$4k Worth of Headphones...

About four months ago a friend forwarded a link to Lumoid.com who now rents high end headphones. It had just been covered in Lifehacker or one of the other high profile blogs so it took until last month for my order to come up. For $75 I had two weeks with three top shelf headphones: Audeze LCD-3 ($1,945) Sennheiser HD 800 ($1,599) Sony MDR-Z7 ($699) Of course for the majority of the time they were hidden in my closet so that my kids wouldn’t look at them or breathe on them. I also waited on writing this up until they were safely back in the Bay Area in case anyone considered doing an Ocean’s 11 heist with me actually having something of value in my home. If you’re in a hurry, the punchline is: I don’t think spending this much money on headphones is worth it. Yes, 2 of the 3 sounded amazing, but maybe 5% better than my Sony MDR-V6 headphones that cost under $200. For those still wondering what $4,243 (+tax, +shipping & handling) gets you… As you’d expect from headphones this expensive, the boxes were impressive. The Sony and Sennheiser were similar, opening like a trophy case. The Audeze come in a plastic travel case, like the kind you’d use to transport a monitor to a trade show. Basically about half a piece of luggage, leading to the first lesson – this is not stuff you travel with. Note that the Audeze and Sennheisers are open back headphones, the ear cup is vented so air flows in and sound flows out. These give them a much more natural sound, as if you are in a concert hall, but it means that on a noisy subway you’ll hear the train, and the passengers will hear...

Beefing Up Audio

I’m just posting this because I listened to Tim Ferris interview with Tony Robbins this week and it doesn’t do well in the car or while running because of the mix. Tim has a page where you can submit comments and I wanted to post a sample to show what I’m talking about. For anyone podcasting here are two simple things that can significantly improve your audio. Here’s a screenshot of an audio wave: You can listen to this audio file here: If you cut the picture above in half, the left side is the “Before” and the right side is the “After”. On the left side the recording is not taking advantage of the power available to it. In other words, you are going to have to turn the volume up twice as much compared to the average song, or audio cues on your phone. These are the situations where you turn up a podcast and then when you get a text message, or your running app cuts in to tell you how many miles you are at, it blows your ears out. Now there’s an entire profession dedicated to mastering audio – making it sound great and taking into account the devices it will be played on. I am by no means an expert in this area, but I can give you two simple things to at least get from annoying to sounding closer to an NPR podcast: The Levelator is a free tool that will adjust the entire file so that it uses most of the dynamic range. This includes fixing where one person is louder than the other. All you do is drag and drop your file on to the window and it spits out a second file that sounds better....

Stu-Stu-Studio

Jason Keath posted about building a home studio on Facebook and asked if I would throw in my two cents. Jason is a mensch and I realized that my comment would be one of those annoying five page Facebook comments so it was much easier to write an entire manifesto here. I probably know about 5% of what you need to know to build a studio, but that doesn’t matter because there are two easy options. Either call Parsons Audio and spend the money or talk to some podcasters who are always experimenting with cheap stuff, which is often pretty good thanks to the current level of technology. First things that come to mind: Do you really want to build a studio in your house and lose a room? Renting allows you to not have weirdos in your home, will sound fantastic, and means that you won’t have the UPS guy ringing the doorbell or the General Lee driving by honking the dixie horn. It’s also just like the gym, when you go you will get the job done, if the equipment is in the house it will probably end up as a clothing rack. On the other hand, the big upside is setting up a bunch of stuff and then never having to take it down. Let’s say you’re sold on that. Most people I know have an office and create a studioffice. Or maybe an officudio. Or something. Noise kill: John Federico makes a great point about Dynamic vs. Condenser mics – I’ve found it easier to use dynamic mics in a room with carpet and some stuff on the walls than trying to make sure everyone is out of the house and gluing up foam egg crates. Capturing the room noise before and after recording...

Sound and #MyHeadRoom...

Longtime readers know that I usually check in every six months or so with a sound update. Between loving music and producing the Marketing Over Coffee podcast I keep an eye on what’s happening in audio (and tend to spend more money than I should). I got a push this time from the folks at Headroom, I mention them every time we talk audio because of their great shared testing results. Since I’m writing anyway I can also enter this in their #MyHeadRoom campaign which is giving away 2 sets of Shure SE846 earphones (if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drop $1,000 on earbuds), and a set of SHR1540 headphones (which I would love to take for a test drive). Listening to music is the only peace and quiet that happens in my house full of kids, and I have worn my Shure’s for a full day as part of work so thanks Headroom! Last time we were talking about getting better sound out of your iPhone. Since then: Bose replaced the QC15 with the QC25 and all reports say they are even better, so if noise reduction is your thing (hello road warriors), that’s the way to go. I also found an interesting app called Dirac. It optimizes the sound for Apple Earphones and EarPods (the freebies that come with your phone and most sound fans laugh at and throw away). For $3 it is no joke, it makes the EarPods sound much better, as in better than some earphones costing $100 or more.  The catch is you have to use their music player, it doesn’t work for all apps (i.e. no movies, games, etc.) If you want to nerd out on it some more check out their site...

What headphones should I buy for my iPhone?...

