My thought process & How I review | A little insight into Home Studio Basics!
2,912-word post, approx. 6-7 min. read
Hi friend and Welcome!
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now and wanted to share with you how I go about constructing my reviews, how to guides, and informative pages.
So without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
What I will bring you in this article
A Slice of Truth
The 4 Star Rule
An Abundance of Crap
How Stuff Works
Making a Decision
I’ve always loved music, as far back as I can remember. Way back in the day I had DMX’s Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, and though I’m not too proud of it now, I played that CD until it basically wouldn’t play anymore. It really got to that point! I think of Biggies line from Juicy, “I let my tape rock ’til my tape popped.” That was me. If I get hooked on something, I won’t let it go until I absolutely despise the song or album. Lol.
I come from the Disc-man era. I never actually had a Walkman. The headphones I used to wear back then were laughable by today’s standards. You know, the ones that came packaged with the Walkman or Disc-man. They were incredibly cheap and broke within a matter of weeks or months. The material covering the “ear-cups” was made of a flimsy foam that ripped if you sneezed wrong. I actually used to scotch tape this stuff back together!
My first “real” pair of cans came in the form of the Sony MDR V150, which is still in circulation today. It’s funny to me that Sony calls them monitor headphones, as they’re anything but. The sound was so uneven, but back then it didn’t matter for a couple of reasons.
I didn’t care.
I wasn’t aware.
Lol. I had no idea that there were headphones on the market that were actually considered “good.”
The MDR V150 was a step above the pre-packaged garbage that I mentioned before, but they were still prone to breaking in all the usual places: The headband area, the hinge near the ear-cups, etc. Also, the ear-pads had a tendency of cracking or peeling over time, which isn’t uncommon even among-st some of Sony’s most famous headphones (The Sony MDR V6 and MDR 7506 are both phenomenal despite their shortcomings).
It was only in about 2007 when I actually started researching stuff before buying it. This brings me to my opening point.
A slice of truth
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about reviewing and owning gear, it’s that research is truly priceless. I don’t claim to have owned every piece of studio equipment that I review. I have demoed thus far 72 pairs of headphones and counting. Some people would frown upon that, but I’m being honest: It’s simply not all that necessary.
Glad you asked. In truth, there is no substitute for hands-on experience but think about it like this: The only way I’m going to know if a product is worth buying comes from other people’s reviews, testimonies, and personal experiences. If I don’t buy something based on that, I’m basically just playing a guessing game. That entry-level microphone could be good, but then again it might be horrible and I’m going to have to return it.
I’d rather do as much research as possible and come to a clear consensus about whether the product is worth it or not before I make the call. That Segways nicely into my next point.
My process does involve a lot of personal hands-on experience, and I pride this site on that. I also research a product until I’m blue in the face, and I think that is part of why I’ve really never had to return something due to it being flat out awful.
Every piece of gear in my own studio has been carefully researched according to the good and the bad. I would say about 98-99% of people that come here really appreciate what the site has done, and what it continues to provide.
How is Home Studio Basics different?
I’m not interested in trying to sell you anything. I’m here to help you come to a rational, pragmatic, and well thought out decision regarding any piece of gear in question. That could be a headphone, microphone, audio interface, studio monitor, headphone amp/dac, drum pad, mic stand, and anything in between.
The testimonials, emails, and comments I get more than attest to this. For every negative comment that I get, there’s dozens of encouraging folks who counteract them fairly easily. Some of the people who left negative comments or emails turned out to be flat out wrong about their claim, and when I promptly corrected them they were never heard from again. Here’s an excerpt of that very scenario:
On the flip side of that, If I’m wrong I will be the first to respond to the comment, email, etc., and own up to it.
The important thing to remember is that I am an audiophile, gear enthusiast, music maker, designer, and artist first, and always have been. Spend enough time here on this site, on my Youtube channel, or interacting with me in general and you’ll quickly come to understand that.
