Matthew James, a.k.a @Gaboonvyper
"As a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, I have a deep love of music. This extends to love of good music and a love of the right equipment to amplify that music. I hate to see good music lost due to default iPod ear buds. I want to show people what a Hugo and a pair of Fostex TH900s sounds like. Only with the right gear can you open up nuanced subtleties that music lovers can really cherish."
Why Matthew is an Ambassador
Early life of listening to music
When I was young, my only real source of music was what my parents played. My dad loved the Beach Boys and Steely Dan. My mom loved 50’s music like the Platters, Frankie Valli, and the Penguins. It wasn’t until high school that my tastes really branched out. I started listening to punk rock in junior high, then migrated toward ska, and then on to grunge. For my generation, our “where were you when JFK was shot?” was “where were you when you heard Kurt Cobain died?” In college, I joined Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity and truly grew into a lover of music. I was surrounded by talented musicians who were passionate about the same thing I was: music. I began playing the trombone in grade school and continued through college (and some beyond), but really found a deeper love of singing in college. Whether performing in small ensembles, large choirs, or quartets, I loved listening to how my part differed from the tenor line or the challenge of not getting distracted by other pitches from other parts. I found my ear was much better than any inherent talent I had. I love singing when I can, but I accepted that I never had any real star-quality talent. My ear, however, still gives me great pleasure when it comes to my somewhat recent love of headphones.
My current musical passions
I always knew there was more to life than OEM earbuds. In college, I had a Klipsch 2.1 setup in my dorm that gave me the sound quality I sought at that time. Since then, I’ve gone after the best computer speakers I could afford. The keyword there is “afford”. I spent many years after college working a low-level job with low-level pay. In the last few years, I’ve gotten my head above water, freeing up some extra funds for newer equipment. My first larger purchase was a pair of AKG 702s followed by a pair of Monster Pro Turbine Coppers. To my ears, the 702s were rather “clinical”. They also had a higher clamping force than I like (I’m 6’4” with a large frame. My head fits my frame, but not many hats.). I kept reading reviews and head-fi videos that brought up “warm vs clinical (flatter frequency response).” I purchased a pair of Sennheiser 598s and even though I found the sound quality to be inferior to the 702s, the comfort was light years beyond. I also found them to have a warmer sound that I found fun and enjoyable. I’m not taking sides in the debate. I prefer each for different reasons. Even though I wasn’t overly impressed with the sound quality, I was sold on Sennheiser’s signature sound. I picked up a pair of 650s and was well rewarded. I then picked up a pair of HD8s followed by the 700s. I also own a pair of ATH-50Xs that I got a great deal on and enjoy what Audio Technica does with their sound. I listen to these through a SoundBlaster X7 my girlfriend got me for my birthday. I was a gamer before I was a lover of music, and I will probably be a gamer until the day I die. Having high-quality audio in my games is almost as important to me as having high-quality audio for relaxing on the couch.
My future musical goals
Just as I have branched out in the past from one headphone manufacturer at one price point to multiple manufacturers at multiple price points (and new components like DACs and amps), I intend to demo an Ultrasone or maybe even an Audeze. I want to purchase a Schiit DAC/Amp combo to see the transformative effect they would have on my current headphone collection. Then, I want to tack on a pair of Black Dragons and see how that alters the sound even more. To think that I can modify the sound quality or tonality of my current collection with a few simple purchases makes me smile. What makes me the happiest about my headphone fascination is that headphones don’t degrade into obsolescence like many of my other purchases. Televisions have a useful shelf life. My computer is starting to show its age. My video game consoles are updated every 5 years or so. My headphones, however, will age gracefully, if not improve.
I am still new to the world of hi-fi equipment, but every new discovery has thrilled me. Every new model, manufacturer, and component. I can’t wait to find the next magical component that completely shifts my paradigm.
We Love Matthew because...
As a member of a fraternity based around music, Matthew has caught our attention and while he is an up and comer in the HiFi world we can't wait to hear what he has to say. So far his reviews have been quite detailed and informed. He is definitely a man "working to advance the cause of music in America."
Sennheiser HD8 DJ Headphones
- Sennheiser HD8 DJ Headphones (with a pair of Sennheiser HD700s for A/B comparisons)
- PC with Soundblaster X7 sound “card”
- Music ripped in FLAC (or Spotify 320kbps for genres I don’t collect and listen to often)
- Another Eternity by Purity Ring
- Language by The Contortionist
- Vows by Kimbra
- Skelethon by Aesop Rock
To me, they are a bit bell curvy. Treble is bright and sparkly. Flood on the Floor by Purity Ring has some very high pitched tones that isolate and stand out. The bass has mass. Tight, not boomy. The mids are a little slow (like listening to music underwater, but to a much smaller extent) and get a bit lost, but in tracks with sparse instrumentation, it’s not as noticeable.
Hip Hop and Electronica really shine. Details are fantastic. You can hear the breathy vocals of Megan James (Purity Ring)…in quiet parts, you can hear the sound of her tongue in her mouth…the pronounced plosives…you feel like she’s next to you.
To my ears, these headphones don’t shine with Progressive Metal (or really any other Metal genre). Rock fares better, but metal is such a wall of sound, it’s like the headphones can’t handle all of it at once. To be fair, I don’t think of Metal when I think of DJ headphones. I’m only speaking to the versatility that anyone would look for in a pair of cans. I want to cover as many genres as I can to see which ones stand out as good fits for the Sennheiser HD8s.
Gaming audio (explosions, sword clashes, gunshots, orc battle cries, etc) is average. I didn’t hear anything new that I couldn’t hear with less expensive cans.
Female vocals stand out and perform better than male vocals.
Acoustic guitar is accurate and punchy but doesn’t benefit from a large sound stage. Same for Classical music. It doesn’t sound inaccurate, only massed together. Given a choice, I’d prefer open-backs for any acoustic, symphonic, or orchestral music.
Sound isolation is fine, but you aren’t in an isolation chamber. I can faintly hear my mechanical keyboard while I am listening to my testbed tracks.
The clamping force is my only real negative with these cans, but I have a large head. I may have to stretch these out a bit if I ever want to spend an entire evening listening to dance music. If you have a normal to small head, they should fit like an expensive pair of leather gloves.
The build quality is phenomenal. I don’t know that I own another pair of headphones that are built as ruggedly, yet beautifully as these.
— Matthew James