Tuesday Wisdom

In a world filled with hate and despair, we must have hope and faith. Fight for unity and our pride. Remain strong and never settle. When someone tells you to step down, STAND UP – Alexander Lindo

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A Take on Cheap Bluetooth Headphones

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Bluetooth headphones are the future of portable audio and one would be foolish to ignore their presence considering the wealth of high quality options available. The MPOW 059 Over-Ear bluetooth headphones are currently the best-seller on Amazon in their respective category and so I decided to give them a try. Here’s what happened…

Now, as a certified audio professional who mainly listens to and composes rock music, I can safely say that at this price point you are not going to get Sennheiser, Bose or Beats audio quality out-of-the-box (quite the opposite in fact). However, for the price these are useable headphones that are more than capable of providing decent audio quality (once the right adjustments are made). They require a bit of frequency gain reduction between 60-250Hz to reduce boom and a boost at around 16kHz to establish clarity. Once you’ve done that you’ll have a more balanced sound from these headphones.

The bluetooth volume controls, and battery status bar indicators of these headphones are natively supported on Android (but not on macOS.) In other words when you adjust the volume on your headphones it will directly adjust the volume control on your Android device. On the Mac the headphone’s volume is independent of macOS. Play/Pause and Skip buttons work natively on both platforms.

There are no latency issues when watching video. Lips move in sync with audio.

The MPOW 059 supports the SBC audio codec exclusively, which means no AAC or AptX is present. It would have been great to see support for AAC seeing as it is a superior codec to SBC but nonetheless sound quality is reasonable.

macOS users will need to download the “Hardware IO Tools for Xcode” from Apple’s developer page in order to get the “Bluetooth Explorer” application. This application will allow you to increase the bitpool value from its default value of 40 to 53. This will dramatically improve the audio quality of these headphones and any other bluetooth headphones that rely solely on the SBC codec. For those who want specifics: a bit pool value of 53 is equal to a bitrate of 325 kbps. SBC at 325 kbps is the equivalent of MP3 at 256 kbps. When the you’ve downloaded “Hardware IO Tools for Xcode” and have opened the Bluetooth Explorer app you will see the app’s name in your menubar. Go to “Tools > Audio Options” or “Command + Shift + A”. This will bring up the window for you to edit the SBC audio settings. Under “SBC Codec Options” Set all bitpool values to 53 and close the window. This will ensure that the audio quality remains optimal. Close the window and re-connect your Bluetooth headphones.

Build quality seems reasonable, hinges are reinforced with metal. Only time will demonstrate the endurance of these headphones but superficially speaking the headphones appear to be quite sturdy. The ear-cups and headband are made of a soft synthetic leather which provides initial comfort but they are a bit shallow in depth and can place a bit of pressure on the ears when the headset is worn for an extended period of time. Battery life is reasonable. Accessories include a micro-usb cable for charging and a 3.5 mm audio cable which is handy for more critical listening and for events in which the battery has lost its charge. The velvet-like pouch is a great inclusion and provides protection against dust and scratches. These headphones are definitely worth the price and I doubt you’ll find better at this price point.

Android: What to Look for When Purchasing an Android Device

 

AL And P

As audio professionals we are always looking for new ways to enhance our audio lives an example of this is latest technology to accompany us while on-the-go. That may come in the form of the latest media capable smartphone. Most audio and video professionals opt for a device running iOS as (out-of-the-box) it is optimized for audio and video production. Some folks are fans of Android and hence the reason for this article.

iOS and Android are currently the most popular mobile operating systems on the market. Both iOS and Android are based on the rock solid foundation of Unix/Linux powering many devices from smartphones to tablets. iOS gets updates directly from Apple when they come out thus enabling the majority of iOS devices to remain secure. Apple does not allow third parties to have any control over its platform, which is excellent for both Apple and the consumer. This is not the case with most Android devices.

With Android, manufacturers are the gatekeeper for their respective devices. The current hierarchy is: Google -> Smartphone Manufacturer -> Customer.

If you bought your phone from a carrier, such as T-Mobile, AT&T etc the hierarchy is: Google -> Smartphone Manufacturer -> Carrier -> Customer.

In other words, when Google has released a security patch for their Android operating system, the manufacturer then decides whether or not their respective devices will receive the update. This is a serious problem as it means that many devices will be left venerable to hacks and exploits.

To add to this problem many manufacturers/carriers still produce and sell low-cost Android devices running out-dated software (as old as Android 4.2.2 JellyBean) and with no chance of upgrading. It is this phenomenon that has led the term known as Android fragmentation.

Today, I show you how to have your cake and eat it. Today, I’ll show you what to look for and what to buy.

Why You Should be Concerned About Security

Outdated devices provide a nest for hackers to thrive. Compromised apparatus enable them to gain full control. Once the device has been compromised hackers will be able to read your SMS messages, access, send and receive emails on your behalf from your device among other things. Hackers can activate your device’s camera and microphone thus enabling them to view or listen in on conversations/sessions taking place while in use or at that location. Stored financial information can be obtained and used for malicious purposes. It is therefore critical to maintain a secure and up-to-date device. Do Not Compromise!

What to Look For

  1. Only purchase devices running the latest version of Android (Android 7 Nougat at the time of writing)
  2. Only purchase devices from manufacturers with a reputation for updating their respective devices on time.
  3. Opt to purchase devices running Pure Android. You will thank me. Many manufacturers believe they are doing their brand justice by customizing every last detail of the OS and installing irremovable software that provides duplicate functionality of the features already present in Android but the truth is this just causes more bugs, more bloat, weaker performance and an overall inconsistent experience. I’m not asking, It is a fact! Over-customization also makes it a lot more difficult for the manufacturer to release device updates on time as new updates released by Google have to be tested against their customizations before they are pushed to their devices.
  4. Look for devices based on Qualcomm processors. They are currently the most compatible, secure, and stable processors on the market for use with Android devices. In addition when you device becomes obsolete you will have a better chance of installing a third party ROM such as Lineage OS to keep your device up-to-date.
  5. The device should have at least 2 GB of RAM and 16GB storage space.
  6. Purchase your devices online, carrier unlocked and directly from the manufacturer.

What to Buy

The Pixel line replaces the Nexus line as a premium set of devices made by Google running Pure Android. Pixel devices are made by Google so their is no 3rd wheel in the picture. Updates from Google will always come to these devices first. The Pixel line promises to provide “the best Android has to offer”.

* The Honor 5x was and still is one of the best Android phones made at any budget. It has a great sounding audio chip onboard, looks beautiful, has a premium aluminum build and has solid specs. It is based on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor and can be flashed to run the latest version of LineageOS. In order to install LineageOS you will need to unlock the boot loader which will require an understanding of ADB/Fastboot and third party software (to obtain the boot loader code). Once that is done you will have a usable device running the latest version of Pure Android.

If you stick to the devices on this list you should have no problems in the security and stability department. You will have an Android phone as Google intended. Clean, pure and free from all the junk that manufacturers and carriers love to put on their devices.

– Alexander Lindo