The odd behavior started more than seventy years ago when my Dad placed Mom's engagement ring on a small porcelain mouse that nestled in a piece of porcelain cheese.
My parents were married in 1952. They didn't yet own a television and no one had game consoles or iPads. Nothing to do. So, my mom began to collect mice. Lots of mice. Not hyperactive rodents that required the cleaning of cages, or a hungry cat, but the kinds of inanimate mice you might find at a gift shop. Or a jewelry store. Or at Woolworth's.
Along with mice, my parents also collected children. I'm the oldest of the five and I saw Mom's mouse collection impact us all.
"Gee, what should we give Mom for Mother's Day?" A mouse! "How about her birthday?" A mouse! "Christmas?" A mouse? "What should I make in my art class?" Always a mouse. They were often handmade from popsicle sticks, bits of felt, and construction paper. Over the decades, my Mother collected more than 700 porcelain, metal, plastic, glass and child-made mice. She was easy to buy for.
Unsurprisingly, all of us kids began to collect our own stuff. Crystals, camels, armadillos, frogs and lots of Smurfs. Over these many years, we've all geared back a bit. However, my younger brother seems to collect power tools and I still collect things to hear by.
I love my eclectic collection of headphones, ear buds and nowadays, my Made For iPhone hearing aids. These days, I keep six different pairs of listening devices in my immediate vicinity.
The most important? My hearing aids. I began wearing my Oticon Opn S 1 miniRITE hearing aids more than three years ago and they are the first thing I put on every morning and the last things I put away at night. Because they do seamlessly connect to my iPhone, they are almost always in constant use. I'm lucky because the minuscule hearing aid speakers rest deep inside my ear canals which means I can use all my other devices in tandem if I wish.
I also own AirPods Max, Sony LinkBuds, AirPods 3, AirPods Pro and Apple Beats Flex. All of these can be utilized while my hearing aids remain in place.
So, why would I need anything other than my Oticon hearing aids? They do a really good job of connecting to my iPhone, which is by far my most important device. VoiceOver is quite clear and there is no noticeable lag. Music is also fairly decent as what gets streamed is adjusted for my hearing loss. I can discretely hear messages arrive and I can easily understand any caller via my hearing aids. I listen to books, the news, and everything else that comes through my iPhone 13 mini to my hearing aids. Since they are basically invisible, I get to play in my own little private world. It's great!
Where do I find my current hearing aids lacking? Well, on phone calls, I have to talk into the bottom of my 13 mini to be heard. And, although the music is reasonable, it isn't rich and full. And, my hearing aids do not support the new Spatial Audio and there is no way to adjust volume, take a call, or initiate Siri without handling the iPhone.
Out of curiosity, and my desire to write a new blog, I began to track how I used my other listening devices. I discovered that I use the most expensive set the least. I have the beautiful blue AirPods Max, and I also own a really nice case that I bought from Waterfield Designs to keep the AirPods Max protected and pristine. The sound quality is excellent and they are quite comfortable for something so large. But, the size is part of the problem. You cannot just pop them in your ears. I have to zip open the case, extract the headphones and pull them over my head like an undershirt. Putting on headphones should not be like dressing in the morning. Truth is, they mostly stay in the case.
The Sony LinkBuds were my most recent purchase. They were reviewed pretty favorably on AppleVis, with a few thoughtful caveats, and I wanted to give them a try. I was most intrigued by the idea that, because of their unique design, you would always be aware of ambient sound while you were wearing them, and I liked the idea that volume could be set to adjust automatically depending on the noise around you. I also liked the fact that once you put them in your ears, they tend to stay put. However, the Sony Link Buds were disappointing to me when I wanted to enjoy music. I'm a bit of an audio snob. For me, the musical reproduction was a bit muddled, flat and thin. These days, my Sony Link Buds are now solely paired to my retired iPhone 12 mini for those occasions when I want to use my older phone.
I've always enjoyed the classic AirPods. My newer AirPods 3 work well with my music as they have great sound reproduction, and I enjoy playing my mandolin on the porch along with my tunes because ambient sound is unhindered and I can hear both the music and my instrument.. Unfortunately, AirPods 3, like the first two versions of the standard AirPods, are inordinately affected by gravity. They regularly leap from my head onto my lap, or into the cushions on my wicker chair, or all the way down to the redwood patio planks which will always nail me with their splinters when I sweep my hands on the deck trying to find the darn AirPods. I cuss a little when that happens.
I've also been a big fan of AirPods Pro ever since they were introduced. My AirPods Pro are excellent for music, they work beautifully with spatial sound, and are easy to manage with the controls on the stems. You can silence the outside world or let ambient sound flow in with simple controls. For something so convenient and small, they are superb! Unfortunately, I can't wear them everywhere because they are also prone to jump out of my ears at seriously inopportune moments. As much as I enjoy listening to books or music all day, I don't wear them when I work outside or wheel the trash cans down to the curb. When the AirPods Pro take flight, I might be walking next to the grass, where I'll never find them, or down my very steep driveway where they could bounce all the way down into the street. I love their sound quality, and I am certain I will buy the next generation of the AirPods Pro when they come out, but I doubt I will ever dare wear them outside.
Finally, that leaves me with my Beats Flex. They are the least expensive of my Apple head phones, but they have turned out to be the most flexible. The Beats Flex have the two ear pieces connected by a flexible band that goes around the back of my neck. And, that flexible soft plastic band is what makes them so darn useful. I cannot lose them. The ear pieces have soft replaceable tips so that you can choose what will keep them snug in your ears. If one ear piece pops out, it doesn't fall. It is still connected to the neck band. Just slip the ear piece back in your ear and keep listening. Even cooler, you can pull out both ear pieces and leave them draped around your neck. In fact, the two ear pieces have magnets in them so that they will hold together making them even less likely to get lost. And, when the magnets have engaged each other, the Bluetooth connection goes away until you pull them apart. They work fine, even with my hearing aids in place and I really love them.
So, are there downsides to the Beats Flex? Yes. Music played through them is a tad duller, not as crisp. And, the new Spatial audio features don't work with them. Even so, their utility and price tag make them a great match for me, day or night. For instance, I love to fall asleep listening to Old Time Radio shows. So, I keep an extra set of Beats Flex in the bedroom. In the morning, I can always find the headphones.
I'm not sure I will ever grow out of collecting new headphones. And, I'm betting my brother continues to collect power tools forever. However, later in life, my dear Mom finally quit caring about collecting new mice. She switched to collecting moose. Really.
I've been writing for AppleVis, off and on, since 2015. Even though my articles have been less frequent of late, I still go through the site every day looking for new ideas, good questions, thoughtful feedback and useful podcasts. What a great resource!
This is my twenty-eighth blog for AppleVis. Previous contributions include "Onward Through The Fog: iPhones and Hearing Aids," "Think Dainty: The iPhone 12 mini Kicks Butt," and "A Dozen Dozen: Dreaming of iPhone 12 and iOS 14."
Please do share your own listening experiences in the comments below. Heck, I'd enjoy knowing what you collect, too!