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Cost VS. SQ Improvement

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

I have a pair of Grado SR-60i.  Since I've never put on a pair of headphones that costs more, I find them very nice sounding.  They are kind of 'get my foot in the door' headphones into the higher fidelity sounding headphones.

 

My question is, how much more do I have to spend on another pair that I will hear significant improvement in sound quality?  I mean it's pretty clear that there are $500 headphones and higher that people can buy but at what point is the bottleneck on the MP3 player and not the headphones?

 

For example, if I get a pair of Denon AHD2000, I am sure I can hear the difference but do I have to pay that much more to get better sound based on the "diminishing returns rule"?  Of coursem usuallt you get what you paid for but I am sure at some point, it's not the headphones anymore...it's the $80 MP3 player or the $60 amp.

post #2 of 31

First bottleneck is at $300

 

Second is at $1000-1500

 

For anyone that doesn't use the headphones for a job, never pass the $300 level.IMO

post #3 of 31

$200 could be a pretty good stopping point. Lots of good open headphones to choose from there such as Sennheiser HD598, Beyer DT880, AKG K701. A little more $300-600 and you can get the better closed headphones such as Denon D5000, Denon D7000, Audio Technica W1000X, Ultrasone Pro900.

 

You generally pay a little more for better performance from closed headphones.

post #4 of 31

In the 300-600 usd you can get a new pair of beyerdynamic t70

 

If you look at the Trade Forum... you can get great HPs for 600 usd

post #5 of 31

One of the best things you can do to improve sound quality is your music files.  Use a lossless codec like FLAC or at least mp3 at 320 kbps.

 

The headphones you have are really nice and I've found that headphones like the D2000 just offer a different way to present the sound, not necessarily a better way than the 60i.


Edited by brokenthumb - 9/15/11 at 11:58pm
post #6 of 31

Agreed with most of what's been said.

 

High quality source files is a must. I personally do 320kbps MP3 and find it indistinguishable from FLAC.

 

Now, about the price points. I'd say $300ish is the highest you should go. Even then, I'd probably stick to $200 and below. When you buy more expensive headphones, you usually have to factor in an amp anyway. That's when you really start hitting cruddy value. My best advice would be to stick with your SR60i for now, and possibly go up the line later on, assuming you really love Grado sound. Then again, I here there is very little difference in the Grado lineup. RS1i was nothing like I expected, yet people make it seem like headphones of that caliber can perform miracles.

 

Sound quality is an uncatchable object. You'll waste time and money trying to chase it down.

 

post #7 of 31

A way to cheat the system and get drastically better SQ from your existing cans is to do parametric EQing. However many people find that repulsive because it's cheating.

post #8 of 31
If you're an iPod slave you have no real EQ to speak of. Generic profiles don't work for me so having a pair of cans that provide a full spectrum of sound without an EQ is a priority. Full spectrum meaning 12-15" sub. Check out my favs right now the AKG K181 for only $130 delivered or less even. Unbelievable technology in these cans!
post #9 of 31

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

A way to cheat the system and get drastically better SQ from your existing cans is to do parametric EQing. However many people find that repulsive because it's cheating.


Certain EQs are terrible, while others are great. Small changes on terrible equalizers affect all frequencies and soundstage. I tried to make a discussion of this but equalization doesn't seem to be an area many Head-fiers like to go deep in.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/571762/equalization-further-exploration-minimal-phase-vs-linear-phase#post_7754488

 

post #10 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Centropolis View Post

I have a pair of Grado SR-60i.  Since I've never put on a pair of headphones that costs more, I find them very nice sounding.  They are kind of 'get my foot in the door' headphones into the higher fidelity sounding headphones.

 

My question is, how much more do I have to spend on another pair that I will hear significant improvement in sound quality?  I mean it's pretty clear that there are $500 headphones and higher that people can buy but at what point is the bottleneck on the MP3 player and not the headphones?

 

For example, if I get a pair of Denon AHD2000, I am sure I can hear the difference but do I have to pay that much more to get better sound based on the "diminishing returns rule"?  Of coursem usuallt you get what you paid for but I am sure at some point, it's not the headphones anymore...it's the $80 MP3 player or the $60 amp.


Heya,

 

The cost is relative to the kind of sound you're looking for. I have the SR60 and SR325. Are they a vast improvement, worth the extra $220 over the SR60? Without a doubt no in my opinion. You'll just spend that money and wonder why you did it, unless you're an absolute bean counter and think miniscule changes in technical improvement result in better listening experience. I would instead suggest, if you have already not, get the L-cush pads for your SR60's for $20. They make them sound significantly better, more bass impact, more bass reverb, and the rest pretty much just feels more full bodied.

 

Diminishing returns happens as fast as the $40 mark honestly. There is absolutely a reason to get headphones that cost more than $500. But it has to be a change that you're willing to pay for. Headphones in the mid-tier range and high-end range differences, if I had to quantify it, are different by a very small percentage of actual sonic improvement, which I would just guess as being around 5% or so, maybe even less, assuming we're speaking of a neutral mid-tier to begin with. I have $30 headphones that sound better to my ears than a $250 pair over all. That's just crazy talk. But I'm being honest, and I'm someone who's splurged on headphones to the point, and still doing it, where I just don't care so long as the sound is good and it's great to listen to, I don't care if it's $900 or $30.

