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Is there diminishing return when it comes to headphone quality? - Page 3

post #31 of 39

From sennheiser px100 price point all is diminishing return imho. also is not only about the cost, is about the complexity of the setup. Bulky portable rigs with external amp/dac+player are the living image of diminishing return...

post #32 of 39

In response to the notion that Portapro or PX100 is the final step before you're wasting your money, I think it might depend on what sort of music you listen to. Maybe that's true for badly recorded small ensemble music, but not a full symphony orchestra. I really do need to spend $300 + amping. Sorry for my wallet.

post #33 of 39

I wouldn't even call it "diminishing returns". There are variety of headphones available, and some of them are priced higher then others. That's it. Preferring one headphone over another is a personal thing, but just because a headphone costs more doesn't mean you will like it more. In fact, more often then not for casual listening the opposite is probably true.

post #34 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by iambrian81 View Post
 

Are the portapros open headphones?

 

The biggest sound improvement i've experienced so far was from the dt990 with it extremely wide soundstage, clarity and very punchy bass.  Unless the portapros can deliver ALL of the above, i dont know if they are comparable.


They are open back, but they're on ears and definitely not in the price range of the DT990's either. They can be had for around $30.

As far as sound signature they definitely won't share the airiness of something like the Beyer DT880/990 or even maybe 770 (closed back), they feel more like Grados in that respect IMHO. A slightly more intimate feel. The PP doesn't share a special history of ownership with me or anything but they definitely hold a dear spot in my heart despite owning better gear and knowing its shortcomings.

 

 

Though let's be honest: sometimes the most significant sound improvement doesn't lie within a specific price range. When we listen to gears and get used to it, there are parts about it that we inherently and unconsciously start to love, and some part we will find lacking or even hate. Finding your most significant improvement will be when you try something (for all argument's sake, let's use the word "better" describing an upgrade from cheap sounding earbuds or cans) new and find something that is more inline to your preferences. Whether or not you are fully aware of the shortcomings/strengths of your gear.

 

That said, it also depends what your previous gear of reference was, and what music you listen to. It also depends on where you place the importance of sound. I like vocal-centric music as well as occasional orchestrated stuff. These preferences align me for warmer signatures and surely that's what I tend to prefer: mids and bass that isn't overpowering. For someone that's been used to using the free first gen Apple earbuds for instance, we know that it was bass shy and the vocals lacked body. For these people and especially those that are into pop music, we can see them gravitating towards bass heavy, warm sounding headphones. This is also the most common type of sound we now find in lower end gear. Most likely because that's exactly what their reference earphones/headphones lacked that would have been beneficial to the enjoyment of said music of preference. Isn't that why we all have a few tracks we like to use to 'evaluate' new gears?

 

Of course, for those that upgrade and don't look back sometimes they won't realize that there may be aspects their old reference gears do better than the new ones. Whether we're too preoccupied by the fact that, what wasn't now is, or we simply don't care for the rest that much. Older earbuds tend to sound brighter due to lack of seal and the weird direction of sound diffusion versus the ear canal and how bass in dynamic drivers design wasn't mature back then. Bewitched by now having bass and warmer mids, some completely forget about the highs; this is why so much of the lower end geared towards the general population have sucked out highs. People forgot, or don't care no more.

 

 

And now I'll say something really hypocrite, almost disregarding everything I've written above!

To me, the sweet spot in good sounding gear for good price/value starts around $70 and ends about $300. Low-Fi and mainly Mid-Fi. Sadly, to some extent the phrase "you get what you pay for" is in effect.

It should, however, be fair to classify gears in such a way: (Click to show)
Super cheap: To give you a sound emitting source.
Low-Fi: Starts to give you choice in sound signatures all the while providing noticeable improvement in overall SQ.
Mid-Fi: Gives you the taste of quality.
Hi-Fi: The search for perfection. This comes at a price.

That said, for many people Mid-Fi will be their exact definition for perfection. For others, Lo-Fi is that definition. Hi-Fi is foremost for enthusiasts. Someone not into music can A/B Lo-Fi, Mid-Fi and Hi-Fi, and not find the Hi-Fi gear better or significantly better.

Mind you that since the recent portable music gear boom, there are more and more cheap gear that just sound absolutely excellent, disregarding sale prices and etc. The lower bound of the price bracket will just lower... well, hopefully anyway.

 

Like all hobbies and essentially any type of product in the world, yes, there are diminishing returns. Specially in enthusiast products like audio, gaming, pens, you name it.

But one thing we can keep in mind: our bodies are far less perfect than these mass-produced gears. We hear differently (sound quality/balance), we see and think differently (looks and design), we feel differently (fit, isolation and comfort) and we also behave differently (pertaining to durability and use). The most significant change will most likely lie somewhere aligned with whatever serves our differences best towards our personal preferences. That's why even within all the top of the line flagships we seldom see unanimous agreement as to which headphone is the best.

post #35 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by kalbee View Post

 

It should, however, be fair to classify gears in such a way: (Click to show)
Super cheap: To give you a sound emitting source.
Low-Fi: Starts to give you choice in sound signatures all the while providing noticeable improvement in overall SQ.
Mid-Fi: Gives you the taste of quality.
Hi-Fi: The search for perfection. This comes at a price.

That said, for many people Mid-Fi will be their exact definition for perfection. For others, Lo-Fi is that definition. Hi-Fi is foremost for enthusiasts.

 

Your post is very fine and thoughtful, and I find your explanation for the current bass-heavy trend intriguing and plausible.

 

I think people might disagree about what counts as mid-fi based on your definition. I suppose I would consider SRH840 or M50 to be "a taste of quality," what I call good but not very good. Many, however, would consider HD600 mid-fi, and I disagree. It's very good. So good in fact that the difference between it and HD800 is a difference of degree, not of kind. Moreover, I doubt there is perfection, so I'm not really looking.

