Worse Sound Through Better Sound Through Research: A Closed Letter to Bose

January 23, 2007

Dear Bose,

I received a pair of your new in-ear headphones for Christmas. The ones with the interchangeable silicon tips of various sizes, and your proprietary TriPort headphone structure? The sound that they give off into-my-ear is excellent. Everything else about them is awful.

Now, we’re talking in-ear headphones here. (Everyone else calls these sort of headphones “earbud” headphones, so from here on in, Bose, that’s what I’m going to do as well – not only for the sake of common sense, but because the word makes me think of basketball-playing dogs. Not everyday that a word can do that.)

So, we’re talking earbud headphones here. There ain’t much else to the things, not much that people look to (or listen to) them for, besides that they work. Trying to pretend that there is, I suspect, might have been one of the primary reasons behind the near-total failure of your product.

Yes, your product fails. Not because it does not work. The sound is excellent. I’m just having trouble getting to this excellent sound, and before I bite your eyes, I’d like you to tell me why you’ve done what it is that you’ve done.

My guess is that you rushed these babies into production to make the holiday season. I hope also that this worked, because I really don’t understand how you’re going to sell many more of these, once people start realizing:

The design of your in-ear earbud headphones sucks.

Maybe your intentions were good. I’m not saying they weren’t. While I honestly think you could care less about a piddling hundred-dollar product like this, some people are excited about your earbud headphones.

My girlfriend likes that they fit in her ears, because few other earbuds do. This is a direct result of what you seem to be marketing as an innovative distinction between your product and those of the other guys. But my girlfriend is abnormal. She’s got abnormal ears. More, I’ve been setting her straight on how bad these interchangeable earbuds really are. You’re not taking her away from me that easily, Bose.

Your in-ear earbuds do more interchanging between the headphones themselves and the ground than they do anything else. Unless I handle them like a pair of baby boy testicles, those suckers ain’t staying on – no matter how hard I try to make sure they’re in place once I have unburied them from the depths of my pockets and put them back where they’re supposed to be. I have had your headphones for a month, and I have gone through
all of the six earbuds that they come with.

And one of them – do you know how one of them went? My girlfriend stole it – because one of hers fell on the ground.

The dirty dirty dirty dirty New York City ground.

What do you want us to do, huh? I know, handle the earbuds like baby boy testicles when taking them out of our pockets. Well, Bose, on top of that being just a sick suggestion, to tell you the truth I sometimes forget the fragility of baby boy testicles and I pull those things out of my pocket – not roughly or with intent to cause harm – but with like force as that of any normal human being.

Save yourself the rebuttal. I already know it, and I don’t dig. You’ve given us this hard leather carrying case to protect our headphones, from damage and from accidental loss. As much as I admire your ingenuity in trying to offset the effects of the aforementioned oversight, through the inclusion of this “complimentary” addition to the product package – this inclusion only worsens the already sorry story of the Bose in-ear headphones.

I will explain this to you as well, though I’m sure you already know. Your engineers told you this, right before your marketing people told them to shut up and concocted this hard leather case plan. Do not even get me started on the washable earbuds. Like I want to goddamn boil my headphones after your crap design causes them to roll down the subway steps.

Ours is a day of shrinking technologies. Not a new concept, I know – and one that causes me to find it all the more strange that you ignored it. Because typically you’ve done pretty well as a leading developer in your industry. Ours is also a day of instant gratification. This is also not new, but it’s not as not new as the previously mentioned not new concept is not new. Don’t order the fajitas.

The point of earbud headphones, my earbuddies, (basketball-playing dog!) is that they are small, and because they are small, they’re quick and easy – to don, to wrap, to stick in your ear, your friend’s ear, or wherever you like it.

So…like…how many people, do you think, want to carry around a separate carrying case, one that’s bigger than their music player, for slowly and safely tucking away their earbud headphones, so that the special silicon earbuds you developed for our comfort and convenience don’t fall on the floor of a subway car? The same people who will get their kicks out of then boiling those earbuds, once they inevitably fall off anyway? Maybe we should only listen to music with your headphones during the early stages of making soup? Two birds with one stone?

Also, pocket lint sticks to your silicon earbuds, which is gross enough in itself, but then I started worrying about that lint gathering in my ears, and then I get to wondering if maybe that’s how you planned it all along – that this is how you were planning to achieve noise cancellation, and then I started to wonder if it’s all a conspiracy, if maybe you weren’t the kind, caring, skillful company I had always thought you to be. Then, just for thinking of all this, I started to feel crazy, and then

I bite your eyes.

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