Category Archives: (Alleged) Humor

The ten step program to headphone hype

With the ascendance of personal audio, headphones have become a bit of a hot commodity in the audio world and with that has come the proliferation of sites devoted to the subject. These sites are populated by everyone from industry professionals to serious students of the art to rank newcomers. And with this comes people of all levels of expertise sharing their experiences, often vociferously. And sometimes with intemperate hype. So let’s look at the birth, death and resurrection of a headphone as may be found on an audio site near you. Any resemblance to an actual headphone is strictly coincidental…

1) Headco announces their new headphone, the somewhat expensive HP-6SJ7GT, with 4 paragraphs, a handful of specs and one picture. One week later, first HP-6SJ7GT information thread is posted along with the first conjecture-reviews. Two weeks later online retailers post availability information. The new phone will be available in 1 month, preorders taken.

2) (3 months later) Online retailers post a few new pictures and that the first shipment will be in in one month, more preorders taken. Natives on information thread getting restless.

3) (2 months later) Online retailers post that first shipment has been received, but rather than the amount ordered, 5 arrive at each of the five on-line retailers. Much angst on information thread.

4) (1 week later) First phones delivered to lucky few. First reviews appear proclaiming the HP-6SJ7GT as the best phone ever made in the most immoderate terms. Others on preorder list eat their heart out.

5) (2 weeks later) Rumors that the manufacturer will make a few “improvements” before full production starts. The early owners either have units a) soon to be superseded or b) that are the “good ones before Headco screwed ’em up”. One month later, the phones ship in earnest.

6) (2 weeks later) Three new threads appear, “HP-6SJ7GT appreciation” thread, the “HP-6SJ7GT; why do they suck so bad” thread and the “HP-6SJ7GT. Overpriced?” thread. Everyone on the “HP-6SJ7GT appreciation” thread loves them (except a few posts by the most Alpha personality members of the “HP-6SJ7GT; why do they suck so bad” thread), everyone on the “HP-6SJ7GT; why do they suck so bad” thread hates them (except a few posts by the most Alpha personality members of the “HP-6SJ7GT appreciation” thread). The “HP-6SJ7GT. Overpriced?” thread basically could have been cut and pasted from every other “overpriced” thread. 90% of the posts on all three threads are by people who haven’t heard them or heard them for 5 minutes at a meet/store/friend’s house/in their imagination/in a dream.

7) (6 months later) Backorders satisfied, you can call the dealer and order out of stock, but few are interested anymore. People are awaiting the release of Phonemagic’s new “Excelsior 7” (see step 1). Headco threads drift down the boards.

8. (1 year later) Headco announces the discontinuance of the HP-6SJ7GT, Amazon blows out the last remaining units.

9) (5 years later) Famous reviewer makes a comparison to the HP-6SJ7GT in a review of a new mega-expensive state-of-the-art phone and mentions how great and overlooked the HP-6SJ7GT was. People put wanted-to-buy ads on head-fi, prices go up, new threads start including the HP-6SJ7GT owners thread complete with owners serial numbers. Arguments start about which S/N were the best and which ones were bass light and which ones were bass heavy. The first run of 25 is rumored to be the absolute best.

10) (1 year later) HP-6SJ7GT’s now go for three times the original price and are gobbled up in hours when they appear for sale. Much angst from those who can’t find a pair, more from people who had a pair and sold them. The word “legendary” always appears before HP-6SJ7GT when they are written of. They are venerated when someone shows up at a meet with a pair. In fact, advertising that they will be there ensures your events success. Threads appear wishing Headco would bring the HP-6SJ7GT back into production. The naysayers say why bother, they sucked anyway and warn everyone of the lack of parts availability. Which is caused by DIY guys who bought up all the repair parts to build various “frankenphones”.

