Am I just not cut out to be an audiophile?
Oct 1, 2015 at 10:02 AM Post #16 of 76

Rockin_Zombie

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A lot of the adjectives and phrases you read on this site ("blew me away, night and day difference, not even in the same league" etc etc) are massive exaggeration. I am guilty of that too at times, the excitement of listening to new gear can take over logical reasoning very easily. However, I  try to be more realistic about my expectations now. The difference is really not much, the higher end headphones have lower distortion and better clarity, but at some point the SNR goes above what humans can perceive. With Amps and DACs the difference is even less. If you are happy with what you own, listen the **** out of it till you are bored. And when you want to try something else, look for a very different sound signature. For example, I own the JVC SZ2000 and HiFiman HE6, and unless you are very distracted you can tell them apart instantly (one is bass god, other one is neutral/bright). 
 
 
That being said, I am surprised you couldn't tell the difference between PS1000 and Audezes. Was it a quite environment? Did you give them enough head time? 
 
In any case, enjoy the music, gears matter a lot less. 
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 10:12 AM Post #17 of 76

Slaphead

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An audiophile is essentially somebody who enjoys listening to good quality reproduced audio. There are no exams to pass to become an audiophile, so relax, and carry on enjoying listening to good music on good headphones.

I can't distinguish between 256 AAC and lossless, and personally I believe that hi-res audio is a con as far as the end product is concerned. I can, however, hear and enjoy the differences between headphones and other audio gear, and I don't let the fact that I don't have the so called golden ears get in the way of having fun.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 10:24 AM Post #18 of 76

DangerClose

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I think most people who can't tell "obvious" differences just lack experience in what to look for.  Sort of like those pictures with a hidden image in them.  Can't see it, can't see it, then someone points the hidden image out, and then you can't not see it.  And sometimes you wish you could go back to not seeing it.
 
Audio differences should be more noticeable to you over time, or with someone telling you what differences to listen for when comparing headphones.  It's training your ears.  In a way, your current ears sound like a blessing in disguise.
 
"1%'ing" happens.  Maybe get something completely opposite of your M50, and then go from there.  And price isn't necessarily an indicator of quality or enjoyment.  There's also nothing wrong with liking what you have.  
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 12:17 PM Post #19 of 76

yding202

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  A lot of the adjectives and phrases you read on this site ("blew me away, night and day difference, not even in the same league" etc etc) are massive exaggeration. I am guilty of that too at times, the excitement of listening to new gear can take over logical reasoning very easily. However, I  try to be more realistic about my expectations now. The difference is really not much, the higher end headphones have lower distortion and better clarity, but at some point the SNR goes above what humans can perceive. With Amps and DACs the difference is even less. If you are happy with what you own, listen the **** out of it till you are bored. And when you want to try something else, look for a very different sound signature. For example, I own the JVC SZ2000 and HiFiman HE6, and unless you are very distracted you can tell them apart instantly (one is bass god, other one is neutral/bright). 
 
 
That being said, I am surprised you couldn't tell the difference between PS1000 and Audezes. Was it a quite environment? Did you give them enough head time? 
 
In any case, enjoy the music, gears matter a lot less. 

 
Yeah, I was actually in an enclosed, padded listening booth.  Almost completely quiet.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 12:18 PM Post #20 of 76

yding202

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Audio differences should be more noticeable to you over time, or with someone telling you what differences to listen for when comparing headphones.  It's training your ears.  In a way, your current ears sound like a blessing in disguise.
 
"1%'ing" happens.  Maybe get something completely opposite of your M50, and then go from there.  And price isn't necessarily an indicator of quality or enjoyment.  There's also nothing wrong with liking what you have.  

 
What do you suggest as "completely opposite of M50"?  I had my eyes on the Oppo PM-3, but open to other suggestions!
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 12:26 PM Post #21 of 76

Rhamnetin

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What do you suggest as "completely opposite of M50"?  I had my eyes on the Oppo PM-3, but open to other suggestions!

 
The AKG K702 is probably the complete opposite of the M50, more or less.  M50 = somewhat V-shaped sound signature (boosted bass, boosted treble, somewhat recessed mids, extremely closed in/no sound stage) while the K702 is generally described as bass light, rather mid-centric, with an enormous sound stage.
 