 

The question becomes, are you actually talking about sound quality, or are you talking about the perceived wow factor that you may have during listening, or are you talking about the technological (but not percieved audible) difference? If you're talking quality, it's extremely miniscule. You will read "night and day" type stuff, but it's not, and the casual person on the street will not say night and day. A critical listener who knows the technological and refinement differences between headphones will say that--and they likely have not even heard that particular headphone they're talking about (in general, this is just a huge sweeping statement but generally holds true I find). I'll catch flack for that, I'm certain--watch for a quote.

 

Here's a proposition to you, try these headphones for an absolutely ridiculous price. Ignore that price. It's not a determining factor at all on what you're going to hear. Then, if you are not actually enthralled by them, tell me, and I'll buy them for what you paid. Seriously.

 

If you want to expand to different sound signatures, I'll simply express that you should look into the Fostex T50RP, Fischer Audio FA-011, BeyerDynamic DT770 PRO, Ultrasone HFI 580, Denon D1100, Shure SRH750 DJ, and the AKG K240 MK II or K272 HD.

 

Next up, make sure your music is absolutely lossless or as close as possible (320kbps minimum). Depending on the headphone and circuit, it matters if it's actually 320kbps or lossless. You can hear a difference. But it's relative to the headphone with a direct correlation.

 

Again, I'm serious about the above proposition. I'll even send you lossless music to test it with.

 

Very best,

 

post #11 of 31

Interesting proposition..

 

I coincide with MalVeauX, there is a point in which the change is so minor that you feel disappointed, but I happen to have that more enjoyable experience with certain equipment than with other... you cant exactly describe why but you can feel it somehow...

 

post #12 of 31
Your MP3 player will bottleneck with its amp. Most aren't very powerful to preserve battery life.

If you're looking for more power while keeping things reasonable and sane, go for a nice used receiver or preamp with a headphone jack. If you get a good one from Audiogon (around $100-$300) you can build the rest of your system around it.

If you have to have a dedicated headphone amp, pick up something like a Dynalo, M^3 or CK2III. They're much, much better than the cheap tube amps available at that price. A $300 Dynalo is good enough to be your first and last headphone amp. Over 1W of power, no noise, no distortion, no caps in the signal path, all class A. It doesn't get much better than that. You might also consider the O2 amp, which can be put together for under $100. I don't have one yet, but it measures nicely and has good reviews.

As for headphones, there's no need to get into the $1k+ market unless you fall hard for one of them. One of my favorites is still the Sennheiser HD-600, whih you can get for $200 used. Best deal out there. Other headphones that I think offer a load of value are the HD-650/580, K-501, DT880, RS-1 (used), and MDR-SA5000.

If you're thinking about going over $500 for headphones, think hard about speakers. I have two pairs that I paid under $1,000 for that whup headphones. (ProAc Response 2.5 clones and Quad ESL-63 'stats.) There's a lot of value in speakers around $500-$1,000, and $1,000-$3,000 will get you some of the finest speakers available. If you DIY speakers you'll save even more.

Which gets back to the receiver suggestion. A good one will also power your speakers.

If you want to get a cheap and excellent system, I'd buy a NAD receiver with a headphone jack, the HD-600, a pair of Magnepan MMGs, a stock Rega Planar 3/P3, and a reasonably priced used DAC. About $2,000 and you wouldn't have to make many excuses for it.

If you want to go all-out, I'd stick with the HD-600, pick up a NAD preamp, a Dynalo, Adcom GFA-535/545/555 power amp, Rega P3/Planar 3 with upgraded subplatter and counterweight, same DAC, a used SACD player ($500 or less), and upgrade the speakers to the $1,000-$2,000 range. Speakers I'd consider are the two I have, the Linkwitz Pluto, Magnepan 1.6, Zaph ZRT, and Klipsch horns if you can pick them up locally. That'd be $3k-$4k mostly buying used and you'd never have to buy anything else, save for a new cartridge every so often.
post #13 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by wind016 View Post

$200 could be a pretty good stopping point. Lots of good open headphones to choose from there such as Sennheiser HD598, Beyer DT880, AKG K701.

 

 


 

Agree on this as the start point, but need to take in to consideration the DAC + amp price as well.

post #14 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the comments so far.

 

I listened to my Grados with my setup (iPod -> PA2V2 -> SR-60i) for a few more hours last night with more variety of music.  What I've found was that for some type of music, I actually prefer to use my Shure SE210 IEMs instead.  I listened to "Kid A" by Radiohead on the Grados and it sounded very different to me.  It's not the lack of bass but something else that I can't point to at the moment.

 

Maybe a different sound signature is what I am looking for is what I was talking more about?  I love my John Coltrane and Diana Krall on my Grados but Radiohead....not so much.

post #15 of 31

MalVeaux, that is a strong recommendation for those headphones and I am not familiar with them.  I was considering in that same roughly $30 price range the Panasonic RP-HTX7 or the JVC HAS700.  If you have heard those also how would they compare to those Panasonic's you recommended?  I was leaning more towards the HAS700 primarily because of comfort as it seems like a clone of the Bose AE2 which I think is very comfortable.  Are the Panasonic's you recommended extremely comfortable as well?  Thanks in advance.

 

 

 

 

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