Very cool concept! I like those "get-to-know" threads and I've haven't seen a "beginner's presentation" thread on Head-Fi yet. This will do!
What is the best rig you’ve assembled, past or present?
Answer: Although I seldom use it, technically it would be the Wolfson digital-to-analog converter inside my Galaxy S followed by either the headphone amplifier of my ADL GT40 or my Grado HPA-1. I haven't figured out which one of those two audiocubes was strictly-speaking the best yet, because they do different things and kind of complete each other. ADL GT40 is more extended (frequency response-wise), detailed and is completely silent, HPA-1 is more powerful, handles higher volumes a lot better and allows for low-level listening (smoother potentiometer), although it's not a silent device and the hiss becomes considerable with sensitive headphones.
What was your favorite thing about that rig?
Answer: Oops I kind of stepped into that question already. I like that it's super versatile. I can take out the HPA-1 and four recharged 9 volts which will last me 80 hours in total and I can listen to a turntable with the phonostage and record with the (fairly high quality) analog-to-digital converter of my GT40.
What is your favorite headphone (regardless of price)? Why?
Answer: Fostex TH900, because it does everything right, nothing too wrong, and because it looks and feels the par, unlike every other current-production flagships (from the information I have gathered here). The price is really the reason why I'm torn and not buying it immediately. Silver flakes, platinum logo and Urushi lacquering is just too much I can offer myself... although I would have surely bought a sound quality equivalent Fostex AH-D9000 for 1300~1500 with just the cherry wood, instead of a Kotori 201.
Regardless of the portability/practicality: Stax SR-009, I love the form-for-function and the constant strife for perfection of Stax, although I would prefer it to have velour or come be able to choose vegan pads for it; regardless of look: TakeT H2+; regardless of sound: Koda^2; regardless of the comfort: Final Audio Design Pianoforte series.
Not-regardless of the price (or pretty anything other than it's open-back nature): Grado HP-1000 (the perfect compromise for me!)
What got you into headphones?
Answer: Always felt like listening to my music with headphones was more practical and less bothering to the nature and the people around me than with using speakers; and I'm myself bothered by others using speakers, so I protect myself with headphones ;). What got me into getting a better sound was that always knew I would listen to music all my life, so I wanted to take the jump and buy only one perfect (for me) headphone, cost not an objection, and make my life with it.
Where and when do you find yourself listening to headphones the most?
Answer: In front of my computer, on the internet, and while studying, at home. Although in the past I was drugged to doing solitary sports like biking (in the summer), snowboarding (in the winter) and taking walks outside with music on. Now I still do all of the following, but music-less, and less often.
Though I do still love to listen to music in different environment and I love to be nomad and look at various things while listening to a certain kind of music for a audio-visual experience.
What was your first WOW moment in headphone hi-fi?
Answer: When I first got my SR100 with HP-1000 drivers in it, listened to it, unimpressed, and then cycled though all of the headphones I owned (took me like a week), to finally return with the SR100, put a good song, and suddenly have a tear or two coming out of my eyes. The HP-1000 drivers never ceased to impress me and give me WOW moments ever since. It's an incredible headphone. Not only it's uber-detailed and full sounding --during my big "WOW moment" the word that clearly stroke my mind was "shine", I felt like it was shining music through me, organically (not like a vision or anything divine)--, it has a special and maybe unique ability to induce orgasms with loud (an album) to super-loud (a song) music, and make it feel realistic and HUGE (with the HD414-bowls sandwich distancing pads that I use that enables [makes tolerable; with bowls I guess it's too "shouty"] such volumes); with live music it's "like if you were there". I know Grados in general are said to have that effect, but I think that for the HP-1000 it's on an another level completely.
What is the “thing” you listen for most in headphones? (e.g. quality of bass, midrange, clarity)
Answer: The usual; resolution, clarity, speed and decay. Theoretical infinite extension, but no emphasis whatsoever on it: tight bass, controlled highs and the midrange is what matters the most. I don't care for soundstage and imaging much, but I admit I have trouble perceiving it.
Share a Head-Fi confession. Put your Head-Fi cred on the line and tell us something quirky and unique about your tastes, your rig, etc.
Answer: I'm not that much into sound quality (pretty much less than all of you basically ;). I think that there are things about a headphone that transcends its sound quality in terms of importance/owner's priority, at least for me. I'm more into the look, the built quality (materials used, long term durability), functionality (comfort, driveability, non-fatiguing sound, musical genres affinity) and overall balance, than strict quantitative sound quality fluid. Good mid-fi sounds great to me, and is totally respectable.
