Thursday, September 4, 2008

New favorite headphones/Bose hater no more!

To say I've been a Bose hater for a long time is a slight exaggeration. I don't "hate" Bose. I just hate the direct/reflecting principle as applied to speakers. The goal of speaker systems SHOULD BE to present what's on the recording, in as linear and phase-coherent a manner as possible. Any "ambience" heard should be that of the original recording venue (or in the case of pop music, that chosen by the producer and artist(s)), NOT added randomly by the room! Bouncing sounds randomly off walls may sound pleasant. But it is the antithesis of HIGH FIDELITY!  That pleasant "warm glow", that pleasing homogenous sound IS AN INACCURACY, and not being on the original recording, IS NOT TRUE TO THE ARTISTIC VISION OF THOSE WHO MADE THE RECORDING!

Alright, that's my case against Bose. Now why I've fallen in love with one of their products. For my 50th(!!!) birthday, I received a pair of the Bose on-ear headphones. Now I've been a headphone junkie since about the age of 12, when I first patched a set of (very cheap) 'phones to my parents' Magnavox console stereo, and heard that amazing, engulfing panorama of sound for the first time. It still makes me smile! It's why, I'm embarrassed to admit, I became an early addict of "easy listening" music...the best sound on early FM stereo radio came from those "elevator music" stations, and it was magnificent!

At age 15 I got my first radio job, and have spent hours a day with headphones ever since. And I've been through a ton of them...from Koss to Sennheiser, moving coil to electrostatic, closed back to "open aire". There are many that I've enjoyed (many more that I've despised), but NEVER have I heard anything as startling as the clarity of these Bose headphones. With most headphones, there's an adjustment period. It takes time to get used to the particular colorations of each new design, until I train myself to listen through the flaws, and simply enjoy the music. Not so with the Bose headphones. 

The first time I heard them, they simply sounded RIGHT. No adjustment period was necessary. The bass is FULLY extended (down to the very "bassment"...a 20hz tone will rattle your grey matter!). The midrange is delightfully smooth, and uncolored. Highs are crisp, clear, and without undue emphasis to any sliver of the spectrum. THAT is why they sounded "right" to begin with. No strange "cupped hands" (around ears) coloration in the midrange, typical of so many closed-back headphones. No low bass rolloff, as typical of most lightweight, open-back headphones. EVERYTHING IS THERE, and in proper proportion.

That's what struck me in the beginning, but not what keeps me grinning. THAT (stupid grin on my face) comes from the ability of these 'phones to lay bare hidden details in recordings I've heard dozens, or even hundreds of times...resulting in new listening pleasure from even VERY familiar recordings! THAT makes the 160+ dollar investment seem like a steal! These things are simply marvelous.

So now for the first time in my adult life, when I visit an electronics store, I walk right past the display of headphones. I AM NOT INTERESTED IN OWNING ANY OTHER 'PHONES! For a headphone junkie like me, with shelves and drawers full of Sonys, Beyerdynamics, Sennheisers, and Koss'es, that is quite a statement! Thank you Robin (my lovely wife!) Your love is the greatest gift of all. But second, is those freakin' Bose headphones!

Now, that Bose Wave Music system looks like a pretty damn nice audio system for a small room, like a bedroom! ;)

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