Thursday, March 25, 2021


 I have two sets of headphones. One is a closed back set of Bose headphones that has Bluetooth and noise cancelling technology. They are very convenient. The others set are open-back Grado headphones that do not have noise cancelling because such a thing is impossible with open back headphones. They also do not have Bluetooth. They are not terribly convenient. Indeed, they lack qualities that most people seek in headphones, most notably privacy; you cannot black out the sounds others make and they can hear what you are listening to.

And yet the Grado headphones are clearly superior when it comes to sound quality. And it's not a subtle thing. They have better sound than the Bose headphones the way a really good espresso tastes better than instant. That's not a good analogy though because the Bose headphones are not cheap. Instant coffee is cheap so it's less of a problem that it tastes cheap. They're convenient but not cheap. The Grado headphones are less than half the price of the Bose headphones. 

For a lot of purposes—phone calls, Zoom meetings—the convenience of the Bose headphones is perfect. That is also the case for a lot of music listening. A lot of pop music, especially 1960s and 1980s pop music, was recorded deliberately low fidelity and audiophile quality is beside the point. And there is no point in audiophile quality if we are treating music as background. But sit down and listen to a really good recording of Rigoletto and the experience is much better with the Grado headphones.

And that has had me thinking lately. How much do we lose to convenience? How much do we diminish our lives by not paying close attention to the stuff we enjoy? The people we enjoy? Do we settle for low fidelity from our friends and lovers because that is more convenient than living well?

No comments:

Post a Comment