How Tyll Reviews Headphones

A couple of weeks before Jana Dagdagan, Stereophile's Editorial Coordinator, visited my Montana home to do some videos, we had a nice long chat about what kind of videos we could produce. There were some whacky ideas that eventually got thrown out, but four withstood the test of time.

"The Future of Headphones" is already up—thanks for all the comments! Another is a video that will be published on Stereophile as part of their reviewer profile series. I can't wait for you all to see that one, it goes into quite some depth about me as a person. It will be fun...and maybe a little let you into my private life. Jana also produced a Q&A video, she prepared a list of questions prior to her arrival and, oh boy, there are a few zingers in there.

The one for today is about my review process. Chatting with Jana and listing out the process really drove home just how complicated and how many discrete steps are involved. You'll notice I look down a lot in the video. It took about three pages of single line notes to detail all the steps in proper order.

I know it's a bit long, but I really think you'll enjoy hearing about the process in detail, and get a look behind the scene at what it takes. Enjoy!

View on YouTube

XVII's picture


Peragulator's picture

I was surprised you mentioned Amazon since the majority of 5 star *reviews* say, "Quick delivery, thanks!!!". Great content on your end.

xnor's picture
As he said, he's looking for comments on durability, QC problems and the like.
Core's picture

Many reviewers at have complained about the durability and quality-control problems of the Sennheiser HD 202. But it is on the hall of fame.

Martin.'s picture

At the risk of sounding like a kiss ass I want to say that you sound like a genuine guy. When you mention that you really appreciate that people read your reviews, I can't help but feel it's sincere. This is exactly what got me hooked on innerfidelity. In fact, your headphone reviews were what started me on the path to good sound, and for that I thank you. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

By the way, you keep saying that you erase your notes as you write the review. Do you have a back up of them, or are they gone once erased? If there was one thing I learned from photoshop is to work as nondestructively as possible.

johnjen's picture

That was very insightful.
But the ending had the most chuckles and biggest smiles.

Well done all the way around.


tony's picture

Only two at the very top : Tyll & Alex Dykes ( the Car Reviewer )

Ole HP of TAS was a great story teller much like David E Davis of Car & Driver, I knew both and both needed a good deal of "reading between the lines".

There might be other Reviewers in another industry that I haven't yet discovered but for now it's Tyll & Alex., I keep looking.

I consider the rest of the Tyll team of writers to be cut from the same cloth as Tyll, which includes Grandberg, joker, Katz and that other fella. Seems like none of these people are getting checks from Manufacturers ( like me ). None of these folk are bashful about calling someone out.

Inner fidelity is 5 Stars & a must read for anyone trying to keep reality checks on real life vs. the marketing buzz of everyday marketplace.

One more thing, Tyll is becoming a viable "Content Creater" which can lead to a vast YouTube Audience. Headphones are an important component to quality of everyday life, there is a rich context to be discussed, Video'd and explained. Seems like there is no person as qualified to do a proper YouTube channel.

Tony in Michigan

ps. it's getting pretty difficult to find any 'civilian' that doesn't already own some sort of headphone or headphone devices.

Jazz Casual's picture

and that's why I've been coming here for six and a half years. I hope that this finally dispels the mistaken belief held by your detractors over at Head-Fi that you measure the headphones before you listen to them.

GTABC's picture

This illustrates why most of the reviews on head-fi are a joke. Jude the schill should be ashamed

Beagle's picture

Well your comments are definitely a joke. I think Head-Fi members couldn't care less what you think. I know I don't. I like what I like and everybody should like what they like and enjoy life. Reviewers can put forth some good guidelines to provide some indication of quality (or lack of) but it is up to each individual to decide what is right for them. In other words, ya gotta audition. I learned from my mistakes. I purchased the original HD800 because some hi-end reviewers said it was amazing. It was not. You can read great reviews of restaurants that will tell you the food doesn't suck, but they will not tell you if you will like it or not. You have to go and taste it.

dumbasstyll's picture

What a hypocrite. A nightmare to audio-gear producers. Give him your headphone for free or get a bad review. Stupid shit 'audiophiles' only buy what Tyll says yes.

Journeyman's picture

(Insert National geographic voice)
There are many kinds of troll, here you can see the "bullshittyys Trolllys". Their refusal to write complex sentences and use of "stupid shit" to provoke anger on the potential victims is very easy to spot. These Trolls are not yet mature, and they can't be taken very seriously by troll hunters. When you spot one, please set the specimen free so it can try to mate with a suitable partner, for this is a endangered species. (Insert nat geo ending song)

tony's picture

...Mr.dumbasstyll's comment is that an "Asian Based Moderator" isn't acting like an Internet Police by blocking this obvious troublemaker.

I'll take the good with the bad. We have a Constitutional "Freedom of Speech" on this site that you won't find in many other places.

Tony in Michigan

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'm banning you, dude. Not because of your negativity...not because you're insulting me...but because you do it so damned poorly. Others be warned, if you're a troll, do it well. Bring signal, not noise.
PAR's picture

.. or more precisely in this case impersonators, have you checked the Sennheiser website for the new HD 660S?

I see that you only give it 3 stars. It surprises me that you should publish this score when you haven't reviewed it on Inner Fidelity first. However I am also of the opinion that you know that " Dollar" is not spelt " Doller". The comments are hardly likely to be from you too; Pro "They are the Best", Best Uses "Listening" :-)

Perhaps you would like to contact Sennheiser to have this taken down?

