“SONY,” say the headphones sitting on my desk, a random item picked to take the spotlight for a quick piece of writing. Both earpieces have text on the sides, writing that matches save for being mirrored. “SONY” the big circular worn and gray earphones say. “Stereo headphones MDR-CD180.”

A quick Google search says that you can’t buy these headphones new any more, and that they were last sold back in 2003. Back in 2003, I was just out of college, had just finished getting my degree in radio broadcasting, and had recorded DJ spots and made music and mixed and edited radio plays in the hallways and studios of my college. Back then, I remember I had decided to splurge on a great set of headphones — I think I spent about $200, and bought the best headphones I could buy. They came over the Internet, they were black and filled with the latest technology of the time, and they were beautiful. They were beautiful at home, where I listened to my favorite music and played my favorite games quietly in my dorm room, and they were beautiful at the radio station, where I mixed recordings with them, and heard myself send music and my voice out into the great broadcasting wild.

They were even beautiful when I left them in my open mailbox at the radio station staffroom, somehow not realizing what a mistake it was to leave brand new, $200 headphones unattended in a room that was basically open to the public. I’d owned those headphones for all of a week before one day I entered the staffroom to find the headphones gone without a trace. Someone had taken them, and my splurge of an investment in my future as an audio producer was all gone.

I made a vow then never to spend that much money on something I could so easily lose again, and I bought these MDR-CD180s, for a much more reasonable price — around $50, I think. I made sure to lock them up much more securely, and now today, over 10 years later, they sit here on my desk, catching my eye.

There’s still a strong black plastic arch across the top, worn but very sturdy, and two sleeves on the sides where they can be adjusted to fit the head that wears them. The earcups are still lush and full, and though they’re probably full of a decade of hair, sweat, and who knows what else, they also echo with all of the sounds that have played through them over the years. They’ve heard my voice through time, through radio spots, podcasts, and various recordings I’ve made. They’ve heard all of my favorite music — some CDs played countless times over the years, some played only once and abandoned to taste. These headphones have heard wind flow over the World of Warcraft, countless gunshots through Counterstrike games, and the dulcet tones of Glados’ voice in the two Portal titles, along with all of the other sounds I’ve heard over the many years I’ve used them.

From the bottom of both headphones runs a thin (but also sturdy) black cord, pulling stereo audio in through a 1/8″ audio jack on the end. I have a 1/4″ adapter as well, though I keep it in a small dish elsewhere on the desk. Back when these headphones were used in audio studios, the 1/4″ connector got a lot more use, but these days I plug them into iPhones and computer sound cards rather than mixing boards or interfaces.

They smell very faintly of oil, like an old engine or a trusty lawnmower. When you place the headphones on your head, the joints on the earphones creak a bit, as you adjust them around your skull and move the cups around your ears. Moving your head around sometimes bends them as well, causing a sound like an old door creaking as a breeze pushes it open slowly.

The plug connects solidly to an audio jack. These headphones used to connect to 8-track recorders and consoles, and now they slide into a front computer port, as Spotify boots up and logs in. Pick a song, press play, and these headphones echo out a well-known tune in between your ears, just as they always have.

They may no longer be the latest technology, and they aren’t the shiny new headphones that once portended a future career. These headphones are worn and well-used, and they could probably stand to be replaced sooner or later. But they are trustworthy. They’ve heard a lot over the years. “Sony MDR-CD180,” they say, still ready at any moment to hear a lot more.

Posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 at 12:47 am. Filed under general.
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