end·game | \ ˈen(d)-ˌgām \
Definition of endgame
: the stage of a chess game after major reduction of forces
also: the final stage of some action or process
There was a time I naively considered my headphone endgame to be the Beyerdynamic DT-880 and to be very sincere, if not a bit romantic, these venerable cans still chain my audiophile heart every time I put them on, but as expected from the name of the post these are not my “endgame” anymore.
So what has changed so much in the hobby that makes me claim that the audiophile endgame is a lie?
The most important change for me was a hands-on experience, and I’ll start from it.
I unknowingly really started in this hobby when I bought my first Sony Walkman, at the time the Walkman was synonymous of portable cassette players and Sony was nice enough to provide one of those rather flimsy and cheap over-ear headphones, that sounded thin and lacking, but I still loved them very much.
Then came my Discman and later my Walkman MD, my exposure to Sony earbuds and headphones continued for many years, I would browser the shelves of brick and mortar stores and would often buy entry level headphones to replace the ones that died or just to have another pair, an indulgence my parents didn’t understood at the time (look at me now mom!).
During my Mini-Disc days I bought one of the best earbuds I had the pleasure to hear, the Sony MDR-E848, sadly because I was not very careful those didn’t last very much.
Fast forward and I bought the Shure SRH440, in a Lisbon train station store which is long gone, these were nice headphones for 2004, but I wanted more, then came the Grado SR80i and finally the Beyerdynamic DT-880 which I read so much about, in my teenager years.
The DT-880 was my endgame, but my experience with Chi-Fi tells me that there’s no endgame, unless you really want to stop.
Then there’s the ever evolving technology, the DT-880 still are spectacular headphones and a reference in the pro audio industry, but headphone technology goes forward, not as much as computers and other tech, but still enough to lust for an upgrade.
As new materials and drivers are developed, a new cycle begins, making older tech cheaper and easier to access by mainstream brands and taking niche brands to a new level of quality. There’s no endgame there, only endless upgrades.
Lastly there’s price and disposable income, the older one usually gets the easier is to spend on a hobby. One thing is sure, the endgame highly depends on your income, but like all the above things this is highly personal and subjective.
I don’t really believe in endgames anymore, I do think there’s a goal for some audiophiles, the goal of enjoying more music to the best our budget allows.