Printer-friendly version weekend vote: When you listen to recorded music, over what do you most frequently listen to it?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: October 10, 2014 at 6:47 PM [UTC]

Recently I heard loud music coming from my teenager's room, and instead of thinking, "Typical!" I thought, "How unusual!"

That's because my kids are more likely to listen to music via their headphones or ear buds. If they play it out loud, it comes from the computer, not a big pair of speakers. I can remember blasting music over my stereo (Sibelius symphonies, etc, yes, I was an unusual teen) but my kids don't really even have "stereos."

headphones or speakers

For that matter, neither do I, these days. We have a pretty nice, albeit compact, speaker that allows us to broadcast iPhone music throughout a room. But frankly, I don't listen to as much music out loud, either. For example, listening to classical music over noise-canceling, high-quality earphones is really a treat, I can hear every single note. It also doesn't bother anyone else. And while computer speakers don't create the best sound quality, listening while on the computer is convenient. I still do a great deal of my listening in the car, as well.

Still, it's nice to hear music in the air.

When you listen to recorded music, over what do you most frequently listen to it? And tell us about the specifics of your preferred technology in the comments section, as well as thoughts on "over air" or "over ear-buds" listening.

From Jim Hastings
Posted on October 10, 2014 at 8:37 PM
I voted STEREO SPEAKERS, which has 26% at this writing, a higher percentage than any of the other choices. Still, in my listening, computer speakers and car speakers just about tie with stereo.

I sometimes use earbuds if I'm out on a walk, but I keep the volume way down for any kind of music when I use this technology. Whatever the music type, I prefer not to have the sound originate so near me. Then, too, a lot of classical music refuses to be background -- e.g., wide swings between pianissimo and fortissimo -- while easy-listening selections generally have a narrower dynamic range and actually stay in the background.

About computer speakers: I use high-quality stereo speakers on a desktop system, widely spaced on the desk for stronger L/R channel separation.

From Ramón G Castañeda
Posted on October 11, 2014 at 12:06 AM
I checked off Stereo Speakers, but there's no way of stressing that the source is very seldom a computer but a high quality HiFi installation with two turntables, reel-to-reel tape recorders and decks, CD players, etc. as well as high-end headphones.

Without this distinction, the poll is less useful. I would think that the first question should be to identify the source.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on October 11, 2014 at 1:39 AM
Two stereos in the home, used to play CDs.

I'll listen and watch youtube on the computer, but the sound quality isn't all that great.

No earphones or buds, as those things will make you deaf. The cats seem to favor the cello CDs...

From John Kruer
Posted on October 11, 2014 at 5:55 AM
I'd like to add my own two cents here as I disagree with what some of the other commentators have stated. My favorite way to listen to music is over high quality speakers, but as those are not always an option I've often used headphones for home use and in-ear monitors for when I'm out and about on public transit. As a professional musician I care about sound quality and I feel like most musicians simply don't know how to find the best option for them.

I have to strongly disagree with the common assertion that headphones and/or earphones "will make you go deaf." So much depends on the equipment and the user. All that matters is how much sound is entering the ear, not the type of equipment. Going to or playing a loud rock concert using speakers causes hearing damage very quickly - it's users trying to simulate the levels of those rock concerts on their personal equipment that creates long-term damage.

The very inexpensive, low-quality and non-isolating type of earbud (like the old-style Apple earbud shown in the picture) encourage hearing loss because the earphone sits very loosely in the ear and ambient sound is not blocked. The result is that the user turns up the volume on his device in order to cover outside noise. That's why you can could hear what other people listening to. A high-quality in-ear (non-electronically) isolating headphone, however, effectively blocks (or minimizes) ambient sounds, allowing the user to use a much lower earphone sound level in order to reach a similar level of enjoyment. With high quality isolating headphones one can set the volume level low and still clearly hear music - in fact I would say that this is the safest method of enjoying music.

I would also note that the vast majority of audio products marketed towards the general market (like the Beats headphones pictured) are very ill-suited for the type of sound needed for classical music. They are designed to heavily emphasize bass and treble and can make classical music - which needs relatively even frequency distribution in order to sound clear and realistic - sound quite muddy. Bass that sticks out is NOT a sign of high quality unless the only type of music you enjoy is music that heavily emphasizes it like rap or rock. There are many less-popularly known audio products that are often cheaper, safer and of high quality - for $100 I recommend in-ear phones like the Etymotic HF-5 (using the same design as the famous Etymotic earplugs) or Hifiman RE-400 for listeners of violin music. For headphones I would not recommend 'closed' or 'sound-isolating' headphones - if you need isolation when going outside of home I would recommend in-ear phones for less money and higher sound quality. That said, 'open' type headphones, which allow sounds from the headphone speakers to bleed outside and vice-versa, when used in a quite environment can offer a more speaker-like experience with a more realistic 'sound stage.' I use AKG K701 headphones and they are a treat for classical music.

Posted on October 11, 2014 at 11:16 PM
>>>A high-quality in-ear (non-electronically) isolating headphone, however, effectively blocks (or minimizes) ambient sounds, allowing the user to use a much lower earphone sound level in order to reach a similar level of enjoyment.<<<

Ideally, yea, but it also depends on your ears. I can't have in ear buds as my ears are either too small or so designed as "not to accept" ear buds. So no can do. It's computer speakers for now for me.

From Paul Deck
Posted on October 13, 2014 at 2:54 AM
I chose computer speakers since I most commonly listen to mp3s using rhapsody or streaming radio channels such as jazz24. Here i'm considering the stereo in my office which is entirely useless except to plug in my computer audio output as "computer speakers." now with bluetooth there are so many more options.

My ears ring all the time so I am blissfully relieved of worrying about whether I have the best gear or whether mp3s sound as good as a cd. I'll never need to know.

Posted on October 13, 2014 at 3:17 AM
I chose "Headphones" in the poll, and I use Bose QuietComfort 15 the most often. My second choice would be "earbuds," and the type I prefer are noise-isolating, so they have silicone sleeves that fit more snugly in the ear. The reason I prefer these is that my spouse and I like very different types of music (with some overlap), so that listening to music with traditional stereo speakers is not always an option.

From Patrick Tinney
Posted on October 14, 2014 at 4:16 AM
I selected Headphones since I mostly listen to music when I cannot sleep. On a recliner with an MP3 player and headphones. Or while riding my stationary bicycle, also with sweaty headphones.

I also have some of my music on my iPhone and we listen to it through car speakers when I'm taking my kids back and forth several times a day.

While waiting on playgrounds and the like I use ear buds. I do not carry my headphones in my bag like I do my MP3 player.

We have not had a home system for years. It is unfortunate but my kids only hear my music while driving or when I practice.

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