That's it...I'm Out

Hiya folks!

Well, it's happened quicker than even I thought it would: I'm retiring. This will be my last post.

First, this has nothing to do with the current change in ownership. In fact, I kinda feel bad about the timing. This all happened rather quickly for me, and it ended up colliding with the change in ownership. Sorry about that, it made a complex situation even more trying, I'm sure.

My Retirement Plans
I've been working on my retirement plan for 3 years, which is to build a tiny home into a FedEx step van and live life as an adventuring nomad. I had initially expected to retire at 66 in 2022 for full Social Security benefits figuring it would take me 7 years to build the truck. A big dream would certainly take a while to achieve. I'd have to learn about solar panels, composting toilets, and all manner of things.

Well, it turns out dreams really aren't that big and challenging when you only have 88 square feet to fill. The job may be best compared to a somewhat more complicated than normal bathroom remodel job. In two and a half years, it's done.


Putt (that's its name) is a 2005 Grumman Olson step van.


Kinda reminds me of a boat cabin.


Sixty gallong water tank, fridge, pump faucet, composting toilet...all the comforts of home. (Well, no shower...gotta work on that.).


That kitchen wall now has a spice rack.


Been putting my soldering iron to good use.

But finishing up Putt isn't the only reason to retire.

1) My ears are going. They are pretty good for a 60 year old...well, my left ear anyway. But hearing tests have shown the trend. It's just not good enough any more, IMHO, and getting worse. Your brain can compensate for a long time, but at some point it starts getting really hard to do the job of evaluating sound.

2) I've been writing about headphones for 25 years. Brochure copy, ads, retail web site, and now journalistic reviews. Writing poetry about tractors for 25 years is now painful. It may have been good training for becoming a writer because of the discipline and deep dive into a subject, but I'm burned out. I want to write about something else for myself. Time in the woods in my truck would be perfect. Wasn't it Steinbeck who had the pick-up truck camper?

3) What with kids and career, I never had the time to really focus on playing my ukulele. Or maybe it was laziness and ADD...I can never remember which. At any rate, again, time in the woods in my truck would be perfect.

4) My career in the world of headphones has an arc...and a good one. My singular goal since 1992 has been to influence headphone sound quality for the better. I think I've done that. I've also played a strong role in the growth of the headphone enthusiast community. I think the direction and quality of growth in the high-performance headphone market and enthusiast community is strong and healthy, and now is so powerful that my influence is less relevant. My parents were in show business (ballet/musicals dancers; mom danced for the Metropolitan Opera, dad danced for American Ballet Theater), the old saying is to go out on top and be remembered well. That time is now.

5) Living in Putt is cheap. I can take my early Social Security retirement (and lock myself in because who knows what's going to happen there), my savings and home sale proceeds, and live very comfortably on the road. Tacos at a Baja beach stands are cheap; mortgages are expensive.

6) And maybe most important: I'm an adventurer to the bone. I've always had wanderlust, and I loved adventure motorcycling. I've even done a couple of review series on a motorcycle adventure (here and here). I want to go explore before I can't do it anymore. Waiting four more years for full Social Security retirement to do it seemed like an eternity. It's time for me to retire and go play while I can.

Some comments seem to be in order:

Thank you InnerFidelity Readers
I'm credited with giving birth to the headphone enthusiast activity. There's a good deal of truth to that; no need to go into detail. What's more important is that I didn't really set out to be the father of a movement. I simply set out to be as productive as I could be towards getting better sounding headphones. Wether it was whooping up a froth co-founding with Aaron the first CanJam (though it wasn't called that back then) or writing critical copy on HeadRoom's website of product manufacturers made us cary, but sucked, it was all because I just wanted headphone makers to make better sounding headphones. I rose to a voice of authority on InnerFidelity simply on the strength of that.

Here's the important bit: None of that would have happened if there weren't people similarly interested. I am so grateful to know that many likeminded enthusiasts are simply interested in my mission and musings. I have a following not because I'm a leader, but because I've remained as true as I could to my mission, and I tried to bring you along in an entertaining way...and you've paid me back tenfold by reading along and giving me a livelihood. Thank you!

You've also directly contributed to InnerFidelity content with your comments here. You may have noticed I don't comment in the comment section much. It's partly because I always have to be on to the next thing, but it's also because I felt I got my say in the article; readers should have free ground to comment on the subject without any back talk from me. I think this has actually made the InnerFidelity comments sections terrifically dense. A lot of signal, very little noise. Thank you so much for your comments! It's one of the strengths you brought directly to the table.