More and foremost I like to own rarer and obscure headphones, a bit like a collector, although, in order not to invest indefinite amounts of money and time on the internet, I decidedly restricted myself to Grado's world... which brand I picked (a risky decision I did light-headed on my first week on Head-Fi) mostly for the look of their headphones, and the fact that they're not too common where I come from. I think I'm super lucky that Grado's best headphone is a tremendous sounding one, and that I also found out that I prefer the comfort of foam over both pleather and velour (never tried real leather yet). Like MuppetFace I do care a lot for my collection, keep the headphones well organized in their boxes, but I also listen to them a lot!
^ Not a huge confession ^, some Head-Fiers in the Grado threads knows it already, and if you figure out my headphones list you'll notice I own almost nothing but Grados (and I also use a Grado cMoy, lol), so I hope that I look a bit like a purist to you ;).
More like a sacrilege: I use my vintage RS1 with bowls, and my HP-1000 with HD414-bowls sandwiches; my flats are in the drawer. Lol
If you could share one piece of advice to a newbie getting into the hobby it would be this:
Answer: Sure. Unfortunately buying a headphone and an amplifier on Head-Fi is, as exciting and fun it gets in the end, a rather complicated mental process (the choice of a brand, and of model), and can become a very complicated and stressful decision to take (unless you're rich, or --like me-- a cheapskate/no-lifer, or ForSale forums hardcore user) when you have no way of demoing the gear in question. Be patient before buying anything (this applies to everything, not just headphones). Read everything you can about a product, and about the people who makes reviews for it. Also read you're own mood/pulse of the moment and wait a least 3 to 5 days before making the purchase (I try to wait more than one week).
Also seek for a headphone first. Find a brand and a headphone that you love, and only then, start building a rig around it. Some failing Head-Fiers/"audiophiles" have quite the place with bitterness telling us that amplifiers didn't make that much of a difference, even less an external DAC (over, say, a recent laptop's on-board audio), the source (mp3, flac...), and finally the cables/accessories. I can't help but to agree with them. Most of the time when you're listening to music, remember that it's not about doing critical and discerning assessment about a medium, or trying to figure out whether it's a good 128 or bad 320 kbps/mp3 you have, but that you're trying to have a good time listening to an artist's album/song.
Last piece of advice: If you don't want to deal with upgradeitis, get yourself a flagship already (or the company's best offering; sometimes it's not their most expensive one, like weird Ultrasone). Work hard, save your money... spending more than 1000$ dollars on a silly headphone, sometimes that has a lot of plastic in its construction, is hard to conceive at first. Tell yourself that you're buying a trusty little wearable companion for life. Usually, those things are the result of many years of efforts, and the culmination of many events; in a way, it is the highest tower one competitive company could build by stacking only the best aspects of all of their preceding trials at being the best. Although some petty and diverging Head-Fiers might have a preference for the lower models, a flagship is intended by the company to be their best headphone, and also their biggest achievement (most of the time)... It is not something like you might have bought in the past: a computer that slowly "looses" its ability to run the latest programs and games on highest settings (due to the pace at which they evolved), nor it is an iPod that looses its hype over time and made in China. It's well made (not supposed to break, assuming you care for it; and can be serviced), it doesn't loose much of its value over time, and it defeats the purpose of owning many inferior headphones of the same type/companies (although some people enjoys the diversity of having complementary lesser headphones, to some extent), or it gives you a reference point to compare them with. Also, the curve of diminishing return is there to protect you; if the company ever releases a better model, you can be sure it will cost twice as much and be like, only 2% better. Finally, it feels so much better to own, put on a stand and show/give-listens to friends and family, than a bunch of random, sometimes relatively poor sounding, plastic headphones in a bin/bag with chords all tangled up.
This is last tip only to those who doesn't have that strong constitution to resist the infamous wallet-emptying Head-Fi disease. I'm saying so because I know that as long as you will stay on Head-Fi you will slowly make your way to the top, and I want to propose to you the most direct route. To those, kind of exceptional Head-Fiers, I'm always humbled to see a die-hard PortaPro or Superlux lover that has remained on Head-Fi for long, not caring for upgrading, nor wanting to, and choosing to take more time to appreciate the music behind the gear.
Edited by devouringone3 - 6/25/12 at 9:38pm