Seeding InnerFidelity Growth

The Goal
InnerFidelity (and the Stereophile group of sites: analogplanet.com, audiostream.com, stereophile.com, shutterbug.com, and soundandvision.com) is owned by a very large publisher: The Enthusiast Network (previously Source Interlink Media), who's many titles include: Motor Trend; Hot Rod; Surfer; Snowboarder; Transworld; and GrindTV. The recent rebranding and reorganization of the company, which included the shuttering of the entire Source Interlink Media Distribution group and the consolidation of a number of titles, left some 6,000+ employees without jobs. I have to say, I certainly wouldn't want to be in the shoes of the largest men's enthusiast magazine publisher as the world switches from paper to flying internet bits. Times they are a changing. My condolences to all those who find themselves looking for new jobs.

While switching from the Industrial Age to the Information Age may be painful for a content publisher it's far better to recognize the need to change and get on with it, than stick your head in the sand 'til it's too late and get paved over by the new paradigm. In its newly restructured form The Enthusiast Network is far better positioned and equipped to grow and thrive in the internet content creation business. To quote from the above linked article on the reorganization of TEN titles:

In aggregate, the portfolio changes accelerate the company's move to a Web-Led, Socially Amplified Media Model.

What that means is TEN believes that its web properties will now be the leading edge of brand influence and contact with the public—I assume the paper properties will still continue as demand requires (I reckon lots of folks still enjoy their physical library of Stereophile magazines). The other half of the statement above (Socially Amplified Media Model) means that TEN embraces the idea the significant growth can be achieved by moving readers from Facebook and other social platforms to the TEN websites. As much as my inner-curmudgeon wants to shriek "Get off my lawn!", I know they're right—that stuff does work.

For example, over the past year, my Youtube channel has delivered 5% of all referrals to InnerFidelity, the fifth largest referrer. (The largest referrer was Head-fi.org at 15%. Big thanks to all of you who linked to InnerFidelity's articles from there—I'll keep working on creating content that's worth referring to.) I must admit that I've not been too rigorous about linking to InnerFidelity articles from my Facebook page, but that's changing. I've polished up my InnerFidelity Facebook page and am now posting daily there. (Mostly little news blurbs and links of interest that aren't worth posting on InnerFidelity proper, but also links to new InnerFidelity articles as they appear, and to older ones that deserve continued attention.) If you're interested in hooking up to these feeds, please feel free to subscribe or like InnerFidelity's YouTube and Facebook channels. I'd appreciate it, and I'll try to make the experience there interesting and entertaining.

So, what does this all mean? TEN is a big company poised for growth, now it's time to grow. TEN earns its living with advertiser dollars, and advertiser dollars grow in proportion to page views. The goal at TEN, and therefore at InnerFidelity, is pageview growth. The danger of that edict is that pageviews are pageviews no matter what the content is, and something silly that goes viral (this Surfing post was pointed out to me as something that drew huge pageviews) may get way more clicks than something of quality that only the hard core enthusiast reads.

Here's an example in the headphone realm, click on the dogs picture below to go to a page full of pictures of dogs with headphones on.

140903_Blog_SeedingInnerFidelityGrowth_Photo_DogClickBait

See, you clicked it didn't you? That stuff works. What's really weird about that page is that the dog pics are completely unrelated to the written content and exist basically as click bait for the completely unrelated subject. Doesn't matter, it still works, and at some level you were likely mildly entertained by it. Kinda makes me cringe thinking about that kind of content on InnerFidelity.

But wait...I've done it before too! You've all probably seen this video:

It's not a far cry from the doggie pictures. Not a whole lot of meaning there except that the old Beats Solo sucked, but it's my most popular video by far with nearly 1/4 million views. I knew damned well when I made it that I was pandering to folks basest instincts...'course I also thought it was a message worth spreading, even at the cost of being a bit vulgar.

InnerFidelity must grow...but how?

Gathering Data
I've been working closely with Jon Iverson (Stereophile's long-time Web Monkey and DAC reviewer) on the question of how to grow InnerFidelity. I need to preface my comments here by saying that I relish the thought of working with Jon on this issue. He "gets it" in the deepest and most sincere way. He understands high-end audio and its readers. And most importantly, he understands the difference between "selling out" to the demand for clicks and earning them with informative and entertaining content. I couldn't be happier to have him in the trenches with me as we plan for InnerFidelity's growth. Rather than a knee-jerk jump onto a click-bait bandwagon, we determined that our most important first step would be to have a good, hard look at InnerFidelity's past metrics and search for the things that worked, or didn't work, to try to determine where to stomp on the gas and where to cut our losses.

For the past week I've been gathering and accumulating data on the various InnerFidelity contributing writers and content types, and then reducing them for trend analysis. It was a fascinating—though very time consuming—experience. I won't be delving too deeply here into the numbers as they represent information that may be valuable to competitors, but there are a few things readers should be aware of that came to light that will cause some immediate changes to the face of InnerFidelity.

  • Reviews are the most read content type. (Duh.)
  • Comparative reviews far outpaced reviews of single products. (See "ToTL Madness CIEMs" and this Dinny FitzPatrick review.)
  • Due to the frequency of search terms, reviews of popular headphones outpaced reviews of obscure headphones.
  • Reviews of headphones outpaced reviews of other product types. Headphone amps and desktop speakers did well; Bluetooth speaker reviews did poorly relative to the others.
  • Ultimate Headphone Guide articles on basic headphone information did well in the non-review category, and tended to continue to draw well over time. ("How to Insert IEMs"; "What's a headphone amp? And why do I need one?"; "Hearing Safety")

From where will the growth come?
One other data point is that InnerFidelity is doing very well, but is currently not experiencing strong growth. Our sense is that InnerFidelity has done a good job of penetrating the headphone enthusiast market, and we intend to continue doing the things that satisfy our core readership and have made InnerFidelity successful. But strong growth beyond that already significant success will have to come from a wider audience. It's pretty clear that the broad consuming public have become much more aware of and interested in headphones in the past 5-10 years (thanks largely to Beats and Apple); it's fairly obvious the growth opportunity lies somewhere in that demographic. The trick will be to produce attractive content for the general public without cheapening the InnerFidelity mission and brand promise...which is, from this post:

"To help people better access the art of music by finding and describing the benefits of quality personal audio gear."

Here are two steps we will be taking to achieve that goal. (More will be coming in future.)

More comparative reviews of low-cost personal audio products.
One strong trend we noticed in the data was the excellent performance of comparative reviews. We're going to do more.

InnerFidelity Bluetooth speaker reviews haven't performed particularly well, but I continue to think portable Bluetooth speakers are cool. Obviously they don't fit neatly into any "high-end" category, and I doubt we'll ever see personal audio enthusiasts create the volume of web chatter that they do with headphones, but a lot of people use them to consume their music and they most certainly are in the personal audio category.

We feel that one way forward will be to produce comparative reviews of low-cost personal audio products like Bluetooth speakers, digital audio players, <$100 headphones, USB dongle DACS, and the like. I hope to produce articles with titles like: "Best $100 Bluetooth Speakers" or "Great $200 Digital Audio Players."

In the past, I've slowly gotten a variety of Bluetooth speakers in for audition by searching for good sounding ones. I have received some that were quite popular, but I didn't like the sound, so simply sent them back without review. This is an excruciatingly slow process and leads to long amounts of time between reviews as I uncover good sounding speakers. In future, we will be trying a different approach: We will search out the ten most popular products in a low-cost category; get them all in for a review; and then write them all up in one comparative review. For this type of review my policy of not writing negative opinions will go out the window and we'll call 'em like we see 'em. In this type of review, there will be winners and losers. This format will let us both warn people away from poor products and allow us to applaud the good ones.

