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It's got to stop!

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by NiToNi, May 18, 2017.
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  1. NiToNi
    The inflation in headphones prices is running amok. It's not that long time ago that "flagship" headphones, like HD600 and its predecessors, cost below $500... and that was considered quite rich for a pair of cans at the time. Sure, Stax was the odd one out, with some of its offerings costing an order of magnitude more, but they were always more of an exotic singularity than a real-world alternative. And there were some other pricey offerings, such as K1000 and the various hardwood cupped Denons, but the median price for a pair of high-end cans was still solidly anchored to earth.

    It was around this time that the mainstream interest for headphones started to grow exponentially. This was of course driven in part by the younger generations affinity for portability and convenience but in no small part also for budgetary reasons. Young people tend to have less money (I know, it's unfair) but I don't think this is the only reason because most MP3 youngsters couldn't give a rat's arse to the quality and experience afforded by high-end audio. Instead, I think there was also a mass exodus of audiophiles and enthusiasts from traditional home audio that for a decade or so had experienced a tremendous inflation in hi-fi gear (e.g. compare the cost of a pair of B&W 801 Matrix to the same mfg's flagship today, in real dollars... not to mention those +$1m offerings from other more "exotic" producers...). This development, not saved for long by the attempt to migrate and reignite the interest of the crowd over to home theater (which quickly got even more costly if you wanted to maintain quality), IMHO played a big part in if not killing then at least decimating the interest and potential consumers in the high-end home audio space. The flight to the headphone space was I believe very much a reaction to this development, this feeling of abandonment, inaccessibility and greed by the audio manufacturers.

    This is also why it worries me so much that we have been seeing the same development in personal audio of late. Since the HD650 (which was a more acceptable price increase over the HD600), it's just got ridiculous, with big jumps in price (typically 50-100% for each new generation, every 12-24mo) first with $1,000-1,500 offerings (Audeze's and HifiMan's first models being good cases in point), "forcing" also Senn to follow suit with the HD800 (because you don't want your offering to come across as inferior based on price alone, now do you?). Consequently, the others had to up their game so to speak (price-wise at least, quality-wise is debatable) with another step-up in prices, now approaching the $2k mark (e.g. LCD-X). Now the latest "must-have flagships" (LCD-4, Focal Utopia, WM1Z etc) are about $3k!!

    I'll be the first one to appreciate the R&D, craftsmanship and incremental improvements that go into these products but these things are supposed to come with time anyway, without a huge premium increase annually, at least in a competitive market economy. That very economy which pretty much has been non-inflationary since Lehman by the way....

    I think the headphone industry is becoming a victim of its own success, attracting more suppliers (not only cans but also amps, DACs, cables etc), all trying to come across as better than peers by price positioning their latest offering just above everybody else's. Sure global demographics and the emergence of a middle class with strong purchasing power in countries like China, India, Russia etc means a bigger market potentially, but I'm afraid that the little bang-for-the-buck haven that this space has been for audiophiles for some time will face the same decay as that experienced by home audio hobbyists due to ramping inflation for the best products. Sad but true.

    It's got to stop. Massdrop can't save us all... :frowning2:
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  2. WoodyLuvr
  3. NiToNi
    Haha... true, at least if you're poor... :)
    WoodyLuvr likes this.
  4. XLR8
    Hobbies today are becoming exorbitantly rich.
    Capitalism at its finest.
    WoodyLuvr likes this.
  5. Contrails
    Just waiting for the 'if you can't afford it...' comments.
  6. remilio
    I don't want to sound like an ass, but it's not only manufacturers' issue. For example, Hd600/650 are still quite good, they didn't become worse because of existence of HD800. It's just mentality of many audiophiles - "I want to have the BEST (and in most cases - the most expensive)".

    EVERYTHING is becoming more and more expensive, that's not only audio industry's problem.
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
    Asspirin, Contrails and WoodyLuvr like this.
  7. DaemonSire
    I completely agree that it is getting out of hand. Capitalism only works when people support it though. As nice as the extortionately high headphones may sound, I refuse to pay for them out of principle. There are so many quality headphones now in the mid-to-high end, that these summit-fi headphones should be left to starve. If people would stop paying for them, the market will correct itself.

