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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Aug 07, 2012 22 comments
HeadRoom recently opened a retail storefront area in their Bozeman, Montana headquarters. It's not really an optimal city for drumming up a booming business selling headphones. I think they did it mostly because they want to figure exactly how to do a good job of selling headphones in a brick and mortar shop. You know, the physical layout, how to make displays people can easily use to demo headphones, what headphones sell well in that way, what sales people may need to know that's different from the phone and web sales they already know how to do quite well. I'm excited to see them exploring this direction ... but I've also heard of a couple of U.S. brick and mortar headphone stores that didn't work out.

Another Montana company (Vanns) recently opened a brick and mortar electronics store called "The ON Store", which is roughly modeled on Apple stores and sells headphones and personal audio stuff, as well as various other computers and electronics. Their idea is to go into the mid-size markets where Apple doesn't have a brick and mortar presence. Their first store is in the Missoula mall, and by the look of it, it seems like it might work. We all know Apple stores are doing fine, but they're another thing all together.

I'm pretty sure the InMotion personal gadget store in airports are doing quite well. I talked to the sales people at a few of these on my recent trip to New York and they all claimed to sell $300 headphones (Beats Studio) quite regularly. But an airport is a captive audience, and the imperative to buy a pair of headphones after sitting next to a screaming baby on the last flight may be higher than normal.

The question, it seems to me, is do people think they have a problem buying headphones on-line that can be solved by going to a store at which they can hear the headphones? Will people easily understand why they want and need a headphone store? If a headphone store is to be successful, people have to "get it" easily.

There are other questions as well: Will they listen in the store, and then go shop on-line for the cheapest price? Is the category "Headphone Store" too narrow? Besides headphones and headphone amps, what other products should be carried in such a store? I'm curious about your thoughts on these thing as well as the poll results, feel free to vote and comment!

Will brick and mortar headphone stores work in the U.S.?
John Grandberg Posted: Aug 06, 2012 12 comments

The Cube from NuForce: a diminutive metallic device measuring less than 2.5 inches in each dimension, packed full of features including a speaker, a DAC, and a headphone amplifier.

There's no way this thing actually sounds decent ... is there?

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Aug 03, 2012 11 comments

August is here. This is when it usually starts to get hot in Montana, but this year we've been running 80s and 90s for more than a month now. Got some hot headphones in this last month as well.

And a few cold ones.

Tyll Hertsens Posted: Aug 01, 2012 36 comments

So, a couple of guys get together, have a close look at planar magnetic headphone drivers, and come to the conclusion that they could build something much better than the vintage drivers available. It turns out good ... so good they reckon they should move forward to build world class headphones. Yeah ... right.

Yeah right, is right!

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jul 28, 2012 13 comments
I've begun to think that the forward speed of technology is dramatically hindered by the battles over and the dancing around intellectual property rights. Samsung sneaked through the loophole by "not being cool enough", not that Samsung did it on purpose, but it kinda sucks that a design goal would have to be "be uncool" in order to not infringe on IP rights.

Microsoft is currently trying to beat up Motorola over use of the FAT file system in some current Droids, and just won a case in Germany forcing Motorola to remove product from shelves.

InnerFidelity runs on the Drupal open source content management system, which is configured to run on MySQL database management, Apache web server, and Linux OS, all free open source software solutions. Rockbox is a great little open source portable media player software. NwAvGuy's very competent O2 headphone amp design is offered under a Creative Commons open source-like license.

It's not that I have any anarchist or socialist motives here (though I do lean a little to the left), it just seems to me that big corporate developments may end up so hogtied with IP problems that open source projects may have a chance of catching up and exceeding the performance and adoption of corporate offerings. The price sure is right.

In addition to RockBox, I've used VortexBox as a home media server, it's not open source, per se, but it runs on Linux, which is part of the VortexBox distribution. My daughter's desktop is an Ubuntu Linux distribution, and she runs the Open Office software for her school work. Total software cost for her machine: $0.

So...will an open source model ever pass by the corporate model in number of installations? I'd love to hear about any open source audio stuff you use and your thoughts on the concept in general in the comments.

Will the open source model eventually beat the corporate model in some product categories?
ljokerl Posted: Jul 26, 2012 22 comments

If there is any one product to be credited with catalyzing my love of in-ear earphones, the HiFiMan RE0 is it. Over the years Dr. Fang Bian & co expanded the lineup to much more than just earphones, but the latest-gen RE-262 and RE-272 in-ears, like their progenitor, are audiophile fantasy through and through.

John Grandberg Posted: Jul 19, 2012 28 comments

Leckerton Audio offers a revised version of an old favorite. It's a portable amp with a built in DAC - featuring USB, coaxial, and toslink inputs. Plus it's fairly compact. And it's reasonably priced.

What's not to like?

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jul 17, 2012 28 comments

Woot! Making some serious progress on amp measurements. Many steps to go, of course, but the first major hurdle is to make measurements of NwAvGuy's O2 headphone amp and compare my measurements with his.

Looks like we're clearing this one!

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jul 14, 2012 22 comments
Historically, on single-sided headphones, the cord comes out of the left earpiece. I've always assumed it is so that right-handed people are less likely to get tangled up in the cable as they write. Well, the folks at NOCS have released a new on-ear headphone (NS700 Phaser) with the cable coming out of the right earpiece. I've heard through the grapevine that they claim it's because right-handed people can more easily get to the remote controls that way.

Part of me wants to tell NOCS to sit down in the boat and put the cable on the left where it belongs. Part of me thinks their reasoning is sound. Part of me thinks it just doesn't matter. But the biggest part of me just doesn't know what to think. What do you think?

Oh, and being left-handed I feel kinda jilted.

Should single-side headphone cables come out of the left or right earpiece?
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 12, 2012 25 comments
Sound quality is a big deal to me, and I've devoted a huge chunk of my life to the pursuit of great audio. My hi-fi costs as much as a nice car, but I'm no gear snob, and I love writing about great sounding budget gear. I've discovered a lot of new music over my Sirius Satellite Radio, music that would sound like crap over my hi-fi. That's why I play the tuner through my Tivoli PAL table radio. That little radio smoothes over the rough edges of Sirius' lousy, low bit rate sound. So even for a hard-core audiophile, lo-fi is sometimes the right fi. The best playback device isn't always the most accurate playback device, not by a long shot. What follows is a meditation on good sound, and why it's such a rare commodity.

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