So why to become am audiophile?
As a person watching computer screen all day, researching audio equipment (earphone headphone) is one of only few hobbies that I have. To investing on them is easily proven to be cost-efficent: I listen to them while I use computer, which is pretty much all day. Anyways, it’s been 5 years since I stepped into this once-step-in-no-step-back hi-fi journey. I decided to write something to wrap them up and give beginners some advices.
So why earphone?
As a way of enjoying sound, first off you have some options. You may go one of these three: speakers(those loud speaker boxes), headphones or earphones. First speaker is no brainer not an option for me, they are heavy to move and I can’t use them in office. Headphones are also bad because some open back ones leaks sound pretty bad which I also can not use in office. Ideally the one I’m looking for is something supper low-profile and not compromising hi-fidelity at the same time.
Journey of Sennheiser CX300
My journey starts from Sennheiser CX300, an earphone that designed for entry-level users. Even though my first CX300 turn out to be not an authentic one from Sennheiser, but it sounded just amazing, as I have no other to compare, and it opened a door for me to this aspiring hi-fidelity world. That one costs me about 40 bucks, which was quite a lot for me at that moment as a junior undergraduate. My biggest impressions were great isolation and surrounding feeling. Never before has a earphone feels so comfortable and so sound-isolating that after wearing it for a while, you magically feel the sound volume somehow gets turned up. Great isolation also leads to great surrounding feeling enriching any song with so much flavor and imaging.
->for beginners: In general at this price range(Less than $50), you are expecting some major improvement compare to apple’s earbuds. The ecstasy of trance begin to appear, and you will find yourself quite enjoying from the repetition of those trances in a music.
It is still in general horrible, for pretty much all earphones at this range, to handle classics or jazz. But for popular music and some vocals, this range is a great start. Recommend: Xiaomi Piston 2.(great great earphone at this range kind of overkills all others)
Journey of Sennheiser IE6
When I was still at Iowa doing my college program, one day at Cyber Monday I saw Sennheiser IE6 was list as a lighting-deal, pricing at $99. Therefore that soon became my second milestone on earphones. I have been marrying IE 6 for about 2 years straight. Hands down great earphones. I would’ve continue use then if not their cable finally worn out and I failed to fix them after couple tries. IE is a class that designed for audiophiles, and IE6 is an entry-level of that class.
->for beginners: At this price range ($50 - $200), there are a bunch of great earphones or headphones that are available. You will feel they are 1 to 2 level better than the previous price range, specially when comes down to fidelity and balance. They are considered ‘sub-flagships’ and is in my view the most cost-efficent price range to stay on. However compare to the flagships (IE 8, SE535, EX1000 etc), they more or less has one or two flaws regarding bass, mid-range or treble.
At this point they usually handle very well at popular music. Some maybe good at one particular genre than others, such as vocals or ACGs. Still, most are struggling at classics and jazz. Recommend: SE215, ATH M50x(it’s a headphone).
Journey of Shure SE535
Then comes SE535. In a word, I regret having bought it. Unlike my every other upgrades, which I usually felt satisfying and sense of accomplishments afterwards, the purchase of SE535 however was a disaster. She impressed me by a lot at first, then left me craving for more. For the starters, SE535 has a great fidelity, which means lots of details. It enables me to notice much more details that I wasn’t aware of, even from a song that I was looping all day long. The best of SE535 was her mid-range. Those ‘pure liquid gold’ was just incredible. This earphone made me think, the ultimate goal of audiophile, rather than to pursue those hard specs, is to ‘find yourself being moved’. When listening Tori Kelly was singing Colors of the wind, or when V.K was in the middle performing his piano solo Reflection, SE535 made me realize, after all, at its core, the music is an art of expressing feelings. And to accomplish this connection between listener and performer you will have to also involve your imagination…..SE535 gives you all that. She not only precisely captures the music structures and every other details, it blends them all into a poem or a story. This magic earphone forced me to ignore every individual instruments, but to focus on performer’s enthusiasm that deep inside. As a result, I feel Tori Kelly’s voice was so real that her lip were literally 1 inch away from my ear. It’s addictive. It’s almost a guilty pleasure.
Now, here is deal breaker. Besides middle range and vocals, everything else about SE535 is depressing. Specially when comes down to sound stage. The bass and treble is just OMG bad. Till one day I decide not to tolerate those anymore and I moved on.
->for beginners: At this price range($200 - $600), you will have to do a major study regarding the genre you usually listen to. There are SE535, IE 8, TF 10, Sony EX1000 and ATH CK100 etc. If you are looking for something that is a versatile, slightly analytical and well balanced, my recommendation is Westone W4R.
My current Stuff. HD600, HD800, LCD 2. AKG K701, JH13Pro, DAC/Amp Audist HUD MX1, Pico Slim, Fiio E8
Some pictures. And I will keep updating.