New Gear: Bose Tri-Port OE Headphones

I’ve been screaming about Sennheiser headphones for over twenty years. My first set of good headphones were Sennies, complete with the yellow earpads that were as synonymous with Sennheiser as white is nowadays with iPods. They were simply built, but delivered powerful sound from my Sansui rack system.

The hook was set, and I listened with Sennies whenever I could, even buying some small PX100’s for listening at work. Alas, as with many love affairs of epic proportion, a new love has been found — Bose.

I took a listen to the current crop of Bose headphones around Christmas at Ultimate Electronics, and fell in love with the sound. The on-ear and over-ear designs both delivered terrific sound from the small testing station in the store. I thought, “Who knows how that music has been tailored to sound good on those headphones.” So, although I asked Saint Nick for a pair, I didn’t really pursue it real hard.

For some reason though, this week I decided to treat myself to a new toy, and that was the Bose OE (on-ear) headphones. Beck and I went to Best Buy yesterday at lunch, and I once again compared the two configurations, and in a close call, the on-ear cans won. I ferried them home last night, and began listening again for the first time in a long while.

You see, these things sing! I haven’t heard sound this clearly in years and years. I don’t wanna knock my Sennheisers — they still sound good — but this is a revelatory experience. I’m reminded of my first pair of Sennheisers in the early 80s, when I put some good vinyl on, and laid in the floor, quiet, and listening to every nuance of the music I thought I knew well.

Of course, the experience is different now. We carry all the music we can on an iPod, and we listen everywhere, rather than in a special place. But, even at work today, I find myself transported away by the quiet solitude of these headphones, and their seemingly amazing sound reproduction. I’ve tried the fun stuff — the cannons in the “1812 Overture”, the valve rattles in “The Planets”, the breathing just before the beginning of the “The Chain”, the massive thumping bass in “Let’s Go Crazy”, and those amazing, haunting harmonies in “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby” — and these headphones have handled it, and handled it well. No clipping, no distortion, and a solid, bright sound that just seems to come from everywhere. And I’m hearing things in some of my music that I’ve never heard before.

Another interesting thing about these headphones is just how quiet they are. I mentioned quiet solitude before, and I meant it. Even though these aren’t the noise cancelling Bose headphones, I still get a massive amount of quiet from them. I suppose since they sit on the ear, that helps, but there’s something just special about these that makes the rest of the world go away, without having to crank the volume up so much that the world is drowned out.

Tonight, I’ll be giving them a nice long run, laying in the floor, critically listening to some of my old favorites, getting reacquainted with them, as well as listening to some new favorites as though I’ve never listened to them before. This is gonna be a fun, fun night.