Originally Posted by Tsujigiri
Any other thoughts on this? Perhaps once you get to mid-fi, the differences come down to personal preference over anything, and aren't as clear-cut.
I think there's a distinction that needs to be made when we start throwing around labels like "mid fi" (which is very popular right now), and "hi fi" (which is kind of a never-ending "cool kids club" debate) - are we discussing performance? (And if so, how is this qualified) Or price? (And if so, how is this qualified)
I would posit that once you get into the "good performance" range of headphones (which can start at around the $50-$100 bar, with examples including the Koss TBSE, AT ATH-M50, CAL!, HD 280, etc) you've more or less hit the "wall" of diminishing returns. Yes, more expensive/exotic/fancy headphones *generally* provide a performance improvement (it may be small though), but often they're also providing a different signature, and it becomes just as much a discussion of preference as it does performance. In some cases they may not even provide a bona fide performance improvement, and are just different sounding in some way. And this may be enough for them to be better for someone.
I think it comes down to how you want to qualify and bound the discussion, and then you can get more specific answers - for example if you provided criteria like this:
- Up to $300
- Any manufacturer and design style (so open, closed, sealed, ANC, etc and any driver principle)
- Measured low distortion
- Decent FR extension
Then people could probably throw out a few answers. There's still going to be a large preference component - for example the K701 more or less fit into that criteria, but so do the HD 598. Which one is better? And that's a tough question to answer for everyone - I'm sure everyone has their own feeling of which one is better (and it may or may not even relate to the above criteria - for example I'm guessing there will be at least some people who decide based on aesthetics or ergonomics), but I'm doubting we could build a consensus from that which would be able to accurately inform other people's choices.
From the list you put in the first post, of the ones I've actually spent time with, I'd say "all of the above" are quite suitable options for a detailed, high performance listening experience. But there's a lot of other considerations that have to be made on the individual level before you can arrive at that.