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Headphones, Audiophiles and BS

I have just ordered some rather extravagant Sennheiser HD600 open backed headphones from (Expect a review soon).
Before you condemn me too much for spending £140 on headphones, I was intending to get some 595 or 555, but play have been sold out of them for the past month and as they sell Sennheiser for half the price of everywhere else I decided go up a model rather than pay an inflated price for 595s elsewhere (Of course I could have waited another month, but where is the fun in that).
Naturally being the obsessive maven that I am I had to do vast amounts of reasearch before committing to the pair that I was going to buy and this put me into the whacky world of the “Audiophile”.
High end headphones are something that I haven’t really delved into before, but it came as no surprise to see quite how much nonsense that people will talk.
On AVforums and it’s quite common for people to recommend that you buy a pair of £60 headphones and couple it with a £500 headphone amplifier. In fact it is quite common to see people recommending £2.5K valve headphone amps or portable headphone amps for iPods.
None of this is a surprise after all some audiophiles claims are so ludicrous that James Randi has started calling people out via his million dollar challenge . Where it is a real pain in the arse is when you actually try and get some useful advice on Hi-Fi which despite the ludicrous numbers of magazines and forums on the subject proves virtually impossible. Much of the available information seems to be written with the intrinsic belief that if you can’t hear a difference then you must be some kind of philistine.
The only thing I have been able to glean with any authority (Other than that fact that as I suspected Sennheiser are the defacto standard for high end cans) is that many integrated amp manufacturers stick crappy components into the headphone sections of their amps to keep costs down on the basis that people don’t audition them when they go to buy an amp. This may well be true, but luckily I have a good quality firewire audio interface attached to my PC which I can use to compare and contrast to my NAD amp in the lounge before I consider a separate headphone amp.
A review written by a sound engineer from Sound on Sound convinced me that the HD600s were a good choice for me, but I would love to find a place where I can be sure of finding decent information about Hi-Fi without all the nonsense.

Published 14 Jan 2008

    Engineer & Musician
    Nick Long on Twitter