Is $2000 The Hi-End Headphone Sweet Spot in Mid-2024?
Jun 4, 2024 at 9:36 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 99

WaveTheory

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 25, 2020
Posts
314
Likes
1,144
Location
USA
Hello, Fellow Audiophiles!

This morning my comparison video of the HEDDphone 2, HiFiMan HE1000se, and Modhouse Tungsten DS went live on YouTube (watch here). All 3 of those headphones sound excellent and represent excellent values. They are all also right about $2000US (though HE1000se went on sale for $1700 between my making the video and posting it publicly - I don't know if that price is permanent but $2000 probably is).

Having had the privilege of reviewing headphones and associated audio gear for a few years now, and thanks to the generosity of the audiophile community, I've had the opportunity to hear a broad cross section of the headphone market from the entry level all the way through the top of the line. Here near the halfway point of calendar year 2024 and having recently reviewed the Tungsten and HEDDphone 2, I find myself seeing the headphone market taking shape such that $2000 currently represents something of a value and performance sweet spot for hi-end headphones. In my opinion, the trio of HEDDphone 2, HE1000se (HEKse), and Tungsten DS have warped the price-to-performance curve in their favor to a degree such that I'm finding myself making these recommendations to the headphone community:

1) Shop around and play around with different headphones to your heart's content up until a value of somewhere in the $1200-1500 range.

2) If you're looking for meaningful sonic improvement over the mid-fi/low hi-fi categories, I recommend pinching your pennies to get to $2000 where you can snag your preferred model of the HEDD2, HE1000se, Tungsten DS trio.

3) To meaningfully outperform HEDD2/HEKse/Tungsten DS, be prepared to spend in excess of $4000US just for the headphone, while at the same time being aware that not every $4k+ headphone will bring the combination of tuning and technicalities that you will like more than what your preferred member of that trio already brings. In other words, be careful jumping up. There is a WIDE range of sounds and technical chops at the ultra hi-end of the market and not every unit is a guaranteed tuning, technical, or enjoyment upgrade over HEDD2/HEKse/Tungsten DS. Of note here is that I'm not shaming anyone for exploring the TOTL. There are some stunners up there (proud owner of OG Susvara and OG Utopia here). There are also some that are...let's just say less than stunning. I simply attempt to establish realistic expectations.

I flesh out those 3 points, as well as how my music tastes and sonic preferences have formed them, in the video linked above.

I create this post to ask: What do you think? Is $2000 emerging as a hi-end headphone sweet spot in the middle of 2024? Am I thinking about his all wrong?

I am NOT the final word on any of this. Nor is as any other reviewer or any other individual commenter, manufacturer, or retailer. The final word, as always, rests with the person contemplating whether or not they should enter their credit card info to get [insert headphone name here]. But I'm very curious what the community thinks.

So Head-Fi community, please (respectfully) discuss!
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 11:13 AM Post #2 of 99
WoW WaveTheory!

Big fAn :D

2k does seem like a decent sweet spot.

As the hobby grows, the market floods with good deals.

Also with all the availability of new pads as single unit items for sale, it's not a big deal to buy used set and fresh pads/headband
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 11:29 AM Post #3 of 99
Hello, Fellow Audiophiles!

This morning my comparison video of the HEDDphone 2, HiFiMan HE1000se, and Modhouse Tungsten DS went live on YouTube (watch here). All 3 of those headphones sound excellent and represent excellent values. They are all also right about $2000US (though HE1000se went on sale for $1700 between my making the video and posting it publicly - I don't know if that price is permanent but $2000 probably is).

Having had the privilege of reviewing headphones and associated audio gear for a few years now, and thanks to the generosity of the audiophile community, I've had the opportunity to hear a broad cross section of the headphone market from the entry level all the way through the top of the line. Here near the halfway point of calendar year 2024 and having recently reviewed the Tungsten and HEDDphone 2, I find myself seeing the headphone market taking shape such that $2000 currently represents something of a value and performance sweet spot for hi-end headphones. In my opinion, the trio of HEDDphone 2, HE1000se (HEKse), and Tungsten DS have warped the price-to-performance curve in their favor to a degree such that I'm finding myself making these recommendations to the headphone community:

1) Shop around and play around with different headphones to your heart's content up until a value of somewhere in the $1200-1500 range.

2) If you're looking for meaningful sonic improvement over the mid-fi/low hi-fi categories, I recommend pinching your pennies to get to $2000 where you can snag your preferred model of the HEDD2, HE1000se, Tungsten DS trio.

3) To meaningfully outperform HEDD2/HEKse/Tungsten DS, be prepared to spend in excess of $4000US just for the headphone, while at the same time being aware that not every $4k+ headphone will bring the combination of tuning and technicalities that you will like more than what your preferred member of that trio already brings. In other words, be careful jumping up. There is a WIDE range of sounds and technical chops at the ultra hi-end of the market and not every unit is a guaranteed tuning, technical, or enjoyment upgrade over HEDD2/HEKse/Tungsten DS. Of note here is that I'm not shaming anyone for exploring the TOTL. There are some stunners up there (proud owner of OG Susvara and OG Utopia here). There are also some that are...let's just say less than stunning. I simply attempt to establish realistic expectations.

