I spend almost two hours getting to and from work every day, time subtracted from my life that I don’t care to total up, because that figure would make me seriously question my own mortality and then I’d probably want to jump off a bridge. Most of this time is spent sitting on a train, but there’s a lot of other time I spend by myself getting to or from somewhere. I generally choose to fill this time listening to podcasts or music, so having proper headphones is a must. Unfortunately I’ve been skimping on this for years. I’ve mostly been using Apple’s standard earbuds, in their various models, and I guess they work fine. I can hear what I’m listening to, unless I’m under a plane or next to a bus or mowing the lawn, and I can stop, start, and adjust the volume of whatever I’m listening to.
I’m also constantly yanking on the cord as I’m walking, pulling a messenger bag over my head, or working around the house. The dog likes to hook her paw on the cord and yank them out of my ears as I’m putting her leash on. The cord catches on desks, toolboxes, bannisters, and doorknobs. And because they get pulled on all the time, the wires are getting frayed; I’ve got two pairs where the mic/sound control pad doesn’t work anymore, and another where the plug connection is weakened so that it triggers my phone to randomly stop/start/skip whatever I’m playing.
I bought an older set of “wireless” headphones made by Anker several years ago, which were actually two earbuds wired together, and they work pretty good. My two beefs with them were that the cord that connected them was getting caught on my clothes almost as much as an earbud cord, and the fact that they didn’t have a microphone to take calls. They work, and the battery life is pretty good, but they spent a lot of time at the bottom of my bag getting tangled on other stuff.
I see people walking through Union Station wearing AirPods as a matter of course. They are, by all reports, fantastic, but I was wondering if I could find an alternative that wasn’t as spendy but just as reliable. What I settled on was Anker’s Soundcore Life P2, which I got on deep sale through Amazon for a quarter the price of AirPods. They’re a set of noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds that have most of the features AirPods do.
They fit my ears perfectly right out of the box, although they have five other pairs of rubber buds that can be fitted for people with dainty little ears or giant horse flaps. Each one has a small button on the side to turn the unit on or trigger several functions, which I haven’t mastered yet: on/off, start/stop, take a call, talk to Siri. The sound is fantastic. Bass is full, and the highs are crisp, but I also get a full range of midtones. It’s a wide range of sound that I’m not used to after years of tinny earbuds. It’s lovely to walk through the noisy platform area of Union Station next to idling diesel engines and not have to cover my ears to hear what’s playing, and they act as relatively decent noise protection when they’re off.
I used them to call my Mom on Sunday night, and while it worked, I found the experience strange. Because the earbuds had closed off my ear canals, I felt like I was talking inside my own head, as if I’d been talking to her with my fingers in my ears. I found it so distracting, I switched over to a set of wired earbuds to finish the call. Apple announced the AirPod Pro three days after I ordered my Ankers, which are built similarly. I read with interest about the Transparency Mode feature, where you can set them to listen to the surrounding noise, and I wondered what that added to the experience, but I get it now that I’ve been on a call: Transparency Mode opens the outside world back up so that you don’t sound like you’re talking inside a SCUBA mask.
Overall, I’m happy with these, and though I won’t be taking calls with them often (I’ll have to keep my earbuds wound up in my bag for those occasions) I’m cord-free and noise cancelled.