Audio

« Previous Entries Next Entries »

Vibe Duo: defective but easily fixed

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I’ve barely had my V-Moda Vibe Duos four days and I’m already starting to develop a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. As stated in my mini-review of the Vibe Duos I love how great sounding and comfortable they are when paired with my iPhone, but what I don’t like is a manufacturing flaw that I’ve encountered on a pair of otherwise fabulously constructed headphones: faulty glue on part of the cable.

Vibe Duo headphone jack repair

After buying my Vibe Duos on Friday I enjoyed them through the weekend until they broke Monday morning while at work. The faulty glue (or perhaps a faulty glue job in the factory) caused the the sheath protecting the connection between the headphone jack and the cable leading to the earbuds to come undone and travel freely up the cable.

I immediately took them back to the Apple store who apologized for the problem and promptly replaced them without even asking to see my receipt. I was willing to chalk it up to a single faulty pair of earbuds until the replacement pair suffered the same fate the very next day. Either the Apple store in the University Village had a bad batch, or the Vibe Duos suffer a design or manufacturing flaw leading to this unfortunate condition. If the Vibe Duos were a bit cheaper I wouldn’t mind having to DIY repair them myself, but at $100 a pop and considering how high the build quality is otherwise I’m a little disappointed with V-Moda.

Luckily there is an easy fix for this problem. This evening at home after quickly whittling away some of the old adhesive with an exacto knife I re-glued it myself with seemly better results. A few drops of super-glue spread evenly over the plug with a synthetic Q-tip (the cotton ones would have left fibers) and quickly dropping the sheath back into place have locked it into place quite tightly.

Any other Vibe Duo owners out there suffering from this problem?

V-Moda Vibe Duo earbuds

Friday, September 14th, 2007

V-Moda Vibe Duo earbuds

As I mentioned in my last post I just picked up a pair of V-Moda Vibe Duos at the Apple Store with my $100 iPhone store credit. The Vibe Duo’s sound great (almost as good as my Etymotic ER-6′s), are the most comfortable earbuds I’ve ever used, and feature a microphone for making hands-free calls on the iPhone. The Vibe Duos come with three pairs eargels (small, medium, and large) in both white and black for a perfect fit for almost any ear and your choice in colors to accessorize with your outfit should you be so inclined.

The cloth-wrapped cords, metal construction, and extended plug (for easy use with the iPhone’s recessed headphone jack) all add up to a stunning package. The build quality on the Vibe Duos is great and unlike some previous earbuds I’ve owned I’m not in the slightest concerned about breaking them or tearing the cord if they get caught on something.

Sadly they lack the microphone button on the official iPhone earbuds for answering calls and pausing the music, but that’s a small sacrifice for the vastly increased comfort and sound quality. Now that I’ve tried them out I realize it’s well worth the $99 price tag and wish I had bought them earlier!

iPhone ringtones now available through the iTunes store

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Just as I was heading to bed I connected my iPhone to sync and charge for the night when iTunes informed me that the ringtones feature of the iTunes store has gone live. Not many of my tracks supported ringtone creation, but one of my old favorites (Bytecry by Weevil’s Drunk on Light album – the OS X 10.4 intro music) was eligible so I decided to take the plunge and convert it.

Create Ringtone menu screenshot

After clicking through an obnoxiously long EULA I was able to click “Create Ringtone” to begin the process.Once clicked the main ringtone authoring pops up. The ringtone authoring interface allows you to select how long you want your ringtone to be (up to a maximum of 30 seconds), and position where you want the start and stop of the ringtone to be within the track. There are also fade-in and fade-out options to help the ringtone sound smoother as it comes to life on your precious, shiny iPhone.

Ringtone authoring screenshot

After previewing my ringtone to my hearts content I clicked the “Buy” button and was charged the ass-raping $0.99 for a track I “already owned”. It’s a pity that Apple decided to cash in on the multi-billion dollar a year ringtone market – offering them for free on any track you own would have been a great differentiating feature for the iPhone.

