I'm curious what you all think is the proper allocation of a fixed budget between a set of cans, amp, DAC, and anything else you might need to listen to digital audio?
My philosophy toward systems with speakers has been 70% speakers, 20% electronics, 10% room. In general, I believe that high end electronics are virtually indistinguishable from well designed budget or mid range electronics (e.g. Emotiva XPA series amps). You usually get nicer materials and a sturdier build, but most of the auditory differences people report are psychological, not physical. (I'm sure there are people who disagree -- ou'd have to to justify spending $10,000 plus on an amp -- but I think most controlled, objective testing supports my belief .)
Two things strike me as different between systems with full range speakers (or monitors + sub) vs headphones. First, tier to tier, headphones are generally cheaper than speakers, by which I mean comparing budget to budget, mid to mid, or summit to summit, but electronics seem priced equivalently. This suggests that for headphone rigs you'll probably need to speed a higher percentage of a budget on electronics. Secondly, the room doesn't factor directly into the budget. (Indirectly, it may influence whether you buy closed or open cans or IEMs.)
So that said, if your budget is X, what fraction would you spend on phones vs electronics? (Assume we're talking about full size cans.) Does the fraction change as X increases? How large does X have to be before you consider separate electronic components?
Edited by Thunder240 - 7/21/12 at 1:53pm