Thank You Editorial Contributors
What a cast of characters! Bob Katz, John Grandberg, lJokerl, Steve Guttenberg, Nate Maher, Tyler Schrank, Dinny Fitzpatrick, and numerous others have contributed their thoughts. I'm always tickled pink to read and edit what Bob's furious mind has whipped up to think about. And John Grandberg's reviews consistently strike me as straight-up competent. My all-time favorite post on InnerFidelity was Steve Guttenberg's piece "John Lennon's 1965 Portable KB Discomatic Jukebox", the fascinating story of one of the first portable personal audio devices and it's effect on the famous Beatle. Thank you all for your contributions! One mistake I've made is not pushing harder to bring in more voices like these.

My message to manufacturers.
No, you're not getting a thank you in the title, but you are going to get a big thank you for making better sounding headphones, which you have. And you did it in a time when Dr. Dre fired a cannon to start a race nobody knew they were in. So thanks for sticking it out in tumultuous times and making better sounding headphones none the less.

It is your job, though.

And I'm here to point a finger right at you and say you can make better sounding headphones than you do now. I know all the bells and whistles are tempting—mandatroy, really, if you want to survive—and I know sexy looking headphones dangling around the necks of bedazzled celebrities moves iron, but please, keep your eye on the ball. Good sound quality, comfort, solid build, and simple good looks will get you the long term prize of being a great headphone maker.

And keep the damned price reasonable!

The Next InnerFidelity Editor
I'm going to let him introduce himself. Frankly I was surprised, and pleased, with the choice. He's certainly got journalism chops—maybe you'll finally get articles without miss-spelled words—and he's got audio experience. We did have a very good conversation about InnerFidelity and it's readership, and I came away feeling he's got as good a shot at it as anyone else I could think of.

Just don't compare him to me. There can be only one dude that was there right at the beginning of the headphone enthusiast movement, and it was me—for better or worse. That can't be duplicated. And in some ways I'm a one-trick pony reviewing headphone after headphone. A more capable editor would/could have gathered more voices around himself. I look forward to seeing his future efforts.

The Big Question
The Wall of Fame is packed up and ready to go to its new home. That leaves me with just a couple of junker headphone left overs that just won't do in the long run. It's time for me to buy some new headphones for life on the road. Which headphones do I most miss? What headphones will I buy?

For sure I'll be buying some Bose Quiet Comfort 35 wireless, over-ear headphones. It's LOUD driving around in Putt. So loud that hearing damage is quite possible after long exposure. Good noise canceling headphones are a must, and the Bose QC35 is the best I'm aware of.

For phone calls, general iPad movie watching, and casual listening the Beats Solo 3 Wireless is sweet. Good sound, comfort, build quality, and maybe most important unbelievable Bluetooth range, you just can't beat the Solo 3.

Bottom line, as one enthusiast said in a private place where my intentions are known: "That just goes to show that for all the hoopla we squawk about regarding sound quality, the function of the headphone matters just as much." It's true. While I think good sound quality is the most important headphone characteristic, the functional aspects of headphones can be almost as important, and can certainly warrant compromises in sound quality in order for them to be most useful in your particular application.

Will I take a pair of high end headphones with me? Not super high-end...I just don't have the room or energy budget (being solar powered) for a high end rig on the road. But I will take my Astell & Kern AK240, my CEntrance M8, and a pair of Aeon Flow open and closed headphones along.

Mic Drop
Okie dokie, that's it for me. Feel free to wave good-bye in the comments below, I am looking forward to your farewells. I will miss all you quirky headphone geeks. I'll try to make it to a meet here and there. Wouldn't that be fun?

All my best! Happy trails! Enjoy your music!

And sorry about your wallet. :)

Watch on YouTube.

From the Far East's picture

Hi Tyll,

Having been a lurker here for the past few years, I just created an account so I can join in the chorus of thanks for the marvelous work you have done: Innerfidelity is my go-to site for reviews on all things headphone-related. Your views, along with those of your colleagues, have heavily influenced my purchase decisions of audio equipment.

If you ever head to my puny sunny island of Singapore, I will be pleased to host you. I will PM you details.

Have a blast of a retirement!

aertoria's picture

Thanks Tyll. Your comments accompanied my audiophile journey along this many years. Now I'm owning JH13Pro and MrSpeaker Ether Flow C and Chord Mojo, because of your recommendations and ranks, and I'm very happy with that.

Congrats on your new life. At last, thank you for everything!

KasperK's picture

Hi Tyll
Like for so many others you have been a big voice for good sounding headphones for me. - and I have always trusted you to give descriptions that could actually point me to the sound I would like - and you have kept sane all the while :-D
We have all lost at giant - but you have gained a road ahead -
Happy travelling!

