Head-Fi's Jude Mansilla

I enjoyed a conversation with Jude Mansilla, founder of Head-Fi, organizers of the CanJam conference which was sort of tucked away in the Marriott’s grand Rocky Mountain Event Center. The entire perimeter of the space was occupied by long tables, each showcasing headphones and headphone accessories from companies such as Sennheiser, Head-Direct, JH Audio, Ultimate Ears, CEntrance, Grado, Audeze, and Ray Samuels Audio.

Mansilla explained that he had no idea Head-Fi would grow to be one of the most popular hi-fi communities on the web.

The site’s audience is dominated by enthusiastic 18-35 year olds, exactly the audience that the high end audio world needs. “I blame our success on the iPod,” he quipped. “I really do.”

“The iPod,” he continued, “has gotten people used to the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on gear.” And, little by little, those people will want better sound. When looking for ways to increase the quality of their portable music experience, people wind up at Head-Fi. And Mansilla welcomes them.

Mansilla is slightly unusual in that he’s been obsessed with audio since he was just 13 years old. A growing interest in sound and music led him to take a job at a hi-fi shop. He soon became enamored by vinyl playback, but his current lifestyle makes portable audio so much more convenient and enjoyable. Mansilla has become an expert in headphones and headphone accessories, sometimes even collaborating with manufacturers on designs, lending advice or offering suggestions on how to optimize prototypes. In fact, while speaking with him, Mansilla introduced me to the Grado Head-Fi Series HF-2 headphones ($450), designed specifically with the Head-Fi community in mind.