The main advantage of this approach is that we'll be reviewing products, both good and bad, that are hot in the popular consciousness, which should net higher pageviews than articles only mentioning one or two products. I will, of course, be on the lookout to include very good performers that might not be popular but warrant praise.

Headphone 101
Our research into InnerFidelity stats uncovered the unexpected fact that basic headphone information got solid and long-lasting pageviews. This content was primarily from our effort to create the Ultimate Headphone Guide, but I decided to post it here for readers on a whim. Well...surprise, surprise...those articles did quite well, and from the looks of it, that performance was from the general public Google searching for terms like "What's a headphone amplifier" and "How to insert IEMs."

Wow! It dawns on me that InnerFidelity is in the perfect position to produce a series of "Headphone 101" articles designed to provide a clear and simple path for curious consumers to learn more about headphone basics and become more sophisticated buyers. I believe this would be a huge service for consumers and is solidly in line with InnerFidelity's mission. I think of it like presenting interested consumers with the opening of the rabbit hole into which they can begin their exploration of headphone enthusiasm.

Expect to start seeing "Headphone 101" articles quite soon.

Ideas?
We're before the beginning here. InnerFidelity will be reaching out more broadly, but we've barley begun to make the first steps. Now is the time I need cool ideas for producing content. For example, one enthusiast who I happened to be chatting with recently said it might be fun to do man on the street interviews with people wearing interesting headphones. Sure, that might be cool. Any other ideas out there? Now is the time to speak up. I definitely want to raise the bar way over the heads of doggies wearing headphones. Please let me know your thoughts on InnerFidelity growth and ideas for relatively easy to produce content that's meaningful in the comments below.

COMMENTS
Dreyka's picture

Valuable reviews are valuable for the following reasons to me. First is to pick out the strengths and weaknesses of a headphone. The second is to put this is in the broader perspective of headphones at a similar price which requires experience with a lot of headphones. The other thing is understanding what the sound preferences of the reviewer are.

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I think valuable resources would be in describing would be in a basic guide for DACs, amplifiers and DAPs.

Explaining damping factor etc.

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Most people are looking for purchase recommendations. They want an experienced reviewer to make a small list (5 or so) headphones at a price point and explain what they do well and don't.

Aspects such as closed, open, bass tilted, treble tilted, large cups, high noise attenuation, whether they fold flat, detachable cable. These are all things that people look at when buying headphones. Check out the purchase advice threads on /r/Headphones and you will see the same questions asked over and over.

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I think there is a great deal of room for budget DAC and amplifiers to be reviewed and accompanied by measurements.

Though this a somewhat sensitive topic when due to the question of whether people are hearing differences or not.

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Most online media is personality driven. Meaning that people watch not just for information but enjoy watching the people who make these videos. You'll also get a lot of recurring visitors if the personality is interesting.

Video based content has a clear advantage over print based content in this respect. Personality just comes across more through video.

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Dreyka's picture

I'd like see a collection of amplifier, DAC and DAP measurements built up.

The obfuscatory fog of subjective impressions needs to be lifted in these areas. Nothing wrong with subjective impressions but these need to be tempered with actual data.

For example, what is the frequency response, output impedance and harmonic distortion at certain frequencies of the Bottlehead Crack. How do the "upgrades" effect these measurements?

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With good personality driven content people will watch videos even if they aren't interested in the product or topics. These type of shows often require at least two people talking to each other.

For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo2_V_-zYzI

Get some guests on and discuss things that are currently happening in the industry. Get experts to come on and explain things.

All of this is done from the perspective of light entertainment and light infotainment. Banter and layman explanations are better than math. The videos are not edited much, the people on the show drift off topic and they usually end up being quite long but this is part of their appeal. People enjoy listening/watching to engaging personalities. The BBC programme QI is a good example of this kind of light infotainment.

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Tyll Hertsens's picture
Yeah, I've been thinking lately that I've got to get back to finish up my headphone amp measurement thing, and then move on to develop DAC and DAP measurements. Can't tell you how time consuming it is for me to set up those tests, however. I'll get there eventually.
Sree's picture

Be an Actor or be a Star; Be a true Artist or Play to the crowd. I am a part time poet and I have often noticed that some of my not-so-good poems get a lot more views and comments where as something that is close to me gets absolutely nothing. That is just how the world is.

I got into Headphones majorly because of Headphone.com and your reviews. The first amp I got was Airhead and at one point I had the Ultra Micro stack powering my Denon-AH-D7000. I respect your viewpoints even though my preferred sound signature is slightly different from yours. I do not usually buy based on your recommendations (Wall of fame) but I really do value what you think about a headphone or an amplifier because of your experience in the field.

If you want viewership, the easiest way to get more traffic is to do what Stereophile / Sound & Vision / Audio Stream do. Include news items, they keep the homepage fresh and bring in regular viewers. The other option is what you mentioned, review popular items. I would take it one more level higher. Have mini reviews in the site. I am pretty sure you get all sorts of gear to review, so why not write a mini-review of the ones you do not like and then do detailed review of the ones you do like. That way people can come here for any product they are looking for. Most of the times I visit sites like this rather than Head-Fi for reviews because it is the voice of one experienced person whose audio preferences I have understood over the years.

Good luck.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Surprisingly, the news posts I do don't draw as many views as I'd hoped, so they may be off the platter until we can justify a writer for a news desk slot. I like your idea of mini-reviews though, I'll think about that one.
Bobs Your Uncle's picture

A number of Dreyka's points are well made & well taken. Some of these are points I'd intended to raise, may modestly expand upon or perhaps simply emphasize & add to.

- I personally really like to understand how things work & why they exist in the forms that do. Consequently I consider a renewed embrace of “Headphones 101” to be a terrific idea. (Or if you're insulating against a “been-there-done-that-elitist-attitude” trumpet it as “a review of fundamentals, & how they have (or have not) been impacted upon by the rapid advance of technology”). For what it's worth, Headphones 101 sounds great to me.

Informational/educational paths might include:
- basic sound wave propagation & the dynamics of attempted sound wave reproduction
- speakers vs. headphones
- IEMs vs. headphones
- IEMs vs. speakers

- Extension of the Headphones 101 re-visitation concept into the realm of Amps, DACs & DAPs is a natural step, as Dreyka points out. Review & analysis of these components presents a tremendous breadth of opportunity for personal audio content creation & development. This is especially true now that various manufacturers of phones, tablets & full system motherboards are treating audio as an opportunity for high quality/high performance differentiation.

Indeed, this component subset may actually demand, a somewhat deeper dive into component platforms, comparative design architectures & the like.

Informational/educational paths might include:
- the fundamentals & pitfalls of amplification
- noteworthy fundamental & performance distinctions between Wolfson, Burr Brown, ESS, ALC, etc.
- discrete components vs. integrated components
- bit depth & sample rates
- so just what is it that constitutes the “Hi-Rez Stuff" anyway?

A hypothetical scenario/question: “I took the dive & purchased what everyone reviews as being a great headphone, but I feel like I should be getting a bigger experience out of it. What's the next step I should take to improve my audio experience? Do I get an Amp or a DAC? Do I need both? Do I need new source audio to draw from? Should new kit be discrete components or can they be combined? How about a DAP that has integrated both an Amp & a DAC into it?”

And one that I'm sure is asked, even by those of us (or at least me) who have been around for awhile: “What does Astell&Kern do in the AK240 to justify the $2,500.00 price tag when PONO is coming out with big promises & a price tag of $400.00. All the “Big Name Musicians” featured in videos on the PONO site say it just flat-out kills & frankly, the $2,100 difference in cost can bankroll one heck of a lot of Hi-Rez music (whatever that turns out to be).”

