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Audiophile hobby is a scam?

majingotan

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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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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.

I just added my main DAC there on the chart. I definitely won't be able to tell any of these Schiit DACs on a single blind test apart but I like to collect the only audio DAC in existence that has a Texas instrument DAC11001B chip on my collection. If I'm focusing on audio performance, I seriously don't get what I paid for, but if I'm focusing on audio experience (sighted listening biases, having a non-audio oriented SOTA R2R DAC chip (Ti DAC11001B) coupled with vintage/glowing tubes distortion effects implementation + Susvara distortion/phase effects) then I get what I paid for the experience that I want.

Being scammed IMHO is if you have a specific perspective of what you want to get out of your audio system, but you didn't get the result you wanted (for example, you wanted the power output of an amp that promises 5 watts, but got duped that it's only a 5 watts for 1/20th a second and it's only actually under 1 watts continuous/forever load e.g. iFi iDiablo 2). I wanted the distortion effects of a simple single ended triode strapped ouput transformer coupled amp and was absolutely delighted with the sighted listening experience that I got out of it. Then again, performing a proper double blind, volume matched to 0.01 dB ABX test comparing that SET amp with 5% THD+N against any SOTA performing solid state amp, I am willing to bet all my chips that nobody can reliably tell a difference (95% confidence or better) between the two amps (yes, 5% THD+N vs 0.00009% THD+N amp) on those conditions

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Joachim Herbert

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The K371 is a great headphone. Build quality leaves a lot to be desired. The way the cable is mounted begs for mechanical noise. Earpads cannot be replaced. You can call yourself lucky if left and right drivers match somehow. So you get what you you pay for. But yes, they sound pretty good.
 

markus

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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?
Quod erat demonstrandum!
 

AryaStealth

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As far as audiophile headphones are concerned I think you should try planar magnetic headphones that don't have V-shaped frequency response. Hifiman Arya Steath and HE1000 Stealth are both very pleasant with and without EQ to Harman Target. For me Planar Magnetic driver techology was a breath of fresh air as far as audiophile headphones are concerned.
Another approach for a better/more natural sound is to measure a frequency response of the headphones with binaural microphones in your ears and EQ them to your speaker system measurments (again good planar headphones are much better at accepting your EQ settings than the most expensive dynamic headphones, especially in bass region)
 

JFMV

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As already stated elsewhere, it is essential to measure our hearing before evaluating any headphones!
It has been demonstrated by numerous studies that a correct equalization of any headphone makes it possible to obtain very comparable results from one headphone to another!
So yes, you need to take precautions before using headphones (especially for mastering!) and no, it’s not the most expensive headphones that work best! We can sometimes obtain remarkable results with cans well below the stratospheric prices reached by some manufacturers...
 

David James

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To me a scam is when you don't get what you thought you paid for. You can make an educated decision simply by reading here.

I certainly don't feel scammed listening to what I'm listening to right now, but I usually look for those crazy quality/cost deals and it works for me. Its
 

mike7877

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Hi Guys!

Please help me understand, because I do not know If I am missing something, or the whole audiophile hobby is a scam.

I have several headphones with different frequency responses (namely: AKG K712 PRO, Grado SR225i, Sennheiser HD559, Sennheiser HD560S, Audio-Technica AD700X, AKG K371). Running them from the OG Atom Stack.

Out of all these, the most natural sounding is the K371 (without EQ). I can notice the difference when it comes to "soundstage", the open backs have bigger soundstage, but outside of that...we could say they have more "detail", but to me "detail" really seem like a buzzword, and in reality we are talking about quirky frequency responses, which create the illusion of "detail".

Any time I pick up the K712PRO for example, I can hear more "detail" from the music, but it sounds off...the 560S has more "detail" than the K371, but it sounds off (timbre is particularly bad with the 560S imho). I can sometimes enjoy these headphones, but they can get fatiguing, and anytime I pick up my K371, they just sound natural to me, and never fatiguing, regardless of genre of music.

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?

Thank you for your responses in advance!

It's not a scam. There's so much to say about this, but I'm short on time right now...

Hi-Fi is more speakers, amplifiers, DACs, and previously CD players, tape, turntables... Headphones are kind of boring because they don't interact with anything. Yes, get a good pair that don't have audible flaws, that fit right, and are easy to drive, and pair with a quality DAC/DAC-amp combo: you're pretty much set.

