I work under the assumption that nobody reads this column, which makes it pretty fun to write. It's always a surprise to hear someone I know mention something I've written.

So it started to become obvious which topic resonates with people when I kept hearing again and again about a previous headphones column. I penned it a month ago about the annual audio equipment festival in Denver and the "CanJam" headphones and portable music aspect of it.

The fervor makes sense to me, and I've said it before — mountain of options available to a headphones buyer is daunting in scope.

However, the real pain the ass is the Colorado Trail-length gap that can exist between quality headphones and crappy ones that are simply marketed well.


Now, I'm not here to take a grinning dump on a well-known electronics chain store or anything. I believe anyone is entitled to try and make a living in this world.

But take a stroll down to a local big-box store, maybe it's home electronics-based or maybe it's a big general store — after all, they sell headphones anywhere now. Just listen to the headphones that are available for audition. They all completely suck.

I'm sorry, but most car stereos I've heard sound much better than anything in the lengthy rows of headphones I've perused at these places. And car stereos are a lengthy set of compromises in a geometrically difficult environment for good acoustics. But at least there are engineers employed trying to make them sound good.


During this series I aim to do two things. First, illuminate on the many different kinds of headphones and how they work, and second, to highlight a few headphones and portable devices that really impressed me at the 2015 CanJam festival last month.

A look back

In 1937 the company Beyerdynamic produced the world's first dynamic headphones. Simply and briefly, dynamic headphones make sound waves in the same way that speakers do. In fact, the drivers in dynamic headphones are little more than miniaturized speakers by design.

John Koss pushed the technology forward in 1958 by producing the first stereo headphones. This was a huge step considering that headphones are really the ideal listening method for stereo music or music with stereo information. Head speakers never change position, and the listening "sweet spot" is always constant — it's the middle of your head.

On that topic, in normal two-speaker listening, the greatest factor preventing or enabling good sound isn't the type of speakers or amplifier you buy and use. The biggest factor is actually the room you're listening in — the walls themselves. Walls make sound waves behave a certain way, and most sound systems are compromised, if not heavily affected, by the flat boundaries around us.

That's why headphones can be so cool — they're an ideal listening environment, the perfect foundation upon which music creators can communicate their craft.

Unfortunately it falls to you to know how to spot a pair that won't end up pissing you off. But maybe I can help. Stay tuned!

Read more Taylor: coloradodaily.com/columnists.