Giving recommendations and introducing to the hobby

I just wanted to see if I’m the only one who has run into this, and I have many times.

People know me as “the headphone guy” in my circles and I inevitably get asked for recommendations.

The problem I’ve run into is the excitement that someone I know is talking about audio and asking my opinion. That has lead me to overwhelming them with all this information that’s taken me years to learn and none of it is really helpful at that moment.

So my question to my fellow can crazed crusaders out there is: how do you handle recommendation requests from friends and family that don’t necessarily know or care about audio? Do you have a quick go-to all-rounder option for different price points or do you like to get into the weeds and figure out exactly what would be perfect?

Bonus question: have you ever converted someone to an audiophile after they’ve tried your gear or gotten something off your recommendation?


A lot of people notice my Koss Porto Pros and ask about them. I’ll talk them up somewhat, without going into all-out evangelist. I don’t think anyone has gone and bought one, though. I must be a bad salesman.


As @InvisibleInk mentioned Koss Porta-Pros. I usually have a spare pair and have given them out, particularly to young “apprentice” audiophiles. I’ve also grabbed spare Moondrop SSR, KZ ZSN, and have two CCZ Emerald boxes right by me, and hand those out to an occasional client for their Oculus or someone’s kids.

Rarely, I have some headphones at work. I have other headphones at the house in State College, and have let numerous people try a DAC/AMP plus Sennheiser HD-580 or Drop Senn HD-6xx. If I’m traveling some people get to hear my Grado RS1e.

I’ve converted a few apprentices to audiophiles in training, yes. Years ago, I had someone try my Senn PX-100s with their iphones, and they said they could never listen to their apple earbuds again (back in the wired earbud days).

But I really try to be gentle with advice. I ask what their music is and what their use case is - gym, or general. I talk about budget and warn about the rabbit hole. Usually I steer people to DROP and the HD-5xx as a first good headphone. I’ve had my HD-580s since the 1990’s and know they will stand the test of time, plus they can be driven without a DAC/AMP.

If they persist, I write down the forum url or drop them an invite. If they have money, I tell them about my love of electrostatics. And I warn them that it takes time to learn what they like.

Headphones are easy, comparatively. The real question for me is what do I do when there’s a nice breeze and I’m flying a twin line stunt kite. Especially if it’s got some pull. Do I dare let them try the handles? Here’s an instruction video from my friend Dodd Gross, who taught me to fly. Dodd is a multi event multi year US champion and has been a world champion stunt kite flier.


I was today years old when I learned about stunt kite flying.

Very interesting take as well. I had my SO try my kph30i’s and he was astonished at how good they sounded.


I invite them over and have them listen to my headphone and gear collection (streaming their favorite tunes) without mentioning what’s what or how much things cost. I take note of their reactions/expressions while they listen and then answer any questions they have after. It’s rare someone doesn’t hear the differences that the “higher end” headphones have to offer, and so the products kind of sell themselves or generate conversation on their own. If the person has a lot of questions or genuinely expresses interest, then I start to nerd out a little, but I take it slow and dumb things down at first. In the end, the goal is to have the person figure out what they like on their own, using their time hearing my collection as an introductory course on how to audition and why it’s so important.


In general, I recommend the Meze 99 Classics or Neo to a friend or acquaintance who owns a consumer-brand, wireless headphone from Sony, Bose, Beats or the like but wants to dip their toes into audiophilia,

Those kinds of folks would put on a neutral can like the Sennheiser HD 560s or a mids- and treble-forward can like the Focal Elegia and immediately exclaim: “These suck. There’s no bass!”

That’s not a problem for Meze. The 99 Classics and Neo ooze bass. Sure, those lows bleed into the mids. But at least the mids exist, and the treble is fairly detailed and rolls off just before becoming harsh. Soundstage isn’t bad for a closed back, and separation and detail are adequate to good. But all better than some Bluetooth, ANC headphone.

The 99 Classics and Neo also are easy as hell to drive. One of the few audiophile headphones that doesn’t need any amplification at all. It will sing from a laptop or phone.

Finally, the build quality of the 99 Classics is exquisite. Not a centimeter of plastic anywhere. Wooden ear cups, metal suspension, leather strap. Gorgeous.

Combine that construction with the fun, bassy sound, and anyone coming from a consumer sound signature will find the Meze 99 Classics or Neo a gateway drug into a terrific, fun audiophile journey.


The world is full of differences of opinion. I give the opposite advice, as the 99 Classics are indeed similar to many consumer products. I’d put new people with the HD 6XX or 58X because open backs deliver a really different experience. My wife, as a non-audiophile, “got it” upon first trying open back headphones. She noted how relaxed, open, and realistic they sound. The 6XX and 58X are quite affordable and easy to obtain, as there are many now on the used market and plenty of accessories and parts.

