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First Nerdgasm of 2010: ESH@CES Las Vegas!

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    It's Been a Monster of a Day

    posted @ 1/07/2010 08:35:00 PM by Ninjasistah
    As my first day at CES starts winding down (at least the big business end of it that is) I wanted to chime in with the company that made the largest impression on me today: Monster Cables.

    In the past I have made no secret of the fact that I love music. I have a separate 2 Terabyte (2TB) storage system (that I intend to grow to a 4TB system shortly) just for my itunes library. All new music imported to that library comes in as Apple Lossless and video comes in at as high a bit rate as I can stand to let process overnight. The speaker system I use at home to listen to that music does pretty well for being a jerry-rigged/patched set of 11 year old Labtec computer speakers wired to an Olevia television set, but I have not been satisfied with my headphone options for when I am on the go.

    Being a designer in my day job, quality and customization are big-ticket issues for me when it comes to the technology I purchase. In a former life I worked at an Apple Retail store and spent a lot of time with customers talking through what they wanted out of their own mobile listening experience. We would run through all kinds of questions ranging from "what kind of music do you predominately listen to on the go?" to the inevitable "how much do you want to spend?" or "do you want something that will last you a few years or just get you through a month of working out?" Over time I noticed one common thread seemed to always be the bottom line of the conversation: it had to last, sound great, and not look like ass.

    Love them or hate them one thing is for sure, the things I saw today while visiting with Monster Audio do all three of those things.

    I started out my hour with Daniel Torres who does European Training for Monster talking about the different models of Beats by Dre on the market today, and then was treated to a demo at a listening station 3 different types of music samples to listen to. (Hip-Hop/Rap, Pop, and Rock) The first thing I noticed about the listening station that I thought was ballsy of Monster was that they allowed you to plug in your own set of headphones and compare your set to the Classic Beats and Solo Beats on the spot. The second thing I noticed was the sound. My ever-loving-deep-bass heart did skip a beat but I'll get back to that later on. We then spent some time in a media room where I was treated to sampling of Monster's entire line of high-end audio headsets and in-ear headphones. From the Lady GaGa designed heartBeats to the Monster Turbine Pro Professional Edition every set had its own unique style, audio profile, and audience. This is where that "customization" item I mentioned earlier comes in.

    I have in the past year alone purchased and either returned or "gifted to friends and family" no less than 10 sets of headphones/earbud because they have disappointed me in either their style or audio quality. I am not an audio snob, but I am starting to become quite the little audiophile much to the disappointment of my husband. Whenever I get a new set of headphones/earbuds I immediately run them through the Kick-Ass test. In my iTunes library I have a playlist I call "Kick Ass" that has a sampling of songs that I feel tells me if I have found the perfect set of speakers/headphones/earbuds for me. A couple of songs on "Kick Ass" include:
    • My Week Beats Your Year - by Telefon Tel Aviv
    • Why You Wanna - by T.I.
    • Wait - by the Ying Yang Twins
    • Sexy Lady - by Yung Berg
    • Spin Spin Sugar - by Sneaker Pimps
    • Knights of Cydonia - by Muse
    • Organ Donor - by DJ Shaddow
    • Bounce - by MSTRKRFT
    • Higher Ground - by Stevie Wonder
    • Sledgehammer - by Peter Gabriel
    • Life's What You Make It - by Talk Talk
    • Beginners Falafel - by Flying Lotus
    • Once in a Lifetime - by Talking Heads
    That list is eclectic, I know. So am I.

    I have owned 3 sets of V-Moda in ear headphones, 2 sets of Sennheiser over the ear headsets, a pair of SkullCandy over the ear headphones (which got returned), and a pair of SkullCandy in-ears that I kept, a pair of Shure in-ear headphones, and a set of over the ear cans from Audio-Technica and while the list does go on I'm going to stop here. All those headsets either left me wanting in the quality department, (bass too heavy or not enough, in some cases non-existant) or in the looks department. (too butch looking, too loudly colored or just plain, well plain looking) Like those people at the Apple Store, I want something that sounds great, (if I have to turn the iPhone Equalizer on you lose) fits great in my weird little ear canals, and on the aesthetic side kinda reflects my personality.

    I'm anxious to try out the in-ear sets and the Solo Beats because they seem like the best "road warrior" safe sets created by Monster. You can bet I'll test them against my "Kick Ass" playlist and let you know how well they score.

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    Review: Razer Megalodon

    posted @ 7/28/2009 07:24:00 PM by Alex J. Avriette
    Razer has a new-ish set of gaming cans, called, menacingly, the Megalodon. For those of you not knowing what a Megalodon is, it's a really, really, really big shark. Like, it could eat our entire budget deficit. It's that big. But, did I buy them for gaming? Naw. I bought them for some biiiiiig pimpin'.

    Pyramid head knows his cans. You know he does.

    I did not buy them to play Crysis and hear the 7.1ch sound. Rather, I'm using them on a MacBook Air, which has at best pretty pathetic sound. It has a single 1/8din preamp output, recessed at that, making it maddening to use with any cans of decent quality.

