Picture Sunday – The Audiophile Path

Disclaimer: The star of this week’s picture Sunday is actually not a specific product, but what leads one to it; the audiophile path. The idea behind this article belongs to Linus and it is all about our audiophile paths. This post is a part of our Picture Sunday series.

This probably isn’t a typical Picture Sunday post, and I sincerely hope you won‘t be disappointed. Rather than talking about what the awesome products are, I this time want to write about our audiophile journeys behind everything. I want to tell you how it all started for me and how I met with Headfonia. This is also an important day for a reason which you’re going to find out in the text. Enjoy!

Trip Down Memory Lane

My audiophile story began with one of those Walkman Cassette Players. It was ’98 or ’99 if I’m not mistaken. Well, I’m the youngest guy in this crew so I was 9-10 back then. In those years CDs were becoming really popular but tape still very much was in use. We had a Pioneer home system at our house and I always loved listening to it. But the actual beginning was that day, when I first listened to the Walkman with a pair of earbuds supplied with it. Man, it was sublime for me. As a kid I was shocked to hear that sound in my head. I remember it was like a real concert experience, something I’ve never heard. You can’t replicate that priceless first impression with any other pricey gear in today’s market, no matter how good and outstanding they sound.

When I grew up, I started to play with MP3 players and I always had them with me so I could give myself to the music everywhere. That’s why I still love portable systems, albeit you can get much better sound with desktop or stereo. Listening in your sofa is a good thing, but sometimes it’s much more enjoyable to listen to the music while you’re travelling. So after playing with these toys, I started to think there must be better sounding earphones out there. I was just starting college and after some research I made my first audiophile grade purchase, the Shure SE315. I couldn’t believe I paid so much money for them (it was “so much” those days) but after hearing them I figured out they were miles ahead compared to the main-stream earphones.

How I met with Headfonia and Lieven? I was a follower of this website and reading most of the audiophile reviews from Mike and Lieven. The reviews were so enjoyable for me and I think this is the most important thing if you’re into this hobby. Reading reading and reading. I still read many reviews on other sites and I still see myself as a reader rather then just a writer. There are great audiophile reviewers out there but of course the best ones are here. Actually I’m still a reader of Headfonia and I enjoy the great work of my colleagues.

I had asked many questions in the comments section on Headfonia, and I remember praising the answers from Lieven and Mike. That’s why I pay attention to answer the comments under my reviews, as I think it’s really important to give some vision and insight to our readers. Only after I met Lieven directly on social media and after a few good chats, he one day offered me to write a guest review and I said “why not”? Of course he remarked right from the start that he wanted to “like what he saw” before publishing. Since the review was from me, he of course was impressed. 😉

That’s the story in a nutshell and I must thank all the people who have helped me to develop my ears to find out those differences and small details. I still get excited when I’m going to listen to new stuff. That’s what fires me to continue to read and write about the equipment.

Anyway, I wanted to raise your attention to another fact: Lieven celebrates his birthday today.

I congratulate him for getting a little older and a little wiser. The support he gives me is very important, not just for the hobby we share but for other things as well. He’s one of the best guys I’ve met, and it’s really great to be a part of Headfonia. As a side note: Today is also the 94th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. So for me, you have an even cooler birthday, Lieven! Congrats my man.

Linus and Nathan were both kind enough to also participate in this Picture Sunday episode, here’s what they have to say:

From Linus

My audiophile story began around eleven years ago, when my brother just had to show me his great sounding new AKG headphone. I don‘t remember the exact model, but I remember being wowed by the details it had brought out. My brother had used a Rockboxed Sansa Clip. Ever since then I was also on my way to discover the headphile part of this world. Exploring new audio players, different headphones and playback software. In the eleven years I have run through numerous products and have also built a customized Linux distribution with focus on audio reproduction.

During this time, I started out with sub 100€ headphones, and I only bought DAPs that could be Rockboxed, because it was and still is the best software around.

I come across Headfonia I think about four years ago, I read a lot of articles here, and they all lead me to become interested in better gear. Better headphones especially. I went to dealers to try out their offerings, from Sennheiser, Shure, AKG, Beyer and many others only to land at Audeze. Years have passed and through some lucky coincidences I also got in touch with Lieven, whom this post is really about.

Lieven has always been very responsive and honest, this also was one thing I have always valued Headfonia for. And this is one thing that has brought also trouble to HFN in the past, not everyone likes the honesty of this site. Manufacturers especially. One certain brand even went so far to claiming they‘d pay us to only write glowing reviews. As you probably can imagine this relationship ended right there and is the reason why this one American brand is not featured on this site anymore.

