In this weekly series of articles you will discover what are the business insider’s favorite albums and tracks. We have contacted a broad selection of industry experts and each Wednesday you can discover one of those guy’s favorite albums and why this is so. Check out our previous “Favorite album of” articles here: https://www.headfonia.com/category/fav-album-of/
This week’s honor goes to Mike from the Headfonia Store. In case you can’t remember Mike, he’s the founder of this site and he’s now running headphone stores in Indonesia.
Who am I:
I’m Mike and I run Headfoniastore.com. I am the original founder of Headfonia.com back in 2009
When talking about favorites on classical music, it may mean either the artist/performer, or the composer. For this article, I think it’s easier to choose a favorite composer.
While Beethoven easily ranks No.1 in terms of my playlist market share, I actually choose Bach as my favorite, as he is the one I cannot live without.
Bach has a lot of good music, but my favorite is definitely Goldberg Variations performed by Glenn Gould in 1955.
Bach: The Goldberg Variations is the 1955 debut album of the Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould. An interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), the work launched Gould’s career as a renowned international pianist, and became one of the most well-known piano recordings. Sales were “astonishing” for a classical album: it was reported to have sold 40,000 copies by 1960, and had sold more than 100,000 by the time of Gould’s death in 1982. By year 2000, the sale of his 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations exceeded two million copies. ~WIKIPEDIA
The album has 32 tracks and it’s not quite like a modern album where each track is a different song. I consider the whole album a single song with different segments, and so it’s difficult to choose a “favorite”. However, just for the purpose of this article, I’d choose the first track:
Why this choice?
Why Bach’s Goldberg Variations? Though it’s not the music that I listen to everyday, the depth and the height achieved by Goldberg Variations, certainly belongs in a category of the best music ever conceived by humanity. Other music like Beethoven’s 9th are also in it, but Bach’s simplicity with the one instrument contrapuntal melody, to me stirs a much deeper emotion with a lot less. Any good music moves the emotion, but Bach’s Goldberg brings a peaceful sense of awe, a level of aural aesthetics achieved by very few pieces of music.
If I remember correctly, it was Bach’s Goldberg that was featured in the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still (Keanu Reeves 2008) to represent humanity’s art in the face of an alien intelligence. This is what I also feel about the Goldberg Variation — the best that humanity has to offer.
These days, I listen mostly to digital because they are much cheaper, easier to find recordings, more portable and practical.
I have a lot of set ups that I consider to be good, from simple Iphone + $50 IEMs to desktop + full size headphone set ups. It depends on where I am and what I’m doing while listening to the music. I have a different set up for the office desk, for the gym, for when I am travelling (either plane, train, or just walking). Sometimes I need a durable set up that I can throw into a backpack without protective case. I have a set up for watching movies and a different set up for playing video games, and so on. And among these different set ups, I also rotate between a few different ones. Some set ups let me listen to music casually like a background music, and some set ups put me right in the middle of the music. The set up change depending on mood, the work I’m doing, how much isolation I need and such. Some set ups are mostly stored and only listened to when I’m feeling nostalgic about that particular piece of gear.
While I like the portability of an IEM, I consider myself a headphone guy. I like the feeling of the music coming from a bigger set of drivers and having comfortable earpads on the skin, instead of silicon inside the canal. These days, I mostly used closed back due to the noise isolation that helps me to focus to the music better. Closed back headphones have also improved tremendously and I see no more need for open back headphones. What’s more I value a black background when listening to music and open-back headphones with their leaky design struggles with presenting a black background.
I used to be a lot about bass. Sennheiser HD650, Audeze LCD-XC, EL-8 closed back, to give some example. While I do think bass is still my favorite frequency range, but for some reasons the headphones I use these days are mostly monitoring headphones. I have no idea why that is, other than I listen to whatever I enjoy.
The No.1 headphone on my list is currently the Phonon SMB-02 with the YAXI FIX90mm pads. No.2 is my modified ATH-M70x. No.3 is the Sennheiser HD25-1 which is my mobile/rugged headphone with YAXI’s Type B earpads. The HD25-1 is a good headphone, but the YAXI Type B pads brought it to a whole new level. No. 4 is the Fostex T50RP (The latest model is Mk3?).
I do use a Bose for when I’m on the plane. Different headphones for different purposes. The HD25-1 also does a good job of being a passive isolation in-flight headphone, and on trips where I need to shoot video, I take the HD25-1 as it can double for an in-flight and sound recording purposes. I also use the Sony Z1000 headphone, which I use only because I enjoy the way low piano notes sound on it (Again on a YAXI earpad).
The silver lining in my IEM choice is that they are mostly dynamic driver based, with the exception of Radius’ Piezo/Dynamic TWF-31/41. I’ve been loyal to the Ocharaku Flat-4 wood series ever since the first Kaede to the current Keyaki model. However, I also use a few cheaper IEMs from Radius (NEF-21, NEF-31), Zero Audio Carbo Mezzo when I’m listening while walking/travelling as I don’t want to use my expensive Keyaki.
My source is a combination of the Iphone 6s + Radius LCH81 DAC, or just the Iphone if I’m being very minimalist. I use either the the Fiio X5 II (though I really want the X5 III) as a coaxial transport for my Andix 45 tube amp which comes with a fantastic built in Coaxial-input DAC. Other than that I have a Japanese AXEL portable tube amp and a heavily modified JDSLabs Cmoy amp. The Axel and the Andix amps are both tube-based, and are currently among the best tube-based amplifiers I have ever encountered in my headphone career. There are many more expensive than these two, but I would not trade these two for anything else.
Hope that has been an enjoyable read, and I owe an apology for leaving Headfonia.com without a proper good bye. I got busy with the store and kept on delaying the farewell article. Before I know it, 3 years have passed since I last wrote on Headfonia. I considered going back to write some articles last year, but I realized that I have been out of touch with the high-end enthusiast products that Headfonia.com is focused on, and so it’s going to be difficult for me to start writing since there are so much products in the market that I have no knowledge over. But I am thankful for the work that Lieven, Nathan, Dave, Berkhan, and Linus are doing.
If you want to check out Joseph’s favorite album, you can do so here:
Thank you Mike for being on the series and for giving us a little insight in what you like to listen to. If you have suggestions of who we should feature in this article series, let us know in the comments!
Up to next week…