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Headphones

Where do you listen to recorded music?

Alone at home, in the car, at work, on the go, while exercising or with other people?

How does your listening location change the way you experience music?

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Where you listen and how noisy it is significantly changes the way you hear your music. Trains, buses, cars, planes, etc. are far from dead quiet, and you'll never -- even with the best noise-canceling headphones -- totally block out all the noise, just some of it. So the quieter, more subtle details of the music will be obscured by the noise, and the midrange will be competing with the whoosh of the air conditioning on planes.

To test this out, play your favorite music at home in a very quiet room over headphones, and write down the volume setting, exactly how loud you were listening to each tune. Then play the same tunes on the bus, train, plane, city street, in the park or on the beach. My guess you will have to turn up the volume significantly louder.

Great, now return to that quiet room, and play the music just as loud as you did on the bus, train, plane, etc. Then you'll better appreciate how background noise affects the way you listen. You might also note there seems to be a lot more bass in your music at home, even after you've turned it back down to the original volume level. That's because the music's bass isn't being drowned out by the low frequency noise you heard before.

Back to my original point: location and how it changes the way we perceive music. For example, LPs and turntables are usually enjoyed at home, and because of that you engage with the music on a different level. Playing LPs demands a lot more of your attention: you need to get up, pick out a record to play, put it on the turntable platter, and then put the needle in the groove. Twenty minutes later, you're either going to turn the LP over to play the other side, or go and pick out another album. With files, once you start playing tunes, you don't need to make those decisions anymore.

Of course, whether you listen over headphones or speaker(s) is another aspect to this question. Headphones can be enjoyed anywhere, speakers are better suited to indoor and/or quieter spaces. Do you ever listen to headphones at home, or just when you're on the go?

Do you get more out of listening at home, possibly because there are fewer distractions? Then again, there might be more distractions. Can you focus more on music at home, or are you more likely to multitask while listening at home?

Please share your listening habits, how and where, you spend the bulk of your listening time in the Comments section below.