I am an artist through and through and make art for art’s sake. A lot of people say that but I stand by it. I’ve been making beats for over 10 years with absolutely nothing to show for it other than love and passion for the craft. I’ve sold some beats in the past, but that was never why I got into making them nor is it the reason I continue to make them after this long.
I’ve been an artist ever since I can remember. My Grandmother always used to tell me that I had a gift, and that encouragement from a young age has stuck with me through the good times and bad.
I’m not here to lie to you, or to be biased in any way. That said, certain products that I’ve tried do get ringing endorsements because of how blown away I was. But if something is bad, or has a lot of negative feedback, I will let you know. Every review and comparison here is written to the best of my ability, and I urge you to challenge me on something if you think I’m wrong. In fact, every single article I write asks that question towards the end: “Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something?” I want this site to be a hub of knowledge and quality information, because of the fact that I come across so many sites that simply don’t provide it in any kind of organized or well thought out manner.
I’m all about research, and if I wouldn’t buy it myself, I definitely won’t recommend it to you!
This brings me to another important point…
The 4 Star Rule
This is my own personal philosophy and I’m not saying it’s right, but if a product has less than 4 stars on Amazon I won’t even give it the time of day.
Because the majority of Amazon users (dare I say all) are not in the business of deceiving you unlike the manufacturer or a paid advertiser. Amazon users are consumers/customers just like you and me, and if a product is bad, you will know about it. Some reviewers take it to extreme (and sometimes hilarious) levels.
I have never bought a product that was under 4 stars, and I probably never will. As I mentioned before, everything I’ve ever bought has held up without fail, and I believe part of that is because:
I research products thoroughly.
Everything I have was at least 4.5/5 at the time of purchase.
This simple protocol has always worked for me, and the testimonials, comments, and emails that I get all back that up as well.
I’m not here to try and trick you into buying something, nor does this site exist to give you a laundry list of products to choose from without rhyme or reason.
An abundance of crap
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of junk out there, and sifting through the good vs. the bad can be quite a challenge. While other sites may list out every single option for under $100, I’m here to simplify that aspect of it while narrowing down the list to something a lot more manageable and realistic. No one wants to sit there and have to research 10-15 amps just because someone listed them out on a blog.
An example would be something like “The Best Headphone Amp Under $100.” If you’ll notice, a lot of sites just list out a bunch of Amps (with meager descriptions) and then hope you’ll click through to Amazon to buy one. Half the time it’s a horrible piece of garbage that gets awful reviews that are ignored by the blogger in question.
Often times he/she is just parroting what someone else said about it. If you’ll also notice, most of the time you’ll have 10 different sites saying almost verbatim the exact same thing. This is what I notice when I’m researching something. Want an example? Check these two sites out:
One literally copy/pasted the other’s content and plastered it onto their website. This happens countless times with various products, it’s deplorable, and I guarantee you the author cares little about helping you and all about trying to make a quick buck.
Now that’s not to say that there won’t be some inevitable similarities in what is actually best, but now we’re opening up another can of worms: Are these really the best? Or are they the best because someone said they’re the best and gave them a trophy? Disclaimer: I sometimes give trophies. Hehe.
There are countless amplifiers out there that never get the time of day, and some of them probably should (this can be applied to any piece of gear).
At the end of the day, a cheap amp might be labeled the best simply because it’s popular and well known.
Then again, it might be the best because it actually is the best, but we can never be sure. “Best” is kind of a subjective term, since we all react a little differently to what we hear.
You can come to a clear consensus about almost any product, and the reviews generally do not lie. This is why I trust my methods and why other people trust my recommendations.
I’ve always been about information, knowledge, and seeking the truth. I mean I am a Sagittarius after all. Lol. Without getting too philosophical about it, I want to get to the bottom of a thing. Why is it the best? What makes it so? How will it function in my life?
The faster you can find the product with a consensus of positive reviews, the more likely you are to purchase something worthwhile.