- AAAAaaaaannnnnnddddd, speaking of PONO, as well as certain well informed musings posted in "It's the Masters, Damit!!!", it occurs to me that the occasion of a renewed focus within TEN might result in a “Seminal Teaching Moment”, even if it were absent the express endorsement and/or the imprimatur of WMG, UMG, Sony, Harman, Apple, etc......

Certain of those a fore mentioned, considerably influential, deeply entrenched, deep pocketed business interests may not exactly rush to the cause with open arms & supportive resources at the ready, sure. But perhaps a strong solitary, unflinching & undaunted beacon of knowledge may be precisely what is needed to cut through the obfuscatory fog of those truths that would otherwise remain unspoken.

I'm not really sure how to make this mission Tyll (should you choose to accept it) appear any more daunting while at the same time appear any more righteous. (Or maybe any more PONO? Neil tells us that pono is Hawaiian for “righteous”, no?)

Wherever this new set of circumstances should happen to lead, I'm sure you'll do a terrific job Tyll. It seems to me that there is nearly as much artistry involved as there is scientific rigor when attempting to divine, quantify & convey the defining characteristics that result from the coexistence of that which is purely objective & that which must inevitably remain subjective. Given the challenges inherent in walking such a line, I have no doubt that you, Tyll, will acquit yourself admirably & with unquestionable integrity.

Dreyka's picture

One of the big red flags in this industry is that no one really says anything negative about anything. Silence is not the antithesis of praise.

I don't trust half the people who make reviews because there is no real way to know how experienced they are and I'm sure we have all had doubt about whether we really heard small differences or not. Negative aspects of headphones are often glossed over as people emphasise the positives and too often nobody talks in respect to price. Is a headphones good for $100 or good for $300.

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We need more objective data for "gaming soundcards" and smartphones. Most people listen to music on their phones and so knowing the maximum output current and voltage, output impedance and distortion measurements is extremely useful.

It would be good to have some kind of system where you could select your smartphone and select a headphone and the system would tell you whether the smartphone is capable of powering them loud enough.

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Calling out the crap when people talk of amplifiers that can remaster music and recover information in lossy formats.

Scrutinizing deceptive marketing is good for the industry and good for page views.

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Focus upon products like the Oculus Rift that could really change home audio. Virtual cinemas, virtual speaker setups and the Oculus Rift is a cheap form of head-tracking that can make virtual speakers sound so much more real.

A greater focus on software enhancement. How to EQ. Great EQ tools like EqualizerAPO. How to parametrically equalize. Rockbox.

DTS Headphone:X sounds really good and yet I can't use it for movies and gaming on Windows.

Comparing different virtual surround sound software for gaming, movies and music. How do they sound different.

These are all really helpful for people who want to get more out of their headphones and change them to their liking.

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The gaming headphone market has been largely ignored by audiophiles even though it is a big market.

Review gaming headsets. They are massively popular and if they are good or crap then point that out. It will generate a ton of page views and a lot of gamers will probably catch on and realise how much better other headphones sound.

Simple stuff such as explaining how to use lavilier mics or mics like the Antlion Modmic will generate interest. Mic quality tests and reviews are another aspect that people are interested in. Many people here are using "audiophile" headphones with clip on mics for gaming.

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Limp's picture

"Calling out the crap when people talk of amplifiers that can remaster music and recover information in lossy formats.

Scrutinizing deceptive marketing is good for the industry and good for page views."

Mythbusting?

My favourite parts of this site is the technical information. Tyll pulling apart something and seeing what's inside, be it planar headphones, measurment techniques or whatever.
It would be really cool to add a mythbusting angle to these sort of articles, and there'd hardly be dearth of audiophile myths to choose from ;). Would probably cause some controversy, but that drives page views too, doesn't it?

Hifihedgehog's picture

The media loves to sometimes cover geeky topics but they only go skin deep and usually butcher it badly. It's all about shock factor, popular trends and big personality. As much as I love my geek, engineer tendencies, I realize that when I am addressing the general public, I need to use simple English and powerful pictures in my material. A sad fact but true.

Most people do not like math, science and all those left-brained mental activities. In fact, they abhor them. Add a burst of creativity with a good dose of flare and pizazz and you've got heads glued to the screen. It doesn't matter the quality of the writing or the actual content being discussed, like Tyll says. We are dealing with the subconscious mind, not academia.

The key here is mostly tied to our personal feelings and experiences, not the abstract facts and figures. However, figure out how to go deep into a subject area like headphones and keep people entertained and you've got it made. Just see what Mythbusters, Bill Nye, The Science Guy, and Top Gear have managed to pull off. They use huge explosions and comedy skits to pull in an audience and once they know they have everyone's attention, they share a simple idea and everyone has magically understood it. Simple psychology does wonders.

Now, I'm not saying to blow up headphones--except maybe for some old Beats that may be still laying around--but to entertain and enlighten. Use those two techniques, entertain and enlighten, and there is your passport to getting a large viewership. (So please remember to tell us when you do plan to blow up some headphones so we can catch it live! haha)

Azteca X's picture

Looking at gaming headphones is a great idea. People spend well over $100 on them regularly - why not see if they actually sound good? Sennheiser makes several.
http://en-us.sennheiser.com/gaming-headsets

Several brands I don't even recognize in the top Amazon sellers:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/videogames/402053011/ref=sr_bs_1

Impulse's picture

Most of Senn's gaming headsets are rebrands and repackaging of some of their other stuff (particularly the HD 595/598), and they're some of the few headsets out there that don't suck but getting a pair of 598s (or Q701, or whatever) + a mic is often far cheaper.

If you think there's a lot of bad headphones out there you should look at headsets, the amount of dreck grows exponentially because there's a lot more companies with no audio experience in field. A few years ago gaming headsets with half a dozen drivers per ear were totally THE thing... Barf.

That's why the prevailing wisdom these days seems to be getting regular pair of cans and something like the Antlion or cheaper clip on mics. I totally agree that roundup reviews of headsets, and/or regular headphones with gaming in mind, and/or separate mics would be very very useful.

It's just one anecdotal point of evidence, but there's hundreds like me on Head Fi... I got into headphones cause of gaming, previous to that my only headphones were Senn CX300 IEM. I now own five pairs of IEM (tho most are budget priced and I only actively use three), two full size open headphones ($200-300), three pairs of on ear portables ($50-200), two pairs of full size sealed cans, and one amp (plus my Xonar STX which is obviously a DAC/amp on a card).

mikeaj's picture

Gaming headsets isn't a category I'd look at for myself, but I'm also curious how some of the popular stuff stacks up.

This stuff sells like hotcakes, the target audience is the type to research products online, and they're also relatively likely to be interested in good headphones as well (down the line or even now). I'm sure a lot of traffic is going to existing reviews of these products that aren't nearly as technical, nuanced, and informative as InnerFidelity's.

