Planned, written and edited with a forty-five minute time limit using the word "music" as inspiration Music defines me. I’ve been called emotionally under-developed by more than one disgruntled girlfriend over the years, and am known warmly in my family as an emotional rock. Someone who never cracks under pressure. But when I listen to music, it is as though I am connected with that emotional side that sits in the background. Listening through a speaker is nice, but there is something about headphones that has always appealed to me. So intimate, so personal. Like the artists are talking directly to me. The different headphones that I have owned have sculpted the development and change in my relationship with music. Maybe to others they are just inanimate pieces of plastic, copper wiring, fabric and magnets, but to me they are so much more.
The first headphones I owned came with a portable off-brand CD player that my parents got me for my eighth birthday. Born in the mid-nineties, I missed the majority of the tape era and caught the twilight years of the popularity of CDs before they too became obsolete. The headphones were very similar in design and acoustic performance to the sort offered by airlines even to this day. Extended use would compress and hurt my ears, and should the 9mm jack be moved in just the wrong way, a course scratching would make its way into the headphones and drown out the sounds being crudely constructed by the miniature speakers. Despite these flaws I would spend hours sitting in my room, at my desk, listening to summer pop mix albums and the few nineties rock albums that my dad had forgotten about in years gone by. The headphones did their best to articulate the quality of whatever disk I asked them, but they were fundamentally restricted by the fact that they were terrible in almost every way. Terrible, but still mine, which is what made them special. They lasted five gruelling years, until I reached the digital age. The age of the iPod.
My parents bought me an iPod for my twelfth birthday. Primary school had finished, and it was time to start riding my bicycle the several kilometres to high school. My parents thought it was a bit cruel to have their son try to manipulate the portable CD player whilst riding a bike so they invested in an iPod Nano. The headphones that came with the iPod were the now signature wired, white, compact earbuds that have become synonymous with the Apple brand. I love them. No longer was I restricted to sitting at my desk and listening to music. Now I could lay in bed, on my back, on my side, however I wanted and listen to the music that was defining my formative years. It was revolutionary. I look back fondly over those pubescent years with angsty emotions, laying in bed at night listening to bands like Jimmy Eat World, Bullet for My Valentine and Atreyu. I wasn’t just hearing the music, I was feeling it too. They were speaking to my emotions whilst I was thinking them. The earbuds would go in, eclipsing my eardrums to the sounds of the outside world, and that’s when I would start to feel all those strange emotions I was still coming to terms with as a teenager.
Many of those sentiments still remain, the last set of headphones that I feel a strong connection to were my first set of wireless headphones; the Sennheiser HD 4.40 wireless bluetooth headphones. As high-school finished and I started to worry about my appearance more in the hope of attracting the attention of girls, I began to go to the gym. Now the iPod headphones did the job just fine here, not that I was in doubt after six years of faithful service, but there were two rather noticeable problems. First, lifting weights required me to get angry, I needed to really fire up to get into the mood for a good sweat session, otherwise I was just pointlessly moving heavy things around. I just couldn’t immerse myself in the emotions of the gym with the kilowattage that was on offer by the iPod headphones. Remembering fondly the immersion offered by the over-ear off brand CD headphones, I invested in a set of modern over ear headphones. These bad boys were something else. They hugged the ear so well that even when they are turned off they protect from any outside noise that might distract me. Then there is the sound quality. The end of my teens brought about a taste for electronic music, drum and bass mostly, which is delivered exquisitely by the headphones. But their biggest selling point was the lack of a cord, which was the second issue. Much like the iPods being purchased for me because of utility, the headphone allowed me to leave my phone in one place and stream the music through the air, straight to my headphones. No longer did I have to worry about the cord being caught on any one of the hundreds of hook-like objects that comprised the majority of the gym. Ridding me of the perpetual fear of having the buds violently pulled from my delicate ears. The immersion was unreal.
I still own all three of these headsets. They look like and have rightfully been accused of being useless pieces of junk which should be destined for the bin. But I just can’t bring myself to part with them. They have defined who I am, how I feel emotions and the way I interact with the world. They have been the gateway to different genres of music, giving me so much without ever asking for anything in return.