What have you learned or mistakes made in the hobby in 2020?

It’s that time of the year. Looking back the achievements, the things swept under the carpet, bla bla bla…

Goal here is simple. Something learned or mistakes that happened in 2020, audio-wise, which may have value for others.

Since this is actually my first anniversary in the hobby, the following items below can summarize my year – in no particular order:

  • became friends with the amp volume knob – when I started in the hobby, my plan was to control music volume in the keyboard (OS controlled). As of today, I don’t know, but changing the volume in the amp just sounds better than changing with the keyboard; :man_shrugging:
  • no rush – new stuff keeps coming and there is no rush in boarding in hype trains of the moment; :steam_locomotive:
  • no over-listening – my best listening sessions happened after a while away from headphones. In other words, your brain deserves some rest. :wink:
  • the power of DSP – that was probably the greatest achievement for me this year. Headphone limitations aside, DSP (a.k.a. proper EQ) is really a powerful tool and can save you a lot of cash down the road. :money_with_wings: :money_with_wings: :money_with_wings:

Those were just a couple of items I can remember now.

As of mistakes are concerned, I probably may have purchased more headphones than I needed. Somehow I remembered this quote “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

So, what has happened to you in the hobby this year, should you like to share it?

Happy Holidays!

Cheers. :beers:

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Interesting thread.

I learned that I enjoy harmonic distortions (mostly via tubes) because they add a certain realism to the music for me. I also learned that before heeding the words of others, to get my own ears on gear before subscribing to any audio truths. It’s all preferences in the end.

Merry Christmas.

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This year was definitely my most eventful year within this hobby…

I have learned that:

  • There are several high-end headphone stores in my area
  • I was wrong about everything
  • Science doesn’t have all the answers
  • The Harman target isn’t really my preferred target curve
  • I am not capable of accurately translating equipment measurements into my own listening experience
  • I am not capable of accurately translating reviews into my own listening experience
  • Comfort is severely underrated
  • I like bass… Maybe even a bit more than most
  • Technical performance and accuracy matter less than I thought
  • The headphone I ended up purchasing was the one I had the least interest in prior to hearing any
  • A THX 789 is not an endgame headphone amp
  • Schiit is not shit
  • I like R-2R DACs, a lot
  • Tube amps can make everything sound better
  • Equipment synergy is a thing
  • Roon is the best
  • Better gear can make lower music listening volume levels more enjoyable
  • HE-1 is legit
  • IEMs can sound pretty damn good
  • Chasing the endgame is just chasing the dragon
  • There will always be many people with more/better things than me
  • Everyone in this community is likely to know something that I don’t, including newcomers. We can all learn from each other
  • There is no substitute for personal experience. We can request/suggest directions based on our own experience, but no one can tell what’s best for anyone but themselves, as this is all inherently a subjectively enjoyed hobby.
  • I still hardly know anything in the grand scheme of things

Of course I didn’t learn all these things on my own. I’ve learned a lot from the people in this community, and got to know some great people who all made it that much easier to get through this unique year of not seeing as many people. For that I am thankful!

Merry Christmas!

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What he said.

That list is epic.

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Awesome list! So many truth bombs haha.

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After that list @Jsim what else is there to say!!

Merry Christmas!

Alex

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What YOU have learned in the past year. :smiley:

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Great list. :clap: :clap: :clap:

I think the HD800S has probably taught me this particular one.

Merry Christmas!

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With the exception of the roon thing (haven’t tried it), this is EXACTLY the conclusions I’ve come to. It feels weird to disagree with experts. Don’t even get me started with the denizens of other forums. Just last night I was reading some comments about the lcd-GX that had me thinking the old cliched; are you listening to the same cans as me?

To add, I think we really need to take diminishing returns into account more. How much is that last % worth? But to balance that out, sometimes it’s not about “better” but a different experience. I still want a ZMF. Why? I love the look, and the rave reviews help. I even sized my DAC/AMP accordingly.

Last, buy what you want from the get-go. Don’t side-grade, unless to compliment.!

