Help! I'm Turning into a Headphone Crazy

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I suppose that in this modern world everyone is slightly crazy about something. Lately for me it's been headphones. In the last two months I've acquired over six new pairs of headphones, all purchased through Amazon or EBAY. Why? Because, during the past year I've become increasingly enamored by the charms of headphone listening.

What is it about headphone listening that's so different from loudspeakers? First, there's the superior intimacy of headphone listening. Unlike speakers, where the music is "out there" and your level of involvement can vary with the turn of your head, with headphones the soundstage doesn't change or shift when you move your head (unless the earphones fit badly or are so extremely light weight that a change in position moves them). With headphones inner detail is more accessible - it's easier to listen through a mix to focus on a particular instrument. I also enjoy headphone soundstaging - yes its VERY different from loudspeakers, but just as with speakers, once you learn to listen for soundstaging, it's quite obvious, and just as chock full of subtle nuances as through loudspeakers.

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In my world, it's often more practical to listen through earphones than loudspeakers. Every morning I wake up between 7:00 and 8:00 AM and go to my office to write. My office is directly below the master bedroom. And although we spent extra time and money to isolate the office from the bedroom, there's still enough sound leakage that playing music on my desktop speaker system early in the morning is a surefire recipe for domestic discord since my wife rarely rises before 9:00 AM. For many years I just went without music early in the morning. But with headphones I can rock out, even at 7:00 AM without disturbing anyone or anything in the immediate vicinity.

But beyond a means for domestic tranquility, headphones offer an audiophile another way to experience and enjoy their music that is both different and equally as satisfying as loudspeakers. The fact that many audiophiles who can't afford the best room-based transducers from Wilson or YG, can still afford the best headphones from Stax, Woo, HiFiMan, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, or AKG. Actually, for less than the cost of the least expensive Wilsons you can have a comprehensive armada of headphones, headphone amps, DACs, and source components for personal listening. Heck, you can even afford duplicate headphones for guests...

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There's one more reason I've embraced headphones in such a big way. I realize that sometime before I expire I'll likely spend some time in a hospital. I've yet to hear of a hospital that lets patients bring in loudspeaker systems for listening to music. I want to be able to listen to music right up to the time I leave this earthly plane. Chances are I'll be putting in those last hours using headphones. Being an ex-boy scout, I want to be prepared...

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