Friday, February 05, 2010

Living in the future

Sitting here listening to Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” with my iPod earbuds, I’m reminded of the first time I experienced stereophonic music on headphones and what an amazing revelation it was.

There was a record store on the north side of Main Street in Lafayette, Ind., back in the late 1950s that had a couple of headphone-equipped record turntables where customers could audition records to decide whether they wanted to buy them.

They had big, comfortable David Clark headphones, back when David Clark was a player in the audiophile market. (Their focus has since shifted to headsets for aviation and other noisy environments and speakerless ear protection.)

The cushy foam pads effectively silenced the ambient noise of the store and the street outside, making for pure experience of the music. I don’t remember what my inaugural headphone LP was – possibly Bernie Green’s “Futura,” but probably something a little earlier.

But I do remember how blown away I was to hear music with such astonishing clarity and depth.

My neighbors, the Joneses (that really was their name) bought an RCA stereo phonograph around 1958 and I’d sat between the speakers and experienced the channel separation in their living room. It was impressive, but nothing like what those David Clark headphones did to my head.

Small surprise that Sony and Apple have made millions with the various iterations of the Walkman and the iPod. Now anyone can have that experience anywhere they like.

So what if the future didn’t give us Jetsons stuff like robot slaves and personal flying cars. This is still pretty damned cool.

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