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Why are high end portables generally poorly made? - Page 2

post #16 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuff Jones View Post

 

Why are high end portables generally poorly made?

 

I've been searching for my "end game" pair of portable headphones and have come across story after story about build quality problems among the top models. In particular I'm talking about the NAD HP 50s and the Focal Spirit Professionals, which generally seem to be regarded as the two best sounding portables.

 

I've tried a number of headphones lately myself - the Thinksound on1s, the Onkyo EF300s, the Soundmagic HP100s, the AKG545s and the Mikros 90s. The only pair that comes close to my $50 Koss DJ100s in build quality are the Soundmagics. 

 

Why? Do manufactures know that us audiophiles will pay for sound above all else and therefore skimp on construction quality? 

 

Personally, I'd be much more likely to part with $300+ on headphones if I know they had a good chance of lasting me 5 years under regular use.

 

Which elite sounding portable headphone does have the best construction?

 

These are actually well-built, in the sense that they will survive abuse. Surviving and surviving it while looking good are two very different things - the overall construction can be sturdy but the materials when abused will lose their luster over time. Think of this as similar to having a Mercedes: leather feels really soft, and is actually tough, and the alloy mags look great, but if your date climbs up on you on the back seat, her stillettos won't make any distinction between that leather and the cheap leatherette on a Japanese car, and neither will the curb make any distinction between those alloy wheels and taxi hub caps.

 

High-end portable = $1,200 for the Ruthenium version, $1,500 for the Palladium

 


So basically, if I wanted a more expensive portable headphone, I'd rather stick with the Spirit Pros, and not just because they're a fraction of the price of that Ultrasone. The wrinkled plastic on them looks like they'll survive getting placed on non-dedicated (for audio equipment) surfaces where a lot of other stuff like writing materials, cameras, and mugs might make contact with it. If anything you can just wait until they fix those construction issues - even the Sennheiser HD600 had the cable contacts routinely failing in the first few batches until they realized that, one, there were a lot of units failing, and second, that the way they attached the socket for the cables to the drivers weren't stress-tested to withstand cable rollers.

post #17 of 47
Thread Starter 

There's many reports of the Spirit Pros cracking under normal use. Focal claims it's just the first few batches but recent purchasers have also reported cracking.

 

My tentative hypothesis is that headphone manufacturers know us audiophiles are suckers and will pony up big bucks if something sounds good, even if it doesn't last. So there's little incentive for them to invest in R&D on product durability and invest in more expensive materials for greater durability. In other words, the competition at the higher end levels is 99% on sound quality. 

post #18 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuff Jones View Post
 

I've been searching for my "end game" pair of portable headphones and have come across story after story about build quality problems among the top models. In particular I'm talking about the NAD HP 50s and the Focal Spirit Professionals, which generally seem to be regarded as the two best sounding portables.

 

I've tried a number of headphones lately myself - the Thinksound on1s, the Onkyo EF300s, the Soundmagic HP100s, the AKG545s and the Mikros 90s. The only pair that comes close to my $50 Koss DJ100s in build quality are the Soundmagics. 

 

Why? Do manufactures know that us audiophiles will pay for sound above all else and therefore skimp on construction quality? 

 

Personally, I'd be much more likely to part with $300+ on headphones if I know they had a good chance of lasting me 5 years under regular use.

 

Which elite sounding portable headphone does have the best construction?

 

I owned a pair of the Nad HP 50s and thought they were very well built. What makes them seem cheap to you? They are not the best sounding portables IMO. I prefer a few others more (I returned my NAD HP 50s) after auditioning many closed headsets. I actually use my HD25 as my portable set still. 


Edited by pachoo5 - 5/30/14 at 11:05am
post #19 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuff Jones View Post
 

The point is, if these are really portable headphones they've got to be made so they don't need to be treated with kid gloves.

um, first off, the hell does "kid gloves" even mean, kids beat the ever living tar out of their stuff last I checked

 

and headphones are precision pieces of equipment and should always be treated as such, and while I agree with the premise that something portable should be able to survive being dropped or smacked around a few times you should still be handling them with care at ALL times to make sure that NEVER happens. 

 

not to mention that nearly every portable headphone that's worth jack IS built very well, just look at the Beyerdynamic DT1350, the V-MODA M80, the Ultrasone Signature Pro/DJ, the HE-400, any CIEM, most Etymotics

post #20 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pachoo5 View Post
 

 

I owned a pair of the Nad HP 50s and thought they were very well built. What makes them seem cheap to you? They are not the best sounding portables IMO. I prefer a few others more (I returned my NAD HP 50s) after auditioning many closed headsets. I actually use my HD25 as my portable set still. 

