Interview - Precogvision of Headphones.com

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Continuing with the intended series of interviews of reviewers, today I am very happy to post an interview with Precogvision, the resident IEM reviewer for Headphones.com.

Precogvision has a very unique and personal style when creating his reviews, something that makes him stand out in the IEM review field and makes his reviews easily identified as his own.

You can read many of his reviews, with links to many more, in this thread on the headphones.com forum: Precog’s IEM Reviews & Impressions

He has been kind enough to accept the invitation to share some more information about himself and his review style here on Acho Reviews. I hope you enjoy this new episode with deeper look into Precogvision.


Why Precogvision?

A lot of people think my username came from the movie Minority Report (great movie by the way!), but the truth is that it actually came out of a manga called World Trigger. In this manga, one of the characters could see the future, and the word "precognition" came up. 7th grader me thought it was a pretty cool word; I tweaked it a little, and that's how my username came to be. 


How long have you been in the audio hobby and what brought you there?

At this point, I've been in the audio hobby for just under two years. So, yeah! I definitely have not been in the hobby as long as many other people I know. I used to be really into EDC (everyday carry). One day, I was browsing Drop which has a collection of EDC products and I happened to stumble upon IEMs. It was the Noble X that caught my attention. Now, it was a big mistake buying that IEM in retrospect, but from there it was the Moondrop KXXS and a slew of other IEMs that got me into the hobby. 



What made you decide to start reviewing?

I used to do reviews of EDC gear - so stuff like flashlights, knives, pens, etc. The transition to audio was pretty natural. I'd say it worked out pretty nicely, and now I have a sweet gig while I make my way through college. 


Do you have a specific procedure for reviewing?

I don't have a particular review procedure. It also depends. If I only have time for quick impressions, then I'll run through a number of test tracks that I'm familiar with. This allows me to get a good feel for the frequency response of the IEM and, from there, I can tell pretty quickly if it's going to be worth more of my time. Or if I already know the graph, it's mostly me doing A/B for technicalities. For the reviews, it usually just consists of me listening to the IEM in my free time while I'm working. I'll play with the stock tips, run A/B comparisons, but there's no real set structure. And honestly, a lot of my listening also gets done before I go to sleep. I'll often stay up till 1AM (not good, I know!) listening in bed. I should probably figure out something less haphazard!


You are currently a reviewer for headphones.com but where did you start and how did you end up reviewing for them?

I started out doing reviews on my own site, and then quickly got picked up by Antdroid of Audio Discourse. I reviewed for Audio Discourse for some time before I decided that I wanted to apply for a paid reviewer position at a headphone retailer that I probably shouldn't name. They accepted my application, said I was hired, and then promptly ghosted me. Ostensibly, they read some of my not-so-favorable reviews. It so happened that I was talking about this incident on a Discord server and, luckily, Taron from Headphones.com happened to see it. He got in touch, asked if I wanted to do reviews for them, and the rest is history. A huge stroke of luck for me if I'm being perfectly honest. 


What is your most memorable review which is not necessarily the thing you liked the most?

I think my most memorable review would be my Sennheiser HD800S critical take. I like how the pictures turned out for that review, and it was refreshing to give a perspective on why one of the most acclaimed headphones in the world wasn't for me. I also really like my CFA Ara review. I got to make some cringy puns, and it was probably the most critical review I'd released up until that point in time. When Headphones.com basically said, "Oh yeah, we're going to publish it anyways," that made me really happy. 



Is there anything you would love to review but haven't been able to?

Honestly? Not really. These days, I'm able to get my hands on most things that I want to hear. If I had to say, it would probably be Subtonic's TRKR which still has yet to be released. After hearing the Symphonium Helios, I have very high hopes for that IEM. Oh! But that's just for IEMs. I would also like to hear some top headphones like the Susvara and Utopia just to make sure I'm not missing anything. 


Is there anything you have reviewed but would change the review, or review it differently, if you could?

Yes! The Moondrop Blessing 2. That was one of my first reviews, and I think I overhyped it. I maintain that it's still a very good IEM - the benchmark of its price bracket, no doubt - but I had very little idea of what I was talking about back then. 


Do you take measurements of the items you review, or check measurements by others?

Yes, I take measurements of all the IEMs I review. I try to avoid measurements by others of products I haven't listened to yet, but admittedly, curiosity does get the better of me usually. I'll often cross-reference my measurements with others too. 


If you do measure, or check measurements by others, do you do so before or after listening?

I almost always measure after listening. Listening usually consists of 15-20 minutes before I measure. 


If before: Do you think it conditions your opinion?

Absolutely, but not significantly. 


If after: Do you think your opinion changes at all after seeing measurements?

Sometimes, but again, not significantly. At this point, I've found there's a strong correlation between what I hear and what the measurements depict. The Dunu Zen vs. Zen Pro experiment was a pretty good example of that. I think I got pretty much every difference correct between how the two measure differently, minus an 11kHz peak that I missed. I did start noticing that a little more after seeing the measurement. But we weren't allowed to do sine sweeps. If I could have sine swept it, I think I could've caught it too. 



