What was your introduction to good audio?
Sep 28, 2022 at 1:46 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 21


New Head-Fier
Sep 23, 2022
San Diego County
I am curious what sort of stories people have regarding their first foray into high-end audio. Considering my own insane person story, I imagine others might have some entertaining reads.

Could not find a thread that does this, so I am making my own here. I also figure this could be a good resource for people just getting into this, as a way to see the mistakes/pitfalls others have fallen into. Bonus points for posting some photos of your current setups; I'll post mine later today if I can, but I suspect my account is too new to actually do so.

I'll start:

Up until a little over a year ago, I used exclusively Bose QC35-IIs and Bose NC-700s. Both are noise-cancelling headphones, and I had two so that I never needed to wait for a pair to charge (they are both ANC headphones, both wireless over bluetooth). I had been using these for years at this point. Then, one day, Youtube recommended Dankpodz to me.

I watched and found the funny Australian man entertaining. Then I got curious, as he swaps between lots of audio gear and used a lot of terms I had either never heard or never cared to notice. Seeing as his main comparison HP was a pair of Sennheisers, I just went and bought my own pair (Specifically the HD 660S's) to see what this all was about. Of course, I did not have any sort of dedicated source gear (no DAC or anything). I plugged them straight into my laptop, and thought "I can't even hear a difference in sound between these and my bose HPs". I kept watching Dankpodz videos for a few days. Then, I got to the one where he reviews a pair of Meze Empyreans.

This is where I made my most insane decision. Having heard Dankpodzs' very simplified explanation of Ohms, and upon hearing that the Empyreans are "easy to drive", I ordered them. Had a sinking feeling in my gut even before I even finalized the order, probably because of the price and my uncertainty on whether this whole audiophile thing was just a big racket. Received them a couple weeks later, obviously still just plugging them into my laptop. The difference in audio quality was small enough that I was not sure if it wasn't just some kind of placebo on my part.

At the time that I received them I was working out of a hotel; was away from home on a job out near San Francisco, I live in San Diego. After I got home from that particular job, I bought myself a Thunderbolt dock from Dell, which just so happened to have a 3.5mm jack. After getting my whole laptop docking setup working the way I wanted it, I discovered that both the Empyreans and the Sennheisers sounded much better out of the dock than they did plugged into the laptop directly. Only then did it occur to me that all those DACs that Dankpodz was using to blow up cheap earbuds might have a purpose beyond that. Making my sanest move yet, I bought a FiiO BTR5 (also featured in Dankpodz' videos). Again, the difference in audio quality between this and the dock were small enough that I could not tell if it was a placebo making it sound better. I think by this point most people would give up on hi-fi altogether. Instead, after waiting a couple months to build up more cash, I bought the FiiO M17. Partly because Dankpodz recommended it, but I also had done a fair amount of reading about all these wacky audiophile devices and came to the conclusion that the M17 met my needs perfectly. That, and if I couldn't hear a significant difference at that price point, it would be time to admit I had wasted a lot of money. Powerful (for a DAP), with the option to use the included power supply to use a special DC mode to boost it's capabilities even more. It functioned as a USB DAC for my computer as well. Once I had received it and listened to both HPs through it, I finally had enough of a difference in audio quality to say it wasn't all in my head.

These days, I use those same Empyreans through the M17 in it's DC mode while I am at home. At work, I use a pair of Kbear KS2's - a cheap pair of IEMs - through the aforementioned BTR5 (both of which, not coincidentally, also featured in Dankpodz videos). I have also since bought a pair of Meze 99 Neos (needed some closed-backs to not disturb those near me), which I have started bringing to work with the M17. I plan to finally buy a real desktop DAC (got my eye on the iDSD Micro BL after a bit of reading on these forums), and I also want to buy a pair of Meze Lirics to use when it's noisy at home. Really enjoying the new hobby.

I still think I may be a little insane with my purchasing decisions. Hopefully this story is coherent enough for a good read.
Any of y'all as insane as me?
Sep 29, 2022 at 5:25 PM Post #2 of 21
My first real appreciation of sound was from live music. I’ve been hundreds and hundreds of concerts in many venues and various cities and have experienced many types of acoustics. Of course, the sound can be terrible but when it’s a good night in the right venue, it can be glorious in a way that no recording can achieve.