I wonder how much coverage should be given to the microphone. I mean, what with gaming, Skype, other VOIP, etc., the usage would be widespread, and everybody buying one of these intends to use the microphone, or else they'd just get headphones with no microphone. I don't necessarily propose you have a microphone measurements page on the level of headphone measurements (though that'd be neat), but at least posting some short clips using the headset's mic may be of interest to viewers.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I wish I could get personally excited about gaming headphone, there sure are a lot of gamers out there. But almost all that I've heard are pretty poor. None the less, I'm sure your right that gaming is a BIG category with LOTS of interest. I'll have to think about how I might incorporate that in InnerFidelity's future...'cuz it really should be there.
iTroll's picture

OMFG ... have I gots idears ...
I hope the Forum in this joint does not turn into one like that other place ... begins with "head" ... has a hyphen and ... uh ... is a DOT.ORG.
That's Mansilla's Mess... full 'o teenagers with rich parents... that love...gear FANBOYISM (aka ... appreciation threads) .... UNBOXINGs ....pffft!!! ... threads that are longer than sh*t 'cause they're posting the day-by-day progress of their just-Amazon'd gears' shipping-tracking status .... too much time on their hand .... MASSIVE BOREDOM ....
... and with all that time you would think you'd get some decent reviews or practical comments.
Yeah, right!! Keep dreamin' ...
So that's my "other idea" .... don't let this joint degenerate into a high-school pep rally.
Y'all 'ave a good day, now, ya hear ;)

hanshopf's picture

Review HE 560 despite your reservations... . ;)

castleofargh's picture

keep having an opinion!I know you dislike bashing products, but we're all fed up with websites saying how everything is full of rainbows and ponies.
I read you because I trust you, and I stopped reading most other guys because they let me down time and time again. in the end it only comes down to trust.
change whatever needs to be changed, but don't lose the human talking to human touch and don't become another salesperson.

else, I believe very basic(even stupid looking) informative posts are the way to get more people to follow. most audiophiles learned the basic of things, but the majority of music listeners know nothing about nothing. some just don't care, but a lot are probably just overwhelmed by how complicated stuff look out to be with all the strange words. even among pretending audiophiles reading and testing a lot, the majority doesn't really understand your measurements and misinterpret big time. I believe some real basic and down to earth posts from time to time could let you get in touch with a wider base and help people hop in the audio curiosity. dumb looking stuff like, do I need and amp with that headphone? when should I be careful with impedance output? why people shouldn't expect an IEM to sound like a fullsize headphone. and some very basic stuff about what a FR graph really measures, so that people can stop concluding that if 2 sources are "flat" but sound different, it's because "there is more to sound than measurement"...

not long ago you talked about being on a mission, I think both that and being a business can work together just fine by reaching out to the army of curious newbies from time to time.

Limp's picture

Many audiophiles (connoisseurs, enthusiasts, whatever) don't know their impedance from their inductance.
It's not strictly vital knowledge, but it sure can be useful to know a some. (But take heed of Pope's words: A little learning…)
Educate us, Tyll!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
You guys are great! Keep 'em coming, I'll be commenting on all these great posts soon! Thanks!
Long time listener's picture

I love the measurement page. It's been tremendously helpful.

But I note that there are seven (7) T-Peos IEMs measured, and not one JBL, for example. Can this be a little more balanced, so we can at least see one or two measurements for some other major brand and get an idea of their house sound? The JBL Synchros 200 performs really well at its price point--better than some high-priced JBLs--and would be a great place to start. There are also very few measurements for hybrid-driver IEMs (Dunu). Measuring the Sony XBA-H3 would give a lot of people a look at why this is such a good sounding IEM. Please consider.

nootje2004's picture

Hifi is always about the equipement never about the human hearing and maybe more. Maybe iT is interesting to make that subject for artikels also ?

Three Toes of Fury's picture

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Tyll...this is one of my very few "visit daily for updates" website/blogs. I love this article which discusses growth, expansion, and continued headphone goodness.
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A few "off the top of my head" thoughts regarding content:
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* Create a dedicated learning tab, "Headphone & Amplifier Education". You've already got alot of good articles on the site (ie: Measurements Explained), pull them all together so people can learn about headphone hardware, differences between types, measurements, etc.
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* Comparison Articles: you already call this out and i know its a bit of a double edge sword as it forces comparison rather than individual analysis, however it is a style that works well. It also opens you to come up with creative or fun comparison challenges...ie: "Comparing the best value (<$30) earbuds found at most electronic stores", or "Best Bang for your Buck Headphone Showdown", or "<$100 Bluetooth Speaker Showdown".
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* Best Bottle of Wine Below $25: in my above comparison suggestions you probably picked up on a common theme: value vs cost. By all means i LOVE and look forward to all reviews on this website, regardless of cost. However when it comes to purchases, not everyone is able to commit to the high end audiophile gear. Its one of the things i love about your approach and wall of fame...you provide a great wide spectrum. So there's not much new to this suggestion...just keep it up and keep helping find those needles in the haystacks where you get more sound than the pricetag would indicate. Its also what brought me to this website in the first place (your Noontech Zoro review).
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* Headphone Deal Finder or Forum: For those of us headphone collectors, croudsourcing deal info would be a big help. Maybe you could setup a spot where folks could post great deals on a daily basis?
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Peace .n. Living in Stereo
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3ToF.

Azteca X's picture

Tyll,

I'm glad that you have survived this reorganization and are actively planning how to make the most of the site.
I second a lot of what Dreyka said.

-Budget/midfi is where the real action is at. There are many established headphones above $500 and while they should continue to be covered, people getting into the hobby are much more likely to get something cheaper. Thus, they will see articles about affordable headphones as more relevant to them, and they will click them.
-Roundups/shootouts will compound the effect. Think styles/applications/uses. Example: "best closed commuter headphone ~$200," approach it from the point of view of someone being able to stash it in their bag, not look like a rube in public, point out it will keep sound in as well so it won't bother your fellow bus-rider/coffee shop worker/library studier. You are good at keeping an eye on the practical already but if you continue and amplify it I think you'll have great success. This doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't judge headphones on their ultimate performance, but you can review with preferences in mind (keep in mind I'm just dumping examples; you wouldn't put this many in a review):
If you want the best sound, don't sweat aesthetics and aren't concerned with folding it down to fit in your bag, get ___.
If you have a big head, try __.
If you want something comfy to wear for 4+ hours/are worried about clamping force, get ___.
If you like warmer laid-back sound, try __, if you like very neutral pro-style sound, try __

-I agree it would be really great to have measurements of more amps, portable players etc.

-While most people who end up at your site are pretty commited, I always think of my girlfriend. Very intelligent woman who knows how to research. Bought a pair of headphones before we met after doing a whole lot of searching. I asked her how she found them and she spoke of wading through a million reviews with people debating burn-in and all sorts of technical stuff and setups that were indecipherable to her. She wanted a pair of headphones that sounded good, looked good/good enough for a fashion conscious professional woman and fit in a bag without trouble, all for a certain price point. The ones she found are actually decent but she has noooo interest in wading back into the waters because of all the technical and mystical mumbo jumbo, weird sausage club message boards and people completely disregarding her intended use, priorities and price point. The fact that so many just say "screw it, cheapest thing at Target it is" is both tragic and a big opportunity.

I really value your work and always point people in the direction of your site or send a link to a specific article. Keep it up and I hope you find this constructive.

Azteca X's picture

Your measurements are a huge strength for the site. I'd make sure to use them and explain in a very plain-English way how they provide objective reinforcement for something about the gear.
"When I first listened to ___ there seemed to be a lack of focus and precision especially in short sounds like drum hits. This can really take the edge and excitement out of dance tunes. When I looked at the measurements, the impulse response and square wave graphs backed up my perception. Here, compare the IR and square wave of this phone to a favorite in the category, the xxx 9000."
I'm sure my headphone tech knowledge is off on that example but you get the idea.

DaveK1977's picture

I couldn't agree more with your suggestions there, and I'll distill my most important suggestions to two things: more shootouts, and more stuff under $150. I have a lot of opportunities to spend $100 or so on a toy, but not a whole lot for more than that. Because of that, I love products that function a class or two above their price, and when they're pointed out in a review, they're likely to be the one that gets a lot of attention from me. I may not buy it, but the $300 worthy product that costs $85 will get a close look from me each time.

Another thing that I would like to see is having the Wall of Fame items revisited at least once yearly per item. Tyll highly recommended the Sennheiser Momentum on-ear when it was reviewed. If you don't mind pink, it's now less than half that price on Amazon. I'm always in favor of a $250 product for $119. If there are dramatic fluctuations in price, obviously that changes the appeal of the item. Revisiting that product for a quick update would be a great way to compare it directly to newer products.

