⟨ I Know I'll Often Stop and Think About Them ⟩

02-Good-enough Headphones

Sennheiser IE 40 Pro in-ear headphones

Words & Photography / Holun Tang
Translation / Fanny Chan

幾乎每到一家不相熟的咖啡店,選擇咖啡豆的時候都會遇到這個問題:「先生,請問你平常喜歡什麼味道的咖啡?」這真是強人所難,為什麼非要將味道劃分不可呢?我通常回答:「甚麼都喝。」顯然不是對方希望聽到的答案。

不好意思,又扯遠話題了,我想說以上的問題並不是最為難的,真正讓人刁難的是:「先生,你喜歡聽什麼類型的音樂?」在沒有任何準備之下,有一次我跑到耳機專門店想認真選購耳機便遇到這個問題,把我殺個措手不及,腦裡馬上浮現「我什麼音樂都聽」這個答案,但我學乖了,沒說出口,店員窮追猛打:「那你是聽有人聲的還是沒有人聲的?」

要命。我只是聽音樂而已。

“Hello Sir, may I ask what kind of coffee you like?” I am asked this very same question every time I walk into a new coffee shop to pick up more coffee beans. What a tough question. Why do we have to categorize tastes? “I drink everything.” That’s my usual answer, which obviously is not the answer that one wants to hear.

Pardon me for being way off. I want to say that the above question is yet the toughest. Not too long ago, while shopping for a new pair of headphones, I was asked perhaps the toughest question of all: “Sir, what kind of music do you like?” Since I came in with no preparation, it caught me off guard. “I listen to everything” popped up in my mind, but I’ve learnt my lesson and know well enough not to say it out loud. Yet, here’s another strike, “So then do you listen to vocals or not?”

Gosh. I just want to listen to some music.

後來我才知道,一耳機,一世界,打比喻說,是你走進了一個只擺放揚聲器的房間,是一個神設計好了的絕對空間,那個神便是音響工程師,他費盡心思在每個細節上──耳機腔體的形狀上、振膜的材質上、發聲單元之間的平衡上。假如有人把房間裡的低音喇叭稍為推前或移後一些,整個世界便翻天地覆徹底改變。不過,愈深究下去,好像愈沒完沒了。一個高階的耳機,聽的聲音愈是完美愈是接近真實,怎麼能聽的音樂反而窄了?到底我們聽的是聲音,還是音樂呢?

一對分析力太強的耳機如果讓我聽得辛苦,千萬不要奇怪,正如我常常覺得那些高清電視機的畫面非常剌眼。

I only came to know later on that each headphone carries a world; metaphorically speaking, it’s like you walk into a room filled only with speakers, an absolute space that is designed by God, and that God is a sound engineer. He tried painstakingly hard to work on every single detail — the shape of the earpiece, material of the diaphragm, and the balance between sounding units. If someone moves the woofer in the room a little bit forward or backward, the entire world would shift upside down. However, the deeper we dig into the world of headphones, the more endless it seems. How can a high-end headset produce such perfect and true-to-life audio, but then the music it can stream is so restricted? Are we listening to sound or music?

Don’t be surprised if I have a hard time with a pair of highly analytical headphones. After all, I often find the high-definition TV screens hurt my eyes.

Sennheiser IE 40 Pro 是該品牌於2019年推出的一款入門級耳機,明顯是一款價錢大眾化貼近消費市場之作,有人調侃它說聽起來就像是2009年推出的產品一樣,更多人說它是最不Sennheiser的一款耳機。或許它的音色不夠通透細膩,解釋力不夠強,低音不夠圓潤,招牌的臨場感更加沾不上邊,但這些都是相對而言的。事實上它是一副相當平均的好耳機。如果它足夠好的話,不是不需要更好了嗎?人的聽感本來就不會有太大變化。

Sennheiser IE 40 Pro is an entry-level headset launched in 2019. It is obviously designed for the general consumer market due to its friendly price. Some people have ridiculed it and say that it sounds like a product launched in 2009, while others claim that it is the least Sennheiser-like headphones ever made. Perhaps its sound is not transparent and detailed enough, its analytical power is not strong enough, its bass does not bumped enough, and that it can hardly be associated with the highly-praised natural sound quality that other Sennheiser headphones possess. But at the end of the day, these are all comparisons. As a matter of fact, with a pair of good-enough headphones; if they are truly good enough, is it even necessary to get something even better? After all, our sense of hearing doesn’t change much.

自從我不小心把舊那副耳機丟失後,幸好遇到它。這個音頻平均分布,剛剛好的感覺,發音可能說不上令人留有深印象,也就讓你不會在意它。我戴上耳機,點選了自己最熟悉的歌曲,Eva Cassidy 徐徐唱出<Fields of Gold>。

每個氣息,每個婉轉,音樂真好,我可以再次回到音樂裡。

I feel lucky to have found this pair of headphones ever since losing my old ones. Its well-rounded sound and good-enough vibes make you ignore the fact that it might not be the most impressive pair of headphones on the market. I put on my headphones, and Eva Cassidy’s Fields of Gold gently plays.

I indulge in her every breath and every dulcet notes. Music is good. And I am glad to be back into the world of music again.