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Audiophile hobby is a scam?

Palladium

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After getting my used Minirig 3 2.1 setup, I am firmly in the "why would I even want to bother with any fixed Hi-Fi ever again" camp.


I suspect,( although far from an authority) that the headphone market is not unlike loudspeakers there are ‘accurate’ designs that aim to reproduce the signal more or less as accurately as possible and then, ‘tuned by the designer’ designs which almost have to sound ‘different’
to justify the much higher pricing.
Keith

Over-ears open a huge can of worms with resonances from all kinds of variances of ear pinnae and canals, and there's also no perfectly reliable method to ABX headphones.
 
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Thomas_A

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To me the hobby with the gear is DIY, set-up/calibration and understanding (measured response vs audible effects etc).
 

harleydave

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You just described a Veblen Good, which a lot of "audiophile" gear is.

Excellent article. Can clearly see how it relates to audio gear. Some forums, ( not ASR, a lot of good helpful people here), dump on me when I tell them my speakers are Klipsch Reference Premier. I have asked for insight or general questions about improving sound, ( again not here) and so many comments are, get rid of the Klipsch and buy these speakers that are 3x the cost and definitely not in my budget at this time. Spending a fair amount of time building acoustic panels for reflection points, subwoofer crawl, dialing system in, for the most part, I like the sound I've been able to get.
 

Tangband

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Yes, transparent dac, transparent amp and then headphones to taste?
Keith
If one buys new gear you might also want 1 year guarantee, something thats hard to get If buying directly from China.
You also dont want any ”snap crackle and pop” when switching inputs on the latest high SINAD dac. So one must try the dac in real life before buying in my opinion.

Personally, I dont like the Harman target ( which one of them,? there have been many ) for headphones. So very much agree to buy headphones to taste.
 

pseudoid

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Headphones are a scam.
... but only when they are reproducing a mix that is NOT intended for stereo imaging expected from forward facing speakers.
The above is only my little exposure to using them in a variety of settings - including studio work - that make headphones an essential and indispensable tool.
 

Multicore

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So what is the catch here? If we want the best fidelity, we just need a clean amp, a clean dac, and a headphone that has Harman Tuning, and that is it, there's no possibility of getting better science based sound quality? Or my hearing might just gravitate toward the Harman Tuning?
Harman headphone curve represents the averaged preference of a lot of people. If you are a manufacturer of headphones then you usually want to sell one product model to many people. So it makes sense to try to figure out what kind of product will sound preferable to as many people as possible.

But I don't see how it makes sense to assume your preference corresponds to the average. What you find fatiguing might be very relaxing to some other listeners. Statistical psychoacoustics aims to answer the question What works best in the (given) market? which is different from What works best for you?

From an engineering point of view, if you start with headphones with Harman curve and lots of SPL power and low distortion then you are in a position to start searching for your preference curve by experimenting with equalization.

Finding your favorite wine, novel, or guitar might take some experimentation too and be fun. Some questions of preference are really too complex for simple science or engineering answers.
 
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ZENERGiA

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Try a pair of 7hz Salnotes Zero:2 on your current setup. For $24 you'll have a baseline of just how great things can sound for the price. Worth having them just as a reference point, since they put most headphones to shame.
Thought about it, right now I am not in the market for an IEM. If I will be though, I'll definately go for the 7hz Salnotes Zero:2!
 

dlaloum

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I don't know about the "scamming" part of your assertion but I don't even understand headphone listening (pick the kind), at all. :oops:
Especially when someone starts talking about soundstage with respect to headphones.
Please also remember that in the game of scamming there are two participants.
If you want a speaker style experience with headphones, you will need to download and run some HRTF software, or get an equivalent externaly processor (Smythe realiser)...

The effect can be quite dramatic.
 

Palladium

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Finding your favorite wine, novel, or guitar might take some experimentation too and be fun. Some questions of preference are really too complex for simple science or engineering answers.

I can understand different sonic preferences, but I don't buy that it needs to be expensive.
 

