Stereophonic Sabbatical: Why Using One Headphone Is Actually A Great Idea


So back in 2013 I guess you could say I fell on a bit of hard times.  Anyone who has ever owned an iPod for more than a year or two knows exactly the predicament I found myself in sometime around the first week of September this past year; one side of my earbuds stopped working.  My right earbud was working like a champ until the outro to Into It. Over It.’s “Staring At The Ceiling” kicked in.  There was a snap, crackle, pop, and finally a slow receding fizzle until I was left with nothing but the left side of my earbuds.

Now I was awfully bummed, and music has got to be one of the most important things in my life, but I was also a relatively poor college student back in September (and quite frankly I still am).  So going out and replacing the my bright-sounding stock apple earbuds that came with my iPod classic back in 2009 just wasn’t in the cards if I planned on eating every day and filling my car with gas every now and then.  While this seemed like a tragic event, I had no choice in the matter.  So I kept using those earbuds on my walks to class every morning, between classes, at lunch, pretending to go running, walking back to my apartment, taking naps instead of writing papers, etc., but what I found was surprisingly enlightening.  I started noticing once unnoticed faint and distance guitar riffs in Death Cab for Cutie tracks like “Why You’d Want To Live Here” and hidden flighty synthesizers in The Postal Service tracks like “Clark Gable” that once passed by me without ever noticing before (I was on a big Ben Gibbard kick last semester, if you couldn’t have guessed).

Well, the fall semester came and went, and with Christmas came a brand new pair of classic apple earbuds and a full on surround sound stereo experience for both of my earholes.  What a time.  I was finally back in my, once lost, field of clover.

All at once the stars aligned and I heard Saint Peter’s horns calling me home.  It was an epiphany of epically mediocre proportions!  Not only was I hearing the same ol’ comfortable, stereophonic sound I had been hearing since my first portable CD player back in the 5th grade, I was hearing more from each track swirling through my earbuds than I had ever noticed before.  All at once, just like I had begun to notice distant guitar riffs and electronic blips at The Great iPod Bust of September ’13, I was hearing all sorts of gritty and sliding guitars in my right ear out of tracks like Saves The Day’s “As Your Ghost Takes Flight.”

So what’s the point of my boring anecdote you ask?  This is going to sound incredibly insane and downright ridiculous, but I suggest that every avid, serious music listener finds a pair of old (but still clear-sounding) earbuds for which to break either the left or right earbud in a way that leaves you with one clear and working earbud and one silent, broke-dead earbud.  Then, proceed to listen to your iPod or mp3 player or portable 8-track player just as you always have until a full month passes and you begin using a fully functional pair of earbuds again.  You may call this torture, but I assure you that unless you’re not attentively listening to music, you’ll find that this Stereophonic Sabbatical will change the way you hear music from now until “everything, everything ends.”

Drew Bankert’s diet consists mostly of hotdogs and Ramen, but he finds it edible when he blares Glassjaw through both sides of his headphones.  You can follow him on Facebook here, or send him a message at bankert.infectiousmag@gmail.com


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