I've spent many hours now listening to both (a) my speaker system (total cost, receiver + 6 speakers/subwoofer of about $1,000 [edit: I purchased the set for $1,000 in a sale over 10 years ago, not sure what a modern equivalent would cost, possibly much much less due to technological advancements]) and (b) my HD800.
It's a little hard to say which is "better" because they sound so different that you have a bit of the apples vs. oranges problem. But I have to say the HD800 seems to sounds sort of muddy relative to the speaker setup (yeah you heard right, I said the HD800 sounds muddy). Imaging is also weaker on the HD800, I think (yes you heard right again). The HD800 sounds "fuller" as you would expect for something right next to your ears, but the speakers might sound better at the same dB level at your ear. I haven't done careful listening tests re: detail (like, finding a piece of detail in music and seeing if it shows better in one vs. the other) and this is just a general sense impression.
Does this sound right? Or am I mishearing something?
If it's right -- then why do people use headphones? I use them because I don't want to annoy my neighbors with music. Is that the reason for others? Are we all just people without enough space to enjoy our speakers?
Edited by ag8908 - 3/14/14 at 7:23pm