This is a tongue in cheek characterization of the different users that appear in headphone-related discussion boards. Please don’t be offended. Image taken from the movie Who Am I?. All rights reserved.
The average consumer makes up for at least 95% of headphone users. Of course I condense a plethora of sub-categories here, but none really show interest in high-fidelity, so there’s hardly a point in describing them. Anyway, there is a high chance the consumer never considered making a science out of audio and thus thinks price difference among products is only related to materials and durability.
The average consumer’s favorite gear:
- whatever shows most on the user’s instagram
Things average consumers say to me:
- “I can’t believe you waste so much money on unimportant things. You should save it and take your girl on trips more often.”
- “Wait, you listen to music outside the gym?”
The audiophile on a budget finds the best performance/price-ratio in products cheaply made in China. This sparked a whole new community of competitiveness and the search for the holy grail of IEMs under 50 bucks. The Chi-Fier uses a heavily distorted DIY measurement rig to challenge the claims of high-end manufacturers. In his mind, the value of a product does not include availability, service or company beliefs.
The Chi-Fier’s favorite gear:
- definitely a blind purchase that nobody else has heard about before
Things the Chi-Fi guys say to me:
- “Bro, my modded $7 unknown IEM beats your whole hi-fi chain, so stop recommending people expensive gear!”
The basshead likes to let people know that he performs as a DJ – even if it’s only in his own basement. He only cares about the frequencies up to 250 Hz and demands that they offer insane headroom. The DJ thinks he hates distortion when in fact he loves linear distortion but only confuses the term with something else he hears. Most importantly, if his mix sounds bad, it’s definitely not because of clipping or compression, but because the headphones are “whack”.
The basshead’s favorite gear:
- a rebranded OEM headphone at five times the price because it carries a famous DJ’s name on it
What the basshead says to me:
- “This is your reference? I’m sorry but it sounds so bad. It has like zero bass.”
- “I can’t hear you. My tinnitus is too loud. But can you get me a Gin Tonic?”
The professional musician is forced to use both headphones and in-ear-monitors. It was never a choice, which makes this a very different approach to the other categories. So audio devices are merely tools that help to create art. This is a very pragmatical mindset that helps to look past technical flaws – a skill the audiophile has never learnt.
The pro’s favorite gear:
- an inherited 20 years old headphone that was only repaired 5 times
Things the pro says to me:
- “Your knowledge about my tools is amazing. But in the end, it’s still me who’s getting laid.”
Also known as the German. The Spielverderber has a strong interest in technicalities. Perfection can never be achieved so he negatively rates the amount of errors to determine the value of a product. He will opportunistically share this negativity in an (online) group by dropping one line that completely disrupts the conversation. Be careful not to ask what this is about or he will take the chance to lecture you about why everything you like is wrong.
The Spielverderber’s favorite gear:
- a self-modded T50RP
- open-source DIY solid-state amp
Things the Spielverderber says to me:
- “Nein. Falsch. 880mV entsprechen 5,3 Vrms @ 32 Ohm. 16 dB lauter sind 12,1 Vrms. Die schafft dein Verstärker nicht. Er schafft nur Spannungen bis ca. 0,84 Vrms sonst würden die 5,3 Vrms überschritten.”
The passionate audiophile is a lost romantic. He loves small details and sensitized himself to pick up the smallest nuances, which he will capture with his camera. His technical knowledge is superficial but just enough to find reason in his overly strong emotions towards a lifeless piece of equipment. He tends to exaggerate in the hope that his passion will be spread.
The passionate audiophile’s favorite gear:
- a product that in his/her mind was created with the same complexity and experience as a katana
Things he says to me:
- “My brother, we are the same! How haven’t we met earlier? Let’s hold hands and go on a photo walk together.”
Let’s be honest, the High-End user makes everyone envious with his spontaneous purchase decisions. Money just doesn’t seem to be a problem. The High-Ender is also an avid collector but he does not like to carry items that are not well-received. So he will buy brand new products and sell them off if reviews aren’t favorable enough. While he struggles to create an opinion of his own, he loses around 30% investment by selling hardly used headphones in mint condition.
The high-enders favorite gear:
- A limited edition gold-plated palladium cable which he bought twice (for 2Pin and MMCX connections). Fortunately, it is so expensive and rare that no serious technician or reviewer will ever get his hands on it to talk it bad.
Things the high-ender says to me:
- “Why do you keep criticizing my purchase decisions? Maybe I should sell my third car and use the money to buy your soul and send it to hell.”
Who am I?
Who cares. Which one are you?