Best value / Point of diminishing returns?
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shawwp

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I'd be interested to get some of your opinions on this:

To you, what headphone represents the best value out there? What I mean is, what headphone has the best performance/price ratio? Which headphone represents the point at which you might obtain more quality by spending more, but not THAT much more quality?

Example: the Senn HD 280 pro vs. the Beyer 250-80s. They are the same general "type" of headphone, but the Beyer costs twice as much as the Senn. By most accounts, the Beyers are better (sound, comfort, whatever). But are they TWICE as good? Does this make the Senns a better value?

I realize there are many factors to consider when choosing a headphone, and any evaluation is subjective.

Which headphones represent the best value to YOU, and why? Which headphones hit the peak of the performance/price ratio? I thought this might be interesting to talk about.
 
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Hirsch

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There is no answer to the question, as it's personal to each individual. Everyone has to evaluate what they want out of a system, resources available to them, and decide where the money going in is more than the improvements are worth. A small incremental improvement may be poor value for someone with limited resources, but a great value to someone who has extra cash on hand. Conversely, that small increment in sound quality may be irrelevant for someone who doesn't really need the best sound possible, regardless of resources, while a very critical listener may stretch all possible resources to get that last little bit.

Further, what we want out of a system is a moving target. When we first hear a new sound, we may think it's the best thing since sliced bread, and absolutely perfect. As we get used to it, the novelty wears off. We learn the sound, it's strengths and weaknesses, and may want to improve. So, a price/performance evaluation also depends on the experience of the individual. As the person becomes more experienced, those small differences start sounding a lot bigger, and the price/performance ratio starts moving...

For me, the best price/performance is the Grado HP-1000. The best headphone based strictly on performance is the Sony MDR-R10. Either of these may be way over the top for others.
 
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shawwp

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Yes, "value" is subjective when talking about subjective things, like "sound quality." If someone says that the sound quality of his $10 earbuds is better than your HD600s, can you call him wrong? I suppose you can call them wrong in terms of frequency range, etc., but what a person likes is what a person likes.

The question *is* meaningful, though: when I say "which headphones are the best value" you know what I *mean*. Of course it's going to vary from one person to another.

So for instance, if you bought HD600's, why didn't you get the HD580's instead? Aren't the HD580's a better value? Or aren't they? What do YOU think?
 
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Hirsch

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Quote:

Originally posted by shawwp


So for instance, if you bought HD600's, why didn't you get the HD580's instead? Aren't the HD580's a better value? Or aren't they? What do YOU think?


I DID get the 580's and liked them a lot. Used them constantly. I then got the HD-600, and the improvement was worth the money to me, so I sold the 580's. Obviously, the HD-600 was the better value to ME. Would someone else find them the same value? I don't know.
 
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Blighty

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If we are speaking strictly of price/performance then I would have to say the Koss KSC-35 earphones at $20-30USD(street price). It is difficult if not impossible to apply a purely objective and quantitative analysis on what is undoubtedly subjective assessment of what is 100%, 200%, or 300% better than something else in the audio realm. What I do believe is that once you start paying upwards of $100USD, the diminishing returns start to kick in pretty steeply for headphones. Generally speaking prices plateau around the $300 mark and any additional improvements beyond are going to cost you and it's still about compromises. At this point it's usually more a game of personal preferences and synergy with different equipment then one of clear cut answers as to which is best. I am of the school of owning as many headphones as I can afford and I know quite a few headfiers subscribe to a similar belief. This way you have all your bases covered.
 
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bifcake

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Quote:

Originally posted by shawwp

The question *is* meaningful, though: when I say "which headphones are the best value" you know what I *mean*. Of course it's going to vary from one person to another.

So for instance, if you bought HD600's, why didn't you get the HD580's instead? Aren't the HD580's a better value? Or aren't they? What do YOU think?



To me, the 580's represent by FAR the best value around. At $140US on e-bay, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that sounds even remotely close. I find that the 600's don't justify the $100 price difference. I find that spending an extra $100 on replacement cables is a ripoff. So to me, the 580's with stock cables represent THE point of diminishing returns.

I think the Orpheus blows the 580's away, but at $15k or so, it's very difficult to justify it as a bang for the buck.

I agree with the other posters that these are VERY subjective and the point of diminishing returns is a moving target based on how critical you are and how much money you have to play with.
 
