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Your Audiophile Evolution

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Lately, I've been looking at my current gear and reminiscing about "how I got here" and remembering the headphones and audio experiences of years past that led me to the place I am now in my "audiophile evolution".  Its kind of interesting I think.  And that got me curious about your personal audiophile evolution.  Where did you start? What were the first headphones you listened to when you thought to yourself: "Woah!  I didn't know music could sound this good."  What do you listen to now and think to yourself: "Woah!  I can't believe I thought that sounded good...THIS is MUCH better!"


For me, like most, I started out with stock ipod earbuds and the year was 2004.   From there, my personal evolution looks something like this:


Shure e3c: I bought these retail from an Apple store in D.C. after reading a very glowing review on cnet.com.  I remember listening to these and being "blown away" for the first time listening to music I has heard all my life. 


Bose in-ears (Don't laugh.)


Bose on-ears (Again, I was young and foolish, so STOP laughing.)


Shure se530: Got these off eBay for Christmas in 2006 after reading another glowing review on cnet.  This is when I got spoiled... 


Audio-Technica ATH-M50s:  I really purchased these for my wife.  We were recording a song together and though I was content to use the se530s for monitoring, they hurt her ears, so I did a google search for "good full-size headphones" and was directed to head-fi for the first time.  I found the "popular headphones list" and started looking.  The Audez'e LCD-2 was top of the list followed by the Sennheiser hd-650.  I remember clicking on those two products, seeing the price and thinking: "Holy $%&#! Headphones can cost THAT much!?".  (You can imagine my shock and awe when I made it down to the Stax!).  Honestly, the thing that impressed me the most about these M50s in the listing was that they were so highly ranked among much more expensive models.  That's still the case to this day.


Ultrasone PRO 900: Got these for myself for Christmas in 2011 after reading a review online.  I really liked the bass response.  It was really like nothing I had ever heard.  I have much better cans now, but I've held on to these because I've yet to find anything that matches these on Electronic music.  For my taste, at least.


Grado SR80i:  Through the years, I had read about Grados and how these and the SR60s were a really good value.  These were my first open cans and I remember hearing them for the first time and thinking "where's the bass?" and "man, those highs are harsh, but WOW that acoustic guitar is clear!" I still break these out every now and then to get my "Grado sound" fix, but not often.


AKG K702: I purchased these along with a Matrix M-Stage Amp (having read that the K702s suck without a good amp and the M-Stage apparently had good synergy with these cans).  I LOVED these things for classical music in particular.  I had never heard clarity like this before, but really longed for better bass impact and extension.  I sold these just last month and kind of miss them.


AKG K550:  I purchased these because I wanted a closed can that matched the K702 soundstage, but with more bass.  These fit the bill.


Audez'e LCD-2:  My most recent purchase.  I LOVE these.  Do I really need to write why?  But at the same time I hate them because after I listen to these for a little while, every other can I own sounds like crap!


I've been through several amps as well and recently I consolidated and settled on the ALO Audio MK3-b coupled with an HP-P1 portable DAC. This is a great combo for me as I like to have something I can move around and carry with me.  This rig is strong enough to power anything I've got plus some.


So that's my evolution.  What's yours? 

post #2 of 10
Good god this could get long...

I'll just give you the headphone version:

I started out with the Denon AH-D2000 as my first "real" audiophile headphones, I can't remember if it was 2006 or 2007 honestly. From there I went to the HD 580 and K701 (in 2008) because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about with open headphones. Picked up some Grados (I had tried them when I bought the Denons, but decided against them because of price) roughly around that time too. Sometime in 2009 I ended up getting the Koss ESP/10 system, and then basically dropped off the face of the earth to be driven mad by the ring's power; resurfacing in late 2011 when I decided I wanted something different. The first thing I did was buy a pair of ESP/950s (okay the first thing I actually did was try the Beyerdynamic T70, be incredibly unimpressed, and then I bought the ESP/950s). Pretty much everything else in the profile has been "for kicks" since then, the two notable exceptions being the RS-1 and the QC15 (both were gifts).

I figure I'm due for another five years of living with the same headphone now that I've found something I like better in the 950, lol.
post #3 of 10

I've been using IEMs for a long time, it was the perfect companion for almost every day and trip. I could not notice sound details between them at the beginning but I could feel which ones were fun or nice to listen, and I started to develop some sort of appreciation. My ears are limited, I am not a musician or a sound producer, but I like to listen quality reproduction.


I was in Russia by that time (2007 I guess) and I found Fischer audio, and I really liked them, the model I bought no longer sell as well as other models I had, but it was by favorite brand by default.


Since then I recommend headphones to all my friends, and every time I borrow their new headphones to test them...

I'm merely an enthusiast in this world.

