point of diminishing returns - end game?
Oct 1, 2021 at 7:04 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 9

reznik6044

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Fully acknowledge that this is a hobby and a large percentage of the enjoyment comes from tinkering and upgrading... so I'm not sure there really is an "end game" with that said...

I'm wondering where everyone's point of diminishing returns is?

There is no doubt that moving up from entry-level stuff (Schitt Modi/Magni - $200-$250) to next tier (like Modius / THX 789 $400-$500) is an amazing, enjoyable and very noticeable upgrade. I was actually really blown away by the difference between the Modi and Modius. But it seems like the cost to make the jump to the next level of noticeable improvement is exponential...

I just got my SingXer SA-1, and am really enjoying it. I can see why people like Class A amps and it does have a more 'musical' tonality compared to my 789. I don't have my Focal Clears yet, should be coming in a couple weeks, but I anticipate the SA-1 pairing very well with them. However, jumping back and forth between the 789 and SA-1 balanced connection, with Sundara and HD6XX - I wouldn't say the SA-1 is "better" - it's "different" - and that is exactly what I was going for, so mission accomplished. But the SA-1 cost more than the Modius/789 Stack together.

Everyone seems to think the Topping A90 is marginally better than the 789 - but it's also double the cost. The next logical step seems like the Burson Soloist is more than double the A90 cost (and I could buy five THX789's for that price).

DACs go the same way - the SMSL, Topping, Chord, Bifrost2, etc. all are more than double the cost of the Modius. I might actually upgrade the DAC, but not because of the DAC itself, but to get more features (like bluetooth, PreAmp, Display, etc.)

So it seems like you hit a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly after about the $500 mark.

I was just wondering where your point of diminishing returns is?

I don't think for a second that I'm done upgrading and I think "end game" is a joke for anyone who enjoys this hobby. There's always something new and shiny to try out. But I was wondering where others are at?
 
Oct 2, 2021 at 7:14 PM Post #2 of 9

nikon6

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This is a very great question you present. I've been pondering the same question for a while, if not only in my subconscious. I started with some $500 Shure 535 then moved to $1200 JH-16 Pro then moved to . . . on and on. Now I rarely think twice about dropping a few grand on something I've "just got to hear". I enjoy the journey and the experience but I'm wondering if I'll ever be satisfied. On one extreme, trying to find end game is a bit like trying to find the perfect woman. On the other extreme, I'm reminded of the idea "its not the destination, its the journey" and in that spirit, journey on!
 
Oct 2, 2021 at 7:28 PM Post #3 of 9

HBen

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Well diminishing returns hit pretty hard in this hobby - especially after a few hundred bucks ... but still I think some TOTL gear is totally worth it (to me at least), because there is some kind of magic it's able to make happen that other gear cannot. On the other side I find TOTL-gear that won't produce that magic is actually the worst value for money since you essentially spent a lot of cash on something you don't really enjoy.

In that sense I think for example the Stax 009/007 and the Susvara are money well spent, whereas I find the Utopia or any Audeze planars up to the LCD4 some of the worst price to performance headphones since I haven't found any combination (yet?) that produces that magic which I can get with the Stax or Susvara headphones.
In the end it's all very personal since it depends on a lot of factors like preferences, individual hearing, system synergy, music style and so on - which means it's all different from person to person.

Find what you like best within your budget - and enjoy the music :)
 
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Oct 2, 2021 at 9:24 PM Post #4 of 9

reznik6044

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On one extreme, trying to find end game is a bit like trying to find the perfect woman. On the other extreme, I'm reminded of the idea "its not the destination, its the journey" and in that spirit, journey on!
LOL - both true! :)
 
Oct 5, 2021 at 2:12 AM Post #5 of 9

gordec

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This is a very great question you present. I've been pondering the same question for a while, if not only in my subconscious. I started with some $500 Shure 535 then moved to $1200 JH-16 Pro then moved to . . . on and on. Now I rarely think twice about dropping a few grand on something I've "just got to hear". I enjoy the journey and the experience but I'm wondering if I'll ever be satisfied. On one extreme, trying to find end game is a bit like trying to find the perfect woman. On the other extreme, I'm reminded of the idea "its not the destination, its the journey" and in that spirit, journey on!
“Journey before destination.” Fellow Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archives fan?
 
Oct 5, 2021 at 2:31 AM Post #6 of 9

silent-circuit

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I'm currently quite happy with the D90/A90 stack, but can see myself moving up in a year or two. I'm in no rush. I do value a very "analytical" and detailed back end - if I want warmth that's for the headphones to provide. The Topping stack is very good here. Certainly better than the Schitt Jotunheim with multibit card they replaced (and it was, as you suggest, no slouch). Is the Gustard U16 doing anything? I honestly have no idea. It breaks MQA compatibility. That's a good thing or a bad thing, depending who you ask. :wink:
 
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Oct 6, 2021 at 8:09 AM Post #7 of 9

Redcarmoose

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Over the years it changes. So there is maybe no specific place. The goal is a moving target maybe?

With that said what happens is you get spoiled. What was once really moving....then becomes less emotional...to a point.

The way I test this is by going back to older gear I have and listening. Still I don’t know what has come out this year? I haven’t heard much of the latest stuff. But what I learned is you simply have to find your sound. That actually can also change a little, but that is the best advice I can give. Meaning it doesn’t matter what a piece of equipment costs as long as it fits into the system well. Synergy is everything. Synergy is a maximized cost to value ratio. And of course synergy is finding balance....a warm amp/colder DAC or whatever.


Maybe mid-fi is the pasts TOTL? But I’m not really sure the latest stuff is always way way better? At times I will try older amps and DACs and even though they are roughly 10 years old........ with a modern headphone they do great! They don’t play DSD files, but I rarely play DSD files anyway.

So I’m always asking myself “Would I be happy with just this?”


At times your listening wants slightly change as well as parts stay the same. But after everything is said and done I would pretty much be happy with just a DAP and one single IEM, I think?

But the difficulty is knowing that, before.....


Meaning you have to buy stuff first to know if you want it, or need it. Also you may feel like your missing-out by not exploring ways to go. So in a sense hindsight is 20/20. Still you slowly get into a routine with gear, and you have to find that routine; as no one can normally simply make a list of what that (gear) would be, prior.


But maybe $500 would be a fair place to say when the diminishing returns start, maybe I really don’t know? Still I went from liking full-size headphones to liking IEMs more in 2016.........so that can cause changes in what you value?

But when I was only into full-size headphones I did a lot of listening and even then I was fairly confident about what I liked. Meaning I went to shows and listened to other set-ups. If anything doing that educated me as to what I would want and what I could forget about. It’s not always buying the most expensive thing but learning your sound. Once you know your sound and how to achieve it, you maybe waste less money?

Still the learning mistakes are super important too. You may find out a new tone by using a headphone that you kinda don’t like. Meaning it could be a stepping stone headphone that you explore and the sound you thought your not into except you actually learned maybe to like it. Then you find the same sound (but better) in another headphone and buy it.
 
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