About InnerFidelity Page 3

About InnerFidelity
Stereophile has a limited number of pages available each month, and many aspects of audio enthusiasm simply can't be covered in appropriate depth there. InnerFidelity, AudioStream, and a soon to be announced analog audio site act to broaden and deepen the reach of Home Tech Network brands.

InnerFidelity exists to report about the world of personal audio. Headphones are the premier focal point, but products like: portable audio players; headphone amps; small desktop speakers; smartphone apps and streaming services; clock radios; and boomboxes will also be covered. Basically, if it's not in a high end listening room, home theater room, or related to a home media server, it may be covered by InnerFidelity.

This is a lot of ground to cover, and I've been helped by a small but growing cadre of contributors in these efforts. CNET's Audiophiliac Steve Guttenberg jumped on the band wagon early on to lend a hand. He's been a great help not only in providing product coverage and think-pieces, but also to me personally as I struggle to become a worthy audio journalist. John Grandberg, a long time Head-Fi member and avid reviewer there, has stepped to the plate with numerous and detailed articles on portable player devices and small desktop speakers. Other knowledgable headphone aficionados have brought their considerable expertise to the fore with a variety of articles including: Ryan Clarin; Nate Maher; Macedonian Hero; NwAvGUY (NwAvGUY blog); Tai Ming Sow (his In Ear Matters blog); and Kojaku. I look forward very much to their future writings, and hope others with significant expertise will come forward to offer their wisdom.

This focus on personal audio means InnerFidelity has a somewhat different value system than strictly audiophile publications. Personal style, convenience, and comfort will play a bigger roll in product evaluation here. Audio fidelity remains front and center, however, and though many personal audio product will fall short of audiophile reference quality, there is simply no reason any personal audio product should fail to sound good enough to please avid listeners.

While product reviews will be the main fare here at InnerFidelity, I also intend to provide a full banquet of content for a broad range of personal audio enthusiasts' interests. DIY activity is strong in the headphone community, and many aspects of self-made gear will be covered. There are many contentious topics among the headphone faithful, and I will try to bring light and understanding to those topics. I look forward to the heated dialog with relish.

One particular area of coverage that I'm finding more and more attractive as time goes on is trade shows and large meets. I very much look forward to being the eyes and ears for those who can't make it to CES, RMAF, and all the very cool gatherings at which new and interesting persons and products appear.

InnerFidelity also has the backing of management to organize an event of its own. This is a mighty undertaking, and may take a while to build, but, dag nub it, I'm going to go for it! When I do, I'll need a fair bit of help from the community of enthusiasts because I plan for this event to be as hobbyist-centric as possible. I WILL NOT JUST PRODUCE ANOTHER TRADE SHOW!!! I promise DIY rigs, soldering irons, swag, and beer.

Last but not least, InnerFidelity is about you experiencing your music and gear personally. This site is about personal audio, so your personal experience counts! Please, feel free to comment on articles and in the forums about your personal audio experience. It matters to you, so it matters to InnerFidelity and its readers.

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to serve the headphone and personal audio community. I am humbled by the opportunity to spread the gospel of good listening to the broader consumer market. My greatest hope is a world where people can go anywhere and everywhere while experiencing the joys of listening to their music. A musical movable feast is at hand. Art in your pocket brings InnerFidelity.

Happy listening!


Bubba Blackjack's picture

A+++ would read again.

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ultrabike's picture

Great article.

"Headphones are the premier focal point, but products like: portable audio players; headphone amps; small desktop speakers; smartphone apps and streaming services; clock radios; and boomboxes will also be covered."

Clock radios are very interesting indeed. I wouldn't mind hearing about those and how they stack up against monitors sound quality wise. Probably not that great, but other considerations aside, the future may surprise us (Squeezebox). And along with it, its ramifications to other audio products.

Personally, I have found that the funny thing about doing what you like professionally is that you still have to deal with deadlines. Some are reasonable, some may not be. As boss, I heard layoff times can be brutal. As for myself, I love what I do for a living (I think it is uber-cool). But above all, I love my family.

