Also to reiterate on the whole "end-game concept/talk," my definition of end game is a headphone that I would be satisfied with and could enjoy with no problems for the rest of my life if a zombie apocalypse was to come and kill off everyone, and your headphone was the only one left. Kinda like how Tyll refers to his as a "desert island" headphone.
Every headphone has some flaws or there is an attribute that someone might not like personally. I have come across some people that don't upgrade to Stax because they aren't a big fan of it. So having said that, I try to find a headphone that doesn't piss me off. I'm sure every component of a sound can be improved. However my point is the difference between "I like it, it could be better, but okay" vs. "This is just annoying every time, really want this to change, deal breaker for the overall experience"
My rule has been to stick with a headphone until something about it starts annoying you. I don't go looking for upgrades usually until there is at least one aspect that is beyond tolerable. For example:
- Bose Triport (bright + barely any bass)
- Shure SRH 240 (boring as hell, also slow)
- KRK KNS 8400 (bass light)
- Denon AH-D2000 (mids were like plastic + not punchy enough for fast tracks)
- Hifiman HE-500 (centerstage meh, lack of depth and height)
- LCD-2 - ????
With all of these headphones, I enjoyed them for sometime, however after a few months over many sessions, the average sound properties become clear and you can find any consistent problems or aspects that you don't like. I found them for all of them except the LCD-2 so far. Although to be fair, I had the LCD-2 only for 5 months, whereas I had the HE-500 for a year. The soundstage got annoying near the end with HE-500 and I really needed that. It was starting to annoy me a bit, after switching over from LCD-2. On the other hand a lot of people don't like the LCD-2's treble. I can attest to the fact, that HE-500 has higher treble extension and better imaging, while the LCD-2 is rolled off. I kinds wanted the LCD-2 to have more treble at times, but it was by no means a deal breaker for me like how the no depth of HE-500 became. (On the flip side, I started to like LCD-2's rolled off approach).
I remember when I went from HE-500 to LCD-2 it felt a bit boring. After getting accustomed to LCD-2, I thought that the HE-500 was unnecessarily bright at times. Of course this is because I got used to a certain sound signature. Also the mids on LCD-2 will expose the HE-500's mids a bit. Especially the upper mids area going into the lower treble regions - much better done on the LCD-2. This is where a lot of headphones fall IMO. That is a very critical transition.
With LCD-2, I wanted some things differently, but at no point after getting used to it did something annoy me consistently. Who knows, maybe after more time. So I did end up breaking my own rule this one time, as I jumped to the LCD-3 without really finding anything unbearable on the LCD-2. However, in my defense I got a good deal Also on the flip side, I don't have to worry about Stax or HD 800 for a long time, simply due to the LCD-3's price. Next step after this is to save up for a DAC (NAD M51 leading the way so far). Emotiva will have to do for an amp right now. I was getting excellent bass even at low volumes with both planars - a sign that your speakers/headphones are well powered.
As far as LCD-3's go. I'm looking for two things:
1) The ear pads - I want them to be at least as comfortable as the LCD-2 earpads, if not more. Surprisingly with the softer ear pads of LCD-3, I've read some people complain about the vacuum created due to the softness and that it hurts I'll have to see for myself.
2) The sound - I just want to like it for now. Not looking at value/performance/cost blah blah. I just want to like it for the time being. Also with improved DAC over time will make a difference as the LCD-3 have some scalability, so going for a future proof headphone. Let's see how many months it takes to get the sound down for this.