Category: Music

Speakers

Speakers

crappySpeakersOK, this may open a can of worms, as writing about speakers is akin to saying what the “best” programming language is, so I’d better be precise about what I’m writing about – it won’t be about:

  • The “best value” “cheap crap” speaker you can get for your Mac or PC
  • Nor will it be about anything resembling “home stereo speakers” (although you can use some of them)
  • And it certainly won’t be about “audiophile speakers” as they’re generally overpriced pretentious crap

BEH-K8What this post is about is a set of “Studio Monitors” which I bought for use with my various synthesisers and then discovered of course that they were also about what I was using with my Mac (or PC if you’re less fortunate ;)

If you read my post on Headphones, one if the key points I made was that selecting any “sonic translation device” depends on your hearing (unless you want to be able to impress a bunch of kids ;). You should buy something for the people who listen, so if that’s you, and your partner, and your kids – then they are the only people who’s opinion matters… Snooty guests who may come over for dinner don’t count (unless you’re amazingly shallow).

MacSpeakersRight! Having got all the qualification out of the way, I’ve managed to stumble my way in to what are probably the best value Monitor Speakers for <$500 (AU). How can I say that? It all starts with a guy called Keith R Klawitter who founded http://www.krksys.com/ that have made some amazing studio speakers and headphones (which are the ones I eventually chose in that previous post) but unfortunately (for KRK), Keith left them and became independent (and also happens to own all the patents on the speaker technology he developed). One of the things Keith did was a collaboration with Behringer to develop the NEKKST range of which my choice, the K8’s are part of it, having the following qualities:

  • Ultra-linear 150-Watt reference-class studio monitor
  • Designed by renowned acoustic icon Keith Klawitter, founder of KRK
  • Advanced Waveguide technology creates ultimate acoustic dispersion and extremely large “sweet zone”
  • True bi-amping mode with 2 separate amplifiers for ultimate sound reproduction
  • Ultra-high resolution, 1″ silk dome tweeter for ultimate sound reproduction

The astute will notice the 150 Watts which would probably deafen you if you turned them up full blast at a few feet from you (which they would be), but the whole point of this is that they’re “over spec’d” and that what I’m after is quality and one of the ways to get that is a top spec’d product which is being under utilised. This is certainly proven as the speakers are way better than my KRK headphones which are amazing!

But that’s not really the point for this post. The point is to choose a pair of speakers which are Rolls-Royce in quality for your Mac or PC on a comparatively “beer budget” and if that’s what you’re after, the K8’s are probably what you’re after. Furthermore, if you want some really good Bass response, then  you can always get a NEKKST K10, which although I’ve never heard them, I’m sure would vibrate your SOCKS OFF!

Having been in to electronics and audio since I was about 14, there’s a lot more I can write on this, and probably will, but to give you a hint – here’s a few things to consider:

  • The K8’s and a K10 could form an AWESOME budget stereo which would be beyond what most people have
  • If you’re connecting digital sources, then you have to have good Digital-To-Analogue converters (going beyond just connecting them into the 3.5″ jack on your Mac or PC) to get the best

So stay tuned, as I will write about both of these topics some time. Meanwhile, listen easily, with precision and power :)

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Headphones

LotsOfHeadphones.jpg

Its been a while, I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging, and have decided to get back in to it. One thing that’s been on my mind recently is Headphones, and I realise that it’s probably something most people don’t think about much – just go in to a store and buy some for however much money you want to spend, which will certainly work for under $100 (note: all prices are in Australian $).

Over $100 it gets tricky as you have brands like Apple Beats Headphones which are just over-priced crap (and they’re not the only ones). Luckily though, the sweet-spot for good headphones is around $1-200 with the next stop being $1k and over – you just have to know what you’re buying. If you’ve not been in a studio, or created a home studio, you may not of heard of most of the brands I’m going to mention, but all these brands are literally the ones used to produce the music we all listen to.

Roland-RH-5.jpgLet’s start on the “budget end” and for those I’d have to recommend the Roland RH-5s. Roland are probably best known for their instruments and studio equipment, but not so much their headphones. When I bought a pair of these a few years ago I did a lot of research and found them to be the best value for money “entry level headphones” (ie not crap). I think I payed around $100 at the time, but you can now get them for $75 which makes them incredible bargain. Their specifications are better than a lot of headphones which cost twice the price with a frequency response (ie the frequencies they will reproduce) of 10Hz to 25kHz.

