Saturday, June 11, 2016

That Other Pollution That You Can't See



I splurged the other day.  I went out and bought something for myself that I really didn’t need.  However, I have been thinking about buying them for a long time so it wasn’t a snap decision.  Since I am doing a lot more exercising,  listening to music and listening to audio-books, the one thing that has been lacking in my arsenal of technology has been a really good pair of headphones.

You have to keep in mind that in my younger days when I had a full head of hair, I used to work in radio and I was a stereophile (a person that collects High Fidelity equipment).  So I know good headphones.  The earbuds that Apple and Google give you with your phones are not high fidelity.  They sound nice, but they lack of lot of oomph in the bass and mid-range.

So I went to the nearest Best Buy electronics store and plunked down $400 on a set of Bose Noise Canceling Headphones.  By the time I got home and unpacked them I was having a little buyers remorse.  These headphones almost cost as much as my new iPhone.  Never the less I read the instructions and powered them up.

What happened next sort of caught me off guard.  These things really do cancel out noise around you and they really work.  The bonus is that they have really GOOD sound.  I can hear bass lines and treble that I never knew were there before.  But it is the sound canceling feature that really blew me away.

Bose has found a way to determine what is ‘man-made’ noise around you and cancel it out.  How they determine what is man-made and selectively cancel out rhythmic patterns and frequencies is a mystery to me, all I know is that once you flip the switch the rest of the world disappears.

That isn’t to say you can’t hear around you.  You can, but all of the humming, clicking, rumbling and clanging goes away and the world becomes a very quiet place.  In some cases almost too quiet.

I have learned that these headphones are not something you wear in public.  You won’t hear cars coming or sirens or loud air conditioners which can be un-nerving and dangerous.  Wearing them outside and listening to music is like being disembodied and floating among your surroundings.  Strange indeed.

What they are better used for is sitting in a noisy environment where you want to concentrate on something.  They are unbelievable in this role.

The headphones taught me that there is pollution all around us that we just take for granted.  Few of us actually know what silence sounds like anymore.  We live in a mechanized society where our brains have learned to filter out a lot of noise, or so we think.  Once you take it all away, the brain does some funny things.