Oh well, to quote Talking Heads, “same as it ever was”. People are so suggestible. It is to laugh! BTW, anyone know where I can find a pair of Excelsior 7’s? I hear a rumor that Tyll Hertsens mentioned them in a review on Inner Fidelity recently…

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From the Square to the Hip on an audio trip

Generally, audiophiles exist on a smooth continuum from the Square to the Hip (meaning no disrespect to either group, as the great Huey Lewis pointed out, it’s hip to be square). Here’s how to tell them apart in the wild…

The first group is the “I only want to reproduce what’s on the recording” folks. They want that outcome no matter how bad it actually sounds. They owe their loyalty simply to the recording, anything else isn’t “high fidelity”. They firmly believe in A/B tests and sniff that anyone who doesn’t is “not being scientific”. They often claim that things they happen to think are not possible are because of “laws of physics” (whether they understand them or not). They would never buy a product without seeing frequency response curves first. They always take everything seriously.

Hair: Short/Bald

Clothes: Suit and Tie

Favorite Music: Bach died and music went to hell

Temperament: Violently Square

Favorite speakers: B & W, KEF (till they brought out the Blade). Vintage, Quad 57’s

From there you have the “fidelity to the recording, but with some allowance made for the vagaries of recordings” types. Did you know that every recording is too bright? As are all speakers. And all cartridges. They would also never buy a product without seeing frequency response curves first, but don’t think they should necessarily be flat. They buy room correction boxes (to make the system “accurate”), then pick an arbitrary target curve. They think they are the “one true church”, but can laugh about it a bit. They only buy solid state amps.

Hair: Short, combed neat

Clothes: Shirt, tie and nice slacks

Favorite Music: Small Classical, String Quartets some Popular Oldies, Showtunes (in some neighborhoods).

Temperament: Square, but careful, they are secret swingers when no one is looking

Favorite speakers: Harbeth, Spendor. For vintage, Spendor, Harbeth.

Next the “magaziner”. Has no fixed opinion on how equipment should sound, but can quote every review from the last 5 years of TAS and Stereophile. They read the Measurements section of the Stereophile reviews, but only the part where John Atkinson explains what they really mean. Believes that the greatest thing was when Robert Harley was appointed TAS Editor, now there are TWO magazines with “Recommended Component” issues. They buy tube amps (new only) when they feel non-conformist. They love audio shows above all else.

Hair: touches the collar between haircuts

Clothes: Short sleeved button down shirt, collar open and dockers

Favorite Music: Diana Krall, say no more!

Temperament: Earnestly Square

Favorite speakers: Vandersteen, Thiel, maybe Revel. If they are monied, Magico. For vintage, none. They are not listed in “Recommended Components.”

Then you get to the “Absolute Aficionado”. Thinks that recordings are nothing like a concert, and a concert in their living room is what they so passionately desire. No image is too big, no depth too cavernous for their lusts. They would NEVER listen to a small monitor. Vinyl with MC cartridge only, please. Would never sully their system with room correction, but might buy expensive room treatments. Loves big-ass tube amps.

Hair: long enough to be unfashionable

Clothes: T-shirt, Jeans

Favorite Music: Shostakovich, Mahler, Pink Floyd (especially “Meddle”)

Temperament: Frustrated ex-hippy

Favorite speakers: Magnepan, Martin Logan, Sound labs. Vintage, whatever HP had 10 to 35 years ago.

Finally, the “do your own thingers”. They believe the best sound is the sound they have in their mind’s eye (ear?). No equipment is too Avant-Garde, or too retrograde. They venerate tube equipment designers as present day saints, the more it looks “vintage”, the better. It’s invariably expensive and out of the main stream. Love having small get-togethers with those of their kind, which they call “tastings” (pretentious, moi?).

Hair: long, or bald with long sides

Clothes: whatever, man

Favorite Music: Anything obscure

Temperament: Any character from Kerouac’s “On the Road”

Favorite speakers: Large, retro, obscure. Extra credit for single-driver designs. Vintage, old horns, Quad 57’s.

Of course, over the years many of us have morphed through many of these cultures…