Another funny thing is that one of my ex-bosses is a very able modem designer himself. Ridiculous amounts of patents and papers. Some really interesting discoveries and achievements. Yet, when he started on engineering, he did so because he wanted to design audio stuff... amplifiers, pre-amps, tuners... Something changed and he went to communications. Still, he got himself some pretty high end audio rigs (and expensive). He now loves his Apple ipod and ear-buds, while his uber-high-end audio rig gets no love... Point is, life takes really strange turns.

jediz's picture

Great history!
From a half of the year InnerFidelity, became website which I must visit each day, is there something new and may be it worth buy)
All started from the time when I looking for headphones, and thanks God i found this website. Tyll Hertsens recommends Beyerdynamic DT1350, and I decide - now it is time to buy this one. I never had such great headphones before, Thanks!. When my friends asked me - where did you bought such great stuff? I'm pleased to forward them to InnerFidelity website to find out what is actually needed.

donunus's picture

Very Nice! Love what you do and wish for more cool stuff being reviewed and cool articles in the future.

i2ehan's picture

Dear Tyll,

I absolutely love this website, and your enthusiasm shows in your honest and insightful postings. I've learned quite a lot since I first discovered InnerFidelity, and I look forward to your continued efforts. Now, can I get a virtual high five please? (:

Merck's picture

I too am a huge fan of this site. I visit it several times per week looking forward to the next article whether its a review of an interesting new product I can't afford or simply an informative piece on the history of an enthusiast website I enjoy. Tyll, your passion for the subjective and scientific facets of this hobby are obvious and it is an attractive quality that I think will provide you with many loyal readers. Keep up the great work and thanks!!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'm such a dumbass. I was riding my motorcycle down to play pool after posting this missive, and I realised I didn't have a section on the contributing writers here. I will correct this forthwith. They've been an enormous help, covering products and adding to the flavor here. My apologies to them.
4nradio's picture

...background you have, Tyll. From dangling your feet over an orchestra pit, to headphones dangling around your neck, and now plugged into a leading personal audio website!

A lot of authors would steer away from a detailed personal retrospective, but I appreciate knowing about your background. It says a lot about your publisher too, that he gives you the freedom to elaborate as you see fit.

I'm intrigued by your mention of a possible event ... "not just another trade show", and DIY oriented too. Sounds like a mashup of RMAF and Maker Faire! Consider holding it somewhere in your own Big Sky State. There are awesome resorts and lodges in Montana that would make a unique destination, not just another cookie-cutter urban destination.

Jazz Casual's picture

My parents were circus performers. My mother was the bearded lady and my father was the world's strongest man, but he wasn't really. I wish I could say the same about my mother. I ran away from there to join the civil service, where I have lead a life of quiet desperation 'til this day (it's my rostered day off). Thank you for allowing me to briefly alleviate the interminable tedium by posting here. Others haven't been so tolerant. ; ) I wish you and your site continuing success.

ultrabike's picture

"I wish you and your site continuing success." Me too.

HammerSandwich's picture

Tyll, your work history + love of DIY makes me wonder if you've seen the DIY electron microscope (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VdjYVF4a6iU).

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Well aware of it: my article.
sankar's picture

Tyll, Looking forward the Innerfidelity Tradeshow.

Frank I's picture

Tyll I really enjoyed the read and it was nice learning of your background because all I was really familiar with was the headroom stuff. Thanks for all you do.

gkanai's picture

Tyll, thanks for the great explanation.

Please try to schedule a visit out to Tokyo for one of the future Fujiya AVIC headphone festivals (twice a year.) We'd love to have you join us and I guarantee that you'll be impressed.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
It's definitely on my to-do list, just going to take a bit of time and budget shenanigans to make it happen, but it will!
HammerSandwich's picture

The really sad bit is that I probably first saw that here...

Lunatique's picture

Ever since InnerFidelity went live, I've been sending people here to learn about headphones and to get all the misinformation that's been coloring their judgment sorted out by the headphone guru himself--as seen here at gearslutz's big thread about headphones for audio professionals: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/7857167-post927.html

There are three areas I'd love to see you guys cover, that I don't see anyone else covering, and they are:

-Using surgical parametric equalization to make headphones more neutral/accurate--as seen discussed here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/551426/my-eq-curves-for-lcd-2-hd650-m50-and-007mk2

and here:

Or using speaker/room correction systems for those who can't use acoustic treatments in their listening space--as discussed here: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/469107-ik-mul...

