Ultimate Headphone Guide Articles: The Headphone Hobby

Enthusiasts and manufacturers meet as equals and compatriots in the headphone hobby. Pizza, of course, is also a great equalizer.

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.

Forums
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/.

There are numerous non-English speaking headphone forums: erji.net in China; hifiheadphones.co.uk/forum/ in the U.K.; headphones.com.au/forums/ in Australia; headjam.org in Malaysia; to name a few.

Headphone Advice
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.

UHG_Hobby_Fisheye

You're very unlikely to hear a rare Sony MDR-R10 on a Cary Audio 300 SEI unless you're lucky enough to find them at a headphone meet.

Meets
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!

Do-It-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.

UHG_Hobby_Meet

People of like interests come to meets because of the gear, but some will walk away with life-long friends.

Friendships
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!

COMMENTS
calaf's picture

surely these two fora

hifiheadphones.co.uk/forum/ 

headphones.com.au/forums/

can be considered as English-speaking, mate :)

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Too right, I'll have to touch that up for the guide.

Bennyboy's picture

Someone should make a tragi-comic documentary about this.

The Greek Audiophile one was great - touching, uplifting, funny and sad as all hell.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xs1aUws0Lrs

A headphone version would be ace.

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz Casual's picture

The headphone community has its positive attributes but being photogenic is not one of them.  

Sherwood's picture

I know most of the people in those photos, and I'm in one myself.  I don't know you, though.

Watch who you're calling "not photogenic", pal.

rickymic's picture

Please give me a link to the page with more photos, I really want to see more!

Jazz Casual's picture

I wouldn't take it too personally "pal". It's not like you're in television or anything.

Dinny FitzPatrick's picture

and you got called out on it--deservedly.

Jazz Casual's picture

Don't tell me you're in the photo as well. ;) The headphone hobby is hardly glamorous or fashion forward, and neither is model train or stamp collecting. That doesn't mean I don't find them endearing. I'm no oil painting either, truth be told but my gear is very photogenic, and that's where the camera lens should linger. Let's be honest, this hobby is really about the gear. The more you become immersed in it, the more incidental music and people become. 

Voltron's picture

I know that because I looked up from the gear at a meet and he was sitting next to me.  That was in 2006 and even though we live on opposite coasts we just had breakfast last Sunday when I was on his side of the country.  Lifelong friends, indeed.  Same goes for many folks in those pics and the blogger himself.

Your comments are particurly lame in that you are suggesting Tyll focus only on the gear in a blog post about the hobby and its enthusiasts.  Enjoy the hell out of your gear, but you might want to pull your head out (of your cans) every once in awhile.  You might come to appreciate some of the great folks who love their gear as much as you do, even if they are not as pretty as a shiny tube amp.

Jazz Casual's picture

Well the comments were mischievous actually, and effective judging by the outcries. Surprisingly thin-skinned for Head-Case members. ;) And thanks for the life-advice, but I tend to keep my friends and headphone obsession separate. I don't expect them to understand it, let alone show an interest in it. Headphone listening is by its very nature a solitary pursuit, making this an unlikely hobby to build a community around. I guess that's why even the smallest meet is regarded as an event of sorts. It's somewhat of a logistical exercise, requiring enthusiasts to dust-off, unplug and lug their gear around (that was never designed for that purpose) to "share" with other enthusiasts. It's hardly something you can do at a moment's notice - unlike popping around to a friend's place or inviting them over to yours, to enjoy listening to music together through a great sounding system.        

Sherwood's picture

The famous"LOL. JK" defense!  Devastating when used effectively, as here.

Friends, we had best back away lest we be accused of being butthurt, or asked if we're mad, bro.

If you can figure out a way to unplug and package your headphone gear, feel free to bring it to m place.  It will be a stretch for those of you who own gear designed for mobile recording (like headphones, for example) but if you can bear the logistical exercise of it all, you're welcome to come by.

You too, JazzCas, you seem a little too serious ;) 

Jazz Casual's picture

Now that's what I call lame. And just because you can move something, doesn't make it portable. Just take a look at the above photos. You guys really travel light! ;) If you believe that it takes no time and effort to unplug your Eddie Current BA or your Blue Hawaii, along with your Zodiac DAC or Audio-gd behemoth, and then find something to protect them from being damaged on your way to temporarily setting them up some place else, then go knock yourself out. Personally, I'd rather grab a handful of CDs on my way out the door. A pair of earphones plugged into an iPhone is portable; so too a Porta Pro, but I very much doubt that the SOTA SR-009 and deluxe W3000ANV with its Echizen lacquered cups were designed with portability in mind. Fortunately, they do come in big boxes that you would probably consider ideal for portable use. ;) 

rickymic's picture

I will try to use a similar guide, I know that it is not simple, but I will do it anyway, I will be back with yacht reviews for sure!

donunus's picture

It doesn't matter whether people are TV stars or not, insulting them by saying they are not photogenic is still an insult. You speak as if you know everyone on the pic and know what things people are sensitive to and what things are okay to say. If I said you were a person with an IQ level of 20 in public, would you appreciate that? It's just the same thing really.

Jazz Casual's picture

Sigh. Where's Don Rickles when you need him?  

Captfantastic's picture

Thanks for this great article. The pictures help show the joy of a meet. I'll be sharing with several friends.

I consider reading Innerfidelity as a "stop and smell the roses" moment in my life. We all need more of these moments! I'm writing this as I listen to Linn Jazz, ahhhh.

Someone give Tyll a raise!

Mark.Thompson's picture

Wow, I love this guide! I write headphones reviews, but I'd love to be more part of the community.

Mark Thompson
http://www.headphonesunboxed.com/

Palinowe's picture

I am pretty sure that there are much more headphone hobbyists than one would normally expect. I never thought of it as of a hobby actually, but given a second thought - yes it is. Lots of people love their headphones - they can even have different headphones for different activities (like me). I especially loved the DIY part, never made the DIY headphones, should think about that some more... maybe some RaspberryPi hybrid would be cool...

br,
http://www.runnerwave.com

johny's picture

its very good to see these kind of headphone, actually i was looking for headphone since so many days. Actually some budget and stylish headphone.
http://thetechocean.com/

ctaylor's picture

That's a very good guide for those looking to buy some good quality headphones. I've found that Innerfidelity is actually one place that provides awesome and unbiased reviews.Nice to see that there are a ton of other people in the headphone community aswell.

I also write some reviews but would definitely love to be more involved within the community.
http://www.scanzoom.com/

Ideal Consult's picture

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coms001's picture

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coms001's picture

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