An Introduction to Headphones

By Daven Lu

Do you go to live concerts? Do you want to get much closer to real, live sound? With adequate headphones, you can get very close to not just hearing your audio, but also feeling it. My ultimate goal is to spread the love of high fidelity audio. If everyone could gain a few points of utility from having exceptionally good sounding music, the world would be a better place. And now with Christmas just around the corner…

A bit about myself

I’m Daven. I have been collecting headphones for the past thirteen years. In that time, I’ve owned and tested well over 100 pairs, ranging in price from $15 (Koss KSC35) to well over $1700 (Sennheiser HD800). It has become a passion of mine, and while I’ve ultimately settled on what I consider to be the best value set out there (Audio Technica M50X), I am always on the lookout for challengers to shape and refine my preferences.


Bic Camera stores all around Japan have shelves stocked with headphones you can demo with your mp3 player or phone. It’s a paradise for me.

The cost of the hobby

It might sound like I’ve spent an enormous amount on headphones, but headphones preserve much of their value. For example, it’s possible to buy a pair of Sennheiser HD597’s for $150, and after three years of use, sell them for $100. You’ve essentially paid $50 over 3 years, or a bit over 4 pennies a day. This scales at a diminishing rate, so if you ever go insane and buy the Sennheiser HD800’s ($1700) and resell them 3 years down the road, you’ll lose quite a bit more.

Here are a few examples of what I’ve bought and sold:


Sennheiser HD650 $400. Owned for 1 year, sold for $350. Net loss/gain: -$50


Audio Technica A900X $150. Owned for 2 years, sold for $180. Net loss/gain: +$30, as price of headphones went up


Beyerdynamic DT880 $350. Owned for 2 years, sold for $300. Net loss/gain: -$50

Headphone drivers are complex, but like speakers, they almost never die. The usual worst case scenario is that the cord shorts, in which case you can replace it for the price of two or three lunch outings (or do it yourself for under $2). This makes buying used headphones a very smart way to save money on an item with a near infinite shelf life.

The gateway pair


JVC HA-FXH20 $30

I will leave you with the JVC HA-FXH20, which many consider to be a gateway into the world of headphones. The HA-FXH20 costs around $30 and is the top-ranked budget ear canal headphone in Japan according to The sound is warm, with slightly forward mids (vocals sound particularly smooth). It lacks instrument separation and soundstage, but so do most of the headphones costing under $200. It shines with pop and electro music.

Have a little more to spend? Try the Audio Technica M50X.


Earlier I mentioned what I consider to be the best value headphones (Audio Technica M50X). While these are far from my favorite, it made monetary sense to keep them while I was a starving university student. Coming in at around $130, this pair kicks butt and competes with headphones costing upwards of $300 (looking at you, Bose and Monster Beats). Coming with a removable cable that can easily be replaced, the Audio Technica M50X is durable and features that distinct sound signature many people like: slightly recessed mids with a forward mid bass section and sparkly treble. It also folds up and is more portable than other headphones of similar size. Due to the circumaural design, the pair will keep your ears nice and toasty in the winter. Earmuffs that play music are awesome. Earmuffs that output high quality audio are very awesome.

Have questions? Want to talk about headphones? Interested in buying a very specific pair? Shoot me an email with your budget, purpose of use (music/movies/gaming), style (over-ear, on-ear, in-ear, earbud, clip-on), genre(s) of music you enjoy, and sources (mp3 player? phone? dedicated system?) to (remove the 44).


Have any tech you’d like to be more knowledgeable about? Email us at


One thought on “An Introduction to Headphones

  1. Pingback: December 2015, Vol. 2 | Good Morning Aomori produced by Aomori AJET

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