**This entire Intro section is absolutely irrelevant to this report, it is simply a window into who I am and why I do what I do…nothing more than a doorway into why I became interested in Hifi audio. The following section is deeply personal and certainly contains a lot of intimate information about me. If you aren’t interested in back-story or potentially overly personal details about me, please skip this Intro section of this report. A while back, I posted an article on Head Fi under my first alias ( hah ) that I was never able to edit in the way I’d originally intended the thread to appear. I would like to plagiarize my own thread now and a few years after it was posted, I feel great relief at the thought of finally being able to write this piece the way I had originally desired it to appear.**
I’ve loved and I’ve lived. I’ve drank and I’ve enjoyed many things life has tossed my way. I’ve studied marketing trends and have watched the rise and fall of companies around the world. Hell, I’ve even designed some headphones and consulted for a more than handful of audio manufactures. Audio has changed. For the better, or for worse? I really can’t say, but I what I can say is that the past few years have been remarkably tantalizing. I can almost taste the looming nuclear explosion of Audio innovations on the horizon. It beckons and allures me into its embrace, ceaselessly tempting me with promise of something better just out of reach. If you look at the technology boom of the last 20 or so years, you can’t help but to wonder when or how the next major advancement in Audio will take place. What could it be? How drastic of an improvement will it be over something like an Orthodynamic? These questions keep me enticed in an almost erotic sense. Certainly something new is coming, can’t you feel it?
As I sit here sipping my red wine and listening to Mr. Govan play riffs on his electric guitar, I can’t help but to envy. One of my favorite songs – Guthrie Govan – Hangover. What a fantastic representation of how some of us feel when slightly inebriated. Just one of the many tracks that I feel tell the tale of my life and adventures in the audio realm. There have been many ups and downs, many returns and many repurchases in my short time here on this Earth. Yet, I always seem to come back to the basics, back to my roots. The simple things make me happiest and it doesn’t take much to get the job done. I’m a bit of a sound stage nutcase. Without immersing qualities, I am simply not interested in owning it. Oh sure, I will review it for the community but odds are strong it will be resold for a profit loss after I am done with it.
This is my Story.
A rare genetic form of Osteochondritis hit when I was 18. It left me unable to play sports, walk, sit or stand normally. Now 28, I look back a decade to when this all started and I can’t help but to have mixed emotions over it. The sudden flood of raw emotions forces itself into the darkest corners of my mind, involuntarily illuminating the blackest corners of my past…places that I’d prefer stay more aphotic than the utmost depths of an ocean. Under the false guise of a man able to control what might appear out of that dim abyss, I cannot help but to feel my cheeks go flush as my brow furrows with anger, maybe even with a bit of despair as I unwillingly recall those years. I’d been a Baseball man as well as a competitive mixed martial artist. Like chaotic waves refracting light over a drowning surfer in the golden minutes of sunset, I find myself wounded and unable to fight the weight of the past beyond the distorted surface tension of the waters of my expired past. All of my dreams were but a neutron’s length beyond my reach, now parched by the thought of what could have been.
My doctor recommended I get some nice headphones and try to relax during my downtime after the first of six surgeries to come on my leg. Little did he know I’d been an avid audio enthusiast most of my life, but never made the jump to actually purchasing a very good set of my own. During my down time, I’d taken an interest in journalism, constantly scouring the Internet for places to peak my interest in writing…Most people think HiFi Audio is overpriced nonsense and are willing to let you know that your hobby is stupid, that you are dumb for paying that much for these products. The truth is they are all right, but so are we audiophiles who love our hobby. We have a passion for it. This is our drug, our cigarette break and our sip of alcohol or long walk to relieve stress. There is no price tag on happiness, but we certainly make our wallets pay extra for a just bit more clarity. My journey has lasted many years in the Audio world and I’ve been through a lot of different headphones. Hard for my to justify the price tags, sure, but when you lose the ability to walk almost completely for ten years, you tend to try to find ways to pass the time. I’ve owned, tested and reviewed so many audio products over the past decade, it has been a hell of a fun ride!
I’m a Djangophile.
Definition: One who enjoys the sound of Django Reinhardt or Gypsy Jazz music.
