I have officially jumped onto head-fi-land yesterday with my order of a pair of Yamaha EPH-100s. I also plan to get a pair of full sized headphones in the next few months (more on that in a bit). First, a little bit on how I got here.
I first started in car audio, tricking out my 1995 Sentra. My constant revolving door of equipment included:
2 head units
2 different component sets for the front
2 pairs of "regular" 6.5 speakers for the front (before being replaced by components)
2 different 12" subs
2 types of sub enclosures
3 different amps for subs
1 amp for fronts
It was not the most amazing rig by car audio standards, but it was a lot of bang-for-the-buck with my limited funds while in college and working at a big box electronics store. There was a lot of mix and matching as my rig kept evolving. I ultimately finished with a high end Alpine HU, US Acoustics speaker amp powering CDT comps, and a 1500 watt Brutus amp powering a single Resonant Engineering 12" sub, enclosed within a huge custom enclosure tuned to provide max bump at 32 Hz for a great back massage while driving. I credit this experience as giving me a pretty critical ear for quality sound.
Fast forward 10 years. The car has been junked and car audio equipment sold many years ago. In replacement of a car, I use a bus pass. I now own my own home and have slightly touched on home audio, but realized that I cannot build what I truly want because I share walls with my neighbors. Plus, home audio is expensive as hell. My setup current consists of:
- upper end Onkyo receiver
- lower end B&W floorstandings and center (pre-owned, from the 90s)
- Outlaw Audio 10" sub, which is hardly ever pushed above 10% of its max level because of my situation with neighbors
My home audio experience is unsatisfying because I can't turn it up and let my babies sing. So I've decided not to add anymore to my rig at home for it would be a waste of money.
It has been many years since I've heard the amazing sounds from my Sentra. I am craving some good sound quality to stream into my my ear canals. I do not have a car, and I cannot do it at home. What's my last option? Portable head-fi to the rescue.
I don’t have much experience with portables. I used my Gameboy earbuds when I was 12. I used the half-IEM hybrids that came with my Sony Ericsson w810 walkman-phone (which sounded great for stock equipment) in the mid 2000s. I also owned a pair of Sony MDR-EX90LPs many years ago to pair with a 2nd gen Nano, which I found very unsatisfying for their purchase price of around $100. Or perhaps it was the Nano that had bad SQ (it was my first, and last, Apple purchase. But that's a different story). And now, for the past year I have been using a pair of Bose "around-ear" headphones which I won at a company Christmas party. The Bose headphones are...well they're Bose. It works, I guess, because I don't own anything else. And sadly, they’re better than anything else portable that I own (which is nothing).
So yesterday, after quite a bit of research, I pulled the trigger on a pair of EPH-100s for pairing with my Samsung Galaxy S. I’m not sure what to expect. I suppose they'll be better than the EX90s, which I lost and haven't used in years. I do expect them to be better than the Bose headphones, which have a very narrow soundstage and muffled highs. I'm not sure if the bass will be able to compete with the larger drivers of the Bose headphones though, but I hope that it will.
In addition to these IEMs, I also fully intend to buy a pair of full-sized headphones which I can show off to my buddies. I probably also want a dedicated player, and perhaps a portable amp. Not sure yet...it's all up in the air and I will definitely be doing more research. But it will come soon enough, because I am tired of seeing my buddies proudly rocking their Beats by Dre and telling me how amazing they are. After so many years immersed in the A/V world, I am fully aware of what Monster and Beats bring to the table in terms of pricepoint and quality. Unfortunately, I don't have a portable rig of my own yet to counter my friends' Beats, so it would be futile do anything aside from submissively nodding and saying "yeah, I guess these sound pretty good. How much did you pay again?".
So now I'm here, and I intend to be staying for a while. I do have question and I hope you guys can share some of your opinions and experiences:
Will portable head-fi be able to rival my experience in car audio, and to a lesser extent, home audio? I know I can't expect a back massage from the bass that my car's sub offered. But what about the overall soundstage...of feeling like I am enveloped within blissful music nirvana? Can decent full-sized headphones or IEMs be able to induce the feeling that I have a subwoofer physically bound to my head? Can they replicate the physical vibrations felt in the head and chest from a cleanly strummed acoustic guitar string? I guess my ultimate question is...can I find true satisfaction coming from such small drivers, and to adequately satiate any future desires for another car or home audio setup?
Thanks for taking the time to read. I hope some of you can empathize and look forward to reading your replies.