Am I just not cut out to be an audiophile?
Oct 1, 2015 at 4:29 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 76

yding202

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Hello all!
 
I've been lurking and posting here and there for a little while now, preparing to make my first 'real' purchase. I'm thinking Oppo PM-3 and the HA-2 to go with it.
 
However, today I got the chance to try out a bunch of really high end headphones and amps.  I tried the Audeze LCD3, Audeze LCD2, Beyerdynamic T1, Grado PS1000, and some others.  I had my iTunes hooked up via USB to a Lavry DA11 DAC, and I tried the Amp in the DA11, a Phonitor 2730B, and some sort of old gigantic Moth Audio tube amp (from some googling, it looks similar to the S45, but not exactly).
 
Here's the thing though, all of these amps sounded pretty much the same to me, no matter which headphones I used.  Additionally, all of these headphones sounded pretty similar as well.  I honestly couldn't tell the difference between the LCD2 and the LCD3 at all.  There was a little bit of difference between the T1 and the Audeze's and the PS1000, but honestly if someone were to blindfold me, I don't think I would be able to identify which headphone was which (except for of course the feeling of the ear pads).
 
So naturally, my next reaction was maybe my sources were just bad (mp3's between 256 and 320 kbps).  So, I hooked up the LCD3, and then opened the Tidal Hifi test here and gave it a try.  I took it maybe 3 or 4 times, and each time, I literally could not tell any difference between any of the A and B samples.  Through best-effort-guessing, I managed a 3/5, 2/5, 1/5, and 4/5 in four different attempts, which leads me to believe this is just pretty random luck, and getting better (lossless) sources won't make a difference for me.
 
I can tell that all of these headphones are definitely *way better* than my Bose QC15 or M50's, but that's largely due to just clarity/lack of distortion.  I'm not hearing any adjectives like 'warm' or 'smooth' or 'bright' among the high end ones.  I put them on and all I can say is "yep. these are good."
 
Are my ears just not sensitive enough to be an audiophile?  What am I supposed to be listening for?  Or is it really that the entire hobby just about obsessing over that 1% difference?
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 5:14 AM Post #2 of 76

kyamei

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I can tell that all of these headphones are definitely *way better* than my Bose QC15 or M50's, but that's largely due to just clarity/lack of distortion.  I'm not hearing any adjectives like 'warm' or 'smooth' or 'bright' among the high end ones.  I put them on and all I can say is "yep. these are good."  
Are my ears just not sensitive enough to be an audiophile?  What am I supposed to be listening for?  Or is it really that the entire hobby just about obsessing over that 1% difference?

 
 
I don't have any "summit-fi" cans (yet), but that pretty much sums up the hobby for me.  In the end, its just nice to own nice things. 
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 5:38 AM Post #3 of 76

Music Alchemist

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The differences between many headphones are night and day. You need to listen to lots of genres of music (the more, the better) to hear all the differences. Also try using lossless files (or at least 256 kbps AAC) for better sound quality.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 5:39 AM Post #4 of 76

mulder01

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I think being an audiophile is more of a burden than something to aim for. If you can be satisfied by a pair of headphones a quarter or a tenth of the price of some of the flagships then rejoice. No need to spend unnecessarily. I listen to music for enjoyment and if you can get enjoyment from a modest rig then that's great. It's all about the music at the end of the day.
An audiophile who needs to endlessly tweak and spend and analyse is probably actually getting less satisfaction than you with your mp3s and your itunes...
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 5:45 AM Post #6 of 76

einyuk

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  Hello all!
 
I've been lurking and posting here and there for a little while now, preparing to make my first 'real' purchase. I'm thinking Oppo PM-3 and the HA-2 to go with it.
 
However, today I got the chance to try out a bunch of really high end headphones and amps.  I tried the Audeze LCD3, Audeze LCD2, Beyerdynamic T1, Grado PS1000, and some others.  I had my iTunes hooked up via USB to a Lavry DA11 DAC, and I tried the Amp in the DA11, a Phonitor 2730B, and some sort of old gigantic Moth Audio tube amp (from some googling, it looks similar to the S45, but not exactly).
 
Here's the thing though, all of these amps sounded pretty much the same to me, no matter which headphones I used.  Additionally, all of these headphones sounded pretty similar as well.  I honestly couldn't tell the difference between the LCD2 and the LCD3 at all.  There was a little bit of difference between the T1 and the Audeze's and the PS1000, but honestly if someone were to blindfold me, I don't think I would be able to identify which headphone was which (except for of course the feeling of the ear pads).
 