Azteca X's picture

I do think you should have some straight forward shootouts in lower price brackets that leave more of the technical stuff off the page. For example: $50 headphones for the total newbie or one's sibling/significant other. I think you'd get tons of traffic AND provide valuable information. I'd make sure to point out build quality and comfort on these.

Pappabetalar's picture

You asked for some ideas for future articles. What I would have loved when I was looking for my first set was to get a good idea of what all I should get. I.e. lets say a headphone setup for listening on my computer for $300 which would include a DAC and and headphones that work well together. I spent an awful amount of time to figure out what I should buy, and of course I didn't know about innerfidelity back then. But say if if a friend of mine was looking for a basic setup and you had a list of setups for certain price points I could just refer him there. Even better if you could get a store to offer it as a package and get a commision on the sales ;)

So maybe some guides on recommended setups for listening on your computer, or for a dedicated living room system and for portable systems would be nice.

I think this is fairly common in the computer world, where when I buy a custom computer its easy to get recommendations from the store on what parts would fit well together so that you don't just say get the most expensive graphics card while having an underpowered CPU which will bottleneck the entire system.

I absolutely love the comparative reviews. Like when I was looking for noice cancelling head-phones it made my search so much easier when I read your comparison of a few different sets and could easily see where the best ones excel and what I miss out by getting the entry-level model. (I did end up getting the entry level model slightly used for €50 though :D) I really think your comparative reviews and the hall of fame are the main strengths of the site, there are so many other places where I can see a review of an individual product, but knowing how they compare in easy-to-understand terms is very rare.

Azteca X's picture

I know that choosing where to spend your money/what to upgrade can be a chicken or egg argument, but it's a common question. What contributes to the sound more, the headphone or the amp? Or the DAC? While it's not terribly simple, the google searches that led people to this site demonstrate people want someone to give them an answer.

Impulse's picture

I haven't been into the scene very long, two or three years at most, and I probably found Inner Fidelity at random from visiting Head Fi (I now visit both at least every other day), but I think both of your proposed moves make a lot of sense.

Throwing out the policy against negative reviews in a roundup ultimately helps the consumer... Specially in a field like Bluetooth speakers where convenience is obviously given as much of a priority as sound quality. Consumers need to know what to avoid, even when it's on sale etc.

E.g. knowing the Logitech UE Boom sound pretty decent doesn't help when I happen to find a really good sale on the Jawbone Jambox, but if I know the later is pretty poor then I'll just wait out the Logitech or pay it's price. Seems counterintuitive but at the low end people tend to shop a lot more by price first...

That is, I determine I wanna spend no more than $100 or whatever and then I find something that fits... And I imagine that's how low end products are designed anyway, to meet a price point. The guides make a ton of sense too, I learned a lot from old articles and Head Fi but most people aren't gonna bother with that much research...

Having easily referenced guides will certainly raise your new page views, the key is to make them easy to digest and keep them relevant. I think the Wall of Fame ties into that theme too and I love that you keep it current, tho certain parts could use more frequent updates and more price options.

Impulse's picture

Now for some suggestions... My first one would be to fill some holes in the WoF, for instance, the full size open headphone category could use some lower priced alternatives (that's the one hole I remember off the top of my head, tho there are a couple others, the Pistons might've plugged one on IEM).

The Fidelio X1's street price is more like $260 (should probably address that too), but the wall could still include some $75-200 recommendations. That actually brings me to my second suggestion... If you're gonna do more reviews about Bluetooth speakers and other stuff that isn't super high fi you might consider a few product categories that are woefully undeserved by the little media coverage (and crap reviews) they they currently enjoy.

One such category is gaming, I actually got into the whole scene because of videogames. I wanted better headphones for gaming and one or two people suggested getting decent headphones and pairing them with a separate mic rather than buying a terrible headset from a computer peripheral company with no experience in headphones. This was years ago, and that is now the prevailing wisdom in a lot of forums/communities but I'd be willing to bet most headphone gamers still use pretty awful headsets.

Mad Lust Envy (just Google him, huge thread on Head Fi) has actually done a magnificent job of serving some headphone reviews and comparisons with gaming in mind, specially given his limited resources, but he's had to pare it back recently. The thing about gaming is you can make one or two tangential comments in any regular headphone review and it'll instantly make it more valuable to a gamer.

Typically with gaming you care about two things, which are sometimes at odds, soundstage and fun factor. The latter is covered when you describe the character of a can throughout a regular review but the former is not always touched on heavily, tho I know it's one of the more ethereal and harder to pin down qualities in a headphone. (let alone test for)

If you really wanted to have some in depth coverage on this you could test some of the popular virtual surround schemes used for gaming (Dolby Headphone, CMSS-3D, Creative/THX's new thing) and/or work out how well they work with certain headphones. No enthusiast would use these for music playback but they really do work a treat with gaming. Shoot you could grab MLE or one of the guys in that thread for a guest article or guide...

Impulse's picture

Oh yeah, if nothing else, I'd love to see a note about which headphones with removable cables can be used with something like the V-Moda Boom Pro... It's one of the more elegant and affordable discrete mic solutions for gaming but the cable doesn't always fit (despite the small housing).

I actually just bought one to compare with my original Antlion Modmic and my new v4, even tho I don't have a pair of headphones that I'd use it on (besides my M-80 but I don't game with those)... I'll probably have a pair it goes with eventually and I don't think anyone's compared the two (Antlion & V-Moda) so I figured I would...

Impulse's picture

Wow my whole thing on gaming got longer than I intended to, but that market is really REALLY underserved IMO. I post across several PC/gaming message boards and I'm always referencing people to MLE's guide and other far more obscure threads instead of any easily digested article/site.

Anyway, other personal audio categories that don't get the coverage or quality of reviews they deserve include DAP (which I think you mentioned) but also more basic stuff like Bluetooth receivers. BT has gotten better, and ultimately quality depends on two things primarily: bitrate used or transmitted by the source (phone/DAP) and DAC/amplification.

This is why I still write off wireless BT headphones, it's very easy to pair ANY headphone with a slick little BT receiver and it's probably easier to fit a battery and low end amp in one too. Technically you still have a wire, tho it can be a short one (many of those devices clip seamlessly to clothing).

Thing is, it's next to impossible to find any sort of credible review about sound quality on them... The only such review I've seen was by ClieOS on HeadFi, about a recent Sony model (update of the Sony MW600 I own and very much enjoy). A roundup review of popular models from Jabra, Sony, LG, Samsung, etc would be great.

Nice thing about those things is they're convenient on the go (some will even display incoming calls/texts on their tiny displays) but when I get home I can just plug the same regular headphones into my desk amp etc. Or if something new like Apt-x comes out I just swap the little $30-75 receiver.

Subjective and objective testing of smartphone audio is something that gets far too little coverage too and it can vary greatly from model to model (another reason i like BT receivers, as it mostly takes the phone out of the equation). Anandtech has tried to get some decent measurements out of phones but audio isn't their core... Still they've done far more than anyone that I've seen.

I realize that's something that's really hard to do from a logistics standpoint, even Anandtech which already receives tons of phones for review can't really test this in time to be relevant launch or for the main review... So I'm not suggesting you go out and source half a dozen phones for a comparison.

Perhaps tho, during a roundup of budget DAPs you could include the Galaxy phone you already own as a reference, and/or source an extra example... An OEM that's making claims about superior headphone stage and amplification (like HTC) would probably play ball.

tony's picture

We're in the 21st Century now , for sure , no looking back and our Tyll fits nicely in the Mix of Editors , sort of our Elder Statesman like HP was back in the day of Absolute Sound . If I had a vote in this matter I would be supportive .

Nice to know that Iverson is the DAC man , another good choice .

You have the basis of a good team , tons of credibility ,
dripping with experience , manufacturer and consume trust , internet polite writing and a Global readership reach .

