Blog: The Return of Michael Ting

Disclaimer: The pictures in this article are taken by Michael Ting himself and they are his favorite gear at this moment.

 

Hi Mike! It’s been three years already since you left the Headfonia.com team, it’s a pleasure to have you back here on the site, even though it isn’t for a review. I’m sure a lot of readers have no idea of what you’ve been up to, so let’s tackle that first.

For the readers that don’t know you: Could you tell a little bit about yourself and how you’re related to Headfonia?

Well my name is Michael Ting and I started Headfonia and worked on it for the first 3 years ☺

How did Headfonia start actually? And why?

I didn’t really have a strong reason to start, other than that there were no full-time headphone review sites. There was a review site that does reviews on some Grados but that was it. (somebody probably can help me with the URL which I’ve forgotten now).

Meanwhile I was a member of a local headphone community with access to many different headphones I thought about creating a review site so more people can benefit from the information. With my background as a photographer, one of my concepts was to make high quality pictures for the articles. I think initially we were famous for our pictures rather than our reviews hahaha.

How were the first few years when you were running things on your own?

It was a lot of work because I didn’t have a partner. I asked a friend who was into headphones but he wasn’t interested. Another friend wanted in but he had a different concept on how we should execute and so that didn’t work out. It was just me doing everything that needed to be done and even though there was a lot of work to do, I don’t remember the work to be that burdensome. Maybe I’ve forgotten how hard it was.

And then I joined you in 2011 or so. How was that for you?

I don’t remember what I was thinking when I asked you to join. We only knew each other from the Internet and somehow I made the offer to you. I am trying to dig deep from memory here but I think you had a way of thinking that complimented my weaknesses and I thought you’d make the perfect partner.

And then….I remember 2014, I was on holiday in the South of France with my family in a very remote area with no phone or internet. I was completely off the grid and when I got back to the modern world I had like dozens of calls from you and even more WhatsApp messages. We had been working as a team for several years but all of a sudden you were desperately trying to get hold of me because you were leaving Headfonia.com, leaving me shocked.

Why did you all of a sudden leave Headfonia? What made you leave the site you started all by yourself?

It was the store business that pulled me out of the review site. I don’t like the idea of me being both a review site owner and also a store owner. It was an uncomfortable position due to the conflict of interest and after some time thinking about it, I made the decision to leave the site.

What have you been up to? I know you’re still active in the audio world but there are a lot of rumors making its round, so please enlighten us.

In 2013 I started the Headfonia Store. I didn’t want to use the Headfonia name but everyone around me kept on saying I should use it. Obviously using the name would help the new store pick up traffic and after much persuasion, I decided to use the Headfonia name. I’ve been concentrating on the store business and this year (2017) Headfonia Store is expanding into Singapore.

So it looks like you are completely focusing on selling nowadays? What kind of products is your store in Jakarta selling? I remember you were selling some really high end stuff to the local market, is that still the case?

Being a reviewer, I had relationships to many of the brands that were not yet represented in the market. Our strategy for the first year was really simple and that is to bring in all these brands that were not yet represented in the local market. We did business with many premium portable brands and we had very little competition.

As we entered the second year, I started looking at the more mainstream market where people are not willing to pay more than $200 for a pair of headphones. We started moving our business toward catering to the sub $200 products and ever since we have been doing this market which we feel is more stable than the high end market.

What trends can you see in the local and international personal audio market?

At the top of the price chain we are seeing increasing price levels every year: $1000 IEM becomes $2000, $3000, $4000, and so on. Looking at the macro view, this is a very small segment of the market but apparently it’s big enough to sustain the presence of many premium brands, and the network of retailers that sell them. I don’t know how long prices will keep on climbing, but it seems that people are still buying the latest wave of flagships introduced.

For the majority of mainstream brands, I see most products being driven by marketing and not actual product people. The market is definitely over saturated. Because there is very little differentiation in the way these brands market their products, I think the collective marketing budget that is being spent only enlarges the industry rather than each respective brand. I’m guessing that it’s mostly Beats and Bose who are profiting from the growth in market size.

The non-headphone enthusiasts only know two premium headphone brands: Beats and Bose. I’m not too familiar with Beats’ audio performance but their brand power seems to still be very strong. Bose has also been stepping up their game with more success than all the other brands. As a businessman, I respect Bose both for their success and for actually having a clear focus on the product: noise canceling, comfortable, and sleek businesslike design for the average business traveller. I personally use the QC35 when I travel.

