Blog From The <3

Everyone Should Live Life On Transparency Mode

Goodbye noise cancellation.

I discovered transparency mode by accident. I was in the subway, fiddling with the settings of my new Apple AirPod Pros, when I accidentally clicked a button that suddenly whooshed the sounds of the station into my ears. My music was suddenly softer, but I could hear the conversation of the people next to me and the train rumbling across the track. Then I felt my general anxiety of being on the New York City subway easing, so I decided to leave it.

That was six months ago — and I literally haven’t touched that setting since. In fact, since then I’ve discovered that I actually can’t stand leaving the house with headphones that aren’t my AirPod Pros.

If you don’t know what I fully mean by transparency mode, it’s the official name for a setting on the Apple AirPod Pros, which funnels whatever exterior noise the microphone is picking up into the earbuds. It effectively lets you hear whatever music you’re playing and the world going on around you, but this is really just Apple’s fancy version of quite old technology. In fact, the first time I was exposed to the general concept of “transparency mode” was six years ago, when an ex-colleague of mine told me he’d intentionally ordered crappy headphones with an actual hole in buds to wear while walking outside. At the time, I could not wrap my head around the idea of purposefully buying bad headphones that you couldn’t even properly listen to music through. But now, I’ve seen the light.

Because, as I’ve learned, there are actually so many pros to “transparency mode.” I feel infinitely safer walking around, knowing I can hear the people around me. I can bike while listening to podcasts and still be road-safe. It has also completely evaporated my crippling fear of being that person on the subway with headphones who can’t hear when people are saying “excuse me.” And to my gossip-loving friends, I can’t over-stress the superior eavesdropping ability. (You haven’t heard a breakup until you’ve heard it with SZA playing in the background.) Maybe the best part about transparency mode (AirPod Pros or not) is no one can tell if you’re using it or not.

But isn’t it noisy? you might ask. And wouldn’t not wearing anything at all be easier? Sure, but also, that’s boring, and it’s 2024: I should be able to have my cake and eat it too. I admit my music has become a less prominent part of my commuting but I’ve learned to romanticize it as “the soundtrack to my day” (main character girlies stand up). It all makes me think transparency should be the default mode for any in-the-know person (and probably mandatory, for safety and politeness reasons, for any human living in NYC).

I’ve since started slowly converting my inner circle to the idea. After hearing my raving, my boyfriend purchased his own pair of AirPod Pros and now, “literally never takes them off” the setting. I recently saw that Bose released its own pair of “totally open” earbuds, surely to more readily compete with the Apple AirPod pros, a sign that consumer waters are shifting. Because who needs noise-cancelling when you have the option to hear everything.