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Is there diminishing return when it comes to headphone quality?

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 

Back when i upgrade my regular apple buds to my current DT990 pro, there was a HUGE increase in sound quality.  it was the first time i experience what you guys mean by soundstage, deep punchy base, clarity etc.

 

However, the other day, i was at bestbuy and i sample all their high end headphones.  Sennheiser Momentum, Sennheiser HD700, other akg headphones etc.  I didnt notice a single one of them are any better than the dt990.  You can argue that maybe the HD700 might have a tiny bit better soundstage and maybe a tiny bit better clarity.  However, this miniscue improvement does not justify the increase of price from 150 bucks(amazon dt990) to 1,000 bucks.  Shouldnt i get 6x the sound quality if i'm going to pay for 6x the price?  It's more like 6x the price for 2 percent increase in quality.

 

There's a rule in life called "law of diminishing return".  once you hit a certain level, there's a HUGE diminishing return for the amount of time, money and effort you to into it.

 

What do you guys think of this opinion?  Are the other higher ends one that much better?  HE-500, LCD2-3 etc?

post #2 of 39

Quoted:

-"First off, I am going to reiterate a point which I have made in several other articles since many of our readers are not familiar with the audiophile world when it comes to sound quality. With high end audio equipment, the value per dollar greatly decreases as you go up the cost ladder. For example, a piece of audio equipment that costs twice as much may only sound slightly better. But this is what the audiophile world is all about. People spend big bucks on audio equipment to get ultimately great sound rather than spend less and maybe settle for only great sound. And remember, good sound quality is a very personal thing. If it sounds good to you, you have accomplished your goal, (but to be on the safe side, you might just consider avoiding listening to someone else’s audiophile setup)."

- "...I've learned that once you get up to a certain level in the audiophile headphone world, one headphone is not necessarily better than another"....

Copyright © 2009 Bill K and Listening Station

post #3 of 39

HD 700 is a sidestep compared to your BT. It is a differently voiced 650/600, at a steeper price. It is personal issue which one is more comfortable, or which particular soundprint you like better. To really have a different experience, try a used stax. That is would give you a different sound than any dynamic phone. Different technology - different approximation of sonic fidelity. Provided, you prefer acoustic (classical and certain type of jazz) music, stax is the winning card. Natural sound, speed: unbeatable. But your preferred music is rock or pop or other type, which in real live you only could enoy through loudspeakers, maybe dynamics are fine, matter of taste what you prefer.

post #4 of 39

It's like that with any pro audio equipment. Take for example Home Theater speakers. When you go from your TV speakers to even Home theater in a box kind of a set up at $600, the sound difference is crazy big. Then from that 600 dollar Home theater in a box to a $3,000 speakers, you'll notice a much better sound, BUT ... as you keep upgrading from 3K to 6K, you won't get that great difference you gtom from TV speakers to $600 theater ot 600 to 3,000 speakers.

 

Issue is ... to hear the extra difference as you upgrade, you need to upgrade all other components as well.

 

Example ... if you upgrade from $2,000 speakers to $5,000 speakers ... if you are using a cheap receiver, at some point you won't hear a difference at all.

 

If you want to relate it to Headphones .... maybe once you go beyond $700, now you should rally look into your AMP (not those $130 ones), or your source ... go to FLAC or WAV.  

 

There is value to what you say, but there are many other things to consider.

 

It's like buying crazy good tires for your car but if the car is bad, those tires are limited to what the car can do. And vise verse.

 

To this day ... biggest sound improvement I heard when I went from TV speakers to $600 home theater. When I went from No Subwoofer to a $1,000 sub.   Would i hear a huge improvement from $1,000 to a $2,000 sub?  probably not.

post #5 of 39
Thread Starter 

I think audio equipment is limited by the very physic of the equipment.

 

So right now, I have the monoprice 8320 for in-ear and DT990 pro for over the ear.  My friend also brought the in-ear Hifi-man RE-400, one of the highest rated for in-ear with the score of 9/10 by joker.

