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What is High End?  

post #1 of 163
Thread Starter 

I have recently read a lot of reviews and posts. This is something I refused to do until I myself heard enough of the items discussed to form my own opinion. So far I've seen so many terms tossed out-

 

"Expansive soundstage. Depth. Clarity. Warm and lush. Cold and analytical. Exciting. Boring. Neutral. Flat."

What are you guys looking for when you buy one of these high end (which in this hobby means expensive, it's listed in the forum description) units?

 

Let's say I have an excellent source. It will provide near perfect reproduction of the music, negating the need for compensation in any area from an amplifier. In this case, what makes the amplifier good? Is not the ultimate goal "wire with gain"?

 

Is the point of a high end amplifier, like a good source, to be neutral and stay true to the recording?


No? Then why is coloration still mostly viewed as a negative connotation when it is pursued by so many?

 

From what I gather, the things that constitute "good" in this hobby is split into what is technically correct and what "sounds good'. Something that sounds technically correct, let's be more specific here and say the exact reproduction of the sound of an instrument, can sound good. But even if the said instrument is not perfectly reproduced it can still sound good, if not better to some. Think the cymbals sound too bright? Here try these tubes to soften the sound. Or equalizer. Or whatever. Tweaking the sound is inherently adding characteristics to it that suit your ears and your taste.

 

If that is the case how do we make recommendations on what is good and what is not? Everything now is just "different".

 

Perhaps that is why this market exists. Everything is subjective. Add in the different variety of music people listen to and the marketing strategies, and ********, are endless. Synergy between a pair of cans and an amp can be defined as ying and yang, each filling in for the deficits of the other; balance and neutrality.  Or it can be a combination that accentuates the highs and lows, something that elicits more emotional response for some. Or it can be a garden hose filled with metallic rocks.

 

Perhaps this is why arguments can get so heated too.

 

At this point, the way I view high end audio is that these objects are just accessories for your music. I'd make an analogy involving how different woman and clothes turn you on but I'm not sure that's allowed.


Edited by En_R - 1/8/13 at 10:27pm
post #2 of 163
Don't forget different types of of music genre will influence a listeners expectations.
Whilst one trys to steer closely to the path of neutrality many factors are at hand. How loud you listen, how long and what types of music are played. Everyone hears music differently, above everything else your ears are what count the most.
post #3 of 163
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post

Don't forget different types of of music genre will influence a listeners expectations.
Whilst one trys to steer closely to the path of neutrality many factors are at hand. How loud you listen, how long and what types of music are played. Everyone hears music differently, above everything else your ears are what count the most.

 

If everyone's ears are different, how do we make recommendations? I see people actually trying to quantify how much better headphone A is than B, when both have completely different sound signatures.

Wish these forums had stickies. A detailed writeup for newer people getting into this hobby. It would save them so much time and money.

post #4 of 163

A neutral sound is most desired, nothing added or taken away, that’s what the original engineers intended. A coloration of the sound is a distortion artefact, either by design or a poor quality product. These attributes can are easily measured and quantified, after that is subjective analysis by ear, then your up to your armpits in marketing and FOTM hype, which runs rampart though these threads.

There is no answer I’m afraid, but I do suggest doing more reading on a more technical level to save wading through an endless sea of poo.

post #5 of 163

for what is high end, just draw a regular cartesian bell graph, the far right, thats the high end

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by En_R View Post
 I see people actually trying to quantify how much better headphone A is than B, when both have completely different sound signatures.

as long as its not imposing ones subjective preference to someone else i see no other way to get help in choosing the right cans, cos there is always a subject thats the reference, its not like they r quantifying without a reason

post #6 of 163

when u feel satisfied that's hi-end

post #7 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post

A neutral sound is most desired, nothing added or taken away, that’s what the original engineers intended. A coloration of the sound is a distortion artefact, either by design or a poor quality product. These attributes can are easily measured and quantified, after that is subjective analysis by ear, then your up to your armpits in marketing and FOTM hype, which runs rampart though these threads.

There is no answer I’m afraid, but I do suggest doing more reading on a more technical level to save wading through an endless sea of poo.

 

A neutral sound is what you desire, but you don't speak for anyone other than yourself.

 

Fans of SE tubes and horns would hardly call their systems neutral, but they value them as much as you value "neutrality", whatever that means.  What about fans of huge soundstages and 3D imaging; who crave the illusion of the artist performing live in front of them?  Those are meritless as well apparently, since you really can't present soundstage in a 2-D graph.

 

If it was, you and the whole "bits is bits" crowd would all be happy with digital systems that recreate CDs ...  well, bit for bit.  But since this forum is loaded with examples (and opinions) of products bearing tubes of all flavors (and the distortions they introduce), it would seem that there is a startling number of people disagreeing with this idea. As does the fact that there is no consensus even among the objectivist crowd about which "bits is bits" systems are "best", so how can neutral be best if there is no agreement: a) what neutral is, or b) what reproduces a neutral sound?

