May 20, 20161855 views

What was your Ah ha! moment in becoming an Audiophile?

Everyone started somewhere. What was the piece of equipment that initially sent you over the edge into caring about frequency response, specs, drivers, etc?

Mine had to be the Havi B3 Pro 1 when it was a complete unknown. Blew me away compared to the items I had previously. I made the jump to an audio-gd dac/amp and HE-500 real quick after that, and I don't have those anymore either.

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I've had many moments. Listening to my father's record collection in the late 70s and early 80s and discovering Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Miles Davis, Santana, BB King. I don't remember the brand of receiver or speakers, but they sounded great.

Another was when my mom bought a Kenwood stack. It had a turntable, EQ, dual cassette , a CD Player and huge tower speakers. The first CD I bought was Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I needed more. Almost 35 years later, I still have that CD.

Next was in college. I bought a Sony receiver and blew out the speakers I had. The same ones I used to listen to my dad's record collection. A guy that lived in the same house as me had some gambling issues and offered to sell me some $400 Polk speakers for $150. I bought them and it was a revelation. I had them up until about 10 years ago when I upgraded to my current Polk Monitor 50 speakers that do a great job with my Sonos Amp.

Last Audiophile moment I'll mention is my recent decent into headphones and amps. I always appreciated a good set of headphones,but they weren't a focus of my listening habbit. I was looking for some new headphones in late 2017 and found Massdrop. I ordered a set of 6xx and didn't initially notice the long wait time for delivery. 3 months. I'll skip the story of all the headphones I tried and returned in that 3 month window (I kept the m100) and just say when the 6xx finally arrived I was not overly impressed. That is until I bought a DarkVoice 336SE tube amp (Massdrop strikes again). When I listened to the 6xx via the DV I had another wow audio moment and knew I had a winner.
Good thread. And wow, good on you jumping to the HE-500 so quickly. To this day I prefer it to over 95% of > $1,000 headphones.

For me, it was just the Audio Technica ATH-A900X in 2014. Even that slaughtered everything else I had heard at the time. Since then I've had all kinds of crap including top of the line gear.
I went to school for sonic physics and audio recording. They let us listen to high fidelity music through some mid-fi headphones in one of the labs and it was clear that most consumer products weren't good enough. The quest to finding that perfect audio reproduction started there. This was in 2006.
Don't remember the year, probably around the mid 90's. I was finally making expendable money at work and had spent about half a year piecing together the audio system in my truck. Finally finished off with a Cerwin Vega 12" sub and Rockford Fosgate mono block. None of the stuff I had bought was truly top of the line but what changed everything was when I dropped the $30 or so to pick up Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs remaster of Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side...' If you know about Mo-Fi's stuff, you know what I'm talking about.

Anyhow, I proceeded to pop it in and as the heartbeat in 'Speak to Me' rose and rose in volume, I knew something was up. Then, if you know the album (which you all should, IMHO), a scream comes in towards the end as it segues in to 'Breathe' with that build up...

Boom, hooked.

The noise floor was so low and I could crank the damn thing for ages without any distortion or physical pain in my ears. It was glorious. The chimes of the clocks going off in the lead in to 'Time'...oh man, they would make your ears tingle, not hurt. I immediately drove over to my uncle's house, who is a massive Floyd fan, and we just sat in my truck smiling like idiots and yelling to each other, even though we're only 2 feet apart, "GO TO THAT ONE PART OF <insert song here>!!" Then you'd skip to it and we'd just look at each other and laugh. "YES! YES!"

And thus, it began...

I became hooked just recently with a pair of decent head phones.
It started accidentally with some Bose QuietComfort. I bought them to focus better at work. I thought: Wow - these sound really nice! Started googling them and someone on head-fi said they were crap compared to e.g. AKG K701 - so I bought a pair of those in an impulse. And than it startet: Amplifier, Beyerdynymic DT990, Hifiman HE-400i, AKG K340 - very interesting hobby 😊
Glad your enjoying the new hobby and sorry to hear about your wallet! This is a damn deep rabbit hole and I just keep pushing on down... for over a decade in fact.
The first real Ah Ha! was back in circa '85'. We had been making equipment to coat CD's, Aluminum alloy reflective layer, since the beginning with Philips, but none of us owned a CD player yet. Our company put together a trade show booth with some very nice, best in the day, audio equipment and paid for the use of Whitney's first music video (Promoting CD's but think it may have been a LaserDisc? - CD quality regardless). They set up the booth on our factory floor to try it out and demo it for us, the employees...

Yup,, Gobsmacked...

Started collecting CD's from our testing before I had a player, still have some of those at home.

