A SOTA headphone system (like a top Stax) with the right headphone amp, does have more detail, and better fidelity, than a top flight speaker system IMO.
And no room interactions.
With speakers, there is a sense of 3-dimentional space with a stage in front of the listener. The listening room has a huge impact on the sound as it provides both reinforcement and cancellation.
Headphones' perspective is all in the listener's head and not out front. One can get closer to the sound of the master tape because of the detail that higher end headphones provide. Room colorations are non existent, so room modes, slap echo, etc are not present to ruin the sound.
At the RMAF I listened extensively to headphones using high end headphone amps and DSD recordings. I was gob-smacked at the sound of the higher end headphones. For example, the Abyss 'phones were so incredible and detailed that I was brought to tears on a Stevie Wonder cut. Stand-up bass and cello was a revelation with the room removed from the equation.
Which is better for reference? Probably headphone because of room issues, neutrality and ultimate detail. Which are more fun to listen to? Probably speakers because of their perspective and staging they provide - and headphone are uncomfortable to wear.
In the end you can't have it both ways.
IMO, it would be headphones. As a Stax owner (009's), I'm probably spoiled. My main system is fine, but I've had to make compromises on speaker placement (like many others, I'm sure). The detail you hear through quality headphones, with tube electronics, is phenomenal. If it's on the master tape, you'll hear it through headphones. Somethings just get lost through speakers, unless you have a dedicated listening room similar to those found in brick and mortar stereo stores.
I came to the same composite conclusions as you guys came to; headphones are fun sometime, and they reveal detail not heard in an ordinary listening room, but in the long run there is the matter of comfort.
Tonykay, as a Stax owner, I can understand how you would choose headphones.
Headphones are also the best reference, I just discovered a left right balance problem in the speakers, which might be the room as opposed to electronics or the speakers.
Your input has been most helpful
Enjoy the music.
Stax is definitely the way to go with headphones. In the past 2 years I've gone back and forth in my preference between my headphone and speaker rigs, while tweaking/upgrading both. Currently, speakers represent the better overall listening experience. To be fair, I use a fairly high end vinyl rig (Koetsu Coralstone, Graham, Clearaudio Innovation) on the speakers, which gives them a big leg up on the digital-only Stax rig (009, BHSE, Yggdrasil).
Speakers obviously can render music with a lifelike energy, soundstage, and visceral impact that no headphone can get close to replicating. But the Stax 009, properly amped, is cleaner and more accurate from top to bottom than speakers, and the intimate presentation also has its nice points.
I also used to own Stax 009s and while I liked the sound I made ch prefer the results I get in my dedicated room. It's actually set up for near field listening so I get the detail and immediacy of headphones but also the scale and energy that only speakers can provide - think of it as a really big set of headphones!
mulveling, that's quite an analog rig, but why digital only on the Stax? At this moment, I'm listening on my headphones to records that are archived in the PC.
It's already been discussed and confirmed right here, that no matter how good your analog is, you'll get the same identical playback from your PC after you have archived them (the right way of course)
I tuned in on the PC channel here and got it right. We went round and round arguing every point, as good Audiophiles do. A lot of work, but not a great deal of money, which according to your rig is no problem. Now I'm enjoying the fruits of my labor.
The Stax phones, with a tubed Stax driver unit, are fine for now but I can see a Blue Hawaii setup, or Woo Audio WES, in my future. The problem, of course, is that they never come up for sale on the used market. Even if they did, they would sell in minutes. Also, I see a pair of Quad electrostats in my future when I have a dedicated room to position them properly.
I have both. I guess my headphone situation is up to interpretation. I have AKG K702's with a Schitt Lyr and a custom cable made by Blue Jeans (does this sound correct? I never use it). As you can see, I never use it. The Lyr is in its original box and has been used about 5 or 6 times since it was new 4 years ago. Same with the AKG's. The headphone rig sounds great but nothing like an energized room.