The Audio Technica AD900X/AD1000X/AD2000X, and W1000X/W1000Z should also sound completely different than the M50.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 1:37 PM Post #22 of 76

obobskivich

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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 think you have anything to worry about - I agree with a lot of the posts saying that the "big hyperbolic audiophile writing" is just that, and that you generally need more than 30s (or 30min, etc) of experience to really get into the guts of differences between components. Some of my high-end cans I've had for 3-4 years and they still manage to surprise me with new music - it's a journey, not a destination. That said, not noticing big differences between the different cans themselves is somewhat interesting, but really not that surprising in a brief audition with unfamiliar music, especially if you're relatively inexperienced. This is not meant at all as a "dig" or denigration of you as a person at all.


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.)


Please don't link to or promote Ken Rockwell, ignoring the absolutely shameless begging for money that comes with every page on his site (and his insane interpretation of copyright), he's also the one who compares audiophiles to pedophiles (no joke here; I'd link but I refuse to give him the page hits) and there's some glaring problems with his argument on the one you did link. The biggest is that he's making some sort of crazy value judgment that "electrostatic is best" from the outset and then not providing any good reasons for it - it's not "best" it's just different (and he doesn't even really establish that). The Audeze headphones are also planar radiators, but rely on orthodynamic/planar magnetic principle as opposed to electrostatic - they share many of the same differences with ESP headphones (differences wrt dynamic), but that doesn't make them significantly better or worse than dynamic headphones by principle. I stopped reading when he started quoting marketing specs as if they were measurements and talking about THD because his already flat argument just degraded into the typical hackneyed dreck that I expect from him. Good grief. :xf_eek:



Technically speaking, all amps will sound the same until distortion (or damping factor issues) sets in on one or some of them.


A) This assumes "all amps" target flat frequency response and ultra-low THD; this is not always true.

B) "Damping factor" is largely a creation of over-zealous marketing (and even if it were a significant thing, its too intangible and dynamic to be discussed as a singular thing), however output impedance will interact with the load in contextually dependent ways.

C) There are other factors that can heavily and directly influence sound, like noise floor, channel balance, crossover distortion, gain/sensitivity (especially gain/sensitivity mismatch), impedance matching (or mis-matching) with source, etc etc

Unfortunately it isn't reasonable to assume that "all amps" will score perfectly 10/10 in all categories and be flat DC-to-light in order to make the "all amps sound the same" thing come true. There's just too much variability out there.

That's why given the same gain setting all of them would sound identical at very low volumes.


*MAY* sound similar in some situations etc yadda yadda.


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.


Flat relative to what? There's no agreed-upon compensation curve for declaring a headphone "flat" (at least unless something new has been published and universally accepted very recently), and the HD 600 is *wildly* variable (as in, FR will change significantly) across different amplifiers (the above discussion about output impedance being the culprit). I agree with the "tiny differences aren't proportional to the added price" part - diminishing returns is a very real thing, and unfortunately not just in audio. :xf_eek:


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.


Eh - not all high end speakers I've heard. There are plenty that have "non-flat" response; again, the implicit assumption that all gear just wants to be ruler flat (whatever the heck that looks like for a speaker or headphone) DC-to-light is problematic. With speakers there's also the big buggabo that hasn't been mentioned yet: room interaction. Not all speakers have identical radiation patterns (nor do they even target a common radiation pattern), and even if they're aiming at "flat" (again, whatever the heck that looks like) they may not sound at all similar depending on room placement. Headphones largely eliminate that variability, but fit is still an important factor wrt sound.




A lot of the adjectives and phrases you read on this site ("blew me away, night and day difference, not even in the same league" etc etc) are massive exaggeration.

In any case, enjoy the music, gears matter a lot less. 



Could not agree more.


An audiophile is essentially somebody who enjoys listening to good quality reproduced audio. There are no exams to pass to become an audiophile, so relax, and carry on enjoying listening to good music on good headphones.

I can't distinguish between 256 AAC and lossless, and personally I believe that hi-res audio is a con as far as the end product is concerned. I can, however, hear and enjoy the differences between headphones and other audio gear, and I don't let the fact that I don't have the so called golden ears get in the way of having fun.