While I’m seeing a healthy growth from Beats and Bose, the opposite is happening to traditional brands like Sennheiser and AKG. I don’t feel that their newer products are as great as they were 10-15 years ago. They have shift their focus to the mass market, but they seem to get lost in the sea of competition, among brands like JBL, Harman Kardon, B&O, B&W, NAD, and others. I pay special attention to Sennheiser because I used to be their biggest fan. But Sennheiser headphones these days are very uninspiring, and their price level very high in the Asian market. The new Orpheus is nice but nobody can afford it.

I also noticed that Sony re-entered the premium headphone business, but I don’t know, I don’t get excited by expensive products. Their consumer products are good and decent, but Audio Technica generally offers better performance for money, and most people still consider Beats and Bose the brand to go for $300 headphones.

The lower end of the bracket is where I’m focusing my business at and where I feel most of the excitement is happening these days.

During the past few years high-end technology has trickled down and these days you have IEMs costing $50 that sounds better than $500 IEMs from a few years back. To mention just a few, Radius Japan’s entry level series are packed with technology like high-MFD drivers and proprietary design eartips that gives you a very clean sound for less than $50. They also have a mid-fi priced IEM that uses a dual piezzo-dynamic-beryllium driver technology that I think outperforms Audeze’s iSine IEMs at the same price bracket. Then you have companies like TTR with their highly successful Co-Donguri that licensed the technology from high-end Ocharaku, mass produce it, and sell it for a market price of $70. There are so many good products and the relatively low price makes collecting fun and painless.

Of course there are still a lot of junk products at the low price bracket and so you just have to know where to look. After all most manufacturers are probably not focusing their engineering team to make superb $50 earphones. This is where my background as a reviewer comes in. I hand pick the products that is sold on the store to ensure that they are great products that people can be excited about.

The article continues on Page 2

Blog: The Return of Michael Ting
4.8 (95.44%) 57 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

27 Comments

  • Reply October 7, 2017

    George Lai

    • Reply October 10, 2017

      Mike

      Thank you George.

      Yes that was it. Did they change the site design?

      • Reply October 10, 2017

        George Lai

        It looks the same as it ever was. However it looks like they are getting out of the headphones business too.

  • Reply October 8, 2017

    johthor

    How nice to have an appearance by Mike. Mike was instrumental in my introduction to headphones in 2009/2010 and consistently steered me in the right direction as my knowledge and acquisition of gear grew. I was sad to see Mike leave Headphonia but he made an excellent choice when he decided on Lieven to run this really excellent site. Cheers and many thanks to you Mike. I also wish you the best of luck in Singapore. The way you treat people should make you successful there and any other place you decide to do business

    • Reply October 9, 2017

      Dave

      He is the reason I got into this hobby as well. I was just looking for a headphone to pair with my iPod, and now I have been writing for headfonia for over 4 years.

      • Reply October 10, 2017

        Mike

        Thanks Dave

    • Reply October 10, 2017

      Mike

      Thanks Johthor.

  • Reply October 14, 2017

    Litho

    As a Phonon SMB-02 owner (bought when on holiday in Japan, along with the Yaxi pads), I can only agree with your opinion on them, and hope you have a chance to tell the readers how good these headphones really are. My only complaint would be the cable. Probably a good length for mixing or DJ’ing at a console, but way too long for mobile use or even desktop computing. That and they’re non-detachable. Other than that, best sub-$600 headphone I’ve owned, by quite a distance. I’d personally love you to come back and concentrate on the sub-$500 bracket, especially with some of these Japanese companies you’re talking about (I really want to know how the Phonon 4000 sounds). I have no interest in anything above $500 these days. Would rather spend that extra on music or refugee donations. I’m Singaporean and will definitely visit your store.

  • Reply October 26, 2017

    Cris

    I’m very curious with the stuff in the store you have, Mike. There isn’t much info in the local market about it, and the price range for it is quite cool. I’m in Singapore, and I found this website from Ultrainferno’s post in head-fi on the M3s, which led me to the store https://www.headfoniastore.sg/

  • Reply January 20, 2018

    Fabio

    Very nice to hear from you Mike!

    From time to time it will be nice to read some of your reviews. Maybe you can write something about the Phonon, it will be great.
    I want to add something about the HD25. I purchase a custom made OFC copper cable, and it was better sounding than the stock cable. I saw you were using the Oyaide cable so I bought one 🙂
    I was shocked that it sounded worst than my custom made copper. Vocals were thin sounding, less bass, more soundstage. All in all, I don’t like the hd25 with the Oyaide. I’ll keep burning in the cable, maybe things will smoothen with time…
    You were always a big fan of the hd25, so it’s strange to read this words from you, I am sure you still love the hd25 🙂

    Cheers!

