Apr 16, 2017

Diminishing Returns

Ok so I have what some folks would consider crap equipment and others would think extravagant, all things of course being relative. I use a JDS Labs The Element DAC/Amp out of my iMac , Amarra 4 for my iTunes and I subscribe to Tidal. I like a really wide variety of music, not much into Country and lately hung up on EDM. I also have an iPhone 7+ with an smsl mobile amp.
So I've got oodles of iem's and headphones, mostly less than 200$. I stepped up a notch with some Hi-FiMan 400i Planars and Senn HD-600's. I guess my nicest iem's are the recent NuForce seconds drop here, whatever the model # was.
My best gear, to me sounds absolutely stunning. I don't claim to be an audiophile with calibrated hearing or anything. So my question is, should I just be happy and done or will I be noticeably impressed going up another notch or 2 in headphones? I've been eyeing Noble Audio Sage and NightHawk Carbons in particular. Barring some luck in a Lotto I don't see myself ever being able to justify truly high end gear but should I bump it up some from where I'm at? Thanks in advance.
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The NightHawks are dark headphones, just imagine your HD-600 with less treble presence.

I myself haven't upgraded/bought anything after getting HE-500. I have tested a whole lot of headphones though but I have settled on a pair that perfectly matches my preferences. Since you already have the HE-400i and HD-600, the only thing you should do is understand your preferences first then make a decision whether or not you want to get a new set of headphones based on that preference. Also, join or take part in meets to try out other headphones, especially ones that you would consider "high-end"
From my experience, to put it generally, once I found myself in the $600 range of headphones, anything above that didn't have any discernible difference in their ability to accurately resolve audio signal. The times where there was a discernible difference, it didn't warrant delving into the $1k+ price point. But as you know, everyone's hearing is different from the frequency range they're able to hear, to the way each persons' individual pinna alters sound waves and resonances around their head and ultimately into their ear drum.

Last time I tested, my hearing fell flat at 18khz, so I can't hear the entire human frequency range. Someone with better hearing might find that the very HIFI gear is worth their money. I feel like, at that level, it's less about experiencing music/movies and more about analyzing audio signal. It goes without mentioning that there's no need to have a headphone which can resolve 120khz if your audio source caps at 96khz at best.

If you have a really really really good pair of headphones and still find yourself curious of what the next level is, join a head-fi meet and try out some of the top of the line gear and hear for yourself. Reading about gear and other people's opinions will never satisfy the curiosity of an audiophile.

My only advice for any would be audiophile, is own a pair of entry level planar magnetic headphones. Or as Yamaha would call it, orthodynamic. Once you own a pair, you're at the cusp where audio fidelity starts to plateau and every move up has a diminishing return.
Looking at your configuration, you pretty much into reference quality. So I guess your last stop on headphones would be the Audeze LCD4. But if you already enjoy your setup, why don't you spend your extra cash for something else?
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I agree. I tried the LCD-4 recently and found the sound to be kind of dark. IMHO, the Stax lineup (at that price range the SR-009 then) is much more of a balanced sound altogether, and in fact, I dare say it's got a reference sound sig.
Agree on that statment Reference starts at the HE-1000v-2 And Focal utopia n sr-009. Thank you!
If you're comfortable with it, don't upgrade. The chase for Audio high never ends. Once you got your TOTL model, there will be another TOTL model coming up and then you'll want to step up your game.

If you still want to however, you can consider selling off some of your equipment and then use the accrued money to invest on the new one.

Lastly, if you're coming from HE400i and HD600, don't get the Sage. While it's pretty, it's not really worth the money as they're gonna sound duller and more compressed. I'd recommend you to check out on Campfire Audio's lineup instead since they always sound fuller.
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