I flesh out those 3 points, as well as how my music tastes and sonic preferences have formed them, in the video linked above.

I create this post to ask: What do you think? Is $2000 emerging as a hi-end headphone sweet spot in the middle of 2024? Am I thinking about his all wrong?

I am NOT the final word on any of this. Nor is as any other reviewer or any other individual commenter, manufacturer, or retailer. The final word, as always, rests with the person contemplating whether or not they should enter their credit card info to get [insert headphone name here]. But I'm very curious what the community thinks.

So Head-Fi community, please (respectfully) discuss!
It's a triple - add in the E3 for a Home Run...
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 11:35 AM Post #4 of 99
I would stay under $1k for most people and if you want to go high end go high end - don’t get something middle of the road.

Having said that HEKse for $1700 is a pretty compelling proposition, ditto for E3 (if require closed). Haven’t heard the other two. Grado HP1000 is also compelling at about the same price.

Composer would be compelling at the same street price as 800S.

Too bad most people will never hear what most of these $1k+ cans are actually capable of given the ubiquity of mid-fi (and lower quality) electronics people pair those with. It's arguable that it doesn't make sense to pair $2k cans with $20k source and $5k amp but that's just how the cookies crumble in the headphone value chain. By the time you are done building a rig that can extract 99%+ of the performance from these $2k cans, you might as well step up to $4k+ cans because $2k is really just a rounding error at that point.
 
Last edited:
Jun 4, 2024 at 11:57 AM Post #5 of 99
It's a triple - add in the E3 for a Home Run...
I gave thought to E3 and decided the video was already long enough haha. I don't deny the E3 is excellent and quite possibly the best all around closed back right now (tho I personally still have a slight preference for Radiance). However, to me the E3 is a small step behind these open models. As impressive as it is it's still starting from a compromised position (closed) and hasn't fully caught up. However, if we expand my rationale to include closed backs then I agree. IMO there currently aren't any closed models compelling enough to warrant spending more than E3.
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 12:06 PM Post #6 of 99
I gave thought to E3 and decided the video was already long enough haha. I don't deny the E3 is excellent and quite possibly the best all around closed back right now (tho I personally still have a slight preference for Radiance). However, to me the E3 is a small step behind these open models. As impressive as it is it's still starting from a compromised position (closed) and hasn't fully caught up. However, if we expand my rationale to include closed backs then I agree. IMO there currently aren't any closed models compelling enough to warrant spending more than E3.
Thanks - I'm an open back fan and have not heard the E3 yet. Was hoping they would do an open back version. At $1699 the HEK SE appears to be what I'm going to do... unless I wait for the OG Susvara to drop to say $3-3.5k retail and lower used.
 
Last edited:
Jun 4, 2024 at 12:54 PM Post #9 of 99
Just get an HD650 or 600 and a bottle head crack and call it a day. It's not worth it going higher or much higher. Similar to cars, I just drive what's comfortable, economical, and practical these days.
Some people like nicer experience than what mass consumer goods can provide, be it cars, bicycles, cans, stereo, food, etc. Mass consumer experiences are designed to cater to the widest audience (and budget) and lowest denominator. You can certainly do better.
 
Last edited:
Jun 4, 2024 at 1:10 PM Post #10 of 99
By the time you are done building a rig that can extract 99%+ of the performance from these $2k cans, you might as well step up to $4k+ cans because $2k is really just a rounding error at that point

Thank you for confirming my inclination to just stay (happily) in the $500 headphone range.
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 1:12 PM Post #11 of 99
It's crazy to think the $2000 Is needed to get into some good high end phones. Unfortunate sign of the times.
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 1:14 PM Post #12 of 99
It's crazy to think the $2000 Is needed to get into some good high end phones. Unfortunate sign of the times.
lol. I see $200k+ worth of electronics/gear in your profile 😂
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 1:21 PM Post #13 of 99
Just get an HD650 or 600 and a bottle head crack and call it a day. It's not worth it going higher or much higher. Similar to cars, I just drive what's comfortable, economical, and practical these days.
Got the 600, had the crack...

Still got your 6 screw, 800S, Utopia, BHA-1.... I might drop my interest in one more big purchase if I was holding those... :smile_phones:
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 2:54 PM Post #14 of 99
lol. I see $200k+ worth of electronics/gear in your profile 😂
I try not to add things up. Haha

But upon a quick mental calc, I think at retail, you’re less than 50% there. It’s a sad state indeed! But atleast it’s fun and awesome as it stands.
 
Jun 4, 2024 at 5:09 PM Post #15 of 99
Wavetheory
What do you think is the performance jump from $2000 to the higher levels? If you could somehow quantify…
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Back
Top