What is your usual procedure for creating a review?

I'm pretty finicky. The first thing that I always do is snap a bunch of pictures when I unbox the IEM. Then if it's something that I rather like or dislike, I'll usually write-up sound impressions in 3-4 hours and then post them on my Head-Fi thread. This is why my "impressions" are sometimes quite long. My thoughts usually don't change that much, and I just make minor adjustments (grammar, specific song examples, etc.) over the review period for the sound analysis of the actual review.  

On the other hand, if it's something that's more middling, sometimes I'll stew for days writing. Those are the worst things to cover - when they're neither good nor bad enough to get me motivated to write. That's why I'm pretty selective about what I choose to review and, if it's something more middling, my thoughts usually just consist of a quick paragraph on the forums. 


Do you have your own preference curve/target?

Yes, I do. It's very closely modeled after the 64A U12t, but with a smoother treble response and some more mid-bass than my personal unit. My preference curve is unusual from most of the other curves out there because it's not modeled closely to the leaner, upper-midrange focused curves that are popular. I recognize those curves as being closer to my neutral, but in terms of pure preference, I do gravitate toward a more relaxed pinna compensation and easier-going sound.  



What do you feel is the most important aspect to you, such as frequency response, detail, etc.?

Hmm, tough question. I definitely place a strong emphasis on frequency response. But really, as long as the tonality is generally good, I can get along with most transducers. My main concern these days would probably be dynamics. After you've heard speakers, it's difficult to enjoy IEMs because many of them lack a sense of excursive impact and fluidness to scaling quiet-to-loud swings. 


Do you have a preference for one kind of driver over another? If so, why?

Not in particular. In IEMs, I prefer a DD where possible, but this isn't always possible and it has demerits in the technicality department. Luckily, some BAs like the Sonion ones are starting to come pretty close to their DD counterparts. I also like the timbre of the Sonion BAs in general. They tend to lean slightly more "wet" and don't succumb (as much) to the usual issues most BAs exhibit. In headphones, I think I prefer planars. They don't have the best timbre, but I really like their bass and sense of speed. 



What are your favourite IEMs and headphones at the moment?

Currently, I would say my favorite IEMs are a toss-up between the 64 Audio U12t and the Symphonium Helios. There's a couple headphones that I've liked, but nothing that I'd say is a favorite. As a general rule, I'm not a big fan of headphones and I'd prefer to just listen to my speakers if I'm at home. 


What would you like to improve on them?

With the 64A U12t, I think I'd just like a smoother treble response. The U12t exhibits a dip after 10kHz before it comes back up for air aggressively. It's missing some crash to cymbals and the treble doesn't sound quite natural. With the Helios, I'd like more mid-bass and lower-midrange. It has a very segmented presentation that could use with more warmth. Both are pretty competent in the technical department, but I would never say no to even better technicalities! 


Do you normally read or watch other reviews?

I don't really watch any reviews outside of Super*Review's or the Headphone Show's. Watching a video is very time consuming. But I read a lot of reviews! I probably read way more reviews than I should to be honest. (Because it probably skews my own reviews to some extent).  


What reviewers do you feel align with your own tastes?

In general, probably the usual suspects: Crinacle, Antdroid, Resolve, FC-Construct, etc. My thoughts usually have good comparability with reviewers who at least measure. But Animus, although he doesn't seem to write about IEMs anymore, probably had the thoughts that aligned most with what I usually hear. 


What is your opinion on the "objective vs subjective" debate?

I probably have a slight subjectivist lean. I like measuring, I like learning more about the science of audio, but there are definitely parts of audio that I don't think are explainable - yet - by science. A marriage of the two is what I try to achieve in my reviews. Going too far in one direction can be a blinder, and I want to stay open-minded to both sides. 



Where do you think the audio world will be in 5 years from now?

Haha, I'm not sure. I feel like it's been moving to Bluetooth and TWS IEMs, but TWS IEMs seem to have hit a hiccup the last few years or so. None of them seem to be able to get very far in terms of technicalities. I'd be interested to see if manufacturers are able to usurp this wall. 


What do you hate about the hobby?

I dislike seeing people from either side of the subjectivist/objectivist debate trying to force their ideals on someone else, or trying to say what someone else is doing "wrong". It's very predictable and boring to watch these people. 

I'm not fond of the state of reviews in the hobby either. Reviews are predominantly used as marketing tools to drum up sales, and it's very difficult for reviewers who are actually being honest to have their voice be heard. If you don't say a review unit you received is good, there's a strong possibility that the manufacturer won't be contacting you again. Luckily, the landscape of the review game has been changing for some time. There are many new brands out there that are actually interested in feedback, and I think readers, too, are realizing the importance of honest reviews. 


Anything you would like to add or mention?

Nothing in particular, but thanks for the opportunity to be featured as a guest on your blog!




That is all for today, I very much appreciate the time Precogvision has taken to answer the questions and it is always great to get fresh opinions and insights from others in the audio world.

I hope that this section can continue to grow and we can feature another reviewer or person in the audio world soon.

Until then, thanks for reading!