Why Did I Cover So Many “Low-End/Consumer” Headphones?

There’s only so many things to thing

You might think that you shouldn’t Google yourself.

And you’re right. You shouldn’t. Especially if you’re a content creator. What follows the press of a simple enter key is a mind-melting odyssey through random thoughts about you written by complete strangers.

I haven’t done it in a while, but the last time I did, I noticed some scattered comments out there on forums and the like. People mentioning that they enjoyed or at least read my reviews (thank you!) but that I cover a lot of “consumer gear.”

Not the good high-end stuff. You know. The real stuff.

Much of audiophile fandom obsessively focuses on the ever-evolving and ever-money-grabbing high-end. The fancy new driver systems, cable interconnects, and amplifiers of the world. Headphones with exotic wooden cups, big boxes, and thousand-dollar-plus prices.

That’s not a world I want to live in, or can afford to live in.

Well, I could probably afford it once a year. But then I’d only have one headphone article to write.

I like to write about stuff. I buy all of my own technology, and then I review it. So I have to write about the things I can actually afford.

“But Alex, why didn’t you just save that money and buy yourself one really good pair of headphones?”

There’s so much to break down here.

First off, quality is not exclusively limited to the rich, even in technology products. If value didn’t exist at a somewhat-mainstream price, then the whole market would collapse under its lack of customers. Even with many exceptional sub-$100 headphones and the $300 price of popular pairs like Beats, the market isn’t huge. Audio-Technica revealed their M50X sales numbers recently as part of the Bluetooth version’s launch showing that they’ve only sold 1.8 million units over the decade-plus life of that family of headphones.

Check out this story from the Verge for the full context of this quote.

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That’s great for a studio headphone, but not so good as far as overall market-size. It’s secretly part of why I once declared that this was all a stupid idea.

Secondly, I don’t keep every headphone that I review. I keep a small collection, and sell the rest. Headphones are a hobby for me, not a lifestyle or a status symbol, or a verification of my self-worth. High-end manufacturers are banking on your innate desire for BETTER when they produce borderline snake-oil products that cost too much money.

Thirdly, I like to write and think about tech on a regular basis. I like to try out new things and see what they have to offer. There’s a fun novelty to it, and it’s cool to see what innovations make their way to more public-facing gear. The consumer market has more products in it that I can afford than the high end market. So, that’s where I’ve focused.

Inevitably, I’ll run out of headphones to cover. I’m getting pretty close to that point already. When I do, I’ll perform a soft-reboot on myself and focus on my other passions. Video games. Movies. Music. Books. Maybe I’ll even get to write some original fiction again.

Don’t let the elitism of the high-end of the community entice you. It can be tempting to belong to a group, even if that group consists solely of members who spent more than $1000 on headphones. I get it. I get that desire to belong. But often, that comes with a weird need to shun all those who don’t I follow the same path.

That’s no good, regardless of the fandom you’re in.

Criticism is an important part of technology, and of life. It’s okay to think that something is bad, and to try and articulate those opinions for others to read and ponder. It’s a much murkier path to insult the people that like something you didn’t like. Or vice versa. One is productive, and one is a bit…self-serving.

I always want tech products/headphones/things to be good. I approach everything with the same level of cautious optimism, and my own money is always on the line. When it’s great, I celebrate it. And when it’s bad I try to figure out why, then I learn from my mistake and move on.

Most people aren’t buying high-end stuff all the time, and there are so many resources out there that it’s easy to do some research on your own. And remember that you have to use your own brain, not just the brains of others.

Low-end products are no less worthy of critical thought than high-end ones.

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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