So a good friend of mine told me he just switched to an iPhone and that he wasn’t happy with the earbuds. Since I was going to get a bunch of links for him anyway, it’s a perfect excuse for a new sound roundup (see previous post here)! There are some new entries, and better yet new resources to check things out yourself. Between running, having an addiction to buying music, and producing Marketing Over Coffee I spend (waste) a lot of time worrying about audio. There are two hard rules I can guarantee you – one, there is no substitute for testing. There’s no universal fit, and only you can decide what sound quality/price trade off you can stomach. Two, yes, the stock earbuds stink. First is the fit category, I’ve cut into 4 options: Over the ear – These cover your ear completely and because they are so big this means you’ll get more bass than anything smaller On the ear – Slightly smaller, but personally I’ve found them more likely to hurt after prolonged use. Overall I ignore this category, if you have any you like in this segment I’d love to hear about them. In the ear – These are your standard earbud style. The key here is that they go in your ear but do not seal it shut like an earplug (that would be #4) In the ear canal – These have an airtight seal which has a tradeoff – they can sound much better than #3, but you can’t hear what’s going on around you as well. Some people don’t like cutting off the outside world, for example I prefer #3 for running so I still have some idea what’s going on around me. On the other...

Migrating to Air

Two weeks before Christmas it finally happened. I wanted to edit some video and could no longer stand the thought of doing it on my PC. I drove over hill and dale to the Albany Apple Store just in front of the lunch holiday shopper rush and brought home a new MacBook Air. The great migration began more than 6 years ago as I got sick of doing anti-virus updates and Windows reinstalls. As most geeks can relate, I am the family CIO, and getting married doubled my workload. As we started to spend a lot more on computers and other Apple devices, my maintenance time and expense fell far enough to put me ahead in spite of the increased workload and everyone else started having less trouble with their use. My Dad noticed that a lot of email attachments from his buddy Koz no longer opened. Primary family virus source identified. I considered buying a Mac in 2010 but the company I was with ran on ThinkPads and I had over 15 years of software and tools on the PC side. The deathblow for the last PC standing came when the next company I worked for gave me a Macbook Pro and the Palm Smartphone platform breathed its final gasp. So! Who cares about the details? Nobody. Who cares about specs and workflow? We do! Of course the SSD is blazingly fast, I already knew this having been an SSD fan since 2006, however my photo and iTunes libraries were too big and I wasn’t about to drop a grand on a 1TB SSD so it was all about Western Digital Black Caviar drives. I decided to migrate the iTunes library to an external drive to make up for going from 1TB down...

Podcast Player Test

Marketing Over Coffee is available on Stitcher if you listen to podcasts on a mobile device. I wanted to test out their...

New Supreme Headphones...

All the way back in 2007 I started writing about various headphones that I had been trying out (Shure vs. Bose vs. Sony). Somewhere around 2010 I did the same for headphones and other technology (GPS, Heartrate Monitor) I’ve been using for running, most recently this post. The latest updates: My Shure E500’s were traded in when the cable broke on one of them, a common occurrence which they have resolved by now having screw mount cables that are easily replaced. I was able to exchange my 500’s for 530’s, basically an upgrade (but still one model earlier than the replaceable cable). The same thing happened with the Bose QC 2’s that the rest of the family uses, a break at the swivel above the ear, another common problem that was resolved with the QC15 design. So the good news with going higher end is that if they break you can replace them at a discount. On the running front all the gear has changed – I unloaded the Sennheisers and was using some old school Sony’s until Glance gave us all a set of Bose SIE2i sport earphones. At $150 I never would have bought them for myself, my track record is to ruin sports headphones in about a year or so. The surprise is that they are worth every penny and sound incredible. With the soft rubber loops that retain the ear bud you get great sound but still can hear what’s going on around you. The iPhone and Runkeeper has crushed all competitors on the GPS front, with the ability to serve up music, record data as a heartrate monitor and track your route via GPS it’s the runner’s holy trinity on one device. And, all this was kicked off by...

Marketing Over Coffee Live...

I forgot to mention that as part of my relocation I’m no longer able to meet up with Chris on Wednesday mornings at the Dunkin’ Donuts to record Marketing Over Coffee. We’ve settled on Google Hangouts, which actually works pretty well for two reasons – first, it dumps the recording straight over to YouTube so now you can watch the video, and second, if it’s a normal week you can watch it live on Thursday mornings at 7am! Chris posted the show on his blog this week and I realized I should be doing the same! In this week’s Marketing Over Coffee, we discuss all things Pinterest analytics, Google Reader getting killed off, and much more. Watch it...

Comanche 3

Before we get started, both hardcover and Kindle versions of my new book are available on Amazon.com. Go buy one and maybe 30 or 40 for your friends family, and even people you don’t know and/or like. In my Kickstarter newsletter I learned of the Saturn 5 Relaunch Project and it got me thinking of the long lost days where all I had to worry about was stupid stuff like model rockets. I think anyone that built more than one rocket has a story of catastrophic failure. Hell, it’s like NASCAR, the crashes are the true spectacle. Even more surprising is that you can check out the back catalogs over at the Estes site. I was able to track down my very own Comanche 3. I laughed out loud at the catalogs from the Eighties, many rockets being dead ringers for military munitions, the RPG looking like you could scare the crap out of anyone with it. I had repaired a Big Boy that had a missle paint job and still remember everyone running like hell away from the launch pad as it only went up about 15 feet and then started to do circles towards the rest of the Boy Scout Troop. The real big dog though was the Comanche 3.This rocket is absurd. Most of the rockets of the time were single stage, and there were some 2 stage. A “D” engine would get rolled out now and then for some of the huge models (engines are rated A-D (or at least were as I remember) with the A being about 2 inches long and about as wide as an extra fat pencil. The D was like a toilet paper roll). This is yet again one of the joys of pre-litigation society,...