  • Reply January 27, 2018

    Thomas

    If you ask any Indonesian audio dealer, Michael Ting is universally the most dislike figure for his unethical and rude behaviour.

    In Indonesia, he is the cause of Audio Technica products price tumbling to the point that most dealers have a profit margin of less than 10%. This is because Michael uses his family fortune to purchase large quantities of audio tech products and sell them at low prices to drive smaller players out.

    Another famous story happens a few years back. Michael invited a group of us Indonesian audiophiles to his home for an audio meet. When you have a group of audiophiles, it is bound to be noisy. Michael simply shouted at us for being noisy as we were interfering with his enjoyment of music.

    To many of us, he simply acts the way he does because he is rich and has an influential family. He is nothing but a spoilt child.

    You do not have to trust my words. Just ask anyone from Indonesia who operates in the audiophile world.

    • Reply January 27, 2018

      dale thorn

      I trust the customers more. So far, they are positive.

      • Reply January 28, 2018

        Thomas

        That’s because his staff are actually nice and good people. People like Michael will only work behind the scenes. Furthermore, what’s not to like a store who constantly underprice things?

        Steve Jobs is widely loved by Apple fans worldwide but those who really work with him will tell you what a shit head he is. The same idea applies here too.

        • Reply January 28, 2018

          dale thorn

          I still disagree. Really bad bosses don’t have happy customers. Take Apple – after you’ve been screwed a dozen times by Apple’s extreme actions to steal your memory, kill your older apps, slow down your phone, and 100 other things – you see the real Steve Jobs and his successors. Maybe Michael is the Donald Trump of personal audio, but I don’t get a bad vibe from his customers.

    • Reply February 13, 2018

      Fabio

      I never know him personally. When He was here writing on Headfonia, he was very capable and nice guy. Years ago there was a big community active in the comment section, Mike reply to every question, and peoples constantly seek his advice and new reviews. You can say He was not only good at his job, he was also a very charismatic figure. Many new audiophiles were born in 2010 because of Mike.
      To be fair, sometimes I had the impression He was pushing peoples to buy things (like Fiio Alpen review), but you know, business is business, I’ll not blame him for this anyway.
      Nowadays it’s a bit sad to see many reviews with 0 comments. This site shift from “very popular” to “almost desert” and it’s not because other reviewers are not good at their jobs. This site was born with Mike, and peoples were here because of him. When he left, it was not the same anymore.

      • Reply February 13, 2018

        Lieven

        I did move the site into a new direction and lots of things have changed compared to when Mike was running things. The difference is that HFN now is a self supporting website, and that our numbers of readers and page views have exponentially increased.
        We don’t get as much comments as when Mike was here but that has several reasons. First of all, I simply don’t have the time to reply to all the questions as we’re posting 4 to 5 articles a week now. Second, articles nowadays are more coherent and less shocking, resulting in less trolling and less discussion. Third, after a few years you kind of get a bit bored of replying to the same questions all over again, just because people are too lazy to do a search on Google or the site. And yes, that does result in getting less questions. And last, we’re living in a different time and mind set now. Leaving comments is so 2010.

        Of course you can’t see the numbers and that’s our “cuisine interne”, but I have no big issues with sacrificing some comments in order to keep this site growing/in the position it is in now. To me that’s far more important. Calling the biggest site (after Tyl’s) deserted though, that’s a good one.

        • Reply February 14, 2018

          Fabio

          It’s pretty amazing that you got many articles with 0 comments and the page views are increasing. That makes no sense to me. Anyway, you know your “cousine interne” as you call it.
          To me, this website is a desert because I don’t see peoples talking anymore. There is no dialogue going on, no community. Just a bunch of isolate gear review.
          Leaving a comment is so 2010? There are more than 2000 pages of comments about the Chord Mojo on Headfi. Also, Tyll gets a lot of comments on his channels and he rarely answers. From your comments I understand that You don’t like too much to get in touch with peoples, this is the reason Headfonia lost their community.
          As an old reader, all I can say it was much better with Mike. And I am sure not to be the only one who thinks that.
          Have a good increment of the page views for 2018 🙂

          • Reply February 14, 2018

            dale thorn

            Headfi is like a large zoo. Now there are lots of introductions of new products, lots of advertising, and (amazing!) you can go into some of the endless chat-threads and start talking about an item and suddenly an ad for that item appears on the side. That’s some amazing software! I wish I wrote it!

