Welcome to InnerFidelity!

One year ago today I officially separated from HeadRoom to start my new career … I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be, at the time, but I knew I wanted to play a bigger roll in the world of headphone enthusiasm. Running a headphone store was fun, but my first priority always had to be the success of the company. Much of my time was spent on the internal workings of the business: upgrading accounting systems; haggling with manufacturers; dealing with personnel issues; and all the stuff a boss does. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m fundamentally a headphone geek and what really interested me was getting a taste of all the cool products appearing, and participating in the success and growth of the hobby … and there just wasn’t time for much of that.

A seed was planted at last year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest when John Atkinson and I had a chat about headphone measurements. I’ve always been a big fan of Stereophile’s commitment to both subjective and objective equipment evaluation, and I thought it would be cool to provide John with the difficult to obtain headphone measurement data for his headphone reviews. We parted with the agreement that something could be done.

Initially, my plan was to start a website of my own that reviewed headphone gear. A lot of what gets written about headphones by the press lacks the focused context of the hard-core headphone enthusiast who really knows the product. Historically, headphones have been put on the hook with other accessories, and reviews were hit-or-miss affairs where the writer really didn’t have the context of all the other headphones out there. Lately, with the skyrocketing increase in popularity of personal audio products, web-based headphone reviews are multiplying like rabbits, but they often remain either re-packaged new product announcements, or rambling posts by enthusiastic, but under informed writers. There are some notable exceptions however: JA, Wes Philips, and the crew at Stereophile have long produced some of the best informed and articulate reviews on headphone gear. Steve Guttenberg the Audiophiliac on C|Net clearly gets it. I wanted to be among these exceptional sources of good information on headphones and personal audio gear, and extend their contributions with my particular brand of good judgement, and a database of objective measurements for all to see.

So, when just before the Consumer Electronics Show this year, John Atkinson contacted me with a short and sweet message:

“Hi Tyll, sorry to have been so long getting back to you after RMAF. Are you still interested in some sort of collaboration with Stereophile, up to and including employment? – John”

My light bulb turned on! I wouldn’t have to do all the IT work on the back end of the site (thank you Jon Iverson); I wouldn’t have to sell the ad space (huge thanks to Keith Pray, Ed Di Bennidetto, and Laura Atkinson); and working for a big company would give me the secure employment and clear head needed to simply focus on the gear and the hobby (thank you Source Interlink Media).

The demo room where I listen and photo gear.

For the past four months I’ve been preparing the place in my home here in Montana to evaluate personal audio gear. I’ve built a lab where I can measure headphones, headphone amplifiers, digital to analog converters, and all manner of personal audio gear. I’ve built a network of Apple, Windows, and Linux boxes running various applications and services that will act as a test bed for all the cool audio apps. And I’ve built a demo room in which I can set-up a variety of listening stations for subjective comparisons, and take pictures of the gear in action.

The lab where I measure headphones and merrily type.

Jon Iverson has also been working on the website tirelessly, and what you see before you is a result of his efforts both technically, as a most proficient Web Monkey, but also as a marvelously creative soul producing the logo and look for the site. Thank you so much, Jon.

Today is the soft launch; the official launch date is slated for May 1. I welcome you to the early beginnings; please excuse the construction zones. Over the next month I will be alternately writing headphone reviews and building the backbone of the site. I’d like to point out a couple of features to keep your eye on:

I have the good fortune to have two stellar headphone vendors nearby:HeadRoom and Todd the Vinyl Junkie. These two companies have been willing to let me borrow demo headphones to measure. This is an important process in sorting through all the cans out there as the measurements give very good first indicators of which headphones are outstanding performers worth further review. Measurements aren’t the whole story, of course, but it does provide the stable foothold of objective data on which to base further investigation. I will be making all headphone measurements as they are taken available on the InnerFidelity Measurement Download page. Here you’ll find many measurements of headphones that have not as yet been reviewed. I encourage you to view and study the performance of headphones in this way. I will also soon be writing articles on how these measurements are taken, and what they mean. Stay tuned!

The headphone hobby has some great forums. If you are interested in the hobby, I hope you’ll visit Head-Fi , which is the largest and most active headphone forum on the web. Here at InnerFidelity, we will also have some forum areas. This will be a great place for folks just looking to buy headphones to come and ask questions. I’ll be hanging out there to help, as will a bunch of my good friends in the hobby. But we will also work on a variety of projects that I think are important for the headphone enthusiast community. We will work on bulking up the headphone measurement database with hard to find and out of production cans of interest; we’ll produce a DIY amp for beginners; and we’ll organize an annual event. I look forward to seeing you there!

The Reviews
I will be telling it like it is. My reviews are not going to be like most you see; I will not be writing thousands of words when hundreds would suffice. There are two types of readers I must satisfy: consumers and enthusiasts. To serve consumers means to have many, many headphones reviewed. Most headphone really don’t need a “story” developed around the review; most headphones simply need a clear, crisp evaluation … and that’s what they’ll get. So expect to see a lot of fairly short and to-the-point reviews; this one for example: the Beyerdynamic DT 235 a very fine, but simple headphone. Even though I didn’t write a whole lot of words about it, I think they’re great headphones.

