Nuraphone Headphones – a Review

Music is an important – if passive – hobby of mine. I remember very well when I went to live on my own in the summer of 1988. I made sure I had good stereo equipment, and after the move I immediately set up my awesome new Pioneer stereo tower so that I could listen to my favourite music as soon as possible.
That has pretty much been the same way every time I moved. Always. The. Stereo. Tower. First. Next I would listen to some classic Jarre or Vangelis or Jason Becker or Metallica until all other boxes had been unpacked, every knick-knack given its place.

My neighbours never necessarily appreciated me moving in next to them.

Through the past 15 years circumstances have forced me to become headphone- rather than loudspeaker-centric when it comes to audio enjoyment. The circumstances included presence of a baby in the house, or neighbours one perhaps-too-thin wall away, and the past 10 years of my laptop being my own personal media server. I have about 1 terabyte containing everything recorded so far that I might conceivable ever want to listen to.
I tried a variety of in-ear, over-ear, on-ear, wired and bluetooth headphones. They each had their rather individual set of (dis-)advantages. In-ear headphones (Sennheiser CX300) tended to gently dislodge themselves and disabled me from humming along to music if I was alone (I heard myself ‘from the inside’). On-ear headphones (Creative Labs Sound Blaster Jam and Sennheiser HD 407) were generally quite audible to other people present. Over-ear headphones (a Sennheiser I forgot the type of) didn’t fit properly over my rather large ears and were rather stuffy. And even a rather pricey on-ear headphone like my latest Sennheiser, the iUrbanite, just lacked any oomph. The music, in fact, sounded too distant and trebley. With bombastic synth or metal like I prefer to listen to, it didn’t satisfy. The last earphones I had been satisfied with were the Sennheiser HD 455 (on-ear). After a while the foam earpads had dried out, though.
From 2000 on I have used at least 9 pairs of headphones as far as I can remember. When I noticed the coating of the iUrbanite ear pads disintegrating a mere 5 months after the purchase I wanted to get, for once and for all, a decent pair of headphones.

One of the last things that Facebook successfully advertised to me, before I deleted my account, was the Nuraphone (www.nuraphone.com). The Nuraphone was Kickstarted a while ago, at which time I thought it was too expensive to get – though cheaper than what it ended up at in the end, at a rather hefty € 399.
The Nuraphone is a combination of in-ear and over-ear headphones. Sound isolation is very efficient and sound quality is high. The thing that makes it stand out from all other headphones I had listened to in the B.N.* part of my life is that it can adapt itself to your individual hearing.
After putting it on first the first time, and connecting it to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth, it examines what your hearing is like: The speakers have very sensitive microphones built in that detect the echo from sounds projecting back from your ear. It takes about a minute of fine-tuning while listening to various sounds, after which the app will have deduced your unique personal hearing profile. After that, you can also specify an “immersion” level which tells the phones how close to the sound source (“the stage”) you want the sound to be. This can range from pleasant to pretty intense, at which instant you will feel your very ears vibrating.My frustration at not being able to get good headphones online, coupled with Nuraphone’s no-questions-asked 30-day-money-back guarantee, made me close my eyes and take the plunge.

I ordered the headphones on a Sunday and had them in my hands that Thursday. And let me tell you, just unpacking the phones already filled me with expectation. Everything felt and looked luxurious, from the magnetic latch to the feeling of the enclosed USB cable. Everything literally radiated luxuriousness. It’s what you’d expect at such a pice tag, though. I wasn’t convinced yet.
I downloaded the app, connected Bluetooth and allowed it to determine my hearing profile. That took about a minute, as promised. From then on, the headphone always welcomes me back when I put it on – “Welcome back Richard”. A very cool touch. I like it! (In case you want to know, the headphones recognise whose head they are on, and it can store three people’s hearing profiles.)