My other revelation was from tube amps. I realize many people don’t like tubes and view them as wrong in inaccurate measurements. But I feel a good tube amp makes things more 3D like and that 3D like quality really fascinated me.
Nov 7, 2022 at 5:29 PM Post #3 of 21
I recently got a pair of Sony XM4's for online work meetings and the quality of the noise cancelling was amazing. This inspired me to dig out a pair of Shure SRH840's that I've had for years and have used for home recording and practicing electric guitar quietly, and instead try just listening to music on them. The quality I have got so far, without even getting any new or fancy kit is already amazing by the standards I have become used to and this has been a revelation and has got me back into enjoying just listening to music. My circumstances mean I can only really listen with closed back headphones so that's the route I'm going down.
Nov 7, 2022 at 5:44 PM Post #4 of 21
I've been into music (I played several instruments) and audio since my early teens. The father of one of my buddies in an informal band I played in had a bunch of pro DJ gear in the house- really good amps, headphones, recording gear etc. Once you play music or go to a lot of gigs and concerts it's hard to settle for lowfi gear.
Nov 7, 2022 at 6:25 PM Post #5 of 21
Around 5 years ago, I had some cheap Phillips in-ears (probably $1-5) that I used. I borrowed Apple Earpods from my family member and I was impressed by them. After 1 year, I was watching RandomFrankP and he recommended some $25 in-ears which I thought were expensive at that time. When I got them, I A-B'ed them with the Earpods. Another two years went and I blew all my savings on a pair of WH-1000XM3s which I was disappointed in. I looked at some EQs and found that one of them suited my tastes (something with +10 dB on 16K). Finally, I bought the 58X (around the time I created this account) because I was going to use them with the PS4 and I didn't know how to connect an amp/dac to a console. I used them for a year until I wanted an upgrade.
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Nov 7, 2022 at 6:37 PM Post #6 of 21
My father.

1. BSO probably 40 times age 9 thru 15 (I was 5' 9" at 10 - because children were frowned on). 1966-1972.

2. His stereo - Quad ESL 57, Quad electronics, Thorens TD-150, various ADC carts. 1965-1974.

3. His jazz collection. 1950-1970.

4. He had a great Grunding tube tuner that got SW1, SW2, MB, AM, FM. We used to listen to all sorts of stations from every corner of the globe.
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Nov 7, 2022 at 6:48 PM Post #7 of 21
A couple of years ago we moved to a bigger flat and I decided I was going to invest in a nice "sound system".
I started researching 2-channel systems and learning about speakers, amps and DACs. However it quickly became clear that such a system wouldn't work in the flat, for a variety of reasons - not least my other half's lukewarm view on the matter.

So I reluctantly started exploring headphones as an alternative, assuming it would be a compromised experience. At the time, I owned a pair of Sony XM4's and thought the £250 or so asking price was already ludicrous (lol) and that they were the best headphones on the market anyway.

My research eventually lead me to the Chord Mojo, a really intriguing bit of gear. Could it actually make the sound better? One came up for sale at a good price and I went for it - damn! what an experience. The Sony's sounded amazing. This was late 2020, two years ago. great ride since then, have loved every minute of it.
Nov 9, 2022 at 7:07 AM Post #8 of 21
My first introductory headphones were Sennheiser HD555. I bought them just because I did not have any full size headphones and after a little bit of research Sennheiser name came up a lot. HD555 were affordable and I decided to go for it. I have never had open headphones before and I really liked them. I wish I would have bought a DAC and an AMP for them, but I wasn't into audiophile gear at the time and headphones only were enough for me.
A few years ago I've decided to sell my HD555 and buy something new. I've chosen Beyerdynamic DT 770 80 ohm. This time I've looked into small amp/dacs and bought a Fiio E10k. It was amazing what a difference it made. I could hear when the amp was plugged in with music, youtube videos, movies, etc. The only downside it was a bit too harsh with DT770. I've moved to Zen DAC, Xduoo X05 Plus, Audio GD R2R 11, Loxjie P20, Project Pre Box S2 and Audeze LCD-2C cans.
It seems that there is no way back now. I've got my eyes on Xduoo TA-20 amp and Mytek and Denafrips DACS in the near future!
Nov 9, 2022 at 8:08 AM Post #9 of 21
Back in the 80's a friend of mine's Dad had a receiver (can't recall the brand), a Technics turntable, and a pair of JBL floorstanders. I think they were 100's, but I wasn't into gear and brands as a teenager - we were just into smoking funny things and listening for hours to his jazz, soul, and funk music collection.

