Doug Schneider - DAS

August 1996

Seven Darn Fine Reasons for a Headphone System Too!

Note that in the title I said too. Although some people use headphones exclusively, I'm addressing this to those who have a full home system - like me. Why? Because a supplementary headphone system can add enjoyment to the music listening experience and take you places your home system won't allow.

Now first let me get something straight, my home headphone system is nothing grand. We're simply talking about a Denon DCP- 70 portable cd-player (can't handle any bump and grinds whatsoever, but is one of the rare players that sports a digital output) and some Grado SR-60 headphones. That's it, that's all, and for now that's just what I need. But it's now a valuable part of my life and here are some of the reasons why:

  1. First and foremost we all don't keep the same hours. I'm not talking about you and me. I'm talking about the person sleeping in the next room at this very moment. And no, this isn't some sick fantasy about a neighbour - it's her, the person sharing my rent, food, and life! Although I rise (and am expected to rise) when my unofficial spousal unit does - late night hours reading and browsing the 'net, as well as writing stuff such as this usually means I'm awake much later than she is (or most other people are). My neighbours don't care if I play my stereo after 10, but SHE certainly does. Without my phones I'd be screwed. I'd never get to listen to half the disks I do. Well, "up yours I say!" With 'phones you've got your own hours and can at least reclaim and live out a valuable part of your life.
  2. Apartments, or other such small dwellings, usually equals a cramped life. My listening room also serves duty as a living room, TV room, computer room, beer room, hanging out room, etc. I can certainly see the purpose of a fifteen room mansion since single-room multi-tasking just isn't all that practical. So when someone else calls room dibs and is watching the tube, reading, drinking, sleeping, or whatever, music is usually out for the Douger......until... now yer gettin' the picture.
  3. Movies sound better thru your headphones than thru crappy TV speakers. You guys with home-theatre can ignore this, but for others like me.....well, this discovery happened quite by accident when Doug's Other pulled the usual 'call it quits early' again. It looked as though I just wasn't going to be able to watch Leaving Las Vegas with any appreciable volume. But I plugged the Grados into my VCR's headphone jack and presto, wayyyy better full-stereo sound than the Sony box can crank on its own.
  4. Long distance travelling becomes a breeze. Endless hours jiggling in a car or airplane seat, being forced to listen to someone else's choice of tunes becomes a thing of the past. Just stock up on batteries and get ahold of Headroom so you can get yourself a full-fledged, full-function travelling pack to haul your portable music center around the world with the least frustration possible.
  5. Sometimes you just need your own space. Nothing can piss off an avid audiophile more than someone talking to you while you're trying to enjoy some music. Headphones give you an excuse to ignore them. Whether you can hear them or not, they don't know it and they can't tell. If you can hear - who cares - just pretend you don't and smile whenever they talk. After a bit they'll get the subtlely of your hints and you'll have all the time you need.
  6. A headphone system doesn't cost that much. I did it for less than $250 bucks. It could even be a lot cheaper, or certainly a lot more. I say start cheap but keep expansion in mind. I can't think of better reasonably priced phones than the Grado SR- 60s. Other people dig some of the low-price Shack models. Your expansion will come thru your player - if you need one. Heck, if you have a headphone jack on some of the gear you're off to the races (although the portability factor is gone). But remember, in time you may want to add an external headphone amp like those from Headroom. If you don't know why you would want one, just give one a listen to and you'll understand. Almost all their models absolutely kill a portable player's headphone output, or even the jack on your cd-player or preamp. And if you're lucky to have a digital output, like me, you can add an Audio Alchemy Dac-Man or something similar to signficantly improve your player's sound. Ahhhhh, separates for headphone listening.
  7. And finally, headphones can sound darn good. That's right, sometimes music is better served through headphones. And you need something on hand just in case music like that comes along.

So there you have it. I can't think of a better present for your listening room this week. If you are really serious about putting together a great system, at any price, Headroom are the guys to definitely talk to. Although they only manufacture amps, they have a fine knowledge of headphones, portables, and all the doo-dads you may need. Besides, the Headroom Prez, Tyll Herstens is a heckuva friendly guy. He'll be able to give you shirt shopping advice as well. Best of all you won't be out of pocket a bit since their number is 1-800-828-8184.

If you do go ahead and do something along the headphone route, don't forget to drop me a line to tell me how you made out.

...Doug Schneider