With this title comes a unique perspective on what is possible through music. A man far ahead of his time who considered by many to be the modern Mozart, He who spawned all modern music. Django was unquestionably The Musical Genius of the past century, widely considered by Gods like Hendrix and Joe Pass to be absolutely untouchable. Jimi was rumored to be so infatuated with Django, he traveled to France to live with Gypsies for a short time to learn how to play like them, to better understand this type of improvisational based Jazz. Hendrix failed in his quest for knowledge, he returned home saddened and with a new found respect for on the fly improving. Soon after, he wrote his famous Band of Gypsies album. He later pioneered and lightly touched on the beginnings of Fusion Guitar, a genre that I am very fond of today. I give this brief history lesson to you because I invoke the essence of what Django is all about, I tend to braid it into the way I live my life as well as how I listen to audio: I keep an open mind, I never take things too seriously and I always hope for the best. I constantly look for ways to improve what gear I have and do my best to help others. This is what Django did with his music. A true master of life and music.
I’ve come to learn that price tiers in Audio mean nothing to me. I’ve owned the best there is, I’ve owned the worst there is, the popular, the over-hyped, the widely regarded and the most sought after. It isn’t about price anymore, it used to be, but now it is something different. Perhaps I’ve grown up and have quested to find that which is right for me, not that which the most listeners own. Sets like your pick of the high end Orthos are gold to some, lead to others. I found that the more expensive they got, the more I couldn’t enjoy them. Some required too much power, some were uncomfortable or geared only for a genre or two of pure bliss, but couldn’t step up elsewhere. Price matters not, I’ve only recently come to learn this.
Most of these companies should really learn a lesson from Django and go back to their own roots, rethink some of their designs, designs like the headbands for instance. I won’t name names, but it’s clear who needs a swift kick in the pants and who doesn’t. I butcher and modify my headphones at the expensive of potentially ruining them. Why? For fun I suppose, maybe I am an agent of Chaos and the few users who notice my improvements make me feel good enough to want to do it again on another set. It’s all in good fun, as a designer myself I can’t help it. I want what I want and when I only get 2/3 out of the deal I am willing to mutilate my gear to achieve a higher state of perfection or comfort. Once again utilizing the Gypsy Jazzist way of improvising. I want to be unique in this respect. It’s a lot like Mr. Stochelo Rosenberg ( as seen in the above link ) Improving at light speed with an end result that is tonally balanced with an almost unreal texture and precision.
When I listen to Andy James, one of the best Fusion melodic metal guitarists around, I feel inspired to do things I normally wouldn’t do. He has that tendency to spark something inside you, aiming for your cortex that controls the desire to “doing something Epic with your life”. I am sure it is hard for most non-Neo Classical Music lovers to enjoy it, it’s definitely an acquired taste. Once you get to know the artist, you tend to learn to respect the sheer power of their musical skill and genius, eventually coming to realize improvisational instances hit home and provoke some type of emotional response. That’s what really does it for me, when I can listen to someone play any instrument with a regard for spontaneous musical creation…almost like a Big Bang of music notes suddenly appearing if at all out of nowhere. Once the appreciation for that type of thing is acquired, worlds open up that you never knew existed and you will take yourself on a truly remarkable journey into the music itself. You will hear and notice things you never did before, not in a literal sonic sense, but rather an emotional sense. I find the psychology behind it all enthralling and I cannot help but to question where their minds are at the time of this recording. What life event provoked them or inspired them to play this specific line of music in this specific manner. It’s a whole new outlook on music, it’s not just listening to me anyone: emotional experiences blooming into existence through the notes of music themselves. It is quite amazing. If Beethoven, Bach or Mozart were still alive there is no doubt in my mind Andy James and Malmsteen would be in their musical collection.
In my early college days, there was a women: my great love. I’d instantly given my heart to her without even knowing her name at first. We’d soon become great friends and more, perhaps moving too quickly and never fearing the potential pit either of us could slip into if heart break should occur. We didn’t care, especially not me…truly an odd sentiment for me being the one of us who generally was more reserved, less of a free spirit. She was an avid music enthusiast, far ahead of me in untapped audiophile potential. She’d always worn those damn headphones slung over her neck and I’d loved her that much more each time they got in the way. When I got the call that she’d been killed in a car accident, my world ignited into a ball of flame more burning brighter than the most dense star in all of creation. I’d watched and felt my entire future crash before me without the ability to talk my way out of it. Over a decade later and into today, I’m still not over it…but I owe her all I have now. She peaked my interest in Hifi audio, nothing I am today would exist if I’d not known her. Don’t Be Afraid, by Elisa Fiorillo off one of my favorite video games was called Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It has an incredible soundtrack, so emotional. So well written. For obvious reasons, I latched onto this track. It spoke to me on the same level as Guthries – Hangover. It may seem like the wrong song to listen to when you are sad, but listen to the lyrics closely. Tell me you something doesn’t spark inside you when you hear it, when you indulge in it and allow it to sink in. Truly a remarkable track.