Oh my , we did once have Peter Montcrief with is useful International Audio Review , the Great Gordon Holt with his stubbornly brilliant AB comparisons ( still miss him ) , HP and his band of brothers probing the Highest Standards of reproduction systems reporting with great style and art works ( HP and his IRS is still vivid in my memory ) , Audio Mag. with generally good coverages , Hi-Fi News and Record Review ( I sold these in my Stores ) featuring the best Advertising Art in the Business . What Hi-Fi and the rest of the British Press worshiping Ivor at LINN Products ( who now recognizes digital to be superior , saw him earlier this year , still looks good ) .

You lads are picking-up where all these guys left off , a new set of prominent players , a new breed , lots of new thinking , new methods , new ways to understand things , a new consumers awareness and a very good feedback loop generating near instant data that everyone gets to see and contribute to .
Oh-my , our press is now interactive with the readership ,
what will we think of next ? , it's beyond wonderful !!! Can anyone imagine HP reading and answering our little peon mails ?
I came back to Audio , as one of my main hobbys , as the result from seeing a RMAF seminar where Tyll and Steve G were debating Ear Organisms ( knowing that music creates dopamine in the brain ) , I gotta be part of this , for sure . Now , after all the stuff I've owned these last 50 years , I'm a Schiit / Sennheiser music enjoyer , thank you very much , I'm loving it again .

Impulse's picture

This is my last comment here, I swear... I think more coverage of entry level (<$200) stuff would be fantastic, and I enjoy reading about the HD800s and LCD-2 even if I probably will never commit that much money to any one pair of headphones (I've easily spent as much across a bunch of others tho), BUT, don't forget about the middle!

It seems like this is a big omission, even now, particularly as far as amps and DACs go... I can't recall seeing too many (if any) reviews of amps and DACs under $1,000, let alone under $500, despite you often lobbying praise at companies like Schiit who're doing terrific work in that space. Jason himself has said it, their gear seems to draw a lot of young buyers (like myself) and their Magni/Modi are their bestseller.

I bought a Magni just as a point of reference (to compare it with my AVR's headphone out, my phone's, my Clip Zip's, my BT receiver, etc), but I've been looking at some of their other stuff like Asgard/Valhalla. Wouldn't even know where to begin as far as cross shopping with other comparable mid range gear, besides Head Fi or changstar, but message boards have their own pitfalls that you well know.

Impulse's picture

I did love that one article about portable amps tho, and the Leckerton on your WoF is on my wishlist if I ever start traveling for work again... Seems like it's been a while since that was posted tho.

DaveinSM's picture

Tyll, all those new ideas sound great. I enjoy comparative reviews, especially if I own one of the products already and thus have a reference. I also found that opening up two windows side by side of your headphone measurements allows me to easily see the differences in response curves between headphones. I love the measurements and technical details that you include with each headphone review.

DaveinSM's picture

As you probably already know, the Final Design Pandora Hope VI is an unusual closed, hybrid driver headphone that just got a great review at cnet's audiophiliac column. Could you please review that headphone at some point if you get a chance?

KG_Jag's picture

Guess it's time to march to the Beats of the new drummer.

I have been through this on web sites/forums in other areas trying to draw to the mass audience. It never ended well before. Hope (but don't expect) it goes better here.

Sforza's picture

Hello Tyll, I just wanted to say that I found the speaker summary really helpful as this site (among the ones who's audio-related reviews I trust) was the only one that bothered to write an article like that. It's unique in the sense that you actually used it outdoors, unlike the tech sites that don't describe their testing environments and previous experiences with speakers adequately. With that said, I think those kinds of unique use case review posts haven't tracked well because there's no audio enthusiast market recognition for them yet, though that's slowly emerging because of sites like this one. Please carry on with posts like that once in a while.

iTroll's picture

Why are some of pre-Head-Fi and even pre-pop-Forum cans still around? (I.e., Classics like Grado 60, HP1, Senn HD600, Ety ER-4S, Senn Orpheus, Koss ESL)
Why crowd-sourcing may not be ideal?
Why a flood of Asian cans MAY not be ideal (is it better to have just a few brands to choose from)?
Science seems to indicate that too many choices limits optimal decision-making. http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-03/having-too-many-choices-le...
Forums like Head-Fi (knowingly or unknowingly) flood the Net with too much "noise".
And as if H-F wasn't enough, every week there seems to be yet another headphone/gear site/blog/YT channel.
Headfonia, anythingbutipod, inearmatters, technoheadphone.com, effin' ChangStar, and scores of non-English sites (mostly Chinese or Russian)...
Jesus tourettin' Christ ... all this info-dumping makes my effin' piles start flarin' up! Pass me your PH, Tyll...

iTroll's picture

No more reviews/articles on speakers unless it is some sort of scientific piece on how, e.g., some cross-feed or simulator ckt emulates speaker acoustics in cans.

Concentrate on HEADPHONES (incl. IEMs).

Try to get IEC donate their latest dummy std. head.

More reviews/articles on IEMs, esp. universals.

More reviews/articles on portable DAC/amps or DAPs.

Electronics gear tear-downs are popular on YouTube (EEVBlog, etc) .... so take that latest amp or apart (gently) ... show its guts.

BRB ... gotta take a leak ;)

Long time listener's picture

...More focus on headphones, not speakers, and more reviews of IEMs, especially universals, and portable amps and sources.

nbourbaki's picture

I can share my use case about the site. I assume, like many other visitors to the site that when I learn of a new headphone or audio device on head-fi, computer audiophile or other audio site, I come here to validate what the herd is saying about a product. Unlike those other sites, I've never had a bad recommendation here. I trust the reviewer and I like the reviews that help me understand if the sound is something that I would enjoy. I do get frustrated at times that there aren't enough reviews to cover the mid-range products that I would buy more often than the TOTL devices. Rankings of devices with a clear cut off where the Wall of Fame would be very helpful to me and personally, I would use that as a reference list.

I'm actually one of the people that enjoy your reviews of BT products, but I would much rather see more portable amps and DACs covered.

I would also expand the Wall of Fame to include a new section with flat out bargains of the headphone, IEM and AMP/DAC market. It would be understood that while they may not be able to achieve the current status of Wall of Fame, the performance to price ratio is too great to ignore. The iFi Nano falls in this category for me and for IEM the JVC FXT-90 comes to mind,

In general, portable devices wear out faster than my TOTL gear that never leave my home and is replaced more often and as a result, causes me to search out replacements and reviews which drives traffic. More coverage of mid-tier phones that have the buzz (on other sites), would drive more traffic.

iTroll's picture

Older cans, amps ( related gear) -- that either was never measured/reviewed, or hasn't been re-eval'd in 5+ years -- should be (re)measured / (re)reviewed.
When reviewing new gear, some historical perspective should be presented to provide evidence (or lack of) of evolution.
E.g., the new Beats vs. Grado SR-225 ...
... on the SAME page (or video), provide subjective compares/contrasts; on Measurements page, provide side-by-side (or color-coded) traces of compared models.
In a way, Manufs. count on limited human memory when marketing or bring in new models to the electronic shows.
In reality, transducer technology is much harder (or req, much more R&D $$) to evolve than, say, electronics ... or (especially) code (FLAC, DSD).
And this is why many "classic" cans are still competitive.

As far as the "headphone-of-the-week" crazes at places like Mansilla's Mess and all of its copycats ... there is a SCIENTIFIC reason for that sickness ... in fact, way back in 1957, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN featured the article:
"The pathology of boredom."
Heron, Woodburn
Scientific American, Vol 196, 1957, 52-56. doi: 10.1038/scientificamerican0157-52

Abstract:
Reports experiments on human behavioral effects following prolonged exposure to a monotonous environment. Thinking was impaired, childish emotional responses appeared, visual perception was disturbed, hallucinations developed, and brain wave patterns were altered. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1958-00206-001
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-pathology-of-boredom/

DaveinSM's picture

While I can see some concerns on the part of headphone audiophiles in widening innerfidelity's market reach, it could also be a good way of grooming more discerning listeners. When I first started, $100 was my limit for headphones. But reading the reviews and seeing some of the higher end models made start to hedge on my upper limit spending in order to try better sounding models. I think that these reviews and measurement data are a great way for readers to learn what to look for and what to listen for in a good headphone.