So next I wanted to listen to some music using these headphones. I had recently listened to the new Cradle of Filth album rather a lot. It now sounded so much heavier and full-bodied than when I used other headphones. Next I put on a Vangelis album, “Mask”. I was utterly blown away by that! The crescendos were stupefying, sounding full-bodied and alive, three-dimensional. I don’t recall ever having heard anything on my ears with such detail and dynamics. Existing music I’ve had for ages suddenly seems more preciously subtle and at the same time copiously overwhelming. Oodles of oomph! In fact I think I will be spending the next few weeks re-discovering some Vangelis, Jarre and Gandalf albums. “Antarctica” next! And then some metal/shred classics…

For more information, check out www.nuraphone.com (this link may give you a 20% discount, but I couldn’t verify that). When ordering, also try discount code “welcomeship” for free shipping (which may save you quite a bit, as it’s fast shipping from Hong Kong).

* B.N. = Before Nuraphone

One Week without Facebook

One week without Facebook – no tempting adverts on the phone version, no constant world misery Trump shit. I might actually be happier now (though I grant that ‘oblivious’ is probably a better description). Previously I constantly got mad and frustrated about Brexit and the Republicans and LGBT rights being trampled upon and not being able to influence all that by one iota, but now I don’t. I am back in my own bubble, without my personal tastes constantly being pandered by carefully selected posts and ads on my wall.

O wait, I did notice something I really miss: I had recently discovered a page where recordings of all recent Metallica shows were posted, only a few days after their release on livemetallica.com. I miss that. Now I have to go on Soulseek again and wait for someone to share it there.
So I guess I do miss a certain specific aspect of Facebook for now. But it’s still very much something I can cope with.

Three Days without Facebook

So, three days without Facebook. I am not missing it as much as I thought I would. Twice today I wanted to check into a restaurant…but I also realised that is just basically vain and/or hedonistic. It was one of the weirder things on Facebook, and I had joined it quite enthusiastically.
And three of my closer friends have had birthdays since I quit (hi Ingrid, Ronny and Stefan!). I sent them personal emails instead of just a quick “Congratulations!” on their FB walls. I got nice and personal messages back instead of the FB alternative – a Like or, at best, a Like and a “Thanks!”
I do regularly sit at my laptop and find myself wanting to visit facebook.com. But it’s an easy habit to kick. I am kicking it. At this rate, I can’t imagine missing Facebook until STNICCC 2032 is around the corner. And who knows what’ll happen to me, or Facebook, or the world, before then?
It has not saved me a as much time as I had expected, not yet. I am binge-watching series on Netflix more now (“Modern Family” a.t.m.). Or watching deskcam crash compilation on Youtube. Playing my new black Explorer clone guitar (see the “G.A.S.” gallery on this site).
No regrets so far.

My Final Facebook Post

Facebook has allowed me to connect to a great many people past and present. Without it I would probably not have been able to organise STNICCC 2015, and many of my technical questions would have remained unanswered. But the inability of Facebook to sufficiently protect my data, coupled with the fact that they are keeping track of rather a whole lot more than what I voluntarily share, has caused me to make this decision. The fact that the mere thought of quitting Facebook made me feel like someone had died also strengthened my resolve – I do not want to be dependent on (perhaps even addicted to) any company this much. Life will not become easier because of this choice (rather the opposite), but it will likely become less stressful.

If you ever need to contact me for whatever reason, do so here. I also sometimes (re-)tweet @CronosWarchild.

#deletefacebook #byebyefacebook #hellodarknessmyoldfriend 🙂

Leaving Facebook

I saw a 16-minute video clip today that made me want to leave Facebook. I am not going to make this a semi-religious quest and I don’t care what others do with their lives (though I’d prefer my wife to join me), but after finding out the true extent of what Facebook knows about me (everything beyond “the stuff I voluntarily share” is utterly shocking!) I am going to just remove my account.

It is an addiction. It is something I am currently less able to function without. I throw away vast amounts of time on Facebook. Facebook, I have decided, is evil.

