A recent episode of the Audio Unleashed podcast touched on something important to audio enthusiasts of all kinds. Important enough that I felt it worth diving into a bit more here. If you haven’t heard of the Audio Unleashed podcast, it’s cohosted by my predecessor here at SoundStage! Solo, Brent Butterworth, and the editor of SoundStage! Access, Dennis Burger. The topic was AI, and if you’re Very Online like I am, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing those two letters even remotely near each other. More than a buzzword, AI has the possibility of changing the web in dramatic ways. None of them, in my opinion, good. But we’ll get to that. Where it’s going to directly affect you is the increasing potential that you’re going to stumble upon an AI-generated review, or even more likely, an AI-generated review aggregator. First, though, a quick primer.
It’s been six months since I took the reins of SoundStage! Solo from Brent Butterworth. While this is a small percentage of the total time I’ve been reviewing audio gear, it’s been an interesting stretch, with a much more intense focus on headphones. As such, I had a few random thoughts that I wanted to put down somewhere, none of which were worthy of a full article. So consider this a clip show from my first half-year here at Solo.
For a while now I’ve been noticing an increasing number of TV and movie scenes, as well as real-life instances, of people thinking headphones are magic. Specifically, that by wearing any type of headphones, they’re completely isolated from the rest of the world. A cone of silence so powerful that shouting, gunshots, and explosions can’t intrude on the wearer’s solitude. If only. Even if you play the music at dangerously high levels, you’re not totally isolated.
I’ve been reviewing headphones for a long time, and I’ve done quite a mix: in-ears, on-ears, over-ears, high end, low end. At one point or another, I’ve listened critically to every style of headphones at a huge range of price points.
A few weeks ago I reviewed the Audeze LCD-5s. They are, unquestionably, amazing headphones. Are they the best headphones I’ve ever heard? Honestly, I don’t know. Aural memory is a fickle thing, to be sure. I can only definitively say that compared to others I heard at the time, these were subjectively better.
If you’ve ever watched a documentary about the making of an album, where they show behind-the-scenes footage of the band recording and mixing the music, there’s something you’re always going to see. It’s the same thing if you watch someone recording sound for a TV show or movie. Basically, anywhere a professional is listening back to something live or recorded, you’ll see it: they use the same pair of headphones.