Terry White Recommends…

I have fun reviewing technology and gadgets. Now that I’ve been running my blog for a few years, it occurs to me that new readers may not have seen some of my earlier posts. I also get asked by friends and relatives all the time to recommend my top choice in any given category. I do this formally once a year in my Holiday Gadget Gift Guide, but that doesn’t really help you much when you want recommendations throughout the rest of the year. So I’ve put together my own Terry White Recommends aStore. I will constantly update this site with any new recommendations that I have. These are products that I either have first hand knowledge of or use on a very regular basis. I have no paid sponsors, so these are products that I simply feel are great!

Headphones/Earbuds in the “OMG!, they cost how much?” category

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been evaluating and re-evaluating the various headphone/earbud choices out there. I started with the new Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic. Then I took it up a notch by going to the V-Moda Vibe Duos vs. the Bose In-Ear Headphones. Now it’s time to move up to the next level that I affectionately call the “OMG!, they cost how much?” category. I have 3 sets of headphones in this category.

 

Let’s start with the Bang & Olufsen A8s

These have been a long time favorite of mine because of the their design. They are clearly the most adjustable and adaptable headphones I’ve ever tried. The over the ear arm really makes for a secure fit when you’re going to be active like jogging or working out. So these were the ones that were always in my gym bag. Although they sound great, the one problem with these is that the actual piece that goes in your ear is “one size fits all” and I’m here to tell you that one size definitely doesn’t fit all. These are slightly to big to fit down in my ear canal properly. I can get them in, but after about an hour my ears begin to hurt and I end up having to take them out. If they were to redesign the actual ear piece with different sized gels found in most modern day headphones, I would be completely sold and would look no further.

Bang & Olufsen prides themselves on selling high-end gear, but at out of this world prices. The average consumer would walk in their store, look around, see the prices and walk right back out. Although they sell uniquely styled gear, I really question if their stuff is worth the price? To date I’ve only experienced their headphones. 

The Bang & Olufsen A8’s go for $160 on their site. The interesting thing was that I couldn’t really find them by just browsing their site, I had to actually refer to an old link. Perhaps they are either phasing these out or coming out with something new. What’s funny is I used to think $160 was outrageous until I started looking at the next few options below 🙂

 

Moving on up to the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Headphones

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If you do any frequent air travel, I dare say you’ll see more Bose Headphones than any other brand. Bose Quiet Comfort Noise Cancelling Headphones are legendary amongst frequent travelers. It’s almost like a status symbol. I have tried all 3 models, the original QC’s, the QC2 and even the new smaller QC3’s. As a glasses wearer, the QC3‘s were the worst. These are “on-ear” headphones and I just couldn’t take the pressure against my ears pushing against my glasses. Also Bose went from a standard AAA battery that you could pick up in any airport, to a proprietary rechargeable battery. This decision was clearly made by someone who doesn’t actually travel on a regular basis. If the battery dies, you’re done. Not only does the battery power the noise cancelling feature, but it also is what allows sound to come through from your device. So dead battery means no sound whatsoever. I gave up on these and went back to the QC2’s. The Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Headphones offer the best blend in sound, comfort and noise cancelling that I’ve tried to date. There is one problem though and it’s their size. I find myself leaving these behind at home more and more these days because I just simply don’t have room for them in my bag anymore. When I have the room, hands down these are my favorites for the plane. 

Bose sells the Quiet Comfort 2 Headphones for $299 via their site. 

 

Next up are the Shure SE420 Earphones

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I’ve always looked at the Shure earphones as “there’s no freakin’ way I’m paying that much for some earbuds!” Their earphones start at $120 and go up to $499! Yes $499, more than you spent for iPod or other device that you’re going to plug them into. Had I not gotten a pair of their SE420’s ($399) as a gift, I probably would have never tried these. I used them on my last flight home from San Francisco. Where Shure is different from all the other ones I’ve tried and reviewed to date is that they are “noise isolating” instead of noise cancelling. They pay special attention to the way they fit down in your ear to block out all other sound. I gotta admit that these are amazing. The sound was fantastic and I couldn’t hear the screaming baby 3 rows back (no I’m not against babies). What does $399 get you. First off you get a very well designed set of headphones with a very nice hard carrying case. You get a 3′ detachable audio cable, airline adapter for those international flight entertainment systems, and a ton of different sleeves for just about any ear/ear size. If you’re concerned about comfort, they have gone out of their way to provide a variety of different sleeves to fit every ear. I swapped a couple of different sets until I found the ones that fit me best. The SE420’s feature Dual TruAcoustic MicroSpeakers, they use a dedicated tweeter and woofer to provide a detailed sound stage. Lows, mids, and highs are distinct and defined – for accurate reproduction of all the details of your music. Clearly Shure has put a lot not only into making these comfortable, but more importantly sound! Also because of their very compact size, they are much more likely to be in my travel bag than the Bose QC2’s.

