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Does anyone else feel unusually stressed-out when giving headphone and amp advice?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

What I mean by this is that you establish yourself in the community as someone with lots of useful advice in a particular subject, to the point where people come and ask you questions about things similar to the subject, but not quite.


Problem is, while I know almost all things PC sound cards, I get asked for headphone and amp recommendations. A lot. And they're almost always things I have never personally tried and thus do not feel qualified to recommend or not. The least I can do is tell everyone what's in popular use, but they may still mistake it for a personal endorsement. If that's not enough, I'll tell them to let their own ears decide what's better instead of having me tell them. No advice toward a particular product is better than bad advice in my book.


I'd be more comfortable with it if I had experience with all the headphones and amps in the world, but I don't. The only headphone I really feel safe recommending at this point is a vintage set that's long discontinued and still sells for around $300-450 with a transformer box, meaning you still need a speaker amp to even use it. (I got lucky and only paid $250.) On top of that, everyone ignores its modern descendants because they're not the flagship models selling for $2,500 or even over $5,000 sans amp. The other headphones I once felt comfortable with recommending (AD700) fell out of favor due to outspoken opinions on its lack of bass driving its value down and supposedly better, cheaper alternatives (primarily SR850/HD668B) I haven't bothered to audition yet.


On top of that, I don't get sent products to review free of charge. Anything audio-related that I have opinions about is about something I paid my own money for, and I often have a hard time to try and resell the stuff without cutting my own throat on the price. (Case in point: that Recon3D USB nobody wants after I sent it to Mad Lust Envy for a review. $70 down the drain.) It's financial suicide, even moreso than just being here on Head-Fi.


The worst questions for me to deal with, though, all involve headphone amps. People keep asking me if this sound card or amp will drive their headphones or not, and when I don't even have the faintest idea what an underpowered dynamic headphone sounds like (it apparently isn't about volume), I just don't feel qualified to speak about it. On top of this, I've already taken a headphone path that requires more specialized amplification, which gives me even less incentive to put money into more conventional headphone amps.


All in all, I just feel so damn frustrated about something that really shouldn't be frustrating to begin with...

post #2 of 4
I can understand your frustration - I don't like being asked for the keys to the Universe either. redface.gif

Generally I just try to suggest and comment on what I know, and state what I don't where possible - if people want to infer that I'm "narrow" or "inexperienced" from that, I'm okay with that, because I'd rather be "inexperienced" than dishonest. smily_headphones1.gif Of course, you'll never fully contend with all of the hype and mystique that surrounds FOTM and other behaviors, and that's basically where you just say your peace and leave the rest to the person to figure out for themselves - it isn't up to you to decide for them after all.
post #3 of 4
The good thing about not posting and fading into total obscurity is that you don't have to deal with stuff like this.

People want to have their hand held for them and they want their minds made up for them. Partly because if they screw up they'll have someone to blame, but mostly because it's very tempting to think that the next purchase you make will be "the one," the thing that makes your whole system right and sets you up on the way to audio bliss. Then when you get it, it turns out only to be alright, at which point you get frustrated and turn to more recommendations, and the cycle repeats itself.

In this case, telling people that if they want to spend their money really wisely they need to hunt down an out-of-production electrostatic, or buy another one that needs to be recabled and then buy an amp custom-built for it before they can use it, is really counter-productive. These people are already frustrated with their gear, and going down what seems to be an extremely impractical route when you just want results now is not going to resonate well.

Plus, when you're dealing with someone new, they have very different sonic priorities than you do. If I had to do the hobby all over again, I would do it very differently - but when I was getting into the hobby, the advice that I would give to myself would have seemed impractical and totally over the top - not to mention that the stuff I like now (generally fairly neutral) I may not have liked as much at the start (I wanted hyperdetailed since that was still new and interesting).

In the end I don't really give out recommendations anymore. People will buy what they like. In real life I don't really demo my gear anymore either, mostly because it's just tactless, and partly because you don't want to advertise shiny expensive stuff or you'll get ripped off. Plus, I've gotten so many friends into so many expensive hobbies that I feel guilty dragging them into yet another one.

Finally, it is frustrating for me to see review and recommendation incompetence, quality products overlooked in favor of the mediocre shiny new toy sold by the personality of the month, but really, is recommending the same stuff over and over - even if you know how good it is - any different from the same antics by the same fanboys you dislike so much? So I don't do that anymore either. Well, mostly.
post #4 of 4
catscratch, I can more or less agree with the first half of your argument - the bit about hand-holding and frustration. I think the biggest piece is trying to help people come around to this way of thinking, rather than letting them ride the carousel of cash until they have nothing left. The second half is where we'll have to agree to disagree - I think suggesting used equipment, or equipment that you know and like, is neither tactless nor "fanboy antics" - it's an honest response to a given question. Now if you go around promoting your view as the only (or loudest) one, and don't let anyone else get a word in edge-wise, then you're absolutely falling into that trap, but simply sharing your own experience and leaving it at that isn't really problematic imo.
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