Hyp0xia29 is someone I respect a lot even without personally knowing him.
His impressive knowledge on headphones is something all enthusiasts should strive to achieve and his headphone collection is second to none.
For a subjective headphone enthusiast he can be rather objective on his reviews.
As audiophiles go he’s the real deal and I recommend his blog every time I can.
1. Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
I am originally from Denver, Colorado. My parents were both musicians and music instructors, my father a trombonist and my mother a multi-instrumentalist but, above all, a pianist. My in-laws own and operate a successful karaoke business in Ho Chi Minh City. I currently live in Morrison, Colorado, a town best known for Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the best venues on the planet to experience a live concert. I’m about a thirty-minute drive from the location where Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, the largest consumer audio show in the United States, takes place every year. As I am sure most people could also claim, music has been an integral part of my life. Pursuing the best way to experience that music officially became a hobby a little over five years ago, joining my other hobbies that include the DIY PC scene, East Asian cinema, and international travel.
I’ve been to forty-three countries and I lived in Vietnam for a couple of years. Upon returning from Vietnam, where I had been using nothing but a laptop with a cracked screen and some cheap ear buds, I think I was ready to up my game in terms of how I consumed audio and video content and it sort of planted a seed that matured into two separate yet inseparable hobbies: computer system assembly and audio.
2. What music do you enjoy and why?
I grew up listening to some of the bigger rock bands of the 1990s. My taste in music was heavily influenced by my eldest brother. I have long since branched off on my own and I actively seek out new music in a variety of genres, but many of the artists and bands I listened to as a kidin the 1990s are still what I am listening to today. I listen to a lot more movie and game soundtracks these days, but my favorite music still falls mostly into the genres of industrial rock, progressive rock, alternative rock, gothic rock, post-rock, post-industrial, heavy metal, progressive metal, thrash metal, and electronic.
In addition to a lot of the rock artists who made it big in the 1990s, I listen to a lot of ‘70s and ‘80s rock, most of which predates me. I have found it much more challenging to find modern artists I enjoy and I have had to explore some more unusual genres like chiptune, synthwave, and metalcore with varying degrees of success. For me, there’s really no putting my finger on what appeals to me and what does not, but people have always pointed out to me that I tend to gravitate toward darker music and oftentimes aggressive, angry music.
3. Why are you enthusiastic about audio?
The biggest driving force behind my enthusiasm for audio was another hobby of mine. In 2011, I assembled my first computer and, in doing so, discovered a great new hobby. I ended up working in a computer store for a few years shortly thereafter and advising customers who were planning to assemble or upgrade their own computers. Surrounded by coworkers who shared my interest and had their own hot rod PCs, I really felt the need to differentiate myself and I found the best way to do that was to enthuse over aspects of PC building and peripherals that everyone else more or less ignored, one of which happened to be audio.
In late 2013, I got my first big boy headphone in the form of the Sennheiser HD 558 and it was okay. Then I got the Sennheiser HD 598 just a couple of months later and that proved to be the real gateway drug as it has been for so many others before and after me. It was the first time I experienced true clarity in my music. After that, the curiosity about what else was out there led me to one headphone or speaker after another alongside the amplifiers and DACs to drive them. Five years later, I remain in constant pursuit of great sound both as a component of my DIY PC hobby and as a hobby of its own.
4. What audio gear do you use?
I spend most of my time at home sitting at my desk, so I have a pretty strong desktop setup. My headphone of choice and reference for nearly two years now has been the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro with balanced pads. I rarely use anything else these days unless I am taking a new headphone for a spin, which I still do on a fairly regular basis. My main headphone amplifier that I use with my Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro and other high impedance cans is the Beyerdynamic A20. For everything else, I have a HeadAmp Gilmore Lite Mk2. Driving my Micca MB42X speakers that I use for non-critical listening (e.g., YouTube videos and Twitch streams) is a Micca OriGain A250.
All three amplifiers receive signal from a Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC with Gen 5 USB. I use AmazonBasics RCA cables, Tripp Lite USB cables, and Micca speaker wire. The USB condenser microphone that I use for occasional multiplayer gaming is a Samson Technologies Meteor Mic that mostly exists to allow me to continue using big boy headphones instead of “gaming” headsets.
My gear is by no stretch of the imagination confined to my desk, however. For portable use, I have a FiiO X5-II that I use with either the Oppo PM-3 or Sony MDR-1A headphones. I have a FiiO K5 next to my bed that I use almost exclusively to charge the X5-II. For LAN parties, I usually bring along my Schiit Fulla 2. In addition to a couple of other headphone listening stations, I have a 3.2 home theater setup consisting of a pair of Jamo C103 bookshelf speakers, Jamo C10 center channel, and a pair of Monitor Audio Bronze W10 subwoofers all fed by a Yamaha RX-A1070 AVR, Oppo UDP-203 Blu-ray player, and many meters of SVS SoundPath Ultra speaker wire. For what it’s worth, the left and right channels are bi-amped.
Not including my headphones, speaker, and vacuum tube collection, I also own a lot of other electronics from Aune, Feliks-Audio, FiiO, Oppo Digital, Schiit Audio, and Topping, but what I have already mentioned are the main products I use on a regular basis.
5. What would be your perfect audio gear setup?
I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that my perfect audio gear setup is the one I already have sitting on my desk. Okay, so the DAC is overkill and I won’t claim to hear a difference between it and a much cheaper DAC, but I like the fact that it has two pairs of RCA outputs and a pair of XLR outputs because I don’t like using Y-splitters or having more boxes on my desk to split the signal. It just gets messy. To be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing about my desktop or portable setups. My home theater could use some improvements though. I wouldn’t mind having floorstanders and a full surround setup, but it doesn’t really work in the room, which is why I have stuck with all front channelsand bookshelves.
I am always looking for ways to improve my listening experience. Nine times out of ten, however, I just revert to what I’ve been using now for a long time. My main listening station at my desk certainly eats up a lot of valuable real estate, but it’s also highly versatile.
6. What is your favorite format for audio and why?
I’m a digital guy. I get that analog can be its own hobby within a hobby and I get that convenience in this hobby oftentimes comes at the cost of quality, but I feel that there is a middle ground between vinyl and Spotify. For me, that middle ground is FLAC. I try to maintain as much of my personal music library as possible in lossless, uncompressed FLAC. As of right now, that number stands at about 90%. I have individual songs as large as 600MB, but it’s 2018 and mass storage is both cheap and accessible, so whether or not you actually hear the difference between a lossy MP3 and a 24/192 FLAC is a moot point, especially when you’re me and you have a 16TB NAS that’s only at just over ¼ capacity.
I personally rip from CD probably over half of the new music I add to my library, though CDs are becoming less and less common and people in the DIY scene like to shame you for even owning an optical disc drive (not that I care). The remainder comes from Bandcamp, Onkyo Music, HDtracks, and, when left with no viable alternative, some less legitimate sources.
Interview conducted 28/09/2019