So naturally, my next reaction was maybe my sources were just bad (mp3's between 256 and 320 kbps).  So, I hooked up the LCD3, and then opened the Tidal Hifi test here and gave it a try.  I took it maybe 3 or 4 times, and each time, I literally could not tell any difference between any of the A and B samples.  Through best-effort-guessing, I managed a 3/5, 2/5, 1/5, and 4/5 in four different attempts, which leads me to believe this is just pretty random luck, and getting better (lossless) sources won't make a difference for me.
 
I can tell that all of these headphones are definitely *way better* than my Bose QC15 or M50's, but that's largely due to just clarity/lack of distortion.  I'm not hearing any adjectives like 'warm' or 'smooth' or 'bright' among the high end ones.  I put them on and all I can say is "yep. these are good."
 
Are my ears just not sensitive enough to be an audiophile?  What am I supposed to be listening for?  Or is it really that the entire hobby just about obsessing over that 1% difference?

Can see where you'r coming from,
Before, i was listening to my music through my Mobile phone until i came across this site and after many searching on reviews i went and purchased a Fii0 X5 which pretty much blew me away i'am a massive House Music fan and i have always had a wide collection of headphones ( much to the wife's annoyance "why do you need so many?" ) but pretty much wasted on the player i was using at the time.But to me these headphones serve a purpose for different situations and surroundings.
So through this sites reviews  I've also purchased two additional cans the ESS RML-713 which give a lovely bass and are surprisingly light for long sessions and the Aedle VK-1 not only look every inch the business but sound awesome too.
Hopefully through this site i hope to gain a lot knowledge and understanding and hopefully you do too
 
Good luck.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 5:55 AM Post #7 of 76

yding202

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I think being an audiophile is more of a burden than something to aim for. If you can be satisfied by a pair of headphones a quarter or a tenth of the price of some of the flagships then rejoice. No need to spend unnecessarily. I listen to music for enjoyment and if you can get enjoyment from a modest rig then that's great. It's all about the music at the end of the day.
An audiophile who needs to endlessly tweak and spend and analyse is probably actually getting less satisfaction than you with your mp3s and your itunes...

 
I guess it's just so counter-intuitive, since my whole life, I've operated under the paradigm that if I buy something, I want to do a ton of research and make sure I'm buying the best thing available, even if I have to save a little longer and stretch my budget a little extra to do it.  It was just really jarring that I tried two pairs that are supposedly so different (LCD2/LCD3), yet I couldn't distinguish them at all.
 
It also feels like kind of an ego hit, as if somehow my ears are less capable or I'm not as attentive as others...
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 5:59 AM Post #8 of 76

Music Alchemist

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Wanna hear a huge leap in sound quality? Listen to STAX electrostatic earspeakers. (Electrostatic technology is more advanced. Click here to see what I mean.)
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 6:28 AM Post #9 of 76

shanghai2004

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I guess it's just so counter-intuitive, since my whole life, I've operated under the paradigm that if I buy something, I want to do a ton of research and make sure I'm buying the best thing available, even if I have to save a little longer and stretch my budget a little extra to do it.  It was just really jarring that I tried two pairs that are supposedly so different (LCD2/LCD3), yet I couldn't distinguish them at all.
 
It also feels like kind of an ego hit, as if somehow my ears are less capable or I'm not as attentive as others...

 
It takes time to learn to listen to the nuances of different equipment and some differences are not immediately obvious but only come out after longer listening..
The fact you hear a large difference with the Bose product probably means there is nothing wrong with your hearing
 
I would not use any MP3 or AAC based sources for critical comparison because those often take the delicate depth and space information out of the music.
 
Maybe you can start with something relatively affordable, but still great sounding and later on move up if you later feel the difference is worth it.
 
The more expensive option is not always the better option...
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 6:56 AM Post #10 of 76

ProtegeManiac

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Here's the thing though, all of these amps sounded pretty much the same to me, no matter which headphones I used.  

