Like others following this topic for many months, I'm anxiously awaiting the opportunity to hear the BHA-1. The initial impressions coming out of its appearance at shows only heightens the anticipation.
But I was reminded over the last couple of days how much different the headphone experience is from that of listening to speakers. And I emphasize the word "different" to mean precisely that, not better or worse.
I've been into headphones over the past couple of years as an alternate to my main system, having owned in that time three different headphones - Sennheiser HD800s, LCD-2s, and KRK KNS8400s, as well as previously purchased Grado RS-1s, SR80s, and ancient AKGs and Stax - and two different dedicated headphone amps - Grace Designs m902 and Schitt Lyr. My application has been very narrow, however, in that I used the headphones primarily not to wake a sleeping wife in the morning: a vital application if one seeks to maintain domestic tranquility, but narrow nonetheless.
But in pursuit of the headphone experience, I found that a vintage receiver (circa late 1970s) made for an excellent headphone amp. So pleased with that device, I decided to build a second low priced speaker-based system (adding B&W 685 stand mounts), which I discovered produced an excellent sound, without rousing my wife from sleep and, therefore, her ire. But, sadly, the vintage receiver betrayed its age and failed. Bought a Harmon Kardon 3490 receiever as a replacement.
But, in typical audiophile fashion, I wanted a better sound from the second system, especially improved bass extension, again without wife-raising issues. After looking closely at alternatives I decided on the Axiom M80s, which I should receive on Monday.
Pending their arrival, I'm listening this morning to my LCD-2s, via the HK 3490, rediscovering how great they sound - as a headphone experience.
Going through this long, round about voyage, has not dampened my wish to hear the BHA-1, but rather underlined what I should be looking for when eventually I get to demo it: whether it produces a better headphone experience, not whether it sounds better than my upgraded second system, assuming the M80s, as predicted will make for one hell of a second system. Altogether it will have cost, with tax, about $2100, which I believe is a bit less than the price of my LCD-2s plus the estimated price of the BHA-1.
As for my personal preferences, this voyage also has made me come to this conclusion: while the headphone experience can be great for me when I need to use cans or am just in the mood for intimate listening, it is not nearly as satisfying for me in terms of the presence, weight and fullness of music heard via a speaker based system, even when that system includes modestly priced carefully chosen equipment.
Does this mean I will give the BHA-1 a pass? Depends of two things: 1. As James advises, the demo is everything, and 2. How much money I have left after spending a small fortune on my (absurd to non-audipophiles) headphone/second system journey.