Be nice to your fellow commuters.

The law is in action on the Gautrain this morning, telling people listening to music to keep the volume down.

It is a shared space, and some consideration and some rules go a long way. So I don’t have a problem with the rule or it’s enforcement.

I’m not sure that the problem in most case IS lack of consideration. No. It’s equipment. All the people I saw being asked to turn it down had ear buds plugged into their phones. It’s not like they’re carrying a ghetto blaster on to the train. But ear buds are not all equal. Some of them don’t seal that well, and the sound you’re trying to keep to yourself leaks out. And if it can leak out then other noise is going to leak in. So you crank that sucker up a bit louder. And more sound leaks out.

The buds that came with your phone almost certainly don’t sound that great and have a leakage problem. An upgrade will get you better sound (more detail,  less distortion) and bother your fellow commuters (and the Gautrain police) less.

Understand that ear buds don’t HAVE to leak (yours truly did not have his commute time listening interuppted by the long arm of the law, and not just because I was listening to Mike Heron), nor do over-ear headphones, and that on-ear ‘phones almost certainly will.

Then read some reviews. Good reviews will deal not only with things like bass and balance but also with leakage – in both directions.

When I knew I was going to be using public transport I did some window shopping at Sandton City, wrote down the model numbers and prices, then did some googling (having first eliminated all models with holes drilled in the casings, because duh!). Quickly I zoned in on the Sennheisers I was wearing this morning. Doing it this way meant that I was checking out the data for kit I could actually buy. And I could look at insulation as well as sound quality, the eventual upshot of which seems to be that I can listen to a Mike Heron album that has The Who guesting on it and not bother the security person who sat down next to me.

Hint: many earbuds come with several sets of rubber end pieces. Don’t just accept the factory default – try them out to see which offer the best insulation.

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