As expensive and elaborate headphones have risen in popularity, so too have headphone amplifiers. Big and small, cheap and pricey—it’s a huge market. Well, huge as far as tiny audiophile niches go. Which is to say, it’s a tiny market. I’d bet even the best-selling headphone amp would be a rounding error compared to AirPod sales.
As I write this in late December, the annual Consumer Electronics Show, CES, is a few weeks away. Every year the tech world descends upon Las Vegas to show off the latest, greatest, or at the very least, current. If I step back, I can understand why this kind of event would be appealing to people who are not part of the tech industry. If you’re fascinated by the latest tech, an industry-only event showing products that won’t appear in the wild for months or years would understandably be “your jam.”
As 2023 comes to an end, so does my first year at the helm of SoundStage! Solo. OK, technically it’s the end of my first 11 months, but let’s round up. This isn’t exactly a best-of-the-year story. It’s a few standouts from the year, along with a few headphones and gear I keep returning to between reviews. Let’s dive in.
Noise canceling is kinda magic. Not literal magic—it’s just physics and electronic shenanigans, but the effect is magic. Being able to put something in or over your ears and have the world get significantly quieter? That’s brilliant. Unfortunately, as good as noise canceling has gotten, it’s still not perfect. “Canceling” is a bit of an oversell. In reality, “noise attenuation” or “noise reduction” would be more accurate. “Some stuff gets a little quieter” is even more descriptive, if less pithy.
This is a little deeper into the weeds than I normally wade, since it has to do with a fairly esoteric piece of technology and a bunch of companies who are trying to make money with it. However, said thing is interestingly controversial, and it definitely intersects with what we cover here at SoundStage! Solo.
Some studies have shown that tastes in music solidify when you’re young and rarely change. Some say your musical interests lock in during your teenage years. Basically, once you’ve settled on what you like, that doesn’t change once you hit adulthood and middle age.