In a shapeless cloud of childhood memories, I remember clearly my father’s home office. It was clean and considered. A free-standing desk, made of oak, sat facing the window; behind it was a leather chair, dyed blue, and faded from an inpour of Florida sunshine. His framed diploma from Georgia Tech hung on the wall next to an old drawing that he made in elementary school. It depicted a lone saxophone player, with his eyes closed, playing in the park. In the corner of the office, next to a floor plant, there stood a glossy stereo rack. As a boy, its contents looked like treasures: a Yamaha A-1000 amplifier, a T-1000 tuner, a Dual 1229 turntable and a large, Teac X-7 reel-to-reel tape deck. A few of his favorite records were stacked to the side; he was a big fan of Perry Como, Jim Croce and Rod McKuen, with a few seven-inch records tucked in between them.

Some nights after dinner, we’d escape there. He’d switch on all his equipment and the lights would glow with life. He’d sit me on the floor in front of them. Finally, he’d place a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones on my head. Over the years, the ear cups had worn and cracked to expose the foam underneath, but he always refused to buy replacements. He liked things as they were, and they worked just fine.

Sony MDR-V6 At a Glance

Pros: Comfortable, foldable, neutral sound
Cons: Very long cord

Dimensions: 8.62 x 3.87 x 4.25 inches
Driver Unit: 40mm
Sensitivity (db): 106dB/mW
Frequency Response: 5Hz – 30,000Hz
Power Handling Capacity: 1.0W
Cord: 10 feet, with oxygen-free copper ends, 1/8-inch plug with 1/4-inch adapter

He’d play a song and tell me to listen to the lyrics, asking me afterwards to describe what they meant. I always found that to be a difficult exercise as a kid: I was inclined to tune out. When I didn’t know the answer, I’d fumble with the long coil cable on the headphones until he’d just give in and tell me. Eventually I figured out that the common denominator in all those old songs was usually “love”. The first time he played me “Happy Man”, by Como, he said that song changed his life. Some other nights, I could find him alone in his office, listening to music by himself with his headphones on, the rest our house still with silence.

When I moved away to college I bought a pair of MDR-V6 headphones to take with me. I’m not as responsible as my dad, and I’ve lost many pairs since. But they’re cheap, found on Amazon for about $110. They used to arrive in a gold-colored box. Though today that packaging has changed, the quality hasn’t.

Sony first introduced them in 1985, and, amazingly, they’re still in production. As studio monitor headphones, they’re used and beloved by both audiophiles, like my dad, as well as industry professionals, from DJs to producers. They’re comfortable during bouts of extended wear and fold down in transit. Today I keep a pair on my desk at work and a pair at home. The sound is clear and neutral, without unnecessary frills. You hear things as they were made to be heard, things you wouldn’t notice with an overcompensating bass. I’m loyal to them and doubt I’ll ever switch. I like the way they make me really listen, like my dad did.