For Hi-Fi, you've got a room, your music, and a budget. First you have to pick speakers that will perform ideally (sonically, monetarily) with your preferred genre of music. For example, if you're into light jazz or acoustic, you're not going to go for speakers which a lot of the budget has gone toward high excursion woofers with big magnets and larger enclosure for tuning. Not because high excursion woofers or woofers for higher SPL don't sound good, but sacrifices are made at any pricepoint, and if you want the same sound quality at the higher power (/excursion), you're going to pay for it. To start, the woofer won't be underhung for a system which needs to go loud, and if it is, the driver is LARGE. Being large, the enclosure needs to be large to accommodate it. Then, to handle this this higher power, the crossover needs to be beefed up. Often this means switching inductor type from air to iron - again, unless you're going to pay the difference. But then, why would you want to? In your environment, the woofer will never move more than 6mm peak to peak (by accident after some drinks), so why spend on all this extra stuff when it could go to the cone material, the voice coil former, the rigidity of the basket, the enclosure damping, the tweeter... possibly even going for a 3-way design in the 400-2400Hz range!

There's the size of your room, your preferred listening levels, speaker efficiency... There's so much to hi-fi, and headphones just don't have any of it - no fun! At least I don't think so. Maybe that's why you think it's a scam - you're not considering all the complexity
 

mike7877

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As already stated elsewhere, it is essential to measure our hearing before evaluating any headphones!
It has been demonstrated by numerous studies that a correct equalization of any headphone makes it possible to obtain very comparable results from one headphone to another!
So yes, you need to take precautions before using headphones (especially for mastering!) and no, it’s not the most expensive headphones that work best! We can sometimes obtain remarkable results with cans well below the stratospheric prices reached by some manufacturers...
This is true to an extent, but EQ can't fix everything.

If there's a high-q peak, EQing that away is very difficult. And depending on if there's energy at/near that frequency, it can become very irritating.

Also, if the way the headphones sit on your head don't have the drivers pointing optimally down your ear, this can cause problems.

Something to note: it sounds like you're suggesting measuring your hearing to equalize the headphones - this is not something you should do. If you have some really bad hearing loss and need to boost up some high frequencies to hear them at all, then yes, by all means. But non hearing impaired people (meaning anyone who would describe themselves as having decent hearing / anyone who doesn't have relatives/friends/associates/coworks complain that they often have to repeat themselves) should not be equalizing to their hearing.

First reason is that even if you can't hear 10kHz until it's 25dB, it doesn't mean 10kHz at 50dB sounds any quieter than it should.

Well, that's pretty much the only reason. Your brain works with your ears - you might have to turn things up a bit to get fully balanced sound within your hearing range, but until you have serious impairment in the audible range, you're only going to screw things up by EQing this way
 

Glint

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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.




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.
<3 my minirig, use it on my mountain bike!
 

Peterinvan

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As already stated elsewhere, it is essential to measure our hearing before evaluating any headphones!
It has been demonstrated by numerous studies that a correct equalization of any headphone makes it possible to obtain very comparable results from one headphone to another!
So yes, you need to take precautions before using headphones (especially for mastering!) and no, it’s not the most expensive headphones that work best! We can sometimes obtain remarkable results with cans well below the stratospheric prices reached by some manufacturers...
And don't forget to clean out the wax in you rears. Just a small amount touching your eardrum will have a big impact on the sound quality you should be getting.
 

Mnyb

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As audiophilelism is a tech hobby for the tech illiterate :) of course there is a long line of scammers wanting to sell you stuff …
 

mike7877

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As audiophilelism is a tech hobby for the tech illiterate :) of course there is a long line of scammers wanting to sell you stuff …

I wouldn't go so far to say that... There are a lot of stupid products which exist like rocks to put on top of your speakers, but it's a small portion of enthusiasts who actually buy such garbage.

Audiophile is just someone really interested in high fidelity audio reproduction

From the dictionary:
"-phile: someone who enjoys a particular thing or has it as a hobby, or who likes a particular place:
- A bibliophile likes books and an oenophile enjoys wine.
- An Anglophile likes England or Britain."

Just put an english or latin word before the suffix. There's nothing inherently stupid about enthusiasts
 

DVDdoug

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From the dictionary:
"-phile: someone who enjoys a particular thing or has it as a hobby, or who likes a particular place:
- A bibliophile likes books and an oenophile enjoys wine.
- An Anglophile likes England or Britain."