The astute amongst you will say “Hang on, humans can only hear between 20Hz and 20kHz” and you’d be (pretty much) correct, but that would be with respect to a 20yo who had not been to any loud concerts (hearing loss in the young is horrendous, also because of in ear headphones). As you get older, that top frequency gets lower, so the average 50 year old tops out around 15kHz so an important thing is to only buy better headphones if you can actually hear the difference. Having said all that, there’s a lot more subtlety to response curves than just the frequencies, just as cameras are not all about megapixels.

KRK-KNS8400.jpg

Unfortunately, my Roland’s met an unfortunate end under someone’s foot (my fault, I’d left them on the floor!) which set me off on my quest for a new pair of headphones. Luckily, it was End of Financial Year here so there were a heap of sales. Looking at the place where I get most of my gear, https://djcity.com.au/, they had a great price on some KRK KHS8400s, reduced from $250 to $180 – done! How do these compare to RH-5s? They are significantly better:

  • The outer pads are larger and made of memory foam – I can tell these will be good for multi-hour sessions
  • Their frequency response is 5Hz – 23kHz, and you do notice the increased bass. Although 5Hz is below our threshold of 20Hz, our bodies can still sense this and all I can say is that the “bass is bassier”. Top end – superb! Can be almost a bit too sharp with some music (probably my only criticism) but I can easily correct for that with EQ.
  • The separation is phenomenal! Instruments are much more clearly placed in the stereo field. I don’t know how they do this, but definitely better than the RH-5’s – part of the art of any acoustic design.

These headphones are basically so good that I’d say even if you can’t get them on sale, they’re still a good buy at $250. It’s also worth noting that some reviewers have referred to the KRK’s as “the best headphones available for under $1,000”.

Sennheiser-HD800What if you want to spend over $1,000? To me, there’s only one brand in this category, and that’s Sennheiser. Call me a “Headphone Snob” (and I probably am, so it’s OK ;), but they are the ones who literally invented the open ear headphone and they are literally setting the standard. In fact, my first pair of headphones that I personally bought were Sennheisers and I kept buying them for a few decades, but they now seem to of become a “premium brand” and I think you can do much better than them in the low cost and mid range area. At the top end though, they still rule for me! At $2,000, the Sennheiser HD 800s pretty much top things out. I’ve never tried them, but could take an educated guess, based on the law of diminishing returns, that they’d only be 10-20% better than the KRKs I’m using at the moment.

One can go further though, and that’s in to the world of “high end audiophile headphones” – with these, we’re talking about cans which you use on your yacht whilst docked at Monaco during “the season”

Sennheiser HE1

This brings us in to the rarefied territory of the Sennheiser Orpheus HE-1s –  with a price of around $80,000… you know these will be no “ordinary headphones”. But are they any better than Sennheiser HD 800s?

Sennheiser HE1 open.jpgThe HE-1s are a follow up to their legendary HE-90s, which were quite revolutionary at the time, although not the first. The HE-1s  are certainly amazing, with a response from 8 Hz (note: my KRKs are lower at 5 ;) to more than 100 kHz (that’s 4 times “normal headphones”!) they have the lowest distortion ever measured in a sound reproduction system: 0.01% at 1 kHz, 100 dB SPL.

Sennheiser HE1 HeadphonesThe interesting thing is that when you look at the original reviews for the HE-90s, they actually weren’t that complimentary: “sounded a bit shy on the bottom—it lacked sufficient body and weight, seemed rather lean through the midbass, and was without a fully natural warmth“. Unfortunately in these days of Corporate Suckupery, Consumerism and “news” organisations which are mostly extensions of PR firms, I don’t believe the reviews.

Stax SR-009SBesides, if you’re going electrostatic, the best bet is the company who invented them, the Japanese company Stax and their ST-009S headphones which will probably be better than the Sennheisers and only set you back $4,325 (don’t know whether that AU or US, but at this level, does it matter?).

KRK KNS-8400-angleWhere does that leave us? Well, with me and my KRK KHS8400s – I’ve been wearing them for around 5 hours today and they’re still comfy. They may not look as snazzy as all those high-end headphones, but for my ears they’ll do as I’ve been listening to Blade Runner 2046, Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, Dream Theater, Tron, Bach, Louis Armstrong and A Clockwork Orange and all I can say is that they produce the best sound that I’ve heard so far, so they’ll be good enough for quite a while, as long as I don’t leave them on the floor…

Back in Australia

MoranReserve

WOW! I just realised that it’s been a year since I did a blog post. I knew it had been a while, but I figured around 6 months max… Well, I suppose I needed it, and the good news is that I’M BACK!

