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How important is the Holy Grail of perfect sound really? - Page 2

post #16 of 33

To respond to the OP, I think the pursuit of HQ (perfect is debatable) sound is a valid one. 

 

Being a musician myself, I can tell you that a lot of work goes into playing an instrument well, much less recording a song, much less producing a record. 

 

The higher quality the replication of the final product thanks to this process, the more the listener is going to get out of all that hard work. To me, an appropriate analogy would be comparing a front row ticket to your favorite group's show, where you can see and hear the emotion of the artists versus being at the back of the auditorium sitting behind an ex-middle linebacker where seeing and hearing are mediocre at best. Which of those will be a more affective experience? If you whole-heartedly would prefer the first, then you too will appreciate listening to higher quality recordings with more capable components in your audio chain. 

post #17 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorspeaker View Post

Yes...about USB cables... Make a difference to my ears..

A statement like this brings in the sharks in headfi...lolz
I get swallowed all the time..when I am jus sharing what I heard.

Lol sorry, but there's only one correct way to deliver a signal like that. There's more science behind HDMI cables making a difference.


Edited by deciBel23 - 2/21/14 at 5:43pm
post #18 of 33

My appreciation for well-engineered/mastered music has definitely increased.

post #19 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrLazyAnt View Post

No it shouldn't, because I'm not asking if audiophiles appreciate music more deeply here. I'm asking how reasonable turning our noses up at consumer audio gear is, and any change in my appreciation of music isn't necessarily mirrored by others.

Maybe it depends on the genre. For classical, one needs better than average gear such as a very good open over ear model (e.g., HD600, K70x, &c.). I don't strictly need that for other genres.

As to the Holy Grail, very good is good enough. It so happens that I prefer the very good mid-priced models to the newer flagships, but that's a matter of preference and is also influenced by the poor sound quality of the old records I listen to.
post #20 of 33

I think it all comes down to the personal preferences of the listener. I think that if someone has the money to have great rig, and loves this hobby enough, then yes, there's nothing wrong with getting 'better' gear if that's what they want. The same goes for any hobby, really.

 

I put better in quotes because I think this is a highly subjective hobby. If you have a car, a Foxbody Mustang, let's say, and it runs 12s, you can't debate that. It's there, it's on paper, so to speak. You can't tell someone it runs 8s and then show up to the track and magically run an 8 on the next run. With this hobby, for example, who is really to say that the HD800 is better than the K240 Sextett? The point is, if someone likes the K240 Sextett over the HD800, does that make them any less of a music lover, or audiophile? I certainly don't think so.

 

Like I think you're saying, I do think that we should be able to enjoy our music on 'substandard' gear. I know I can listen to music on anything and enjoy the music, however, when I listen on good gear, it's always more enjoyable to hear the recording more thoroughly. 

 

What I think I'm getting at, is the holy grail of perfect sound changes from person to person. I think that rather than chasing the holy grail of sound, it's better to just acquire gear and enjoy it.

 

That's just my opinion though.

post #21 of 33

Mostly it's about people's priorities.

If folks are listening to music just as background entertainment for other activities and they are fine with mp3 from ear buds, so what ?

"Turning up noses" about their way of music consumption would be pretty silly.

 

Certain kind of sources just make me nervous after 2 minutes and I have to turn it off. That depends on the music and my personal stress level. Of course I do enjoy listening to audiophile quality systems but that's just me and if others are OK with what ever they listen to, that is nothing of my concern and I don't have to convince them that are on the wrong track, or that they are missing something.

 

Some people like fine cuisine along with good wine over a 2 hrs plus dinner.

Others are perfectly happy with a burger, french fries and a big gulp of Coke which they hork down in less than 10 minutes.

 

As far as the "Holy Grail" ...

if the reproduction of a live performance gives me a good sense of being "there" and the illusion of the musicians being in front of me when I close my eyes, that's good enough. And I closely watch the value for money as the law of diminishing returns has started to kick in already pretty hefty.


Edited by icebear - 3/4/14 at 11:45am
post #22 of 33

To me, it's all about "best sound within needs and resources". 

 

Let's say you're someone who fires up your mp3 player when you're at the gym and that's really it. Your needs are modest. So the "holy grail" is meaningless.

 

However, let's say you listen to music for 8-ish hours per day and what's on your head is VERY important. Well now it means a lot more. So you start chasing. You have a budget of $200, so you find headphones that fit that to the best of your ability.