Good times!
Jan 11, 2023 at 10:59 PM Post #11 of 21
Hmmm. I gradually progressed upwards I guess.

Back in 2015, when I wanted something a bit better-suited for open office plans than Apple Earbuds, I got recommended the age-old classic ATH-M50Xes. I actually still own those cans. They are indestructible. I found them sitting half-unfolded underneath a fire extinguisher in the trunk of my car a few weeks ago and yet, minus one of the pads (the second aftermarket replacement set I've put on them) being dented, it's still kicking just fine. Anyway, a year later, for home use, I went down the open back rabbit hole and snagged ATH-700Xes on recommendation of a friend. These are far, far less indestructible, in part thanks to the captive cable. They died within a year or two in my care, sadly. I seem to recall having replaced them with another set of the same that I gave away after years later upgrading to some HD598s. I also still own these, and plan to re-terminate the cable into XLR balanced: they're a clear sound in the context of things that can be driven off of quite literally anything I've tried (including horrible onboard audio jacks on single-board computers).

Some time during 2020 a friend got sucked down the mid-fi-gear-that-needs-dedicated-amplification rabbit hole and dragged me with him: after one night listening to it, I exactly replicated his then-new Schiit Modi 3 + Magni 3 + HiFiMan Sundara stack, all of which I still own and actually used until this past summer. It was at that point, on a trip to The Schiitr in Los Angeles-ish, that I got dragged down the hi- and summit-fi rabbit holes: while I'm backing down from the summit-fi game after realizing it wasn't for me, learning just how much better than *even Sundaras* audio could sound, ruined me. I've now cycled a few DACs and amps, some headphones, and am learning over time the value of owning a variety of cans for different moods (and, in my eye, the lack of value in having multiple source chains, for the types of listening I do at least).
Jan 26, 2023 at 8:28 PM Post #12 of 21
I putzed around with some cheap equipment when I was younger because I liked the sound of music. I joined the military and went overseas and was exposed to a lot of fine sounding systems. That started the journey from this to that and always trying to keep things sounding mighty fine.
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Feb 11, 2023 at 4:22 PM Post #13 of 21
When I grew up I always craved Music. Listening, not playing instruments. But I did not have a HiFi System. So I started to figure things out. Built my first chipamps, SE followers, played with vacuum tube preamps. I still cannot afford hi-end audio, but have some gear, DIY and purchased that serves me well.
Jul 27, 2023 at 9:27 AM Post #14 of 21
When bitcoin miners and scalpers made video cards cost the same as a used car, I got into audio for an edge in gaming. With a Khadas Tone Board, Magni Heresy, and Beyerdynamic DT880 250ohm I was off to the races and never looked back. I'd still use that combo today, should have probably kept it. Then the Hifiman Ananda on an Aune S6 with balanced, and it snowballed into a business and obsession at the same time.
Jul 27, 2023 at 10:24 AM Post #15 of 21
My Step Mother is a piano teacher and we always had her collection of nice guitars in the house. This grand piano was in the living room so students would be playing sometimes, she would teach them all the same songs depending on their skill.

On weekend AMs whole groups of musicians would invade my house, of course I was still sleeping from Friday/Saturday nights out, only to then be awakened by Irish Music. I still hate Irish Music with a passion? :)

Yet even though my Mom was a piano teacher, I could never take lessons from her for whatever reason, maybe (I thought) piano wasn’t rock-n-roll enough. Though on quite afternoons I started to teach myself piano. What came out of it was very different than the schooled approach. I did start playing her guitars at 16 years old. Still maybe it was rock concerts and small bands playing at parties which was my introduction to better audio? Still it wasn’t really Hi-Fi? I mean everyone had stereos and giant record collections, like the Moody Blues and the Beatles. Fleetwood Mac and Hendrix albums. So really that was my start of albums playing endlessly.........Rod Stewart records that belonged to my parents....the Stones.

Finally I got my own place at 18, it wasn’t till I moved out and purchased my very own stereo that things got good. At 18 I had the very best stereo a kid could possibly have. Cerwin Vega 12 inchers X 4 with two horns. They were huge and I could not move them, it took two people to move them. So really that was the beginning. To think back, it was amazing, and one of the very best points in my life.
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