On the other hand, some headphones come with a huge story. For example, a new generation of planar-magnetic headphones is appearing and the headphones sound incredibly good. I want to spend a good bit of time looking carefully at this technology and the cans that come of it.

My point is that the reviews will be honest and tough … and that may take a bit of getting used to for some.

Well … it’s time for me to get back to work filling all the spaces. I look forward to our on going dialog and hope you’ll introduce yourself and say “Hi” in the comments below. And feel free to post up in the forums if you’ve got questions, suggestions, or comments.

Welcome aboard! Make yourself at home!

Jamey Warren's picture

Awesome Tyll,

Your lab looks fantastic! I'm really looking forward to seeing and reading more from you and happy you've landed what seems like your dream gig.


elrod-tom's picture

Tyll, it sounds like a great gig. I'll look forward to reading what you have to say about things.

pcgo's picture

Congrats, Tyll. It looks like you've got a really great site starting up here! Best of luck and success to ya!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Appreciate the comments! I'm excited ... and busy ... listening and measuring cans. WooT!
Scott Wilkinson's picture

Welcome to the Source Interlink family, Tyll! I look forward to reading about this fast-growing segment of the audio universe. I'm personally interested in noise-cancelling headphones that provide high-quality audio while protecting my hearing from airplane engine noise. Speaking of which, I hope you address the dangers of hearing loss from high levels in headphones and earbuds.

Best of luck!

Scott Wilkinson
Editor, UltimateAVmag.com

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Thanks for the welcome, Scott, it's great to be here.

I sure will do some stuff about noise cancelers, but I'll give you a heads up: the last time I listened to a group of them together about a year ago, I thought the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 bested all comers neatly in both sound quality and isolation. I'll be doing another evaluation soon, this particular field moves fast.

I'm not only going to be talk about hearing loss from high-volume listening (on speakers too ... trade shows are simply dangerous), I'm going to talk about the reduction in the fidelity of your ears at high-volumes. Too loud music just sucks.

shandy's picture

Well done Tyll. I have just joined the forum and am looking forward to where all of this goes!

monetschemist's picture

Sir, you are a brave soul. A new career, doing what you love; a wonderful Hawaiian shirt; and a lab with Linux machines!

What more can a person ask for?

Best wishes and help us would-be Linux laptop headphone junkie audiophiles! Please!!!!

kwkarth's picture

Hey Tyll,
Congratulations on your new endeavor!!!

LFF's picture

Congrats on your new venture Tyll! I'll be following you along the way!

BTW, what dummy head are you using? Is that a head acoustics model?

Currawong's picture

I'm glad you've found a great job for yourself and very much look forward to reading your reviews and articles.

You should try the new TOTL Sony noise cancellers (speaking of) if they are available. They sounded quite good to me when I demoed them recently in-store.

murdock's picture

... to some great headphone content Tyll... Congrats on the new site!

Todd's picture

HI Tyll,

Glad to see your site up and running. I look forward to your reviews, measurements and articles. I know you will do a great job with this!


gallardo's picture

It's great to finally have a specialist around, I'm an big fan of HeadPhones, so, this gonna be a very visited site.
Thanks for thinking on consumers.

Best for you new project a your new job.

schalliol's picture

It's great to see another industry source with quality content. I really like having the HeadRoom crossfeed circuit available because I believe it just plain makes sense for listening optimized for speakers. I would be interested in anything you might want to write about source recording to mixing to headphones vs speakers. While everyone won't want to run the crossfeed, it would be great to have some in depth note on what people should consider.

While I am sure you are reluctant to post some such info since your former company has been the biggest company in the camp of providing this type of adjustment, I think this is a big topic in sound reproduction. Simply, I don't think if reference sound when designed for regular loudspeakers, that one can cut off the bleed from the cross-speaker via headphones and achieve the same quality of sound. It might be a worthy thing to discuss. What's the argument against using it for non-binaural recordings?

Captfantastic's picture

Wow what great potential. Tyll you hit the nail square on the head, there are thousands of us who have your same interests!

We'll be following!


Kool Bubba Ice's picture

Good luck with the site. We need more headphone websites, especially sites like yours that focus on measurements.

jcolombo's picture

Some "soft" launch! You already have better content up here than many other "serious" sites out there in the ether.

Love the videos as well. I normally prefer reading reviews, but your videos are entertaining, and to the point, so they have become a "must watch". I find I actually end up watching the video first and then reading the review. I'm curious to see if you will be continuing the loud shirt theme. Must be nice to think about tropical in a Montana winter.

Looking forward to more excellent content and honest assessments. Certainly the Dr. Dre review sent a clear message.


JIGF's picture

Congratulations on the site Tyll.

I'll be looking forward to your contributions!