Just put an english or latin word before the suffix. There's nothing inherently stupid about enthusiasts
There's nothing wrong with the word but the "audiophile community" and audiophile publications are dominated by nuts & nonsense. A lot of "those guys" think there are magical things they can hear but can be measured and they "don't believe' in blind listening tests.

This is one of the few scientific, logical, practical "audiophile" websites.

...It's one of the reasons I don't usually call myself an audiophile, although I am a lover of good sound. The other reason is that most of my life I haven't had the money for exotic audio equipment, or I was just too cheap to spend money on something that didn't actually sound better to me!
 

mike7877

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There's nothing wrong with the word but the "audiophile community" and audiophile publications are dominated by nuts & nonsense. A lot of "those guys" think there are magical things they can hear but can be measured and they "don't believe' in blind listening tests.

This is one of the few scientific, logical, practical "audiophile" websites.

...It's one of the reasons I don't usually call myself an audiophile, although I am a lover of good sound. The other reason is that most of my life I haven't had the money for exotic audio equipment, or I was just too cheap to spend money on something that didn't actually sound better to me!

I think the high fidelity audio scene is contaminated with garbage because it wasn't that long ago that things were still being figured out, and I mean BASIC things. For example, into the 70s they were still making speakers with the tweeter and midrange beside each other (yes, in floorstanders!). A hypothetical: say someone had a 3 way crossover, 3 drivers for it, and they had to make a 70L box to put them in. Their job was to arrange the drivers in the box so that music playback sounded as good as it could on all 3 cushions of a couch. The speakers as far from the couch as the full length of the couch.

The crossover's inductors are all massive- heavy gauge air core. Capacitors are ideal for audi. The drivers are ATC Super Linear 234mm woofers, crossed 2nd order at 225Hz to 150mm ATC Super Linear midwoofer. Crossover to the tweeter is 3rd order Butterworth, and the tweeter has to be something equally as amazing as the Super Linear drivers previously mentioned (so 3rd harmonic distortion not higher than -70dB, 2nd harmonic varying between 0-10dB worse, never more than 15) and can't be a ribbon (ATC hasvone, but I don't want to be like "they have an SCM50 with the SCM20's woofer as its midrange instead of their dome as the midrange lolol".

The source is a properly made AK4499EXEQ DAC + three benchmark AHB2 amplifiers - two in monoblock mode for the woofers (doing up to 225Hz), and one running normally for everything above 225Hz.

How long do you think it'd take for them to realise that the tweeter always goes above the midrange? I'd say within the day. Possibly within hours if he's got a quick way to rearrange things.
 

markus

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As audiophilelism is a tech hobby for the tech illiterate :)
Cargo cult really, and I don't necessarily mean that in a derogatory way. It's a different way of interacting with the same objects (audio reproduction devices) but largely incompatible with people having a rather objective mindset.
 
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Mnyb

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Cargo cult really, and I don't necessarily mean that in a derogatory way. It's a different way of interacting with the same objects (audio reproduction devices) but largely incompatible with people having a rather objective mindset.
Yes I have often compared it to a cargo cult :)

Its quite bad almost all information in the hobby is incorrect. Pick any magazine or forum and the test are subjective without controlls IE they are not even wrong , it can not be considered information about the DUT .

And all the mythology ( cargo cults ) that resulted from this approach , cable risers etc
 

mike7877

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Yes I have often compared it to a cargo cult :)

Its quite bad almost all information in the hobby is incorrect. Pick any magazine or forum and the test are subjective without controlls IE they are not even wrong , it can not be considered information about the DUT .

And all the mythology ( cargo cults ) that resulted from this approach , cable risers etc

Do people still take this stuff seriously though? Before we knew any better (for sure..) some of the stuff was at least plausible (didn't raising the cables have something to do with impedance? I remember reading something like 15 years ago from something 15 years prior on that...) Now we know raising cables is just a stupid waste of money, especially spending hundreds on stuff made from exotic materials (if that's what they do).

In my post I used the example of special rocks people place on top of their speakers to somehow improve the sound... Absolutely ridiculous! Unless the box is really loose and needs fixing and that's a really heavy rock, there obviously won't be an audible difference there.
 
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