The assistant was halfway to the counter when the curiosity of ages got the better of Daniel and he found himself restraining the man with a gentle, but insistent, hand. “Uh, hold on a moment. Listen – heh!- that pair there, keep them back for me for a moment and tell me about that other pair?”
Daniel felt the purist inside him begin to boil over. ‘Other pair!’ Really? Did he want to play silly buggers? Why drop the carrot and not expect someone to nibble at it? The opportunity to have even better sound quality couldn’t be passed up! How many years had he spent chasing down speakers, cabling, tweeters, woofers…the list was almost endless! Copies of ‘What Hi-Fi’ were indexed neatly in his garage, and his front room was a shrine to separates and vinyl.
“Yes, the other pair. You said ‘acceptable’ a moment ago. ‘Acceptable’ sound.” Unconsciously, he felt his desire welling up and indignation gradually creeping in, blotting out common sense. If truth be told, common sense, Daniel and audio quality were not often friends found in the same company, and now was the proof of this.
There was a moments pause, and Daniel could see the assistants eyes flicker to the back of the shop for an instant. The air changed between them, the moment becoming more than an exchange of money, more intimate. The moment stretched infinitesimally, then:
A small cough broke the silence, eye contact confirmed it: there was another pair…
“You paid how bloody much for those headphones? Seriously? For that antique -”
“Classic, mate, classic cans. Fluid tweeters man, fluid! In headphones – unheard of!” The excitement in his voice continued to rise as he explained his purchase to Neil, his flatmate, “Old school fabric wiring as well – check the twisting on these beauties!”
Neil shook his head and took the headphones, surprising himself with the fact that he actually cared enough to investigate them. Friends, they had known each other since secondary school and if it hadn’t been for Daniel saving his neck a couple of times, Neil would have found himself sleeping on the pavement with ex-girlfriend bruising on his arm. Moving in together had been a good, cost effective measure at the back end of the eighties, and the pair of them managed to keep a bearable distance from one another whenever circumstance dictated it. Tonight was one of those moments.
He tugged on his jacket, turning the ‘classic antique’ around in his hands. There was no doubt about it, the craftsmanship was stunning. The headband was made of polished wood, curved and laminated into several layers, and in between each layer of wood was a minuscule thread of what seemed to be copper or bronze. The cans themselves were a deep black resin, pleasant to the touch, and the perfect shape for ears. Even the padding was impressive: seemed to be some sort of soft leather that warmed up with a touch and became malleable. They even came with an engraved carry-case. Classy pair of ‘phones.
“Well, there’s no knocking the build quality on these I’ll give you that. But, seriously mate, that’s two months wages gone on just a set of ‘phones….”
“Not just ‘phones, ultimate phones mate, Ultimate! I’m hitting vinyl tonight and then CD to finish it off. I’m all set with a 12 pack. No messing around – aural pleasure will be mine, Sir!” The pair of them collapsed into laughter, re-living countless evening’s with too much alcohol and not enough luck with the ladies.
By the time they had calmed down, Neil’s Taxi had turned up and was busy honking it’s horn in the street. A quick high-five, a grab of house-keys, and Neil was bounding down the stairs, leaving Daniel alone with his new purchase.
He pulled the lager out of the fridge and settled himself down next to the amp and turntable, cracking the can and having a quick sip before looking at the headphones and carry care once more.
He placed the carry-case in front of him, centring it in front of his knees, his hands resting on the carved wooden top. The wood was stained a dark green, almost black colour, and the silver inlay stood out proudly, the criss-crossed lines twisting and snaking around the case.
Daniel felt good; he had a great evening planned. A decent pair of headphones, classic Floyd albums on the turntable to start with, and enough lager to let the music take over.
He placed the headphones on his head, lowered the needle to the vinyl and relaxed…