 

And why is the engineer the "source of truth" here? You're saying that engineers that squash dynamic range into the single digits, with the desire to win the loudness wars, intend the music to be heard as piercing, shrill or 2D so therefore this is the best sound? That's your idea of "most desired"?  What about what the artist intended before the engineer "enhanced" their music? You discount the actual makers of music entirely with a few sentences and a wave of the hand?

 

I would suggest that the poster listen to what gear gives personal enjoyment and not pay attention to what others think they should be listening to.  That is high end to me: the maximum amount of enjoyment from the gear that you can afford.

post #8 of 163
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeckles View Post

 

A neutral sound is what you desire, but you don't speak for anyone other than yourself.

 

Fans of SE tubes and horns would hardly call their systems neutral, but they value them as much as you value "neutrality", whatever that means.  What about fans of huge soundstages and 3D imaging; who crave the illusion of the artist performing live in front of them?  Those are meritless as well apparently, since you really can't present soundstage in a 2-D graph.

 

If it was, you and the whole "bits is bits" crowd would all be happy with digital systems that recreate CDs ...  well, bit for bit.  But since this forum is loaded with examples (and opinions) of products bearing tubes of all flavors (and the distortions they introduce), it would seem that there is a startling number of people disagreeing with this idea. As does the fact that there is no consensus even among the objectivist crowd about which "bits is bits" systems are "best", so how can neutral be best if there is no agreement: a) what neutral is, or b) what reproduces a neutral sound?

 

And why is the engineer the "source of truth" here? You're saying that engineers that squash dynamic range into the single digits, with the desire to win the loudness wars, intend the music to be heard as piercing, shrill or 2D so therefore this is the best sound? That's your idea of "most desired"?  What about what the artist intended before the engineer "enhanced" their music? You discount the actual makers of music entirely with a few sentences and a wave of the hand?

 

I would suggest that the poster listen to what gear gives personal enjoyment and not pay attention to what others think they should be listening to.  That is high end to me: the maximum amount of enjoyment from the gear that you can afford.

 

You are correct. Forget the recording, even studio masters are not the "real thing" but an interpretation on how the real thing should sound, decided for the most part by the recording engineer(s).

 

You should read over my original post though. The point of this thread is not only to establish that people have different tastes, but also to generate some general guidelines as to what advice (a guide would be very nice) people should be receiving when buying new components.

Meets are great. If you enjoy the community, even more so. But not everyone can make meets, so it is critical to establish another method for component recommendations that both sides of the party, that is as you put it the "bits is bits" crowd and the everything-is-subject crowd (not to say there isn't anything in between) can benefit from.

One good method I found is to buy a pair of popular cans (without reading anything about them), then see which reviewer's/member's impressions agree with your own. You can use these members as your "reference ears" for future purchases tongue.gif.

post #9 of 163

in ur posts u r all clearly confusing the term "high end", which is purely referring to and describing a market segment of the industry, with terms like high fidelity, personal preferences, highest enjoyment etc.

 

high end is what it is, u dont need to ask what is it, cos it crystal clear, u may however ask y is high end what it is, or y is there a high end, y isnt it all the same, but again i think we all know the variables and rules of the industry and the market,

 

another thing might be, would there even exist a high end if we take hifi out of the contexts of industry and market? probably not...

 

so its clear to me that who asked the question in first place didnt really know what was asking about,

 

so u can easily preserve and distribute bananas through the whole globe and sell them pretty cheaply unlike mango which will sell for a lot more, so is mango high end? cos i may even not like mango, cos i like bananas instead, so is it bananas that r high end? no they, bananas, arent, at least not in terms of industry and market, cos out of the industry and market sphere they may both be the same price or even free, depending on geo position, do u grow them ur self etc.

 

so another time pls name the thread properly so i dont have to write off topic schiit just in case the thread might actually be about what the title is suggesting

 

and about getting suggestions what to buy there is a lengthy wiki thread dictionary about terms describing sound proprieties, features etc.

 

and about getting the right impression out of the suggestions u receive u may want to ask someone to compare the cans u r interested in with some cans u r both familiar with


Edited by roskodan - 1/8/13 at 11:23pm
post #10 of 163
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by roskodan View Post

in ur posts u r all clearly confusing the term "high end", which is purely referring to and describing a market segment of the industry, with terms like high fidelity, personal preferences, highest enjoyment etc.

 

high end is what it is, u dont need to ask what is it, cos it crystal clear, u may however ask y is high end what it is, or y is there a high end, y isnt it all the same, but again i think we all know the variables and rules of the industry and the market,

 

another thing might be, would there even exist a high end if we take hifi out of the contexts of industry and market? probably not...

