Keep enjoying your system per your findings. Or you can try and find where the (obvious) problem is and have a massive improvement.
Personally I can enjoy music encoded as 320kbps AAC or even less with MP2 (which use less steep filtering). But the step-up to 44/16 is clearly audible. The next audible improvement come when you reach 384/24 and can drop the filtering.
Nothing to do with source first or last. If lossy MP3 sounds better than non-lossy flac it suggests something is amiss with your system or ears - if the latter then revel in it as it will save you heaps of money!!!
Headphones are massively dependent on preferences, ears, and head. Maybe you just like the Sennheiser more. I considered headphones a while ago and preferred the Sennheiser HD 800S by far over the most expensive Audeze models costing two or three times the Sennheiser
True, but in my experience, headphones are even more dependent/variable, especially high end … shape and size of ears, size of auditory canal… and that’s even before one addresses your cochlea or cognitive functions in listening and deconstructing sound.
This can well be the case for a set up. Full definition audio has more information than lossy compressed audio and or bandwidth limited encodings … such as used in Bluetooth codecs and MP3.
Lesser electronics and speakers and headphones often work better with lesser bandwidth data… fuller bandwidth data stands out more when the signal is not so accurately reproduced, and can sound harsh or tiring.
The Grado SR80 is quite a bright dynamic transducer headphone and so again can benefit from having a bandwidth limited signal… and I personally didn’t rate it. Try a cheaper magnetic planar headphone and you may well be impressed at the change.
If you go high end electronics and transducers, you will almost certainly flip your preference. Lossless PCM will be spatial and organic and lifelike which you can listen into. Lossy psycho-acoustically masked audio like AAC and MP3 will sound flat and sterile and lacking vibrancy… and to put it bluntly sound artificial in comparison… but 320kbps AAC can be pretty good for well processed productions
So choose the what best sounds good for you in your current system… your brain works at filling in a lot of the gaps if necessary.
True, what I meant is that headphones are even more, IMHO. Comparing speakers, I like one more than the other, but I usually don’t think that one of them really poor, particularly not if it costs 3 times more than the other. With headphones, the correlation between price and likeability was weak for me, and I thought some really expensive ones were unbearable.