It’s as easy as Steve made it sound in his keynote address – making my ringtone took less than 4 minutes including a fair amount of fussing around with the preview to get it just the way I wanted it. A quick sync later and now my phone erupts into a glorious chorus that’s far more unique and “me” than any of the included by default iPhone ringtone. Hazaa!

El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Yesterday brought me to Costco with Brien, and Costco brought me into ownership of El Laberinto del Fauno (Pans Labyrinth for those of us in the US), a simply stunning film. Prior to owning it I had heard a bit about it but had not had the pleasure of seeing it. In the last 24 hours I’ve not only rectified that problem, but watched it a second time for good measure.

Going in I knew it was by a Spanish Director (Guillermo Del Toro), but had no idea the audio was in Spanish as well. Normally I’m not a huge fan of subtitled films, but in this case it added a sense of charm and the fact that I couldn’t understand the vocals and thus was more able to let the poetic sounds of the script brought me deeper into Del Toro’s fantasy world.

Pans Labyrinth

It’s very much a dark fairy tale – it’s certainly not for kids with the amount of blood and violence, but it’s not gratuitous – used instead to show what horrors the ‘real world’ had to offer the heroine Ofelia. As dark and horrific as the real world is the fantasy world balances it out entirely with bright and visually mesmerizing visuals and a fanciful look and feel brought to life with the sublime art direction.

The hardship faced by Ofelia and the classic themes in fairy tales (three tasks, three bad guys, three good guys) work well with the style of directors style. In watching the movie for a second time I picked up on a number of subtle nods to both other fairy tables and common fables.

Between Del Toro’s Pans Labyrinth and Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men I see what all the fuss was about over Spanish directors at the Oscars. They might not be “proper American filmmakers”, but their vivid and well thought out style mixed with their excellent storytelling leaves audiences world wide immersed in new worlds, sprung up from film and into reality. Both movies leave the audience with a series of thoughts spinning about in their heads, and with a need for more answers.

The movie is currently only available on DVD so no high-definition viewing yet, but the DVD transfer is decent and the audio is available in DTS EX 6.1 as well as Dolby Digital. The sound is well done, and the simple but catching music works well with the subject matter. Javier Navarrete pulls from subtle melodies that echo through the worlds ears, regardless of if performance by a full symphony, or hummed quietly by the heroine at several key points in the film.

If you haven’t seen it yet pick up a copy – you will be glad you did!

What the Apple TV got right and wrong

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

Apple TV

As I’ve previously mentioned I’m pleased with my purchase of an Apple TV. Now that I’ve spent a little over a week with it I have more formal opinions on the little white wonder. First off a couple of things that the Apple TV got right:

  1. Fantastic out of box experience. As always the Apple TV provides an experience when opened. It’s neatly laid out in it’s packaging and practically begs to be unwrapped. Setting it up was a breeze – I had ordered an HDMI cable in advance, so all I had to do was plug in HDMI and the power cable and I was up and running. Right away it asked me for my language preference, and then let me select my wireless access point and enter my WPA password. Within a minute of plugging the thing in I was at the main interface and ready to sync with iTunes. Setting up a sync partnership is almost as easy as with an iPod – you type in a 6 digit code from the Apple TV and then your files start to sync over right away. I was watching TV shows from the iTunes music store within 2 minutes of plugging the Apple TV in.
  2. Movie trailers! Having 720p streaming trailers from the internet is a major feature in my book. You can scroll through new and upcoming movies and select any trailer to have it start within seconds. You can do the same thing from any computer with Quicktime installed but having HD movie trailers on the big screen and sound system really does change the game. The Xbox 360 has had this feature for a while, but not nearly as polished requiring more clicks and a full download to display HD trailers. The inclusion of 720p streaming also hits at possible on-demand hi-definition services from Apple in the near future.
  3. iPod like simplicity in the on-screen user interface. The AppleTV comes with a standard Apple remote which offers a 5 way direction pad and a back button (technically ‘menu’). Regardless of if you are an iPod user or not figuring out how to watch TV, listen to music, or browse your photos is brain dead simple and all wrapped in the usual layer of Apple interface bling.
  4. Simple syncing and streaming. Having content local to the Apple TV is handy for anyone who turns off their computer on a regular basis and setting up syncing is as easy as setting up syncing for an iPod. The default settings are good enough for most users, and for power users very granular control is possible. For me I’m just putting unwatched Podcasts and TV shows on mine and streaming everything else, but having the opportunity to do both will make a much wider audience of users find both features useful.
  5. Sleek design – with a form factor like that of the Mac Mini, but less than a third the height it’s hard to beat the Apple TV’s form factor. They get bonus points for it being nearly silent while in use, an internal AC adapter (no power brick needed – just a cord), and it’s the smallest component in my AV system. Check out some of the photos I took for a size comparison of the Apple TV to the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or take a gander at the below image.
  6. An attractive screen saver. While playing music or idle the Apple TV presents you with either your photos or album covers slowly flying up the screen. Every once in a while the pictures rotate around the screen to add a bit of visual flair. Having old photos from my library streaming by is a great way to use the Apple TV as an a nearly infinite picture stream evoking memories of fun times past. Given how advanced some of the transitions in the slideshows are I would expect a much flashier screen saver – more on that in the next section.

