Hey guys, I'm a long time active poster with currently sporadic activity and with virtually no interest in hi-fi anymore. Over the past year I have lost almost completely all of my interest in hi-fi and headphones, and I'd like to explain how this happened. I'm posting this in the members forum because this topic is related to being an audiophile in general, and not any specific aspect of related technology.
My interest all started one day when I wanted to buy better headphones. Back then I always did hours and hours of research before buying something, and my first expensive headphones were no exception. I stumbled into head-fi, and I was amazed by the community and their vast amount of knowledge. I had been convinced to increase my budget for my first purchase, and about a month after joining I made my first purchase. It was a Sennheiser HD650 and a Little Dot MK IV. I was extremely ecstatic about my purchase and within no time posting on head-fi became a daily activity. I had acquired a new hobby, and I truly enjoyed it.
My ride was far from smooth. At first I learned of all the wonders of tube amps, and how balanced amps and expensive would increase sound quality so much. At this point I believed most of what people said to me, since I was overwhelmed by other people's knowledge. However as I started to gain more knowledge I also learned to criticize and doubt others. I learned the names of head-fiers I respected, and of those I hated. I developed my own opinion about a lot of matters within head-fi and I became a full-fledged and well-informed member. Head-fi became like a second home to me, and I loved dreaming about getting better gear; and I got lots of it too. After my first purchase I got an Audio-GD DAC, a Sennheiser HD25-1 II, a Sennheiser IE80, and along multiple DIY projects, some entry level Stax gear.
Why, if I enjoyed this hobby so much, did I lose interest? As my amount of gear and time spent on head-fi increased, so did my thirst for knowledge. I started reading works from audiophiles who criticized the obsession over sound quality, and how the differences between gear are often inaudible. Soon I developed the opinion that the most efficient route in headphone hi-fi is to buy a 'decent' amplifier and DAC and spent the entire remaining budget on the best headphone you can get. I also believed the point of diminishing returns was much lower than most people seemed to believe, and I got a lot of enemies and heated discussions for expressing this opinion. Luckily I also stumbled upon people once in a while who agreed with me, and I later learned that there were some people who even looked up to me.
With time I studied electronics, sampling theory, and the psychology and physiology behind hearing. Most of this theory was hardly applicable in head-fi, except for one crucial message. Human hearing is even more amazing than it is complex. The same is true for the way our brain processes audiovisual information. The brain is so ingenious that it is able to completely compensate for mediocre, or decent in the very least, sound quality, and make the music just as enjoyable. I started to question the very foundation of being an audiophile; while differences between different systems can be easily identified, and one can be unanimously preferred over the other, does it really provide greater pleasure? And to top it all of, I did an ABX comparison between two DIY amplifiers with vastly different electrical circuits. I heard no difference.
I changed. I enjoy music just as much from my 1500 USD Stax rig (which truly sounds amazing in my ears!), as I do from my 200 USD desktop monitor rig. In fact, I prefer the latter because I find it uncomfortable to listen to headphones while bending over my head towards a book or notepad, as I always do when studying. The difference in sound quality is large, and very clear to me. But in the end I don't gain more pleasure from listening to my headphone rig than I do from a speaker rig. At first I did gain more pleasure from my headphones, but that changed when my views and knowledge slowly changed. Most of all, it changed when I lost my stubbornness and sub-consciously admitted that greater sound quality gives greater listening pleasure only with positively huge diminishing returns.
This text is not an attack on audiophiles, or a show of superiority. In fact, I'm sad I lost my interest in hi-fi, for it was one of the most fun activities I ever had the pleasure of spending time on. If you don't agree with my opinion, then you're probably one of the lucky few. This is who I am right now, and I unfortunately don't think anything will change that. I wish I could go back to the time where I was still into the hobby, but I simply don't believe I can. I spoiled my own hobby.
PS: Thanks for the great time.
Edited by Tilpo - 5/4/13 at 4:11am