 

That's all. No one should feel like they have to spend X dollars or else they're ruining their experience, and at the same time there IS a law of diminishing returns anyway. But if you have $1000 you'd like to spend on an amazing audio setup... maximize it!

post #23 of 33

[quote]Going back to the original phrasing of the question, how important is the SQ? At what point do you decide "You know what? @#$& this. I'm just going to sit in silence"?[/quote]

 

Well... not very, to be honest. If the music is good it will be enjoyable even if it was being played out of say, a laptop. The only reason to get better gear is to hear that same music again in higher fidelity.

 

[quote]However, let's say you listen to music for 8-ish hours per day and what's on your head is VERY important. Well now it means a lot more. So you start chasing. You have a budget of $200, so you find headphones that fit that to the best of your ability.[/quote]

 

If I listened to music 8 hours a day... well I don't know about you, but my attention span would only allow me to pay full attention to the music for maybe 5% of that. The rest of the time, it wouldn't matter if I had ibuds or Stax SR-007s on. (to qualify that, I do own a pair of SR-007s)

 

In summary, if you can't enjoy your music on cheap gear, its unlikely that you'll find that much more appreciation for it on better gear.

post #24 of 33
A distinction worth mentioning here is that between hearing music and listening.

Those who hear probably won't care to upgrade their skullcandys or apple buds. Those who truly listen will want more.
post #25 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeDoe View Post

A distinction worth mentioning here is that between hearing music and listening.

Those who hear probably won't care to upgrade their skullcandys or apple buds. Those who truly listen will want more.

 

What's "more"? How far does the pursuit go? That's the question. There are levels between stock earbuds and $5000 setups. 

 

I personally think you're hitting a cap in the $400 area. At that level the fidelity of the recordings themselves are more likely to be the limiting factor than the gear. Using $10 headphones one's musical choices are likely going to be independent of how well produced they are. Up to $50-100 and you'll start finding some that sound better on them than others. A couple hundred bucks on the gear and now you'll find yourself turning away from albums you used to love because you're discovering that they're far less clear and well-made as others. Above that? Once you start getting into the ultra high gear? Once you're there you have to start getting music simply FOR the equipment. You're at a point now where you're not trying to maximize you're enjoyment of music, you're trying to find music that sounds best on your headphones. 

 

I feel like the "audiophile" as we define the term isn't someone who loves music, they're someone who pursues perfect "sound" in the abstract form, and are more interested in pulling tiny nuances and subtleties out of the listening experience over sitting back and taking in the music as a whole. If I can't tell whether a drummer is using wood-tipped or nylon-tipped drumsticks, I don't feel I've lost anything in the experience. Some obviously disagree, and more power to them. Their OCD is what leads to people like me getting crazy good products for a lot less money a few years down the road, LOL. 

post #26 of 33
Maybe how far you go depends on your source material. Like you alluded to, low quality sources won't come through good equipment like lossless will. So as the SQ of the source rises, so too do the benefits if better gear. At that point I guess your disposable Income and the refinement of your hearing play a role also.

I for one have learned (in part thanks to head-fi) to hear more nuances in my music, which now that I've come to expect, are no longer negotiable. If I don't hear them and it's caused by inferior equipment then well, that's unacceptable really. If I want to experience was a painting has to offer most genuinely, I'll drive an hour to the gallery where it's hanging, not look it up on google images. Same for music.
post #27 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeDoe View Post

Maybe how far you go depends on your source material. Like you alluded to, low quality sources won't come through good equipment like lossless will. So as the SQ of the source rises, so too do the benefits if better gear. At that point I guess your disposable Income and the refinement of your hearing play a role also.

I for one have learned (in part thanks to head-fi) to hear more nuances in my music, which now that I've come to expect, are no longer negotiable. If I don't hear them and it's caused by inferior equipment then well, that's unacceptable really. If I want to experience was a painting has to offer most genuinely, I'll drive an hour to the gallery where it's hanging, not look it up on google images. Same for music.

 

That analogy is a bit flawed because the museum would be the analog version of the music (as in, live performance). I think we all agree that no headphone setup will quite replicate hearing it live in an optimal setting.

 

What it's often like to me is the resolution wars in displays. I have an iPhone 5S after previously have a Galaxy S4. The iPhone 5s has a resolution that's about 310dpi, and the Galaxy S4 is 440ppi. The latter has an undeniably sharper screen, this isn't arguable. However, it's a difference that only rears its head when you put the phone about two inches from your face and really scrutinize the pixels. At a normal viewing distance, the eye can't tell them apart. With audio, there comes a point where you just can't hear "better". It might BE better, but unless you intentionally put something through it that functions to highlight that, you won't know.

