Write a short introduction about yourself?
Hi. I am Sameer Tangri, a long-time resident of Pune. I work in an IT firm and music, photography, and reading are my hobbies. I devote time to each of these as best as I can. No prizes for guessing that music is the most convenient of the three and hence gets the most attention, time, and money!
Can you tell us about your first experience with audio gears?
The Shure SE-535 I purchased in May-2018 was my first introduction to serious audio gear. I don't know what came over me but it was an impulse purchase of an expensive earphone of which I had no prior idea or experience. Off course I read up on reviews but still, spending this much money on a small little IEM was a leap of faith for me then. I mean you do get IEMs for Rs. 500/- or 1,000/- too. Then there are also commercial consumer brands like JBL, Sony, Bose, etc. But as I saw it Shure was an audiophile brand offering specialized audio equipment. In hindsight, I guess that's what got me curious. I probably thought to myself that people do spend serious time and money on these things, and they cannot all be crazy. There would be some reasons and value in their choices. There are large companies and corporations with teams of qualified people that research, engineer, manufacture, advertise and market such equipment.
And thankfully my reasoning was not wrong! Not one bit! Once I heard the Shure SE-535, I was hooked! I was simply amazed at the myriad sounds and effects I was hearing. I mean what I now know and understand as soundstage, imaging, separation, etc. were all complete unknowns and a huge surprise to me when I heard them in the SE-535. I was flabbergasted that music can sound this good!
Needless to say, after that I have only gotten myself deeper into this 'rabbit hole'.
What inspired you to start your audiophile journey?
Once I had heard the Shure SE-535, I was simply amazed at the myriad of sounds and effects I was hearing. It irreversibly changed my perception and view toward music listening forever. It’s like once you’ve relaxed and lounged on a comfortable lazy boy, you will not like doing the same in an a simple chair! Thus, I got more and more curious as to what the other companies like Shure have to offer. I started reading more and more while slowly collecting various types of gear (DACs, AMPs, closed and open back headphones, single-driver/multi-driver IEMs, cables, etc.). I started increasingly enjoying researching and auditioning of different gear while also deriving joy and pleasure from the different types of headphones, IEMs, DACs, etc. I was buying along the way. 5 years down the line, I now own some fairly good gear that I thoroughly enjoy.
Can you describe a specific moment or experience that solidified your love for audiophile gears?
As I have mentioned, my introduction (first love) in this hobby is the Shure SE535 IEM. Even today, I keep them around no matter how little I may listen to them. After that, the next event that stands out in my memory is when I tried open back headphones in Jan-2022. The first one I heard was the Hifiman Deva. I know it’s a basic one but boy oh boy was I blown away! It was my first time listening to an open back headphone and I finally understood what the fuss was all about. I still remember buying the Deva (on EMIs) that time, going home, and listening to it till 3 am. It made me relisten to almost my whole library! This is the moment that I think solidified my love for audiophile gear.
How has your audiophile journey evolved over time?
Earlier, I used to go with the hype train. Gear that was praised to the skies by reviewers was what I went for. I used to see immense value in the next cheap gear that came out, especially ChiFi IEMs that always seemed to ‘punch above their weight’.
But with the passage of time both me and my taste have aged and matured, and I have understood this rabbit hole a little better. I now understand the value that products from companies like Final Audio, 64 Audio, Campfire Audio, etc. offer. Theirs is a sound that doesn’t tire me. In fact, it grows on me and that’s something I love about them. It’s a sound for all seasons that you can come back to anytime anywhere. Presently my individual opinion is that only a handful of ChiFi companies (e.g., ThieAudio, Unique Melody) can hope to stand up to these companies. The rest no longer interest me. In fact, recently when I wanted an upgrade over the Tin Hifi T3, I finally ended up buying the Etymotic ER2XR instead of IEMs like the Moondrop Starfield, Aria, etc.
I guess I can summarize this as that now I seek long term joy instead of short-term pleasure from my audio gear.
Another important realization I have is that I prefer a hybrid drivers based setup instead of an all BA drivers based one.
