Introducing a great new headphone resource: Inner Fidelity, created by audiophile and technician Tyll Hertsens. When I met Hertsens about 10 years ago he quickly became my prime source for information about headphones. Now with his new Web site, everyone has access to Hertsen's knowledge base.
He made a big splash with one of the site's first reviews, the Beats by Dr. Dre Solo headphones, and let's just say Hertsens didn't love them. You won't have to read between the lines to learn how Hertsens feels about a set of headphones. He also did a short video review for the Solo, which made me laugh out loud.
Herstens developed his own methods for testing full-size and in-ear headphones, and he's made a set of videos explaining his techniques. He's also listened to a vast number of headphones, and I think his subjective opinions about headphone performance are as least as important as the measurements. Headphones are not calibrated instruments, they have to first please the listener. Harsh-sounding headphones draw the most negative criticism from Hertsens. He admitted he didn't objectively like the sound of the Bowers & Wilkins P5 ($299) headphones, saying, "I would definitely not characterize these as high-fidelity headphones." He still really enjoyed listening to them, adding that "they're cool, and I use them all the time." So for Hertsens the headphone's sound isn't the sole determining factor, as the feel and comfort play big parts in the way he reacts to a given set of headphones.
A self-proclaimed "geek," and not a trained engineer, Hertsens thinks there's just a small number of people in the world who really understand headphone technology in any depth, "but they all work for headphone companies." Hertsens is trying to goad them into sharing their insights, so he can continue to refine his measurement techniques.
Hertsens has quite the technical background informing his reviews on Inner Fidelity. He served in the Coast Guard and was a gunfire control technician, repairing and maintaining the radar and computers that pointed the boat's guns. After the service he worked at Hughes Research Labs and Tektronix, repairing scanning electron microscopes. He was always interested in headphones and founded a online audiophile headphone store, HeadRoom, in 1992. Hertsens designed a series of well-regarded headphone amplifiers and evaluated a ton of headphones during his stint at HeadRoom (he is no longer associated with that company).
Hertsens loves the new Hifiman HE-500 ($899) planar magnetic headphones (I'll have a lot to say about them in a blog soon). He's archiving headphone test measurements, and is up to around 100 headphone reviews. He's a big fan of the Shure SE215 ($99) and Sennheiser CX300 ($50) in-ear headphones. For full-size models, he really likes the Sennheiser PX100 II ($70), Audio-Technica ATH-M50 ($199), and the Beyerdynamic DT 1350 ($300) full-size headphones.
Inner Fidelity isn't just about headphones; it will also cover personal audio. Hertsens is working on a review on the VortexBox music server/jukebox right now. Wes Phillips, a great Stereophile writer, will also be writing three reviews a month for Inner Fidelity starting soon. Be sure to check the site out.