What is your process for evaluating new gear?

As I’ve spent more and more time with the hobby and learned more about sound generally as well as what I like this process has changed for me several times. It is exciting to get something new just generally, and I have a few test tracks that are just songs i like with some aspect that stands out (treble, bass, soundstage, etc) I then just listen to what I’d normally be listening too for a few days. Recently acquired an lcd2 which i’d been using (and enjoying) the last several days and when asked for my opinion I could pick out a few things i enjoyed about it. However once I spent some time with my other headphones and then went back to the LCD2 I felt like it highlighted some qualities I had not really keyed into as much before, mostly the soundstage depth and separation between the depth that gave a very 3D presentation none of my other cans could quite do on that level. Alternatively some of the headphones I’ve tried really locked me in for a week or more before i even considered switching.

Conversely with gear that wasn’t immediately pleasing How long do you give it before making your decision to return or sell? Of course there is some element of burn-in (be it physical or mental not debating the concept), and with a new purchase you may be working with a return deadline, but at what point do you decide this is not for me? One of my earliest purchases was a meze 99 noir and while i had some other issues with it outside of sound, I don’t feel i gave it a fair shake initially.

Of course this will probably vary greatly person to person, just curious how others approach this.

edit: this could be for any part in the chain just how you evaluate any new piece of audio equipment

At least 1 week of constant listening for me, typically longer if it’s something that I have access to that long at least, otherwise I will try to get as much time as possible


as someone with multiple chains do you just run it through the gauntlet or do you just use the ones you’d think would match the best?

I’ll try to run it off of everything if I can, no point in not trying it on my stuff if I have the ability to. I guess there is like a gauntlet but I really don’t have a testing methodology or anything

I figured most people wouldn’t have hard and fast rules, more like rough guide lines. Just curious how others go about it, personally have liked most things I’ve acquired and only 2 pieces I’ve really disliked. One of which i feel I was a bit hasty with and the other took a very long time to pinpoint what I disliked, which may just be inexperience on my end.

I’ve made the mistake on this forum of giving an opinion way to soon and regretting it later… like m0n says a week or more is probably sufficient to draw a somewhat coherent conclusion

4xx comes to mind here as I initially found it boring and the pads itchy… burn in happened and being my first planar im sure my mind had to adjust as well… ended up loving it and the pads broke in nicely

patience is paramount I find

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I have definitely heard the 4xx require some break in both the pads and sound. Some stuff has a general burn in time that’s kinda known in the community, the nighthawks come to mind alongside the 4xx. A week seems pretty reasonable, are you in the camp of constant listening like m0n? or do you tend to compare and contrast ?

listen to songs and see if i enjoy the sound from what i usually like

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Ah I forgot to mention, I don’t compare to stuff during the first week or two either (I legit only listen to it straight without listening to other things), IMO ABing stuff isn’t a good idea until you actually have a good idea of the product, it will mess up getting used to the thing by using something else when you are trying to acclimate


now I listen to just the one headphone or amp (I can’t evaluate dacs lol… yet) for 3 to 4 days at least then I may switch it up for a short while with something im really familiar with (hd650 and xd05+) and like you say this can be helpful as well

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I like to try everything. With a new amp I am testing every headphone. When I find one that works great then I compare amps. And most importantly have some music that you REALLY know well. I am a big fan of Florence and the Machine. Really liked the first album, Loved the second album, thought the third album was pretty good and # 4 was “meh”. Not at the top of my playlists recently as I try to buy new music every weekend.

However when I am testing headphones or amps, the first thing up is Florence. I know some of her older songs so well, I can tell if the equipment will work for me or not.

Then I will go to current hits, some classic rock and then some jazz. I have also learned not to make rash decisions. It takes at least a month to really see if it fits you.


Ah that reminds me I have 0 test tracks, I just hit random skip the entire time (through around 80k tracks at this point lol, so I do try and at least listen with stuff I am used to initially)

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ditto on the 0 test tracks… I love how subjectivity and individuality runs through every fibre of this hobby :+1:

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For a long time already I haven’t bought any expensive audio gear since I’m reviewing plenty of it. Honestly when I’m already buying something I’m just adding it to my lifestyle, not trying to test it with some special tracks on a special software with special measuring gear. I’m thinking about audio gear as a thing that allows me to listen to music with different approach… Not like a Gaming PC that has to be benchmarked first once you’ll load up OS on it. And if I’m buying something that I won’t like in the process well… As fast as I’ll find replacement I’ll sell it. Before that I’m just trying to use it and adjust.
Good example, I’ve bought Beyerdynamic T51p yesterday only because they were damn cheap, $40. Never saw them or tried them irl. We’ll see what I’ll think about it.

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interesting on the no test tracks . i tend to stay away from the audiophile test playlists although will bring one up occasionally when i’m bored. My own test tracks tend to just be songs i like that I know can be sibilant or a bass line i really enjoy. I do find sometimes with new music i like I can have trouble evaluating the audio device because I’m jamming too hard to something new.

That’s an interesting headphone, curious on your thoughts. I haven’t heard it in awhile but I do remember it sounding solid for an on ear. If I recall correctly they retailed for around 200 usd in the us so that’s a pretty good deal

My test tracks are always the same.

  • Hotel California by The Eagles
  • BBK by Korn
  • The Lion The Beast The Beat by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals
  • Elevators by Outkast
  • I’ll Be Around by The Spinners
  • Better Off Alone by Alice Deejay
  • Hurricane by Bob Dylan
  • Digital Bath by Deftones
  • Superstar by Carpenters

Main reason I use those as test tracks is because I like to test different genres and I have high quality files for each. No other reasons though.


really bringing me back with that alice deejay

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Reminds me of spring break 2000…my last vacation before I left for Marine Corps boot camp.

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My approach has changed as I’ve had the opportunity to try out more equipment. It has taken me a up to a month or more to really get sense of a piece of equipment.

For headphones, I tend to not like initial listening, so I wait a few days before I form a real opinion. After that, using it as part of a routine, I try to find a way to bring out the best in that particular headphone. After I feel I did my best to bring the best out of a headphone and I still feel that it is under performing, then that is when it is time to go.

DACs I usually try to test its technical limit, as I’ll throw MQA, DSD256, or DSD512 at it and see how it performs (or not) with those files depending on what the DAC supports. Not that those are deal breakers but I do like to know the limitations of my equipment, as those are features that I paid for (whether I use them or not).