DrForBin's picture

hello,

i really like the idea of comparative reviews on Inner Fidelity. the notion of winners and losers at a particular price point would open the site up to those just getting into the hobby, and might even get them to try better cans rather than fashion statements.

i would also like to see a report/list of B&M stores where one can audition cans.

inspired by your review of the new Beats Solo 2, i hied off to my local Best Buy for a listen. they were available to audition but only from a closed loop display (no opportunity to play my own music, and more critically my own sources). i asked a salesperson if i could do this, he went off to check and brought back some other model of Beats that were open box. when i advised him that this was not what i was hoping for he just expressed regrets and indicated that if i wanted to audition "higher fidelity" cans there were other options (i'm thinking he was thinking that i would be a Bose customer {the curse of being old :)}).

perhaps a crowd sourced list of where to audition or a note as to where one can audition appended to your reviews would be possible?

that said, all the cans in the house were once on the WofF or are currently on it.

another very useful addition would be mention of an appropriate use scenario for the cans under review. e.g. "while these cans are light and portable, they do not isolate all that well. commuting with them is possible as long as you are riding quieter transit where you can listen at lower volume." at least that way i won't hear the bass-line from the kid in front of me when i'm wearing my HD25's.

iTroll's picture

The iFi devices (micro, nano, etc) have some "crowd-design" threads on H-F that putatively allows fanboyz to build their toyz, per parents-allowance piggy-bank savings, bottoms up. Make's 'em feel 'portant ... part o' the team. Go iFi ... go head-fi ... their team jersey has a big "M" embroidered on it ... for MANSILLA ;)
Anyway, maybe iFi has gots some real/pure intentions with their iFi crowd campaign ... or maybe it's partly/wholly marketing ... hey, "crowd-sourcing" is part of the hip jargon these dayz ... like the effin' -- err... "iFfin" -- "i"Everything...
But what I notice is that even tho' iFi's gear is relatively low-$, it ain't all that innovative. So many Chinese/HK are puttin' out the same thing, w/o crowd noise ... so iDare iFi (or similar corporate) to put out a sub-$200 USD fax of the AK240 ... it doesn't have to have the same durability or functionality ... but it should sound as good, be battery-powered and compact.

---
Composed on my bathroom iPad ... while iDefecated.
iWipe ... iFlush ... c-ya on the next Nature-call ;)

Captfantastic88's picture

After educating us on so much great gear, post a semi-comprehensive "How to" Buyers Guide (not so long its boring)!

Include all the basics, tips where additional reviews can be found, where discounted new or used gear can be found. List great websites worldwide to search. Retailers too. Include appropriate warnings for fakes etc. A guide to help me move a great headphone (and/or amp etc.) from your home page into my hands and my heart, where I know I made a great purchase.

I hope the powers that be recognize the great value you've provided to date. Cheers for all you've done, looking forward to the future too.

mikel's picture

More reviews of amps/dacs/smartphones but with more focus on measurements, more nwavguy style. I used to think that was what you were aiming for but it never really happened. In their current form your non headphone reviews might be well written by an experienced person but really are not much different than hundreds of reviews on other websites and blogs. I personally have no interest in those kind of reviews on your webiste.

With the fitness market rapidly growing please include recommendations for headphones suited for sport activities both wired and wireless.

Jim Tavegia's picture

At 67 it really didn't interest me that much any more, but my wife of 62, is really into getting FB alerts on her cellphone. (The last thing I need.) If you could find away to get your FB page alerts to young people who seem to be buying more headphones than old folks like me (67) that could be a big help to you. Alerts to new followers on new reviews and such might be a big thing for you. Maybe it is already.

Dinny FitzPatrick's picture

I'm very excited to see all this unfold. Obviously, I'm biased, but I love this site as a reader not just a contributor. This site conveys a LOT of information, but I think it does so without condescension or pandering, which is not the norm in audiophiledom. Clearly, the data support the budget-to-mid fi focus and round-up type reviews. But I also love the surprising popularity of the basic headphone information. Reminds us that, hey, you never know. And I hope the fact that success comes from where we often least expect it will mean continued innovation and taking chances here with some of the posts. Tyll's ability to stay ahead of the curve in how we approach the discussion of all things audio-related is what keeps me coming back.

In terms of demographics and growth, there is one group in particular that I would love to see get interested in this site, and more generally, this hobby. Women. A poster above alluded to this. Women don't tend to geek out on this stuff in the same way we guys do, but that doesn't mean they aren't interested. I've found that the women I have asked about their takes on audio stuff have been pretty spot on in their descriptions of how something sounds and why they like it (or don't). How to capture this demographic (that sounds a little creepy, sorry) is, of course, the difficult part, but I think it's worth it to remember that there is an audience that is largely ignored and underserved by the audio enthusiast community and perhaps it's time to change that.

flatmap's picture

1. Every link should, of course, be accompanied for the reason for the reader to click on it. I went to the surfing video because I knew it would be an entertaining example of what you were talking about. It's not click-bait, IMO, when the reference is honestly described.

2. I have several times sent people a link to the Sennheiser MOE headphone review because it also discusses on-ear, sealed headphones, as a category, and how they are "second only to ear-buds as a poor sounding headphones." http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/headset-everyone-sennheiser-momentu... For someone interested in on-ear, 'phones the general comments about this breed is instructive.

3. Your site is distinguished by the measurements and that simply has to stay, IMO. However it is rare for the average reader to understand a measurement or graph without help. I'm no different in that regard. Thus, every such measurement should be include explanatory text about the meaning of the measurement and it would be nice to have core didactic articles written which focus on each graph type and each measurement type. Part of the "headphone measurement 101." Then make those core articles easy to find from the top tab and religiously and religiously link to them from reviews as appropriate.

Thanks for your work on this site!

IF1961's picture

1. Music is our first love!?!
To experience my beloved music in a quiet atmosphere I chose to use a high end headphone over my mid-fi speaker system. Although I love Innerfidelity and Tyll for his solid in-depth reviews, we need to address the primary function of our quest for continually growing our audiophile experiences. Source material, either on vinyl, CD, mp3, lossless, hi-res or streamed, is key to real audiophile nirvana.

I would like to suggest a place like a „camp fire” to exchange our experiences based on source material (see above) and musical taste (pop, jazz, classical, etc.). New developments like binaural recording, DSD, computer audio can be part of this. "My best music/recording ever" topics could help other members to develop a richer set of musical gems. Looking beyond my own limited scope learnt me a lot about many other musical pathways that made me a much happier listener afterwards. Quality magazines on music are in demise and sometimes (due to economics) biased.

2. How to keep our music playing?
Enthusiast advice on e.g. ripping, NAS, best preferences for used software, cleaning vinyl/cd, "How to” on various issues. This can develop a better understanding on how to achieve the best possible music reproduction on our headphones or whatever medium suitable.

3. Help a Innerfidelity friend!?!
Reading the forum contributions once in a while, many Innerfidelity members have a keen knowledge on succesfully pairing the various equipment options. By exchanging those questions and finding a proper solution will contribute to all of us. It will undoubtely be a magnet for people using search engines (Google, Bing) as prospective Innerfidelity members.

4. Keep out the trolls, please!
Many specialist forums are becoming polluted with ‚trolling contributors'. Although freedom of speech is key to developing our best of opinions, these trolls can be a major drawback and deal breaker for sensible future growth and audiophile companionship.

