Headphone mania hits New York again

Head-Fi, an internet headphone club had a "meet" in NYC last Saturday, and a good time was had by all.

A Head-Fi-er listens to AKG headphones with a Woo Audio amplifier. Steve Guttenberg

This was my third Head-Fi "meet," and at each one I've met lots of great people sharing a common passion for hi-fi. I'm not sure why, but Head-Fi members are a lot younger than most audiophiles. You see a lot of under-30 members, and it seems like under-40 Head-Fi-ers are in the majority! The weather outside on Saturday in Queens, NY, was frightful, but inside the vibes were warm and inviting. This event was hosted by my friend, Aaron Kovics (Head-Fi username Immtbiker).

Head-Fi meets gather Internet friends at a place, in this case a hotel, where they can listen to each other's headphones and headphone amplifiers. Some amps are home-built designs, some are commercial units. And unlike regular hi-fi shows, you can listen to what you want, with your own music, as loud as you want.

This almost 20-year-old Grado headphone is worth a lot more than its original cost. Steve Guttenberg

I met one guy with a set of vintage Grado Signature HP-2 headphones, probably from the early 1990s. They had a very dynamic, bold sound, and a special something I can't quite put my finger on. I'm a big fan of John Grado's current line of headphones (and phono cartridges), and I sold a lot of those early Grados (designed by John's uncle, Joseph Grado) when I worked as a salesman at a high-end audio store.

As I recall the original Grado headphones sold for $400 or $500, but used ones now go for $1,300 to $2,000! That's what I love about the best high-end gear; it sounds amazing, it's built to last, and it goes up in value! Think anybody will want to buy a 30-year-old iPod for a premium price in 2040 to actually listen to? I doubt it.

A rare AKG headphone. Steve Guttenberg

Then I heard an astounding set of AKG K-340 electrostatic/dynamic headphones, probably from the early 1980s. I've heard my share of dynamic and electrostatic headphones, but I never heard both types in one 'phone before. The combination of effortless detail and limber bass was something else again.

Most Head-Fi members' homemade amps use vacuum tubes, partly because it's easier to impart your own distinctive sound in a tube design. Some of them are really gorgeous, beautifully built things.

Head-Fi members review and discuss headphones, earbuds, in-ear monitors, headphone amplifiers, and other kinds of high-end audio gear and music on the site. Head-Fi's very active discussion forums average 3,000 posts daily. The group has 120,000+ members from all over the world.

Head-Fi holds meets around the country, and its national meet is set for June 5 and 6 in Chicago.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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