways that it just makes speakers seem loud and obnoxious.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Actually a well setup speaker setup in a regular sized room can sound quite amazing and a whole lot more convincing than a headphone setup.  You don't even have to spend crazy amounts of money for a good setup. 

 

For the price of an Ultrasone 10 headphone, you could built a awesome tube amp / speaker setup (such as a pair of Quad ESL-57 electrostatic speakers and Quad amp) that would sound leagues better.  Audiogon is your friend, there is so much awesome used gear out there and there's no reason to spend crazy money on the speaker hobby. I feel that magazines like Stereophile give people who listen to speakers a bad rep as being over the top expensive when it really doesn't have to be. 

 

Also, people have this misconception that people listening on speakers are loud and obnoxious, but when you have a good, detailed, and revealing speaker setup you really don't have to listen loud at all.  I bother my wife more with my HD800s than when I listen to my speakers ;)

post #5 of 10
He suggests a pair of Audioengines? even my cheapest headphones trump my Audioengine 5s.
post #6 of 10

If you're enjoying the sound why be concerned if it's through headphones or loudspeakers? Not sure what the issue is really. It's a one page article with divisive undertones. Only someone foolish would draw a line under a person's chosen method of audio playback. I fail to see how headphones are hampering the stereo loudpspeaker or "true audiophile" playback industry - both rely on the same method of mastering at the root level. I wonder if this is one of those controversial site traffic boosting attempts (prodding the members of a busy site always increases unique IP hits which are needed to bring in sponsors and banner deals).

post #7 of 10

person looks like someone who has spent only a limited amount of time with headphones.

 

1. even though speakers give better spatial imaging and bass impact, i generally prefer the intimacy and detail of headphones.

 

2. live music is great but the enjoyment of the performance varies based on skill of performer and seating of audience member. well-recorded music through a good headphopne setup will always yield satisfaction.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

My guess, just by the opening picture of the Edition 10, is that he's talking about the current trend of bringing headphones pricing higher and higher into speaker realm, even though a lot of headphone setups still miss the spatiality that speakers have when playing music.  He's probably also reffering to 6moons having a whole lot of space dedicated to headphones lately (curtesy of ALO audio).

 

The one aspect that I agree with the article is the fad that headphones have become in the past few years...and how all manufacturers are trying to capitalize how trendy they have become by issuing more and more expensive gear.  Head-fi, about 5 years ago was a very different environment with nowhere near as much corporate sponsorship...it was more about making a pair of $200-$300 headphones sound close to a $2000-3000 speaker setup through DIY amps and what not.  Now with headphones in the $1000-$2500+ range popping up left and right and being promoted very heavily, they aren't the great bargain they used to be.  And to me, the fact that a $250 HD650s are actually preferable to $1500 HD800s tells you that there isn't as much 'revolutionary' headphone engineering / design as many manufacturers are leading us to believe.

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by monsieurguzel View Post
 
$250 HD650s are actually preferable to $1500 HD800s tells you that there isn't as much 'revolutionary' headphone engineering / design as many manufacturers are leading us to believe.


I'm not sure you could say that because I've heard expensive speaker systems that sounded so terribly harsh that I had to close my ears.

 

As for the HD650 and HD800, I wasn't quite impressed with the HD650 at all, but was very impressed by the HD800. No comparison IMO. If anyone prefers the HD650, then it's only because of the sound signature. Though I'm not sure it's worth $1500. However, even the most expensive headphone gear is not much more expensive (even cheaper) than my best guitar gear.

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by raja View Post

 I wonder if this is one of those controversial site traffic boosting attempts (prodding the members of a busy site always increases unique IP hits which are needed to bring in sponsors and banner deals).


Sure seems like it.

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thats the beauty of properly setting up a good speaker setup.  Room acoustics and equipment synergy has a huge impact on the sound.  A badly setup system that is very expensive doesn't mean it will sound good.  Also, manufacturers as well as users tune their systems to their sonic preference. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by wind016 View Post

I'm not sure you could say that because I've heard expensive speaker systems that sounded so terribly harsh that I had to close my ears.

 

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