Hello,All audio enthusiasts, budget or not audiophiles, hardcore purist audiophiles, basshead and chifi connoisseurs!
I know under different names and entities since I'm a strange beast in audio communities, so on head-fi I'm name NymPHONOmaniac, on youtube and my website I'm under the audio review cover No Borders Audiophile, but I was known too as Erik Ikomori creator admin of NBBA: NO BS Budget Audiophile wild chifi community and now Eric Lab (official profile) for Chifi Love Facebook group.…
Be reassured, I'm not diagnosed with multiple persona disorder, yet I am for intense Sound Value seeker. It's an Obsession that goes on for 10 years and is part of my.…
This journey goes way back to when I was a kid and discover jazz and classical at 15, after enjoying the Fugees, Wu Tang and more questionable things on my Sony Walkman, then I fall upon a pair of Sennheiser 450 of my father and discover a next level of musicality and never forget about it (and convince my father to give it to me).
Then I begin producing electronic music at 17 and need better-monitoring audio gear, again I choose Sennheiser for this task, the HD280, but the clamping force was too intense and give me a headache.
So, this is the turning point where I begin to make research ''hifi gear'' and IEMs, and it was around 2010. When I seek audio product reviews at the time to help my good sound value buy. I always fall on head-fi so I become a member there. It was very exotic to me to ''verbalize'' what I hear with my ears on this day, so I was quite impressed by the experienced members there, perhaps even intimidated if we can say.
This passion of mine about sound depiction comes from music production too, and sound field recording, and some of those experienced near lyrical head-fi sound description reviews sure have the resonance of this passion because I'm curious about the singularity of each micro detail, each sound layers in acoustic spatiality, and the psychoacoustic appreciation of them. This is when I've begun to be a more aware critical listener, and my appreciation for timbre and tone comes from all this analytical music monitoring.
But this isn't exactly what I would call an audiophile, since for me, this word is about the balance of technical performance, high fidelity of recording restitution and most of all, the musicality of tonality-tone-timbre.
The turning stone of my audiophile journey was surely the first high-end custom earphones I buy, the Westone ES2 dual-balanced armature custom. I couldn't believe how tall wide and open was the soundstage and how 3D-like and well-layered the spatiality was presented. I was part of the music now, wandering around its rich universe, and fully protected from outside noise pollution which is plenty in a big city like Montreal where I live at the time. But this was IEM way, and it just opened doors for a vast audiophile quest that never stops, to achieve mostly a portable End Game setup I still haven't fully achieved after all this time.
Then my love for sound rendering depiction make me begin reviewing and this permit me to get freebies that I couldn't buy myself since as an artist that doesn't really give a damn about $, I was (and still am) poor from western economical standards. A lot of reviewers don't admit it, but 99% are there for freebies and can even sell their souls for it, and their critical listening. But I still spend money on audio gear I can't test since I'm very fully satisfied with the sound benefit we get.
Which explains another journey! The Chifi quest, which begin 8 years ago on head-fi with a thread called ''Best chifi IEM etc'' get 4M views (for what it means). Because of this more budget-minded sound value quest, I've tested about 300 chifi IEMs, it's so long ago that I've seen the word ''Chi-Fi'' been invent, but I don't know from who and don't really care even if it would've been me. Wow, Ok, it's a very wordy presentation...hum, but it covers such a long time space too. I'm a 39 years old french dude from Quebec, father of a 5y old son, visual artist, anarchist and lover of nature, animals, music, art, poetry, and philosophy that listens to music every day for at least 4H, it's an addiction and escape.
My journey sure evolves with time in terms of sound benefit return awareness, in the chifi realm, it goes from Xiami Piston V2 to Tinhifi T2 to Senfer DT6 to Blon BL03 to the big disruptor and game changer HZsound Hearth Mirror, but this is my budget-minded quest, which is different from my personal audiophile quest about ''sound perfection utopia''.
Due to the wide range of musical genres that I listen from classical to jazz to soul, r&b, electronic, folk, blues, rock, name it I surely will find a band I enjoy; I've always struggled to find IEM or Headphones with a versatile tonality that cover all this genre properly to be musical with them all. This is often due to the mid-range being compromised by bass or treble boost, even harman target is too upper mids-lower treble focus and lacks mids fullness, naturalness and presence for my appreciation.