 

When I compare the monoprice to hifiman, initially, the sound from hifi man was clearer.  However, after I played around with the EQ, the monoprice sound JUST as clear as the hifiman.  I even have my friend tested both in-ear and he cannot tell the different.  I think in every audio equipment, there's a sweet spot and if you go over that sweet spot, there's a HUGE diminishing return.

 

The sweet spot for in-ear imo is 7 bucks.  Monoprice, with the right eq setting will sound equal to most high end in-ear.  The limitation of monoprice is also the limitation of the very nature of in-ear itself.

 

In-ear simply cannot pump out the same level of bass as over the ear headphone.  In-ear sounds are quite thin and not quite as full as over the year.  Finally, in-ear are totally incapable of producing the same level of soundstage as my dt990.  I have not hear any 1,000 dollar in-ear, but i think it's impossible for any in-ear to produce the same level of soundstage as my dt990 pro.  It's just physic.

 

I think the sweet spot for over the year is around 100-200 bucks.  Anymore than that then you get HUGE diminishing return.  If you want a huge improvement in audio quality, then you need professional floor speakers imo.

 

Base on what you say Pianist, it seem that the sweet spot for floor speakers are around 600-3000k.  A 1,000 dolllars speakers setup will probably destroy any headphones that cost 1,000-3,000 dollars easily.

 

What do you think of my opinion?

post #6 of 39
I think you're lucky. Headfiers find hard to settle for a particular sound or signature, commonly called headphones',nirvana. If you're happy with your rig, that's what matters! Don't really pay much attention what others say.
post #7 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by iambrian81 View Post
A 1,000 dolllars speakers setup will probably destroy any headphones that cost 1,000-3,000 dollars easily.

 

 

Depends on what you mean by destroy. In terms of retrieval of detail the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of bass that you can feel and soundstaging, the speakers will destroy they headphones easily. In terms of enabling you to play music at a reasonably realistic level without disturbing your neighbors the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of portability the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of not cluttering up your space and the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of a flexible listning position the headphones will destroy the speakers easily.

 

I could go on and on, but I think you should be getting the picture by now. Headphones and speakers are tools to suite different purposes and talking about one destroying the other without any further qualification is rather meaningless.

 

 

With respect to the OP, diminishing returns are huge in hifi. Sometimes people pay absurd amounts for a difference that may or may not be audible, just because having a cable with magic dust sprinkled on it, or a product from a well known manufacturer makes them feel better. The good news is that if you are careful what you spend your money on you can get very good results for a reasonably small amount of money.

post #8 of 39

Yes there is diminishing return

post #9 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hooster View Post
 

 

Depends on what you mean by destroy. In terms of retrieval of detail the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of bass that you can feel and soundstaging, the speakers will destroy they headphones easily. In terms of enabling you to play music at a reasonably realistic level without disturbing your neighbors the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of portability the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of not cluttering up your space and the headphones will destroy the speakers easily. In terms of a flexible listning position the headphones will destroy the speakers easily.

 

I could go on and on, but I think you should be getting the picture by now. Headphones and speakers are tools to suite different purposes and talking about one destroying the other without any further qualification is rather meaningless.

 

 

With respect to the OP, diminishing returns are huge in hifi. Sometimes people pay absurd amounts for a difference that may or may not be audible, just because having a cable with magic dust sprinkled on it, or a product from a well known manufacturer makes them feel better. The good news is that if you are careful what you spend your money on you can get very good results for a reasonably small amount of money.

 

Another benefit of a 1k speaker setup is that if you have multiple friends you want to share the music with, you can WOW all of them with it.

post #10 of 39

Diminishing returns maybe, but mainly it's down to clever marketing. I'll take a DT880 over a T1 any day.

post #11 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by iambrian81 View Post
 

I think audio equipment is limited by the very physic of the equipment.

 

So right now, I have the monoprice 8320 for in-ear and DT990 pro for over the ear.  My friend also brought the in-ear Hifi-man RE-400, one of the highest rated for in-ear with the score of 9/10 by joker.