Now the big question: are they worth $400 to me? Wow, I’m gonna still have to say no. I say no not because Shure didn’t build a phenomenal product that sounds great and fits great. I say no because I just personally think that $400 is too much to spend on earphones. I’m just not an audiophile. If you are looking for the perfect blend of size, sound and fit, these are the ones. If $400 makes you gag, you might want to investigate their other, less expensive models. I’m absolutely jazzed about owning these and they were the perfect gift because I would have never bought them for myself.

The Shure SE420 Headphones go for $399 from their site. Amazon has them for a lot less!

EOS Multi-room wireless iPod Speaker System

 

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I had a very specific need to be able to hear the music coming from my iPod in 3 rooms at my photography studio. So I set out to find the best solution without spending a fortune. At home my solution is to use the AirTunes technology built-in to the AirPort Express and Apple TV units. However, that solution was overkill for my studio and more than I wanted to spend there. Plus AirTunes is for your computer/Apple TV and not your iPod. 

 

A quick Google search lead me to EOS

 

The EOS system was EXACTLY what I was looking for! EOS is a multi-room wireless speaker system for your iPod. The base unit resembles all the other iPod speaker systems out there where the iPod docks in the middle and you have stereo speakers on the sides. However, the EOS base unit has a built-in antenna that can broadcast the music wirelessly to up to 4 additional stereo speakers (5 rooms total). The base unit ships with one wireless stereo speaker. So out of the box you get a two room system. I wanted three rooms, so I ordered one additional speaker. The system doesn’t rely on wi-fi or any other network. It has it’s on 2.4GHz wireless setup. EOS advertises a range of up to 150′ feet. Think of it as a cordless phone like speaker system. So I’m sure the 150′ is under best case scenarios. Real world range is probably less.

 

How well does it work?

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The EOS system works exactly as advertised! Once you plug in the base unit all you have to do is take the additional speakers to your other rooms, plug them in and turn them on. The first speaker I turned on wasn’t detected automatically. I returned to the base and pressed the scan button and it detected it and paired to it right away. The second speaker paired automatically the minute I turned it on. The next thing of course was to dock the iPod and try it out. I docked my 3rd generation iPod nano, selected a playlist and started playing a song. The music was crystal clear. There was no distinction (to my ears) from the music coming out of the base to the music coming out of the wireless speakers. No static, no drop outs, no lag, no distortion!

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The power adapter is integrated into the back of the remote speakers so that they can actually hang right from the wall outlet OR you can separate the adapter and plug it in while the speaker is on a shelf.

 

The EOS system touts what they call SRS WOW!™ digital sound enhancement technology, which aims to more bass and a 3D surround sound like atmosphere. In all honesty I can’t really tell that this is making all that much of a difference and since there is no way to turn it off I can’t really tell if it makes a difference or not. The system I’m replacing with this was the original Bose SoundDock which sounded really good to begin with. The EOS ships with an IR remote to adjust the sound volume, pause, advance, etc. the tracks. The EOS comes in your choice of Black or White and also ships with various iPod universal dock adapters for the older iPods.

It’s also not just for iPods! Although there is a built-in iPod dock, there is also an auxiliary line-in port on the back of the base unit. So you could plug in just about any audio source including your computer. This would also help iPod shuffle users. They even supply the cable you’d need to plug in another audio device.

 

The Bottom Line

If you need to hear your iPod in multiple rooms in your home, office, etc. then it’s hard to go wrong with the EOS system. While I was prepared to pay their retail price, I was very happy to see that they offered refurb’d units at much lower prices. I got the base unit (which includes one extra speaker) and a second speaker (3 rooms in total) for only $218 (free ground shipping). That’s less than cost of a new base unit alone (at their retail price of $229). I do have a couple of issues with it though. The first one is that it’s not able to power the latest iPods/iPhones. If you have a 4th generation iPod nano, 2nd generation iPod touch or iPhone 3g, then you’ll see a message that “charging is not supported by this accessory.” You can solve this with the addition of the Scosche passPORT Dock. Hopefully, they’ll come out with a newer model that provides power over the proper pin in the dock connector for the newer iPods. The other issue I have is that while the additional speakers have an on/off/volume knob, I don’t see a way to turn OFF the base. Granted I never turned off my Bose SoundDock either, but the EOS base has blue LED lights on it that stay lit all the time and I don’t want others trying to figure out how to turn it off. So I just unplugged the power when I was ready to leave. I thought it was odd that the wireless speakers had the ability to be turned off, but not the base. To learn more or place an order, check out their site.