 

I've read a number of HP50 users who've had build quality issues. Haven't owned them myself. 

post #21 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by takato14 View Post
 

um, first off, the hell does "kid gloves" even mean, kids beat the ever living tar out of their stuff last I checked

 

and headphones are precision pieces of equipment and should always be treated as such, and while I agree with the premise that something portable should be able to survive being dropped or smacked around a few times you should still be handling them with care at ALL times to make sure that NEVER happens. 

 

not to mention that nearly every portable headphone that's worth jack IS built very well, just look at the Beyerdynamic DT1350, the V-MODA M80, the Ultrasone Signature Pro/DJ, the HE-400, any CIEM, most Etymotics

 

Kid gloves are extremely soft gloves made from the leather of a young goat. Its an idiom meaning handle with extreme care.

 

The thing is that many of these headphones break in areas which aren't related to them being a precision instrument. For example the headband area. 

post #22 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuff Jones View Post
 

 

Kid gloves are extremely soft gloves made from the leather of a young goat. Its an idiom meaning handle with extreme care.

 

The thing is that many of these headphones break in areas which aren't related to them being a precision instrument. For example the headband area. 

I think many headphone manufacturers aren't the biggest companies so maybe that is part of the reason? NAD for example is fairly new and small if I remember correctly. Other companies are quite obviously larger, like Sennheiser for example. All of my Sennheiser headphones are very well built so it could just be a company size and resource issue. I believe Beyerdynamic headphones are very well built as well.

post #23 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by pachoo5 View Post
 

I think many headphone manufacturers aren't the biggest companies so maybe that is part of the reason? NAD for example is fairly new and small if I remember correctly. Other companies are quite obviously larger, like Sennheiser for example. All of my Sennheiser headphones are very well built so it could just be a company size and resource issue. I believe Beyerdynamic headphones are very well built as well.

Where the hell are you getting THAT from? They're a small company but they most certainly are not new. NAD has been around for ages, they have gear dating all the way back to the 1970s, maybe even earlier. They don't have a lot of gear but what gear they do have is all absurdly good. 

 

I think the issue here is that people are confusing build quality with durability. I see them used interchangeably a lot and quite frankly it's entirely incorrect. For example, AKG headphones are some of the most rugged, durable pieces of equipment I've ever used, but they don't feel good in the hands like a high-end Sony (R10, Qualia, Z7, etc) or Beyerdynamic does. A good way to think of it is like this: Build quality == feels sturdy, while durability == is sturdy. Ideally, you obviously want to have both, but the latter is really the only one that matters from a functionality standpoint.


To be honest, Sennheiser is one of the worst companies in this, because not only do most of their headphones both feel breakable and are breakable, a couple of them (HD600, HD650) feel pretty well put-together but in fact aren't -- so you'll be less inclined to be careful with them and you'll end up with this:

 

 

And as far as the whole "small companies can't afford good build quality" b/s, look at the HiFiMAN orthos, Audez'e, STAX, JPS Labs... the list goes on.


Edited by takato14 - 5/30/14 at 1:40pm
post #24 of 47

I had no idea NAD had been around a while. Are they a home audio company more than headphones?

post #25 of 47
Holy lightning strike Batman! How did that headband snap?
post #26 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorrofox View Post

Holy lightning strike Batman! How did that headband snap?

Sennheiser used Europlastic for the HD600/650's headband. It's a dense, extremely brittle plastic. Normally flexing the headband to put the headphones on can do this; this was not from abuse of any kind and I have seen this happen on numerous occasions.

post #27 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by takato14 View Post
 

Sennheiser used Europlastic for the HD600/650's headband. It's a dense, extremely brittle plastic. Normally flexing the headband to put the headphones on can do this; this was not from abuse of any kind and I have seen this happen on numerous occasions.

Well I guess that I'm going to have to be far more careful with my HD600 considering how much I like them

post #28 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by takato14 View Post

Sennheiser used Europlastic for the HD600/650's headband. It's a dense, extremely brittle plastic. Normally flexing the headband to put the headphones on can do this; this was not from abuse of any kind and I have seen this happen on numerous occasions.
Happened to me with normal use as well. To their credit the HD700 and HD800 is miles better in build quality/durability, so much so that they are the leaders in the segment.
post #29 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by takato14 View Post

Sennheiser used Europlastic for the HD600/650's headband. It's a dense, extremely brittle plastic. Normally flexing the headband to put the headphones on can do this; this was not from abuse of any kind and I have seen this happen on numerous occasions.
Happened to me with normal use as well. To their credit the HD700 and HD800 is miles better in build quality/durability, so much so that they are the leaders in the segment.

How is the HD700 vs. the HD800 in build quality by the way? The HD800 was a very nice feeling headphone, how does the HD700 stack up next to it?

post #30 of 47
They are built to basically the same quality, same materials, probably designed by the same crew. Unfortunately it seems like the HD700's sound was tuned when the group had a few too many.
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