Journeyman's picture

I read a lot of reviews by other writers and most of them are full of crap. Tyll is by far the best reviewer I know and I don't say this lightly.
I'm glad you shared with us your way of doing your work.
Haters gonna hate but they'll leave nothing behind besides forum crap and hollow words. Glad this hobby has you as a flag bearer.

zobel's picture

You have developed a disciplined, well thought out procedure for headphone evaluation. The time you spend listening is the most important aspect, especially with your stock recordings and samples kept constant through the years. It seems that you have a good cross section of recordings, well varied in very useful ways. Even though you are sick of hearing these same recordings, there will be days and times when even those tired tracks will sound emotionally involving, regardless of whatever capable cans you her them on, and days when their will be no emotional attachment to the sound, even trough the very best cans. That you are trying to minimize that reaction is commendable. I really appreciate hearing your A /B comparisons between cans with the same short passages of tunes. That give us a meaningful measuring stick for comparison by nailing down the strengths and weaknesses of both headphones being compared, in all important aspects.

I have also used Amazon reviews for information about quality of build, and fit, and the comparisons owners make between other cans, or different models. I also search other reviews to see if there is a consensus. In the end, though, Tyll's reviews get my first consideration, as I see them as least biased, most professional, and
most informative. I actually don't need the measurements at all, except for the efficiency / sensitivity numbers, and the bottom half of the frequency response..all else being within acceptable long as the subjective notes on sound and (fit/comfort/build) are related with enough of a yardstick to form an impression. Tyll is very good at that. I've been reading him for over 20 years, and own what I consider the best value I can afford in headphones available... with much thanks to him.

geniekid's picture

I really appreciate the discipline and effort to remain unbiased that Tyll puts into his reviews. A lot of other professional reviews feel like the reviewer decided to use whatever gear he had lying around at the moment and listen to his favorite songs. It doesn't make the conclusions invalid - just difficult to put into context.

I would love to see a video from Tyll about the gear and setup used in the review process. The existing article covers a lot of it but I'd like to see it all in motion.

Three Toes of Fury's picture


This recent video does a great job w the last topic. Thanks Jana
and Tyll for providing such a nice overview of your process. So many great takeaways. Here's a few of my favs:

* Time. Tyll spends a LOT of time with reviews. It shows his passion but also his professionalism. These arent "i listened to a song and am rushing a review".

* Process. There's a process in place that really should drive consistency in review.

* Tunes! Its great to get a peak behind the curtain at Tylls test tunes AND to hear that he's conscious of how songs can influence review. First time ive heard that mentioned. Its super important and a great point.

Jana: May I ask what gear you shot this with?? Its super crisp! Did you use line audio or a separate audio source?

Peace .n. Learning 'bout Audio


PS: A quick note on the negative commenters: if there's talkbacks, there's gonna be trolls. If there's a perceived competition between sites, there's gonna be those that feel that they have to pick a side. If there's opinions to be had, there's bound to be those who believe theirs are the only one that matters. HOWEVER there's also alot of really great folks out there who are in it for the fun, exchange, and positive (yes you can have positive constructive disagreements). The important thing is to not be too affected by the negative folks..thats all they want..attention.

Jana Dagdagan's picture
Front cam is a Panasonic DMC-G85 with a Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens, side cam is a Panasonic DMC-GX85 with a Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens. Audio is a Countryman B3 omni lav going into a Zoom H5. Thank you for watching!
GTABC's picture

I see one obvious troll post above, and that individual has been dealt with. This is an article about the exhaustive process that Tyll undertakes to provide his readers with incredibly useful information that can be trusted. The negative posts about other sites are actually quite relevant in the context of this article. Perhaps some are a bit harsh/rough around the edges (mine included) but to label them "troll posts" when they are undeniably relevant (sorry, everything isn't as awesome as some other sites might have you believe) is not that far from trolling.

Journeyman's picture

3ToF not everyone who comments in a negative way is a troll.
I should know because I have my fair of negativity about some people and topics, in a perfect world everyone would get along but sadly this is not a perfect world. The community is made of many kinds of people and not all of them can get a long for various reasons I'll not go in to.
Not everyone who comments in a negative way is seeking attention, in fact I know many persons on this hobby who seek attention by "kissing ass". There a name for that but I'll not use it here.
I find that is important to explain in a correct way why one is being negative towards something or someone. Not that it really matters in the long run, things will not change because of it at least IMO.
I find the best way to deal with trolls is by a good use of humor. I was a admin and mod for some years so I know a thing or two about them. A good Ban hammer also does miracles but should be used for those who are really in the mood to ruin the fun of others. Just my six cents.

PS: If NwAvGuy wasn't negative about some things and eventually get banned from a certain forum we wouldn't have a good amp/dac design and some good articles about amps. As a bonus he also changed for better the way a certain brand did their amps.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Thanks for the feedback and comments.

Apologies if my comments came across as grouping folks as trolls...far from it..i was trying to comment on other situations i'd seen recently and it looks like i didnt do a very good job.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that their can be positive and negative toned exchanges. I was trying to frame it that its possible to do so in a professional manner.

Thanks again for the feedback..conversations via text can easily be misinterpreted..opportunities like this help me realize how i can frame my thoughts better.

Peace .n. Livin in Stereo


Journeyman's picture

You do not need to apologize to me in any way, I just wanted to share my opinion. Yes, sadly conversations via text can be easily misinterpreted, in that regard I should have used a emote or two to show a happy face.
I was not upset with you at all. :-)
My best wishes.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

THANKS! Thats some great gear. You created a VERY professional looking video.

Great production and directing! I know these Hollywood (read: Bozeman) actors can be difficult to work with....tee hee hee..kidding Tyll!!

Peace .n. Herstens/Dagdagan Productions


abbygrayndler's picture