With music, I’ve got an upsetting, near-servile craze for new music—a blog-like up-to-the-minute twitch. But I’ll admit it: sometimes “this year’s model” isn’t all that great, and we’re left parched and in want for some fluid sound to swim around in our bodies. Or, I guess we can be another way, too: the kind that’ll stream the same tunes over and over until there’s little to lap up anymore—assumedly high and dry, we move on to the next sound puddle to sap.
Either way, I’m going to argue that there can be a lot of untapped good in those old tunes, and that most of us only get shallow, surface-level sips of the real thing. By changing up just a couple of things, we can all get a sound that feels less processed, more rich, vibrant and refreshing.
Which things, exactly?
First, and most importantly, clear out all those P2P files you’ve stockpiled while Tina wasn’t looking. Why? Well, even if you don’t hunger and thirst to be righteous before U.S. law, torrents are the furthest thing from a sound oasis you’ll find: you’re getting an unfiltered, mucky texture with those radio rips and low-bit leaks.
And actually, you might not even be getting as pristine or pure a sound as you could from your legal sources, either. While the ubiquitous acronym “MP3” sounds as if it’d be just as chemically sound and well rounded as, say, H20, it’s actually a format designed to abbreviate what you hear in order to take off a little data weight from those outdated hard drives. Luckily, it’s a post-terabyte world—by analogy, an upgrade from canteens to Camelbaks—and you don’t have to lose the fuller, deeper variation of your songs.
So, for those looking for a little more flavor from their tunes, look for the more palette-whetting audio formats like FLAC, WAV, and Apple Lossless. Also, if you’re importing from CD, you can tell iTunes to switch to these from MP3 (visit Preferences > Import Settings). Even though your iPod’s technically marketed as an MP3 player, that’s kind of a misnomer: it’ll play the other kinds just fine. Sure, they’ll take up about three times as much space, but just think, then, about how much sound gets sifted out of the other.
Second, it’s time to be done with those white Apple earbuds, While most settle for the thin, shrill, and bass-less sound of these freebies, there’s much better options out there, even for penny pinchers. In fact, where a decent stereo setup will easily suck you dry of $500, an impressive pair of headphones can be had for about a tenth of the price.
Okay, so what’re some of the important things to keep in mind when seeking out headphones? First, don’t mistake the mirage of over-sized bass for a natural, equal sound. Yes, you do want crisp thump, but it ought to complement the high-end sounds. Also, you don’t have to go Bose to get ones that are comfy and noise-isolating.
I wholly recommend Klipsch’s S4 earphones, whose oval shape better matches the contour of your ear, and which has clean quality that’ll have you hearing things you hadn’t in your five years with such-and-such record. The retail price on these is $70, but there’s plenty to go around on the eBay marketplace for closer to the $45 mark.
Lastly, worn-out listeners, make a trip here and there to go see your favorite bands. It’ll quench, and invigorate later listens in the in-between times.