Then the beginning of the next Ah ha.. I was at the AD home show some years ago in NYC, and was poking around a booth looking at some audio hardware on display that Innovative Audio had out and got a demo of early FLAC files in "studio quality", this was what I was waiting for,, I can gain access to the studio stuff, no more in-between corrupted media! Well as best possible,, today.

The last Ah ha, was at home, sitting down in a quiet room last year. I used HD700's, upgraded(nos tubes & $ caps) baby tube amp and a Korg 100 DAC using Audiogate on a laptop. I had been listening to the locked level at 44.1 kHz for a few days, and then unleashed the Korg;) Steely Dan Aja in native DSD 2.8 from a studio master... beautiful sonic lubricity...

I think my next Ah ha moment will be with MEMS in a Can:

The real life ones simply are , such as seeing Steve Winwood play "Can't Find My Way Home" & "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" at Bethel Woods a couple of years ago, and before that George Winston 15 feet away crawling inside the piano... tuning while playing. You can't be at these events everyday, some perhaps never, many will never truly repeat live in any fashion, so we try to reproduce them as best we can, and we are getting damn close.

The Road, and back again...:

About 2 years ago, I heard my friend's V-Moda M-100's for the second time and it just clicked. He put on some song from Santana with a nice acoustic guitar part and I realized that there was something to this nicer audio stuff which I initially thought was BS and overpriced. Fast forward now where as an 18 y/o I've spend over 2k on audio related stuff. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I'd say I've been an audiophile for as long as I can remember (I'm 52 now). I remember buying a catalog (Penny's or Sears?) stereo (turntable and stereo speakers) and I loved that it had 2 way speakers and a bass and treble control. I used to put the speakers on the floor and lay my head between them for the best sound. I eventually purchased a pair of Radio Shack headphones (a re-branded Koss HV/1A I think), but that little stereo didn't have a suitable headphone output. I ended up making a connector that went from the speaker's RCA outputs to a 1/4" headphone jack (with a volume pot between the two) which was awesome. Luckily, my dad always emphasized protecting my hearing because that setup could play LOUD. Over the years I got better systems and was always tweaking things or adding better components/speakers. I was an early adopter of CD's (I'm sure I own more than 1000), and I built some pretty awesome car stereos that were generally worth more than any of my cars in which they resided. I got into home theater in a big way and I now have a dedicated theater room with a nice Dolby Atmos receiver and speakers. I'd really moved away from headphones (save for my Porta Pros and a collection of buds) until about 5 years ago when I purchased a pair of Sennheiser HD598's and a NuForce Icon HDP DAC/Amp. That was my latest ah-ha moment, and now I have an extensive collection of DACs amps, and headphones (Mostly Schiit and Sennheiser). The most I ever spent on a pair of headphones happened just the other day when I picked up a pair of used Koss ESP-950's (in pristine condition) for $560, and that was another ah-ha moment, but I've also been enjoying my recently acquired Massdrop Koss KPH30i's. I just really love listening (like, really listening) to music and appreciating not only my expensive cans, but the budget models that punch way above their price. I just hope my hearing hangs in there so I can continue to enjoy this hobby.
Like I mentioned in my "Aha moment", I use nothing but studio monitors (enter your preference here). All consumer audio (that I know of) is flavored to sound best for a consumer. Also, I prefer the "flat" audio frequency response that monitors are supposed to provide. However, I don't have access to higher priced Audiophile grade products. And I cannot comment on the audio experience with that. And like any audio product, what you get out of it and how you experience your music is partially an individuals hearing and preference that you become accustomed to. But I can guarantee you, every producer that ever made an album, made it with studio monitors and that's what he intended it to send like. And yes maybe pre-1990s music was mixed to sound great through a stylus, but once digital audio equipment gained popularity, all the older music was remixed/remastered for the clarity of digital media.
This in no way is intended to belittle any one persons preferences and preferred equipment. I am just stating my opinion, personal experiences and a small nugget of information.
Listening to electrostatic STAX for the first time... Dad's friend brought them in one day. The sound clarity blew me away.
When I went back from the HD-6xx to the m50x. It was night and day difference to me and I just could not take the muddy bass of the m50x. However, I did prefer the more emphasised highs on the m50x. D:
It was the moment when I had a listen to my friend's shiny new Aiwa cassette player.
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Was this the one:

(not my pic obviously)
Looks damm close, but i can't remember correct model, must have been around 25-28 years ago.
Being younger, young kids, other priorities, electronics havn't been the top of the most wanted list, but it felt good and didn't sound bad at that time given :)
My "A-HA" moment actually began with a mobile audio audition for a system I wanted to put in our Mini Cooper. It was a Dynaudio/Brax Helix/Genesis, and ARC audio setup, the tune was "Vikingman" by Rodrigo y Gabriela, and it sounded AMAZING, so much so that I bought that gear. Now, the correlation is, audio in a mobile environment is a very personal experience, and something that enhances that experience. I wanted to know how, and why I wasn't hearing the fingers sliding over the strings, or the little subtle breadth or exhale while singing, in my home audio encounters.

