Friday, April 30, 2010

Buy Some Cans...

Earbuds - they're OK in a pinch
Seems most people these days have a portable mp3 player of one sort or another. Which is good. But most people listen to them with earbuds, which is bad. Earbuds have two good things about them - 1) they are easily portable. They can be stuffed in any pocket as you are running out the door. 2) you can remove and put them away very quickly. That is it.

Sound quality is not one of their features. For the most part they sound terrible. Those ones that came with your mp3 player? Might as well throw out when you open the box because everything sounds tinny on them. There are better earbuds that you can buy of course. $100 will get you a decent sounding pair of earbuds with good musical range. But decent does not mean good. It means they are passable.

Earbuds also are uncomfortable...again they vary, some better than others, but I can't imagine wearing ANY earbud for long periods of time. I've been told by people that I'm just not used to them. That is bullshit. I have been wearing earplugs and various styles of earbuds for 25 years. I just don't think you are wearing them for extended lengths. I like putting on my headphones at 8am and I don't take them off till I leave work at 5pm. That's nine hours. With earbuds I can usually last two before I need a break.

Ahhh...the 70's (vintage ad borrowed from The Vintage Knob)

I recommend buying a nice set of Cans.  You know those over the ear 1970's looking things?  They are awesome.  They are comfortable.  Although they look similar to the 70's headphones, they are much lighter, more balanced, and fit around your ears extremely comfortably.  You probably don't even realize how strained and tense your ears are from earbuds until you slip on a nice pair of cans and all of a sudden just feel relaxed.  They cut down on ambient noise.  You would think that an earbud wedged in your ear canal and blasting music would stop ambient noise but they don't do this nearly as well as cans.  With cans the world immediately becomes muted and you can live in the music...yes there are noise cancelling versions of both, but with cans you rarely need this extra feature (but it is nice if you are mowing the lawn or something).  Most importantly, the sound quality is incredible compared to any earbud.  A good set will make it seem like the music is actually inside your head rather than coming through your ears.  You will hear aspects to the music that you never knew existed.  More bass, better highs and a good range of everything in between.  With good sounding speakers, you won't need your music playing nearly as loud to achieve the same level of experience. Cans vs headphones - I usually have my can headphones turned down 30-50% lower than when I am using earbuds, with a better experience.  At work, I am using a cheap $20 pair of cans and they sound as good if not better than the $100 earbuds that they replaced.  If you spend $50 on a nice pair of can headphones, you will not need another set for the next 10 years.

I just can't say how much more pleasurable listening to music is with nice headphones.  I've been listening for years with earbuds and sometimes it did seem like a chore instead of relaxation.  I never get that feeling with the over the ear headphones.  I am so happy that I decided to switch back although I do keep a pair of earbuds in case of emergency.


Bryan said...

I use Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5pro with custom molded tips. High tech inner ear monitors - nice!

Michael said...

I wasn't taking custom molded earbuds into account. This blog is for the every man, who probably doesn't have $200-$300+ to spend on headphones.

That being said, I wish I had some.