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Is it really worth upgrading to more expensive headphones?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

As of now, I have the Sennheiser HD 598 with no amp, no DAC, no recabling, etc... I've had these for the past few months and I've been enjoying my music more than ever but something worries me... the upgrade bug.

 

Granted, I don't have the money to upgrade now but I will get a job this summer, as I am a college student. However, once I do have the money to upgrade to say, the Sennheiser HD 600 or the HifiMAN HE-400i and an amp/DAC, should I do so? Many Head-Fier's warn that as one buys more expensive equipment, the returns start to drastically lower. (the law of diminishing returns)

 

I would like to know your thoughts on the matter and why or why not it is worth upgrading. Cheers!

 

Garraty

post #2 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garraty View Post
 

As of now, I have the Sennheiser HD 598 with no amp, no DAC, no recabling, etc... I've had these for the past few months and I've been enjoying my music more than ever but something worries me... the upgrade bug.

 

Granted, I don't have the money to upgrade now but I will get a job this summer, as I am a college student. However, once I do have the money to upgrade to say, the Sennheiser HD 600 or the HifiMAN HE-400i and an amp/DAC, should I do so? Many Head-Fier's warn that as one buys more expensive equipment, the returns start to drastically lower. (the law of diminishing returns)

 

I would like to know your thoughts on the matter and why or why not it is worth upgrading. Cheers!

 

Garraty

 

 

Forget about our opinions...the only way you will find out is to try it yourself.    Beyond the law of diminishing returns there is the possibility that you will find a headphone that has a signature that will just make you say, "Wow".   I've had this "wow" moment with three models: the AKG K702, the Beyer T1, and the Sony MDR-F1.  I don't have the T1 anymore -- I "upgraded" to the HD800, which didn't give me a "wow" moment, but I did feel that it was better than the T1 (diminishing returns in place here).

post #3 of 32
Oftentimes you will begin making upgrades across different manufacturers until, like elvergun said, you find that "wow" moment. Once people find that, they will often become a fan of that particular maker and will begin to buy mostly from them. You can see evidence of this across many users in this forum. In my case, it was the Denon AH-D2000 that gave me the "wow" factor enough to order the Fostex TH-600! I ordered the 600 because when I tried them next to the TH-900 at e-earphone in Japan, I liked the 600 more. Strangely enough, I was on TV the entire time that I was testing them because a Japanese TV crew was filming right next to me! Neat!
post #4 of 32

If you're happy with what you have then no, I don't think it's worth upgrading.

 

Yes there will always be better stuff than what you have, but that's true of everything. My policy is to get the best I can afford now and only worry about replacing/upgrading when it breaks.

post #5 of 32
Honestly, if you are on a budget, stay with the hd598. Maybe invest in an Amp like the Schiit Magni, it makes the headphones even better.

I have bought countless headphones (see my profile) but my first "really good" headphones, the HD598, will always stay close to my heart. And it does still sound absolutely amazing no matter what I compare it with.

The upgrade bug is so bad, try to avoid it redface.gif you always try to hunt for something new, better, improved but in the end you end up still unsatisfied and wanting. I revisited some of my earlier purchases recently and was quite shocked of how good they were/are and thought,what on earth drove me to buy more gear?

It's silly sometimes.

On the other hand, there are worse hobbies.

Cheers,
K
post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolpep View Post

Honestly, if you are on a budget, stay with the hd598. Maybe invest in an Amp like the Schiit Magni, it makes the headphones even better.

I have bought countless headphones (see my profile) but my first "really good" headphones, the HD598, will always stay close to my heart. And it does still sound absolutely amazing no matter what I compare it with.

The upgrade bug is so bad, try to avoid it redface.gif you always try to hunt for something new, better, improved but in the end you end up still unsatisfied and wanting. I revisited some of my earlier purchases recently and was quite shocked of how good they were/are and thought,what on earth drove me to buy more gear?

It's silly sometimes.

On the other hand, there are worse hobbies.

Cheers,
K


^^ This ^^

 

I have spent roughly $600 - $800 over the last year or so on headphones and have come to the conclusion that the Law of Diminishing Returns hits really hard in this hobby.

 

I also have the HD 598 and, as you can see in my profile, I have spent gobs of money "hunting something better" and mistakenly made the assumption that if I just spend $100 more, I will reach the next plateau of SQ.  What I have realized is that, FOR ME, there is little or no APPRECIABLE difference between my $35 HD 515s and my $225 HD 600s (both purchased used from sellers on eBay).  Others may disagree but to my ears, this is the case.

 

Are their differences in headphones and will spending more money get you something that you perceive as better than what you have?  It's possible.  If I hada budget of $2500+ (which I don't), I might feel different but I suspect when you will look back, like Koolpep said, you will conclude that your HD 598s are pretty damn good and that is where you probably should have stopped. 

 

As always, YMMV.  


Edited by Boochie - 4/16/14 at 6:18pm
post #7 of 32

if you dont have money. dont spend.

