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What is High End? - Page 3  

post #31 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

To keep the focus on the forum being "Summit-Fi". Quite a bit of non-Summit-Fi stuff was creeping in.  You can shout at me about it -- I moved them and I wont be at all offended if you think it was wrong to do so.  It made sense to me to do so but I totally understand why it might not to someone else. Basically I don't think those headphones are at the "summit" of what is available and don't see them paired so much with serious TOTL systems either (though not at all are they unloved by any means -- I'm referring to pairings with many thousands of dollars of electronics).

 

Nothing was creeping in, you moved threads that had been there for years.

 

What you think is important but is it any more important than what the community thinks? Do you honestly believe there's a consensus for $1000 headphones that many still rank among the best headphones in the World today not being "Summit-fi"? If so, why are these headphones included under Summit-fi on the Holiday Buying Guide?


Edited by Darkbeat - 1/10/13 at 4:32am
post #32 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

To keep the focus on the forum being "Summit-Fi". Quite a bit of non-Summit-Fi stuff was creeping in.  You can shout at me about it -- I moved them and I wont be at all offended if you think it was wrong to do so.  It made sense to me to do so but I totally understand why it might not to someone else. Basically I don't think those headphones are at the "summit" of what is available and don't see them paired so much with serious TOTL systems either (though not at all are they unloved by any means -- I'm referring to pairings with many thousands of dollars of electronics).

 

Not that it means anything, but what about the HD800 and its demands on the quality of ancillary components? Does that qualify it as Summit-Fi? Why is the HD800 thread slumming it with the uncouth masses?

 

Just stirrin' the pot here Amos. Don't envy your position...wink.gif


Edited by olor1n - 1/10/13 at 5:00am
post #33 of 163

So to be summit-fi, a headphone NEEDS to sound like crap out of low~mid-tier setups. Right. Pickiness > performance when it comes to qualifying as the top headphones, apparently.

post #34 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

So to be summit-fi, a headphone NEEDS to sound like crap out of low~mid-tier setups. Right. Pickiness > performance when it comes to qualifying as the top headphones, apparently.

I don't think that's what's being said - Summit-Fi isn't meant to be a value judgment or a "good ol boys" club and I don't see why it's a problem where threads are categorized. Instead I think what's being said in the movement of such threads is that they're more applicable to a wider audience than the kind of "walled garden" effect of Summit-Fi. It's more about more appropriately cataloging information than whipping them out and deciding whose is bigger.

I'm sure a lot of people won't be able to see that, and are still going to be upset that their very expensive purchases are no longer "hi-fi" - but at the same time I think such a reckoning has needed to happen for a while (that we need to get beyond this "no your equipment isn't hi-fi on my level, my equipment is true hi-fi" snobbery that's infested discussions as of late).
post #35 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

It's more about more appropriately cataloging information than whipping them out and deciding whose is bigger.

 

 

Oh what a pity. The latter activity certainly would have been more intriguing than cataloging. tongue.gif

post #36 of 163
I think high-end is about believability.

Neutrality is a tricky topic. What is neutral in an album that's recorded track by track, overdubbed, auto-tuned, mixed, remixed, compressed, edited, and messed with through all sorts of filters? If the recording and mastering studios know what they're doing, then you'll get something that sounds like a performance that could have happened in real life, but ultimately it's at the discretion of whoever worked on the album to make it sound believable. Is that then neutral?

I usually define neutral in headphones as something that sounds like a speaker system that's flat 20-20 in an acoustically tuned environment. I've heard a few totally flat systems, and the biggest shock always is how rich and musical they are. Flat sound is not what people think it is (but that's a rant for another time). However, in headphones you have HRTF issues to deal with, and in IEMs you have all that plus fit issues, which complicate things further. If a headphone is neutral to me, is it going to be neutral to you? I have friends with whom I agree almost universally on speakers and full-sized headphones, but with IEMs we're hearing totally different things. So what's really neutral there?

Believability is different, however. You're not concerned about hearing exactly what went on in the recording studio. All you need is to hear something and think, "yes, it could have sounded like that." In fact realism in audio I think is tied to believability far more than actual accuracy.

