That's exactly what's happening in the IEM sector. $100 today will buy you a hell of a lot more in-ear than several years ago.
As for fullsized headphones... honestly, there's not much "tech" to even trickle down. Vintage orthos from the 70s and early 80s for instance are just as advanced---if not moreso---than a lot of stuff being made today. Actually, if you look at the drivers Fostex used (and even uses on their modern T50RPs), they're way more intricate and advanced than the stuff HiFiMan is currently using in their big orthos!
I can think of a few genuine examples of recent innovation for fullsized headphones. The HD800's driver is one big one: a ton of R&D went into it. Audez'e has also done some impressive stuff with their drivers, though their implementation (esp. on the LCD-3) hasn't been that great. Also some interesting driver materials: biocellulose for Fostex and Sony, and also whatever the heck the Qualia drivers are made out of (crushed seashells and cherubim tears?). Then there's the Heil-type driver implementation of piezoelectric film used on the TakeT, though a lot of that tech is from the 70s and can be found on rather inexpensive stuff. Similarly the new Float QA is basically a polished version of the original Float.
My point is that when it comes to a lot of fullsized headphones these days---even flagships---it's not so much actual technology as it is implementation. I mean, electrostats aren't terribly complicated in principle; DIYers can and have produced some rather impressive results just from materials they obtained at hardware stores. One of the best 'stats ever was something a random dude in China made out of his house. What makes Stax so special is the level of care and refinement they bring to the table: they assemble their headphones in environmentally controlled rooms using surgically precise techniques, utilizing decades of experience.
That may very well be the case, though it's pretty much the fault of JPS since they're the ones choosing the equipment to provide for the public demos. It's always a head scratcher when a manufacturer decides to showcase their gear in setups that don't do it justice.
I don't remember what they used in the past, but this time around for the NY Audio Show they'll be pairing the Abyss with the Liquid Gold. I think that amp will be more than enough to let the Abyss' true potential show.
Edited by MuppetFace - 4/9/13 at 10:28am