 

 

i might spend my last money on a headphone, cuz my old one is dead. Until it deads, im not willingly to buy another one.

 

 

And , yes. Headphone madness is just terrible.

i bought lots of cheap, then cheap but good sound headphones. Then i started to buy BRAND.

Money spent on it is increasing  gradually. its not good.

 

if you have a good one. Use it untill its dead. When u bury it, start to look at a new one.

post #8 of 32
No
post #9 of 32

It all depends on your preferences, how much enjoyment you are currently getting, and how much $$ you are willing to sacrifice to put a bigger smile in your face.  The only way to know your preferences and your point of diminishing return is to listen to lots and lots of setups... not the easiest or quickest thing to do.  Keep on the lookout for meets and mini-meets.  The used/BST marketplace is a great way to sample gear, its easy to demo something and flip it if its not to your liking for minimal loss.  If you manage your $$ cautiously you can demo ~2 cans at once, and flip one or two at a time recover your $ and snag the next model on your list.

 

I for one would not consider the HD600 an outright improvement over the HD598 in yours and a lot of setups.... more like a side-grade than an upgrade, and it could be a downgrade if your preferences don't match up well with the senn HD6xx strengths. 

post #10 of 32

Depends. I went from HD212's which were my headphones 4 years ago when I started to get into headphones. After some time I got the HD558's, and that was a good step up in quality of the sound, but I can't say I enjoyed listening to the music more. Critical listening obviously improved, but enjoyment? Nah I don't think so, and with some music the enjoyment went down.  After that I had (and sold some of them) HD650's, K701's, Q701's,  DT770's, DT880's, DT990's and T1's.  I can't really say any of them gave me a "wow" moment or experience that I've always expected to get back when I decided I'll start investing into my headphone setup.  To be perfectly honest, each of my journeys trough head-fi more often than not ended with disappointment and that horrible "wait, this is it?" feeling.  Do I enjoy music more on T1's than on the HD212's? Nope. Do I appreciate and respect the sound quality more? Yes. Is it really worth it to me as just a listener and not a professional? Nope.  And to be perfectly frank, I infinitely prefer my cheap dorm room speaker setup to my headphone rig.  (speaker rig consists of a 15 year old Philips receiver that was cheap when new and a pair of Wharfedale Vardus 100 bookshelf speakers, some of the cheapest 6.5inchers you can get on the market,  while the main headphone setup consists of Musical Fidelity M1DAC and M1HPAP + Beyerdynamic T1, costs 10 times more than the speaker setup).   I simply think that the headphone rig can't even come close to my speaker rig in terms of emotion, involvement, naturalness, realism and the feeling of "being there".  I can close my eyes with my speaker rig and feel the singer in the room with me. He has a body, he has presence, height and depth. I don't really get that with headphones. All of the stories and over-exaggerations of "soundstage" with headphones, even with HD800's or K1000's fall into water when you hear a properly set up stereo. And by properly set up I mean having  speakers placed in such a way to form a triangle with your head. That is enough already to beat any headphone out there in terms of imaging. I'd argue my old 30 dollar Logitech PC speakers set up in such a way have better imaging and presence than my T1's, and I don't really care what anyone thinks about that.

 

So, is it worth it? I don't think so. Because, looking at myself right now, after going trough about 60 pairs of headphones in the last 3 years, I'm still not happy with my current rig, and every time I use it I still feel like something is missing. It's hard to explain to you since you haven't experienced it yourself yet, and you have that upgrade bug inside of you that keeps telling you that if you buy something more expensive it's going to be a lot better. It's not gonna happen. It's hard to accept that, and a lot of people will over-exaggerate things in order to make you think it does happen, or in order for them to justify their own spendings, but truth of the matter is,  headphone hi-fi is VERY expensive, hugely expensive for what you get. Diminishing returns kick so hard in this business it can easily knock you off your feet if you're not careful.

 

So my advice to you is (which you will not follow since you have the need to satisfy your curiousity, and looking back at myself 3-4 years ago, I would do the same thing) keep the HD598's, get a cheap amp and DAC that doesn't cost more than the headphones themselves and enjoy the music. Invest into music, not gear. Don't let this hobby turn you into a hardwarephile, which most audiophiles are.  Unless you have A LOT of money, so much that spending 500-600 dollars for headphones means nothing to you, go forth and upgrade, but in order to get any sort of jump in sound quality that will actually feel like you've moved a step up, you'll need to go for HD800's, and even then, it's going to be hit and miss depending on music.

