Are we witnessing the maturation of a hobby?
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RH64

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So I purchased a lot of headphones back in the early 2000's when it was Shure for IEMs and Sennheiser for headphones. I recently got back into it a little buy noticed the landscape had entirely changed.

From recent deals, I purchased a CA 16 for IEMs and a Monolith M570. I'm really blown away...for around $250 total these blow away my old Shure 500s and my Sennheiser 600/650/700.

I know technology advances and that is to be expected, but it seems like you can get great sound for not much money today. To the point where I would have a hard time justifying even mid-fi today.

I guess I've seen the same thing in the LED flashlight space. It use to be an enthusiast market with specialty brands like Surefire and Arc blowing away anything you would buy at a store. Now walk into Costco or Sam's and you'll find 1,000 plus lumen lights for $10-$20...even less online.

Maybe this happens in all hobbies...they get to a point where technology advances and others flood to the market. Obviously, there are even higher end offerings than I remember. But it seems like the bang for the buck on the low to mid end has gone through the roof.

Thanks,
Robert
 
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baskingshark

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So I purchased a lot of headphones back in the early 2000's when it was Shure for IEMs and Sennheiser for headphones. I recently got back into it a little buy noticed the landscape had entirely changed.

From recent deals, I purchased a CA 16 for IEMs and a Monolith M570. I'm really blown away...for around $250 total these blow away my old Shure 500s and my Sennheiser 600/650/700.

I know technology advances and that is to be expected, but it seems like you can get great sound for not much money today. To the point where I would have a hard time justifying even mid-fi today.

I guess I've seen the same thing in the LED flashlight space. It use to be an enthusiast market with specialty brands like Surefire and Arc blowing away anything you would buy at a store. Now walk into Costco or Sam's and you'll find 1,000 plus lumen lights for $10-$20...even less online.

Maybe this happens in all hobbies...they get to a point where technology advances and others flood to the market. Obviously, there are even higher end offerings than I remember. But it seems like the bang for the buck on the low to mid end has gone through the roof.

Thanks,
Robert
The past 2 - 3 years especially, CHIFI IEMs have flooded the market and provided very good price to performance ratio compared to some established western IEM giants like Westone, Sennheiser and Shure. I dare say some of the CHIFI have caught up to the western midfi segment in the IEM market, and at a fraction of the price. Eg my BLON BL-03 can hit about the same sound quality as the Sennheiser IE80S, my Audiosense DT200 can hit about same quality as the Westone W30, my KZ ZS10 Pro can hit about the same quality as the Westone 3. Some of these CHIFI cost just 10% of their western competitors, and can meet or overtake these western brands in performance.

For headphones and TOTL summitFI IEM market, maybe the western brands are still king, but CHIFI is catching up. Eg I auditioned the QDC Anole VX, and it can hold its own against some of the western TOTL sets in tuning and technical performance.

CHIFI don't have as much costs as western brands in marketing, licensing, R&D, labour, assembly and parts, and sometimes they are even accused of infringing on copyrights, patents and licenses: https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/cxqlje/knowles_files_claim_with_us_trade_commission_to/
In this link, it seems Knowles is opening a lawsuit against Bellsing (chinese brand) for copying their stuff, but an ironic thing is that it is revealed here that certain TOTL sets use Bellsing drivers, but that's another story for another time.

Well the only issue is sometimes CHIFI don't have the best QC, but strangely I've had more QC problems with western gear in the past, on multiple midfi Westone sets. And anyway, most of these western brands, short of TOTL sets, are made in China anyways. I tell myself in the worst case that a CHIFI has poor QC, well for the same price as an equivalent western set, I can get 9 more CHIFI, and at least some of the others should be working right? Or worst come to worst, just buy CHIFI from a place with a good returns policy eg Amazon, then you are covered.

I used to only be able to afford 1 western midfi IEM once every 5 years or so, and had to sell it to get another set to sample different tuning. Now it is quite easy to get a few sets of CHIFI for different music genres/sound preference just by skipping a restaurant meal or two. So the barrier to entering this "audiophile" hobby is vastly lowered and we don't have to sell a kidney to appreciate the hobbby, for which I'm thankful. There's definitely big diminishing returns going up from the midfi CHIFI segment nowadays, but different strokes for different folks, some will still prefer to get their gear from well established western brands, so YMMV.
 
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gooeyrich

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Seems to be an amalgamation of factors like technological advances, growth from a niche hobby to something more mainstream, new competitors finding innovative ways of doing things because of the aforementioned etc.

20 years ago, how much would the equivalent of a schiit or jds stack have cost?
 
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halcyon

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I'd say that the technology innovation has slowed down, while mass manufacturing, driving down prices and marketing has improved.

So the quality/price has increased, while the technological prowess has mostly increased incrementally.


So, we wait for the next technological breakthrough, that even in it's first iteration, is sonically superior to almost everything that has come before. Then we start refining that, bringing down the price, mass-producing... so the cycle repeats.
 
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Mass manufacturing, social acceptance of more expensive headphones.

Probably not more than 10 years ago, 99% of people would scoff at spending more than $50 on a pair of headphones. Now it's not uncommon for the average joe to spend $300 on a pair of bluetooth, noise cancelling headphones with pretty decent sound quality.

Music streaming services and most recently smartphones without a 3.5mm jack (which require purchasing expensive wireless earbuds or headphones) have been instrumental in this.
 
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