I’d not recommend the HD 600 to many newbies, as they have relatively little bass.


Damn good point. The HD 6XX and 58X probably are better gateway drugs for those with a truly open mind about better sound.

I guess those who crave the excessive bass of a consumer-oriented sound signature probably should just stay with consumer-oriented headphones instead of audiophile cans. :slight_smile:

Or maybe get into IEMs instead. I find that some DD driver IEM’s have the ability to pressurize my ears and can really thump, even if their “bass shelf” isn’t extreme. I’ve not yet found an IEM that sounds as realistic as an open-back headphone, but they serve their purpose for me.


Yep. Another good call.

IEMs are not an option for me, for two reasons.

One, my ears are very waxy, and IEMs only shove that wax deeper into my canal and cause painful plugs. Two, I suffer from pretty severe tinnitus, and my doctor said to wear over-ears only as IEMs drive the sound directly into your ear canal with no buffer of distance like from over-ear cans. Sound being pile-driven into the inner ear isn’t a great idea for tinnitus sufferers.


Sorry to hear about your ear issues. Do you find that noise-canceling headphones mitigate the issue?

I find a good screening test to get an idea of preference is to get them to try the PortaPro followed by the KSC75 on PortaPro headband, get them to listen to a few of their favourite songs and then ask which sound they prefer.

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My father has tinnitus and said that ANC headphones meant he only heard the tinnitus :slight_smile:


Wow - that’s awful! I guess it makes sense that anything that truly isolates outside noises would exacerbate the problem, as the ringing is then more dominant sounding.

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In my experience closed cups, ANC or not, cause fatigue per their inherent internal reflections and echoes. The least fatiguing setups for me have extremely clean and rolled-off treble. ANC products are typically rolled off but closed and grainy.

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No, they don’t reduce the ringing. But they do let me play the volume lower in noisy environments, so that’s good, especially when traveling.

The best way to deal with tinnitus is to have some sort of white noise playing in the background. TV, podcast, music, etc. I just focus on that more than the ringing, and it’s tolerable. I’ve had tinnitus for 15 years, pretty bad for the last seven. There’s no cure, so you just learn to live with it.

But my ears are sensitive to the “cabin pressure” produced by the ANC by some manufacturers. Sennheiser and Bose, in particular. Always feels like I was in a plane and couldn’t equalize my ears whenI wore ANC cans from both of those manufacturers.

Word of advice: Protect your hearing at ALL COSTS, fellas. Don’t crank the volume on your cans. Use ear protection with mowing the lawn, using power tools, going to concerts.

I did not until about 10 years ago, and a lifetime of working in professional motorsports, getting my face melted off at club shows and using power tools and garden equipment with no plugs has caught up with me. Mea culpa, but I wouldn’t wish this tinnitus and gradual hearing loss on anyone.


Your Pops is correct! :slight_smile:

I guess I do it different. Usually only to someone staying at my house. I bring them into my office and plug the Stax SR009S into the Blue Hawaiian put them on Qobuz or Tidal and let them stream to their hearts delight. Now doing this has resulted in numerous spontaneous conversions but if they say “the bass is too low” then I pull out the LCD 4 (now I will use the LCD 5 I guess) and let them go at that with the Chord TT 2 using a GSX Mini. If neither of those work I pray for their immortal soul for they are lost. Just kidding.


This is quite true, as auto racing great A.J. Foyt likes to say.

The best headphone for my tinnitus in my collection is the HD 6XX because of its clean, rolled-off treble and open back. My Edition XS and Elegia are better headphones, but the HD 6XX is a warm blanket for my ears on bad days of tinnitus.

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I think one thing, did not read all the responses so I’m not sure if this was mentioned. But the simple fact I always convey is that spending 300-400 which is the typical mainstream hyped headphone would be far better to check your options and get a 6xx and a decent AIO system for the same price would be far better.

I would definitely recommend the Koss’s, so they can get a feel for what they are seeking. But I see that as like a sub 200 dollar option. If budget is strictly concerned.

Honestly the 30i “ultra” mod is honestly an outstanding and awe inspiring moment. The clamp force and on ear pressure is my only issue with the stocks. Even though it does sound a touch better in original form.

I also by personal experience kind of hesitate from guiding someone down the road we all go through. Not everyone will lead the same path you are on, but for someone who is close to a year and half into audio I’ve spent well over 10,000 to find my happy place. Headphones, Speakers, Home theater and accompanying equipment. Not to neglect these are all from sales and open box items, which at retail would hit just below probably 18,000