Sounds Good: Earbuds and Sonic Sounds

By Samir Shukla

As springtime blooms around us and summer emerges, nature's symphony is making its presence known. It is in high fidelity, surround sound, if you will. This cacophony of singing birds, chatty bugs, light preludes of drizzled rain leading to the booming drum rolls of thunderstorms, the winds making the trees dance, the annoying neighbor mowing his yard at 7am on Sunday morning, this orchestra is a composition of pure, analog sound. This audible feast makes me miss the analog sounds of human music that is digitized into a shadow of its former self.

I don't mean the music itself, which is everywhere and accessible at all times, but the actual sound that reaches my ears. It seems to be missing subtleties, the sound was warmer with less technology, and this is made worse when it is not heard in a proper setting.

We have access to so much instant music, but most people wind up listening to music via crappy little computer and cell phone speakers, via condensed digital music formats. It is an injustice to the music. Granted, not everyone can afford recording studio equipment, but listening to music on laptop speakers, tinny car speakers, and especially those hideous earbuds leaves me hungry for a fuller sound. Listening to music via earbuds is akin to buying the cheapest taco at Taco Bell, dipping it in water, tossing it into a blender and then drinking the sludge. Yeah, you are eating something, but can you delineate the flavors and the ingredients? It's a travesty. Save earbuds for those conference calls and phone calls while driving. Even the expensive branded headphones out there leave much to be desired. Music should be heard in a proper room where the sound can expand. Even in the confines of a car, with proper speakers, the music sounds better than with earbuds or headphones.

Musical sound is best when it fills the air, the room, or the concert hall. You should feel the music, not just listen to it. I don't mean that the bass should thump so hard as to make you want to eject your lunch or rattle the eardrums at massive levels. It's all about the full sound. When you are at a concert, when the sound is just right, not too loud or soft, but powerful, where the musical frequencies twirl around and in and out your body and return to the ether, there's nothing like it.

After over 40 years of listening to music, attending concerts, at all levels of volume, my hearing has actually become more attuned. That is the dilemma. I've become pickier. When I go to concerts, the lights, the clothes, the props, dancers, effects, all are secondary to the sound. When the sound gels and hits all the right buttons, there's nothing like it.

So do the music you love a favor. Buy decent speakers, set them up in a proper room and, unless you are out for a jog and must have music playing, toss those earbuds into a drawer in your desk at work. Sound good?

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Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com