You don't need ToTL headphone to get really good sound. Most ng mga ToTL headphone sounds bright and very analytical without using a very expensive tube amp. 10000 PHP headphones is the borderline before you reach dminishing return in sound quality only. Paying ToTL headphones gives you the best material and craftmanship of the manufacturer aside from really good sound. Usually yung mga 2nd best sa lineup nila ang best sound for the money. Senn HD600, HD650, Grado SR225 ang usually na mga headphones sa borderline ng dimishing returns.
Well, it's a given that you'll need to amp your ToTL headphone to get the best SQ. In fact you shouldn't be buying a ToTL headphone without plans on what amp you'll pair them with.
The "law of diminishing returns" indeed does exist of headphones/IEMs. However this principle can be misconstrued to mean that the returns at higher levels are negligible
or even barely audible. This is NOT true. What it means is that you'll have to pay much more at higher tiers to get smaller returns, but the returns are by no means negligible. If it were then nobody would be buying ToTL gear since less expensive stuff just performs basically the same.
As the a case in point, I own both a Westone 4 (17k when I got it) and a UM Miracle (list price at UM Phils website 44k but I figure it might be cheaper now). That's a very big difference in price but the latter is much better than the former so that the W4 cannot really compete with the Miracle. I rarely use the W4 nowadays but when I try using it it actually sounds bad, not because it's a bad IEM (not by a long shot) but because I'm so used to the sound of the Miracle that the deficiencies of the W4 become glaring when I try using them again.
To make the long story short, the sound offered by ToTL gears can be awesome but to achieve this "awesomeness" very deep pockets are required. I think a big majority of audiophiles will be content with the sound offered by gears that aren't uber expensive (like the Senn HD600/650) but some won't and that's why you have stuff like the Stax SR-009
-- edited by Peorth on Sep 18 2014, 10:59 AM