I researched and auditioned quite a few cans before purchasing a set of Sennheiser 650's with a Schiit Jotunheim, and it works really good for me. It was awesome listening to songs and music you've known for years, and you are hearing entirely new things and pulling new details out of it.
Haha, I went into Best Buy and tried on the beats and monster headphones and loved how they sounded compared to like $10 ear buds and my father as well as the internet told me they were terrible, and he pointed me to good brands like AKG, Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, and a few other brands. With so many options came research, which gave me enlightenment. I picked up the latest AKG K553 drop, but my first decent ear buds were $60 Sennheisers with in-line remotes for my Samsung Note 2 (which was a requirement), and I currently listen to my beloved ATH-M50Xs.
Good thread

Believe it or not, it was some $30 Sony earbuds from 20 years ago. I've since spent thousands of dollars on DAP then more $$$ on flagship headphones, DAC + AMPS. My current flagship setup is well over $10k.

However even going to these lengths, it still hasn't given me that same euphoric moment when i moved from cheap $3 earbuds to the $30 Sony earbuds.

I even put on the new mighty orpheus as well as some extended time with a loan of the stax 009s from a mate but I still feel these fall short from my virgin euphoric moment
Because we buy into the hype of the latest version of the latest gobbledy gook stuff believing you will get that 1st time feeling... that was a lot back then, but outrageous nowadays...
Sony Z1R - my new end game

My moment of epitome for my audiophile journey came about when I moved from a cheap pair of $3 to $30 Sony earbuds. It was a moment of enlightenment and nothing came close ever since, even when I moved onto my current flagship setup consisting of a reputable source + DAC/AMP and sub $3000 (LCD-3 / HE-1000v2 / Elear) headphones towards the diminishing point of return in terms of performance/value. I hold my respect for the HD800S and T1v2 though, these German cans can each hold their own in my opinion - being around $1000-$1500 they are also quite a bit cheaper than the aforementioned cans.

It wasn't until I put on the Z1R, it completely blew me away. A good headphone gives good bass slam, impactful presence and visceral effect. But the Z1R is something very special, not only it retains the former qualities but I could also literally feel the bass reverberating the air around me, none of my other high end cans could achieve this. The mids were sweet, lush, clear, addictive and not intrusive and the highs were exceptionally detailed, not rolled off and none fatiguing, it could do with a slightly tiny bit more sparkle in my humble opinion. I could not believe the presentation of the soundstage is from a pair of closed cans, analytics aside, speaking from my experience, it feels like it is up there on par with the HD800S. Imaging is also superb and more focused than the Sennheiser. Overall the Z1R has a very good presentation along with a nice tonal balance and to me they do not feel recessed in any spectrum of the audio – a complete package where everything is intimately present.

The Z1Rs walks all over the Focal Elear that I have been listening to as my daily driver. I would even rate it higher than my Audeze LCD 3 (unrefined highs) as well as the Hifiman HE-1000v2 (feels slightly dry and unexciting / a little cold and recessed in the lower mid region to my ears). Sound staging has always sucked on the planars from my personal experience but in terms of musicality, I prefer Sony's presentation over these two cans. The only other headphone I would put it alongside is the humble and improved Senn HD800S. But I still reckon the Z1R is the best headphone for under $3,000. I've spent some time with the Stax 009 recently and I would even go as far to say that I enjoy the Z1Rs more than the 009s - these also suffer from a narrowish sound stage and you will need to strap these next to a power sub station (or something that could drive the shinkansen) to run these to their max potential, otherwise they just sound dull and bland, and not able to flesh out the lustrous hyper details from tracks. The Z1R on the other hand scales well with my current DAC/AMP (Burson Audio) combo.

20 years ago it was Sony that did it for me from the $30 earbuds. 20 years later, it is again Sony that has taken me to the audio nirvana that I had been longing for.

The Z1R is the best purchase I made in pursuit of audio perfection.

The Shangri-la is a joke when standing against the Orpheus - USD$50k - somebody please shoot Fan Bian in the head as he would put it in his own words, [we can charge you this much] "because it sounds good" - if it goes for $5k then I would consider it, take it or leave it.