Originally Posted by jiminy
But surely if you want to listen to music quietly you don't need an amp.
Maybe some will call it heresy, but I listen to my HD 600 straight out of my Clip+ in bed... At low volumes there's absolutely no need for an amp in such a situation.
And as to the argument that expensive gear is better, isn't the reason that its usually expensive because it is a niche product and therefore sells in small quantitys necessitating a high retail price.
That's part of the story but of course not all of it. For example, even if Sennheiser manufactured as many HD 800s as it does HD 201s, they'd still be far more expensive to produce.
There was more money put into R&D, the materials cost more, the manufacturing processes are much more complicated and some won't scale as well to high production, and quality control is much more stringent.
All of these add to the cost, and although scale of manufacture would bring down the cost somewhat at high volumes, there's still going to be a vast difference between the two. Take high-production luxury vehicles like the BMW 3-series, for example.
Of course, market forces have an impact on price. I'm sure Sennheiser wants to maintain the HD 800 as a "halo" product for the time being, so it may keep the price high even though its retail price may be out of proportion with its manufacturing price. But that's not the same as the production cost being high because of low production quantity and low demand.
Now, for smaller, esoteric "high-end" manufacturers... You're right, I think the "high-end" is weird. Sometimes people will buy things because they cost more. The manufacturers can also be different - some running the business more out of a passion for the esoteric "high-end" hobby than trying to make more money. The end result isn't so much that they provide better products for the price because they're not so concerned with profit - but that they focus on the esoteric and the expensive because that's what they like, and they want to make it. It's not a bad thing - just that it loses sight of the original idea of "high fidelity" - accuracy in reproduction of sound. As a result, the objective performance of products by such a manufacturer is often not in line with its price.
Nor is this universally true. I'm sure many could name off half a dozen or more "white hat" small manufacturers that do in fact strive towards better objective sound quality, while delivering other things as well.
The point is that such esoteric and expensive products are often not made primarily to objectively perform better, and even if they are made with that goal in mind they may not meet it. They're made to fit the "high-end" culture, which can be as much about aesthetics, exclusivity, luxury, and perceived sound quality (as influenced by the previous factors) as it is about actual sound quality.
Edited by BlackbeardBen - 1/26/13 at 9:49am