Agree here too. I still rip new CD purchases in VBR-lossless, but that's mostly because storage is so cheap these days, so why not? It doesn't cost anything extra. I wouldn't pay extra for lossless or "hi-res" (e.g. beyond CD quality), but if all else was equal, why avoid it? I know this is a relatively lame argument for eating up more disk space, but there's no compelling argument against it either. For a mobile device or if space/bandwidth is limited, then yeah HBR lossy makes total sense imho.


The AKG K702 is probably the complete opposite of the M50, more or less.  M50 = somewhat V-shaped sound signature (boosted bass, boosted treble, somewhat recessed mids, extremely closed in/no sound stage) while the K702 is generally described as bass light, rather mid-centric, with an enormous sound stage.

The Audio Technica AD900X/AD1000X/AD2000X, and W1000X/W1000Z should also sound completely different than the M50.


I agree entirely with your summary of the M50 - the *7-- are a very different headphone as well (they're lean, spacious, borderline bright, and fairly dry). A900X and W1000X would be closer but still distinct - they're bassier than the *7-- (esp W1000X, to my ear), but have much better imaging and staging. All of these also cost a lot more than M50, which may be worth keeping in mind too.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 3:03 PM Post #23 of 76

Shaffer

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Hello all!

[...]

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?


There's a world of difference between listening to music and listening to sound. Eventually both concepts meet, for some, but that takes years upon years. Just as it takes years to train oneself to zero-in on a specific aspect of the sound. You don't need to do any of this. Can't tell a difference? You're not there yet; the product is not for you. Just buy what sounds good to your ears. This isn't a contest. Good luck.

:)
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 3:21 PM Post #24 of 76

DangerClose

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What do you suggest as "completely opposite of M50"?  I had my eyes on the Oppo PM-3, but open to other suggestions!

 
As was mentioned, the AD700x/AD900x comes to mind.  Huge soundstage, not a lot of bass, very open and airy. 
 
And the various AKG 7-series family.  Another open and airy with huge soundstage.  They have their share of "1%'ing", with people arguing for 50 pages whether one has one decibel more bass than another version or not. 
biggrin.gif
  Getting whatever is the cheapest version at the time of a 7-series (probably Q701) would definitely give you a different sound signature than the M50.  
 
The Q701 and similar is more analytical and less "musical" than lots of headphones.  It's great if trying to hear a pin drop during a rock concert.  Whether you like its sound signature or not, the 701 is one of those headphones you might put on for five minutes once in a while just to say, "Man, that's crazy."  
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 3:56 PM Post #25 of 76

Music Alchemist

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Please don't link to or promote Ken Rockwell, ignoring the absolutely shameless begging for money that comes with every page on his site (and his insane interpretation of copyright), he's also the one who compares audiophiles to pedophiles (no joke here; I'd link but I refuse to give him the page hits) and there's some glaring problems with his argument on the one you did link. The biggest is that he's making some sort of crazy value judgment that "electrostatic is best" from the outset and then not providing any good reasons for it - it's not "best" it's just different (and he doesn't even really establish that). The Audeze headphones are also planar radiators, but rely on orthodynamic/planar magnetic principle as opposed to electrostatic - they share many of the same differences with ESP headphones (differences wrt dynamic), but that doesn't make them significantly better or worse than dynamic headphones by principle. I stopped reading when he started quoting marketing specs as if they were measurements and talking about THD because his already flat argument just degraded into the typical hackneyed dreck that I expect from him. Good grief.
redface.gif

 
The only reason I linked to the article is because it's the only resource I know of that compares how electrostatic and dynamic transducers work in such detail. (If you can find alternate links, please share them with me.) You should have read the whole thing, because there is a very interesting chart on the bottom illustrating the advantages of the technology, and specifically how it is better than dynamic technology by principle, at least in certain ways. I am aware that the author has issues with his reputation and even that some of the information he publishes is blatantly false, but that particular page has worthwhile info. I don't care about the messenger; I care about the message. To my ears, even low-end electrostats sound significantly better than the most expensive non-electrostats, but that's just me.
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 6:26 PM Post #26 of 76

Time Diver

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Apparently there are people with a very acute sense of hearing, they can hear, feel and experience the sound on another level and of course there are people who are imagining things and need to see a doctor. I love to read about their experiences with headphones and other equipments, I find some of them to be quite funny! Enjoying the music is what matters the most and that acute sense of hearing won't last forever. Many expensive headphones are just a waste of money for a piece of molded plastic, I wouldn't pay their asking prices even if they disappear from my head and make the music real like being there with the artists. I am glad that I can tolerate any headphone out there and I have no preferences at all :)
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 6:32 PM Post #27 of 76

inthere

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Your amps weren't powerful enough, I hope someone else mentioned it previously. The Lavry DA-11 is not a headphone amp and the amp section definitely wasn't meant to power high end headphones. 
 
