Noise canceling is kinda magic. Not literal magic—it’s just physics and electronic shenanigans, but the effect is magic. Being able to put something in or over your ears and have the world get significantly quieter? That’s brilliant. Unfortunately, as good as noise canceling has gotten, it’s still not perfect. “Canceling” is a bit of an oversell. In reality, “noise attenuation” or “noise reduction” would be more accurate. “Some stuff gets a little quieter” is even more descriptive, if less pithy.
This is a little deeper into the weeds than I normally wade, since it has to do with a fairly esoteric piece of technology and a bunch of companies who are trying to make money with it. However, said thing is interestingly controversial, and it definitely intersects with what we cover here at SoundStage! Solo.
Some studies have shown that tastes in music solidify when you’re young and rarely change. Some say your musical interests lock in during your teenage years. Basically, once you’ve settled on what you like, that doesn’t change once you hit adulthood and middle age.
A recent episode of the Audio Unleashed podcast touched on something important to audio enthusiasts of all kinds. Important enough that I felt it worth diving into a bit more here. If you haven’t heard of the Audio Unleashed podcast, it’s cohosted by my predecessor here at SoundStage! Solo, Brent Butterworth, and the editor of SoundStage! Access, Dennis Burger. The topic was AI, and if you’re Very Online like I am, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing those two letters even remotely near each other. More than a buzzword, AI has the possibility of changing the web in dramatic ways. None of them, in my opinion, good. But we’ll get to that. Where it’s going to directly affect you is the increasing potential that you’re going to stumble upon an AI-generated review, or even more likely, an AI-generated review aggregator. First, though, a quick primer.
It’s been six months since I took the reins of SoundStage! Solo from Brent Butterworth. While this is a small percentage of the total time I’ve been reviewing audio gear, it’s been an interesting stretch, with a much more intense focus on headphones. As such, I had a few random thoughts that I wanted to put down somewhere, none of which were worthy of a full article. So consider this a clip show from my first half-year here at Solo.
For a while now I’ve been noticing an increasing number of TV and movie scenes, as well as real-life instances, of people thinking headphones are magic. Specifically, that by wearing any type of headphones, they’re completely isolated from the rest of the world. A cone of silence so powerful that shouting, gunshots, and explosions can’t intrude on the wearer’s solitude. If only. Even if you play the music at dangerously high levels, you’re not totally isolated.