Thursday, January 19, 2006

Portable Music Players and Hearing Loss

Cans!It was bound to come back around. Every number of years the media gets all up in arms about people listening to music too loud in their headphones. It doesn't matter that headphones have existed since the dinosaurs - it's still always headline news.

These days Apple is being singled out, but it's only due to their popularity, since there's no technical difference between their iPod brand and any other form of music player on the market. Whether it be an mp3 type device, a CD player, a cassette player, or listening to headphones via a stereo, it's all a bunch of crap.

First of all, Apple and all these other manufacturers put notes right in their manuals warning us about possible hearing loss, so I think they've got themselves pretty well covered if anyone tries to sue. I guess they all got one smarter ever since McDonald's and Starbucks had to put "Caution - Hot!" labels on their coffee cups.

But ignoring that, how can anyone blame the player anyway? There are lots of factors here - how loud the person shoves the volume, the loudness of the song (remember, songs these days are being mastered louder than they were 10 years ago), the amount of juice needed to properly power the headphones (the lousy phones that came with my mp3 player are much louder at a given volume than my Grado SR-60s), to name a few. Blacing the blame on the players themselves is ignorant of the other factors at play.

But if these nay-sayers had their way, the players would have internal hardware mechanisms or software programming that would limit the volume when it was deemed to be too loud. Great - most likely this would be implemented poorly, and what we'd get is compressed/squashed sound at low levels.

Hrm, on second thought, maybe not so bad. It's better than the squooshed sound at extrememly high levels we get now. Horrible sound quality is, after all, much easier to tolerate when played quietly. Count me in!


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