The Rolling Rock of Headphones

I don’t keep most of the headphones I review. If I did, I’d go completely insane.

I’d also feel even more silly about all the money I spend on this hobby/job/thing.

On a good day, I can use maybe two or three headphones for different audio tasks. If I have more than five or six headphones to choose from, it’s an impossible choice.

At first, I thought it would be nice to have one pair of headphones that could do it all…but then I quickly realized that sometimes I would want a bass-heavy signature and other times I’d need something more neutral for analytical work.

And so the nightmare/fun adventure began!

It’s not so bad really. It’s fun to get different headphones and try them out, and writing reviews helps my brain to process what I’m hearing in each new pair.

But if I kept everything I’d have a hilarious closet full of headphones I never touch. The main stars of my current collection stay on the shelf above my desk…and I’ve only got room for a few pairs. Everything else gets shoved in my closet. And then eventually sold.

Most of the time this works out well. I recoup some of the investment and I get to try out new pairs when I pour that money right back into the “endeavor.”

But sometimes, this has a different effect: I start to miss a certain pair of headphones. Either because it has a vastly different sound signature to most of what’s in the current collection, or because I feel like I didn’t give it enough of a chance in the first place.

On a few occasions, I buy a pair, use them for a while, and don’t even get around to writing a review before they fall out of the rotation.

This happened with the Razer Man O’ War 7.1. It’s a very good, very comfy gaming headset…but it’s so large that I felt a bit silly using it in public, so it never got reviewed.

Some of you might be thinking: “You should have just saved all that money and bought one big good expensive pair!” I understand that line of thinking. There’s nothing wrong with rushing to an HD800, or whatever, and considering yourself “done.”

But the so-called “Kilobuck” headphones don’t appeal to me at all.

Beyond about $100, sound reproduction tends to hit a window where you’re paying for differences and not improvements. I know that lots of super expensive headphones over $300 provide amazing sound quality…but just as often you’re paying through the nose because they use exotic materials in their construction, or just because that’s what they’ve decided to price the headphones at.

I don’t want to pay $1000 for a luxury item that also happens to be a pair of headphones. I want something that I can easily throw into my bag and use at the coffee shop. And I like seeing all the different ways that consumer-grade headphones are tuned and built. It’s fun for me.

It’s hard to just settle on one pair, because listening is so subjective. And manufacturers are constantly coming up with new stuff in the price range that many humans can afford. So it’s easy for curiosity to get the best of me. I could totally just stick with one or two exceptional pairs…but then I’d be missing out on new stuff that’s designed to capture a big audience.

If the designers of that product didn’t think something was better about it, why did they even make it?

Answering that question for myself by actually trying stuff out is one of my favorite parts of this non-job.

It’s totally cool with me if you want to go and spend a ton of money on a nice DAC/amp and one pair of headphones, and then never touch anything else again. But I don’t want to do that.

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