In search for the perfect headphone – noise canceling and wireless

I do a fair bit of travelling. I’d guess at about 80-100 days per year are spent in some mode of transportation. I don’t commute since I do freelance work, though.

To allow a bit more concentration on journeys I started looking for a wireless (read Bluetooth) and noise cancelling headphone.

The journey starts with AKGs N60 NC wireless.

I got those as refurbished from Harman on EBay for 180€ instead of 280€ so this was a big plus.

Straight out of the box, I liked the case, and the extremely compact size these could be folded to.

I then switched them on, and down-pressed the on-off switch.

Pairing with my iPhone 6s was a breeeze, just worked straight away.

Noise Cancelling is pretty good. I tested them with some white noise, and some sine sweeps. There seems to be a hole in the NC around 3-5kHz. It still atenuates, but not as much as in the other frequencies. Probably on purpose to allow warnings and shouts to pass.

I’d guess the NC does about 30dB of reduction. It really works quite well without giving you a sucked in and hollow feeling on your ears.

The comfort of these headphones is good, but not great. Its winter here but still I can feel my ears sweating below the leather. They’re pretty light and don’t clasp you head, but I wouldn’t want to run with those on. I guess they’d fall of.

Mechanics seem okay too. Quite well built. Not on paar with Beoplays or my trusted NADs, but good. Will hold up for a few years I guess.

Now, the sound: Well, the sound is amazing. Even on Bluetooth, which is not the iPhones forte. Just very well rounded. Beautiful voices, no artifacts from NC. Amazing really. A joy to listen to.

Bass is just right. Good fundament, not overwhelming or inflated.

This really is a terrific headphone.

Good news: My room-mate ordered the Sony MDR1000XM2, the Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ear BT and the B&W PX… So soon we’ll know much better which is the ultimate!



Bitcoin hard fork security – thoughts about

Bitcoin Gold (BTG) hard forked the Bitcoin blockchain at block #491407 to create an alternate chain, where miners can use GPUs instead of single-purpose ASICs for mining. BTG also introduced some improvements like bigger blocksize and shorter time between blocks for higher transaction bandwidth.

While the whole motivation behind BTG seems to be profit, especially for the developers, who have been widely and loudly criticized for that, I personally don’t think this was necessarily a bad move. In the end every holder of Bitcoin got the same amount of BTG. So, theoretically, a lot of value can be created here.

However, through the lens of security, the picture is very different.

For those not familiar with the matter lats recap what hard fork means:

  1. every transaction up to block #491497 is copied, meaning:
  2. every Bitcoin address at that point is also BTG address
  3. every private key is the same
  4. every address has the same value (numerically)

This means, that if you want to spend your BTG you can use the same password, or private key, that you use to spend Bitcoins.

You probably know what’s coming:

It means that if someone would program a very comfortable wallet that phished your private key, he could instantly access your Bitcoins as well, since both private keys are necessarily the same. (Hard fork). That’s a huge security risk!

what can you do:

  1. Wait! Wait till a trusted BTG wallet emerges, then use it.
  2. If you cannot wait, but want to get into the possible fire sale of BTG now, transfer your Bitcoins to a new address with a new private key before accessing your BTG

I know that transfering your Bitcoin might be hard. They might be on a paper wallet, or on a wallet encrypted somewhere.

I’m also not saying that BTG’s wallet is a huge phishing scam. Actually I believe they did all they could to make that secure.

Still there is an inherent security risk here. And, at that, one that affects every single Bitcoin address out there.



Veganism – thoughts about

Having lived an almost vegan lifestyle for close to 3 years offered me a position to at least talk about it.

While the actual claims about the benefits of Veganism are at least questioned, see here, this is not what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is what happens when a trend like Veganism, with its health claims, gets picked up by Big Food.

You had a company that produced cheap cookies for instance. Because of their price point they couldn’t afford real butter, so resorted to using margarine or hydrogenated palm oil.

While even the most optimistic product manager saw that as a clear flaw, suddenly it became an asset. A big green V on the packaging, and voila, your foremost cheapie cookie is no a truly vegan fest.

It’s astounding how much hyper-processed, cheaply produced food get’s rebranded as Vegan today, in the hope to cash in on the health claims. The vegan community is playing accomplice in return of mass-promotion for their agenda. This needs to stop. Vegans, you’re not doing yourself or your lifestyle any favor here. Step up. Expose. And most important of all: don’t buy that junk.


representative Democracy – misgivings about

I loathe our current governments. There, I said it!

