Music is a major part of world travel: samba in Brazil, salsa in Cuba, and heavy metal in Madagascar. I say this because one day, as we were strolling through the streets of Antananarivo, we came across a group of long-haired, skinny-jeansed, patch-sewn denim jacket-wearing metalheads chattering animatedly and playing each other air guitar riffs. Fair play – we’ve all been there. It looked as though they were still in early 90s Megadeth phase but, well, there are worse genres of metal to be stuck in – 80s big hair glam rock for one. But I digress.
This group was followed by another, and another, and soon we were swept along on a tide of hair grease and acne pus to the entrance of a venue where there was evidently a gig of some volume taking place. Now, I’m not averse to the odd mosh myself (the genre in which I’m stuck is late 90s industrial metal – far more reputable) and neither is G so we paid the not-insignificant ticket price to go inside. This was, after all, a relevant cultural experience.
Rockin' the globe
The ground inside dropped away in tiers of seating, much like the amphitheatre of Ephesus in Turkey, and far away on a stage was the origin of the racket, which was considerably louder inside than out. The band could have been any one of the small groups of young men who’d passed us in the street, thrust on stage with instruments shoved in their hands, and their fans were standing on the terraces, headbanging in place with horns raised aloft. The noise resembled an epic battle between a gang of electrical appliances and some armoured space mice inside a tunnel. From long experience this meant that I was listening to Death Metal.
My point is this: whatever sounds you enjoy, they will undoubtedly be better enjoyed through Bose’s Quiet Comfort 15 headphones. The sound is the best I’ve ever heard. Mind you, for most of my life I’ve been buying my earphones from market stalls for £5 a pop. More recently I’ve been improving my listening experience by using the ones provided with (other people’s) smart phones, and even blew $80 on some Sennheiser ‘phones that didn’t last all that long.
When I looked into noise-cancelling models the Bose were obviously ‘the bomb’ but at $400 (This in Australia, retail rape capital of the world) there was no way I was ever getting my hands on a pair. I mentioned my dismay to my Dad once and six months later, when he next came to visit, he surprised me with a set. A gift for no reason – what a guy! I literally owned the best headphones in the world!
The magic happens because of tiny external microphones which pick up noise interference and automatically produce in-ear frequencies which will cancel them out, producing silence. Even with no music playing the effect is astounding, and when you press play the experience is like listening to the track for the first time, so clear is every note and effect and whisper that may have escaped your attention with inferior cans or speakers.
I’m sure What Hi-Fi or whoever has written reams more on this than I, and with more technical words, and experience, and probably funnier too, so I’ll leave that to them. My only quibble is that they can’t be used as regular headphones when the battery runs out, as some can. Oh, and you’d better remember to remove the battery when they’re not in use because a leak could end up being very expensive. And it’ll take a while to remember to switch them off after use too, not something you’ll be used to. You’ll get through a couple of AAAs learning that, believe me.
I’ve written about headphones on the road before and how times have changed. Paper cones, these are not. And while I’m not sure any current technology can make Madagascan Death Metal worth listening to, these would be your best bet. You’d be able to pick out every squeal of feedback, every phlegm gobbet hacked from the throat of the vocalist, and every crunch of army boot on puppy’s skull. WOOAAAAARRGHHHHHH!