After my first surgery on my leg and after college, I’d had the chance to listen to a few new pieces of audio gear that changed my outlook on life completely. As if my soul had been lifted to such an immense height, I’d never have to worry about falling. It stabbed me in the heart, piercing cleanly through flesh and emotion. The Flying Sequence by John Williams off the Superman The Movie Original Soundtrack…one of my favorite songs of all time and one that holds immense emotional ties to me. As if by magic, or perhaps a Deity passing its will over me and the surrounding area I was sitting in, the wind died down and the temperature dropped a little just as the sun finally began to set into the distant horizon. Stars sparkled a little brighter as the last remnants of light passed through the sky, the air became calm. Mid song, the mood of the track itself takes on a sudden and unexpected tone, one that slows down and invokes a sense of extreme ambiance during the scene in the movie when Superman lets Lois Lane truly feel what its like to Fly. Losing his grasp on her high above the clouds, he allows some space between them and only holds onto her with one hand as both moved through the sky. Their hands slipping ever so slowly from tightly locked hands to the very edges of their finger tips. He loses his grip on Lois during their flight into the night sky, almost dream like and euphoric, so distant from reality. Lois plummets through the clouds, screaming, as Superman effortlessly accelerates downward and saves her. They locked gazes for a moment as the music completely envelopes you. I thought of her and felt tears well up inside me almost immediately upon that music cue. I struggled, but admired defeat within seconds. At that moment, I knew I was an Audiophile. She used to call me her Superman…
So where does this lead me, what exactly is this all about? Well, it’s about life and new experiences, maybe helping some realize they’ve forgotten where the music is, like I have. Maybe it is to shine a light for anyone who may have lost their way. I know I have, there must be someone else out there who feels the same. Where did the music go? Where did that passion for the song fade away only to be replaced with a passion for elite gear? My heart breaks and has had a hole ever since I was lured into some elitist view on owning as much gear as possible. It has now been months since I’ve sat outside with a glass of wine with my headphones on, enjoying the seclusion as the wind blows through the tree line just beyond my favorite area to loom around. Something happened to the Audio World in recent times and its not where it should be in my view. I’ve noticed a lot of gear being produced that is neutral, cold and dry. Maybe this is the type of sound some users find to be fun, but I care not for reference and clinical tone, accuracy means nothing to me. I guess losing everything you have gives you a unique perspective on your hobby or passions in life. If you woke up tomorrow with only one set of headphones, what would you want that to be and why? Its an important question I had to ask myself, which one out of everything I have ever experienced would I want to keep? It is the first question I had to ask myself to find the road back to true happiness, the road in which I can reconfigure my brain to accept the musical factor as the most vital and important element in my gear. Which one is the most fun? Which one defines you?
As a musician, I’ve come into contact and made friends with an insane amount of other musicians. Out of thousands, I’ve found 2 who had an appreciation for high end gear. The rest were caught up in their own world, enveloped by their own musicianship…and that’s how it should be. It is something I have forgotten. I don’t mean to preach but I did need to vent something, anything really. Years of enjoyment lost in the endless quest to own the best. I am not sure if it was worth it to seek out my golden rig…the price may have been too costly. There are many expensive pieces of gear that are good enough to change your life, I know a few did that to me. Sets like the Stax 007 for instance. Insanely expensive, but pure sonic bliss when matched up with the right gear. So good in fact, it is saddening to know everyone can’t have it.
All I can say is that I am an audio addict for life, but I am also a music enthusiast for life as well. Music first, gear second. That is my path. I’ve owned so many headphones of all types, so many amplifiers and so many sources. The path to finding your golden setup is marked with pitfalls so be careful. Once you do find it, let me know. I want to experience as much as I can before my time is up.
Click here for the burn in section…