-Using audio plugins like Redline Monitor to simulate crossfeed on headphones, or using TB Isone to simulate HRTF effects, and to create the illusion of speakers playing in front of you, in an acoustic space--as discussed here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/473885/isone-pro-the-best-thing-you-could-ever-...

Or using Focusrite's VRM Box to emulate industry standard monitoring speakers in different types of studio environments while using headphones:

-Using hardware units like the Victor/JVC SU-DH1 or the Smyth Research Realiser to simulate surround sound on headphones.

While these topics are discussed in forums, I think if an authoritative figure like Tyll covers them, he'll be able to bring his expertise into the discussion and enlighten the community on these subjects.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Thanks, those are some very good ideas. I'll see what I can do.
zobel's picture

Good article! Nice to have personal info about you, and dag nab it, it would be wonderful to have you head-up a show here in Montana!

Marcello's picture

It's always nice to see people who can combine hobby and profession.
I did not see anything in your biography that would explain the shirts, but maybe you can address this another time ;)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
It's very simple really: I'm a slob. Early on I figured if I could make a schtick out of wearing Hawaiian shirts, I'd never have to wear a suit again! :)
Timmy's picture

I've been following this site for a while now and seeing how it's one of the currently only 4 sites on the Internet providing actual headphone measurements, instead of just random babble, what you are doing here indeed is of immense value. Thank you for that!

But it's important to take a step back and have a look at the bigger picture too. I was wondering for a long time why this site is not part of Stereophile and this article finally tipped me off to what might be going on - Stereophile is for the most part irrelevant to the newer generation, and thus slowly but steadily dying off.

My guess is you are familiar with that overly long article, by some guy named Salvatore, which has some less than flattering things to say about Stereophile. In the hopes of this comment not being deleted I'm omitting the link - but anyone who has done a fair bit of research on audio gear online probably is already familiar with it, and has also an opinion about it. Salvatore's estimation was that Stereophile had lost its credibility due to the RCL-bubble-up and that ultimately there was little chance for ever restoring it. The only hope would be to at least retain the current readership.

And I'm beginning to think he may have been spot-on with that assessment, and thus his other claims too. You said Stereophile has a limited number of pages – but seriously, what's stopping them from just expanding the online version? What reason could there be to justify the tedious (and costly) creation of a new brand if there already was an older well respected one that just needed some slight modernization? As you said, it's not just Innerfidelity that Source Interlink Media is launching or maintaining for audio enthusiasts. It's not like your job would be any different (the only actual difference would be that your articles would be on stereophile.com instead of innerfidelity.com).

But my guess is that as new and younger potential customers, capable of harnessing the possibilities of the internet and search engines, and raised with an education to trust numbers and distrust salespeople, enter this market, it might be advantageous for a publisher to start off again with a clean slate – hence the new name.

Of course none of this is your fault Tyll. And there is of course nothing wrong in realizing one's mistakes and trying to correct them – although there are arguably more decent ways then just sweeping them under the rug. But please try to keep the history in mind and don't repeat it. Seeing how with headphones, unlike with electronics, there indeed is some room for speculation, since science does not have all the answers about our auditory system yet, it is imperative that you not abuse this situation and separate fact from fiction here, if you want to preserve your credibility. Because, as an example, how are your readers supposed to trust your claims about the overshoot on those 300/500Hz square wave charts being important (which indeed might be the truth) when just a few articles back you (quite obviously) lied about aftermarket cables for the HD800 sounding better?