They seem slow, tepid even. Unable to act. Unable to cast vision or execute on their plans. Forever gridlocked in pointless debates that only seem to revolve around topics that Facebook just brought up.

And I feel: they’re antiquated.

chainbreakWe needed representatives when it took a four day journey with a very fast horse to travel between cities. We needed that because communication took so long, that decision-making was impossible otherwise.

That’s over now!

What we need now is a nimble, agile (ah.. buzzwords!) government. That allows Maximum participation by it’s subjects. That’s truly by the People, for the People and through the People. And it’s absolutely within reach.

Imagine: a reddit-like system of policy submission. Everybody can submit a proposal, promote it, and the proposals that get the most upvotes get voted on. Then the new government Software, let’s say iGovern(TM) publishes a tender for a policiy draft, and citizens select a law firm to generate the actual policy.

This can be done with scope relevance so that regional issues are handled only by people in the Region.

The main advantages here are: speed, direct citizen involvement and transparency.

No more fat cats that get elected for 5 years and then can do pretty much what they want with near impunity. Experts get employed by citizens for a single project, with permanent reporting and evaluation.

No more guessing about what your government does with your tax dollar, you voted on every major project.

We would save a ton of money, be directly involved in every aspect of steering the nation, and be pretty savvy about that quick.

Let’s start digging a grave for the old boys network that is todays ruling class. Let’s start demanding some real change. Let’s start demanding direct control. After all, who’s footing the bill?

Let’s start! Now!


spotify revenues, ideas about

There has bspotify-genericeen a lot of press about Spotify lately. More specifically about what Spotify pays to artists (or doesn’t). Taylor Swift pulled her album from the music service and some others preceded her or followed suit. I often hear from musician friends of mine, that they receive mere cents for a couple of thousand plays. And if that was their sole revenue, they would have to quit making music professionally.

Now, I compared Spotify to what artists receive in royalties when played on terrestrial radio, and that compares quite favorably. Radio stations royalty payouts are quite complicated, and depend on a lot of factors. But divided by number of listeners the revenue for the artist per track, of she is also the composer or text author is less than a thousandth of a cent.

When you feel that Spotify competes with album sales, their payout seems frivolous.

So what is Spotify? Does it sell music? Or is it a radio station of sorts. The answer is: Neither! It’s something new. Spotify customers often play specific tracks or specific artists. This is an important distinction to a traditional radio station, because people discover less music on Spotify compared to listening consciously to a good radio station.

“But nobody consciously listens to radio”, I hear you say. Hot adult contemporary and other formats have made pretty sure about that. So maybe Spotify is better, in that it really helps people discover new music? Could be!

It certainly doesn’t sell music. Even if you use the offline feature music gets stored in a container, and the minute you stop subscribing, you lose access to the music that is stored on your computer!

So how much should artist get paid for a service like that?

One way to calculate that would be:

  • Take average album price (say 15€)
  • Divide by number of tracks (let’s say 15)
  • Divide by times listened to a song on average

The last point is tricky. How many times does the average consumer listen to the average track on the average CD? Certainly, a 14 year old, infatuated with her new boy superstar will listen to his hit a couple of thousand times. While lesser, so called “album tracks”, get probably skipped after 10 secs for 3-4 times.

But let’s develop 3 scenarios:

  1. afficionado = 200 listens per track
  2. regular guy = 70 listens per track
  3. indifferent = 10 listens per track

So here would be our payouts:

  1. 0,5 cent per play
  2. 1,4 cent per play
  3. 10 cent per play

Here is what spotify does pay: Between 0.6 and $0.84 cents per play. (link here, skip to: “Wait I thought…”) I’d say we’re pretty much in the ballpark for the afficionado scenario, which in my view models the listening behaviour for the average spotify user (young) pretty well.

So do artists make less money then when selling albums? Yes! Because with an album you sell a whole block of tracks in one transaction, and you get all the plays paid up front.

In my opinion artists should stop making albums. That’s just a thing of the past, when physical mediums necessitated this format. With the exception of very few artists, mostly an album is just a bunch of tracks nowadays. Producing only those that an artists finds really promising would reduce his production cost (although not in a linear fashion. producing one track doesn’t cost a fifteenth of an album). At the same time this allows artists to fully concentrate on their strongest tracks. But that is a different topic for a different post.

