Now that every true Brit is reaching for his socks and sandals, the mind turns to outdoor pursuits and ideas of travel. However, the notion of too many other sandal-wearing Brits and their awful children being in the immediate vicinity is less than ideal. To avoid longing for winter again, Lauri Cular collects up some ideas on how to best take your mind off the snot and screaming (sonblock if you will) and also the unwanted noise associated with travel.
On the Roads
From a road safety point of view, I wouldn’t recommend volume levels which could block out or distract from effectively guiding a vehicle along Britain’s winding thoroughfares, but a little music can enhance the concentration and tame the road hog within. I like a volume level which just about matches that of wind noise when I’m on my motorbike, that way I can be sure I can hear everything I otherwise would.
The issues are the ease with which the helmet can go on over the ears/earphones, and the cable; depending on how careful the rider is. I have E10s which I use on the bike and they’re fine; but I do need to be careful when putting the helmet on.
So to stick with SoundMAGIC, the E30s sit in the concha of the ear and so do not stick out at all. Added to this, the cable is of a sturdy braided design and is less likely to snag on items of motorcycle clothing. Also, as the E30s are designed to be worn with the cable over the ears there is the option to have the cable going down the back of the neck and reaching to an inside pocket, for instance.
Another strong candidate is the Shure SE215; like the E30s they keep a low profile and are dynamically driven making a warmer sound. As bass is easily drowned out by engine noise, I find it a good option. The cable is really substantial when compared to most other IEMs, and concerns with tangling or breaking are certainly short lived. The build quality is remarkable for a product under £100.
In the air
If you prefer to forgo the sound of crying children and engine noise whilst on your way to Larnaka, then there are options. You can use isolation, noise cancelling, or both. Isolation is the simplest way to block unwanted sounds; like earplugs, the headphones or earphones will physically obstruct them, and the music should successfully mask most of what remains. This can be further enhanced if assuming the crash position; simply place each knee against each ear to exclude the sounds of panic and the rapid loss of height.
The E30s/SE215s mentioned above are good for isolation, but some may prefer more comfort during longer flights. The Sennheiser Momentum is perhaps the best and most comfortable portable headphone; it is available in brown or black and the earcups are circum-aural, meaning they completely enclose the ears. The resulting isolation can be compared to that offered by effective ear protectors. The sound is warm and well controlled, and the headphones would be just at home on the street or the beach.
Sennheiser CXC700 + PSB M4U2
Noise cancelling is excellent for removing the low hum of the aircraft’s engines, or any relatively low frequency. The higher the frequency of the sound, the harder the technology has to work to provide a complimentary waveform to cancel it out; also the headphones cannot account for the exact position of the eardrum or the exact point in time when unwanted sounds are in contact with it. Therefore the technology cannot deal effectively with the sound of the human voice, for example. Another drawback is the ‘muddying’ effect it can have on the music you are listening to. The introduction of extra waveforms into the headphones (to cancel out exterior sounds) can only be detrimental to the clarity of the music. Another thing to be aware of is that noise cancelling requires its own power supply, necessitating a battery to be placed either in the headphones themselves, or somewhere on the cable. Happily, the examples below use isolation also so they are still useful should battery power be low.
At the resort
We’re all aware of the potential dangers to technology in this scenario; there’s sun, sea salt, sand and the possibility of having a bucket of cold brine poured over your head by children who crave punishment. I wouldn’t recommend anything too expensive in this environment, so here are some great value items which are designed to keep out the worst of the sweat and suntan lotion.
And for comfort and versatility, try the Koss SportaPro – these feature a headband which can be worn over the head in the traditional style, or bent down in a ‘behind the head’ style so that a fetching sombrero may be sported for example.