One of our TaoTronics writing competition runners up is Cameron K Fong. A research officer, Cameron says “I’m a scientist by trade, geek by nature, keen photographer always looking for the next travel opportunity”. This is their headphone journey – literally at points about traveling with headphones!
I have always used music to escape the mundane, to transport myself away from the dull reality and into a distant destination, carried by the music and songs of other. Even from a young age I have been intrigued by how machines work, and as I have grown I have focused more and more on optics and electronics. It seems only natural that I have been spending money on better earphones and later headphones for the better part of my life.
It wasn’t until I was at university that I succumbed to the world of full sized headphones, with the purchase of a set of Audio Technica ATH-M50‘s, and upgraded to listening to FLAC file on my phone. This was a world changing experience, far better than using the iPod (G4) and earbuds. The commute to uni and work became a much more enjoyable experience; isolated from the clamour of the buses and trains I now had my own little sanctuary.
The Search Begins
This first step lead to an interest in other headphones and the search for something a little smaller. Not long afterwards would come a set of Sennheiser HD25-II’s, another pricey legend, with a different sound, and another experience. Then I was fascinated by a set of M-Duo’s, with their affordable price tag and dual drivers, these would lead me to discover the joys of Comply foam tips.
Suddenly, the days of Wolfson DAC’s in phones were over, my new phone was a mere shadow of the last in terms of audio quality. So the hunt for a digital audio player was on. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I scrounged up the cash to purchase a Fiio X3II, and there was almost another quantum leap, the headphones I owned were suddenly that little bit better than before, I could hear a little bit more detail in songs I had listened to for years.
Traveling with Headphones
For years I had shunned Bluetooth and ANC, both being known to detract from audio quality. But whilst I was completing my PhD I had the opportunity to travel to Europe for a conference. Now I have never been able to sleep on the plane, and the thought of an almost 30 hours of travel, most of it on planes scared me. A friend suggested I try some ANC headphones, loaning me his Sennheiser MM550X’s.
I was smitten, ANC helped to drown out the underlying drone during the commute, and the freedom of Bluetooth was refreshing, almost worth the hit in audio quality. So for my first trip to Europe I bought myself the ATH-ANC9’s, they sounded better than the QC25’s and had the bonus of being cheaper and being able to play music without power. Lets just say I managed to sleep very well on the flights to Europe, but I had to pack light when it came to my camera gear.
The Next Step
Rolling on a few years, the freedom of Bluetooth had not been forgotten, so when an offer to pick up some lightly used Sony MDR1000x’s came around; a friend who was selling some of his collection to fund a higher end purchase, I was definitely interested. With another Europe trip on the horizon, I couldn’t say no, especially since my partner had long lusted after my ANC9’s, this took me to high end Bluetooth + ANC with little audio sacrifice. The more compact folding MDR1000x’s also helped to free up some room in my carry on for camera gear.
Whilst the MDR1000x’s happily played nice with my phone, my X3II lacked Bluetooth. I knew I had to fix this. After trawling the internet I decided on the Taotronics TT-BA07, a transceiver that promised to turn any device into a AptXLL compatible player. I now had most of the audio quality of the X3II, and the freedom of Bluetooth.
Another year passes, another trip planned, this time carry space and weight would be at a premium, time to revisit earphones. I decided to look for some new ANC earbuds, hopefully nothing too expensive as they were likely to be used for only the that trip. Remembering the good experience with the TT-BA07 I had a look at the earphones that were available. This resulted in two pairs of the Taotronics TT-EP002, one for myself, one for my partner. They were not Bluetooth, and were no where near as good ANC as my ATH-ANC9’s or my MDR1000x’s. A Comply foam upgrade improved both the audio quality and isolation, making these perfect for the flights to Japan.
With the relatively inexpensive price point, coupled with the feature set, it was only expected that I would try more of the Taotronics range. Today I use daily some TT-BH42’s and some SoundSurge 60’s, offering Bluetooth, ANC in ears and full sized headphones for the commute. The MDR1000x’s are being babied, as a crack is developing in the band, and they are the only headphones I have that have a Super X-Fi profile; now that’s a gadget that is making me return to cabled headphones.
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