 

so its clear to me that who asked the question in first place didnt really know what was asking about,

 

so u can easily preserve and distribute bananas through the whole globe and sell them pretty cheaply unlike mango which will sell for a lot more, so is mango high end? cos i may even not like mango, cos i like bananas instead, so is it bananas that r high end? no they, bananas, arent, at least not in terms of industry and market, cos out of the industry and market sphere they may both be the same price or even free, depending on geo position, do u grow them ur self etc.

 

so another time pls name the thread properly so i dont have to write off topic schiit just in case the thread might actually be about what the title is suggesting

 

and about getting suggestions what to buy there is a lengthy wiki thread dictionary about terms describing sound proprieties, features etc.

 

and about getting the right impression out of the suggestions u receive u may want to ask someone to compare the cans u r interested in with some cans u r both familiar with

 

The question is asking what makes a product high end, not just in terms of price, but in the unit of measurement most important to this hobby - sound quality. And since sound quality is subjective, then what makes a product "high end" is also subjective, thus the discussion. Note that high end sound quality doesn't always equate to high end price. Also please bear in mind that English terms might sometimes have multiple definitions. Tho u kno dis right?

 

I enjoy off topic schiit. I'll go make a mango and banana smoothie.

post #11 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeckles View Post

A neutral sound is what you desire, but you don't speak for anyone other than yourself.

Fans of SE tubes and horns would hardly call their systems neutral, but they value them as much as you value "neutrality", whatever that means.  What about fans of huge soundstages and 3D imaging; who crave the illusion of the artist performing live in front of them?  Those are meritless as well apparently, since you really can't present soundstage in a 2-D graph.

If it was, you and the whole "bits is bits" crowd would all be happy with digital systems that recreate CDs ...  well, bit for bit.  But since this forum is loaded with examples (and opinions) of products bearing tubes of all flavors (and the distortions they introduce), it would seem that there is a startling number of people disagreeing with this idea. As does the fact that there is no consensus even among the objectivist crowd about which "bits is bits" systems are "best", so how can neutral be best if there is no agreement: a) what neutral is, or b) what reproduces a neutral sound?

And why is the engineer the "source of truth" here? You're saying that engineers that squash dynamic range into the single digits, with the desire to win the loudness wars, intend the music to be heard as piercing, shrill or 2D so therefore this is the best sound? That's your idea of "most desired"?  What about what the artist intended before the engineer "enhanced" their music? You discount the actual makers of music entirely with a few sentences and a wave of the hand?

I would suggest that the poster listen to what gear gives personal enjoyment and not pay attention to what others think they should be listening to.  That is high end to me: the maximum amount of enjoyment from the gear that you can afford.

What will audio designers benchmark if we scrap the concept of neutral?

Tee hee.
post #12 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post


What will audio designers benchmark if we scrap the concept of neutral?
Tee hee.


So  what is this "neutral" you speak of?  Give me an example of some equipment that everyone agrees is "neutral".  Sources?  Amps?  There should be something right? Some benchmark? Because then, all designers are working from the same page, right?

 

edit: You seem to think there is only one type of listener, and there isn't.  Some do value neutrality, which seems to be your forte.  But some value the simulation of the event, by recreating soundstage or imaging.  Yet others favor a musicality which is enhanced by their equipment; think of the golden burnish of SETs or older CJ equipment.  Neutrality has nothing to do with those, nor are their positive listening attributes always present in measurements.

 

Designers of such gear (or ones that emulate those ideals) don't give a hoot about your idea of "neutrality" or any such benchmarks.

 

If you want to worship at the altar of Julian Hirsch, that's fine.  But his best testing equipment often sounded like crap compared to "poorer" testing gear, which is why people drifted away from purely numbers testing with equipment.  That's your prerogative.  But not every wants to listen to that sound.  I sure don't.


Edited by Smeckles - 1/9/13 at 12:52am
post #13 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeckles View Post

I would suggest that the poster listen to what gear gives personal enjoyment and not pay attention to what others think they should be listening to.  That is high end to me: the maximum amount of enjoyment from the gear that you can afford.

I agree with you - I also like your avatar.
Quote:
Originally Posted by En_R View Post

You should read over my original post though. The point of this thread is not only to establish that people have different tastes, but also to generate some general guidelines as to what advice (a guide would be very nice) people should be receiving when buying new components.

