Ultimate Headphone Guide Articles: The Headphone Hobby
You might ask, "A headphone hobby? How can headphones be a hobby!?" One would think that the solitary activity of listening to headphones is not likely to produce a vibrant community of enthusiasts engaged in all manner of activities...but you'd be wrong. The headphone hobby is alive, well, and growing like a weed. Let's take a look at what that's all about.
Among enthusiasts, the activities of getting to know each other, arraigning meets, exchanging information, and asking for advice all happens on Internet forums. The granddaddy of all English-speaking headphone forums is Head-Fi.org. This massive forum has hundreds of thousands of members who regularly frequent the boards to give and receive advice on headphones, amps, DACs, portable music players, computer audio and much, much more. Head-Fi.org should be the very first stop on a n00bs journey into the world of headphones.
There are other English speaking headphone forums, for example Head-Case.org and changstar.com...but be forewarned, these sites are populated by long standing headphone enthusiasts mostly having conversations between old friends and are not necessarily n00b friendly. Some audio and media related forums have active headphone sub-forums including: avsforum.com; anythingbutipod.com; diyaudio.com; stevehoffman.tv; and even Reddit has a headphone area at reddit.com/r/headphones/.
The most common activity on headphone forums is the communication of personal experiences with headphones. While any one person's opinion about a particular pair of headphones may not mirror yours, when hundreds of opinions appear and general trends occur, you can bet the general consensus will be a strong indicator of the quality of performance. Some forum sites have areas purely dedicated to product reviews by members.
One of the great things about headphones and related equipment is that they're small and fairly portable. Headphone enthusiasts worldwide make the most of this and regularly transport their gear to homes and hotel conference rooms to gather for meets. Meets can range in size from just a handful of people (sometimes called "mini-meets"), to events with hundreds of enthusiasts at hotels in major metropolitan areas. This is a marvelous opportunity to put faces to screen names and get to know each other. But it's also a great way to hear a variety of gear that might otherwise be difficult to get your ears on. In Head-Fi.org's "Local / Regional Head-Fi Meets, Parties, Get-Togethers" (head-fi.org/f/24/) you'll find a listing of upcoming meets being organized. There are very few places in the world where you won't find a meet upcoming sometime in the next 6 months or so. And if you don't see one, you can certainly start one yourself!
DIY is an important part of the headphone hobby. Enthusiasts equipped with soldering irons and hand tools are engaged in a wide variety activity from making cables to building headphone amps and digital-to-analog converters. Headphones themselves are also often modified by replacing cables and adding various damping materials to the inside of headphones for a clearer sound. The complexity of projects range from extremely simple cable repairs to massively complex builds of electrostatic headphone amplifiers. It's safe to say some of the very best sounding headphone amplifiers in the world are home built, and certainly some of the best looking amps are constructed by the caring hands of DIY enthusiasts.
Maybe the best reason of all to engage with the headphone hobby is the opportunity to make new friends. If you're the kind of person that like gadgets, you'd likely be interested in the hobby. A headphone enthusiast's other interests might include speakers, turntables, watches, flashlights, luggage, cigars, bourbon, micro-brews, and the like, but their greatest love is music. If you love music and gadgets, you'll probably enjoy becoming part of the headphone enthusiast community. You'll surely meet many interesting acquaintances and, like many in the hobby, make a few good and lasting friendships. Enjoy!