To get to that point, you need a system that's first of all technically proficient and nails the fundamentals. You're not going to get a believable sound with a messy frequency response, and you need a good deal of resolution, dynamics, and spatial ability. More subtle things like texture (tied to resolution) and tonality (tied to FR irregularities in the mids) are equally important. Most headphones outright fail at that, even some otherwise very good ones. For the few that do, believability is still not guaranteed - you need an extremely high degree of effortlessness, a total lack of grain, and excellent microdetail retrieval, which is something that you may not notice consciously or right away, but which is the difference between being immersed in the music totally or simply thinking "that's a nice system."

I'll be honest, so far I've only heard a few headphones that qualify. The HE-90, the SR-007 for a certainty, the SR-X Mk3 Pro on a good day, and... well, out of my experience, that's it. Mind you, I haven't heard it all, including the HE-60, SR-Omega, and SR-009, which I suspect would probably end up in the high-end category too. Most headphones, though, are very much not high-end.

IEMs are different. I'm not sure what it is about IEMs, but I find it easier to believe in the music with a good IEM even when it's technically not quite as proficient. Maybe it's the holographic nature of balanced armature drivers, or the isolation that helps me get immersed in the music - whatever it is, even simple IEMs like the UM3x, when fitted well, are actually quite close to high-end. They're not there since they fail at some of the fundamentals, but they're quite close.

Again, it's not about absolute neutrality. To be fair, all of the systems I thought were high-end were actually quite close to neutral, but serious deviations from neutrality are generally immediately audible and will detract from believability, ruining the overall effect. But, if you're close enough to neutral, the subtleties are really not important.

Another word you could use is "immersion." High-end systems are absolutely, totally immersive. They will not work for background listening - they will utterly pull you away from whatever you're doing and force you into the music.

I do agree that if you haven't heard it, it's hard to describe what it is. I couldn't have imagined what a real setup sounds like before having experienced it firsthand, and I was a serious musician for quite some time.

On the other hand, all of the above could just as well be meaningless, since mood and setting play into it as much as anything else does. When you're in the mood to enjoy music, your mind will fill in the gaps where the system is lacking. I've enjoyed music on earbuds, a car system, laptop speakers, cheap headphones, whatever have you, and at the time I would not have cared one whit for anything different. Does that qualify them as high-end, or qualify high-end as a meaningful metric?

Anyway, I think it's a pretty nebulous topic at best and something that requires a lot of experience with listening to various systems. Without that experience, and without hearing a real system first-hand, I really think this is hard to talk about.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled trolling programming.
post #37 of 163
post #38 of 163
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by catscratch View Post

I think high-end is about believability.

Neutrality is a tricky topic. What is neutral in an album that's recorded track by track, overdubbed, auto-tuned, mixed, remixed, compressed, edited, and messed with through all sorts of filters? If the recording and mastering studios know what they're doing, then you'll get something that sounds like a performance that could have happened in real life, but ultimately it's at the discretion of whoever worked on the album to make it sound believable. Is that then neutral?

From what I can see... what neutral means, in a hi-fi sense, is reproducing the signal you put in without distortion.
Quote:

To get to that point, you need a system that's first of all technically proficient and nails the fundamentals. You're not going to get a believable sound with a messy frequency response, and you need a good deal of resolution, dynamics, and spatial ability. More subtle things like texture (tied to resolution) and tonality (tied to FR irregularities in the mids) are equally important. Most headphones outright fail at that, even some otherwise very good ones. For the few that do, believability is still not guaranteed - you need an extremely high degree of effortlessness, a total lack of grain, and excellent microdetail retrieval, which is something that you may not notice consciously or right away, but which is the difference between being immersed in the music totally or simply thinking "that's a nice system."

Another word you could use is "immersion." High-end systems are absolutely, totally immersive. They will not work for background listening - they will utterly pull you away from whatever you're doing and force you into the music.

I agree with everything but the last part. Immersion in music is different for everyone. The SR-009's are quite neutral. And very boring. I can see myself truly enjoying these... but dynamics are providing a much more satisfying experience for me at the moment.
Edited by En_R - 1/12/13 at 10:10pm
post #39 of 163

popcorn.gif

post #40 of 163

I wouldn't be so mad at that post of Currawong's if he just said 'LCD-3 is out, so LCD-2 isn't Audez'e's TOTL anymore.'


