HD800 'Mid-fi': Coming soon. ¿2017?
Jan 20, 2015 at 5:37 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 14

Me x3

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Hey there, I think the title speak a bit for itself.
There's a lot of good things about this hobby but the term 'Mid-fi' is not a happy one in my book.
 
A decade ago, the fresh Sennheiser HD650 was definitely considered a Hi-fi headphone, now it's just a 'Mid-fi' one, although it still sounds as good as always.
 
Some would come and say: 'Hey, a Hi-fi headphone back in 1960s is not a Hi-fi headphone anymore.'
I agree, but the high fidelity categorization has an inherent objective background that's also its limit:
The Perfect Sound Reproduction (TPSR).
So, in the late 60s headphones were really far from TPSR, a decade ago maybe not.

If this were a simple topic, we might be able to define some kind of distance from TPSR and define a certain performance as the frontier between 'Mid-fi' and 'Hi-fi'
This can be made indeed, but involves several assumptions similar to those presented in a pretty interesting article called: 'The State Of Flagships: An Under-Engineered Mess'.
Anyway, the requisites that define the frontier are still quite arbitrary, unless we are capable of building some kind of general consensus (difficult).
 
More so, from a strict point of view, headphones and live music are still quite different things. I'm taking a small risk here: some of you could point I haven't tried Sr-009 with a glorious 15k golden rig yet, that's true and I'm sure it sounds heavenly, but I'm also pretty sure that being there in the concert hall is still different.
Just as a mental experiment, sit in the middle of a nice concert hall with your golden headphones (and setup) and compare: A/B, full orchestra vs headphones.
 
This more strict comparison lead us to think that headphones (all of them) are more on the 'Mid-fi' camp in the big scheme.
 
Since the problem is to big (full of variables), we need to focus, make assumptions. This comes at a price (if we get to some results, these won't be as generally valid), but since the general way is full of rocks and broken bridges, we should try a new one.
 
Let's forget about live music and superb speakers in treated rooms for a while.
Now we are left with headphones and only headphones (The Headphone World)
If this were a simple topic, we might be able to pick a King (Best Headphone in The Headphone World), then define some kind of distance from the King. Finally, we decide were the frontier between 'Mid-fi' and 'Hi-fi' should be, and here we go again (not easy to apply)
 
If you are still with me, I'm sure you suspect this is not going much further. 'The Headphone World' model is out since same problems arise.
 
Let's make just a simple assumption instead.
"We know how it should sound."
 
Maybe you are a professional violinist, no one knows the sound of a violin better than you.
On a quiet morning, you play the violin in your living room, while David Chesky and people from Telarc make two recordings.
Chesky uses a modern dummy head with very precise microphones inside the dummy's ears, while Telarc uses two State of the Art traditional microphones. Once you get bored, everyone goes home and mastering happens. A month latter you have both albums with you (audiophile quality, for sure), and some headphones to try out (Judge.)
 
It happens that Chesky's recording sounds incredible natural through HD650s and LCDs. While it sounds quite bright with DT880s and T1.
---> HD650 and LCDs are 'Hi-fi'
---> DT880 and T1 are 'Mid-fi'
 
Then you switch to the Telarc recording, to find out that DT880s and T1 sound much closer to the real violin, while HD650 and LCDs sound overly smooth and dark.
---> DT880 and T1 are 'Hi-fi'
---> HD650 and LCDs are 'Mid-fi'
 
Similarly, someone who knows Sophie Zelmani personally, could find the album "The Ocean and Me" unrealistic through HD800 due to excessive brightness around 6 KHz. (Nice album by the way!)
Then claims that HD800 is a 'Mid-fi' phone because it fails to recreate Sophie's voice and starts arguing with other HD800 owner that probably never listened to a single Sophie Zelmani's album or often listen to music at much softer levels.
 
Most of us really tend to categorize headphones, but we are more lazy when it comes to recordings. Assuming that most recordings sound the same is a very common error around here (IMO) that leads to unfruitful discussions. Recordings vary quite a lot and the right pairing (recording - headphone) is essential in this hobby.
 
Last but not least, it's very common to read people's comments using 'Mid-fi' as a synonym of mid-priced and 'Hi-fi' as a synonym of high-priced. This is, in my view, something negative. The terms mid-priced and high-priced are much more precise, since price has nothing to do with sound quality in many many cases.

After all, the 'Mid-fi vs Hi-fi' topic has proven to be really tricky, even senseless, but somehow it's there, everywhere.
I'm pretty sure it's easier to convince someone to spend a considerable amount of money to go from 'Mid-fi' to 'Hi-fi' than to spend the same, to change a very good headphone for a slightly better one.
 
I have nothing against market rules or pricey flagships, don't get me wrong, I'm just sharing some views about the Mid-fi/Hi-fi division that's really popular these days.
 
I've already read some people referring to HE-560 as a 'Mid-Fi' headphone...
What do you think?
When are you going to categorize "The Brillant" HD800 as a 'Mid-Fi' headphone? ¿2017?
 
Never?
 