Rest assured, science will eventually catch up one way or another, as it did with Stereophile too - and the question is whether people will then still ask for your opinion because of your expertise, or whether, much like the church after printing took off, you'll be exposed as a charlatan. I think you are smart enough to see how we would both benefit from the first alternative here.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
First, if I'm not deleting 13mh13 insane posts, why would I delete yours for posting a link? Here's the article you mentioned. This single biggest load of horseshit statistical analysis I've ever tried to read. I tried, really I did, but I could only make it half way through before the taste of bile was too much to take. So much about the reality of performing reviews professionally is left out. The simple practicality of moving shit around a Recommended Components List is completely missing from the argument. I don't really know what to say other than, "Haters Gonna Hate."

Your question: "What reason could there be to justify the tedious (and costly) creation of a new brand if there already was an older well respected one that just needed some slight modernization? " is a good one though. It has everything to do with branding. Because Stereophile's website is an extension of their paper publication, headphone enthusiasm can't be properly covered on their website. The category deserves a brand, the only way to do that is to create another brand. It's pretty much that simple.

This quote: " Because, as an example, how are your readers supposed to trust your claims about the overshoot on those 300/500Hz square wave charts being important (which indeed might be the truth) when just a few articles back you (quite obviously) lied about aftermarket cables for the HD800 sounding better?" is pretty disingenuous. Those are my opinions. You have yours, I have mine. Just because they may be contrary doesn't mean one of us is a liar.

Oh and, " the question is whether people will then still ask for your opinion because of your expertise, or whether, much like the church after printing took off, you'll be exposed as a charlatan." Um ... don't really know how to respond to that one. Let's go with: A change of panties; douching one's sandy mangina; and a nice motorcycle ride will often improve ones outlook on life.

(See, I'm not an Englishman in NY, I'm a motorcycle rider used to sitting around campfires drinking beer. So you probably out-class me, but I don't give a shit.)

Yeah, haters gonna hate. Have fun with that.

Respond if you'd like, but your bait is far too stinky to attract me again.

John Atkinson's picture
My guess is you are familiar with that overly long article, by some guy named Salvatore, which has some less than flattering things to say about Stereophile. . . Salvatore's estimation was that Stereophile had lost its credibility due to the RCL-bubble-up and that ultimately there was little chance for ever restoring it.
Arthur Salvatore's case against Stereophile is based a fallacious assumption: that Stereophile's choice of what products to review is based on a Normal distribution of performance; ie, they cover the range from dreadful to superb. If that were the case, then yes, it looks suspicious when so many end up being recommended. However, as has been explained in Stereophile on a number of occasions, our choice does not follow a Normal distribution. We aggressively try to choose products for review based on the likelihood that they will perform well, based on our experience at Shows, in retailers' showrooms, etc. A review represents a major investment of our resources and I don't want to devote that investment to an undeserving product. Thus, if our sonic "triage" was 100% efficient, _every_ product we review would end up in "Recommended Components," not just most of them!
And I'm beginning to think he may have been spot-on with that assessment, and thus his other claims too.
Salvatore's case against Stereophile is a castle built on sand, a logical fallacy. And statistical analysis shows that there is zero correlation between what Stereophile chooses to review, the outcome of its reviews, what products it recommends, even what products are featured on its cover, and advertising. There are as many products from non-advertisers in "Recommended Components" as there are from advertisers. End of story, as far as Mr. Salvatore is concerned.
The only hope would be to at least retain the current readership.
The print edition of Stereophile has a circulation more than The Absolute Sound, HiFi+, Hi-Fi News, Hi-Fi Choice, and Hi-Fi World combined. So plenty of hope!
You said Stereophile has a limited number of pages – but seriously, what's stopping them from just expanding the online version?
We have done so - there are show reports, news, blogs, forums, galleries, unique features, expanded measurements sections compared to the print magazine etc. But 2 years ago we deiced that rather than expand the on-line Stsreophile further, we would devote resources to creating new, related Web ventures, the first of which was InnerFidelity.com. AudioStream.com came next, and later this month we are launching AnalogPlanet.com, edited by Michael Fremer. John Atkinson Editor, Stereophile
Tyll Hertsens's picture
Thanks, John.

Very kind of you to step in, I wouldn't want to put words in your mouth.

