Are Those Headphones Worth It?

Let’s talk about how you’re listening to your music. If you’re like most people I know, you listen primarily on a computer either to streaming music or to a collection of mp3 or mp4 purchased digitally or transferred from CDs. If everything I’ve said is true, then buying expensive headphones is a waste of money.

The reason mp3 (and later mp4) files were so revolutionary when they came out was because originally sound files were so large it was impractical to store them on ordinary PCs and they would take ages to transfer across most internet connections. What converting those audio files to mp3s did was reduce the amount of information on each file by stripping away most of the things that aren’t 100% audible to most people. This made the files much smaller and more practical for desktop storage and buying or sharing the files online.

What this means practically is that no matter how expensive your headphones are, if you’re listening to mp3 or mp4 format music you’re not going to get the full listening experience. I know people who have always been aware of this, who say that they’ve always heard the “hollowness” or “flatness” inherent in digital files and so they swear by physical formats for music they really care about. Expensive headphones playing gutted music files are a bit of a waste, since their superior sound transmitting qualities are being put to use on something that doesn’t have all of the sound there to transmit.

Obviously you should have headphones you find comfortable and which give a good quality of sound, but those can usually be found in a low to mid price range. And if you do a lot of traveling, you may find it worth your money to buy noise canceling headphones anyway. But for average listening, save the money for more music.

You can contact Genevieve, the author of this post, at gen.burgess@gmail.com.

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