I’ve been enjoying my new headphones for a while now and they are working out great. My criteria for new headphones were that they offered high-quality sound output, especially in the bass frequency and in reproducing classical music, had some kind of effective noise cancellation to save my eardrums during my morning commute, and were portable. After looking at many options, including offerings from Sony, Bose, and Etymotic, I settled on the Sennheiser PXC 250.
I did hear that the Etymotic ER-4s were by far the best of the bunch in terms of sound output, and obviously very portable, but I am too much of a wuss to stick those things in my ear canals all day. I seriously can’t stand ear plugs to begin with – after about 10 minutes I want to tear them out of my ears. canalphones are too irritating to me and were not an option. But I have three friends at work that swear by these models. (And one of those also has a pair of the Sennheiser 250s – she switches between the two depending on where she’s at or what she’s listening to.)
The Sennheisers do fold up nice and compact for a supra-aural headset. They fit quite comfortably and I have no trouble keeping them on my ears all day at work and on the train. When I’m wearing them, I can still hear some external sound. But noise is greatly reduced – I am amazed when I take them off and suddenly I am awash in sounds that I completely took for granted. Like the hum of the aging iMac on the desk behind me, the television in the other room, the traffic outside, and the upstairs neighbor’s little puppy that is gleefully scurrying across the floor. I am listening to the 3rd movement of Mahler’s 4th Symphony right now and the sound is pristine with the volume set only to about one quarter of it’s capacity.
There are some minor drawbacks however, and these might not be for everyone. If you can stand canalphones, the Etymotic ER-4s seem to be the best bet for sound quality. There is a minor but noticeable high pitched white noise that appears with the active noise cancellation turned on and no music is playing. In a scenario where noise cancellation is necessary, such as a train or a bus, this is hardly a consideration since the environmental clamor and the good job of the noise cancellation will outweigh this minor con by leaps and bounds. Probably the biggest drawback however is the battery pack which hangs halfway down the cord, and the fact that the unit requires batteries in the first place. But I’ve gotten quite used to it and it clips to my belt or is stowed in my coat pocket with ease.
A nice unexpected feature is that the noise cancellation cuts out much of the sounds I had come to expect to hear even in a quiet setting, such as the creak of the bolts in my old office chair, or even the clacking of the keyboard which is already pretty quiet to begin with. I hear them, but not nearly as much now. It’s all just the music (which has now progressed to Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No.3, 1st movement, Jordi Savall)
Listening to music while working helps me focus on whatever I’m doing. Distractions such as people talking, train cars creaking along the tracks, and street traffic can really make it hard to concentrate. I think it’s the constant progression of musical pitch over time that seems to somehow keep my brain moving forward when deep into a coding binge or trying to design a page layout. I am addicted to the act of listening to music – I have 7.33 GB of music on my computer that I listen to regularly which, if played continuously, would repeat itself after 4.7 days. I’m already too familiar with each and every nuance of each and every track, and I feel that I need more – lots more. Considering I’ve been working like this since 1998, a mere 4.7 days of music seems woefully inadequate at this point. These headphones were a logical next step – partly to save my ears on the train of course, but also to provide a much better audio experience than a cheap pair of earbuds or a lousy set of $20 headphones. The new headphones make all the difference, and I am forever spoiled.
So if you’re trying to get my attention from now on and I don’t answer – just throw something at me. But preferably something not too hard…