I’m not going to go in to what has transpired over the past year since an agile adoption, as it’s quite involved and will come out in some successive posts, but will focus on where I am now and what my Posting Plans are.

Near the end of last year we started planning a return to Australia after almost a decade in the UK – what a BLAST! So many lovely experiences, people, places and new friends :-) Eventually though, it was time to return to Australia as it really is my home and although I may have a few gripes about it, Australia really is an amazing place and as the old cliche goes: I now really appreciate how lucky I am to live in this country after being away so long. That shot above is from my local beach which is 3 mins drive, and I can get in to the city (in the distance) in around 1/2h with a walk and public transport – that’s a pretty good lifestyle.

So what’s in the pipe? A much more varied mix than when I started out doing just “software stuff”:

  • Reflections on life in the UK and Europe
  • Observations on life in Australia now I’m back
  • Reviews of gadgets
  • Travelogues as I explore my own country – now I’ve probably seen more of Europe than I have of Australia, so it’s time to correct that
  • Process  – yes, I’m still on the agile path
  • Architecture – looks like that will be my primary area of work still
  • Software – which I’m gradually getting back in to, with the current focus being Clojure
  • Probably the odd bit of music or photography to round things out
  • Anything else anyone would like me to write about…

YachClub

Welcome 2015!

London Fireworks 2015M25 Carpark

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted much, mainly due to a contract which requires me to drive on the M20 and M25 (aka “the carpark” for those outside the UK) and as a result, I just don’t seem to of had the time and energy…

Javelin TrainOh, how I long for those lovely trains, and will never complain about a 30 or even 60 minute delay – the worst I’ve had in a car is a 1h trip taking 4h!!!

I look forward to getting on something where someone else is doing the driving so I can use my time effectively

Amazingly, it seems like only 7% (4.5 Million) people in the UK use public transport. Given that nearly 1/3 (22 Million) live in the South-East, where transport is generally pretty good, that seems pretty low. No surprise given the number of people on the motorways – I’ll be happy to take one more off them next contract.

So what’s up for 2015 for me and this blog?

For one, I plan to start getting back in to a bit more of a rhythm, both with my posts and the associated (play) work (generally outside “real work”), and I will continue to post based on my experiences – recent and past…

theme : ecologyWhat are the themes though? Here’s a list of where I’d like to go:

  • Lifestyle & Reviews
  • Process & People & ScramJet
  • Clojure
  • Architecture, including Enterprise & SOA aspects

in no particular order. I won’t get in to specifics as much of it is not yet planned, or I’m working on it but don’t want to reveal it until I have enough meat on the the bones so I can be sure it will fly.

teaserHere’s a few teasers though based on posts I know I’ll write or have in draft form:

  • Review of Bob Marshall’s “Thinking Different” happening last year
  • Review of the: BMW i3 electric car; Samsung Galaxy Alpha
  • Corporate Subversion – in a positive manner of course :-)

and that’s really just the “boring stuff” – there should be some very interesting posts coming as I hit my stride.

I hope you’ve all had a great XMas & New Year break and look forward to some great interactions in 2015!

Changearc – the thinking person’s RiczWest ;-)

Today I’m (@RiczWest) starting a new twitter account. It’s called ChangeArc. For those who follow me, you’ll recognise this as my “Blog Name” – so what’s the purpose?

Simple – when I started using Twitter, it was primarily as a bookmarking tool. To some extent I still use it as such, but also for so much more…

There’s one problem though – as I look at a lot of content, that means a lot of tweets, and not everyone likes that, including me! There are a number of great people I’d like to follow, but I can’t because they tweet too much.

To that end, I’m going to start a much lower volume (only a few tweets per day) account which is ChangeArc. So what can you expect apart from less tweets? Extremely high quality tweets that will include any posts I do.

I don’t know how this will evolve, but it will be interesting to see…

EuroClojre – Day 2

Wow! I thought Day 1 was Great – Day 2 just as good, including some great but “enterprise geeky” topics like Enterprise Integration in Clojure and A Perfect Storm for Legacy Migration ;-) Plus, we had Stuart Halloway’s…

