I spent the day revisiting my first setup since I’ll be selling my Fostex HP-A4BL soon. I started out with this and the AKG K712 Pro. This setup was recommended to me because I wanted something open sounding with a warm signature and overall, a small footprint. (That’s nowhere near how I described it. I think I just said give me all the bass I can get, while still sounding nice).
The AKG K712 was eye opening for me in many ways. This was my first exposure to owning open-backs. The sound stage on these is wide, so going from mostly closed back or earbuds was night and day. There were new things to explore, breakdown, and analyze. You can of course listen to music just to relax, jam, explore lyrics, distract from the outside world, etc… but now I’m hearing detail. I’m hearing every instrument. I’m hearing the intention of the vocalist. I’m hearing the dedication of the musician. That initial feeling will be hard to replicate, but the fun part of this hobby now is always trying to recreate that moment in new gear, and learning new things about what my personal sound is.
These days I run an RME ADI-2 DAC, iFi Pro iCan, an iFi iESL (for electrostatics). I have a variety of headphones as well. Among my favorite are the Sennheiser HE-60, the Focal Utopia, and the TH900 MKII when I get that bass itch. I like a more detailed, critical sound as part of my every day enjoyment of music. Previously, I avoided any kind of sparkle and wanted all the bass. Now, I want to hear everything as close to how it should sound as possible. I have times where I want something more laid back, but now I have options.
Comparing my first setup to my current, the AKG K712 Pro is undoubtedly a warm and colored headphone. You really hear it in the mids. It is a pleasing, relaxing sound that I still enjoy, but I know now that it is part this headphone’s sound signature. I can appreciate the difference from can to can. I also compared the HP-A4BL to my RME ADI-2 DAC. I excluded the Pro iCan so that it would be a direct combo to combo comparison. I used to think the HP-A4BL sounded neutral, but it’s clear that it is warmer and less resolving than the ADI. In this warmer sound there is forgiveness. The ADI exposes bad recordings and flaws, whereas the HP-A4BL shows how ignorance can be bliss.
I’m still learning. I’ve got a long way to go with correlating what I’m hearing to measurements (it’s great to be able to quantify what you’re hearing). I’m learning to listen for dynamics, timbre, and the various tonal ranges, but most importantly I’m having a blast doing it. Recently I’ve been getting the question “Do you even enjoy the music anymore? It sounds like you’re just listening to electronics.” I’d argue that I’m enjoying music much more now. I’m someone who could listen to a song on repeat for hours. Hearing new things with each listen is what it’s all about.
Having more things to photograph is a bonus.