Get an Audeze Deckard in there and you'll be able to tell the difference in all your cans. If you want a bigger variety in headphone sound, get Audioquest Nighthawks and Alpha Primes in the mix too. 
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 9:38 PM Post #28 of 76

yding202

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  Your amps weren't powerful enough, I hope someone else mentioned it previously. The Lavry DA-11 is not a headphone amp and the amp section definitely wasn't meant to power high end headphones. 
 
Get an Audeze Deckard in there and you'll be able to tell the difference in all your cans. If you want a bigger variety in headphone sound, get Audioquest Nighthawks and Alpha Primes in the mix too. 

 
I'm pretty sure this wasn't the problem.  The SPL Phonitor 2730b and the Moth Audio S45 should have been more than enough power for these headphones..
 
Oct 1, 2015 at 11:26 PM Post #29 of 76

obobskivich

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The only reason I linked to the article is because it's the only resource I know of that compares how electrostatic and dynamic transducers work in such detail. (If you can find alternate links, please share them with me.) You should have read the whole thing, because there is a very interesting chart on the bottom illustrating the advantages of the technology, and specifically how it is better than dynamic technology by principle, at least in certain ways. I am aware that the author has issues with his reputation and even that some of the information he publishes is blatantly false, but that particular page has worthwhile info. I don't care about the messenger; I care about the message. To my ears, even low-end electrostats sound significantly better than the most expensive non-electrostats, but that's just me.


That article does not do a good job comparing electrostats to dynamic headphones; it makes a lot of bad generalizations and some blatantly false claims to support a flawed premise. I would not say it has "a lot of detail" or "good detail" in the least. I skimmed down to the chart and here's a few:

A) if electrostatic drivers (or any other driver) didn't move, they wouldn't make sound
B) weight is not zero
C) He uses the phrase "perfectly linear" in almost every descriptor; that's not accurate or possible
D) Radiating surface is not 100% uniformly radiating the same signal (this has been discussed and documented elsewhere in the past; same applies to PM - Mr Speakers' folded diaphragm is an example of this being addressed - the actual diaphgragm is anchored at its edges and therefore cannot move in a "perfectly linear" manner :rolleyes:)
E) "No resonance" is also bunko (they absolutely have enclosures and housings, they're just open-back in *most* cases (there are closed ESL headphones too))
F) Everything else below that is wrong, over-generalized, or inaccurate too
G) The speaker cone is not just glued at the voice-coil - it is also attached via the surround to the basket. If you remove the surround the entire cone will generally sag (i.e. that is a defective operating state)
H) He's basing a lot of his generalizations on speakers which have different driver design parameters and objectives than headphones, for example a typical large speaker cone is fairly heavy (in the grand scheme of things), and designed for a few mm of excursion - a headphone driver is not.
I) He mentions crossovers and tweeters/woofers, but aren't we talking about headphones? And for that matter, if we're talking full-size electrostatic speakers those also can have multiple drivers, and be integrated into larger systems with subwoofers, but I thought we were talking about headphones? Oh right - because he moves the goal posts to suit whatever argument he wants to make...

Typical Ken Rockwell article formula - fabricate and exaggerate a bunch of BS, spew it like a sensational fanboy, and beg for money before, while, and after doing it. The messenger does make a difference - he's consistently been shown to get things wrong, blatantly make stuff up, and say mean and hurtful things about people who don't fit into his worldview. I wouldn't waste the time defending him or anything he's written.