Jan 20, 2015 at 9:57 AM Post #2 of 14

ktm

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There's a lot of older stereo gear that sounds great. Good stereo amps stand the test of time.
Headphones are one of the few areas that had a lot of room for improvement.
Most headphones from the 70's weren't all that great.
Stax had some good sets, but for the most part dynamics were lagging.
At one point , that changed. Grado, Senn, AKG, Sony had some great headphones.
These cans are still very good. R10's, k1000's, Hp-1000, he-60, he-90.
Then companies dropped the top tier. And then there was the new wave.
So it's a cycle. Yes, the hd-650's and RS-1's were kings for a while.
Mid-fi? Who cares? Buy what makes you happy and forget the labels.
I'm waiting for a killer sets of cans that DOESN'T cost $$$$$.
 
Jan 20, 2015 at 10:23 AM Post #3 of 14

Lorspeaker

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my killercan is the MT220 ... high-fi/TOTL sound to my ears ...on my setup,
loads of detractors, but thats on their setup :p
 
Jan 20, 2015 at 1:55 PM Post #5 of 14

RRod

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The HD800 is technically in every way a great headphone for the current day and age. Will better ones supersede it? Most probably, but to call it mid-fi is to poo on the work of a lot of great engineers. That being said, I don't think anyone could really argue that even the best headphone rig can come anywhere near actually sitting one's posterior in a seat in a good venue, except for the obvious advantages of a recording in general (easier to notice details when you can hear exactly the same performance 1000 times). Even a moderate full-sized speaker setup blows all my headphones away; there's just something about that wall of sound hitting your body.
 
Jan 21, 2015 at 1:36 PM Post #6 of 14

bigshot

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In the past, headphones weren't intended for serious listening. HiFi referred to speaker systems. But since the iPod, headphones have been made to serve the high end audio market. It's natural that better models would be developed to serve the new market. Eventually, sound quality improvements will taper off. But I'm sure they will keep adding digits to model numbers anyway. That is too effective of a marketing ploy to give up.
 
Jan 21, 2015 at 4:37 PM Post #7 of 14

bufferoverflow

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  In the past, headphones weren't intended for serious listening. HiFi referred to speaker systems.

Since this IS the 'sound-science' forums :
What are your sources for that claim ??
Also : Please define 'the past' - Are we talking 'Edison Phonograph is a new invention' or what ?
 
PS : What on Earth does 'high-end audio' have to do with sound-science ?
Just as speaker stink, and have done so for ages - so do headphones .. stink -
Speakers/phones are near the only cause of audible distortion in any even half-decent 'hi-fi' equipment made the last decade or so ..
 
Jan 21, 2015 at 7:04 PM Post #8 of 14

bigshot

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Pre-iPod era. The dark ages! Look it up, my boy!
 
Jan 23, 2015 at 3:21 PM Post #10 of 14

ktm

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They've been out for a while. The guys in marketing call them the Sennheiser HD600. :D

I've had the hd-650's for years. And Grado RS-1's. And Stax sr-202. And AKG Q-701.
I've got mid-fi (former flagships) covered many times over!
I just keep getting offered deals too good to resist. So high end becoming
mid-fi has been a good thing for me.
 
Jan 23, 2015 at 4:13 PM Post #11 of 14

cswann1

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Cool.  I've heard a lot of headphones from high to low and imo unless you spend a couple dozen hours a week listening to headphones and have very exacting tastes in sound signature, spending the money on today's flagships is a waste.  Todays Mid-Fi (especially if it was yesteryears Hi-Fi) gives you the best bang for the buck. And to me the flagships are more of a side-grade anyway.  I really like the sound of the orthos like the LCD2 & 3 but could never be happy with them because of the weight.  I pretty much boiled my headphone stable down to the core. That being my Senn HD580's, Alessandro MS1 and UE triple-fi 10's. 
 
Jan 23, 2015 at 4:19 PM Post #12 of 14

RRod

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  Cool.  I've heard a lot of headphones from high to low and imo unless you spend a couple dozen hours a week listening to headphones and have very exacting tastes in sound signature, spending the money on today's flagships is a waste.  Todays Mid-Fi (especially if it was yesteryears Hi-Fi) gives you the best bang for the buck. And to me the flagships are more of a side-grade anyway.  I really like the sound of the orthos like the LCD2 & 3 but could never be happy with them because of the weight.  I pretty much boiled my headphone stable down to the core. That being my Senn HD580's, Alessandro MS1 and UE triple-fi 10's. 

 
There's always diminishing returns. My HD800s are not 7-10x better than my HD598s, despite costing that much. And who knows, if I EQed both of them with equal care, the differences might become negligible; it wouldn't surprise me at this point ^_^
 
Jan 23, 2015 at 4:43 PM Post #13 of 14

cswann1

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There's always diminishing returns. My HD800s are not 7-10x better than my HD598s, despite costing that much. And who knows, if I EQed both of them with equal care, the differences might become negligible; it wouldn't surprise me at this point ^_^

 
Right.  The flagships benefits aren't always realized in terms of FR curve but in more subtle things like resolution and imaging.
 
Jan 23, 2015 at 4:58 PM Post #14 of 14

bigshot

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Resolution and imaging are directly related to frequency response (see auditory masking)
 

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