 
Technically speaking, all amps will sound the same until distortion (or damping factor issues) sets in on one or some of them. That's why given the same gain setting all of them would sound identical at very low volumes. However, they vary in how much distortion you'll get at a given output level for example, so a more powerful amp will go much louder than one with a tiny PSU or battery. Note that in most cases that threshold is already way beyond the point of hearing damage on anything but the least sensitive of headphones, so for the most part the tiny differences aren't proportional to the added price. Buying an extremely robust amplifier should be done if you expect to run just about any headphone of any impedance range out there, so personally what I do is just pick headphones that wouldn't cause that much trouble to drive and then pick a decent amp with a lot of performance and have some upgrade flexibility down the line. So far I haven't replaced my HD600, but of course when HiFiMan comes up with a 400-series that doesn't dip in the midrange next to a spike in the treble, it'll finally be a headphone that is more truly flat, so I'd have less reason to stick with a dynamic driver with a relatively smoother curve.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Additionally, all of these headphones sounded pretty similar as well.  I honestly couldn't tell the difference between the LCD2 and the LCD3 at all.  There was a little bit of difference between the T1 and the Audeze's and the PS1000, but honestly if someone were to blindfold me, I don't think I would be able to identify which headphone was which (except for of course the feeling of the ear pads).
 
So naturally, my next reaction was maybe my sources were just bad (mp3's between 256 and 320 kbps).  So, I hooked up the LCD3, and then opened the Tidal Hifi test here and gave it a try.  I took it maybe 3 or 4 times, and each time, I literally could not tell any difference between any of the A and B samples.  Through best-effort-guessing, I managed a 3/5, 2/5, 1/5, and 4/5 in four different attempts, which leads me to believe this is just pretty random luck, and getting better (lossless) sources won't make a difference for me.
 
I can tell that all of these headphones are definitely *way better* than my Bose QC15 or M50's, but that's largely due to just clarity/lack of distortion.  I'm not hearing any adjectives like 'warm' or 'smooth' or 'bright' among the high end ones.  I put them on and all I can say is "yep. these are good."
 
Are my ears just not sensitive enough to be an audiophile?  What am I supposed to be listening for?  Or is it really that the entire hobby just about obsessing over that 1% difference?
 

 
With flagship speakers it's somewhat true that the more expensive they are the greater the tendency that they would sound more alike given similar design principles (ie don't compare a standmount with a 6in driver to a floorstander with three 6in drivers, even if they have the same price). The sound signature of each brand is basically the compromise they're willing to make at a given price point, which is why they tend to get known for their midrange and entry level products (not simply because that's what more people own). Going up far enough they all shoot for the flattest response possible.
 
This is less true for headphones. As much as they all shoot for a smoother response the thing is that a few you listed - the LCD2, T1, and PS1000 - are still fudamentally different tonally it would still be fairly easy to spot what counts for bright or warm at least (although of course people will debate over one being more neutral, then call the other bright or warm). That "1% difference" is more applicable to for example a decent amp vs a hulking amp, where within safe listening levels for as long as 10minutes at least, there won't be a lot of difference unless the headphone's sensitivity is too low. That said, a lot of people easily notice the "eye-popping" sense of how percussions feel like they're exploding near one's head on Grados, but my HD600 on a decent amp easily matches them on that (except a $100 amp driving a Grado would already get that effect). 
 
One other thing is soundstage, and again there's a fundamental difference in design. One of those positions the drivers nearly smack over the ear canals, the other two positions them forward and at an angle. The former design tends to make cymbals sharper for example or make them sound closer, as well as position the soundstage image more in-head. The other design can place them as far out of the head as physically possible. In terms of value all I can say is that the latter is about as far as some instruments can be taken farther out of one's skull barring the AKG K1000, so while most people can't hear that while some exaggerate it, the thing is that the exaggeration is sometimes the result of someone who does notice and will willingly pay extra (or, in the case of the K7-- series, don't mind any of the compromises) to get a more coherent image. 
 
One thing about your methodology though: you really should listen to your own music rather than the Tidal test. You're not supposed to be testing for whether you can hear lossles vs MP3, you're supposed to listen for whichever headphone sounds best to you playing your own music. Every piece of gear including high end headphones (and also speakers) will have some kind of compromise, since none of them have a perfectly flat response yet, so what one should do is pick out which one has the least issues with their own music. 
 
 
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 7:23 AM Post #11 of 76

mulder01

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I guess it's just so counter-intuitive, since my whole life, I've operated under the paradigm that if I buy something, I want to do a ton of research and make sure I'm buying the best thing available, even if I have to save a little longer and stretch my budget a little extra to do it.  It was just really jarring that I tried two pairs that are supposedly so different (LCD2/LCD3), yet I couldn't distinguish them at all.
 
It also feels like kind of an ego hit, as if somehow my ears are less capable or I'm not as attentive as others...

