A Pain in the Ear-Gear

As an author, I use noise cancelling earbuds all day long while I write my novels. I do this not to listen to tunes but instead to shape or augment my reality to block out distractions. Layeredssvs-kb_128 on top of noise cancelling, I typically listen to soundscapes such as rain, waterfalls, or ocean surf. One of my “superpowers” is that I have acute hearing. I can hear into the ultrasonic and infrasonic ranges. A doctor once told me I have the hearing of a fox, and he meant that literally. So, ear-gear is wildly crucial for my writing. I’ve used a pair of Bose QuietComfort 20i earbuds for years and swear by them but I hate the wires. Over six months ago I set out to cut the cord.

My first try was Bose QuietControl 30 wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling. This did not work out so well. The noise cancelling is noticeably inferior to other Bose ear-gear. I also own a pair of Bose QuietComfort 25 wired headphones and other Bose wired products. In my opinion their QC30 wireless earbuds are mediocre when compared to their entire line of noise cancelling gear. So the noise cancelling was disappointing, but I could live with it. The deal killer was that the QC30 earbuds have problems connecting to Macbooks, while connecting reliably with iPhones and iPads. I have returned and replaced these earbuds twice at Bose’s request and none work any better than the last. That does not give me a great deal of confidence in their product—just keep swapping them out until you’re lucky enough to get a pair that works… Yeah, right?

Out of disappointment with Bose, I purchased a pair of “Here Buds” from dopplerlabs.com. These buds did not stream music, or in my case soundscapes, but they did promise active noise cancelling and the ability to selectively tune out the sounds I don’t want and keep the rest. This sounded very cool to me! These were a first-generation product and they did not live up to expectations. The echo effect was like an auditory hallucination or augmented reality—take your pick—but the sound effects were ultimately a cute gimmick that wore off in minutes once I realized the noise cancelling skills of these buds were at a kindergarten-grade level when compared to Bose. Also, the sonic quality of the buds left everything sounding flat making them useless at concerts or Dolby movies to shave off a dozen decibels when the theater’s sound system is threatening to cause permanent ear bleeds. So these earbuds now sit in a drawer collecting dust with their batteries completely discharged.

Out of frustration with Bose and Doppler Labs wireless ear-gear I decided to try a pair of Apple AirPods even though they did not include active or passive noise cancelling. I really think the AirPods look painfully silly, but I was getting desperate after my prior fiascos. I was thrilled with how the AirPods connected and worked seamlessly with all my Apple gear, and I have a lot of Apple gear, the entire ecosystem several times over. It’s like a guilty addiction. The only problem with the Airpods was that they hurt my ears after only an hour of use. Apple seems to have a one size fits all philosophy when it comes to earbuds. Too bad the human body does not conform to Apple’s ideals. Whatever happened to Apples stunning design prowess?… and please… please… do not get me started on how much I hate their new Macbook Pro 2016 keyboard! It’s so bad it makes me want to cry.

After giving up on the doubly painful Apple AirPods, I’ve decided to try Doppler Labs again with their second-generation earbuds called “Here One.” These earbuds can stream music. Their huge Achilles Heel is battery life. I’ve read reports of two hours of streaming music before they conk out. Two hour battery life really stinks compared to other wireless earbuds, but that’s just how desperate I am for a pair of fully wireless noise cancelling buds that actually work. I’ll soon find out how Doppler Labs did with their second act… Now if I can just finish that second chapter!