For now, I’m pretty surprised that Spotify seems to pay as much as I thought made sense it should.


mixing basics, collection of

mixingI’ve been mixing music, film and shows for 14 odd years now, and learned a lot during this time. Recently I’ve been thinking about the basics of mixing. The “how” to mix, and I want to share what I found with you here on my blog.

The most important aspect of mixing is setting levels. For me this is where good can start and end. Have your levels wrong? Your mix will suck, no matter how great the individual sounds are, no matter how much time you spent agonizing over the low end content of your Kick.

So how do you set levels? This was something that vexed me. Nobody seemed to be able to give an answer.

Some engineers pushed the faders up very slowly, 1db more, listen, 1db more, listen. Others threw the faders up, wiggled a bit, and tore them back down if they didn’t like what they heard.

I think the slow approach is great for getting a feel of how the mix changes with a given signal (especially lead vocals). The second approach is very instinctual and makes for bold mixes. Good.

But what do you listen to, when listening while setting levels?

And here is where I found a gem: I used to listen to the signal on the fader I was pushing. “Where’s the bass at, can I hear it, does it sound good?” Then I switched, and that changed the mixes for the better.

When pushing up a fader, I listen to the rest of the mix, most importantly to a signal that gets directly affected by the one I’m pushing.

Let’s say I’m adjusting Bass level. Then I would listen to the Kick, and the Lead Vocals. Is there a level where the Kick sounds better because of the Bass? Usually yes! Is there a level where the whole mix sounds louder or softer? Yes, again!

Now, let’s say I bring up the Guitars. When does the Vocal suffer? I go slightly below that. Now those guitars might sound a bit tame, if it’s a rock song. Then I reach for EQ, and do the same:

I scoop out some mids, let’s say I start at 1,5 kHz. And then I move the frequency, while listening to the Lead Vocal. Is there a frequency where the Lead pops out better? Usually, yes, again! (Warning for plug in users: don’t look at the screen, look away, just listen, you’ll be surprised!)

Great! I push the guitars up, now that I have more space.

Now, let’s say, I have a synth layer that I want to use to create space. At what level does the mix sound most spacious? Can I even hear the synth directly? Probably not!

This brings up another important truth about mixing (and life, hehe): Things come in opposites. For some things to be loud, others have to be soft. A phat mix usally has just one or two sparse signals that have bass; the mix is still pretty flat, frequency wise. The human ear adapts very quickly and adjusts frequency content to “normal”, so if every second signal has a lot of bass, the mix will actually sound flat, muddy, and not phat at all.

So, to sum things up: When mixing, listen to what you’re NOT doing at the moment. Nobody is ever going to hear anything in Solo out there. And everything affects everything else. So account for that.

Comments more than welcome.


music marketing – best practices of

Remember a time, in a galaxy, not far away, when artists werMusic Doodlee given record contracts, that made them rich and famous, simultaneously with record companies, who had their longevity and best interest at heart?

Well, those times are gone! We live in a very different world now, that requires new modes of thinking about music, and new ways of approaching fans.

1.) Forget the Album

Once spelled out, it’s obvious: Who needs a physical medium for digital informartion. Nobody! Maybe very high quality movies are still somewhat bothersome to download. But not really, as Amazon Prime and Netflix prove.

2.) Forget the Album

Why 12 songs? Why 50+ minutes? Why? If you have a story to tell, go ahead, record it. If it takes 12 songs and 55 minutes, perfect! But if you have 2 great songs and a fantastic interlude – put those out. Stop agonising about album length and sequencing. People play songs in the order they want, or in the order algorithms like Genius music decide.

3.) Split bills

So you want an album to sell at shows? Makes sense. Why not split it with your favourite musician? Half the costs, double the fans. And while you’re at it, plan a tour together. Half the work, double the fans.

4.) Split bills

Stop seeing music in isolation. It never was. In the 60ies and 70ies it was part of a global political movement. In the 80ies it was part of fashion. Connect with dancers, visual artists, or programmers and web or app artists to design spectacular and unprecedented (… wait for it … disruptive! there, I said it.) experiences for your, now joint, audiences. Getting out of the music box also helps keeping the paralysis by analysis action in check.