 
 
I think alot of people have the same approach in terms of researching the best buy, and that's probably a good approach for purchasing a lot of electronic products, but when it comes to music reproduction, (provided you're not just referring to $9 distortion-loaded garbage) it is so subjective and comes down to personal preference so much, that research can only take you so far.  I too, had a very eye opening experience after auditioning all these products you've read so much about - more often than not, I will completely disagree with most of the stuff I've read.  I would say have a listen and buy what you like.  That's as complicated as it needs to be.
 
I wouldn't be too concerned with having 'untrained ears' just as I wouldn't be concerned with having an untrained pallet.  If a wine taster describes a $99 bottle of wine in a way that makes it sound multitudes better than a $15 bottle of wine, but you can't tell the difference, is that a bad thing?  I'd say no - enjoy your $15 wine.
 
I'm sure you could train yourself to be fussier and need to spend more on audio gear to be satisfied but it seems a tad unnecessary IMO.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 8:23 AM Post #12 of 76

AberrantWolf

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I imagine it's like with most things -- foreign languages, art appreciation, playing an instrument... The more you do it, the more you can hear the differences. So if this was one of your earliest forays into the arena of high-end audio equipment, going from cheaper headphones to higher-tier cans and being able to tell the difference ("it sounds better") is a good step. I'm about there myself. As you get used to how your test audio sounds on your new 'phones, you'll learn to tell the difference between them and other sets -- and more importantly whether or not you LIKE that difference. Same goes for DACs and amps and everything.
 
It's not that you weren't made to be an audiophile, it's that you need time to learn to hear what the audiophile hears. And once you have learned that, sadly, there is no going back. So enjoy saving your money now while you still can. :wink:
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 9:11 AM Post #14 of 76

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Are my ears just not sensitive enough to be an audiophile?  What am I supposed to be listening for?  Or is it really that the entire hobby just about obsessing over that 1% difference?

Entire hobby isn't even about that 1% difference, since DACs usually make less than 1% difference and no one can differentiate certain DACs. Only those extremely bad can be distinguished from good by noise, but DAC just converts digital to analog signal and pretty much every today's DAC do that well. It can technically be better, for example even lower noise, thing is there isn't any audible noise from "worse" DAC anyways, like literally not even in theory, so people can say whatever they want. 
 
About amplifiers... it's very similar but they can be distinguished in many cases. Thing with amplifier is if it matches good your headphone impedance and whether it is powerful enough to drive them. Headphones with lower sensitivity need more powerful amplifier, and those highly sensitive ones may get some noise out of too powerful amps etc. So you just need to find one to match and that's it. Tube amps can make music sound slightly different (not better, just different, whether it's better it's up to you). 
So very few trained people can actually distinguish amplifiers decently and even they have problems sometimes, if amplifiers have similar properties. But again, if it's not powerful enough for some headphones you'll hear big difference. Apparently all you've tried are similar and able to drive all those headphones without problem, distortions or noise. Some amps also have "bass boost" options and some other stuff that can alter the sound.
 
About warm, bright and all that stuff, it refers to sound signature of headphones. For example some headphones make a bit more upper bass (or lower mid range frequencies) higher, and have treble a bit laid back so that is what warm sound is for example. All those high end headphones however sound more similar than for example some cheap 50$ headphone vs 1000$ headphone, so those differences between them are more apparent then differences between 2 high end 1000$ headphones for example.
 
About good 320 kbps mp3 vs lossless. I have never seen in my life, and I've seen a lot of people trying (both on headphones setups and extreme high end systems such as full AR -> Agostinos mono -> Rockport Arrakis) and I have never, ever seen anyone pass the blind test. Some people claim they hear differences but they all fail (wonder why) blind test. At least I have never seen with my eyes someone passing the blind test. Same with 256 AAC, no matter the gear. 
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 9:22 AM Post #15 of 76

RRod

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If you were to listen to the same material for a while with the same headphones and then move over to cans with an entirely different "philosophy", then you'd probably be able to tell a difference pretty easily. Putting that difference into words is an entirely different matter, but you'll hear something. The LCD-2 and 3 are so close in philosophy of sound that it doesn't surprise me you couldn't hear a difference with casual switching between them. But if you took something like the LCD-2 and compared it to, say, the HD800, you'd probably hear something. Still, I wouldn't blame you if simply felt that both were "pretty good".
 
Have you by chance given a shot at the Philips Golden Ears challenge? It's a good little primer into how to use your ears critically.
 

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