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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Affordable luxury

So, you work in a cubicle. We'll assume this as granted since who else has the kind of Internet access and free time necessary to find something like this.

It's winter. There's no sun. There's no window (anymore, but that's a long story). You're tired. You stayed up late. You woke up.. well late, but the point is you're tired. It's a Monday. Or a Thursday. Or really any day. Are there even days anymore? You've been sitting here as long as you can remember.

That's right kids, it's time for comfort purchasing.


But some comfort purchases don't really deliver. You buy the English language canon Amazon recommends for you based on your somewhat idealized preferences, but you don't have the time to read these things. Clothes are lovely, but you sit behind a desk. Who are we kidding? We don't need sundresses and yachting wear or even rugged wicking things. We should just wear sweatsuits to work. Or those one piece reflective unitards of the future. Or little yellow and black worker bee suits.

Point is it's no good buying things that make you wish you weren't there. I mean here. Focus people. You're in your office and that's where you get paid to be.

But you feel this overwhelming lack in your cubicle. What will fill it? Will anything?

And this is the part where you should rejoice. Because you're reading this, and I'll tell what to buy. Grado RS-60 headphones.

Wasn't that easy? Now you want proof I'm sure, and besides you need something to read until they arrive. We'll that's where the Grado's really come into their own. A world wide web (for lack of a better phrase) full of people that spend their lives posting to newsgroups to make you feel better about your purchase. You read reviews, you read anecdotes, you start making snotty references to top of the line Sony headphones. You get them. You listen. You bathe in the glory of your most excellent purchase.


But then comes the inevitable fall. Your life has been transformed. Your music tastes are changing. You're changing. Listen to that sound! You can hear everything. Is someone coughing in the recording studio? You feel like offering him a lozenge he's so close. Jazz is amazing. Vocalists can be downright naughty. You're practically inside Eric Clapton's strings... and Bob Dylan. Well, actually Bob Dylan is starting to creep you out a little. If you close you eyes it sounds like his throat may be trying to kill him.

And yes, amongst these flowers is you downfall. You have another computer at home. You dislike carrying your cans (see how cool you've become) around with you. You opt to buy another pair... and you slip into the dark dark world of the audiophile.

You purchased the SR-60 and it changed your life. Simple, buy another pair of these amazing devices. Hahaa! MwahHahHah even! Because you're now cognizant of the power of music, you idly let your eyes gaze down the list of available Grado's... 60's... 80's ... 125's start to seem like an option... they make aluminum ones! And wood ones at the top of the line? Wood? Wood! My good god all I we need in life is a pair of Grado RS-1's and the gorgeous little amp they rode into town on!

But you hold back. You're analytical, quantitative... but this gets you nowhere. "You're among the qualitative people now!"

But you snap back to reality. SR-60's eh? For beginners. Next? 80 eh? more bass... ok... but what am I missing up there? I'm already hearing things I've never heard in the music before, what else could there be? What else is out there! $150 for the SR-125's is starting to put up warning flags... but what's this? Alessandro MS-1? Who are these masked crusaders? I only buy Grado, but... modded Grados? You mean some Italian man in Chicago buys Grados microwaves them and resells them? The connoisseurs choice you say? Not everyone knows about them? Even your trusty newsgroups are starting to fail you. Some people write in saying they're the best.. but most are clamoring for information. Where can you even buy them? It's all unclear. Does the grand pooba 'John My Last Name is Grado' endorse them? Is this an underground thing? Slowly, you get the feeling that those who've bought them are too involved in their music to even come to the forum any more.. they've achieved musical Nirvana!! What have you done? What are you waiting for!

And then they come. What a day. You take them tenderly out of their box. Just like your SR-60's but Alessandro! You can't wait... you plug them in... and your fate begins to tighten around you.

They sound.. good, great, but now you've got to compare them to the 60's. You listen to the same song, furiously switching between the two. Comparing passages. Is there a difference? You attempt a 'blinded' switch.. you can tell the difference with your eyes closed.

But the 60's are the winners.


You're desolated. You return to the forum full of sad news, but soon remember your saving grace. You've forgotten the fabled 'burn-in.' You return home and methodically 'burn' them in, leaving them playing at above comfortable volume all night long. The next day is the new big day... no. Wait, yes! There is more bass. Yes. There is truly richer bass. Thank you, oh spirits of the cubicle!

But this joy and laughter lasts only a little. Your Santana is simply.. muted. You're turning the volume up louder to try to get the fidelity and.. it's starting to just make your ears bleed. A sense of loss starts to set it. You return to the Internet. Searching searching.. The brave souls who seemed to have reached Nirvana now seem like hopeless newbies. Perhaps the man that said these needed to be amped was simply right... you feel like a total shmo.

But you don't give up.

Eventually you start noticing the padded part of your cans. The 60's have this bowl shaped thing that exposes everything directly... Your new MS-1's have foam all across the earpiece... You search for pads... And find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Now you have 15 browser tabs open. The MS-1 shipped with... 'comfies'?!?! You're outraged. What self respecting Grado owner would possibly substitute sounds for comfort? You're on the warpath. The 60's earpads are bowls.. You find reviews of headphone pads. They claim that Grado's are more effected by pad choice than any other headphone alive. You switch the bowls into the MS-1... and a small tear comes to your eye.


And you think you're done.

But you're not.

Because now you need to buy another set of pads.

So you just add some bowls to the shopping cart... when you see that there are 'flats' for a whopping $30. $15 more for even less FOAM! You head back to the reviews. Flats are quite simply the gold standard. Bowls are simple not 'it.'

For some people.

You learn that a flat alternative is yellow pads from another manufacturer that you'll need to dye, punch holes in and slice yourself. You learn there's a cottage industry in doing these and that their results are even BETTER than the flats, and if those were such a substantial improvements from the bowls...

You look down at your bowls in disgust. To think that there was a time you enjoyed their sound! You read about reversing them and start listening with them on backwards marveling at your previous stupidity.. You look like an idiot with his headphones on backwards. You go to order the modded pads...

and their store is closed forever...

You ebay. You google. You answers.com. There are no answers for questions like these.

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