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dinosauract

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The way that I define the "law of diminsihing returns" is when I am satisfied with the sound I have. I know there may be better out there but at a much higher price. Alternatives at the same or close to the same price are not better. Different possibly, but not better.


For portable use, I was satisfied with Optimus Pro-25's for a long time, at $19.99. Sure they weren't the best, but I didn't see anything that looked significantly better at any reasonable price. That changed with the Senn 497. I probably wouldn't have tried them at the $69.95 price (too expensive for something I'm going to be abusing), but at $34.95 I tried them. And they are more than "twice as good" as the Optimus I was using. In fact, now I would pay $69.95 for them if I had to. So they are my point of diminishing returns for portable use.

For home use, its definitely the Senn 580's for me. And I paid $180 for them. They are available for much less now. I'm completely satisfied with them and have no desire to upgrade. So they are the point of diminishing return for me for home use.
 
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Zanth

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Dinosauract, I liked your post and agree with everything except:

Quote:

Alternatives at the same or close to the same price are not better. Different possibly, but not better.


I would have to say that some headphones near and around the same price range of others CAN BE significantly better. The Sony V6 is a perfect example. All other Sony phones in and around that price range are destroyed in terms of sound reproduction. This is not just my opinion but the opinions of most on this board.

The CD3000s retail at $699.00 from Sony and the HD 600s retail at 399.00 from Sennheiser USA I believe. Most here would say that the HD600s smoke the CD3000s, the CD3000s are rarely if ever referred to as reference class headphones, whereas the HD600s, paired with the proper amp, are very very often considered the top of the class, bested only by R10s, HP-1000s and the high-end electrostats. The designation of different, not better would be erroneous if we are dealing with objectivity. Since sound quality is highly subjective, I would not state the HD600s are ALWAYS better, but if 99% of the time they are...well, then we can arguably equate that to they are better and at half the price.

Just because some headphones are priced the same, does not mean they are all of the same caliber and hence one would need to spend oodles to best it.
 
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Hirsch

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Quote:

Originally posted by Zanth
The CD3000s retail at $699.00 from Sony and the HD 600s retail at 399.00 from Sennheiser USA I believe. Most here would say that the HD600s smoke the CD3000s, the CD3000s are rarely if ever referred to as reference class headphones, whereas the HD600s, paired with the proper amp, are very very often considered the top of the class, bested only by R10s, HP-1000s and the high-end electrostats.


OK, you heard it here first. The CD3000 is reference class.
 
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Zanth

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Seriously?

Wow...you may be the only one....well maybe you and Vert the Sony loving freak
 
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jlo mein

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well....i understand what everyone is saying with the "its all personal preference" and "how much you're willing to spend" and stuff, but i cant ignore the great value of the koss 35's.

I just got them 4 days ago. They are absolutely spectacular for their price. I'm not going to say that the are THE BEST price/value phones, but they are pretty good.
 
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dinosauract

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zanth -

I think we're on the same page. What I was trying to say was that for me the point of diminishing returns is when I have what I perceive to be the best phone at or near a given price. For me that's what the senn 497 and 580 are. Without a doubt you can find two phones at any given price, one of which sounds great and one of which sounds lousy. I certainly dind't mean to imply that all phones at a certain price point sound similar or are equal quality. I haven't heard everything, but to me the 497 is the best sound I've found until I get to the 580's price point. I'm sure there are better than the 580, but to me the price I would have to pay to get it isn't justified.
 
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Zanth

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dinosauract: yeah cool exactly what I was thinking
 
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dinosauract

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jlo mein -

have never heard the ksc-35's, but with all of the recommendations I would have to agree that they are a definite leader in the price / value field. I think it comes down to when you feel you have a good enough sound to be satisfied. Whatever the least expensive phone is that gives that to you is at the point of diminishing return.

If someone is satisfied with the 35's, then by all means that is their point. And they are very fortunate. But if someone liked the 35's but knew they could get a bit better sound for another $20, then it might be another issue.

For some people a very slight, marginal improvement might be worth 50% or even 100% more. Some people wouldn't spend even 10% more. For me I think its when I feel I would have to spend 50-75% more to get a modest improvement.
 
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jlo mein

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well i have grados too, which i do think sound better than the koss 35's though. However, the grados cost me about the equivalent of $85 US (they were $140 CAN with tax).

Do i get more enjoyment from the grados? yes. Did the grados cost a lot more money than the kosses? yes. Do i think the grados are a better value than the kosses? no. I may like the grados more, but i think the kosses are a better value.
 
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