Timmy's picture

I'm not sure about out-classing you and that's not what I was heading for. You are of course entitled to your opinion, which is probably a lot more valuable than mine - seeing as how you're the expert here and I'm not. But what I am certain of is that there's a distinct difference between mere judgment-free facts and opinions. There is little point in disagreeing over facts.

Please do tell me, with all of your electronics background, for a length of less than 10 ft. (max. practical headphone-cable length?), how much difference does cable quality make for a signal that only goes up to 20kHz? Would you agree on that being a well-accepted fact that your former colleagues would be willing to back up? (This is of course excluding those severely and obviously botched up cables that you have to look really hard for to even find.) Furthermore, if you indeed heard a difference with the better aftermarket cables, why didn't you bother measuring it? You had every possibility to do so, and I think it would have been the logical thing to do, for someone with an inquisitive mind, as well as the responsible thing to do for someone with as much authority as you have.

You could run all sorts of test-signals through both cables and measure how they differ. You could repeat the HATS-measurements with the aftermarket-cables (you've done it for IEM-tips). You could create audio differencing samples and show the entire world how much difference there actually is. All opinions aside, you had (and still have) every possibility imaginable available to you to conclusively prove to everyone that there indeed is a difference - and that would have then been an irrefutable fact, not just an opinion.

Either way, sorry if my last comment sounded harsh - you are not one of the people I'm mad at. The comment really was intended as more of a plea for you to remain honest and not follow in the footsteps of those other reviewers that abuse their position.

johnjen's picture

In my nearly 50 years of audio involvement there is one thing that has withstood the test of time. One aspect that will ALWAYS get the heart pumping and the nostrils flaring.

Trying to quantify a qualitative experience.

And there are 'of course' the 2 main camps those who 'know' and those who 'imagine'.

This will forever be a contentious division and probably impossible to ever fully reconcile.

Experience being what it is has always been fraught with variability that many seem hard to come to terms with. Which tends to fuel the fires amid calls for proof or empirical evidence or…

I'd suggest that the use of discernment, being a quite useful tool, can help the individual resolve this age old dilemma. It allows each the ability to determine for themselves what is and is not of intrinsic value AND TO DISCARD THE REST. It also tends to promote self growth and learning how to get beyond our self imposed barriers.

Just a thought, or 2


Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think I've missed an opportunity.

This thread is "About InnerFidelity", so I'm gonna try to bring it back on topic:

First, the above exchange should tell you something about me: I'm not a bullshitter. But I'm also not above having fun ... in fact, if you ask the long-time headphone hobbyists who know me, they'll tell you I'm mostly about having fun. I consider it a high calling.

I'm going to find and review as much gear as I possibly can that's fun to listen to and own. For me it is pretty easy to go through a pile of headphones saying, "..this is crap ... this is crap ... this is crap ... this is crap ... Hey! This might be fun for the right people" and that's how I help. The "this is crap" stuff is boring. You can expect me to mostly review recommended components that are a joy to own.

It's also likely I'l review a higher percentage of un-recomended components than Stereophile because they operate in a different market environment than I do. Generally, I reserve bad reviews for products that are broadly miss-represented as good. That happens fairly rampantly at the moment, and I like to try to do something about that. The definition of "broadly miss-represented" means something very different in the headphone market than it does in the specialty high-end market. I would think there are far more people looking for Monster Beats Solo headphones than any single product that Stereophile covers. So Stereophile might not have that same need to proclaim caveat emptors. Another reason for having a different brand.

Second, this whole poopity-poop about measuring and blind testing is a red herring. I'm in total agreement that both will tell you the story up to a point; but neither barely touch the subject of how you experience living with a piece of gear. At some point, that "test the shit out of it" argument is picking nits ignoring the elephant in the room of whether you'll like it or not. The domain of human experience is significantly inaccessible to the purely objective physical domain of measurements.

Will my legacy be that of a charlatan? I can't be a charlatan if I don't claim to know it all. I hate it when someone asks for the best headphone. How the hell should I know!? I can tell you a lot about headphones, what value they have, and who they might be good for, but at some point, my job is done. I can help people with my significant experience, tell people what I might do, but people must choose for themselves. That's why Head-Fi.org meets are so great: an excellent next step after reading about headphones is to try headphones.

