May 12, 2016

Massdrop Profile: Meet Nic Pope!

Our Massdrop Profile series introduces you to the people behind the communities you love. They’re responsible for sourcing products, communicating with members, and making our site an awesome place to hang out. You might recognize them from Discussions you follow—they’re the smiling avatars next to those tiny Massdrop logos—and now you can get to know the personalities behind the handles.

This time, we’re talking to Nic Pope, who leads the Audiophile team at Massdrop. First, we’ll let you read a little about his background and passions. Then, we’ll turn the mic over for a community Q&A. Submit your questions in the comment section, and stay tuned for the answers in a follow-up post.
What do you do at Massdrop? I work with the buyers, the Custom Product team, and everyone else to make sure we have a steady stream of super-dope stuff dropping in Audiophile. I also read all of your comments!

What got you interested in the audiophile community?
I’ve been involved in music since I was 4 or 5 years old. I started studying classical vocal performance then, and eventually picked up five or six other instruments and began playing in bands. That led me to a career as an audio engineer and music producer. My first introduction to the audiophile community as I know it today, though, wasn’t until I started researching Massdrop.
Most memorable concert?
When I was a teenager, I saw Al Di Meola play a set of classical and flamenco with Manuel Barrueco on the same stage that the Friday Night in San Francisco album was recorded. That was definitely a highlight. I got to meet them and Joe Satriani that night, too.

Tell us about your audio setup. At work? At home?
On my desk at work, I have a TEAC UD-301 DAC feeding a Heron 5 headphone amplifier, and I’m listening either to the Audeze LCD-2, the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered, or my E-MU Ebony. I don’t spend much time on headphones at home, but in my bedroom, I have a Grace Design M920 feeding the Dynaudio BM15A monitors, fed by my TV. In the studios, there are Barefoots (MM27s in one, MM35s in the other) and NS-10s. Monitor control is either the master section of the SSL or a Shadow Hills Oculus.
What are you listening to these days?
I listen to a wide variety, but some longtime favorites include Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue, Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Bob Mould’s Beauty & Ruin… I could go on all day.

What’s the biggest investment you’ve made in building your setup?
My ears. Turns out that working in music is 99 percent listening. I’ve spent more time and money learning how to listen than anything else. That said, when I rebuilt my studio in 2009, I got to write a $200,000 check on gear and cabling, which you can imagine was quite a shopping trip.

What did you do before working at Massdrop?
My career before Massdrop was mostly engineering and producing records, and being the knower of all things technical at Different Fur. I also taught for a year at Ex’pression College in Emeryville.
What’s your favorite thing about working here?
Working with a team of people for whom intelligent discussion is the norm. I also love that everyone just wants to find the best solution to any given problem and move forward. It’s truly a gift.

Which audio companies are you excited about today?
In the audiophile space: Airist Audio, AAW, Final Audio Design, and ELAC. In professional audio: Standard Audio, Shadow Hills, Grace Design, AEA, and Heil.

Now the hardest-hitting question: Favorite pizza topping?
Pepperoni and pineapple!
Wondering what it’s like to produce a record? Not sure which amplifier to pair with your headphones? Leave your questions for Nic in the comment section—or just drop a quick “Hello!” We’ll have his answers for you in an upcoming Q&A post.
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Hi Nic, I'm planning to get myself a headphone amplifier from Massdrop which is able to drive a wide variety of earphones and headphones (but mostly high end headphones like my AKG K712 and possibly future HD800S). For now I like the specs and reviews of the Lake People G109a, but I don't know how it fares alongside the Grace Design M9xx and the Airist Audio Heron 5. Hope you'll be able to help me out here :) Thanks and good day!
phoenixsong
Hey there, solid question. The M9xx sounds really great and will work perfectly for your K712's. The Hd800 is a particularly power hungry headphone. It will totally work with the m9xx as well but you're closer to the top end of it's operating capacity.

I personally use a Heron 5 at the moment which I really really like, the downside is of course you'll also have to invest in a DAC. If I were in your shoes I would probably go for an m9xx now because it will be awesome with what you have now and no matter how far you upgrade in the future you won't want to get rid of it.

Then inevitably when you buy HD800's you'll want to upgrade the rest of your system, and who knows what else will have come out by then.
And here i thought he was just a guy. Cool to read. Much respect.
Howdy Nic! Just wanted to give you a heads up that I'll be working for you someday.

The audiophile team is doing game-changing things and I can't wait to be a part of it ;).
Can you take me with you next time you hang out with Joe Satriani?
A VERY interesting read, thanks a lot Nic!
What's up Nico! What's the next big project coming up in headphone, DAC, and amp collaborations for Massdrop in 2016? We saw the opportunity that came along from Ultimate Ears for the CIEMs that ended a bit early. Of course last year some pretty big headphone and DAPs came through. Can you give us a little preview on what to expect?

Keep on jamming
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Now let's restrict it. Assuming you don't own them (or maybe you do), what's the best pair of headphones/IEMs/earphones you've heard and why? Also what was driving it?
MassEDU
So my daily drivers are UE RR's typically driven by an AK240 or the Heron 5. Those are my current favorite IEM's. I think I'm just used to really accurate listening environments and that's what they were going for with the RR and they totally nailed it. I like to be able to hear the difference between low frequencies and low frequencies that have been distorted and hi passed. Most systems will make those two things sound the same.
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