I like your "buy a popular set of cans" idea - I did that a few years ago in fact, and at the time it was a fine way to spend ~$200 (I ended up with a pair of HD 580s, which were fairly popular). Where I found it was somewhat restrictive is that it limited the scope of the discussion to those cans - in other words everything had to be bound to them. So instead of just going out and trying out whatever I wanted, there was some constraint. I don't know - I ended up selling them, and feel like I've tried more things out since then "on my own" so to speak. *shrug*

Regarding overall guidelines - that's tough. When I give suggestions about a product I try to relay how I feel about it, or how I feel about it relative to something else (I preference comparing two things versus absolutely saying "this product is this way" - I'd rather say "this product is different from that product in this way to me"), but I completely understand your overall criticism - the idea of quantifying everything to some external quale is wishful thinking in my view. I think that when suggestions are given they should be less wide-reaching in their nature - seeing claims like "these are the best headphones ever no matter what" or "these destroy those" etc (as if we're talking about boxers or something); it doesn't tell me anything. I think if people took a more holistic and subjective approach (even if objective measurements are provided, they're just numbers and squiggles until someone interprets them) we'd probably see less heated arguments. What I mean is not if we got rid of "bits is bits" and that kind of thing, but if we saw more "this is how I measured/heard/experienced/etc this product relative to whatever you're asking about (that I've also tried) and I feel this way about it" and then if you have numbers, math, etc supporting evidence, provide that too (in other words, sure, we can have technical discussions about how an encoder works, but again, it's all numbers and squiggles until someone interprets it). Price-blindness would also be nice, as well as people no longer suggesting or commenting on products they only know through reviews or stock photos (if that makes sense).

Still, I don't think there's a perfect answer to your question - you're always going to have people who feel passionately about their position.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post

What will audio designers benchmark if we scrap the concept of neutral?
Tee hee.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeckles View Post


So  what is this "neutral" you speak of?  Give me an example that everyone agrees on.  There should be something right? Some benchmark? Because then, all designers are working from the same page, right?

An interesting debate. I know that within speakers, "relatively flat" is becoming something of a benchmark, but even there it's relatively fickle. With headphones its even more erratic - I think because of the very different approaches various designers take, and wildly different targets they tend to aim at.
post #14 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeckles View Post


So  what is this "neutral" you speak of?  Give me an example of some equipment that everyone agrees is "neutral".  Sources?  Amps?  There should be something right? Some benchmark? Because then, all designers are working from the same page, right?

 

edit: You seem to think there is only one type of listener, and there isn't.  Some do value neutrality, which seems to be your forte.  But some value the simulation of the event, by recreating soundstage or imaging.  Yet others favor a musicality which is enhanced by their equipment; think of the golden burnish of SETs or older CJ equipment.  Neutrality has nothing to do with those, nor are their positive listening attributes always present in measurements.

 

Designers of such gear (or ones that emulate those ideals) don't give a hoot about your idea of "neutrality" or any such benchmarks.

 

If you want to worship at the altar of Julian Hirsch, that's fine.  But his best testing equipment often sounded like crap compared to "poorer" testing gear, which is why people drifted away from purely numbers testing with equipment.  That's your prerogative.  But not every wants to listen to that sound.  I sure don't.

 

There is no piece of audio gear that is considered neutral, by benchmark I was referring to measurements.

 

Please read my opening post more carefully...

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post

Don't forget different types of of music genre will influence a listeners expectations.
Whilst one trys to steer closely to the path of neutrality many factors are at hand. How loud you listen, how long and what types of music are played. Everyone hears music differently, above everything else your ears are what count the most.
 

 

As you can see I do not believe in a one type of listener only. As far as neutrality being my personal forte, well I do believe in careful system building and have chosen audios designers that reflect my own ideals.

 

I have had my days of SET amps and horns, spent a dam lot of time and money chasing “whatever sounded good”. So whist I’m no neutral Nazi, I believe both measurements and subjective listening both play a pivotal role for a well balanced system.

 

In regards to your answer for the OP:

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeckles View Post

I would suggest that the poster listen to what gear gives personal enjoyment and not pay attention to what others think they should be listening to.  That is high end to me: the maximum amount of enjoyment from the gear that you can afford.

 

 

Really? What help is here for the OP. Don’t get me wrong it’s a nice sentiment but bloody useless if one’s trying to understand a little bit more about the hobby.

 

Here’s a great place to start OP:

 

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/beyond-neutral-measurements-blind-testing-subjective-experience-and-personal-pleasure-headph

post #15 of 163

What is high-end? The answer is a combination of things, the result of manufactures/designers making products to the best of their ability, with sonic compromise, that is able to bring intense listening enjoyment to a wide variety of music whether quietly bringing out the subtleties of a single instrument or voice or attempting to reproduce the full glory of a huge orchestral piece -- even both at the same time. You know it when you hear it and every time you listen to music with a high-end system is fantastic.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by En_R View Post
Wish these forums had stickies. A detailed writeup for newer people getting into this hobby. It would save them so much time and money.

 

Check out the Full-size Headphones and portable forums for an example. I've put a bunch of links to articles written by members in the stickies there, as well as in other forums. These links also get PM'ed to members after they've joined.

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