To watch the video, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa-SzNepsA

I am going to delete my Facebook account tomorrow at 20:00 my time (UTC +1), and remove all Facebook integration from my sites before that. I am pretty sure I am going to regret it countless times afterwards, but fuck that.

ST NEWS Atari ST/TT/Falcon Multimedia Disk Magazine

It is a challenge, from a modern frame of mind, to imagine the late 1980s world of disk magazines. Huge quantities of information can now be exchanged at the drop of a hat, anywhere, virtually instantly. Back then, however, you had paper magazines and relatively sparsely used Bulletin Board Systems. That was pretty much it.

In the summer of 1986, the first issue of “ST NEWS” was released. It was a 35 Kb document to be loaded into the most popular Atari ST word processor of the time, “1st Word”.  It was put on a disk and the disk was copied at user meetings. A disk magazine was born.

The Canadian disk magazine “F.A.S.T.E.R.” drastically changed everything. Having started in autumn of 1986, this commercial disk magazine featured a very smooth GEM-based user interface from which articles could be selected and viewed. It looked very professional, and it was clear that “ST NEWS” needed to get with the program. As I had just translated the manual for a new Basic interpreter from German to Dutch, I had at my disposal “GfA Basic”, a brand spanking new replacement for the simply horrible “ST Basic”. The threshold was low enough for me to try out my meagre coding talents and try to somehow provide “ST NEWS” with a user interface like “F.A.S.T.E.R.” Mine was slower, but it worked.

As the years progressed, the “ST NEWS” user interface gradually became better. The odd issue even got sent abroad. I got enthusiastic reactions from ever more distant locations. Former C64 programmer Stefan “Digital Insanity” Posthuma joined the team and replaced slow program parts by faster ones. A network of contacts within the Atari demo scene improved editorial content (other authors wrote about really cool stuff) and got each issue to have a cool piece of music (Jochen “Mad Max” Hippel provided cutting-edge conversions of C64 tunes). Stefan built in ever more elaborate scrolling message screens. The synergy between him and me – fueled by a shared love of metal and synthesizer music, action movies and certain alcoholic beverages – led to a barrage of extended review introduction stories, real-time articles covering more or less interesting events, and basically anything and everything we deemed fit to include. We were particularly proud of the issue released late summer 1989 when Stefan and me had spent two weeks in the United Kingdom to visit key people and personal heroes in the world of ST gaming during the “LateST NEWS Quest”. From 1988 to about 1992, “ST NEWS” went from strength to strength. After that, issues occurred rather less frequently until it ended summer 1996.

To some readers, “ST NEWS” was probably an idiosyncratically idiotic hodge-podge. To (hopefully) many it was just weird but nonetheless interesting. “ST NEWS” got me my first job, and nudged a certain Lost Boy of London on the fast track to international gaming stardom. It was a most interesting and dynamic window of time to be active in.

Over the past half year, the ST NEWS site has been overhauled. Check it out to discover:

– All articles!
– All demos!
– All music!
– All scrollers
– All on-disk source/bonus materials
– All issues downloadable in optimised .ST images for your favourite emulator
– Vastly extended and improved 100+ picture & video gallery, newly scanned where possible
– Fully searchable
– Mobile device compatible
– Random article option
– All pages commentable
– Bonus complete Ultimate Virus Killer book

Thanks to Frederic “Dyno” Poeydomenge for endless work, help and patience, with additional awesomeness by Mellowman!

WWW.ST-NEWS.COM

 

Clockwork Angels

Music is probably the most illusive of the arts, especially from the listener’s perspective. Why do we like something, yet dislike something that to the casual ear sounds the same? There is something far more opaque than just taste at play here. Why otherwise would I like such vastly dissimilar acts as, say, Venom and Pan-Thy-Monium, Dimmu Borgir and Vangelis?

