Originally Posted by bk4music
I've not posted on too many sites in the past because the opinions seem to flow like water, and folks seem pretty possessive about their opinions. It was pretty intimidating for an old school guy like me to read some occasionally harsh posts from folks who don't even let anyone know who they really are. The good news I've found in reading a few threads here is that there seem to be many very intelligent posters whose opinions are often well considered. That feels good, so I'm breaking silence. I have a few notions of my own to present here....let's see what happens.....
Perspective #1 -- the headphone is at the end of the signal path.
Thus, a "good" headphone's job is to reveal anything in front of it. Before one can judge accurately the quality and performance of any headphone, one must establish some reliable benchmarks with regard to what parts of the signal path preceding the headphones contribute to a given observable characteristic within the sonic result. In other words "what am I hearing?" and "what part of the signal chain is causing what I'm hearing?" become questions a discerning listener must ask and come to understand just to begin the walk towards audio heaven...Add to this the part about discerning what part of what one hears from one's headphones is the headphones themselves, and what part is being contributed by the many pieces in front of the headphones?
Perspective #2 - EVERYTHING makes a difference.
I've been at this high-end audio thing for 30 years, and I've learned that, without a doubt, and almost without exception, everything in the signal path impacts the sonic result in some way...good or bad....what's good and what's bad? That's a matter of perspective...For some, it's about ultimate amounts of information. For others it's about ultimate resolution with ultimate accuracy. For me it's about "more foot taps per minute." I'm an emotion-first guy -- that's my perspective. Don't get me wrong -- I know that without all of those "reality cues" embedded in the wealth of information to be unravelled by the components on hand, the emotion's not even possible. There has to be enough Musical Truth in the signal path to move my soul. That said, the intellectual exercise of audio analysis is fun, but nowhere near as fun for me as when the music makes me stop thinking and be with the music. Those moments where time seems to stop, the music actually seems to slow down, I get those warm chills and the hair on the back of my neck stands up are why I do this. If I can't get that feeling from what I'm listening to, I have two choices....stop listening or start tweaking......We can have the conversation about things like interconnect cables, power cords, resonance control, and the rest of audio neurotica...let's just say I've heard a lot of stuff that, from an engineering standpoint, should make small differences at best, and end up making large ones. My bottom line remains....it all makes a difference, and the goal is to make the whole experience more emotionally engaging.
Perspective #3 -- Live, unamplified, unadulterated music provided by real instruments played by real players, and songs sung by real singers in a real space is still my reference.
I've been critically listening to high-end audio for over 30 years, and to live music of many types for almost 50 years. I've heard much of what's been described as "the best there is" and nothing reproduced has yet to sound as real as REAL. I can't seem to remember what I had for dinner last night, but I can still remember hearing Carlos Montoya as a kid at Lafayette, LA's Municipal Auditorium. I can still remember jumping out of my seat when the cannons fired during the 1812 Overture played my the Minneapolis Symphony. My dad laughed his butt off. I remember seeing Chicago with Terry Kath in '74, The Stones in '81, The Who minus Keith Moon, and even some of the Grateful Dead show at Manor Downs, outside of Austin back in the day (don't ask why I can't remember more of that show :) ). What I remember, though, has nothing to do with the sonic character of the acoustic space, the PA system, or any of that sort of thing. What I remember is what I FELT in the moment. The joy, exhilaration, and thrill of the music moving my soul ...THAT is why I'm in this thing, and that's what I search for.
Oh, yeah....My opinion of the new "kings of the hill?" The only vote that really counts is your own, but I really love the sound I've heard from the LCD-2s as well as the HiFi Man phones. They're both outstanding. Both move me when I plug them into my rig. So are the latest Grados I've heard, the latest Sennheisers and, where emotion and value are concerned (we can't all have unlimited funds, right?), even those new $2 c-note Shures I got to listen to the other day. So what does THAT mean? That each of them is able to reproduce something in front of them that makes emotion happen in my heart when my brain processes the signal. I'd like to think that if they're all making music that what's in front of them is pretty darned good, too. That leads to
Perspective #4 -- The best that any component can do is to reproduce what it's given.
Give it the best you can afford...that doesn't always mean the most expensive...quite the contrary, from what I've found, in some cases. Good engineering makes good sense, and there are plenty of things that make no sense until you understand them a bit better. A guy in Dallas once told me "Brian, things sound like what they are." He was SO RIGHT. The key is to figure out why some things that SEEM to be the same, don't sound the same. The more I dig, the more I learn that there are some really subtle differences that sometimes make huge difference in what I hear. It's really interesting how sometimes The Secret Sauce has some ingredients that aren't readily discernable......That, too, is another conversation.
Take care, everyone, and thanks for giving me a place to play every so often....