My bus ride every day is really tedious and I’m not very patient. Or I’m not that kind of patient. I’m very patient when it comes to doing something that seems to have a purpose like learning something new or repeating something until I get it right. I don’t have the kind of patience that lets me easily endure a five mile bus ride that takes anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on traffic and the number of motherfuckers that pull that damn cord. Breathe. With this in mind, I decided to buy a pair of earbuds so I can listen to music. Why didn’t I do this sooner? Mostly because I would usually rather listen to silence than anything else and I kept stubbornly hoping, perhaps naively, that at least one bus ride would offer me a surreal silence, with dozens of people averting each other’s gaze, sitting in respectful quiet. Of course that never happened.
I read a few reviews on the internet, hoping to get the best sound for my money. Several people recommended the Sennheiser CX300 and that appealed to me because the best studio headphones I’ve ever used were Sennheisers. And these certainly have the right price. I set out to find a pair somewhere in this city.
According to the Sennheiser website, the only place I could find them around here would be at Best Buy, so I went down to a Best Buy to check them out. When I got there, though, I was alarmed to find that they charge more than twice what I would pay online. Ridiculous. I laughed to myself (Note: never out loud because otherwise people think you’re crazy) and headed home to order them online and brave the possibilities of the much-less-than-competent DC postal carriers. However, when I got home I discovered that Gizmodo had done an earbud comparison a couple years ago and the Sennheisers didn’t fare so well. Instead, it looked like the Shure earbuds, while much more expensive, had the best price/quality ratio. So I upsold myself and ordered the Shures. I’d like to report here that they sound good, if maybe a little lighter in the bass than I would like.
Of course, just a day after I got them I noticed these comparatively inexpensive earbuds which supposedly have lots of bass and are made out of wood. I love the way wood sounds. I think this is because I grew up listening to music on high-end (and probably stolen) speakers in heavy wooden cabinets, so wood just sounds right to me. Well hell, why not buy these too? They aren’t so expensive. I would like to be reporting to you just how good or bad they sound, but Amazon mailed them to my old address, because some idiot must have picked the wrong address when filling out the order page. As a result, I probably won’t get them for several weeks. I guess I’ll have to make due with the perfectly adequate Shures.
I would like to listen to ktru while on the bus. Along with cars, that’s the sort of place that people listen to radio. It’s just the right thing to break up the monotony of driving–or the monotony of watching someone else drive, in my case. But since I don’t live in Houston anymore, the only way I can listen to ktru is on the internet and mobile internet radio is a real pain, with poor sound quality. The only way to get good quality audio on the internet is to have substantial bandwidth and mobile bandwidth is considerably less than substantial. To avoid the buffering and skipping, you have to use a reduced bitrate, which is fine for talk, but sounds like a messy wash for music. And even though you may be using a low bitrate, the stream will still skip. You may be chewing through less data, but your carrier still can’t keep up. And woe is you if you have a data cap. I’m somewhat lucky because I have a grandfathered unlimited data plan from my carrier, but these days carriers are eliminating those plans in favor of tiered data plans. Many people would have to seriously consider whether they want to listen to internet radio at all if it meant using up all of their data allotment. It all makes you not want to listen. I don’t know who thinks that internet radio is a viable alternative to terrestrial radio, but they are misinformed.
Instead of listening to ktru because of technical limitations, I have begun listening to things in my collection that I haven’t listened to in a long time. One of these things is Son Volt’s Trace, their first album after Jay Farrar left Uncle Tupelo. I can’t say that I like the rockers on the album so much, but the slow songs which comprise most of the album have the kind of crushing melancholy that I look for in a song. Oh sure, everybody likes the occasional pop earworm or loud guitar rock anthem, but slow the tempo down, throw in a weepy steel guitar, and wrap the whole thing in lyrics about death and I will listen again and again. I imagine that won’t come as much of a shock to anyone. I don’t think my sad bastard proclivities are that unusual–everybody has at least a little bit of a melancholy streak in them, otherwise sad songs wouldn’t exist–but I do tend to favor those songs, probably more than most. So I’m glad those songs exist and I’m glad that I have Trace around to listen to when I want a good bummer.