Read Innerfidelity for last 5 years. Has been a tremendous resource for me. Joined today as a member. Keep up the good work Tyll and the many enthousiast contributors now and in the future.

Dopaminer's picture

Your urge to improve the site comes from your DIY/modder nature. It`s understandable, logical. But just don`t change too much because Innerfidelity is one of only 4 sites I trust and rely on for Audio-ness.
Maybe you should trade click-revenue for T-shirt revenue. I`m serious : I`d buy an Innerfidelity T-shirt.
d

jjgr's picture

I think an article running through the WOF and/or other interesting headphones to describe what works best/worst with the Pono player (direct, sans amp, which is how most will listen) would be really cool and helpful.
Also - articles on how to listen / evaluate the quality of different headphones would be helpful. I really appreciate your expertise and judgment calls - but part of the fun is also figuring it out on your own. There's not a lot of content out there on this aspect - just a lot of individual opinions. It would be very cool to take some well known headphones, discuss their headphone measurement data and then run through some subjective music samples or other tools to describe how what we hear corresponds to the headphone measurements.

The Federalist's picture

First the hat tip to your business model. One of the problems I have with a lot of men's "interest" magazines is that they limit the amount of content available online largely to paid subscriber. I wouldn't even be insulted if you threw in one of those whole page banner ads that pops up when you click a story, if it means Inner Fidelity stays.

As far as content.... I think headphones naturally couple with workplace and or computer based audio systems so more robust coverage of digital audio products such as USB transports, DACs, and desktop friendly amps. Hell even Art Dudley is reviewing a steady stream of DACs these days because he knows that is what people are "Listening" too.

Criticisms: The odd coverage of little personal speakers... meh I've never read a single "personal speaker" review you've ever posted. And there have only been 2 headphone reviews in well over a month... 1 Beats review, 1 IEM review and a $10,000 headphone amp... Wha? And a bunch of fluff articles. Headphone reviews are the foundation.

Another thing would be break away from the norm... It seems in a given month every online review site covers the same stuff... Audeze, Zu Audio, Geek Out, Auralic Vega and now Aries, PS Audio kickstarter, Pono, Qobuz, Chord Hugo, Peachtree Nova Revision number 126 1/2. The amount of redundancy gets tiring and causes disengagement. I don't want to read about the PS Audio Sprout or Pono for the umpteenth time.

The most interesting stories are the rare finds... The Icon Audio HP8 being a good example.... there are dozens of products out in the market like this without any run in the media. The MHDT Labs Pagoda, a PCM1704 Dac under $1500! The Audiobyte Black Dragon, The Yellowtec Puc2, SAC Thailand Minute EL34SE, Feliks Audio, HAD Audiolab, Line Magnetic... Tons of cool companies making cool stuff in little boutique shops that deserve some recognition.

Taking chances is the key... if you just churn out the same vanilla that everyone else is pumping out thinking you are offering universal appeal, your voice just starts sounding like everyone else's and it loses its power.

I hope this was helpful without being rude... I respect you immensely but just wanted to give an honest opinion rather than just say (I love it just the way it is).... All the best.

BW

thune's picture

Maybe start by publishing more than one article a week, so that visiting frequently is rewarded. (As suggested in the post, gotta figure out how to have more than one headphone review a month, even if it means some negative reviews, comparisons/roundups, and *buying* some headphones that aren't provided by companies.) I love the sometimes-monthly updates, but they certainly could be fleshed out a bit (as mini-reviews) to generate several posts.

Random idea: un-helmeting nwavguy could make a blockbuster article.

markbrauer's picture

I live in a place where there are no headphones to demo so I depend on inner|fidelity for buying info. I am purely a music lover and have no interest in headphones as a hobby. But I do like having the best sound available and would be willing to buy better equipment if I had a reasonable confidence about what I was getting. I'd like to count on you for that confidence. I feel there must be others like me. Your site seems to serve the hobbyist pretty well already so growth could come by building a reputation for serving the music lover too.

Here are a couple things I'd like to see.

First.
While comparisons to competing headphones and more expensive headphones are valuable, what I really want to know is how the review phones compare to the ones I have. I know you can't compare to every existing model but comparisons to a couple well known cans that have been reviewed many times over the years would give the interested shopper at least an idea of what to expect. It sure would be nice to understand what gain/loss I'd get by "upgrading".

With that in mind, why not come up with a rating system for general equipment characteristics. Not a number-based, this-one's-better-than-that, rating. Go for something with a set of two-sided categories like veiled/transparent, smooth/etched, bass detail/bass bloat, forward/recessed midrange, musical/analytical, etc and indicate which way the test subject leans. Ideally some categories would be technical and would steer someone away from mismatches with amps etc. I'm sure you can come up with the most important categories. It would be best if this info was provided in a shareable, user-sortable spreadsheet (like Google Docs?) to allow users to focus on what is important to them.

Another, hopefully simpler suggestion.
I have big ears, both large in circumference and stand away from the skull. They fully touch the whole inside perimeter of my HD650s and need to be folded-in to be used "over ear" with my ATH AD700s and I bought these models because they seemed to have bigger ear cups than most. I put up with it but it's less than ideal. All the high performance sound in the world can't be enjoyed when in pain. Some over-ear models I've tried are on-ear for me. I've worn a pair of HD800s and they fit the ears great but, from everything I've read, their sound signature would not suit me. And then there's the laborious amp-matching. I'm not inclined to risk $1500 on something I'll possibly hate. So, please come up with a way to measure and report ear fit, circumference and depth, for "over-ear" models.

Thanks for providing the great site.

Lunatique's picture

In the last few years, I have been trying to educate the head-fi crowed the basics of audio reproduction, what accuracy/neutral is, how to use EQ proper to achieve a more accurate/neutral sound, how to use DSP plugins to improve the listening experience the dangers of diminishing returns and prioritizing one's spending, avoiding the snake oil products in the audiophile market, etc, and I think all those topics are highly relevant and important.

BUT, at the same time, by educating the masses on some of those things will actually end up making them spend less on audio products, because they'll learn how silly it is to treat headphone amps like fixed EQ settings and actually use EQ's instead, thus the sales of headphone amps will drop significantly. They'll also learn how to take a nearly-ideal headphone and EQ it just right with surgical parametric EQ and use DSP to it that makes it sound awesome (such as TB Isone, Redline Monitor, and other similar plugins). That will also lead to declining headphone sales, because knowing how to make your headphone sound great will get people off the perpetual upgrade treadmill and actually learn to enjoy what they already have.

Educating people on pragmatism and having a healthy dose of cynicism regarding audiophile product claims also stops them from believing the hype and learn to use logic and knowledge to assess audio products instead of being influenced by placebo bias, thus stop spending money on "improvements" they can't actually hear (or the differences are so subtle that they'd have to strain hard to hear them).

So on one hand, educating the masses is great in some ways, but in terms of selling more products, not so much.

lutry's picture

I consider your reviews extremely useful. Especially when compared to the ones done by "excitable" professional reviewers that are only capable to say “amazing” things about the products; the tricky part is that these are the ones that are more present and active.

From my experience I believe that one theme that would be interesting to explore is the challenge that is to pairing some headphones with amps and DACs. Of course it comes all to a matter of taste but if you could try to make some video based on a matrix “ X headphone” + “ Y amplifier” = “z type of sound” this would be highly interesting. At the end this is part of the game, enjoyment of this world.

I bought already 2 headphones based on your reviews: the LCD-3 and NAD Viso HP50 and have been extremely satisfied. (on the other hand, listening to other’s reviews and end-up buy the LCD-XC which left me with quite tired hears form the upper mids). The missing peace is amp + DAC.

Thanks!

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