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Why are flagship headphones so expensive now?

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  1. Michael G.
    Of course it is! 
    Or rather, it USUALLY is. Without the use of DSP (digital signal processing as used in products like the Smyth Realiser) and/or binaural recordings, headphone listening is an "unnatural" listening experience. Although it would not be accurate to say that loudspeakers do not also present an "compromised" listening experience in some ways as well.
    How do headphones win out over loudspeakers?
    Because you're not being forced to muck around with room acoustics problems, halfway decent headphones will transmit a level of detail retrieval that all but the best loudspeaker systems struggle to re-create. And while headphones do not always present things like "soundstage" in a completely realistic way, they provide avenues for PSYHCOLOGICAL realisms that adequately enable the all important "suspension of DISBELIEF" - just like loudspeakers can do when they are set up properly.
    Headphones can provide us with an artificially (but pleasantly!) enhanced sort of *insight* into recordings. It could almost be said that, because headphones present stereo recordings in such a pure manner, it's as if the headphone listener is endowed with the aural equivalent of supernatural, penetrating x-ray vision. Superman, eat your heart out! 
    There are tradeoffs to made in all types of listening but the ultimate "natural" listening experience, given the level of technology available to most consumers today, should (in theory) come from the loudspeaker system. It's one reason why the costs of home loudspeaker systems sometimes run into the millions of dollars - you pay more, you get more.
  2. LugBug1
    Its weird.. Its been so long since I listened to speakers (just bought some again recently) that today when I was listening in a triangle set up with the music in front of me - I was wishing it was more at either sides... Like headphones haha
    I've been brainwashed by Sennheiser!! 
    I personally don't think headphones give you a compromised or unnatural reproduction compared to speakers. A lot of music is mixed/produced using headphones anyways. If you are used to listening to headphones then speakers can sound weird and vice versa.  
    I understand the whole concept of recreating a 'live' experience. But what if you've never been to a concert before? A lot of music lovers don't go to concerts. 
    Recorded music is what it is.. whether it is reproduced on a sound-dock, phone, hifi speakers, headphones or an old radio etc etc. None of these methods own the rights to be the correct one. I might be listening to an old mono Vera Lynn song or an new ambient recording that will never be played live. Headphones are as good as any other tool.   
  3. achristilaw Contributor
    Every phone has an idiosyncratic tendency, don't care the price. The "audiophile" will listen to six to twelve recordings that flatter the response characteristic of the headphone system. When the response anomaly becomes apparent when a new piece of music is introduced? The phone looses favor... most every time. That's why the phone that is a "favorite", isn't a favorite after six months to a year. 
    The music lover will find a phone that leaves middle frequency response intact, and coloration's he/she finds they can live with at the extremes, then simply mush ahead. Phones never do the full range of frequencies evenly. Speakers can however.... (these observations are from my experience and IMO).
  4. Michael G.
    There is some truth in this, sure, Especially in today's world where so many people listen to music on earbuds and other portable playback options. However...
    Conscientious recording engineers of the hifi era (especially those from the not-too-distant past) made recordings with the expectation that they would be played back on "typical" playback systems of the era and, for the most part, that meant a stereo pair of loudspeakers. Headphones were viewed as a "compromise" of sorts, albeit an "acceptable compromise".
    It was/is the practice in many recording studios to listen their work using both headphones and loudspeakers because headphones provide the clearest possible separation of channels while loudspeakers provide the most "natural" or stereophonic sounding playback. Thus, the work was checked out for possible imperfections or imbalances prior to finalization.
    Although, it is known that some recording engineers have EQ'd and balanced their recordings to sound "right" on headphones, boomboxes, or car stereos rather than high-quality home stereo systems, I think that it is still true (to some extent at least, and especially so among the "audiophile" record labels) that recordings are made to sound right when played back on a true stereophonic system composed of a pair of loudspeakers.
    It is my view that headphones can provide a unique listening experience that is not favored by everyone. Some people cannot stand headphone listening while others take to it the same way that fish take to a stream.
    Beagle likes this.
  5. flargosa
    I don't think music is mastered for headphone listening that is why some companies like PSB put room acoustics back into the headphones and Focal wanted their headphones to sound like speakers.  Maybe a small percent are recorded for headphone use like binaural recordings but that's it. So I guess you can say Headphones are more unnatural than speakers. 
  6. Beagle
    I agree. Most recordings up to the 90's (jazz and classical to the present) sound best on loudspeakers. The modern day over-compressed, made-in-the-box pop/rock crap recordings can be played on anything and they will always sound like what they are.
  7. Michael G.
    I hear ya' (no pun intended)!
    Not that there is anything wrong with making recordings that are suitable for playback on almost any kind of transducer, but the very least they could do would be to try to preserve some semblance of lifelike dynamics....
  8. DoctaCosmos
    Answer to title;
    Apparently headphone companies are very similar to drug dealers.
  9. SP Wild
    I think from now, the headphone is the last instrument in creating the soundscape. Engineers should know this by now.