 

And I agree with you that the very good and excellent are more expensive and even over-priced, especially if one is considering dedicated sources, desktop amps, . . . (hush) cables.

post #36 of 39

I think the point of diminishing is very low, actually.

 

Entry Level IEM (> $10): Monoprice 8320 and Philips SHE3580 are the best you can get.

Entry Level Headphones (> $20): Kicker HP541 rebrand (balanced-ish with some oddball mids emphasis and a treble peak in sibilance range), Koss KSC75 + Parts Express Headband (trebly with a mid-bass hump), Sony MA100 (open-back, warmy and bassy). Notice that, with the exception of the MA100s, these typically have rather imbalanced FRs. The sound signature choices are very few.

(> $30): Tascam TH-02 (bass linearity and relative neutrality -- bit of a dip in the lower treble), JVC HA-S400B (bass heavy with an uneven FR), Panasonic HTF600 (semi-open bass heavy with durability issues), Philips Downtown. Notice the diversification of the tonalities available and more headphones that do not have massively uneven FRs.

(> $80): This is the category where FRs begin to even out even more. The CAL! and NVX XPT100s are now available with pretty solid, even curves. 

 

I believe all 4 of these points can be seen as the "point of diminishing return." The jump from $3 earbuds to $10 IEMs is astounding. The jump from any headphone under $20 to a smart choice like those is another huge jump. The $30 bracket opens up a low-distortion headphone with bass linearity down to 20hz with a relatively even sound -- another huge jump from the $20 or less headphones. The $80 bracket opens up a variety of headphones with very smooth curves, low distortion, and overall solid performance.

post #37 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SanjiWatsuki View Post
 

I think the point of diminishing is very low, actually.

 

Entry Level IEM (> $10): Monoprice 8320 and Philips SHE3580 are the best you can get.

Entry Level Headphones (> $20): Kicker HP541 rebrand (balanced-ish with some oddball mids emphasis and a treble peak in sibilance range), Koss KSC75 + Parts Express Headband (trebly with a mid-bass hump), Sony MA100 (open-back, warmy and bassy). Notice that, with the exception of the MA100s, these typically have rather imbalanced FRs. The sound signature choices are very few.

(> $30): Tascam TH-02 (bass linearity and relative neutrality -- bit of a dip in the lower treble), JVC HA-S400B (bass heavy with an uneven FR), Panasonic HTF600 (semi-open bass heavy with durability issues), Philips Downtown. Notice the diversification of the tonalities available and more headphones that do not have massively uneven FRs.

(> $80): This is the category where FRs begin to even out even more. The CAL! and NVX XPT100s are now available with pretty solid, even curves. 

 

I believe all 4 of these points can be seen as the "point of diminishing return." The jump from $3 earbuds to $10 IEMs is astounding. The jump from any headphone under $20 to a smart choice like those is another huge jump. The $30 bracket opens up a low-distortion headphone with bass linearity down to 20hz with a relatively even sound -- another huge jump from the $20 or less headphones. The $80 bracket opens up a variety of headphones with very smooth curves, low distortion, and overall solid performance.

 

I have the monoprice 8320.  If I play around with the EQ, I can make the IEM as clear as the Hifi-Man HE-400.  However, the sounds coming from the monoprice sounds quite thin.  In fact, it sounded way too laidback and dead for my taste.  Is there any cheap IEM that have good bass, exellent clarity and full sounding similar to full size IEM?

post #38 of 39

Its all relative to each individual consumer, any car can take you from point A to point B, and anything you spend beyond can be considered a waste, then there's some who will spend a bit more and think they hit the sweet spot. 

 

when I went from driving a broken down old car to new M3 convertible I thought what a difference, can it get any better. but in the back of my mind I always had this feeling or voice telling me driving a Ferrari might still be better yet.  And this feeling was confirmed at interstate 287 North when a Ferrari smirked at me,  stepped on  his pedal and left me a county behind like it was nothing.

 

The problem is when you go up the chain things can, actually get much better (though not always) its just that our wallets have limits.

post #39 of 39
There are definitely diminishing returns, however this varies from individual to individual. Some think that anything above the Senn PX-200 is overkill, others think that anything above $150 is audio tom foolery, and some think that anything less than the LCD2 is a waste of time.

The diminishing return curve is all up to the person based upon money, time, complexity, source components, and what the usage patterns will be.

My stance, for example, is that I have been out of the game for 25 years and I have lots of time and the dosh to experiment. Thus I began at the bottom and purchased many dreadful Chinese cans to see what the market is now, and I continue to work my way up from Lo-fi to Mid-fi. Already I have discovered two surprises, and find that I like the Superlux house sound very much. Superlux, in fact all Chinese headphones, did not exist in 1989.

I don't have a problem owning, for example, 50 pairs of cans, but I know that I will reach a point where I look at my collection and think "This is silly, time to cull the stable" and then pare it down. The good side is that none of them will wear out as usage will be spread amongst so many.

For me, diminishing returns ultimately would be at the K812, LCD-XC, Stax 009, Ultrasone ED10, LCD3 level.

I would not mind having several cans at the level of the HD800 and TH900, but not pricier than that. Of course, the sum of three of those is the price of the SR-009 and my collection will very likely reach a sum total of that amount or greater, so the question is what do I want in my collection? For me, ultimately, I want a variety of phones for different styles (number undecided as of this writing) and dropping $6,000 USD on one just doesn't seem sensible when I could purchase 5 at the HD-700 level, 10 at the X1 level or nearly the entire industry segment around the DT-770 level.

I guess I want variety, since I have been out of the hobby for so long; I want to hear what is out there.
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