Tyll has done a *fantastic* job putting together a series of articles on headphone design and drivers as well as measurements:
http://www.innerfidelity.com/category/headphone-101
Also look for comments/posts on IF from Skylar Grey, AudioQuest's headphone designer (and the man behind Nighthawk); he usually posts some good stuff too, but afaik does not have his own site (he has posted on Head-Fi in the past as well)

Your favorite company, STAX, also has a good article on ESPs:
https://www.staxusa.com/Technology.html

As does speaker giant MartinLogan:
http://www.martinlogan.com/learn/electrostatic-speakers.php

There's also Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrostatic_loudspeaker

None of this actually builds to "electrostatic technology is more advanced" either - like I said previously, it's just different. As far as declaring STAX the best thing in the history of things, that's fine to hold such an opinion, but it is just that. There are significant differences in how electrostatic (and planar magnetic) headphones radiate vs conventional dynamic cans, and this has an impact on how they sound beyond simple FR measurements. It's probably reasonable to say that most people like this difference based on casual observation, but let's not make that an absolute. IMO electrostats do a lot of things right, but will never capture the "weight" of a dynamic headphone's presentation; both have advantages and disadvantages, and different overall presentations. PMs are a third axis, and you can also talk about BA IEMs, electrets, multi-driver configurations, etc. There's lots of ways to skin this cat, and there is not yet a universal one-size fits-all "best thing in the history of things" answer. :)

I'm pretty sure this wasn't the problem. The SPL Phonitor 2730b and the Moth Audio S45 should have been more than enough power for these headphones..


I'd be inclined to agree, and also add that you had Grado cans in the mix - Grados are ridiculously easy to drive. However the whole "well your gear just wasn't swanky enough for you to notice how good your gear is" trope is unfortunately an ever-present facet of audiophile discussions. A good friend once described it as "consumers shilling consumers" and I think unfortunately it ends up ringing true more often than not, especially when it comes to headphone amplifiers themselves. IOW, "oh you didn't hear what you wanted after spending a lot, obviously the solution is to KEEP SPENDING!" Certainly in some, minority cases, it's reasonable to assume that could be the problem - like in an extreme example, where you tried plugging an HE-6 or K1000 into an iPod and complain that it isn't very loud - but beyond that it's probably easier to just accept/admit that the "change" did nothing for you or is inconsequential (or did something deleterious) as opposed to trying to throw good money after bad chasing some mythical "improvement."

I'm not advocating against higher-spec or higher-end gear here, I'm saying let your ears do the deciding - if you're not hearing an improvement or the change you wanted, take note of that and plan/respond accordingly, vs just assuming the problem is that you didn't inject enough cold, hard, cash into the equation. Especially in modern times, it is possible to get absurdly good sounding gear for not very much money, and often-times more exotic gear also reflects some aesthetic or other intangible benefit to the owner/potential owner. :)
 
Oct 2, 2015 at 12:09 AM Post #30 of 76

money4me247

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Realistically, your experience is likely more commonplace than most people even here would admit. Many people listen with preconceived notions of their hearing ability or preconceived notions of how the headphones will sound. When doing a blinded test, I think a lot of people will have trouble always correctly identifying specific gear. Does require a certain degree of practice and experience, but not as intense as some people make it sounds.
 
In real life, there will be many headphones that are quite difficult to distinguish unless you are using the right testing track and are watching out for specific traits. As you listen to more variation in headphone sound signatures, you begin to greater appreciate more subtle differences that would not have been as apparent upon first starting out. Not really superior hearing ability type thing imo, just need to spend some time and get some experience with different variations. The more familiar you get with a specific sound signature, the more likely you will notice deviations from it. After you listen to quite a large variety of gear for a long time, then it becomes easier to pick out different character traits of different headphones.
 
I agree with the above, the first step for you if you want to start appreciating differences is to find two headphones that are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Basically, something bass-heavy/warm vs something more-treble focused and bright would be easiest I think. I do agree that the Q701 vs ATH-M50 would be a great starting point to see the two different types of presentations (treble-focused on the Q701 and v-shaped on the ATH-M50). Both headphones are commonplace enough that it should be relatively easy to find. 
 