The Apple Wii360
Size comparisom between the Apple TV, the Wii, and the Xbox 360

Next come a couple of things Apple missed the ball on:

  1. Why can’t my Mac automatically open iTunes when I try to browse it from my Apple TV? Having local content on the 40gb HDD is very handy, but I have over a terabyte of media in iTunes on my main desktop machine. I don’t always keep iTunes open so when I am in the living room and want to watch something streamed from my main computer I need to get up and go open iTunes on my desktop. Either moving the streaming functionality into a system daemon or setting up a launchd trigger for opening iTunes would be ways for Apple and greatly increase the usability of the streaming functionality.
  2. I want a better screen saver! Don’t get me wrong – I’m in love with the memories brought up by old pictures scrolling past, but with so many cool effects in slide show mode when I’m browsing images I would love it if the screen saver pictures did something a little fancier than spin around every few seconds. That kind of sizzle sells and makes for great eye-candy to showcase on the HDTV in the living room. With Core Animation just around the corner let’s see some flashy effects for what is now the default idle state of my TV.
  3. Enable plug in support out of the box. Websites have reported that by opening up your Apple TV and connecting it’s internal HDD to another Mac you can install the Perian plugin set to greatly increase codec support. Since the Apple TV is basically running a stripped down version of OS X this kind of thing is easy to do. I can understand Apple not wanting to provide customer support for 3rd party plugins, but at least put a feature into iTunes to allow me to manually copy over codecs at my own risk
  4. Why can I browse top movies and TV shows on the iTunes Store and watch trailers, but not purchase the media from the Apple TV. I could understand if they required iTunes to be open on the syncing computer, but at least let me initiate the transaction/sync from the Apple TV directly.

While it’s easy to point fingers at Apple for these ‘bugs’ they are all things that should be quite possible to fix. Given the OS X like architecture and inclusion of Software Update functionality I’m hoping to see future software versions for the Apple TV and iTunes address some of these issues.

All in all I give the Apple TV an enthusiastic thumbs up – I love mine and use it every day as a clean and simple to use bridge from my iTunes media collection to the HDTV and stereo equipment in my living room. Apple has a major competitor on the line with the Xbox 360 Live experience: plain and simple the Xbox 360 with the Live online service does more (gaming, hi-def movie and TV downloads, works with portable hard drives via USB), but in typical Apple fashion their reduced feature set is extremely well implemented, marketed, and aimed at a targeted market. Seeing how the two services evolve in the coming year is going to be an interesting experience, and hopefully one that is highly rewarding for the consumer market!

Content everywhere

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

My weekend was very content driven: just the way I like it. I finally got my delivery of Children of Men on HD-DVD and ended up watching it several times. It’s a fantastic movie with simply stunning cinematography – I highly recommend anyone who is into movies, sci-fi, or sfx watching it. Aside from having a great story it has epic levels of detail in the world they created. It’s as grandiose as Blade Runner was, but not nearly as in your face, being shot more like a documentary than anything else.