So my true audiophile journey is a very complex one. It begins with my DAP quest. The first one was Hifiman HM601, I enjoy its power and warm musicality, but the resolution was poor and full of harmonic distortion and background hissing, so I buy and buy until I stop at Ibasso DX90, this was a true revelation and this 6y old DAP still work. I've bought a second one and use it once a week too, and it's superior to a lot of overhyped Android DAP nowadays that have poor durability due to the fact we need to throw it in the garbage once the battery is dead. Right now, I enjoy the Hiby RS6 from a friend and own Tempotec V6 and Questyle QP2R, but these aren't my end-game solution still.
Yet, the DX90 magnify my critical listening curiosity too, and I've tested and bought a lot of mid and high-end IEM and headphones, from Grado GS1000i to Sennheiser HD820 to Hifiman Sundara to Final A8000 to Unique Melody Mext etc.
So, I do think my audiophile hobby drives me crazy! That's the only rational conclusion I can find. It have a great impact on my life, even with my sensitivity to the noise surrounding me, to people talking too loud etc, I become a non-stop active critical listener! look fun Penh! In fact, it is. When out of self-pressure I put myself on myself for review. This explains why I will focus more on quality over quantity of audio gear reviews, yet, writing this I try to find a way to keep my sub-200$ budget IEM quest too.
This hobby impacts my time investment into the audio community too, since I'm a rather solitary person, it's very intense for me to be that involve and well, I'm a bit controversial too due to this independent mind and serious critical listening hobby i'm in as well. With all my experience in audio, it makes me extremely demanding and you will never see me say an audio product is ''The Best'' for ex, or ''Giant killer'' or wtv. Nonetheless, the critical listener that doesn't translate a frequencies graph loudness balance to write its review will be more useful than ever in the future, it's what I believe. Why? Because AI (artificial intelligence) will write an audio review blog and surely be able to translate graphs, but not proper humans that analyze their own psychoacoustic experience.
So, I'm here to stay. For the better and the worst! Even if I'm anti-sponsor, anti-hyper, anti-affiliated link, anti-positivist sound description and anti-BS.
Ironically, I do select a new piece of equipment reading specs and graphs. Because while I don't need somebody else to read the freq graph for me and call it a review, properly does give a vague idea of the tonal balance we get. My advice about the graph would be: beware of the spike! About the graph, I can be wordy again, but let's just say this: a lot of them are misleading too, due to poor quality measurement gear. But, if you see 5 different sources with similar curves, it can be valuable, yet, past 6khz and down 50hz, it's not trustable, this 8khz spike for example is often mic resonance induced, it might or not be there. As well, if you enjoy something and see it graph badly, don't care about it!
So my first advice would be to understand the specs and graph! And learn to differentiate real audiophiles that review audio gear with true passionate Ears from those that do it for self-interest and money. I find more trustable the negativist than the positivist more. But when both negativists and positivists praise an audio product, it's a sign something exceptional is happening. As well, don't believe both these statements: all budget audio gear is crap or all high-end audio gear is overpriced. Learn to know what type of musicality (tonal balance) give you the most pleasure, if it's warm with the dark resolution, don't feel ashamed of it and perhaps seek better layering to enrich your sound experience since yes, we can scale up infinitely our audiophile journey, but pass 2000$ technical performance will achieve its limit and it will be more about niche unique tonality enjoyment. Other advice is, to begin with, the decent audio source, some phone is OK, like my LG V30 that use sabre ES9218 DAC, but it's not very clean not powerful. There are a lot of things to learn, so be curious and open-minded, and don't fall into easy certainty that will stop your knowledge evolution. Specs like impedance and power output are very important for DAP, dongles, and DAC-AMPS, while specs like sensitivity or well impedance again, are very important for IEM and headphones. If you use a streaming service, try to use an exclusive mode that will avoid over or down-sampling of your music quality too...I can go on and on and on.
But I think I was already too wordy so you are welcome to follow me or join my No Border Audiophile Channel or Website, or my Chifi Love or Headfi group. Be certain my priority in my reviewer and ''influencer'' space is all about high sound benefit for the consumers, this explains why I'm surprised to share this article with you guys, but since I like Chifi Love members that come from India, I feel it's logical to do this strange self-description.
I wish you all to find the audio gear that transforms your whole reality into music bliss and make you forget you listen to audio gear!