    Would I love to have a Utopia? Absolutely! Will I ever buy one? Nope.

    Again, this isn't about being able to afford it or not. It's the principle. If you keep supporting these ridiculously high prices, as a manufacturer, why would they stop?
    LajostheHun, BubbaJay, knopi and 7 others like this.
  8. GangGang
    It's because people will pay. Let's be real, a HD800, HD650 and Elear are more resolving than most of these headphones apart from a few 4k examples.

    Yet people Still believe they are getting an upgrade to the point their minds tell them they are hearing setting better. Take expectation out of it and you won't find anything other than different improvements and issues in other areas(If we are talking about a well made headphone)

    I do believe the Utopia is legit but compare it to a HD800 both on a good system and the actual resolution is similar and in some cases I found the HD800 to dig deeper for detail, they are both close but look at the price difference.

    We also did a test a HD650 on a simple Vali 2 hooked up to a Modi Multibit was more detailed and resolving compared to my LCD-3 on every combo we tried. It was more level on entry level gear like the 02.

    Prices will continue to go crazy with Audeze, Mrspeakers, Hifiman especially. The Ether Flow open I had was terrible, bright mess with awful tonal balance and it was the case for other units of the Flows. The Flows are £1700 here..my HD800, HD650 and Elear all nested the flow for slam, micro detail and macro dynamics with only the HD650 losing out on background clarort die to it's very background and bass texture.

    Over the years I've trained myself to be more immune to expectation bias but it's difficult with so many paid sponsors and reviewers. It's a tricky hobby.
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  9. jmills8
    It stops by you not buying.
    I g o r, HumbleMan, Zoide and 3 others like this.
  10. kman1211
    True, the prices have gotten insane, it's really the planars I noticed this is the worst with and honestly see no justification for it. People do get it in their heads that more expensive equals better and honestly it doesn't. You can find some real gems out there but some may overlook them due to price being too low(in the eyes of those who think more expensive equals better) or if they aren't planars. Hopefully people realize these crazy price-hikes need to stop and don't keep supporting these practices.
    Zoide, yangian and WoodyLuvr like this.
  11. Ike1985
    It's not capitalism, it's inflation and products will go for what the market will bear. The currency is in free fall as are all government currencies, sure they rise and fall but only relative to the other following currencies. Then you have the market and apparently people think headphones are worth what the manufacturers are asking, obviously they are selling.
    FUYU and WoodyLuvr like this.
  12. WoodyLuvr
    Completely concur; although there is a flip-side to it all...

    The higher prices have definitely better funded companies and technology teams to innovate and push the technology envelope... so the higher price tags perhaps have given us many of the audiophile advancements and delights that we would have not seen otherwise. Also, hate to admit it but higher priced goods = more marketing dollars = more funding for sites like Head-Fi.

    Now shoot me.
    yangian and headpfizer like this.
  13. AdamTR
    No headphone in the world is worth more than $300 (perhaps even $200) IN MATERIALS & manufacturing costs, even the Utopia not.. and R&D isn't as much as people think it is, it's mostly a small team of persons who get their regular salary from the company. It's all about ''are you willing to pay this much for it's sound''. it really got out of hands and headphone manufactures are profiting big time.
    HumbleMan, Zoide, gobin and 2 others like this.
  14. LaCuffia
    $4,000 headphone is the new $1,000 headphone. Don't count on it going down anytime soon. The bar will be pushed higher and higher. Wait until Focal comes out with Utopia version 2 or Nirvana or whatever they will call it in a few years or so....do you honestly think it's going to stay at or below $4K? Let's take bets...I say $6K. :o2smile:
    Zoide and Bastianpp like this.
  15. jmills8
    Soon their will be many therapist to deal with audio addicts.
    trellus and John2e like this.
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