It sounded great until I used headphones
December 2, 2012 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Looking for examples of music made less enjoyable by headphones.

Personally, I've always found that music I already like is enhanced by decent headphones. It's great to hear a favorite song or album with headphones for the first time and discover a richness that was previously less apparent.

I'm looking for examples of music made less enjoyable by headphones. Ideally, this would be a song or album that you had previously enjoyed but headphones made less appealing (resulting in you either dismissing it completely or resolving to avoid headphones for future listening). Please be as specific as possible. I'm not looking for genres, and I'm not looking for music that doesn't suit your taste. Assume that the headphones are decent quality and without product-specific issues (well fitting, comfortable, etc).

When discussing this with my girlfriend, she said that she found it difficult to enjoy punk music with headphones. Although she enjoys some punk music, she explained that she generally felt that the punk ideology is diminished with headphone use. While I understand her point, I'm not exactly looking for examples of conflicting ideologies or philosophies. I also understand that music which is overly loud, energetic, or dischordant might not appeal to headphone users. The best answers would probably be related to a change in perception of sound quality as a direct result of an intimate listening.
posted by urethra_spanklin to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Never Understand by the Jesus and Mary Chain.
posted by rongorongo at 3:20 PM on December 2, 2012

Any of the Beatles albums where they remixed from mono into stereo with all the vocals on the right hand side.
posted by Lanark at 3:27 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Similar to Lanark's, as a kid my brother had a cassette with "Snoopy vs the Red Barron" by The Royal Guardsmen. One day I listened to it on headphones, and realized all the vocals were on one channel, and all the music on the other.
posted by fings at 3:44 PM on December 2, 2012

Pretty much anything with very asymmetrical left and right channels, I think. Here's another example: Silvio Rodríguez -Sueño con serpientes - the twangy guitar bit in the right channel gives a cool room-filling effect normally, but is just kind of distracting through headphones.
posted by nomis at 4:20 PM on December 2, 2012

I don't like listening to punk music with headphones either. This is mostly because a lot of the punk music I like best was recorded pretty cheaply/amateurishly, and you can hear a lot more of the evidence of that when it's pumped right into your ear. It sounds thin and tinny. If you're playing it loud on speakers, the tinniness is masked by the sheer volume.
posted by town of cats at 4:50 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find virtually ALL music less enjoyable on headphones. Music is meant to move air, and it always sounds sterile and artificial on cans to me. I find this even more pronounced with music that is solely focused on sounds and their interaction (esp. when devoid of recognizable melodies, rhythms, and lyrics) like electroacoustic music (esp. stuff like Japanese onkyo, Gunter Muller & the Swiss folks, the Vienna people around, Berliners like Los Glissandinos, AMM, stuff like that).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:26 PM on December 2, 2012

Björk's "All is Full of Love," from Homogenic (1997) has some sassy interaction between the L & R channels that, as I recall, creates a surprisingly 3D center channel-like effect at times. Completely lacking in headphones. And so a somewhat magical, surprising element is just absent.
posted by mumkin at 6:52 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since I've Been Loving You by Led Zeppelin, once you realize HOW LOUDLY the bass pedal is squeaking.
posted by Addlepated at 8:07 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I got by Sublime has some freaky vocal panning in the first verse that I only discovered a few months ago listening on headphones. It's kind of unpleasant. The song also has a TV or CRT monitor in the background whistling the song of it's people at 15.75KHz which is also probably more evident on headphones.
posted by onehalfjunco at 9:33 PM on December 2, 2012

Classical music involving sudden shifts from pianissimo to fortissimo.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:48 PM on December 2, 2012

Seconding lanark's comment:

Any of the Beatles albums where they remixed from mono into stereo with all the vocals on the right hand side.

Some of those stereo mixes are just atrocious. Thing is, though, the original mono mixes, which sound pretty great on speakers (fat bass and drums, pleasing overall balances) also sound kinda lousy on phones. Mono mixes on phones just don't sound all that good, if we're talking band recordings. (Old blues and such, with just a singer and a guitar, well, that's fine in mono on phones, usually.)

So, when it comes to most Beatles records, speakers are best!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:43 AM on December 5, 2012

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