Guitars to the left of you, oboes to the right…

By | April 2, 2018
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Do you listen to music? I know a lot of people use phones, tablets or even computers to listen to music.

One of the things that makes it handy is you can use the same device whether you’re at home, listening through built in speakers or a separate bluetooth speaker, or when you’re out and about listening on headphones. (Handy if you’re on a train, plane or coach journey, for example.)

And I realised I’ve never really written about the headphones that often come with these devices – there’s a little more to them than meets the eye.

For a start, there are a few different types of headphones – some where the little buds sit in your ear, some where they go completely over the ear and some where they perch on top of your ear.

Most phones come with the “in ear” type and they can have surprisingly good sound quality. If you’re using headphones at home you might want the bigger “over ear” types, but for listening to music whilst travelling, the in ear ones can be great.

Though if you want to block out the noise of a plane, you can get noise cancelling ones – I’ve written about this a while ago – here’s the article (you’ll need to scroll down a bit).

Most phones come with a set of the in ear ones, and there are a few things most people don’t realise about them.

First, they do have a left and a right – a right way round to put them in. All headphones do, so that if the guitar is meant to be on the right and the oboe on the left, then they will be that way round.

You might not be too worried if the oboe ends up on the right and the guitar on the left, though. But with these in ear headphones, you’ll find if you have them them wrong way round they’re often much less comfortable – they’re physically designed to fit in your ear one way round.

They’re usually labelled – each side will have a tiny R or L written on it. They’re tiny, but they’re usually there.

Another thing not everyone realises is that the headphones that come along with a phone often have a microphone built in as well. The idea is that you can then wear the headphones to make/receive a phone call – you can leave your phone in your pocket and use the headphones to hear through and the microphone to speak into. You shouldn’t need to find the microphone on the headphones and hold it up or anything, it should just pick up your speech.

Not all headphones can do this, so it might be worth trying it out with a friend first before you try to take any important calls that way!

One more tip that might be useful if you are travelling with your other half – you can buy a little splitter that lets you plug two sets of headphones into one socket so you can both listen to the same music.

It beats the old trick of taking one ear piece each – after all, then one of you would get the guitar and the other could only hear the oboe. (I’m not actually sure if there has ever been a piece written for guitar and oboe. I once found a piece for guitar and clarinet that was in a rather tricky 5/4 time – we considered it a successful performance if we both got to the end at the same time.)

Anyway, here’s an example of the kind of splitter – they can also be useful if you both want to watch a TV programme you’ve downloaded onto a tablet and want to use on headphones.

Of course, they’re only any good if you have much the same taste in music but I can’t do anything about that!

One more thing to mention: some headphones that come with phones have a volume control on the cable, so if you’re finding it’s all too quiet to make out even when you turn the phone up (or the other way round – if it’s always too loud), then check for that.

6 thoughts on “Guitars to the left of you, oboes to the right…

  1. Mike

    iPad and in-ear phones — I have become very deaf in one ear and apart from other problems this has spoiled my enjoyment of stereo music. I have found that extreme use of the balance control on my iPad allows me near normal stereo hearing of iPad music.

    1. Tim Wakeling Post author

      That’s a really good tip – I bet many other people are in the same boat and this could give them back to possibility to listen to music in stereo again.

  2. Mr Brian Tyte

    Dear Tim,
    I am registered as severely deaf, and cannot hear much by using headphones, because I have to remove my AIDS. Nobody seems to have the answer to that one. I love music, but a cannot walk around in public with a getto blaster (remember them) held to my ear.

    1. Tim Wakeling Post author

      Hmm – I had a look around and I found these:
      They look to me like they’re headphones you can wear over a hearing aid and instead of making sound in a normal way they use the T setting on a headphone.
      I must admit I don’t know much about how it works, but it might be worth having a look.
      I also found this article, but all the headphones it talks about are American ones and I’m not sure if they’re available here!
      I really hope that helps – it must be rotten to be unable to combine the hearing aid and headphones to listen to music.

  3. Tony Richardson

    Just a thought re Headphones!
    Some of the latest Smartphones, now have no input for H/phones, so an adaptor is required to do so, but unless you purchase the right adaptor, you can’t recharge phone at same time, unless you have a charging device, which you can ‘sit’ the phone on! Can I advertise here? I have no connection with the names below! I found these examples of
    good quality, after using some very expensive ones that aren’t!
    Don’t pay a fortune for headphones, HMV ‘In-Earphones’ from £9.99 they also do Blutooth ones!
    On earphones..Sennheiser PX 100-11 £39, fantastic sound, recommended by Which! Various sources including
    Amazon. Have had these about 3 years, highly recommend! Tony R

    1. Tim Wakeling Post author

      Good points. Many of the phone makers (eg Apple) really want you to be using Bluetooth headphones, which means you can still plug the phone in to charge it – but Bluetooth ones do drain the battery faster.
      And yes, I agree on the Sennheiser headphones – if you want great quality over the ear types (not noise cancelling, just for listening), they’re amazing for the price.


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