Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

To Hans Wetzel,

That was a nice piece you wrote on the relative affordability of great headphones and matching USB amplification. I concur. However, I just can't get as excited about head-fi as many do, even though I want to. To me, I've discovered that live and recorded music is just as much about the visceral experience of the sound waves hitting the skin as it is about them hitting the eardrum. Without the subtle feel of the plucked guitar string or the not-so-subtle thump of the drum, headphones seem never to be loud enough for me . . . and that's very, very bad. I do head-fi in a pinch or when travelling, but my preferred listening method at home has become nearfield monitors on my desk, which to me offers the best of both worlds. This arrangement provides much of the intimacy and detail of headphones but with the physical impact of a conventional stereo. Oh, and the price is very much in the portable audio realm. Now, if only I could take them on the airplane!

Brad Potthoff
United States

I know what you mean, Brad. I agree that headphones, no matter how good they are, simply can't recreate the experience of musical reproduction in quite the same fashion as a proper stereo system. But I was, and continue to be, deeply impressed by just how far you can hear into a recording with a few-hundred-dollar pair of headphones.

Regarding your desktop monitors, I'm going to be exploring that in depth for the first time in the very near future. I've invested in my first adult desk, which should not only be large enough to accommodate my work laptop and external monitor, but also my personal laptop, NuForce's DDA-100, and a pair of monitors like Amphion's Ion+. That should make quite the formidable desktop system, and I'm eager to hear how well that combination works over the long term. I suspect that it will offer much of the same experience as a regular stereo system, and at a great discount in price, too. Will it offer the same “physical impact,” as you say, of my reference KEF R900 loudspeakers? I admit, I'm a bit dubious on that front. But I think it's a very interesting middle ground between the traditional stereo and this headphone culture we find ourselves in. Don't be surprised if I start writing about my experience with it in the future. . . . Hans Wetzel