Obviously, I needed to look cooler.
I’d exhausted the notion of buying cool new shoes and cool new T-shirts. A cool new haircut had been eliminated by the fates.
But sports stars the world over always arrive at games looking terribly cool and sporting extremely large headphones around their necks.
This was it. I could get big, fat noise-canceling headphones.
In any case, I like the thought of living in silence. Sometimes, if my wife and I are working in the same room, she likes the thought of my living in silence, too.
The fates were surely aligning, so I invested $279.95 in some Beats Studio3 wireless over-ear headphones. After all, since Apple bought Beats five years ago, Beats has even more credibility, right? (Er, possibly not.)
I confess I’d previously avoided anything other than cheap headphones. Somehow, I don’t enjoy having my ears warmed for hours on end. I certainly don’t like having anything stuck inside them for hours on end, so in-ear was not an option.
Yet I chose the Beats because they looked comfortable. And, you know, NBA players wear them, right?
Perhaps I was a little too optimistic about how they might change my life.
Taking them out of the box, I was a little disappointed by the bulkiness of the carry-box. These things don’t even fold flat.
Yet when I put them on, I did at least appreciate they felt reasonably soft. Then it was time to turn on the sound.
It was, well, OK. Not terrible, not too bass-driven — something for which Beats has a reputation — and just, alright, quite pleasant.
But it was the noise-canceling part that sank my heart.
I could still hear so much of what was going on beyond the soccer match or movie upon which my headphones were supposed to be focused.
This wasn’t noise-canceling. It was noise-dulling.
At first, because it comes naturally to me, I wanted to blame myself. Perhaps there was some button I hadn’t clicked or pushed.
I did a little research. This noise-canceling thing is a splendid hype. The technology works best on quashing — somewhat — low-frequency sounds.
The more high-pitched elements of life — human speech, babies on planes, high-revving engines, the Darkness in concert — get a little flattening at best, once you don your headphones.
Door bells, a glass being dropped on the floor, a dog barking — all these sounds were slightly dulled by my headphones, but still perfectly audible.
I’m not suggesting Beats is solely responsible for the promise of noise-canceling being overblown. I understand it’s the same with all other headphones of the genre.
It’s like a self-driving car that actually needs you to check it’s not about to kill you. It’s like a lover who promises you their best and gives you, oh, 30%. It’s like a politician who promises you transparency and then becomes transparently fond of the big white lie
Yes, if I wear my Beats for a couple of hours and then take them off, I feel like I’m returning from some sort of purgatorial netherworld.
But these things are supposed to cancel noise. You know, like you cancel a subscription or an air ticket.
When I decide to cancel my flight from San Francisco to New York, I don’t expect to still have to fly to Boise, Idaho.