That was when I first realised there is a point in getting more than just the bare essentials in audio.
Late February 2009: I ordered and eventually received Sennheiser HD555 headphones. I was skeptical. I told myself even if people claiming there's a huge difference are wrong, spending $100 CAD on a pair of headphones that will last is better than replacing cheap earbuds every other month in the long run. When I first listened to them, I found I was not blown away. They were good, but it wasn't that coveted MIND BLOWING sensation I secretly hoped for. But I warmed up to them, and they were comfortable, and they were better than my MX550 earbuds. It wasn't nothing.
March 6th, 2009: Tragedy. My MX550's are destroyed.
+ Show Spoiler [MSN log of me complaining] +
[22:10] Ed: so I just finished a class at university, and it was really asinine and boring and I felt like taking an axe to my classmates, so I was already kind of ansy
[22:10] Ed: I'm on my way to my next class, and the building it's in is right in front of the bus stop
[22:10] Ed: and the class isn't that important
[22:10] Ed: so I'm like
[22:11] Ed: fuck... if my bus is there, I'm just gonna take it
[22:11] Ed: there's like 6 buses lined up, and I'm looking down them, but none of them are mine
[22:11] Ed: so I think
[22:11] Ed: FUCK
[22:11] Ed: I'll just go to my class then
[22:11] Ed: jeez
[22:11] Ed: I go to my classes door and it's locked and the room is dark
[22:11] Ed: so I'm like what the fuck? was it cancelled?
[22:11] Ed: I'm on my way out of the building to the bus stop
[22:11] Ed: and my bus is just exiting the station
[22:12] Ed: so I'm like :O god damn it
[22:12] Ed: then I'm waiting at the bus stop
[22:12] Ed: I pull out my ipod, and I'm just putting in my earbuds
[22:12] Ed: this guy walking by ... I dunno
[22:12] Ed: they must have caught on him somehow, even though they were like right against my coat
[22:12] Ed: they get ripped out of my ears and destroyed on the ground
[22:13] Ed: and he just disappears into the damn crowd briskly walking
[22:13] Ed: and I'm like
[22:13] Ed: :O
I'm back on cheap earbuds. For the next few months I use my HD555's at home a tonne, taking the place of MX550's that normally dominated my use. I find myself growing very fond of HD555's, feeling the difference to be very great. I let down my guard about them and some of my skepticism vanishes. I start feeling they really were worth it purely in terms of sound quality.
June 15th 2009: I decide it's time to get a decent pair of earbuds. All my cheap ones have crapped out, dead in one ear, missing certain frequencies entirely, and other bizarre malfunctions. A good excuse to buy new MX550s. But the MX550s are no longer in production. Instead there are 560s, the newer and 'better' versions of them. They aren't as pretty, they kind of look cheap, but I get them anyway. They'll be better than anything stock, at least. When I open them, the foam ear pads are missing. The instructions tell me that I MUST use the included foam ear pads to attain proper sound quality especially with bass. Fuck my life? I come in with negative expectations, and at first I'm not very impressed. But I do get foam earpads from an old pair of ear buds and my mind is at rest. I continue believing they're not as good as the 550s, but fervently believe they're better than stock. Fair enough. I get used to them over the next two months and enjoy them.
August 26th 2009: I have an itch for something new. I want to know what the next step to upgrading my audio setup is. What comes after big headphones? Other than bigger headphones? I remember February, when I was first interested in new headphones. I went to several sites, I looked at some threads on TL suggesting HD555's to be reasonable. I went to Head-fi.org and looked up their thoughts on it. It'd been useful enough, I guess. I go there again. I look at all the sections, and one is about portable headphone amps. I read a thread warning people against this fad, and it seems quite well informed. I contact who wrote it asking for advice, and he says a home headphone amp is the next best step. He recommends me to someone else, but I've already found a nice vintage amp before he can get back to me. An old amp from the 70s my dad used when he was my age.
+ Show Spoiler [A beast] +
I listen to it. I feel like the change is dramatic. SOO much better. I listen to tonnes of full albums just grooving out to it.
August 27th 2009: I love the amp, but I haven't satisfied my itch. I don't spend money on entertainment very often. This has been a most unusual and frivolous year. Everyone seems to have their own thing they dump their money into to make them happy. Shoes... Shirts... Hats... Video games. I want something too. Why not high-fidelity? I spend time browsing Head-fi.org for something interesting. I read a review on the Amp3 Pro1, a product of a little known, slightly sketchy Chinese company. Designed in China. It looks cool. The marketing for it is obviously exaggerating its abilities, but I justify ordering the new model (Pro2) because I think it's quite a novel little thing. A single minded no frills device. I read Head-fi more over the next week. I become more and more unimpressed. I knew there were fads about the latest devices, that one should avoid getting caught up in, but it was absurd. Everything posted was so full of shit. 90% of the community seems to think anecdotal evidence is a good enough to prove anything. Even when conclusions are arbitrary and often contradict one another. I get skeptical again. Just where does the truth lie? Among all these tools complaining about the 'warmth' or 'cold and calculated' nature of one peice of equipment or another, testifying that leaving an amp on for 400 hours straight is not only fine, it 'burns it in' and makes it sound better! Nevermind objective tests, I know what my ears hear!
September 6th, 2009 Listening to The Smiths. They're good. A few hours ago I read a great paper about dishonesty, confusion, and Experimenter Expectation in hi-fi audio industry.
It's great. It leaves me with many questions, but it also gave me many answers I was not finding on Head-fi. It's also sad. Throwing money at hi-fi equipment will not get you as close to perfect reproduction of the original track at all. The amount of product research you have to do to make sure you're not paying extra money for some stupid fad in the pseudo science audio has become is insane. I almost always look fairly deeply into every purchase I make, but with the amount of misinformation in audiophile groups, you basically have to find an engineer to get a good idea of what's actually coming.
So that's where my Forray ends. I don't know if my amp makes my headphones sound better because I want it to (common, how badass looking is that thing?) or if something about the impedance of my headphones requiring more power to get where they want to be is really true. Amps increase amplitude... Why does it matter... Doesn't make sense to me, but I didn't pay for it, so I'm happy with believing it's better. I just don't want to find myself paying for something and tricking myself. Maybe one day if I find someone who really knows their stuff, I'll ask where the next step is again. But no way am I going to be one of those tools who claims their ears are so amazing they can hear differences in sound tested to be beyond human capacity.