Monday, July 11, 2011

Quiet down

Three years ago I was hanging around Heathrow airport with nothing better to do, so I paid for a pair of Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones and had a blissfully quiet flight to Hong Kong.

I'm still not sure if that means we're now officially in The Future, or just in a 1970s version, because we've known about acoustic cancellation for years (I learned about it as a callow youth in my second or third year at secondary school) but it seemed to take forever for the technology to be implemented in a way that didn't require the consumer to carry around two lead acid batteries, an oscilloscope, three rheostats and a condenser microphone. So that's progress, I guess.

The Sennheisers were ok, really. They don't cover your ears like larger headphones, so to get some sonic insulation they squash tight against your ears, which isn't so much fun after twelve hours.

Plus, in three years the foam and fake leather of the headphones has turned yellow and flaked off, so now whenever I get off a plane I appear to have the worst case of dandruff known to man.

I don't see this (or hear it) so I was fairly unperturbed, but my fiancee was less chuffed at my dishevelled appearance, and possibly quite envious that I wasn't half deaf from the roar of the engines after every flight, when she most definitely was. So after a few days scouring the shops, we're now the proud owners of matching pairs of noise-cancelling headphones. Not magically disintegrating Sennheisers; not the deluxe Sennheisers that are twice the size of your head. Not the Bose, carefully chiselled out of gold either.

It's been a hard road to buying them. Pretty much every shop 'assistant' in Hong Kong must believe people make all headphone purchase decisions based solely on appearance. The shock we encountered when we asked about opening a box and testing the headphones out before parting with cold hard cash was visibly apparent on the faces of these horrified citizens.

I suppose they were noise cancelling headphones after all, so what better demonstration than to watch them sat there, silently wrapped in plastic and cardboard? What an idiot I was to ask to have them on my head instead.

Still, we have some now, and only a day late: I think we needed them most when enduring Transformers 3, Michael Bay's attempt to remake Terminator 4/deafen the entire populace of the world/wring every last bit of commercialisation out of some plastic tat.


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