Originally Posted by kstuart
If you put a $10,000 dress on the ugliest girl at school, she is still the ugliest girl at school.
If you listen to a crap source out of $1,000 headphones, you are still listening to a crap source.
Source matters most.
I'm sorry but that analogy is in bad form.
The fact of the matter is in a digital -> DAC -> amplifier -> transducer -> analogue audio chain, the transducer accounts for the vast majority of distortion (deviation from perfect analogue reproduction), amplifier comes in a far second, and DAC comes far, far behind.
Sure a poorly integrated DAC implementation is going to add harmonic distortion and colourations which mess with detail extraction / separation and imaging, but good headphones out of any amp that drives them loud enough will still show their true colours in terms of transient speed, general tonal balance, smoothness and extension.
A good pair of $1000 headphone will retain a hi-fidelity sound simply due to its driver characteristics, and vice versa for a $30 one (even the best ones).
Maybe you're thinking of terrible DACs manufactured from a few decades ago. Most integrated DACs in music devices / cards nowadays are at least passable.
Edit: not to mention, simple sub-$100 (or even most $100-200 headphones for that matter) headphone drivers do not resolve nearly enough to discriminate between DACs save for defective DACs.
Heck, even my HE400s are not enough for me to note a considerable improvement going amp only from the laptop onboard DAC, vs amp + discrete DAC. Only my HE500s scale in that manner due to their transparency (with Jergpads + very specific parametric equalizations).
Edited by jerg - 8/4/13 at 11:36pm