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Monday, December 03, 2007

Ultimate in Music for the ones with an ear(or two) for music and details.

Hot on the heels of the PMP post, I thought what better than writing about the headphones to go with such good devices.

My search for the best headphones has perhaps ended, and with an happy ending. After growing up with the tinny sounding Sony headphones bundled together with cassette walkman and chatting headsets, I finally noticed what I needed to hear the music, one which I have so carefully collected and cherish. Yep, a better set of headphones !!

Since I am on the move often now, having a portable audio device was half the answer of spending your time waiting for that flight, or once inside, waiting for the flight to land. With the noise in the plane, especially when you get the seats next to the roaring jet engines, none of your normal earphones can overpower that noise. This resulted in maxing out the volume on the player and trying hard to listen to your music amidst the roar. This is when I found about noise cancelling headphones.

Noise cancelling headphones are use technology to solve the noise problem. They cancel the noise by generating opposing spectrum, which for me, didn't sound so nice. Even though I haven't had a chance to try any noise cancelling headphones, I am pretty sure they wouldn't come close to the real champs - Noise Isolating earphones.

Noise Isolation works without any technological/electronic way of suppressing noise. All they do is create a fit like an ear plug (in ear canal type) or a snug fit over the ears (in studio style), which blocks out the external noise thereby providing you with a silent listening environment. At first, I was apprehensive about the ability of the headphones to really isolate the noise as they mention. So I thought, why not give a try . . .

After researching for over 7 months, I finally narrowed down my choice of IEC type earphones to two brands : Shure & Ultimate Ears. I had heard a lot about shure and its audio equipment is top notch. Ultimate Ears was a new term to me, however after diving deep into the web with google, I found it to be comparable and in some cases better than Shure.

The prices of these brands itself is a big deterrent, more so in the case when you don't want to buy the lowest class of their range and feel left out from the top offerings. Amazon is a heaven for electronics and I chanced upon a lovely sale of the Shure E2c IEC earphones for $49.99 (reg. price $99 and above). I was quick to order one and in the meanwhile Radioshack came up with Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 3 Studio IEC
earphones for $49.99 (reg. price $80-129). Also, I got the UE Super.Fi 5 Pro series which retail for $249 for $169 from Amazon to see what difference do the higher version makes.

UE Super.Fi 3 Studio was outstanding in build and immediately showed me what I was missing all these years. Sound never was so clear, at such low volumes, and best of all, I could be in any noisy surrounding and still the volume level need not be pushed up !! I heard instruments in the soundtracks and albums which I couldn't have thought existed.

When the UE Super.Fi 5 pros arrived, I didn't wait for the Shures to come in and opened them and got going. There was a slight disappointment at first, since I didn't find a huge difference in the sound, but then after hearing for a considerable time, the UE 5 pros made their impact with rich bass and nice acoustic feel. Now only the Shures remained and I tried them on. To my surprise, I couldn't manage to get them to fit in my ears and gave up on it and returned them. So, I was left in dilemma about these two from UE. Both were excellent headphones, with UE Super.Fi 3 providing excellent sounds for vocal based audio and UE 5 for instrumental and jazz based. I decided to keep them both. A whopping investment of $200. But what the hell, I got something for which I am never going to go back into the market.

Sounds music to your ears, well go out and try it for yourself. The UE 3 Studio is still around in Radioshack stores if you can find one.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In search of the ultimate PMP (Personal Media Player)

From the comfort of the sofa at home, with sleet (snow mixed with rain) falling outside, I dream of a device which would bring the ultimate audio-visual experience to me. Just for the information, I have been in the hunt of the perfect PMP. This is my current set of devices I have :

To state that, I should have found what I was looking for after owning these devices is really a optimistic statement. See, as time progresses, your music collection increases (I won't get into how would you procure it); and ur players falls short to hold it at one go.

I started off with the need to listen to mp3 alone with some use of the USB storage space resulting in the 5GB Zen micro. After 1 year to be exact, I found that I had run out of space for my collection,. US being such an electronics haven and that too when you get brilliant deals, causes an unending desire to own the latest and greatest and sometimes the slimmest !!

I settled for the 1 gb nano which I picked up for around $29 AR to use it occasionally. All was running fine till I got a $75 dollar coupon for Dell to spend with certain time; now this causes temptation and usually additional money too. So I picked up the 8gb Zen V plus with its photo/video and music playing capabilities. The size of this device is just fantastic, sometimes you forget that you are carrying it.

And finally what happens when you visit sites such as Woot. You end up spending more money and thats where I fell prey to the craze of $99 deal for the 30 GB Microsoft Zune. I ended up buying 5 of them for F & F.

Now isn't 30 GB enough !! Well, not exactly. My current collection of Music and Videos (mostly DivX and Xvid ) runs into 90 GB+ !! and Zune doesn't play Xvid out of the box. So my search continues and I run into something which has been making waves recently . . . . The Cowon Q5.

This PMP (Personal Media player) has specs which are out of the world, it plays most of the audio formats you can possibly have in your collection, it plays DivX and Xvid and currently the capacity tops out at 60 GB. Right now, I believe its a wait n watch time for me. Once it hits 160 GB or more, which I think would be by Apr-Jun 2k8. I should be checking out deals for it, or possibly befriend some in Korea to send me over and English version of this beauty.

This player comes with my favourite audio application - Jet Audio VX. I have used it since version 4.0 and to people who are used to it, wouldn't like to use any other app for their amateurish music needs. It has everything, ripping CDs, converting DVDs, cropping music, mixing, converting audio formats and streaming music over the net (I used to use it to broadcast music over my LAN).

So if you are in market for something of this calibre, I would suggest Zune for your normal music needs of more than ~30 GB or more. Its better than locking up your music inside the stupid iPod and iTunes.

or if you are stuck with ~100 gigs of stuff and don't like Archos / iPod Classic 160 GB, then wait till those 160GB HDDs from Toshiba start floating in other PMPs. Till then, do your homework, zero in product of your choice and click the mouse when you find the deal you can afford for.

If you need some advice, click the title link and land on the most possible review collections for DAP/PMP.

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