Perhaps it’s not fatherhood’s fault — it’s just that, if you’re a guy shopping for gadgets, you want to be 100% sure that you bought the right thing. Luckily, there are many stores that support you in this quest, by offering 7-day, 15-day or 30-day return policies. Some stores (Bed Bath & Beyond, for instance) let you return items even 5 years later. (I wish they sold more gear!) Some stores charge restocking fees, some don’t.
One of the least gratifying aspects of my experience as a father has been an increasingly cumbersome sense of OCD. Never leave home without a phone charger, checking all the faucets, checking the lock twice, and so on.
However, retail shopping “your local neighborhood” mega-chain-store is limited to the selection at hand – and we all know that the best selection and prices in the world are at Amazon.com — why would you ever want to spend $50 on an HDMI cable at Best Buy when you can buy it on Amazon for about $3?
Still, Amazon has its downsides — primarily, you can’t touch your product until it’s arrived. You can’t have it same-day. And, unlike taking the item back to BestBuy, you have to mail it back and, in most cases, pay shipping costs. Pay? just for trying something? Excuse me, why would I do that?
So it is with this predicament, and my dose of OCD, that I set out to buy headphones, one pair for myself, and another for my wife. As a composer and performer who has released three albums on my own, I have heard my share of rough mixes, pre-masters, finals, and I know what a good record sounds like — therefore I should deserve better than the earbuds that came with my iPhone. (Though, the thinking goes, it should sound at least half-decent on the iPhone earbuds, as half the world is listening through them anyway.)
I saw people on the subway with the “Beats By Dr. Dre” phones, people who are not musicians, but who clearly care about sound. However, in testing, I could not bear to carry the bulk. Those things take up half the bag, and the mid-range is muddy. I didn’t want in-ears. I wanted something light, collapsible, packable, and something that sounded good. Something that preferably had a microphone, so I could take calls in the rain.
And then, an epiphany – neckband (a.k.a. “Street style”, a.k.a. “behind the neck”) headphones were my ticket, because then I could wear a winter hat on top.
For the next week or so, I obsessed over neckband headphones, checking out the stock at B&H, Apple Store and Best Buy, any store that had a favorable return policy. I tried out the Sony MDRG45LP (not collapsible, no microphone, but very cheap), the New Balance NB464B (collapsible and with a microphone, but terrible construction, design and sound for the price), and the Sennheiser MM100, which I returned because they are bluetooth, and that meant charging them every few hours.
Eventually, I settled on the Sony MDR-G75LW, which have excellent sound and a zippy retractable cord, and only cost $30. I then reasoned that I could get the now-discontinued Audio Technica AT-MP100 Music Phone Headphone Adapter, which would let me convert any headphone into a headset by adding a remote control and a microphone in a cable…
But as I was trying all of this out, I realized — my head is too wide for all these neckbands. I was getting a headache just from trying them out. And I couldn’t get my winter hat to fit over them. (Should I buy a new hat?)
For me, the lesson here is that the iPhone earbuds are a good compromise. I’m not a guy who actually listens to music on the go — I most frequently listen to the SimpleNoise App, to something called “Brown Noise”, so as to drown out the music around me, and think about my own.
Still, if Brown Noise sounds medicore on iPhone headphones, just imagine what it would sound like on those Dr Dre’s… I’d have to give that a try… with the discontinued headset adapter, just to take calls in the rain. After all, I’m a musician, and I need to listen to things as close to what the artist intended. Except, please give me a break.DISCLAIMER — if you buy anything using the Amazon links above, I will get some sort of a measly commission. It won’t go a long way towards paying our rent, but every penny helps.. especially after all this “research”.