5.) Connect

You need more $FB friends, more YouTube clicks, more email adresses. So get out there. On your merch table have an iPad where people can stream your YouTube vids. And get as near to requiring them to become your $FBriends as possible, whenever somebody comes near your table. This is way out of the comfort zone, so you may want to hire somebody who is capable of doing this.

6.) Conclusion

These, for me, are some of the best practices I have seen in the last years. Do they guarantee near-instant rock-stardom? You bet they do! And when you get there, be kind, drop a VIP pass to one of your shows.

Also, if you think I could help you out with more details or info, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Is Google harming its search results with its online ad business model?

A few years ago, the internet was a lot simpler.

Information was to be found on websites, for the most part. Shure, Internetsome obscure ftp and telnet sites, some chat channels, and a lot of newsgroups.

Google just had to crawl usenet plus the http space, index all the information it found, and make sure users found what they wanted. Google did an amazing job here, and was rewarded by stellar growth, incredible user loyalty, and thanks to its superbly implemented way of auctioning off ad slots, a massive income stream.

Today, the internet is a lot more complicated. Information is often stored in Apps. Some of them are web apps, some aren’t. Some of the Apps’ content is searchable for Google, a lot isn’t.

And here is where it becomes difficult for Google: Why would a company make its App searchable, just so that Google could display more relevant search results, and as a return sell ads better.

Content providers not only get no share from ad sales, but actually have to pay, if they want an ad to link to their content.

Right now this paradigmt becomes questionable. Google’s search results are only as good as the amount of content they can access. Would you use a search engine that only had access to every second page?

Google has to start sharing some revenue with App devs if they want to have access to their content.

App developers do not rely on Google for the promotion of their apps. Here App stores have become the main channel. And this weakens Googles biggest strength as a gateway to traffic and users.

This becomes increasingly pressing as the Internet transforms from a very homogenous WWW to a polymorphic interconnection of Apps, Channels, Websites and streams of data.

Maybe its time for a new competitor in the search field. A disruption, to further abuse this horribly strained word. A company that builds its paradigms in the present form of the internet, Maybe even a collective effort. The ‘Net would be better of for it.

tech Uncategorized

Limits of AI – inklings of

I adore Jeff Jonas work for IBM, and his take on Big Data. So from time to time I check his blog. I stumbled upon his update on the G2 sensemaking engine a while ago. As I reread it today a thought struck me: One of the limits to AI stems not from the algorithms deployed, or their processing power. But from their access to input, to data. From their lack of senses, if you will.

AIA human infant is born with all 5 senses wide open, and an infinte stream of information constantly available, or, more concise, unmutable. Human senses seem custom tailored to interface reality. Much has been written about the ability of the unconcious to parallel-process Megabits of information vs. the 7 or so bits the concious mind can access simultaneously.

Computers on the other hand have to rely on humans to feed them information. Now we have two problems at hand here:

1) Translational loss: As information is digitized, a lot of context gets lost and left out, equaling a substantial bandwidth reduction.

2) Selection bias: In decinding what to feed an algorithm, we choose what’s important for us, vs what would be optimal for AI performance. A nontrivial issue as algorithms scale in complexity.

This in turn severely limits an AIs ability to truly learn and scale. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on AI. But this clearly merits some consideration. If you have any input or information on how this is addressed please share.


Linking – a nice mnemonic trick

Have you ever been in a situation, where you had to make sure you remembered something? Like “take my passport with me when I leave my home”? Brain

Usually saying “Don’t forget your passport!” will not work or worse set you up for forgetting. What to do? Luckily I have a nice little procedure for you that works really, really well for me.

When I want to make sure I remember to do something, I mentally link it with an event that I am sure will happen. In our example that would be : “When picking up my bag to leave the house, I will think of my passport, and retrieve it”.

The trick here is to really picture the event, and your passport. The more vivid this picture or short film is, the more effective this procedure will be.

Linking stuff has long been a standard mnemonic trick to remember random items on list. And it works. Your brain is set up to walk along connections. So if you connect picking up my bag with thinking of your passport, your brain will bring up an image of your passport the moment you pick up your bag to leave the house.

Try this with small things, that don’t carry a lot of emotional relevance first, since you will be much more open to experimenting and finding your personal way to implement this much easier when not stressed and result-agnostic.