Multicore

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I can understand different sonic preferences, but I don't buy that it needs to be expensive.
I partly agree. It depends on the sonic preference. Some preferences are going to be more expensive than others. If the space is large and the preference is for loud, clean reproduction of organ pedal notes or other sub bass then that's gonna cost more than some other preferences.
 

usern

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If the space is large and the preference is for loud, clean reproduction of organ pedal notes or other sub bass then that's gonna cost more than some other preferences.
Are you talking about speaker systems? With headphones you can get low distortion (including in bass frequency area) for low cost.
 

Multicore

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Are you talking about speaker systems? With headphones you can get low distortion (including in bass frequency area) for low cost.
Sorry, I was out of context there. This thread is in the headphones forum so my answer is spurious.

For headphones it seems pretty clear that good performance doesn't need to be very expensive, so I need to agree with @Palladium after all. It turns out the audiophile hobby is not a scam. Good news to start my day.
 
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Barry_Sound

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So what is the catch here? If we want the best fidelity, we just need a clean amp, a clean dac, and a headphone that has Harman Tuning, and that is it, there's no possibility of getting better science based sound quality? Or my hearing might just gravitate toward the Harman Tuning?
Yes, headphones sound differently, how is this a scam? In my experience most of the times you get what you pay for in HiFi, unless you are in the territory of passive quartz crystal pyramids or 5k power supplies.
 
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ZENERGiA

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Yes, headphones sound differently, how is this a scam? In my experience most of the times you get what you pay for in HiFi, unless you are in the territory of passive quartz crystal pyramids or 5k power supplies.
So you're telling me, that a HD820 sounds better tonality wise than a K371 for a fraction of the price? Are we sure about that "you get what you pay for" is really true?
 
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ZENERGiA

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No, headphone systems are excellent value at low cost, especially if you can and know how to use equalizer.
I agree!
 

Rhamnetin

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So you're telling me, that a HD820 sounds better tonality wise than a K371 for a fraction of the price? Are we sure about that "you get what you pay for" is really true?

Indeed, all data shows that you don't generally get what you pay for in hi-fi. Look at Amir's paper on DAC measurements and his price to performance correlation graph - there is no correlation. Granted the only performance metric on that graph is SINAD, but if you look at reviews, other measurements generally follow the same pattern.

Or even just looking at Schiit: their more affordable products ravage their more expensive ones in price. I made these after being inspired by Amir's DAC research paper, though I screwed up the scale of the bottom one.

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YVZ0m0o.png


It's funny how Schiit provides Audio Precision Analyzer reports for most of their products, giving consumers the data to realize this and skip their overpriced stuff.

The Sennheiser HD 820 vs AKG K371 is another good, extreme example. Hell, Sennheiser's own best headphones are $400 and less. HiFiMan's best performing headphone in their lineup being the HE6se, their Sundara and HE400se are also good, while most of their expensive stuff is far worse.

"You get what you pay for" only seems to be true for certain brands, often pro audio brands. You get what you pay for with Genelec and Neumann studio monitors, or RME interfaces for example. Outside of these sorts of brands, if anything there seems to be a negative correlation between price and performance to me.
 

Anton D

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Yes, mainly self-deception :)
Well, it's a hobby. No matter how 'electronically transparent' or objectively well something measures, it doesn't change the subjective part of liking to listen to music via gear we like.

Labelling it as self-deception is simply virtue signaling about how you think your own way is somehow superior, but this isn't a stack ranked hobby.

The hobby is also populated by MANY Holden Caulfield types who are insecure enough to have to denigrate other people's approach to make themselves feel superior to something. That stuff should end after recovering from reading 'Catcher in the Rye' in high school.

Objectively speaking, most everything we do requires self deception. Love, work, parenting....etc. At some level, everything we do has a strong foundation in self deception.

Why divide a hobby?
 

radix

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Are we sure about that "you get what you pay for" is really true?
It is not true for Audiophile equipment


EDIT: Newer version (click the "analysis" button)

 
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