 

When I compare the monoprice to hifiman, initially, the sound from hifi man was clearer.  However, after I played around with the EQ, the monoprice sound JUST as clear as the hifiman.  I even have my friend tested both in-ear and he cannot tell the different.  I think in every audio equipment, there's a sweet spot and if you go over that sweet spot, there's a HUGE diminishing return.

 

The sweet spot for in-ear imo is 7 bucks.  Monoprice, with the right eq setting will sound equal to most high end in-ear.  The limitation of monoprice is also the limitation of the very nature of in-ear itself.

 

In-ear simply cannot pump out the same level of bass as over the ear headphone.  In-ear sounds are quite thin and not quite as full as over the year.  Finally, in-ear are totally incapable of producing the same level of soundstage as my dt990.  I have not hear any 1,000 dollar in-ear, but i think it's impossible for any in-ear to produce the same level of soundstage as my dt990 pro.  It's just physic.

 

I think the sweet spot for over the year is around 100-200 bucks.  Anymore than that then you get HUGE diminishing return.  If you want a huge improvement in audio quality, then you need professional floor speakers imo.

 

Base on what you say Pianist, it seem that the sweet spot for floor speakers are around 600-3000k.  A 1,000 dolllars speakers setup will probably destroy any headphones that cost 1,000-3,000 dollars easily.

 

What do you think of my opinion?

 

 

I think that comparing Speakers to headphones is a waste of time. Like Hooster said and I agree 100%, it really depends.

 

I get more detail and many other things from my $140 headphones than a high end $4,000 sound system. But, my 4K home theater has it's own benefits. Sub that does great, soundstage, etc.

 

Problem with speakers is that before the sound can reach your ears, it gets destroyed by all the things such as outside noise, room configuration, sound bounce, etc, etc. With headphones, you avoid all of those things and your sound is more pure. I don;t think that it ever has to be one or the other.

 

Now, back to the diminishing return .... I think the following

 

1) Headphones:

Yes.... once you go from in-ear ones to about $200 well made headphones, ...that is the biggest change you'll notice. Anything beyond is not as significant.

 

2) Home speakers: / Theater

Once you go from TV speakers to stand alone, even cheap HTiB system at $700 or so ... huge change. 

Upgrading from $700 HTiB to $3,000 speakers ... noticeable difference but less than TV speakers to HTiB. Going from 3K system to 6K? .... even less

 

3) Plasma TV / LED / LCD etc... 4K

Once you went to Plasma/LED/LCD from your regular TV .. that was a major change.

Upgrading from 720p to 1080p, or 120Hz to 260Hz or something ... even less noticeable.

 

4) Buying a Home Theater subwoofer ..... any of them will be a huge return compared to not having one.

I bought one of the best Subs out there for $1,000. Believe me, I would have been fine probably with one at half the price.

But ... having that extra UMPH that came with the $1,000 sub if not with sound alone but with pride of owning a monster made it all worthwhile. 

 

5) Buying a photo camera.

Going from point and shoot to an SLR .... major return.

Upgrading a $600 SLR to a $1,200 SLR .... not that big of a deal.

 

Bottom line is .... going from Not having to Having is major. All the rest is not as major :-)

post #12 of 39
Price range of $300 is where it starts for headphones.
post #13 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by wnmnkh View Post

Price range of $300 is where it starts for headphones.

 

I'll be honest with you..... so far ... $150 is where it started for me.

 

I just compared my $140 Sennheiser HD380 to Sennheiser 600 ($250 or something today) ..... some things the HD600 did better but overall HD380 is more forgiving. I am still happy with the $140 pair. So far had 5 other headsets price range $150-$399 go against it). Again, just my opinion and to my ears.

post #14 of 39
Thread Starter 

300 dollars are when it's a good price for MSVP for headphone, but no one would pay for that.

 

DT990 on average cost 300, but for some reason, the DT990 Pro 250 ohm only cost 150 bucks.  I havent found a single headphone around 1,000 or under that sound better yet.

post #15 of 39
Thread Starter 

Btw, you can get the Sennheiser HD 380 used on amazon for 39 bucks :D.  Talk about great value: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=sennheiser+380&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Asennheiser+380

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