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there is a end game for me
Why? Because it sound good.
I dunno I think I may be close to calling it quits audio wise. Gotten back into my old hobby before audio, aquariums.
Once you reach end-game exotic transducer materials like beryllium or diamond, there pretty much isn't anywhere to go outside of EQing. For me end game speakers are Paradigm Persona (beryllium tweeter and midrange) and Focal Utopia headphones.
A costly endeavor but a rewarding one. I went into reef tanks for a few years and it humbled me. Would be good to taste salt again but alas, age is causing me to invest in a different hobby. Health.
I think you've answered your own question: When you enjoy it every time you listen with your system.
One thing you haven't mentioned is what music you like. There is a lot of music I listen to where a high-end system brings no benefit. Even then, I wouldn't recommend expensive, yet highly resolving headphones to someone who isn't going to invest in an equally highly resolving source and amp, and again only if you listen to high-quality recordings a great deal.
For me, endgame means what it does for most: that I have reached a point where I have no desire to buy any other audio gear. I've consistently enjoyed all sorts of systems, but that doesn't make them endgame. I doubt I'll ever reach that point...always curious about what "even better" would sound like.
I think we gearheads(or audiophiles, but we undoubtably focus on gear and sound quality as a result) have a human nature of excitement rising when get something new, and levels off overtime we get used to using for a period(and then the excitement dies off). In addition, the amount of gears out in the market are growing at a greater rate as time goes on, there are plenty of gears that we will be curious about(like it or not), and it turns into an endless cycle of new(hopefully improved or better) gears for that peak excitement.
Endgame is a contruct that there is that pinicle setup out there that it should satify one's desire to the point no others out there can be considered more desirable. Which is a concept and an ideal one, that isn't a realistic one. I think at most, people find something they enjoy for a long time without needing to look further, but depending on how much of an audiofool you are, you will likely comeback for another endgame. LOL.
I'm sure a lot of us are familiar with those moments when you listen to a setup that just sounded the really great or even euphoric, and that high doesn't sustain, it levels off as you get used to the sound. I think it's like an addiction, we look for such a high, and it's a cycle.
That may be so, but it doesn't mean I don't want to hear what everybody else has to say! xD
The "endgame" as I've been thinking about it has little to do with settling on certain gear, it's more settling on the amount of money I have tied up in audio gear. When I want to buy something new, instead of saving up for it over several months, I'm more likely to sell some thing(s) I already have. I'm always going to be trying new gear, even if I'm not taking much more out of my income than I already have. There's always another new thing to look forward to trying, another facet to explore. ..
I listen to EDM, which I've found to be one of the most difficult genres to play on headphones. I've thought about how much cheaper it would be for me if I had just kept to classic rock when I was younger, that stuff sounds great on anything. A VE Monk+ and an old iRiver T10 or E-series Walkman is plenty for enjoying Led Zeppelin, unless you really want to be more clear about what Robert Plant is always moaning into the mic about
I certainly can't tell you you're wrong, but I don't necessarily agree either. I've been getting lots of mileage from switching between very different sounding DACs. I've been using a Modi Multibit and an ODAC, which could hardly sound less alike. I'll fall in love with one, then a month or two later when I'm sick of it, the other one feels like a breath of fresh air into my system! I'm discovering that DAC/headphone synergy is a powerful tool.
The Mimby sounds stunningly magical and musical on my HE500, but it's pretty ordinary sounding and forgettable on my Stax ([Mimby/ODAC] -> Magni 3 preamp -> SRM-727a -> SR Lambda). The ODAC, in turn, sounds bland and uninteresting through the HE500, but makes the Stax unit come to life. Just last night I was breathless for two hours straight while listening to a couple of Monolink's sets (Sunset and Live @ Nightfall on soundcloud), constantly feeling blown away at how amazing it sounded. The low, low subbass the Stax reproduces is as good as I can even imagine it. That ODAC/Stax combo rivals the best 20,000 watt speaker wall systems I've ever heard at raves and whatnot, back when I was young enough to enjoy them anyway. It's a goddamn miracle that I can still hear well beyond 16khz at age 40, considering that no one was smart enough to wear earplugs to those things, even into the 00's.