            One difference between there and here is, here you can say almost anything you want about a product, or steer someone away from a product, and it’s OK. But I got blocked there for a very *specific* instance of recommending something they didn’t approve of. I suggested someone buy the flagship headphone they were asking about, and buy the amp later. They didn’t like that. It looks like free speech sometimes. It’s not. It’s a business site, and they have their own business model that’s unique to them.

            Innerfidelity is a very different place. Tyll is competent in building and measuring products, and he describes their sound pretty accurately, although you really have to read between the lines on those because he doesn’t usually speak bluntly. His commenters are mostly Followers Of Tyll. I got blocked there too, for a funny reason. If the posts haven’t been deleted, the headphone reviews I posted on his site circa 2011-2012 were getting more reads than Tyll’s, and he complained about that. So I started posting reviews on his parent site, but even though they decided to allow me that as a “blog”, the reviews within the blog would not show the number of reads each review was accumulating. So I stopped that.

            Anyway, there are zillions of readers here, which you see when an item like the DragonFlys are reviewed, or especially with a contest.

            But there’s a very important reason that people follow this site, and that’s because they don’t have to work their way through a jungle of ads and comments to get to the data – the reviews. It’s a gold mine, and don’t think that people don’t know that.

            • Reply February 14, 2018

              johthor

              I have not always agreed with you Dale and in fact we got into a bit of a spat when I thought you were being overly negative. This reply you wrote is right on the money. I complained on Headfi about a product I had purchased from one of their advertisers by simply stating what their advertiser had sold me and how they had treated me when I complained about said product. My post was buried by several Headfi moderators as they piled on with multiple posts over several pages. Both Mike when he ran Headphonia and Lieven after he took over have helped and guided so many of us over the years with this excellent site

            • Reply February 14, 2018

              Lieven

              Thanks Dale!

          • Reply February 14, 2018

            Lieven

            We moved/shifted to a different community in a different geographic area. There now are more EU and US readers compared to before.

            Each writer or owner has his own following, you clearly were one of Mike’s and that’s cool. If you’re representing that part however, then I’m not really feeling bad about moving to a different direction.

            Another reason for having less comments is the other/wordpress comment system. I threw out Disqus as it was crap. Many others have followed in the meantime but it does mean we need a name and email address before you can leave a comment. The barrier to post is higher but it does keep the thousands of spam posts out better.

            You also can not compare a forum to our site, it’s very different. And I am happy Tyll’s readers are vocal. I like Tyll, it’s just a little sad he is part of a publishing network with corporate and financial support.

            Anyway, you are more then welcome to post here and keep reading our new style of reviews. You just have to accept things are different now. If you don’t want to that’s fine also, at least you increased our comment count 😉

  • Reply February 14, 2018

    johthor

    Fabio you sir are a complete idiot

    • Reply February 14, 2018

      Fabio

      You can call idiot your parents man, not me. Go to the trash you belong.

      EDIT: He means he loves you really 😉

    • Reply February 14, 2018

      Fabio

      Ok Lieven, This is a good answer and I can understand your points.

      What I can add:
      One of the biggest features of the “Old Heafonia” were the multi-comparative review. Mike did a lot. “The usually suspect -12 portable amps compared”, “The Sennheiser Trio”, “Dual Driver, 6 iem compared”
      Those reviews generate a lot of buzzes. At the end, peoples seek advice about what to buy next, and those comparative were a lot of fun to read and were very useful to make a purchase decision. In the new Headfonia, this kind of reviews is completely missing. Maybe you can do something about it.

      Anyway I’ll stop here. You have peoples in the comment section insulting other peoples, and this is not something acceptable.

      PS: The DT770 32 ohm is very good 🙂

      • Reply February 14, 2018

        Lieven

        The comparative reviews are so much work, and with the number of gear to review, the time is just missing. Mike also had the advantage of being close to a shop, and in the end owning one, to get the gear to compare.

        We still do compare gear in each individual review, but I know it’s not the same. It however is not realistic at this time, but I understand and agree that part is missing.

      • Reply February 14, 2018

        dale thorn

        I remember many years ago when I did a comparative review that turned the world upside down and everyone fell off into space. That’s a little bit of humor there, but it showed me that there’s no magic formula to please everyone. But good hard work every day exploring the new products, and using some of the older products for reference, that’s a good way to go.

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