InnerFidelity is a good place to narrow down your headphone choices. InnerFidelity can't foretell the headphone that will please you most.

ultrabike's picture

"they'll tell you I'm mostly about having fun. I consider it a high calling."


I do not take what Tyll says as the absolute law. I do not necessarily agree in all of what he says either. Or for that matter what Steve Gutenberg, or John Atkinson says. However, I respect them and their work. And it is good work IMHO: It is FUN to read and excites my curiosity.

In my view, no one is above making mistakes, or changing ones mind. Specially in the subjective world of audio. I have seen different people who highly regard Grados, all of the sudden hate them with a passion, and now are all about Stax. Will they eventually hate Stax and come back to Grados? Maybe. Maybe they will be all about Sennheiser or Orthos. Who knows. Maybe the Beats will make a comeback once they disappear from the shelves, and 10 years from now they'll be $100K (only 15 of them in the world left).

If I wanted highly technical stuff, maybe IEEE Transactions would be a good start. But I want a break.

This place is also VERY tolerant when it comes to voicing an opinion or getting out of topic. Believe me. Specially with strangers. And that has only increased my respect for Tyll that much more.

jvlgato's picture

I really enjoy InnerFidelity for the interesting and honest reviews of equipment that I'm interested in. I, for one, would be less likely to read the site if 50% of the reviews were bad ones. I don't think having a perfect 50% negative review percentage would increase the site's credibility for me. I read it because there are interesting products and honest opinions from knowledgable people. much more often than not, what's stated in the reviews match my experience when I listen myself. For me, that's what earns credibility, not a normal statistical distribution of good, bad, and mediocre reviews. Why would I want to spend my time reading about all the crappy products out there? I'd rather let someone whose ears match mine narrow down the list for me.

And with regards to measurements, I like reading about direct listening experience, AND I like reading about measurements. Then I decide if I want to hear that particular product myself. Having heard t myself, I decide if I like it.

The other thing I do is if I am wondering something about an article, I ask a question about what I'm wondering. For example, if I'm wondering why a measurement wasn't taken on a particular product, I'd say, 'Tyll, curious why you didn't post a measurement of that cable. It would be very informative, and I think it would lend more credibility to your opinion.' Maybe he'll measure it, or maybe he'll explain why he doesn't measure it. Either way, you get more information to decide if there's enough credibility for you.

What I wouldn't do is immediately call that person a liar, then imply that person is heading down the road to being a charlatan. Nor would I then accuse an entire publication of the same. The decreasing sales in High End audio is complex and multifactorial. Many people choose to listen on the road on their iPods using poor quality files and gear. It's just silly to say Stereophile has lost readership because of science and charlatanism. Things change, many people don't like to sit in the basement for hours and listen to music. IMHO, what's happened is the High End has simply shifted to mobile and personal systems. Thus the rise in interest in publications like InnerFidelity.

And the inevitable rise in Haters Who Gonna Hate appearing here more and more. My advice has always been to use places like this as a guide, and listen for yourself. If you don't like what you hear, or don't like what you read, no one is forcing you to spend your money or to hang out here.

I, for one, quite like it here!

johthor's picture

Very nice to have the history you provided. I have been following your blog on this site since you started and will continue to do so. The depth of your knowledge really shows in the many articles and blogs you have produced. Keep up the great work it is much appreciated.

Windsor's picture

Thanks for a great explanatory article, Tyll!

I think Innerfidelity is a great asset to the world of personal audio and one I'm privileged to have access to. Keep up the great work, and please let me know if you're ever in the UK!

With thanks,

XVII's picture

Ling on the first page Source Interlink Media actuarly leads to Home Tech Network page!

And thanks for the article!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

And you're welcome.

arnaud's picture

Already written! How did I miss this fascinating read? While I was suggesting such article would be fun to read in a recent comment, it turns out you had already covered the topic and in a much more fun and informative way I could ever have imagined. May this blog be here for a long time to come and you keep the passion going for many more articles!

As gkanai said, you are indeed most welcome to a future fujiya avic event. Ask Jude, we know how to be hospitable :)