Geek Stuff

Audiophile Check-in: Best Headphones for Running

I got an email this week that TomTom is doing a GPS running watch with Nike. This was the missing link from the Nike + system that got me to switch to the Garmin 305 a couple of years ago. That led me down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out if I wanted this upgrade. A big part of it is headphone review since there are tons of styles and model numbers. Hopefully some of my research and experience will help you.

To bring everyone up to speed I have two systems that I use for working out. For running on the treadmill indoors during the winter I am now using my iPad and the Jaybird Sportsband Bluetooth Headphones. I wanted to go bluetooth so that I didn’t have to worry about pulling the iPad off of the treadmill magazine rack. I had tried a similar setup with the Sony PSP, but could not find a good way to get the PSP to sit on the treadmill with the headphone jack coming out of the bottom (great for gaming, terrible for movie watching).

I just found out about the Jaybirds two weeks ago from Christopher S. Penn, who liked his. I had been looking at the previous Jaybirds, but they stopped making them. I also used the Sony DRBT160AS, bluetooth in ear headphones for about a year, using an in-ear bud for running is a strange experience and I found that they didn’t go as loud as I would have liked for watching movies. I also tried a set of Plantronics Backbeats that died the first time they got some sweat on them. I wouldn’t say the Jaybird Sportsbands are perfect, but they are the best I’ve found so far. They are big and clunky for sports headphones and they are tight on me (I have this problem with most headphones thanks to my fat head).

For running outdoors I have a different set of tools – I use the Garmin 305 GPS system to keep track of time and distance. This includes a chest strap since it is also a heart rate monitor. The 305 covers everything except music so I also bring an iPod Shuffle 2G and a set of Sennheiser PMX80 earphones. The Sennheisers are ok, again I have the problem of a fight that is tighter than I’d like and they were a tradeoff from my previous Nike earphones. The Nikes were lighter and fit well on me, but the sound quality was about as bad as it gets. The Sennheisers sound much better but they are heavier and  tighter.

I was a fan of Nike + until I found out how inaccurate it was for me. I was doing a 5k race and found out that I was almost a tenth of a mile off, that’s really a back breaker to think you are in the final kick and then seeing the finish line still a 10th of a mile away. But now with the TomTom GPS and the fact that the Nike+ can grab data from a Polar Heart Rate Chest Strap, it is a possible alternative.

With the iPod Nano 6G I would have about the same music form factor, but it would also be Nike + enabled, capturing both GPS and heart rate data. Ultimately I’m still wearing the same amount of stuff, but my music would now be integrated into the system so that I could get audio feedback. The only problem is that only the headphones could go to the new system, I’d need the watch, the Nano, a band for the Nano, and a new chest strap – around $500 worth of stuff. Looks like I have my birthday list ready.

I’ve also decided that I want to compare existing headphones to some old classics. I considered the current MDR-AS35W but the Amazon ratings really beat on  them. I remembered that my Sony MDR-W10 were lightweight and sounded great. I managed to find an unopened set of the successor MDR-W20G, which is very similar but the headband is plastic and wider. We’ll see how these stack up against the Sennheisers. It appears that if you like this style the current model is the MDR-W08L, which is dirt cheap, but most reviewers are saying things like “they are cheap but you’ll need 4 to get through a year because they break so often”.

Note: If you are into audio you may also be interested in my posts  covering Shure, Sony and Bose headphones and how to get better sound out of your iPod if you are willing to cough up another $50.

Brain Buster

The Agency of 2012 (uh, how about 2015?)

Note: I first published this post in September of 2009. I’m reminded of a Bill Gates quote: “We overestimate the impact of new technologies over the next 2 years, and underestimate its impact in 10 years”. I went back to this post for another writing project I’m working on and decided to update it and clean it up. I’m still interested in any comments and feedback so I’ve decided to update the publish date to give it another shot at life:

The moderator for the session I wrote about yesterday pulled together some interesting comments from the session last night (even some of mine!). Some very good stuff from the person that stepped up to ask where the PR panelists were, including strong points on PRWeb for SEO.

