When did headphones become an important weapon of choice for audiophiles?
Let’s be clear of the Audiophilia (my) stance. Headphones are convenient, they are in the domain of thin-walled residents, and many significant others love them, but in no way do they represent what I think represents natural, musical sound.
I’ve heard the best. And, at length. Stax and Sennheiser Orpheus, chief among them. I own several sets of headphones. I’ve got some ear burrowing Etymotics inner earphones, the dreaded Apple buds for looking cool at the coffee shop and on the subway, and a set of Bose Quiet Comfort 15s for air travel and while my significant other is watching Criminal Minds and I want to listen to soccer podcasts.
Headphones are big business. So much so, that some audiophile writers are focusing many column inches on them. Sex sells, I guess. HeadFi is a huge forum with many advertisers and hundreds of thousands of posts. Good for them. A forum is a great way to discuss and suggest and learn.
But, the fact remains. All headphones give a constricted, two dimensional view of a musical event. If your brain can trick itself into a 3D representation of a great hall and orchestra, with life size images (not imaging), for example, good for you. Mine can’t. In my world, musicality is helped in no small way by reflections and other room interactions coming from (two, hopefully) point sources a distance away.
Like computers, corkscrews, and chainsaws, headphones are good tools. No more. As an audiophile, they are a last resort. With the advent of the MP3 and the iPod, headphones have taken on a power all their own. The lobby is powerful. Look, if money’s an option, get an iPod, a cheap DAC and some AudioEngine powered speakers. At least the brain has a fighting chance.
Audiophiles, we’ve had CDs, solid state, 5.1, audio files, iPods, etc thrust upon us as the next best thing. They’re not! And the same goes for headphones. Fight the good fight. If we don’t, nobody will.