DaveinSM's picture

I hope that this site archives and/or keeps much of Tyll’s content available and not bury it under an avalanche of new material. I know that time marches on, but there’s SO MUCH great content here. Anyone new to the hobby (like I was when I came here) would be well served in reading Tyll’s reviews, methodology and approach to reviewing. It’s consistent and logical, and it reflects a very consistent approach. Very well done, sir!

ysyung's picture

Thank you so much Tyll! We will miss you! Enjoy life and good health!

MByrnes's picture

Thank you for all your work. I find it funny, that headphones were dead 25 years ago, and Hi-Fi stereo was king. Now Hi-Fi is dying, and Headphones are becoming king. Kids are growing up to spend huge money on their headphone rigs, instead of their home stereo (Some still do). Granted, I find it far cheaper to get top notch headphone system (Modi Multibit, LTA MicroZOTL2 Deluxe, Hifiman HE-X V2). I have a Smyth Research Realizer A16 coming sometime this year I hope. At the pre-order price, I feel like I am stealing a 16 channel Atmos/DTS-X/Auro-3D setup. Headphones are just a better value and more attainable to us mortals.

I don't have to worry about room treatments, speaker placement, and the enormous costs of TOTL speakers, let alone tube amps or true Class A power. I built my entire headphone system for the cost of a McIntosh MC275!!! The Ludicrous speed of new DAC, Amp, and Headphone releases means people go crazy, have to have the NEWEST, and sell off the last thing perfectly awesome thing they bought. There are so many unbelievable deals on great gear. It is a wonderful time to be in this hobby.

Thank you Tyll. You definitely helped push this simple listening method (strap tiny speakers to your ears man!), into a world class audio experience. I now have great music wherever I go, and you were the tip of the blade that carved the path through the jungle. We may be in a clearing, but there are more people coming, and we need to clear more space! We will pick you up! See you on Head-Fi, I hope you enjoy your trip!

Doug_Dame's picture

Happy for you! Going out standing up ... no ... standing TALL ... to do something you want to ... you have earned it.

You do need to mark your truck in some way, so that your fans and friends can introduce themselves and spot you a frosty beverage wherever you go. Or lend a hand if you need it.


steaxauce's picture

Thanks for everything Tyll!

lumiere's picture

Thank you Tyll for changing the way music lovers listen to music. I'd been a headphone fan since my first set of headphones in the 80's, a pair of AKG 240. I'm still using my Etymotic ER-4S I bought from Headroom back in the day. I wish I could have bought a Headroom Blockhead amp back in the day. You were the first from what I can remember to introduce me to the balanced output headphone connectors. Thanks for making the headphone journey an amazing one and contributing so much to a hobby that I love and live.

Enjoy all those tacos and campfires playing the Ukele! Happy travels and all the best!

robhu's picture

Tyll, you're a legend. So sad to see this is the last of your videos here...

Are you going to have a blog / channel / outlet somewhere where you might still share some of your genius with us? (perhaps we could get to hear some of that Ukulele you keep mentioning ;-) )

magmagod's picture

Hi Tyll. I've been a lurker for 6+ years, and I've decided to create an account just now to say thank you for all your work. I've relied heavily on your advice for my own purchases and also when helping others who are getting into the HiFi world. I've made the journey from my old and trusty HD 280 plugged straight into my computer to a nice Schiit DAC + Schiit Amp + HD 650 setup that I really enjoy.
So, thanks for everything and I wish you the best for the future.
Greetings from South America!

Johan B's picture

Please paint big letters on your camper truck: Audio legend retired. You are legit.

Anton D's picture

Sad you are leaving, happy for you as a person!

If you ever wanna hot meal, hot shower, and cool time in Chico, drive on by and we will take good care of you!

Happy trails to you, until we meet again!

(NFS Audio)

GimmeCans's picture

First, thanks for all the great content over the years. A lot of audio writers are just BS artists who have figured out how to monetize a fetish. Innerfi has always been better than that, never positioning opinion as fact or vice versa.

Second, as far as your remark about using the Bose QC's to lower the noise level inside Putt: In many states, driving with headphones in both ears is illegal, and for good reason: You need to be able to hear that approaching ambulance etc. Having noise-canceling or isolating headphones in place while driving isn't particularly safe, and you shouldn't do it.

Best of luck in your all your journeys.

rgovett's picture

thanks for years of complete enjoyment reading your articles. Your enthusiasm for all things headphone was a joy to behold ... take care on the road
PS Love how you did up your van

rabor's picture

It's been an incredible run & you gave us so much. Thank you!
Bon Voyage & enjoy!

