How many pairs of headphones does a man need?

One of the few remaining pleasures for a middle-aged man is to own a vast collection of headphones. It is best expressed as:

N=H+1

Where N is the number you need to own and H is the number you currently own.

They should be like reading glasses – you’re always forgetting where you’ve left them but there’s enough pairs around the place that you can eventually find a pair if you keep fossicking.

Then there’s the four pairs of waterproof in-ear ear buds you buy each time you briefly flirt with getting fit, the expensive sound-cancelling headphones you bought for that long plane flight and can’t wear while sleeping so they get used for about three hours every year, and the pair of Beats you bought because all the young cool guys were wearing them on the train and you thought maybe you could still look cool.

Extra bonus points for any man who owns a pair of headphones with woven cables, gold-plated connectors or a separate pre-amp. I salute you.

You need at least twice as many pairs because most of them are battery-powered and they’ve never got any charge left when you find them because there’s at least 20 different standards of small USB connector out there and you can never find the right cable to charge them.

There’s the cordless FM pair you bought for watching TV that won’t connect to your new entertainment system, the early Bluetooth headphones that won’t connect reliably to anything, and soon you’ll go out and buy another pair with a Lightning connector for your iPhone 7. Until the iPhone 13 forces you to buy a pair with a USB-C connector.

All those years of ear-bleeding live music in your youth mean (a) you can convince yourself you know great sound when you hear it and (b) your hearing is shot to hell. Don’t let that stop you.

Far from it: buy the Nuraphone headphones because they promise to adapt to your old, broken hearing bones and make all your old stuff sound new again. And then buy the Audeara headphones too, because they’re both great Aussie startups who need your support, and just in case one has slightly better audio than the other (they don’t as far as I can tell, they’re both awesome, but then, my hearing’s shot to hell).

It is perfect justification for as many pairs of headphones as you have rooms in your house, laptop bags, gym bags, bicycles and cars.

Never mind the wine cellar, I would like a headphone cupboard I can hang them all in.

Long after mankind has passed into memory, whatever form of intelligent life inherits the Earth will wonder why we needed so many pairs of headphones.

Maybe they’ll surmise we had our headphones on and didn’t hear our own extinction event arriving.

One day the emergency sirens will sound (giant meteor inbound or similar) and mankind will look up briefly, shake our fist at the sky and shout, “Keep it bloody down, will you? I’m trying to listen to Dark Side Of The Moon!”

(Inspired by Tim Lumsdaine. You can always use another pair mate.)

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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