Edited by squallkiercosa - 1/11/13 at 10:43am
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Tell me about your ESP950 experience.  I've been looking at these since they've started showing up online for $500 or so.  I'm in love with the LCD-2s right now.  Are the ESP950s significantly different/better?

post #5 of 10

Like you, I started with the Shure E3c. That progressed into getting it re-shelled into a CIEM by UM and things just went nuts after that... I feel that I am slowing down now as I'm too broke too many times LOL... My final purchase will be finally getting the long waited HE-500 as I got sidetracked by the HE-400 last year. Of course, I will be doing a thorough review on the differences between the two.

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

I got really excited about the HE-400 when they first came out.  If you remember, HiFiMan did a "pre-sale" special of $350.00 whereas now they retail for $400.00.  For whatever reason, I decided against it.  I still kick myself for that one.  What made you settle on the he500 as your "Be all end all" headphone?  Had you heard it before you bought it?

post #7 of 10

Well, my journey started when a friend and I were discussing headphones and him remarking, "I've heard that open-back headphones sound better than closed-back." Wanting to prove him wrong, I did some searching online and stumbed across HeadWize (this being around 1999 - 2000). I read up on open and sealed cans and was introduced to makers such as Grado and Sennheiser, which I had never heard of. Eventually, I listened to a pair of Grado SR-60's at a hi-fi shop near my college and really liked the sound. After reading about the Alessandro-Grado offshoot, I bought my first pair of 'real' headphones - The Alessandro MS-1, which I still own and serves as my go-to set of cans to this day. At the same hi-fi shop, I also listened to one of the first SACD players (The Sony SCD-1) as well as NAD electronics and NHT speakers. All impressed me. Since I was going to graduate soon, I somewhat knew that I wouldn't really pursue a he-man headphone rig, instead opting for a decent stereo setup after I landed a job.


In the ensuing two years, I checked out the tube-modded CD player craze (AH! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 and the Heart CD6000) as well as built my first stereo rig (NAD C350 + Axiom M3ti wired with Audioquest Type 4 and Kimber PBJ). After being somewhat unhappy with the results, I moved the AQ and Kimber wires out of the system for Analysis Plus. Bingo - much clearer sound. I then read about time and phase-coherent speakers so I sold the Axiom's for a pair of Meadowlark Shearwater Hot Rods and moved to a Plinius 8100 integrated since the NAD seemed to struggle with dynamic passages in classical music. At that point I had my main system set - or so I thought - until I carelessly broke the CD6000 because I was fooling around with power cords - no IEC inlet meant I had to crack open the case and screw down the leads to a terminal on the PCB. The power cord was so damn stiff that it ripped the copper trace right out, which of course meant that the CD player would intermittently work. So I put that into storage, and bought an Arcam CD33T.


In the intervening years, I dabbled a little in computer audio - Echo Indigo DJ + CI Audio VHP-1 / VAC-1 + Etymotic ER-4S since I was overseas on active duty and didn't have room for a stereo. But I always longed to have my stereo setup back.


This past year (and nearly a decade after my last big purchase), my wife said she was unhappy with my speakers - she didn't like the way they sounded. And I spotted my chance! I went around to different shops and listened to the Paradigm Signature S8's, PSB Synchrony Ones, Totem Forest, and the Vandersteen 2ce Signature II's. I really gravitated towards the Vandersteens - I felt that they gave me the qualities that I liked about the Meadowlarks (namely great imaging and soundstaging) but also cleared up the sound in complex musical passages and added some heft at the bottom octave. I also put in a Bryston BIT-15 to clean up the power and the system sounds better than ever. Now that I've been bitten by the audiophile bug again - who knows what component is due for an upgrade?


I've listened to a lot of other equipment too - from vintage Dynaco and Fisher tube amps, horn loaded setups (Avantgarde Duo), all sorts of other headphones (Senn HD580, Orpheus, AKG K1000, etc.) and too many other electronics and loudspeakers to mention. It's been a lot of fun.

Edited by yage - 1/11/13 at 8:51am
post #8 of 10

I'll just run through the (mostly) Summit-Fi part... (2011 - 2013)


D7000 + E9 (Digital)

D7000, HE500 + Decco2 (Digital)

HE500 + Decco2 (Digital)

LCD 2 + SA8004 (Digital)

LCD 2 + LF (Digital)

LCD 2, HD800 + LF (Digital)

HD800 + LF (Digital)

SR009 + LL (Analog)


...and now?


Leben 300XS + Harbeth HL5 (Speakers) [Analog]


Basically...I've gone to speakers and analog for primary listening. I have no 'high end' cans to speak of at the moment, though I plan to get a decent pair again soon.


I'm currently trying to write a big long 'journey' post for anyone that'd like to read, but it's tough not making it sound super boring. lol

post #9 of 10

post #10 of 10
Originally Posted by mbriant View Post

I wanted this in another thread like three-four days ago; where were you then. tongue.gif
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