As you know, people need jobs. Lol
We don't need end game. Period. Lol
Trying new gear is awesome but in the end it is all about the journey and hopefully the enjoyment of better sounding music . Wondering what will take it there ???
This. Reminds me when I had a speaker system. After I listened to an outrageous system I stopped upgrading and even lost interest in audio.
That's funny, this is such an interesting thread! I totally understand your reaction, but I count myself fortunate to have had the opposite one: it was hearing a particularly great sounding 40ish kilowatt system at a rave in the '90s that piqued my interest in audio in the first place. Hearing great music play on a system so clear and so loud that the sound was a tangible, almost living thing was. . .awe-some. It was a transcendent experience for me, redefining who I was and what I wanted out of life. Sound worth living for.
Even with my unjaded jellybean ears I recognized a fundamental qualitative difference between that system, and say, my cheap college bookshelf system that I loved. I didn't have the money, time, or inclination to explore WHY until the last few years; I didn't really expect it would be possible to get something like that kind of quality at home without spending many thousands on at least a kilowatt of output and having extremely chill neighbors. I do have plans for building a kilowatt sized system for a small room using Magnepans and subwoofers. I have a Stax rig now that covers everything except the visceral, somatic perception of your entire world vibrating. I once thought that was only a secondary aspect to top level sound, something I could live without, but if that were so then why do I always feel phantom vibrations in the floor when listening to headphones? My brain doesn't seem to believe it's of secondary importance at all.
Anyway, I'm all about reasonable volume levels now, but even knowing that hearing loss is an inescapable certainty (my dad recently told me he can't hear anything over 9khz anymore, which hit home for me) experiencing that world-class soundsystem was more than worth whatever it's going to cost me in the end.
@wuwhere and I are going in such different directions from what looks like similar experiences, at least superficially. I wonder what was different about the context of his experience.
P.S. If anyone here was part of the '90s/'00s rave scene around Colorado, you probably remember the Bassface sound system I'm thinking about. I know how much more expensive they were (an old gf was a rave promoter) but their system was on a level beyond anything else in the area, even today AFAIK.
I've been thinking about writing a guide about how to get into high-end audio that might help save others from a lot of the expensive trial and error I went through. There will still be expensive trial and error involved, don't get me wrong, but hopefully yours will be better focused than mine was. My first $100+ purchase was the Skullcandy Crusher, because Cnet's review told me it was a respectable headphone. Ughh.
The gist of it is trying out my four "mid-fi kings"--the DT880, HD650, K701, and HE400--to uncover your own subjective preferences. I think it's best done with transparent upstream gear (think an o2/odac stack) but that isn't terribly important.
I chose those four headphone models in particular because they represent successful implementations of the most fundamental types of sounds. This is obviously a huge oversimplification, but think of them as representing a V-shaped FR, warmth, soundstage, and clarity, respectively. Your preferences between those four will inform everything about where your journey takes you.
It's more than just deciding which ONE you like. If you liked the 400 & 701, for example, then frequency extension might be something to focus on. Maybe you wish for some combinations of qualities, there's as many variations as there are people.
I'm sure everyone will have their own ideas on improving this test, and I'd really like to hear about them. Personalizing this test is important. Ideally you'd include a Grado in there, something to represent separation and air (HE500?), and who knows what other aspects you might find important. I still don't even understand what PRAT is supposed to mean, for example, is there a headphone that represents that? There should be an SS/tube amp thing too eventually. But I think keeping the list down to no more than three or four models makes it a realistic first step most budding headphone enthusiasts can achieve.
As a side-benefit, this will also help acclimatize people to the value of the sale forums here. I don't expect anyone to go out and buy all four models at once, or even two at a time for most people. But the sale forums make it realistic to try them all and more or less break even every time.
This is also an important lesson, thank you @SilverEars!
