Adventures of the travelling audiophile: Endgame (nearly)

_Z708371 copy

First confession: I’m listening to them now.
Second confession: I seem to have come full circle; it isn’t the first time I’ve heard them. Not by a long shot; in fact, they may well have been the first
really exceptional bits of hifi I’ve heard.
Third confession: I don’t know when to stop; there’s the beginnings of diminishing returns, and then there’s $1,000 cables. I’m not quite there yet, thankfully. And I admit I’ve tried to find something better, but fortunately, failed miserably.

You might have noticed I’ve abandoned the in-ear setup from the previous instalments; part of the problem is one of prolonged comfort/sensitivity – namely my ears’ inability these days to feel good about something crammed in tightly for more than an hour or so – and part of the problem is sonic. In-ears also tend to have a very forward presentation that feels like MAXIMUM ATTACK all of the time, and moreso if you have a detailed, hard-hitting monitor. You don’t get the spatial separation and airiness of an open, over-ear can; much less the coherence of just one driver doing all of the sound generation. The problem with in-ears is they either require you to accept some fuzziness and interstitial connections between the notes and the accompanying lack of definition and precision (if a single driver), or have multiple drivers to cover multiple frequencies, then risk tonal imbalance and coherence issues. It’s not easy to get anywhere up to 12 (!!) drivers per ear to play nice with each other. And that doesn’t even start on the 2018 setups that use as many as three types of drivers – miniature dynamic, balanced armature and electrostatic – in each earpiece. I can’t help but think that’s a reliability nightmare waiting to happen too, given the number of tiny components in there. Having gone off the deep end here (to the point of commissioning my own monitors with their own configuration and tuning, and a modest six drivers per ear) – I’ve gone the over-ear route for the aforementioned reasons of coherence and comfort.

There’s only one problem with all of this: the travelling part. I just can’t do it with this setup, but I have the most amazing static listening experience short of probably some six figure speakers.

[Read more…]

Off topic: personal audio, updated

IMG_2309 copy
The price of escape?

I’ve previously written about this topic about a year and a bit ago – however, as with everything, we get itchy fingers and hardware evolves. (It’s also one of the few remaining hobbies I have outside photography.) I made what could be seen as a rather reductionist change (single output, single source) from the spread I was juggling before. Personal audio is one of those things that I think people either land up using quite heavily by virtue of personal needs (e.g. long public transport commutes, time on airplanes etc.) or never really venture into – the situation for use has to be right. It also seems to be one of those things that more photographers than not have some level of interest in; I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s the gadget factor. There’s a whole discussion around sufficiency and enjoyment and practicality that almost mirrors that of photography; the critical difference for personal audio is that user skill has no influence over the output result, unlike photography. Personal audio listening is an entirely consumptive pursuit, not a creative one. But of late, I can’t help wondering if there are some things we can take away as photographers, too.

[Read more…]