Keynote – Narcissistic Design

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  • Stuart Halloway
  • Examples
    • Build Tools
    • ORM
  • Advanced
    • Integrating narcissism and agile practice
    • Technologies to avoid
      • Functional languages & databases
    • Never eliminate complexity, automate around it
    • Manage by pull request, because code is the first and best unit of discussion
  • Top 10
    1. Use OO, and don’t forget those setter methods!
    2. Prefer APIs over data
    3. Start with DSLs
      – Nothing says “screw you” like a DSL
      – JVM
    4. Always connect (and never enqueue)
    5. Create abstractions for information
      – Encapsulate!
    6. Use static typing across subsystem boundaries
      – Exceptions
    7. Put language semantics on the wire
      – Focus on programming rather than data languages
    8. Write lots of unit tests
      – Example Based Testing
      – TDD
      – Always be coding
      – Never get on the hammock
    9. Update information in place
      – The one thing about OO: gives you all the complexity but no history
    10. Leverage context

Using Clojure to Serve The Internet of Things

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  • Kontiki
    • Lightweight OS
  • Nest
  • How do I get iot on my CV?
    • Dev kits
      • mBed
      • Electric imp
      • RasberryPi
      • Arduino
    • Beagle bone
    • Open data sets
    • Web / Mob apps
  • Xively
    • LogMeIn
    • Went from Ruby
      • To Clojure
        • Order of magnitude improvement!
  • Architecture of “thermometer”
    • Twitter
      • Clojure hero ku
        • Clojure Xivi
          • ?
  • IoT
    • 1.1b PCs
    • 2mm2 32-bit computer with wiFi for $1
      • 32kB RAM
      • 128kB Flash
      • Radio
      • Weightless – OS?
        • Batt
          • 50 bytes/h for 10y on 2 AA Batt!
    • 5.8b mob
    • 1T Things
    • Main challenges
      • Discovery
      • Directories
      • Provisioning
      • Security
    • Should take off due to economies of scale
    • Massive Data Volumes
      • Motor
        • 1Gb data / h

Newspaper Massacre!

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  • Conways Law
  • Daily Mail
    • Mail Online
      • Largest online newspaper
        • Serve 154Bn images!
        • Cached by Akamai
        • Serve 1000 articles/s
      • Very long home page
  • Mobile
    • Gamechanger
      • Personalisation
        • Trying to scale
  • Published messages from Legacy to Topic
  • Challenge
    • Render the homepage
      • No caching
      • Response <300ms
  • Mustache
    • Templates Library
    • Themes
      • e.g. Mobile
  • Libs / Projects
    • Memcached
    • Mule
    • Reddis
    • Riemann
      • Graphite
      • Logstash
    • GitHub.com/mailonline
  • Ppl
    • @clifcunn
    • @jonpither
      • Pitheringabout
  • Config
    • Avout
      • Wrapper around Zookeeper
  • Services
  • Built a library around software infrastructure
  • Future
    • Rewrite everything
      • ~13kLOC
  • Devs sit next to newsroom
    • E2E Ownership
    • Responsibility
  • Terrible Legacy
    • Using Spring

(into reduce transient)

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  • Clojure.core/ancestors
    • (Ancestors (class []))
  • Libraries
    • avl.clj
    • core.rrb-vector
  • Guy Steel Talk
    • About sequential reduction

Lightning talks: Literate Programming, Bare Metal Lisp & Templating

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In search of workflow nirvana: Clojure, Emacs, Org

    • Rich Hickey
      • Ant Simulation
    • Org – mode in EMACS
    • Literate Programming
      • “is what you need to rise above the ordinary level of achievement”
    • Pedestal
    • Working on functional CMS system
    • hackerretreat.com

Lithium: a small Clojure-inspired Lisp on the bare metal

      • Compiles to x86
        • No runtime dependencies
      • Fluchtpunkt Lisp
      • Paper: An incremental approach to compiler construction
      • Movitz
        • Similar for Common Lisp
      • Synthesis: an efficient implementation of fundamental operating system services

Templating In Clojure

    • Hiccup
      • HTML as a data structure
      • No real separation
      • Good if full stack devs
    • clj-jade
      • Successor to HAML
      • Use Jade for J
      • Or moustache
    • Enlive
      • Transformations of HTML
      • Good for front-end
      • CSS Selector based
        • Can break transformations
      • Lacks HTML abstraction
        • + Hamilito

Enterprise Integration in Clojure

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  • clumsyjedi @ GitHub
  • Enterprise Integration Patterns
  • Looked At
    • Mule
      • Not used – too many problems
    • Camel
      • HolyGrail
    • Use
      • core.async
      • + Threaded Macros
    • Lamina
      • Event Stream Processing Library
        • Superset of EIP
      • Rysome
    • Storm
      • Java / Clojure Hybrid
        • Chosen
    • ClamQ
      • Clojure i/f for ActiveMQ
    • EEP
      • Good visualisation
  • Areas of Interest
    • Systems Integration
    • Business Rules Capture
    • Distributed Systems Orchestration
  • Using Vim
  • Beyond Patterns