Upgrade Your Garage Door Opener

How big is your garage door opener?

If you’re using the garage door opener that came with your unit, chances are it’s too big! Granted they have come down in size and the average is probably the size of a deck of cards. However, you can actually have one that is much much smaller! Luckily my cars have integrated openers built-in, however my daughter’s car does not. So rather than give her the original remote that came with the garage, I decided to find her a smaller one and one that could actually go on her keychain. 

 

My search lead me to this Liftmaster 970LM. Now of course I had to find one that was compatible with my existing system and as you would expect there is an online store called Click Away Remotes that sells all kinds of replacement remotes. I got mine through Amazon (which shipped from Click Away Remotes) at a lower price than buying direct. The remote works great and goes right on your keychain. This also provides an extra layer of security because you’re not leaving your remote in your car to be a temptation to thieves. If you’re currently leaving your remote in your car, you might want to reconsider that. In these tough times home invasions are on the rise. If a thief breaks into your car and figures out where you live, the remote would allow them easy access to your house (or at least the valuables in your garage). 

Setup was simple. I trained it using the original remote in less than 5 minutes. Great price, great solution!

Happy Thanksgiving & Black Friday ’08

With all that’s going on in the world, I’m very happy with my life. I want to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Black Friday 2008

Well it’s here again! The day that retailers compete for your business. I do my best to avoid this madness at all costs. Last year was the first year that I went out shopping on Black Friday in YEARS! I just could resist the deals on GPS units at Staples. However, this year there is nothing tempting me. Nothing at all. So I plan to sleep in. I do know that many of you like deals and like gadgets (after all, that’s probably why you’re reading this right?). Before we get to the deals you might want some recommendations on cool stuff to bet. So check out my Holiday Gadget Gift Guide and my recent appearance on The MacJury. Now let’s get to the deals. Here are a few random Black Friday deals/sites you should check out:

First of all here’s a site that does a pretty good job of accumulating many of the Black Friday deals in one spot. It’s called Black Friday Gotta Deal.

The next one is Amazon.com. Since I HATE standing in lines, nothing pleases me more than to get good deals from the comfort of my chair. Check out Amazon’s Black Friday Deals.

Of course Apple products are always hot items on anyone’s list. So check out Apple’s Black Friday deals too.

Here are some deals at one of my favorite local computers/electronics stores – Micro Center.

I’m a Nikon shooter so I received a mailer with Nikon’s Black Friday Deals.

If you’re a video enthusiast then you probably want to check out The Video Guys.

 

Lastly, be sure to check out the Consumer Reports Electronics & Computers Gift Guide.

 

Enjoy!

How do you recycle your old gear?

Usually when I upgrade to a new piece of gear, there is a family member, friend or eBay customer that benefits from my old gear. However, sometimes I hold on to stuff so long that it’s just not really worth the effort of trying to sell or pass down. I’ve been guilty in the past of just tossing old outdated electronics in the trash. However, this year I wanted to start doing the right thing by recycling my ancient stuff. Luckily someone posted a message on my user group’s bulletin board about a “recycling event” nearby where you could just drive up with all your unwanted gear and they would take it off your hands. Although I had a million things going on that weekend, I said to myself “when am I going to get another chance like this to dump all this stuff that’s just taking up space?” So I loaded up the back of the SUV and headed over to the lot on a rainy Saturday morning. 

There was a semi truck and a team of people unloading people’s cars. The whole process was painless! I left with a warm fuzzy green feeling about the whole thing and vowed never to just toss electronics again. From here on out I would dispose of my gear properly. If you’re looking for your local electronics recycling place, here’s a good site to start with.

 

The scary truth about the electronics and computers we discard

In a perfect world our old gear is recycled responsibly. However, where there is a buck to be made, there will be corruption and laws broken. Check out this scary video about the reality of the recycling underworld:



Also check out this Popular Mechanics article: Recycling Myths Debunked – Interest Recycling Facts.