Before there was language, there was music, at least according to some experts. But for me, this was the case in my life. Before I could properly speak, my mom told me I used to play her little melodies on my tiny blue toy keyboard. I'm not sure if that story she told me is entirely accurate, but I can say for certain that music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When growing up, music was always playing at my house, from my dad's old stereo to having family and friends over to play hymns and traditional Indian classics during various parties and prayer meetings. Music was always taught to be "medicine for the soul". It was something that enriched my life and was always present.
Growing up, I took piano lessons, and when high school hit, with Guitar Hero and Rock Band all the rage, I wanted to be a lead guitarist. So I traded the keys for knock-off strat and taught myself guitar. When learning who I was, the guitar became an avenue where I could express myself where words can't. Chord progressions, improvised riffs, and personal takes on popular songs became an expression of who I was. As life continued, with classes getting harder, I ended up not mastering any instrument. But my love for music never went away.
I remember playing with my dad's old Walkman, listening to his old tapes, and finding new ones at the local library or thrift shops. I remember being enveloped by his music. I closed my eyes and listened closely to the warmth of piano notes, soft reverb settling in the recording stage. You could say that moment, I became an audiophile. I started to appreciate the quirks of the recording, how the Walkman worked, and the raw experience of listening to music in conjunction with my life.
My dad saw how much I enjoyed his old Walkman. So one Christmas, after working extra hours, he surprised my sister and me with the shiny new iPod. I remember ripping as many CDs as possible, asking for iTunes gift cards for birthdays, and downloading music from wherever I could find (totally not from lime-based software). I remember always carrying my iPod with me wherever I went. To bus rides, to vacations, to morning walks. I always had a soundtrack to my life. You could say my first audio setup was my trusty iPod and the free Koss headphones that came with my Yamaha keyboard.
What led me to the audio hobby started when my beloved Koss headphones officially died on me. It was around 2010 and Beats headphones were all the rage. I couldn't afford those high-end "fashion" headphones, but being tech savvy, I knew there were better options for less if I looked for them. There is where I found Head-Fi and first delved into the hobby. I spent countless hours reading impressions, researching different gear, and hearing what amplifiers, DACs, and all these audio terms are. I remember wanting to see what is the best and stumbling across Tyll Hertsen's Sennheiser HD 800 review for Innerfidelity. The HD 800 became my "dream" headphone. It looked so unique and slick and futuristic. But at that price, I'd never thought I could afford it.
But as time went on, with my budget slowly increasing, my time on Head-Fi led me to various gears. First, I had the infamous ATH-M50s, but I wasn't so pleased by the sound, leading me to research different amps, which I paired with the Fiio E06 Amp/DAC. Again, I wasn't enamored by the sound (likely for good reason, in retrospect), which led me to purchase a pair of V-MODAs, but again, same story—not satisfied. Finally, I had enough cash from tutoring and various gigs in college, and I was ready to make a big purchase. I was about to purchase a pair of HD 650s… and then found a used pair of HD 800 on Head-Fi instead, my dream headphone, due to a kind offer from a Head-Fi user. HD 800 has stuck with me through college and even through grad school and still gets plenty of use today.
In recent years, I rediscovered my passion for the hobby and became involved with an incredible community in audio. I attended various meets, shows, and conferences. I was fortunate to try and own awesome gear I never imagined I would experience. Through these events, I had insightful talks with experienced people, such as industry veterans, reviewers, wise hobbyists, and just talented human beings. I even became good friends with many of them. I have learned a lot these past years, honed my listening skills and knowledge, and found the gear that gives me great joy. Music has become my medicine again, and through the community, I was able to experience this blessing. This community is extraordinary. Audio has tremendous depth and nuance and so much to learn and share. There is so much beauty solely within the nuances in how sound is reproduced. The science, various designs, implementations, and of course, the art of it all is magical in how it comes together. Audio is a profoundly human experience, and I hope to share my journey with you all.
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