 

I've said this before, I would LOVE to take a group of people and have them blind test a few dozen headphones, but not tell them how much any of them cost. I would put down money that people will pick favorites from a wide range of prices, they will not simply gravitate all toward the most expensive based on sonics alone. They all have different characters, but "better" will vary. I adore my M100's to pieces, but I'll readily admit that the jump in sound over $200 headphones isn't nearly as profound as the jump from $100 to $200 or $50 to $100. 

post #28 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by SomeGuyDude View Post

What's "more"? How far does the pursuit go? That's the question. There are levels between stock earbuds and $5000 setups. 

I personally think you're hitting a cap in the $400 area. At that level the fidelity of the recordings themselves are more likely to be the limiting factor than the gear. Using $10 headphones one's musical choices are likely going to be independent of how well produced they are. Up to $50-100 and you'll start finding some that sound better on them than others. A couple hundred bucks on the gear and now you'll find yourself turning away from albums you used to love because you're discovering that they're far less clear and well-made as others. Above that? Once you start getting into the ultra high gear? Once you're there you have to start getting music simply FOR the equipment. You're at a point now where you're not trying to maximize you're enjoyment of music, you're trying to find music that sounds best on your headphones.

This is too broad to work for the genres I listen to (mostly subgenres of classical). It's not true first regarding price. For classical one needs a very good open model + a decent amp, and that's over $500 already, not including the cost of the source.

Maybe the reason you think the expensive systems disqualify recordings is the inept way most "audiophiles" slap together their so-called systems. An amazing, very expensive system can easily handle a great variety of records if the system itself is well-conceived and some tweaks are implemented.
post #29 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by SomeGuyDude View Post

That analogy is a bit flawed because the museum would be the analog version of the music (as in, live performance). I think we all agree that no headphone setup will quite replicate hearing it live in an optimal setting.

I would say that seeing the artist paint the picture would be the equivalent to a live performance. Both are the creation stage while the gallery and parallel album represent the recorded in order to be replicated later stage.

I do agree with you that few cans come close to replicating a live performance but I won't say there aren't any.

For me, my entire head fi pursuit is about creating a set up whether desktop or portable, that replicates the artists in the studio or onstage depending on what kind of recording were dealing with. So once again the quality of the source is very influential. Compression removes the instrument separation and soundstage along with the articulation a and overtones that make instruments sound real. To realize these nuances, you need good gear. Bottom line. IMHO there are maybe one or two headphones for under $300 that can do that with any success. Add another $150-200 for a decent DAP or sound card + however much is needed to procure high quality audio files.
post #30 of 33

My point isn't whether or not those nuances exist. Although, as a quick sidebar, that's also heavily dependent upon the recording itself having been made and mastered perfectly. You get a spot-on perfect reproduction of an imperfect recording and all that extra fidelity adds up to a hill of beans. I'm a metalhead, and there are tons of recordings that INTENTIONALLY overblow, using distortion that clips the signal on purpose, or is lo-fi by design. You can FLAC and DAC a Burzum album all you want, it's not gonna get much "better".

 

The point, though, isn't whether or not they exist, the point is when do they become trivial? At one point does the difference in separation and soundstage become minute enough that unless you're actually A/Bing the equipment you can't differentiate between the two? I'd argue it happens at a lower price point than people think. Now if they want to spend the money, then by all means do so, there's no reason to earn money if we can't enjoy spending it (life is about finding the little things that make each day more enjoyable), but my point is that we all need to recognize exactly what we're doing. I've seen posts where people listened to LCD3's on an expensive amplifier with lossless recordings and were thoroughly underwhelmed, and rather than accepting that just maybe all that extra money on the equipment didn't add a helluva lot to the experience, people attacked the poster for being "wrong" somehow. It's absurd. 

 

And no, the painter creating it isn't the equivalent of the concert. The painter creating it would be the composer WRITING the piece. Paint on canvas is purely analog, it's not a recreation. You cold actually touch the paint and see its three dimensions as they lift away from the canvas where they were laid on extra thick. You're not hearing the music as it's being performed live for you, you're listening to a recreation, thus we're talking about a digital recreation of the painting in some fashion. 

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