    No, I bought them ($160, mind) because my $25 DA40 Plantronics headset had sort of failed its reliability test. I spend as much as 20-30 hours a month on phone conferences, and I do it all – yes, all of it – on Skype and Google Voice. I occasionally use iChat, but with its "special" requirements for firewalls and direct connections, that's only ever at best hit or miss. The Plantronics unit, while having exceptional sound (but no amp) broke. The part that broke was essentially the earpiece, and this made it even harder to hear (audio through a USB DSP is hard to hear without an amplifier because the signal is rather low, so placement of the earpiece of the Plantronics DA40 units is crucial.

    So I bought the Megalodon because it had the USB DSP (I couldn't tell whether the Characarodon did), and I knew that I was unhappy with Plantronics products. There was a Logitec G-35 or something as well, for a little less money, but I'm glad I got the Megalodon in terms of product quality. It came in a hard carrying case, which I had to buy separately for my Sennheisers, which cost three times as much! (the price has since come down from near $600 to under $400). It also came with what seems to be an amp, but might just be a channel muxer (look it up; if you don't know it, you probably shouldn't be reading this anyways) and DSP.

    The sound is pretty good. Part of the problem is finding a multichannel stereo sound source on the Mac that isn't gaming. When you do, however, there's no question that the design of the semi-closed cans (they're not quite open, they're not quite closed, but I don't think the gamers really care; what they aren't is sealed, and that leaves me perplexed in the land of lan parties). I found that Blu-Ray rips of movies were fantastic, and had real nice, directional sound. There were also great results from two-channel music, as simple as Mechanical Animals or The Pink Floyd Floydhead (yeah, I roll like that. Don't be a douche). If you wanted to go quadraphonic and had the material, the cans kept up. There's a so-so primer on open/closed cans at Crutchfield, but you're not going to get much better without spending thousands and thousands of dollars on cans and amps. Sorry, it's just the way it is. This review is either going to be useful to you because you know who Poinz is, or you were going to buy them anyways because of the blue LEDs, or you're going to be lost like one of those creepy little Silent Hill burn victims. Damned to an eternity of cheap cans.

    The resolution of the sound (that is, the ability of the cans to produce the sound with high fidelity, accurately, with good simulation of location, and so on) is remarkable for a set of cans that didn't cost $300. I haven't tried the new Sennheiser 850, and I'll reckon that if I could afford the amp for that monster that the Übersenn would HULKSMASH the Megalodon, but a) it would cost me over $3,000 for the pleasure and b) it still ain't got a mike boom, which is the next part of this review.

    I spent three hours, almost four, on teleconferences today, using that boom mike, and it didn't let me down once. I also spent all day listening to the cans. Once, the DSP/Amp overheated, and that pissed me off. The sound went all SQEEEEEEK and wanted to be smashed, but, unplugged from USB, plug back in, and it was worky. The mike is great. Everyone thought I was on a land line. So let there be no confusion. These are terrific for you corporate whores, like me, who gotta maintain a job for the man.

    Now, a brotha did get let down when he installed these fine cans. I am not stupid, but then I am also not one to read instructions. Upon installation, I checked that all my "preferences" were set properly (with a USB DSP and Amp you don't need drivers; this is 100% win). I checked that all the channels – front, sides, rear, bass, satellite  – were set to medium volume so as to not clobber my ears. I switched from 2 to 7.1 ch and back, and no dice.

    It wasn't until after fucking about with the machine for a good half hour I realized that it has AN ADDITIONAL master volume switch. Folks this thing has so many fucking lights on it, it could lose a heat tile on re-entry and you just wouldn't fucking know. After dialing in the master volume, setting the mike sensitivity (another bonus: on-amp mike mute button. good show, razer), and so on, everything Just Worked.

    I tested it with Skype, iChat, iTunes, X-Plane, VLC, DVD Player, and so on. You may notice there aren't any games there. Hint: I don't play a lot of games. The good news is that Razer are a bunch of pussies and basically didn't even bother to test them on the Mac other than to say they "should work." Well, folks, they do. Just like every other Razer product. They make expensive shit that works real good, and it costs a bunch of money. This is common in the market, though. Witness Alienware PC's and Saitek controls.

    • Product: Razer Megalodon
    • Price: $150 (street)
    • Rating: Great, great boom mike. Very good sound for semi-open cans, especially at the price. Electronics that will occasionally overheat and make their manufacturer look stupider than a barrel of irradiated weasels. Mac Compatible. Too many damn LED's. Comfortable, even for all-day conference calls or gaming or video sex. You know Jenna Jameson and that pink Master Chief hate an echo on the line.

    update, 3 days later after a few days of 4-6 hours of listening to music and taking calls, there's considerable static in the cans. Note that the amp/DSP brick they come with has a linear slider that goes from "blue" to "red", and as a connoisseur of nice cans, I don't listen to them loud to begin with, this is very disappointing. I'll use them for calls because of the boom mike, but for listening to music, it'll be back to the senns. So, so, so disappointed. Razer, you really shit the bed on this one.

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