What are some of your favourite pieces of audiophile equipment and why?
The top spot goes to my 64 Audio Trio IEM. This is a sound I adore and for me, this IEM does 99% of things right. I got the Trio as an upgrade to my ThieAudio Monarch MKIIs. The Trio is a fantastic step up and superb IEM that complements (and trumps) the MMKII. I couldn’t agree more with 64 Audio’s definition of the Trio when they say that it is a perfect balance of analytical reference sound that’s also dynamic, fun, and engaging while being extremely comfortable for long hours of listening (thanks to the compact size and APEX). It presents a sweet spot between reference-level clarity and a smooth sound signature for extended listening. It is a light IEM and extremely well-built. And believe me, APEX makes an enormous difference. It causes almost no fatigue and pressure build-up in my ears and makes the listening experience even more relaxed. The imaging and soundstage are also top-notch as I can hear each individual instrument's sound and where it is playing from on the stage. One more thing- initially I had planned to buy the U12T but after auditioning it, I realized that I prefer a hybrid drivers-based setup instead of an all-BA drivers-based one. Hence, I strongly recommend that everyone try out various IEMs before buying.
Second on this list is my Thieaudio Monarch MKII. These are extremely natural, refined and mature!
It took me a few days to truly realize what a marvel these Monarch MKIIs are! My setup includes using these on my laptop via my iFi Audio - ZEN DAC V2 and iFi Audio - ZEN CAN Signature HFM (Amp) via the 4.4 balanced output as well as on the Quedlix 5k DAC-Amp via the 2.5 balanced output. The passive sound isolation is very good with low (20-25%) volume music being enough to mask any sounds that still trickle in, including human voices. The build quality is superb, and the cable is something you must see and touch to understand! Basically, one can carry around and use this with confidence. No flimsy parts, wires, jacks, or joints on this one. The case is also spacious, well-built, and on the larger side. The sound quality is very impressive! Many times, it's as if it has almost entered open-back headphone territory (I own the Hifiman Ananda too). All this coming in such a small, pocket-friendly, and portable package is mind-blowing! You cannot carry a full-sized open-back headphone during travel. But carrying this IEM is surely an option and it helps to get sound quality so much closer to open backs. The sound is not overly analytical/critical or flat. It has the right tuning to give a fun but natural sound. It’s the kind I can listen to for hours. The bass is hefty and good, but never overpowering. Mids. are well-presented and very visible when they must be (vocally intense songs). Treble and clarity too are very nicely presented, but never harsh or sibilant. Layering and separation are also very good - complex tracks with busy passages having excessive multiple instruments playing simultaneously are delivered well. The soundstage is average though – it is more of a ‘most sounds coming from the left & right at shoulder width’ case. In some tracks, you will feel the base at the jaw while the treble is a little higher. But it’s never the kind of soundstage that will make you look at the door when you hear a knock in the music/movie. The sounds keep around (mostly left-right) and close to your head. It is difficult for me to fault it anywhere. You can of course find faults if you search hard enough but then as a consumer, you listen to music for enjoyment and not to look so hard for faults (with a microscope).
My Etymotic ER2XR is next on this list- KISS - Keep It Simple Silly. 🙂 A simple but effective setup for Saturday evening. My trusty iPhone, a Hidizs OTG adapter, the VE Abigail, and my Ety ER2XR.
It is a brilliant IEM! Insane value for money. I hear sounds I've never heard in my songs before. It's such a clean and balanced sound but fun at the same time which I guess is due to the XR (extended response)! Trust me, you got to hear it to understand. Clear sound, analytical sound, flat sound, cohesive sound, non-sibilant sound, fatigue-free sound, engaging sound, fun sound, head-bobbing sound, body-moving sound! My definition of 'clean and fun sound' has changed after listening to this! This is a kind of clean that one should hear to understand.