    With VR set to become the inevitable future, sounds will come from a headphone/earphone. Thinking that speakers still are the benchmark is pre computational age thinking, primitive.

    Considering that humans have already evolved into Bionic entities permanently interfaced to a secondary artificial brain... I think everyone is a bit lost and uncertain.

    One thing is certain, if flagship pricing is affecting your emotions negatively today, might as well prepare the noose. Will probably need it when you see tomorrow's flagship pricing.
    Lulu800, LugBug1 and Malfunkt like this.
  10. Currawong Contributor
    Have you spoken, in person, to the engineers from many manufacturers? Do you know what their costs are for each of their products? You'll probably find that while making money indeed is part of the equation, it isn't the first thing in the minds of the people who actually design flagship headphones.  There are quite a few flagships out there where the entire company was put on the line to manufacture, and failure would have seen the entire company go down.
  11. LugBug1
    I agree also with the 'time' when recordings were made only with the loudspeakers being the ideal. This is fact. But I would argue that this is not the case now or going forward. 
    My original point was that while the ideal may have been (or is) speakers. If all you have ever listened to is headphones. Speakers may sound weird. 
    A lot of people these days only listen to music on headphones. I have spent the last 10 years only listening to headphones.. I mostly listen to classical and jazz. And for someone to tell me that it is unnatural or I'm compromising - I just don't buy it. The detail retrieval, imaging and tonality I get from Senn headphones can not be reproduced better in my living room. I have wood floors and lots of furnishings to bounce, splash, dampen the sound. My headphones reproduce the sound in a reliable controlled manner which I am accustomed to.
    Does that make sense my friend? :)  
  12. Beagle

    I agree. And there's not much point in making wonderful recordings if they are mostly listened to on bad equipment/source (MP3, Beats etc).
    And I agree that detail retrieval of headphones can beat most loudspeakers. But that's where it ends.
    LugBug1 likes this.
  13. DonS1000
    Has anyone tried Audio Fidelity. Are they good remasterings ?
  14. needmoretoys
    True from my experience. The detail that I get from my DT880, driven by my GS-1 amp is greater than my nearly $5000 stereo system and at a much lower cost. The detail from my Ety HF5 is even somewhat greater. However, the realism (probably could find a better word to use) of the recording is far better with my speakers set up in a triangle arrangement about 4 feet from the wall. The width, depth and placement of the instruments is much better. The orchestra (I like classical) sounds located beyond the room wall and sounds like I'm sitting near the front in the music hall. OK, not quiet as good. The instruments using the DT880 sound like they are located around my head just a few inches away. With the HF5, the instruments are all in my head. The MEE Pinnacle are closer to the DT880.
    I would much rather listen to music using my stereo system. However, I listen most of the time, mostly at home (retired), using my X3ii and my HD590 or MEE Pinnacle P1 because I can move around the house and not just plant myself down for an hour or more. The times that my wife is interested in listening we will then sit in front of the speakers for a couple of hours.
  15. SP Wild
    I think if you tally it up. The car speakers rule the roost.

    Actually I do understand the concerns with the high end. But it was the boutique manufacturer that drives the limit. If audiophile boutique can cater to a dynamic marketplace and prove a case. The monolithic multinational will conduct research as to the whys.

    There is one particular manufacturer that has released a 50k headphone. But you see, just after WW2, when the allies defeated Germany and Japan and the world contemplated a post nuclear world. This company pursued the boundaries of...**** all. Drawing upon an illustrious history of doing...**** all.

    But hey, who knows. The pro audio industry might take them seriously tommorrow. I think for those starting out, brands that have earned respect in pro audio is the safer bet.
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