Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Being A HiFi Consumer Whore

I think I'm done throwing money at my ears at this point. After grabbing a pair of Etymotic Research ER-4P in-ear headphones (or IEM's [yes, I know that the 'M' does not stand for "headphones"]), even though they sounded fantastic, I had let a friend of mine talk me in to investing in a portable headphone amplifier. The one I ended up choosing after some research on the fantastic head-fi.com forums, was the Minibox-e+. This was because I liked the look of the build, it had great reviews from the community, but mostly because I couldn't ignore the fact that a feature on the amp, "PtoS," was stuck there specifically for my model headphones. Etymotic makes two versions of my headphones, the ER-4P and the ER-4S, the only difference between the two being the amount of impedance. Etymotic made the ER-4P with less impedance so that it could be driven by relatively weak amplifiers in devices like iPods, though what you gain from that in bass and volume you loose in detail, and so the "PtoS" switch adds that exact amount of missing impudence back to the headphones, which can now be properly driven.

What's cool about the headphone amplifier scene is that, with few exceptions like headroom.com, they're nearly all hand-made by individuals, not larger companies. The community on head-fi.com likewise is very personal with people giving frank and detailed reviews of the products, and where the amplifier manufacturers also interact with people and seem to respond to questions and feedback.

I have to concede though...the one thing that really sucks about having a hi-fi setup is you really start to notice songs that were recorded poorly or with low bit rate. Still, though I know I have friends that call my excessive or throw around nasty names like "audiophile," listening to the albums from my favorite ambiance/trance label, Sending Orbs, encoded in lossless format sound...wonderful.

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