Marc, Amsterdam.

eugenius's picture

Thanks for growing the headphone hobby, for making a great product at Headroom and for being the benchmark in headphone journalism!

Happy travel adventures, mr. Hertsens!

ab_ba's picture

My visit to you for Big Sound completely elevated my enjoyment of this hobby. Thanks to you, I've made some purchases that provide me with a wonderfully satisfying listening experience. I know I'd have moved on (and been a lot worse off for it) if it wasn't for you. Reviewers who do it only for the consumers are rare. So, thank you, congratulations, and ENJOY!!!

Fuzziekiwi's picture

Thank you so much for your contributions. Your reviews and guides have been spot on, and have helped me make many of my purchases as well as learning sound science. It's sad to see you go as I've been reading for around 5 years, but I hope you enjoy your retirement!

Raymund's picture

Thank you for the honest and entertaining headphone reviews. I'll miss them.
All the best.

calaf's picture

Tyll, thanks for everything you have done for our community. I hope you'll enjoy your FedEx travels and that occasionally you'll drop by one of the Bay Area meets. Keep blogging and posting. We'll find you around the net.

PS: AVTech is taking a big risk here: you are an impossible act to follow!

alexdi's picture

Love the site, much enjoyed your commentary and dedication. Have a wonderful time on the road!

Cheche's picture

If I will ever have a headphone manufacturing business, I will name the top model Tyll Hertsens. :-)
It was not about the correctness or accuracy of the review, it was more about the enthusiastic way you put it.
Good luck on your new journey, americane!

oozlum's picture


here's Tyll's Wall Of Fame in PDF that I just made as a little back up before it's gone. Here's the link for anyone interested :

Thank you for tremendeous work, Tyll!


guerillaw's picture

I wanted to add to the best wishes and gratitude on this thread. As a busy professional, your insight has saved me time by guiding me to products I've enjoyed, steered me clear of products that are not for me, and educated me on the hobby so I can enjoy it that much more.

Please let us know what we can do as fans to support your retirement.

Above all, thank you and enjoy a well-deserved retirement!

jeckyll's picture

Thank you for all the contributions over the years and enjoy the road!

When I'm out adventure touring, who know, maybe I'll see you out there on the road someday.

Enjoy it!

Fede's picture
Fede's picture
Fede's picture
Johnny2Bad's picture

So long and thanks for all the hard work. We are appreciative.
As for your choice of future headphones, there is a fly in the ointment.
It's illegal in most jurisdictions to drive while wearing headphones.
A car stereo and some foam earplugs might be your only option there.

circlark's picture

Thanks for all that you did for us Tyll! In particular, the constantly-updating Wall of Fame was a wonderful view into the improvements and changes in high-end headphones over time. I can't recall anything else like it.
Enjoy your retirement!

rlex's picture

Thank you Tyll, for all the time you dedicated to InnerFidelity.
Best of luck in your travels!

roma101's picture

Tyll, thank you so much. It has been such a true pleasure reading your reviews over the years. Happy and safe travels always. Will miss you very much. Good luck on your next adventure and hope to meet you someday! Sending love from NYC. All the best.

roma101's picture

Lovin' that beard look! <3 :) Be well.

turnupthemetal's picture

Just a short well-wish here from someone you never met, but who's life you had an impact on.

Thank you and good luck. I wish you all the best.


hpscout's picture

I never thought I'd see this happen. There goes a legend!

Wishing you the best for your future.

cpauya's picture

I feel sad to hear you are retiring, really enjoyed your reviews and comments and you were my point of reference ever since I got into headphones and/or more serious music enjoyment.

I feel good knowing that you will be enjoying your retirement on a self-built RV, I always wanted to have one and travel with it.

Thanks much for your influence and voice.

Have a good retirement Tyll. :)

Reticuli's picture

Have a blast, man!

Cory Stearns's picture

Tyll, my father introduced me to your reviews a number of years ago, yet I only just now saw that your father was a dancer with ABT. I’m a principal dancer at ABT and have showed many colleagues of mine your reviews as advice for purchasing headphones. My father and uncles respect your reviews considerably and I have followed suit. It’s quite sad to see you retiring as I still feel there’s so much more to learn from you. But thank you for your passion and commitment to your industry for all these years and for educating so many. You have fans at ABT!

JenneeseMak's picture

I know that you have already planned everything. I don’t even ask about your playlist, lol. That would be funny. But I would recommend listening to pirate songs. This greatly improves the travel atmosphere. All these writings, pirate puns, and jokes. We really enjoyed traveling like that. Maybe you will like it. Good luck with your journey.