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Although I am quite new to the hobby (I haven’t even written up my initial impressions after receiving my Lyr3 and BF2!) I’ve already learned quite a bit but my top 5 most important lessons so far have been:

  1. The well worn cliché of “It’s about the journey, not the destination” rings very true in this hobby. Stop fussing about the “next” piece of equipment or what’s “better,” slow down and enjoy what you have!
  2. Garbage in = Garbage out: Poor recordings (even at high sample rates and bit depths) are going to result in poor sound. I was disappointed that some of my favorite albums sounded pretty flat or just flat out bad with my new setup. However with respect to point one, now I can try to find different recordings of those albums and curate my collection and it’s exciting to find new artifacts in songs.
  3. If you are unable to articulate what your preferences are you aren’t going to be able to effectively ask for recommendations. Spend time listening to understand your own preferences.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions but at the same time use a best effort to find some answers yourself first.
  5. Look at the money you’re spending comparatively and understand what value it is adding. I didn’t bat an eyelash at buying the Lyr3 / BF2 but have been struggling with spending money on Sonarworks Reference 4 / JRMC. Why? I’ve already invested all this money in HW why am I pinching pennies for an essential element of the setup? Get over my inclination to not pay for SW.
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I’m pretty new to this hobby. The list above is epic. My thought: it can take a while to find people who have similar tastes. So read a lot and if you read something that mirrors your experience, read more from that person. Like, I know if person x reviews an album or a movie and they like it I probably will. And while there’s no guarantee, the chances are higher than from a random review or forum post.

My next step is, when I have a question, to ask those people their opinion. Should I ever decide to graduate to zmf headphones and spend that level of money, I’m going to ask those people who I respond to, and probably a simple question like “hey I love my ananda’s and hd6xx on the Asgard 3 but the elegia is too wonky in the mids, that’s better on more neutral equipment for me, I still like them, which zmf do you recommend?”

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Thanks all, appreciate all the responses. :slight_smile: Great topic for discussion for sure!

What’s interesting is as I was writing up that list, “money” didn’t even pass through my mind. For me, I don’t like to judge a product’s value proposition logically. It’s my gut feeling that makes that call for me. If it’s within my available budget range and I want it more than anything, that’s what I’ll end up going for regardless of its logical value proposition.

I don’t feel anything for the money I have saved up, but the worry-free joy of enjoying music through the gear I wanted the most will positively affect my listening enjoyment for a very long time. I’ve worked hard for that money, so I feel I owe it to myself to enjoy it to the fullest. :smiley:

This is a very good point which I should’ve added to my own list as well. Once you learn how different a modern-day hi-res album on Qobuz/Tidal sounds vs a rip from an original master tape, it’s actually disgusting how much of a difference there is between the masters.

In fact, that’s one of my plans for next year for me; Getting a CD ripper and starting my hunt for good masters of older albums I love on CD.

I certainly agree with your take, but always be cautious to not put too much faith into the words of 1 person though. Someone’s impressions might align with yours 95% of the time, but there’s always a chance that you suddenly won’t align on 1 specific piece of gear. Just be aware that there’s always a “risk” involved. :slight_smile:

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Here are my narrow and idiosyncratic findings in 2020, in chronological order:

  1. The major uncompressed streaming services (Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon HD) deliver similar quality. I’m with Amazon HD for its content mix, app availability, and app stability.
  2. In buying the Focal Clear and extensively testing the Focal Utopia in 2020, audio hobbyists live in a world beyond most music creators. The Sennheiser 600 family fully reflects most artistic “intent” – we are doing something else entirely.
  3. Much of what people describe as ‘detail’ or ‘nuance’ actually follows from a transducer’s ability to generate output at different volume levels at the same time or in rapid succession.
  4. Treble management strategies are more important than price for headphone fatigue and overall satisfaction (e.g., does a design produce or avoid shrill peaks?)
  5. The CHEAPEST AND MOST PREDICTABLE WAY to achieve pleasing output on modest hardware or hardware you don’t like is an equalizer. The Schiit Loki makes a lot of stuff bearable. Novices: Obtain an EQ before you complain about your gear and look for a new amp or DAC or headphones.
  6. I’ve grown out of cheap IEMs and have little interest in trying anything below the $100 price point. Gym/workout IEMs at $100 are still fine by me.
  7. The combination of Sennheiser HD-6XX ($220), balanced cable ($25), and Loxjie P20 amp ($100 to $150 with upgrades) may well deliver more technical performance than some novice audiophile care about. [Also, some data-oriented audio sites truly do a disservice to novice buyers; data matters but not that much.]
  8. Dan Clark headphones with 13 ohm impedance want as much power as they can possibly get, and improve all the way up. They honestly scale. Do not judge them from testing with average power headphone amps.
  9. @Resolve looks really, really, really great when he holds Apple headphones against his chest.
  10. @Pennstac routinely creates the most entertaining topics.
  11. @prfallon69 continues to be an all-around solid guy and leader of the Welcoming Committee.
  12. @Torq couldn’t stay away!
  13. @andrew, @taronlissimore, and @Darthpool are stand-up adults and routinely demonstrate nothing but poise and professionalism. We wouldn’t be here without them. :smiley:
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I died. Mistakes I’ve made… trying to wade into existing debates about certain headphones. What I’ve learned… so many things haha. Diving into the AES papers has been so insightful this year.