Regd. the well-known or sometimes infamous Etymotic fit: fortunately, it was fine for me with the stock double-flange ear tip. But I got the SpinFit CP240 double-flange ear tips anyways, and the fit has now gone to super comfortable. No issues whatsoever! Zero. Nada. In fact, the seal this IEM gives is something I've never experienced before!
This Ety experience has changed me or even spoilt me in ways I never expected. I'm now (also) an Ety-Head!
Finally, the Hifiman Ananda is last on this list. This is an open back I adore. Personally I do not like to sit at my desk and listen to music. I am more of an IEM guy. Hence, I am satisfied with the Ananda which one can consider as the mid-tier of the Hifiman line up. This does everything right for the price. The comfort, imaging, clarity, and soundstage are all top-notch. After listening to IEMs for longer durations, I look forward to and love coming back to this baby. The comfort, clear open sound, large soundstage, and clear imaging and separation that I get is pure joy!
There you go. That is my favorite gear!
By the way, an honorable mention of the Final E3000 must be made here though. For the price one pays for it, I don’t think there’s any other IEM that can beat this one, period! If you haven’t already, do try it out.
How does your audiophile hobby impact your daily life?
I listen to music when I make my daily 6:30 am cup of tea. I listen to music while walking to and being at the gym. I listen to music while at work. I listen to music when I lay down at night. Music is an integral part of my life and daily routine. I always say- “I invest in audio gear. I don’t purchase it.”. An investment is something that gives returns. “What are the returns?” you ask. To name a few- peace of mind; relaxation; lowering my blood pressure after an exceptionally exhausting, difficult, and busy day; making a fun day that much more enjoyable; cutting out noise from the outside world and helping me focus, eventually making me more efficient at what I do. I could go on, but I think you get the message. I firmly believe that not everything can be quantified in financial terms. And though we may not see it due to the conditioning this world gives us, the most important things in life usually fall in this ‘non-measurable’ category. Music and my audiophile hobby helps me realize these important ‘non-measurable’ things!
How do you select new pieces of equipment for your collection?
Earlier it was entirely based on reviews. Now I do read/view reviews but then there are two invaluable sources I must mention-
- I am fortunate to have opportunities to audition gear at The Audio Store, Pune as well as attend the HeadphoneZone Connect events when they’re held in Pune. Thus, I always try to first try and then invest.
- I take advice from like-minded people on HeadFi Forums. E.g. when I was looking to upgrade from the Tin Hifi T3+, I asked fellow Monarch MKII owners in the HeadFi Forum for advice. The rationale behind this move was that here on this forum is a large and global audience that shares my taste of sound signature (they too like the Monarch MKII). Hence, they’re a good reliable source of advice to shortlist gear and then research on it. A member there recommended the Etymotic ER2XR. Trust me, I would probably never have gone for it on my own. I researched on it, found it to meet my tastes, and went for it. Needless to say, it has made it to my ‘Favorites List’ and gave me a lot of satisfaction.
Finally, after 5 years in this hobby I have a better grasp on aspects like the capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and sound-signature inclinations of certain companies. This also helps me narrow down the candidate list.
Can you share tips or advice for someone just starting their audiophile journey?
- Try before you buy.
- Keep an open mind and keep trying everything. Last I remember, I was pleasantly surprised by a brand called Oriveti. I had never heard of it but went ahead and tried it, nonetheless. Now I have started planning for them!
- Take advice from HeadFi forums, especially from members who share your taste for gear.
- Don’t be put off if you buy something and it doesn’t meet your expectations. It happens with us all. I still remember that the 64 Audio U12T’s reviews had me convinced that it was my next IEM. On trial, to my utter surprise I didn’t like it one bit. Luckily, I was trying before buying! 😊
- Your preferences may change as you start in this hobby. This is normal. I started loving an all-BA setup but now love hybrid and single-DD setup.
it was indeed an engaging read. I have one thing to ask. I love my T3+ , Aful 5.That said would the Final Audio E3000 and ER2XR field something novel on the table.I guess you are in the best position to clarify.
I am really impressed with your writing style. Keep it up!
Very educative article for a beginner Audiophile like me.