Hello HeadFiers. This month marked my 5th year as a forum member as well as a headphone audio enthusiast. I thought for my 1500th post I’d take a little time to reflect on the past 5 years.
Before I joined HeadFi (by several years, dating back to the late 90’s) I was aware of hifi headphone audio. I had visited Headrooms website many times. I remember being fascinated by an amplifier that was designed exclusively for headphone use as well as the cool little bags they had that were built to hold a portable CD player and amp. But at the time in my life I always had other needs for my meager income and never prioritized headphone audio. Besides, I usually had some sort of speaker system that was ok for listening to music.
Fast forward to the end of 2008. I had a good job and had much more disposable income (that phrase still makes me laugh) and I moved down to the Austin area. It’s relatively expensive to live in this part of TX and me not being a fan of apartment complexes and not wanting to tax myself with the rental of a small house, sharing living space is the logical answer. I’m easy to live with and try very hard not to intrude on housemates or otherwise make my presence undesirable. So being someone that likes to listen to music, headphones are the perfect solution.
For the preceding several years I hadn’t really kept up with headphones, and was delighted to see how far things had come. I quickly discovered HeadFi and spent a lot of time reading. Back then I would say that I was much less savvy about audio equipment in general and being somewhat impressionable, I ordered a pair of AKG K701’s due mainly to the review featured in Stereophile magazine. I also ordered a Little Dot MKIVse tube amp. Between the time I ordered the amp and the time I received it there was a meet in Dallas, so I grabbed my K701’s and drove up to see what was what.
That was really a fun meet. It was a pretty small gathering but there were some very nice setups. At this time, the main flagships to be seen were the Sennheiser HD650’s, Grado RS1’s and AKG K701’s. Dennon had recently launched their new line, and the AH-D2000’s made an appearance I remember. One of the things I remember most about that meet was meeting Pete Millett and plugging my K701 into his original homemade Starving Student amp. That made a huge impression on me and what I took away from that experience was that high-quality sound need not necessarily mean high-price. Also, Alex from ApureSound was also there with a sweet rig that had a Rega Jupiter CD player, a custom built amp and a APS cabled HD580. There were a couple of Stax headphones but I didn’t listen to them. I had Stax built up in my mind as some sort of exotic “super headphone” that would ruin my perception of other cans for life.
After that meet and in the following months, I bought and sold a few pairs of headphones, the most expensive being the Dennon AH-D7000. I found out that I just like open headphones more though and sold them. The AKG’s stayed with me for several months but honestly, as good as they are at some things, I found them too bass light and quite fatiguing. In an effort to try to improve them I spent quite a tidy sum of money on some Cardas Sennheiser connectors, a Neutrik 1/4 “ plug and about 40 feet of Jenna Labs cryogenically treated cable. I managed to ruin one of the drivers in the AKG’s while trying to solder the cable and never bothered with replacing it. I just took the loss and tried to learn from it. I had real problems with the comfort of the AKG headband anyway.
Being a huge fan of acoustic music of many genres, I finally decided that Stax was probably what I was after. This was probably somewhere in 2010, and the new orthodynamics were just gaining popularity, but it was also about the time Woo Audio introduced the Woo Wee. So I decided to go ahead and commit myself and join the Stax camp. I knew it wouldn’t be cheap but I also knew that I wanted more than what I had previously been exposed to and that getting where I wanted to be would require a somewhat significant investment. So for about a grand I bought the Wee and a Stax SR404. For a power amp I happened to get lucky while viewing the FS/FT forums and saw a Sonic Impact Super T-amp that was being given away for only the cost of shipping. So I raised my had and got it. Thanks again Skylab! I don’t want to make this any sort of equipment review so I’ll just say that for the past couple of years I’ve been pretty happy with this set-up. Running from my source straight to the T-amp didn’t quite work out but placing the Little Dot as a pre-amp in between the source and T-amp fixed the problem.
Not wanting to forsake dynamics completely and remembering hearing the HD580 (and HD600) at the Dallas meet, I bought a minty HD580 from the FS/FT forums and replaced the grilles with the much nicer looking HD600/650 grilles. I like these headphones so much I bought a second pair which resides in a closet as an insurance policy on the first pair. The only other dynamic I keep is the Allesandro Ms1. I use it mainly with computers since it gets along well without a dedicated amp, it’s a fun headphone, and much less fatiguing than the Grado SR60 I found.
That’s pretty much been my experience with full sized phones. I managed to get quite lucky back when Logitech acquired Ultimate Ears and put the Triple-Fi 10’s on sale for $100. Up until that point they were considered a TOTL product and had the very spendy (for the time) price of $399. I’ve been happily enjoying the TF10’s ever since.
So that brings us about to the present day. I have become more active recently on the forums to try to stay abreast of the world of headphone audio and made an appearance at the recent Austin meet. The main thing I took away from the Dallas meet of 09 was confirmed at this years Austin meet. That being: you can certainly spend a lot on gear, but if you just want great sound there are options for just about any budget. As with the Starving Student, I was super impressed with the Bottlehead Crack amplifier. As a DIY kit (or prebuilt) I would say anyone with a steady job could afford this product and honestly I think its performance is comparable to amps costing several times the price.
If you’re still reading, you’re probably quite bored, but nonetheless thanks for sticking it out. It’s been sort of a turbulent 5 years for me personally but one of the things that has been a constant for me has been my enjoyment of headphone audio. I look forward to many more years as a forum member and hope to go to many more meets and share my enthusiasm with the great people that make up this community.