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Pedantics of Headphones

The AudionistThe Audionist

When I started home recording on my Tascam 4-track, I knew that I needed a good pair of closed-back headphones. One that was as neutral sounding as possible without breaking the bank (I was after all 18 at that time). My first pair was a Sennheiser—no surprise. I don’t quite remember the model, but it served me well for 7 years before its synthetic ear-foams eventually disintegrated.

Since then, I have purchased several headphones. I saw in-ear monitors transition from musicians’ stage monitors to a consumer-grade product. I saw the gradual shift of earphones being replaced by in-ear monitors and a new generation of Apple earbuds replace the ubiquitous ’80s earphones.

These days, to talk about headphones, you have to be pedantic. Are you referring to closed or open-backed headphones? On-ear or over-the-ears? Earphones? Are you referring to traditional earbud designs or in-ear monitors? Balanced armature or dynamic drivers?

"These days, to talk about headphones, you have to be pedantic. Are you referring to closed or open-backed headphones? On-ear or over-the-ears? Traditional earbud designs or in-ear monitors? Balanced armature or dynamic drivers?"

I don’t quite consider myself an audiophile. When I was a struggling bedroom guitarist, I acquired a lot of GAS. No, not that kind of gas. GAS as in Gear-Acquisition Syndrome. Over time, I realized that beyond the technicalities, the search for the holy grail tone is subjective and personal. My aural nirvana will never be the same as yours. It is this realization that taught me what I needed to know about musical gear.

I want to show you that headphones can be enjoyed if you take the time to learn about the different product types that are available to you. It’s not just EarPods or Beats. Beyond that, I want to show you that you don’t have to be a hardcore audiophile to appreciate or discover good tone. All it takes is a little understanding of music and headphones.

In my search for the tone for the past 19 years, I’ve learnt a couple of tricks. I’ll show you what really works.

<p>I write about tech, high fidelity audio and minimalism. I’m also a musician and a guitarist.</p>