Other harder, but even better comparisons are headphones that have the same feel when worn, so you can have a friend swap them with your eyes closed, so you can not trick yourself into hearing something that isn't there. The AKG Q701 vs AKG K712 or HD600 vs HD650 or HE-400i vs HE-560 or LCD-X vs LCD-3 would be some examples of doing testing of headphones that cannot be easily discerned simply by fit that can be fun to try. When doing blinded testing, the results will often to a lot more uncertain and you will often get your choices wrong until you figure out what specific/certain sonic indicators to look for. I would say that it would not be uncommon for most people on the forums to struggle a bit even with this part unless they have done the blind testing themselves before and realize how small the degree of differences can be between certain headphones that you often have to be looking out for to get correct results.
 
For best results, you will have to focus your brain on comparing the same sonic aspects and run short trials when you can switch rapidly between headphones. Frequency response deviations should be the easier first thing to pick up on. Next I would say would be bass bloat/note spacing in general. Listen to the edges when the sound ends to compare. Sound stage can be a bit tricky when you are comparing headphones with relatively good sound stage. You will need to find the right source material where there is specific sounds coming from a few different directions to really reliably tease out the differences. Do a comparison of a closed vs open pair of headphones to get a general sense of the largest deviation that you can expect before diving into comparing two nice open-backs. For clarity, this can sometimes be deceiving as once your brain picks up on a certain micro-detail, you will tend to be on the look-out for it, so can often hear it on lower-resolution headphones after you first hear it on something nicer. Really most noticeable when you "downgrade" from a nicer pair of headphones to a lower-quality pair of headphones. While upgrading, sometimes you actually honestly don't notice that extra detail until it is suddenly taken away.
 
If you are listening for different elements after each testing trial, you will get very confused. That is why longer sessions may lead to less accurate results at times as your brain is comparing too many different audio elements. Also, your brain can get fatigued as critical listening actually takes a lot of energy, concentration, and thought. Typically, there will be at one specific element extreme enough that allows for consistent identification if using the same track repeated when doing back and forth testing. Your results will also depend on the general degree of difference between the headphones and whether the source track highlights those specific differences. There are quite a few headphones on the market that I think even enthusiasts can mix up at times since they are already at such a high-level and have an overall similar frequency response tuning. Depends on your familiarity with the headphones too how accurately you can pick up on their sonic traits. Often easier to hear differences if you go do comparisons of a headphone you have owned extensively against something new, rather than comparing two new headphones.
 
Also, big thing is that price definitely does NOT always correlate in improvements in technical performance or overall frequency response balance or whether the specific frequency response tuning is enjoyable to your ears.
 
As @Slaphead states, it is important to remember that a lot of things are likely to be a "con/scam" when dealing with audio. There are certain things that are realistically below the threshold which our ears can reliably detect. A lot of things that cannot be easily spelt out on a spec sheet and a lot of things that most people will never run a side-by-side direct comparison listening for. People often rely on their subjective thoughts of how the gear makes them feel. If excited upon purchasing something, you can often get placebo effect of general improvement or whatever.
 
So yes, there is a lot of things on these forums that can honestly just be a load of hot air. I do strongly believe there is a certain level of difference that anyone with ears can pick up on after some guidance and experience. Then, there is the 1-2% type differences that gets debated ad nauseum, but realistically may not be as obvious as it sounds on the forums. ...And then, there is the straight snake oil stuff that actually does not make a difference, but people will intensely claim that it does. Can get very hard to sort through all this stuff.
 
The key take-away I think is that this is just a hobby for pleasure. Some people get a kick out of trying to tease out every subtle nuance between gear, while others are just looking for something that they enjoy. Both groups can have an appreciate for high-quality music. If you want to pick up on difference nuances that often get debated here, testing headphones using the same source track and the same external source components is the best way to start.
 
I do think some of the discussions and debates on the forums is so silly that it isn't even really worth trying to figure out or get into. The journey is half the fun of being in this hobby, so just try out more stuff yourself and always be critical/skeptical. Then when you actually begin to reliably hear differences, you know you aren't just buying into hype. Something as little as a few dB in volume difference can often really change opinions on which gear sounds better for example & it is difficult to always volume-match direct comparisons.
 
I think the process of exploring, learning, figuring things, and then finding that what you thought you figured out actually is completely wrong is a really fun part of this hobby as well. I don't think anyone in this hobby has completely figured everything out yet and there is always fun new stuff to test out.
 
So good luck & have fun! :)
 

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