I also spent quite a bit of time futzing with iPhoto and cleaning/organizing some of my 65,000 photos. I’ve come to love my AppleTV for a number of reasons – not only does it get all of my iTunes content into the living room, but the smallest of features has ended up being my favorite: the screen saver. While idle or playing music the AppleTV shows photos from your computer in an attractive flyby slideshow. I’ve become addicted to this as it brings up fond memories to see photos from my past flying by at idle moments.

I spent a good 8 hours organizing my existing collection so as to archive really bad photos (for instance anything completely out of focus or unrecoverable under/over exposed) and driving cool photos from years back into albums that I can sync out to the AppleTV. I now find myself leaving the TV on and tuned to the AppleTV whenever I’m home, even when it’s not doing anything specific – it’s turned my TV into an interactive photo frame and done a damn fine job of it.

Bravo Apple for making such a great device. While it’s does far less than it’s biggest competitor (the Xbox 360) it manages to do what it sets out do very well. It’s got a high level of polish and really stands alone as a simple to use set to box.

P.S. BSG Season 3 is amazing. I had dismissed it when the crew landed at the end of Season 2.5, but now realize the err of my ways and am catching up fast!

Tower Records: the end of an era

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Tower Records sale

If you like media you are well familiar with the iconic Tower Records. Sadly they have filed for bankruptcy and are having their final going out of sale-sale. Check it out for 25% or more off CD’s, DVD’s, and games + free shipping – I just bought a bundle and so should you!

Logitech Harmony 720: the taming of Le Cinema Sparks

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

Logitech Harmony 720

Brien, Chris, and myself all went to Costco this afternoon. They had a great deal on the Logitech Harmony 720 – the ultimate (6 months ago) home theater remote. It has a color screen on it that enables really advanced features and highly customizable buttons.

Setting the remote up is simple – you hook it up to your computer via USB and tell the little wizard what equipment you have. You can then tweak any settings and set up macros to your hearts content from their interface, then move the settings over to the remote. Logitech has an online service that keeps the remote codes up to date, and has support for more than 17,000 devices.

The remote itself has rechargeable batteries and comes with a little cradle to charge it when you are not using it. The remote also features a tilt sensor so it lights up when you pick it up, and goes to sleep after you put it back down again.

I’m still getting the hang of it, but so far I’m pretty impressed. I’ve gone from needing 3 remotes to tame my home theater to a single easy to use remote. Now I just need to get IR-compatible light-switches for in the living room and I can even macro dimming the lights when I run my “DVD activities” script.

Connect360

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

Connect360-Splash-1

I just found the coolest bridge between my Apple iMac and Microsoft Xbox 360. I found some software called Connect360 from Nullriver Software. It’s a simple preference pane that allows any Mac to share it’s photos in iPhoto and music from iTunes with a 360 seamlessly. It’s now possible for both Windows and Mac’s to communicate with the 360 for living room entertainment.

Installation was a breeze: after opening the zip demo from Nullriver’s website I double clicked on the Connect360.prefpane to install the preference pane. After starting the service I was able to select what I want shared and configure transcoding options for any files that the 360 won’t be able to play natively.

Connect360 prefence pane

I walked into the living room and used my Media Center remote to browse to the media tab on my Xbox 360. My imac showed up and after clicking through an authorization screen I was able to browse my music library and playlists as well as browse through all my photos and albums in iPhoto.

Connect350-Xbox

The interface is snappy, and browsing the photo libraries were response. It even increments play counts and last played dates in iTunes when you play music. I have to say that Microsoft keeping media interaction open to developers is a big win. Connect360 supports MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF and AAC Lossless for audio files, and JPEG, RAW, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF for photos.

Update: With a photo update Connect360 now supports video as well. Check out the Connect360 website for more information.

If you have both a Mac and an Xbox 360 I suggest checking out the free demo. If you like it it’s $20 to unlock the ability to browse your full library rather than 1,000 items that the demo restricts you to.

Sadly for now Connect360 does not support transferring movies or iTunes store purchased content but hopefully that will be released in a future version. While waiting to check out Apple’s upcoming iTV it’s nice to have a good solution for getting my media from my Mac to my living room.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

« Previous Entries Next Entries »