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Don’t forget -

@MRphotography lives up to his name, with the most delectable shots, incredible smooth pans and zooms, and second to none close-ups. Not to mention his still shots.

@ValentineLuke ALSO lives up to his name, making everyone feel at home. Pure balm in the time of pandemic.

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I knew I’d forget people :frowning: – to include @MRphotography and @ValentineLuke. My greatest omission might have been @ProfFalkin for sharing such exquisite chair photos. The chair leaves me almost as faint as @Resolve’s Apple glamour shot.

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I began this hobby in April of this year. Consequently, I suspect that I’m too new to even appreciate what my mistakes have been. My wife, on the other hand, is not shy about pointing out those mistakes she sees. She mostly points to the fact that I have purchased six sets of headphones since April. The first four sets were not expensive (between $100 and $200). I consider them the cost of learning, and I still use them.
I do have a few personal holdbacks for this hobby. I am older and my hearing, while good, is not what it used to be; I have no training at all in music; and I am virtually phobic about technology and how things work. Even to me that does not sound like a great prescription for success in the hobby. But the superseding factor is that I really enjoy music, many kinds, and I love the way the music sounds on good headphones.
I very much enjoy reading reviews of headphones, amps/dacs, etc. I am fully aware, as a number of people have already said, that I am subject to persuasion by oral and written reviews more than is warranted, and I take that into account. But it’s still a lot of fun watching and reading them.
My best guess is that when I do finally get into more high-end headphones I will find out that I don’t get as much out of them as others do but I’m still looking forward to trying.
About this forum, I am taken with a few things: there are so many people knowledgeable about the hobby who are so generous with their time and advice and so patient and kind with beginners. But what mostly comes across is their total enjoyment of, and even passion for, the hobby, and it’s infectious.
So thanks all, and a happy and healthy new year to everyone.

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Good topic, with an abundance of valuable nuggets shared. This speaks to the strength of this community and the rich content generated sans noise. We all know this. It’s why we are here.

Happy holidays to all.

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One thing I know is that wearing comfort can not be understated. Pads, clamp pressure and headband design all being factors. For several of my headphones, I’ve added ZMF Co-pilots. I like the Lambskin variant. They work great with ZMF and Dan Clark Audio Gear. The pads are not large enough to be permanently affixed to the HD800s, but I simply manual place the full pad between the Handband strap and my skull. Extra work, but more comfy for sure.

Here’s a photo of one on my DCA Ether Closed (Drop version)…

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I’m one of the many people for whom money is a persistent ( if no longer overriding ) concern. Sometimes that means I will freely spend money, I have done so in 2020, and sometimes it means I won’t consider a headphone, amp or other equipment purely because of their price.

I’ve learned a lot from the people here and I value their opinions even if I don’t agree with them. So many are giving of their time & experiences and that make this the great place that it is.

I had an experience this morning listening to the Carpenter’s Top Of The World on my uDac 5 & Deva’s. That is a song that I heard hundreds of times in the 1970’s, it was all over AM & FM in my hometown. I know that song, as it sounded then, by heart. And yet, today I heard nuances that I’d missed. Instruments, Singing & Parts of the Melody that on Radio were lost. I’ve had it as part of my song collection, but I never took the time to listen, and that is the lesson - take the time to listen.

Mark Gosdin

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