As part of my process of dealing with the consequences of my trip to Barcelona, I decided to invest in a part of “active noise cancelling” (ANC) headphones mainly because I have a trip to Canada in July and I want to make that as easy on myself as possible. The noise cancelling refers to the background noise that occurs around us. For instance I have a window open in this room and a car just went down the road as another approaches, my friends are talking in the kitchen so I can also hear vague murmurs, the washing machine is on; this is the noise that get “cancelled”. After some research I chose a pair of Bose QC25s. These are not cheap headphones at £209 but I managed to get over a 20% on the recommended price and I felt they were better value for me considering the top of the range wireless models (QC25s are wired).
The headphones work, and in some ways they work too well. The QC25s can be used with or without the ANC but without ANC they are a dull and lacklustre pair of ‘phones. Activate the ANC using the switch on the right ear cover and they are transformed into highly detailed and articulate music reproduction devices. Without music the noise reduction still works but I can hear a slight background hiss which might be comforting for relaxation. With music flowing though, I found them revealing, showing me new features of tracks that I thought I knew well. Sometimes the ends of songs seemed to be cut off too abruptly but maybe I am not used to the immersive world these headphones produce.
As part of the testing process I grabbed an old Sony MP3 player I have (having seemingly left my new model in Spain) and went through playing my favourite tracks of every pop album I have on the player. Initially I played more smoothing tracks, but as time went on I played anything that took my fancy. After a (long) while though I think I got a bit overwhelmed by how much detail I was hearing in the tracks. In particular there was a remix track of a Soft Cell hit called “Say hello, wave goodbye”. The remix was sped up a little (to 120bpm no doubt) and some hard hitting fast spikey synth tracks added. I normally imagine tumblers and acrobats leaping around at the end of the track when all the synths come in together. I like the energetic life giving feeling it normally gives me, but this time I actually felt it was too much. Maybe the sound level was too high but I grew uncomfortable listening to it, overwhelmed by the noise onslaught. Maybe there was too much information in the music to process. Maybe the ANC was unable to keep up with the music and muddied the soundscape.
I also wonder though, is complete focus too much for me? Are the headphones actually a step too far in blocking out the real world to concentrate on the music I am listening to. Maybe, but I hope that I can find the right music that suits me at the right level. They come with an airplane adapter so if there are movies on the trip to Canada I can listen to the movies in seclusion, though I hope the screens on the back of the seats have got better since last I flew long haul.
I hope that the headphones and I will work out fine. Let’s face it, it cant be as bad as dealing with the discomfort of jet engine plane flight. At least it will give me some control over the noise levels.