 

EDIT: I know for a fact a lot of my friends from a local hi-fi club in my country have a similar oppinion. I know loads of people who went crazy with their HD800's + Lehmann BCL setups when HD800's came out, and all of them now agree that it was kinda pointless and if they could, they'd keep the money. The funny thing we were talking about just last week is how most of us are actually too lazy to get out the "good" headphones out of their boxes. And that is true in my case. A lot of times I just don't feel like it's worth getting up from my chair in order to open the T1 box, get the headphones out, unwind the cable and plug them into the amp....and then having to be ultra careful how I put the headphones on my head, how I put them on the table in order to not damage them, how I have to adjust them for 20 seconds because the sound out of them is super sensitive to placement over the ear, and then when I open my mouth or talk, the headphone moves and screws up the fit, so I have to usually keep my head movements nice and smooth in order to keep the headphones exactly on the spot where they have to be... and when I'm finished with listening, I have to roll up the cable again, make it fit inside the case, etc.  It's too much fuss and frustration if you want to keep your headphones in good condition, especially if you have OCD and want to keep things perfect....whereas with cheap headphones, you just don't give a damn....you throw them around and don't care, you just focus on the sound.  So  most of the time I just keep my 25 dollar HD202's on my head and listen to music like that, it sure sounds good enough plugged into a 1700 dollar dac and amp combo lol.


Edited by derbigpr - 4/6/14 at 4:40pm
post #11 of 32

Lotta good posts here, but I'll chime in. 

 

Upgrade only if you think the money spent is worth what may well be a modest increase in sound. Going from the $300 M100s to the $800 FAD PH6 didn't give me nearly three times the sound, but it was an upgrade and one that I felt was worth it because, well, I have a budget that allows me to. If I were on a budget where it would be difficult to scrape together the money? Hell no. The difference isn't profound enough to justify a purchase I was in any way uncomfortable with.

 

Here's the biggest question you need to ask yourself: what is your feeling when you listen to your favorite music right now? Do you find yourself wanting? Is there something lacking in the sound? If so, then okay, look around. The WORST thing is the upgrade borne of "I love my current rig, that means I'd be blown away by something better!" so you start buying things not to fulfill a need, but to chase that "high" of feeling like you got something better.

 

I am 100% comfortable in saying I have no interest in getting anything else. I have a mobile pair, a home pair, and earbuds. I'm done. There's nothing lacking in my ability to listen to my music. There really wasn't before, either, and I admit that there was no need to buy something else. But I did anyway, and although I don't regret the purchase, it's not one I tell people they "need" to make unless they're in a position to just splurge.

post #12 of 32

I would say get an M/M stack for $200 and just sit on that until you get the chance to audition something that you fall in love with, then fork over the cash,

post #13 of 32

It might be genre-dependent. For example, classical would be a lot better with a well-amped HD600 and a cleaner signal. Overall, I would advise to upgrade at some point but the specifics of what to upgrade to need some careful consideration--above all, by you. Here's the best advice I've found on the subject: http://www.head-fi.org/t/70046/understanding-and-battling-upgradeitis#post_795853.

post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by derbigpr View Post
 

So my advice to you is (which you will not follow since you have the need to satisfy your curiousity, and looking back at myself 3-4 years ago, I would do the same thing) keep the HD598's, get a cheap amp and DAC that doesn't cost more than the headphones themselves and enjoy the music. Invest into music, not gear. Don't let this hobby turn you into a hardwarephile, which most audiophiles are.  Unless you have A LOT of money, so much that spending 500-600 dollars for headphones means nothing to you, go forth and upgrade, but in order to get any sort of jump in sound quality that will actually feel like you've moved a step up, you'll need to go for HD800's, and even then, it's going to be hit and miss depending on music.

Thats quite a step up from the 598's <grin>, but your excellent suggestion, if we assume the OP is using a computer's sound card, would be to get a cheap amp/DAC that improves the dynamic range, and reduces THD compared to what he has on comparable volume levels.  

 

Yes I also agree on enjoy the music over the gear when starting this hobby.   Heavens knows how large our audio collections grow over time! 

post #15 of 32

1. meh... it's simple ,when you find something you like, you'll be happy and enjoy

 

2. to limit the risks try before buying, or go after the the community feedback, if you go on the blind make sure you get a good deal that won't set you back too much when selling

 

3. don't get dragged by an impulse purchase, think about your priorities

 

said that, i went from sennheiser px100 and  sony walkman to hd650, shure se530, violectric v800 & v200 with beyer t1, hd800, lcd2, lcd3, and now burson conductor & hd800, lcd-x, th900 etc...

 

was it worth it? yes, cos i experienced a lot of different and great sounding gear...

 

the costs part is a major player in getting a satisfactory feeling,

 

then many compare head gear to speakers, i don't like that apart from the context of measuring technical performance, because it's two different experiences,

 

about upgrades, one must differentiate it from sidegrades, the first is typically a technical aspect, the second can be a change in sound presentation and can be per se subjectively an upgrade

 

what's great about head-fi is that technical performance really comes cheap, and head gear covers a bigger range of consumers, meaning there is a lot of feedback and it's easier to figure out what's worth it,

 

and ultimately those who like music, sound, perceive the emotions, will always appreciate and enjoy both the technical and subjective aspect of upgrading-sidegrading,

 

after some research and making the calculus, results will come!

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