Edited by TMRaven - 1/12/13 at 9:58pm
post #41 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by En_R View Post

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.

I agree with you 100%. If high end is pure reproduction then all uber systems would sound the same but they don't sound the same. It's like designer jeans in the end where whole groups follow a fashion regardless of the reality purveyed.

 

For some spending $100 bucks on a set of headphones( HPOTM ) could be high end, but just like Hotpants, as soon as the sizzle wears off they can be regarded as boring and tacky around here. Then again some headphones end up being legendary and always respected regardless of coloration. Hi-end is a transitory thing in some pieces of equipment, others not so much.

 

 

Regardless of price, I guess High End could be summed-up best as two words.............................Clear and Musical.


Edited by Redcarmoose - 1/13/13 at 8:15am
post #42 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by olor1n View Post

Not that it means anything, but what about the HD800 and its demands on the quality of ancillary components? Does that qualify it as Summit-Fi? Why is the HD800 thread slumming it with the uncouth masses?

Just stirrin' the pot here Amos. Don't envy your position...wink.gif

I personally don't see the HD800 as Summit-Fi, it's a mass produced product. Most Head-Fiers who are into the high-end are discussing STAX and "unobtainium" dynamics, where a nice rig starts at $10k+ and is as much about rarity as anything else. If you're paying a guy $5k+ to build a custom amp for you, to exacting specs, then you're treading into Summit-Fi. It's a little like being on a McLaren or Ferrari forum, not everyone who is taking part in the discussions has one, but the folks who do are very passionate about them.
post #43 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by olor1n View Post

Not that it means anything, but what about the HD800 and its demands on the quality of ancillary components? Does that qualify it as Summit-Fi? Why is the HD800 thread slumming it with the uncouth masses?

Just stirrin' the pot here Amos. Don't envy your position...wink.gif

I personally don't see the HD800 as Summit-Fi, it's a mass produced product. Most Head-Fiers who are into the high-end are discussing STAX and "unobtainium" dynamics, where a nice rig starts at $10k+ and is as much about rarity as anything else. If you're paying a guy $5k+ to build a custom amp for you, to exacting specs, then you're treading into Summit-Fi. It's a little like being on a McLaren or Ferrari forum, not everyone who is taking part in the discussions has one, but the folks who do are very passionate about them.

 

Both Stax earspeakers and the HD-800s are individually hand-assembled from component parts.

post #44 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

Both Stax earspeakers and the HD-800s are individually hand-assembled from component parts.

While that's correct, many mass-produced products are hand-assembled. There's the factor of the build process, the rarity of the components, and the actual price itself. I'm not saying I'm right, but IMO Summit-Fi starts at about the SR-007 and works its way up from there. Even the TH900, which I dearly love, isn't exactly in that rarefied air, though it would be closer than the HD800 due to materials and the artisan process of their production.
post #45 of 163
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

While that's correct, many mass-produced products are hand-assembled. There's the factor of the build process, the rarity of the components, and the actual price itself. I'm not saying I'm right, but IMO Summit-Fi starts at about the SR-007 and works its way up from there. Even the TH900, which I dearly love, isn't exactly in that rarefied air, though it would be closer than the HD800 due to materials and the artisan process of their production.

So summit fi is only for very expensive or exotic components? Basically what you are implying is that this is a forum where people that have a lot of money come to discuss their expensive purchases and stroke their e-peens? If so I would strongly disagree. Why would the aesthetic design and cost of a component outweigh its real value - the sound it produces? Especially in this hobby?

I believe that a end game setup with headphones, while still sounding amazing, is not exactly real "high end" audio where the terms "prestige" and "luxury" are more common. Pieces in end game speaker systems are over 15k minimum. I believe the target market of speakers and headphones is quite different, evident by the fact that for a long time speaker enthusiasts did not even consider headphones to be worthy of investing in- and why would they? These are like toys, in terms of price, compared to the components in their setups. The interconnects are probably enough to cover the costs of a 009 setup.

Let's hope this hobby doesn't go in that direction- where a large amount of money is being spent on the brand rather than performance.
Edited by En_R - 1/13/13 at 12:12am
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