Click here to read Linus’ words to Lieven and Nathan’s story after that.

4.6/5 - (11 votes)

A keen audiophile and hobby photographer, Berkhan is after absolute perfection. Whether it is a full-frame camera or a custom in-ear, his standpoint persists. He tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level as audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews are the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favourite Jazz recordings.


  • Reply October 29, 2017

    Amit Raj

    Hello Berkhan,

    Your article’s an interesting read. Uncannily, your audiophile journey and mine more or less mirrors one another. My journey too started on a Sony Walkman that my father gifted me when I was around 10 years (circa ’91/ ’92). Till then, I was listening to music on the Kenwood stereo home audio system that had these psychedelic reverb meter (something like this https://i.ytimg.com/vi/aYuBU-QCd4k/maxresdefault.jpg but dated back to 1986!!). Luckily, I had access to some CDs (which by the way sounded much better then than today!) and the music upgrade from tapes to CDs was massive. Until I got my walkman, nothing really beat the Kenwoods. Now, the walkman was an entirely different ball game…the music was much more intimate and magical as it seemed to come from the centre of my head! ???? The walkman lasted at least 8 years when I got introduced to the world of digital music i.e. MP3 and the MP3 player. This was when I purchased a 4gb (which was massive then) Creative Zen MP3 in 2000 (iPods were still in the design phase). It was then I started experimenting with CD rippers and tried to discern the differences between 128/ 160/ 192/ 320 kbps CBR and VBR MP3, and equivalent standards in .aac, .ogg.

    It was in late 2000 that I met a friend (a thoroughbred audiophile) at university. It was he who introduced me to the world of audiophile headphones, amps, power amps, DACs etc. He looked at my MP3 (albeit with a condescending face) and said my experience could get a booster by changing the headphones. He then suggested the Koss Porta Pro and boy these were a steal at those prices. He then told me showed me his prized possession Grado SR325 and after listening to my music on the Grados I’d realised how much I missed. After this initial push, I was on my own researching a lot into IEMs, headphones, DACs etc. I purchased my first IEMs: Shure e2c (in 2002) and these gave my Creative (followed by ‘2006 16gb iPod) a whole new dimension. I could listen to a lot more detail that I never knew was there in my music earlier. The shures lasted until 2006 when I moved on Westone UM2 that again lasted until 2015. Oh yes, I did change my player to a Cowon J3 in 2011 that partnered well with the Westones. In 2015, I upgraded to Westone UM30Pro which again added more refinement and changed my player to Shanling M2S. I had change the player since Cowon was not handling high bitrate .flac (btw, I moved on from the simple MP3 to .flac and DSD) and the Shanlings are decent for the price I paid. And boy!, DSDs are a different league and really how music should be enjoyed.

    I must have spent at least $2000 during this journey and I’m still itching to shell out more to discover more. This is a very addictive and expensive hobby that’s not affordable especially if you’re married and have a family! I’d love to spend hours at stretch listening to smooth jazz over the UM30Pro and am all the more curious to know how my Bill Evans DSDs would sound on 6 and even 8 balanced armature drivers…but I guess those would only remain a dream…

    From a fellow audiophile,

    Amit Raj

    P.S.: By the way, in case you were wondering, I replaced the Kenwoods with a complete surround set of JBL (a pair of Ti10k, a pair of Ti6K, Ti centre, Ti subwoofer) powered by Yamaha amp and power amps…

    • Reply October 29, 2017


      Thanks for sharing!!

    • Reply October 29, 2017


      Amit, very thanks for sharing your journey.

      Yours is indeed pretty much parallel to my path. It’s interesting to hear better stuff every 1-2 years, the market is still evolving and getting better. I could never imagine to try out those expensive toys in the past, but I did.

      M2S is great for the price, but I recommend you to change your Westone Um30. You can find better IEMs around that price range.

      Again much thanks to your sincere and enjoyable comment.

      • Reply November 3, 2017

        Amit Raj

        Hi Berkhan,

        Thanks for the comments. Do you have any suggestions for a replacement to my UM30pros? These IEMs are really blissful and I’d amazed to find something better than this for the same price. Do let me know.

        • Reply November 8, 2017


          Take a look at our Buyer’s Guides

  • Reply October 31, 2017


    hey Lieven! Happy birthday to you! Gratz from cold Russia!

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