There are some interesting academic arguments and defenses from PR specialists but I think people are losing sight of the fact that these are literally entrepreneurs working part time in their basements or other below C class office space, and Mike was dead on saying “I haven’t  seen a PR shop that would get out of bed for less than $4K/month”. Guys clipping coupons for a case of Ramen Pride between coding are not possible clients.

After a night’s sleep it came to me that while the writers/bloggers were saying you can get by without PR people, you have marketing gurus saying you don’t need the writers/bloggers. You’re the expert in the space, you can create your own content. Why work around some other pub’s schedule, or spend time bringing a journalist up to speed on your specific niche when you can publish your own stuff and own the content, track it, and do with it as you please?

Stepping beyond the academic arguments that could be debated ad nauseam, Mike asked the big questions:

Is the “junior staff leverage” model really dead, and if so, what business model will support the next generation of great marketing services firms? The truth is I don’t know. But it seems to me that’s the conversation worth having among the “PR” digerati… not the semantic argument about what PR is or isn’t, but how, in the end, the people delivering it will build a sustainable and productive business.

Before I get into my answers, it’s a good idea to expand the definition of PR beyond influencing writers. Some good stuff already written on that from last night.

…PR is about developing a broad communications program that includes:

  • Building a long-term strategy that establish lasting relationships with your core audiences;
  • Creating content and managing conversations that engage those audiences directly; and
  • Reaching industry influencers (media relations gets lumped in here).

Tactically this means that the communicator or agency you hire should have skill sets that include: writing ability; audio and video skills; creative thinking and the ability to connect with influencers.

That got me thinking about what the business model would look like. By 2012, most marketing, PR, and ad agency positions that revolve around tactics will be reinvented – a huge opportunity here. This is what I think it might look like (keep in mind that me writing this is a lot like all of the jackasses that start restaurants that go out of business because they think that eating out most of their lives is actual foodservice experience):

I have brought you back an Agency FROM THE FUTURE


I don’t see a scenario where the existing junior staff model can work. It has in the past because of communications friction (trying to call all relevant reporters about hot stories from all your clients every day, hard work but low skill level).

The big idea is the Embedded Agent. Someone who can go into an account a day a week or more to shoot video, record audio and create other relevant content. Ideally they would be paired with a subject matter expert (SME) at the client who will ultimately speak on behalf of the client. Think about building your own Robert Scobles (when he was still at Microsoft) or Scott Montys. This forces a schedule of content production that can be used in a number of scenarios and at the same time will serve as SEO activity.

The agent’s team should also include a Preditor (Producer/Editor) who assembles the raw footage from the Agent. Preditors have access to the best tools and a support network of their peers – no client would be able to reproduce the the effectiveness of the Agent/Preditor team so this is a huge value add. This team would need an admin to handle scheduling as the Agent will be moving around a lot (let’s say with a 3 client load), and the Preditor needs long stretches of uninterrupted time for work – somebody needs to field calls and emergencies.

Beyond the teams are infrastructure that the client has access to that cannot be reproduced without huge expense by the client – the remainder of the value add. Audio/Video production and Photography, specialists in a variety of disciplines including CRM, Lead Generation, whatever the agency can leverage that clients need.

Influencer is the last category, executives that have access to people with markets. You can get on the Today show? Clients will pay for that. Having a strong database here would allow this system to scale to multiple people instead of a the single performer limitation.

Ok, enough with the BS, let’s see if I can backsolve this to a profitable business…

Teams (with benefits, taxes, etc.) Fully loaded agent – $200k, Preditors $120k, Admin $50k = $370k per team/3 clients=$123k, charge $150k to cover fixed expenses etc.= $12,500 per month for the client. The client is getting more than 1/3 of an agent and Preditor (at bare minimum $9k per month). So for 30k per year they get all the value and don’t have the impossible task of finding 1/3 of an agent and Preditor. All the specialist stuff can be sold ala carte for big margin.

Any opinions out there? Is this real or candyland?