I've learned that I can't trust my first impressions very far. I was disappointed with nearly all of my favorite gear at first, the best stuff grows on you [me] slowly. It took me nearly a month with it before I really started appreciating the Mr. Speakers Alpha Prime, but now I wouldn't sell it even to upgrade my Stax system. There are exceptions though. The Audeze Sine* blew me away on my first listen, and I still rate them very highly. They're so, so close to the Alpha Prime, and without very good amp they might as well be identical.
The Sine is my definition of where diminishing returns really begin in earnest. In fact, most people could probably skip the mid-fi kings test entirely and just get a pair of Sines and never have to worry about anything ever again.
*-I'm talking about a Sine with circumaural earpads. If you're not going to upgrade the earpads then you really shouldn't bother with the Sine. You don't have to mess around with clumsy 3d printed adapters, Brainwavz pads fit right out of the box, for example. I like their angled ones best on the Sine.
This is worth it's own thread really, but Audeze's conception of them as on-ears might be the biggest blunder in the entire audio industry's history. We'll never know how many tens of thousands of sales Audeze lost because the average consumer isn't ever going to consider aftermarket pad-rolling as an option, regardless of how easy it is to do. Which isn't surprising because Audeze themselves don't consider it an option! They lost more than a huge chunk of market share, they damage the whole industry by fueling the stereotype that audiophile products are overpriced garbage for niche weirdos only.
@DJ The Rocket
I cannot comment on the speakers you heard at the rave...but based on the fact that the speaker systems in large venues tend to favor volume over quality, I wouldn't be surprised if a decent two-channel home system beat them in terms of overall sound quality.
You've probably already seen at least some of this info in my posts elsewhere, so I apologize in advance for any redundancy:
In the past I owned multiple five figures worth of headphones and related equipment, and auditioned other very high-end ones.
My favorites were the handful of STAX systems I owned. (I'd rank them SR-L300 > SR-207 > SR-Lambda > SR-30.)
Last year I made the transition to loudspeakers. I was astonished that even the best-sounding headphones I'd heard sounded like cheap toys to me in comparison!
I don't mean to come across like I'm putting down headphones, because I do love them...but the sound I'm getting with speakers is so much more realistic in pretty much every aspect, and I've barely begun my journey into the world of speakers. I got rid of nearly all my headphones and don't plan on getting back into high-end headphones until I've taken care of some major speaker upgrades.
I also experimented with high-end DACs. In my experience, they enhance the sound in a much more subtle way than your choice of headphones/speakers. Since upgrading the latter will almost always result in a more significant improvement for the same cost, I generally recommend against getting into the realm of DACs that cost four figures (or more) until you've spent at least twice that much on the rest of your system. (Not sure what your goals are in this area, but I thought it was worth mentioning.)
If you plan on using speakers in a small room, you don't necessarily need a powerful amp, especially if you don't want to crank them. There are more than a few very powerful amps with good specs that don't cost much. For example, my Behringer KM750 power amp is class AB, can output up to 400 watts at 4 ohms, and only costs $150. Since you want to use less sensitive speakers and multiple subwoofers, I can't advise on the matter of an ideal amp, however. You should definitely look into the most effective acoustic treatments for the listening room.
For me, diminishing returns for headphones kicks in hard as early as the ~$15 Koss KTXPRO1. (A semi-open on-ear with titanium-coated dynamic drivers.) Most headphones at (or even well above) that price sound pretty bad, but that one competes with or outperforms plenty of ones in the three figure range. All the closed-backs I owned that cost under $400 (as well as some open-backs) were beaten to a pulp by that cheap little thing. Never would have guessed that would be the result, but direct comparisons were conclusive for me. Even when I owned four figure headphones that were technically far superior, I still often reached for the KTX thanks to its sound that's magical for me with many recordings. Side note: It did scale from the Chord Mojo and didn't sound as good from cheaper electronics.
The Audeze SINE was actually the cheapest closed-back I owned that outperformed that Koss. It was over-ear for me even with the stock pads. Not sure why it's marketed as on-ear. I've seen plenty of headphones marketed as over-ear that had smaller stock pads. (Such as the Focal Spirit Professional, which is also fully over-ear for me.)