Yesterday, at Rush’s Ziggo Dome performance as part of their Clockwork Angels tour, I felt the answers to these questions flooding in. During some songs (“Subdivisions”, “Territories”, “Manhattan Project”)  I was transported to a more innocent and careless time, during another (“Bravado”) to a time in my life that was both exciting and scary and cool. Music transports you back to a time, a place, a mood of yesteryear. And when they played tracks off their latest album, I felt new memories being shaped almost palpably.

Although I never regarded Rush as my number one band, I came to realise they have been the soundtrack of my adolescent and adult life. Now in the forefront and then almost faded into the background, Rush were always there. Like an old friend that you might not see for years but instantly feel comfortable with whenever you meet. Maybe it’s their development through the years, maybe the way they piece together their chord progressions, maybe it’s knowing Neil Peart has been through so much hardship, but quite certainly it’s the fact that these guys are talented and their combined efforts have made music that stands the test of time like, well, rock.

Yesterday’s show was a sonically excellent, visually overwhelming experience that I somehow intimately shared with thousands of like-minded total strangers. We jumped shoulder to shoulder to “YYZ” and “2112”, pumping our fists in unison, cried lyrics and wanted more until our voices had gone hoarse. Magically, we played that most chimerical of instruments, the air-guitar-drum-bass, accompanied by one of the very best rock bands on the planet. We witnessed them blasting through tracks old and new (9 songs off “Clockwork Angels” alone), part of a harmony that felt quite profound.

When the “2112: Grand Finale” notes had died out after over two and a half hours of incredible, I think everybody was left somehow feeling bereft and filled with sweet sorrow, until next time we meet.

Now I am hoping there’ll be a DVD release of this tour.

Karsmakers.nl!

In December 1999 and January 2000 I registered a couple of “karsmakers” domains: .com, .net and .org. In October 2001 I added the .info one. As I am Dutch, however, I was always keen on getting my own country’s Top Level Domain, the .nl version. Unfortunately this was owned by a distant uncle of mine, Theo Karsmakers, who ran a truck bodywork company. In early 2012 that company went into receivership and I noticed the domain languishing unused. After a bit of coaxing I convinced him he should allow me to do something with it, and the ownership transfer was rounded off last Saturday.

This morning I spent migrating the site, setting up redirects for the previous ‘portal’ karsmakers.net site, and lastly migrating the site’s WordPress database. That seems to have worked out fine so now my chauvinist side will be given free reign.

Which isn’t to say I liked the “Koningslied” 🙂

In case you’re a Karsmakers somewhere and you’d like a forwarding email I can set one up for you, on any combination of the karsmakers .com, .net, .org, .info, .uk, .eu, .world or .nl TLDs. That also goes for various kars(e)maker(s).nl/.com domains that end up here. As this will only be an email forwarding thing (kindof like a Windows desktop Shortcut to something), your mail will still be as private as it was before, and won’t be stored anywhere other than where you have it stored now..

Possibly some of the most important bits you will ever see in your life. Really.

It always astounds me that a lot of people believe things that are so patently and obviously false. I figured I’d put together a little list of (mostly Youtube) videos that every single person on earth ought to see. Not long ones, but they’re important.

If you have a choice between saving the lives of your children or other people you love, and watching these videos…choose the videos. Well, perhaps not that drastic, but these videos will change, no, enrich your life.

http://www.upworthy.com/for-when-your-friends-are-in-denial-and-youre-concerned-about-their-sanity?c=bl3 (on climate change and the greenhouse effect)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ2LehsA1dk (why relgion is Evil)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk6ILZAaAMI (about god)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSxgnu3Hww8 (about creationism vs evolution)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljRKhZ81aqY (about jesus)
http://fora.tv/2010/11/10/Sam_Harris_Can_Science_Determine_Human_Values (about religion and morality – quite long, but profoundly interesting)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJmRbSX8Rqo#! (about skepticism and how to spot Baloney)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0Z7KeNCi7g (about homeopathy and psychics)

And another really cool link…

http://www.phrenopolis.com/perspective/solarsystem/ (shows you just how enormous the solar system is)