Friday, November 23, 2007

Aural bliss

OK, enough hard on posting this week. Time for a bit of indulgent irrelevance. I used to have a pair of Bose sound reduction headphones (the first generation). I loved them, good sound quality and the ability to cut background noise was astonishing. However, I managed to leave them in a hotel, and even though I called the hotel a half hour after checking out from the taxi I was informed that "Absolutely not Mr. Boy, our staff have checked the room thoroughly and there is nothing there." Code speak for, "Yes we checked the room, and our cleaning staff thank you for the unexpected tip."

After much argument with the hotel from myself and my insurance company I got the pay out. For penance in being so bloody stupid I did not replace them. I've been working my way through many lesser ear buds and other small aural devices. They are less bulky, you do look a bit of a dweeb walking around with full headphones. Yet I've appearently got funny ears, and I've yet to find a pair that sits comfortably in my ears. The quality is never very good either, despite my trying some reasonably high end ones.

As I'm back travelling a lot I decided it was time to go back to some proper headphones. I was tempted to just replace with Bose, having enjoyed my previous pair so much. They are ruddy expensive though. Bose has almost a monopoly on high end sound reducing phones in the public mind and prices accordingly. Still I did my research and decided to risk something else.

I bought a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 headphones. They are half the price of the Bose and have some excellent reviews. The risk paid off. These are truely excellent head phones. The sound quality is crystal clear. I borrowed a friend's Bose to compare, and there is a remarkable difference. Don't get me wrong, the Bose are still very good, but the A-T phones have been built by Japanese audiophiles.

The Bose have a softer sound, with an arguably better base range, but the A-T are crystal clear. Its the difference between listening to your music in a well padded and comfortable living room and in a concert hall. The Bose have a soft easy sound, gentle on the ear. The A-T are crisp, you get every nuiance of the recording. That's unforgiving in a poor recording, but very few pieces are badly produced these days. I have some old Classical recordings that you get some old hiss and scratch from on the A-T that you don't on the Bose, but I don't mind that.

I love Glenn Gould, and if you've ever heard his recordings off a good sound system you hear him humming and singing to the piano in the background. That just makes the music more real for me. I really love these phones.

They're not just for planes and trains. They cut out a fair bit of background noise in the city, yet let enough voice through to know when you're being talked to. They are also good for the home. In my house we have a noisy boiler, and these cut out that background that I had forgotten I'd learned to tune out. Highly recommended, though you'll still look like a dweeb walking down the street...


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