Podcast 116: Tyll Hertsens

Tyll Hertsens, editor of our sibling website InnerFidelity.com, responds to Steve Guttenberg's comments on a previous podcast that objective measurements are not useful in predicting a user's preference for one piece of audio gear over another, illustrating his points with graphs from his measurements of various headphones. He also talks about the importance of subjective listening, answers chat-room questions, and more.

Run Time: 1:04:41

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As the son of two ballet dancers, Tyll Hertsens has been exposed to music all his life. Fortunately for headphone listeners, his two left feet and a penchant for gadgetry kept him out of the theater. Tyll discovered headphone listening in high school with a pair of Koss Pro-4AA headphones and spent countless hours listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and the like. Later in life, as a scanning electron-microscope repairman, he improved his listening with a DIY headphone amp with a crude crossfeed circuit.

In 1992, Tyll took his idea for a portable headphone amp to heart and started HeadRoom, introducing the world to the pleasures of well-amplified personal listening. HeadRoom went on to create the first commercially available portable headphone amplifier and the first balanced-drive headphone amp. Tyll also spent countless hours promoting the hobby of headphone listening, and today a thriving activity exists much to his credit.

After 17 years of operation, Tyll decided to leave HeadRoom and put his full attention on promoting headphone listening to a wider audience. To that end, he has recently joined Source Interlink Media's Home Tech group (which includes Stereophile, Home Theater, and AudioStream.com) to create a website dedicated to personal audio: InnerFidelity.com. The site focuses on headphones, headphone amplifiers, portable players, internet radios, and all manner of personal audio devices.

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Santeini's picture

Measurements are for engineers,almost always I go for a gear after listening to it first and measurement comes later.

utopianemo's picture

I like Tyll; he seems to have the perfect blend of subjective and objective for a reviewer. I always enjoy his site, and I like hearing him on the podcast.

That said, it was a bit odd to tune in to the interview purported to be the rebuttal to Guttenberg and hear Tyll saying "Steve is right" almost through the entire podcast. He barely refuted Steve at all. As much as I can gather, his quibble with Mr. Guttenberg was mostly a matter of emphasis: Steve says the sound of a set of drivers is the most important thing(as determined by listening), and measurements don't matter so much when it comes to determining how 'good' something sounds. Tyll says the most important thing is how a piece of gear sounds to the listener, but measurements can give the listener a clue(provided one understands what the measurements mean and one has enough listening experience to be able to correlate the measurements to that experience) as to how a particular piece of gear sounds.

In my opinion, Andrew Jones gave the best rebuttal of Guttenberg's position a few HT Geeks podcasts ago. To paraphrase, the biggest problem with people who listen to gear and those who design it is that they don't know how to take or interpret measurements correctly. 'Always come back to the measurements', he says. Based on his pedigree as a speaker designer, I'd have to concur.