A Perfect Storm for Legacy Migration

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  • Twitter Storm
  • Clojure
  • Distributed runtime
    • For “eXtreme Processing”
  • Apache Thrift
  • Nimbus
  • ?
  • Gives
    • Stream Processing
    • Realtime Analytics
    • Continuous Computation
    • Distributed RPC
  • Concepts
    • Bolt
    • Spout
    • Topology
    • Grouping “field”

Reflections on 2012

Reflections 2012It’s that time of year where everyone is reflecting on the last year, so I thought I’d toss my hat in to the ring. Personally, it’s been a year of great change, having moved from a highly toxic street in Reading (where our dog unfortunately passed away just before we left) to a beautiful one in Ashford where we are much more settled and I’m at last able to relax, grow and learn in a supportive environment.

That’s enough about me though, what about the IT Industry and wider world from my perspective?

Industry

  • The year Apple Stumbled – It wasn’t just iMaps, it was the lack of innovation and wierd and frequent release schedules which all smacked of internal chaos – understandable given that Jobs passed away late the previous year, but they’ll need to get back on track if they want those stock options to be worth something
  • The year Microsft Stumbled – two words: Windows 8 or Windows RT or Microsoft Surface. I must admit that I’m less disappointed with W8 than I though I would be – only going by playing with it in a store though as I’d never install it on any of my computers. It’s not over though, so the real question is what’s going to happen with W8 and Surface (Pro)

Software

  • SEMAT – Software Engineering Method and Theory has been pretty much defined by Ivar Jacobson and his merry band of Industry Legends and Corporations. It was favourably received by the OMG in December
  • ArchiMate picks up steam – for me at least before this year, it was only occasionally being used, whereas now, many organisations are using it for Enterprise and Solution Designs and then linking these to UML Technical Designs and Realisations
  • Clojure – I’ve been getting in to this and went to the London Skills Matter Clojure eXchange. Rather than a bunch of enthusiasts though, I met a bunch of enthusiasts, 1/2 of whom were working in Clojure! It seems this is probably an increase of a few hundred percent over the previous year, so something is happening. This may be part of the wider movement to “different” and sometimes functional languages.
  • Light Table – at the moment this is only a Clojure IDE, which will be expanded to handle other languages, but I’m yet to be sold on it. The demo was really cool, but the releases won’t run my code (which obviously works in other environments) and the interface feels a bit too simple at the moment. They’ve got kickstarter funding, so here’s hoping that we start seeing more features and functionality from the original demo as it could be one of the best development environments ever!

Hardware

  • Raspberry Pi – how can this not be mentioned??? It’s a UK concept that is taking the world by storm and riding a wave that was started by Arduino, DreamPlug and the like. The great bit is that Raspberry Pi only opened the space, much as OLPC did for small cheap laptops. The side effects already are and I’m sure will be awesome
  • FreedomBox, first proposed by Eben Moglen is gradually getting there. Not there yet, but it will get there and hopefully redress much of the planned snooping that governments around the world have fallen in love with
  • The Maker Movement seemed to jump up a level with people even 3-D printing guns and starting to sue each other over who owns what and can sell it
  • Fibre rollout in UK seems to be really happening and I’m liking what I see. I signed up on the minimal (and slowest) plan but it’s easily enough for me at 75G : ~ 30Mbps down and ~10Mbps up (real rather than pretend bandwidth). The great bit is for an extra £10 or so I can double those rates! The best way to get decent FTTC seems to be by going through a BT Reseller such as Xilo / Uno

Process

  • Nonviolent Communication – highlighted by Bob Marshall and created by Marshall Rosenberg, this seems to be gaining ground, along with concepts like Soft Power. This (hopeful) trend towards a kinder, gentler and more humane approach may hopefully only be the start
  • Lot’s of Noise from the Quiet People ;-) There seems to be a pick up in dialogue about introversion and quietude – all good stuff
  • The continuing Industrialisation of Agile. Agile stopped being done widely (in smaller numbers, but more effectively) ages ago. What we seem to have now is a bunch of PM’s who have done “Scrum” or “Agile” training and are operating using the same patterns – “I want that velocity increased next sprint!”

The World

That’s pretty much it. We’re off this evening to watch the London fireworks on a cruisey boozy boat on the Thames, so I hope you all have / had a great NYE.