In Search of the Oasis

Hi, dear reader. I am Kazi, currently working as a Data Engineer (one of those fancy names for a software engineer) in Munich, Germany. I moved here around 6 years ago from Bangladesh. This is a recap of my journey into audiophilia (that dreaded word).

Everyone loves to start at the beginning (unless you are Christopher Nolan). My first encounter with personal audio was when my uncle gifted me a Sony Walkman. I cannot recall the model number, but it came with a pair of on-ear headphones that I even went to sleep with lest my mother shall hide them in the locker (that was a prime threat in the household back then).

It was only in high school that I began to get into music actively. Back then, Nokia phones came with some decent earbuds, and those were my go-to. I still rue not being able to afford a Sony Ericsson Walkman phone back then. Ah well…

Years go by, university days begin, and I fall deeper into music. During my bachelors, the only times I was not listening to music were when having a conversation or when I was sleeping. My father got worried that I might ruin my hearing, and my repeated explanations citing dubious scientific journals did little to alleviate said concerns.

During this time (around 2014), I first got into chi-fi. I still remember buying the Ostry KC06 after scouring through an entire shopping mall. Bangladesh back then was a barren land for IEMs, with some Ultimate Ears offering being sold at thrice the list price due to very low supply. It was sheer luck that I managed to grab those Ostrys.

Strangely enough, this innocuous purchase decision changed the way I viewed audio gears in general. I actively started pursuing the “next upgrade”. Sadly, my wallet could barely manage the extra cup of coffee during lecture breaks, so I had to postpone those plans.

After graduation, I purchased the AudioTechnica M50X as my first “serious” pair of headphones. I had to import from the UK since the local market did not have them in supply. It was all going great and then I listened to them.

“Dear Lord in heaven this thing is terrible,” I said to myself. I was quite aghast at the betrayal of YouTube reviewers with millions of subscribers who labeled those as “the best”. At first, I thought it was my DAC-Amp or lack thereof, so I purchased a used Fiio E07K. No dice, still as terrible a sound as ever.

That is when the idea of turning into a reviewer crept in. I mostly started participating in the local head-fi scene and tried to import IEMs and headphones as they were not locally available. After moving to Germany, the landscape shifted drastically. Now I could go to audiophile meets, and attend High-End Munich and CanJams events (only happened once during my stay but it was awesome).

More importantly, I could turn into a reviewer of sorts. The idea was always to give back to the community, sharing my experiences devoid of the fluff in the hope that some may find it useful. This particular direction also exposed me to gears that I can never afford, or at least that’s what I think initially. Years, or months later – I manage to own some of those once-unobtaniums, and it feels beyond rewarding.

In a sense, this has been a long journey, and it’s still very much ongoing. Last year, I met the legendary Axel Grell (designer of Sennheiser HD600,650,800, and HE-1), and it was akin to a fanboy meeting his idol.

I also managed to listen to some truly outstanding gear, e.g., Zaehl HM-1, Feliks Envy, Warwicks Aperio, and the Stax SR-X9000. Of course, I cannot afford any of them, not now at least, but the experience of listening to them is a reward in itself.

Then again, one of the downsides of being a reviewer is the jaded outlook that manifests over time. You no longer feel inspired by the generic or even those that are above average. Most new gears feel monotonic, a rehash of a concept regurgitated far beyond its shelf-life.

Yet, you stick around in the hope of something awe-inspiring, something to sweep you off of your feet, something that leaves you wordless. A mirage, a hopeless chase even, but the promise itself is larger than reality.

Then once in a blue moon, you find that oasis. A sense of calm sweeps over you, as you get lost in the music again, inching ever closer to that dithering concept of perfection. With a boundless grin across your face, you close your eyes and contemplate: “Man, it was all worth the wait.”

Kazi is currently a reviewer for Audioreviews and Headphonesty. His daily drivers include KEF LSX, Dunu Zen, Sennheiser HD 650/IE 900, Final E5000/ZE3000, Hifiman HE-6, Questyle CMA Twelve Master, Lotoo PAW 6000, and Cayin C9.

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