I love music, as you probably know from skimming through these pages. However I don’t think I am a connoisseur who can really hear the difference between good audio equipment and really good audio equipment. Obviously I cringe at really tinny sounds and I think I can also tell the difference between speakers which cost about £100 for a pair (mine) or a pair that cost ten times that (my husband’s). Though I maintain that my Wharfedale Diamond Pro speakers from Richer Sounds bought in approximately 1988 were and remain a good value piece of kit.
Talking about audio equipment, I do enjoy the jargon which comes with a good old hi fi manufacturer’s catalogue or a hi fi review. It means nothing whatsoever to me but I love all the talk about the organic sound, the muscular notes, whether the fluidity is forced or unforced, and the fact that if you do win the lottery and don’t want to buy a Lamborghini, at least you could spend £14,700 on some Analysis speakers, £33,500 on a Pathos Monobloc power amp (see that – mono – hence you need to buy two) or £5,700 on the Fletcher Omega Point 5 turntable. Oh to have this kind of disposable cash!
It’s the same kind of conversation that my friend Sandysview inspired with his post in August about wine and the jargon around it, though he found it gibberish and when it comes to hi fi talk I find it quite entertaining:
But I’m rambling away on a tangent. I was trying to make a point about hi fi and what sounds good and what doesn’t. I did used to think, if it tastes good enough (wine) or sounds good enough (er, sound), then that’s enough for me.
That’s until this week. It all started when my husband and I were bemoaning the fact that you don’t get good quality these days. His pair of headphones, which had cost the not measly sum of £59.50, had just stopped working at barely 5 months old and he was trawling through various internet sites for a replacement. Not like the inexpensive, brilliant little Wharfedale speakers which are still going strong over twenty years later! As the husband is (just) over 19 years old and doesn’t listen solely to hip hop, he balked at the currently ubiquitous brand name Beats by Dr Dre (made by Monster) – adding as it does a good £100 onto the cost relative to the apparent quality, and the Monster headphones have received very few good reviews in the press. Not that this is a problem for joint creators Dre and Jimmy Iovine, music producer and head honcho of Interscope-Geffen-A&M, as the kids of today aspire to own them due to the credibility behind Dr Dre’s name, and you now see them in their droves on the London streets. Please do correct me, as I have not heard these headphones, and I was too shy to ask any of the young men I saw wearing them on the tube today for a listen (have you seen any women wearing them?) and I’m almost certain they will sound good. But if you do have a pair or an opinion, please let me know. I really do owe it to myself to ‘listen to the music the way [people] should: the way I do’ as Dr Dre himself puts it. This is very clever marketing: why, the new artist series mean you can covet these even if you are a Lady Gaga, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs or even Justin Bieber fan. This last (£169.99) is surely going one step too far but I would love to see the same hip hop kids trying to look so cool wearing the purple Bieber ones.
I am digressing again. We are not here to talk about Dr Dre, Justin Bieber or their headphones. We are almost getting to the point now. So anyway, based on many reviews, my husband plumped for a pair of Ultrasone DJ1 headphones and, well, I never want to see another pair of in-ear come-with-the-price Ipod headphones again.
Granted, these are headphones intended for DJs and are in a bit of a different class to in-ear headphones meant for commuting and the teenaged of years. They also cost £119.99, (RRP £139.99), but bear in mind that the headphones endorsed by Dr Dre go for far more, depending on the version you choose. But the sound of the Ultrasone DJ1! It just overwhelmed me. To the point where I had to sit entirely still to be able to properly listen, and I couldn’t do anything else but listen. Not great for multi-tasking! I won’t go into too many details on the technology, partly because you can read that on any reputable website, unlike this one, and mostly because I don’t understand it. But I will mention that their S-Logic™ Natural Surround Sound not only sounds amazing but also allows a reduction of sound pressure levels by up to 40% (3-4 dB) for the same loudness sensation. In other words, your ears feel special and precious wearing these, you don’t need to turn up the volume for the sound to be heavenly, and at the same time the room you are sitting in remains absolutely silent. Plus, if you are a DJ and playing music for hours on end, you will be able to do this into these headphones at far less risk to your ears. Many DJs’ reviews say the same thing – they sound brilliant, they are comfortable, and you get less ringing in your ears even after using them for long periods of time. One reviewer called them ‘earsome’ and I know why.
The Ultrasone DJ1 should be on prescription for any music lover or DJ. They make you feel all warm. The music sounds gorgeous, deep and sweet. You do not have to blast the volume up high to hear the lovely bass tones and to hear voices and instruments sound clear and neutral. I do believe that music is for sharing. In fact, I kept saying to my husband ‘Listen to this bit’, because I wanted him to hear the quality of the sound inside those (swivelling) ear cups. But now I never want to hear music out loud again. It might not sound as good. Not until I can afford those Monobloc amps at least.