How stuff works
I’m also interested in getting down to the bare bones of an issue. If I tell you the impedance of a headphone and that you will need an amp for it, I want you to know why. That’s why I litter all of my articles, reviews, and comparisons with links to things that become extremely helpful before making a decision. You may not know the difference between a USB microphone and a XLR microphone. I try to think of things that I would appreciate if I were reading content. I try to write about things that people are actually searching for.
Because I know that I like helpful information in my own research, I know that you will appreciate it as well.
That said, there are always going to be trade-offs when you purchase something for your studio, and no piece of gear is perfect.
Making a decision
A lot of times I will get inquiries from people who just can’t seem to make a decision. They get stuck on what’s negative about something, rather than considering everything as a whole. It’s definitely understandable; we as humans can be very gun shy when it comes to parting with our hard-earned money.
There will come a time when you must make a decision. Weighing out the pros and cons is good, and I do a lot of research myself, but nothing is perfect. There will always be something you or someone else didn’t like about that audiophile headphone.
It’s just the nature of the beast.
You have to be willing to sacrifice something. For instance, The Sennheiser HD600 is one of (if not the) best headphones I’ve ever owned or tried. Still, it’s not perfect though. The chord feels cheap and flimsy, and it’s much too long for my tastes. Also, there’s a spike at about 3k which makes the headphone sometimes sound a tad harsh. What does Sibilant mean? It also clamps hard at first but opens up over time.
I was willing to accept all these things because other than those minor flaws, it’s nearly a perfect headphone that does everything right. I did so much research on it that I felt compelled to buy it even though I knew it was flawed. That’s the trade-off. There comes a time to stop researching and just go for it if you feel in your heart it’s the right thing to do.
The AKG K240
Another perfect example is the K240 studio, which was originally made in Austria but is now only designed in Austria and made in China.
I researched this headphone for quite a while and originally was turned off because so many people complained of the build quality (even though overall reviews were very positive). It soured me enough to not give it a chance until I kept stumbling on reviewers who absolutely loved the sound so much that they would gladly take a chance on it.
So I did too.
The trade-off here is sound quality for a potentially broken headphone, and I was willing to take that chance because of the price. It’s priced so perfectly that you almost can’t NOT roll the dice. The sound ended up being phenomenal and is still to this day a studio staple.
Yes, it feels very light in your hands, but the reward outweighs the risk in my mind and many others.
My last example is the SR80 line from Grado. At first, I would never consider purchasing them because of the supposed build quality issues. But the more I read about the sound, the more I was willing to make that trade-off. I finally got a chance to demo them, and I would absolutely buy them because they sound so fantastic that build doesn’t really matter much to me. Because they really aren’t mean to be taken out of the studio, I have no problem just keeping them at my desk and using them with an amp, my phone, or my laptop. Check out my official Grado SR80e review!
Yes, I have heard plenty of products, have tried out many a headphone, and do my absolute best to be as objective as I can.
As perfect as I try to be, there will always be people who will want to challenge me. Just take a look at my YouTube channel or this video in particular for evidence of that.
This is simply a fact of life and a reality that we must face. People are going to argue and debate until the end of time. It’s just how the world works and because we’re all unique, we will all hear things differently and come to different conclusions based on our own knowledge and experience.
Though I may think I’m right, I may not be. My biggest argument for the SHP9500 vs. the HD600 is that both have the same level of detail, which I believe to be 100% fact based on numerous A/B tests with various amps and sources.
Does that make it a fact? Technically no, and this is part of the issue. As humans, we love to turn our perceptions into concrete evidence, when we’re still only one person. Some will agree with me, and others don’t.
It’s learning to accept that fact that becomes the challenge.
I hope you’ve come away with a better idea of how I go about providing you information on this site. To be honest, my process is how I determine whether something is worth it or not. It has never failed me, and I don’t plan on ever letting it. 🙂
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! you’ve enjoyed this article on my thought process and how I review things.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please contact me!!
What do you think about my process? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…