Headphonemania! Headphones hold top five slots in global audiophile charts!
Well, that's what the headlines should say. Headphones, headphones everywhere, and now I see headphone ads from the same companies that used to make my plasma TVs. Even the President is bumpin' his Beats, although that may be just a farewell finger to his non-Beat buddies across the aisle. The bosses of electronics, eying potential sales and a new demographic (praise God almighty, they're here at last!), are taking time out from making surveillance servers and refrigerator filters to sell headphone gear to all comers at all prices.
All to the good, I guess, but I'm of the mind that the best personal listening gear is still being made by specialized companies who want to make both money and cool headphone products. Marquee players like Audeze and Cavali Audio draw crowds at headphone shows and generate well-deserved praise. This demonstrates once again that single-minded focus and a head start go a long way when you're trying to outrun giants.
The only problem is, all of these headphone choices now flooding from headphone conglomerates and artisans make me feel like I'm standing in a Tijuana mercado, looking at Baja hoodies and trying to decide which one to get. All the hoodies look the same, so who knows which one stays scratchy and falls apart, and which one softens up and lasts forever? Aloha Mr. Hand, indeed. Fortunately, I'm lucky to have chums who will test the waters for me. The ampsandsound Kenzie headphone amplifier featured in this column was originally referred to me by chief headphone scout (tribal seer might be closer to the mark, if you're following his Occupy HiFi vision quests), the irrepressible Michael Mercer.