Besides the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art I mentioned a few posts ago, and monitor/home theater changes I’ll mention separately in the future, there’s a number of other things I started using over the past year or so. Here’s a few notes on those things!
This purchase was one born entirely from curiosity, as there’s truly nothing wrong with the Sennheiser HD-595 open headphones that I’ve historically used. Indeed, this was a particularly wasteful purchase because I only occasionally use headphones now that my computer is tucked away in the basement, inaudibly far from where anyone might be sleeping. The big draw for me with these particular headphones is that they’re electrostatic, like the Magnepan IIIs I’ve used for a couple of decades now and have been a fan of for music listening. Past electrostatic headphones were uber-expensive ($1000+), so when these came in at the “low” price of $299, I indulged and picked up a pair. I don’t try enough headphones to accurately review how these fare against anything else on the market, but I do prefer them over my 8-year old HD-595s and to my ears, they sound great and are the best I’ve heard in this category. I don’t know I could call a winner between these and my ER-4PT earbuds; the earbuds benefit from blocking out all background noise, but the open circumaural design on the HE-400S is much more comfortable to me for extended listening.
I’ve used a full sized subwoofer in my computer audio setup for about 16 years, largely because of a “deal” back in 2000 that wound up with me owning multiple Advent AV-550S subwoofers at a low price. A few years ago, I replaced the one in our home theater setup with an SVS PB12-NSD. While it was a little smaller than the 15″ AV-550S, it was significantly clearer and represented a significant step up in overall quality. This always tempted me to also update my PC setup, but it seemed a little wasteful to get a nicer subwoofer just for a PC setup. However, in late 2015, the SB12-NSD (a sealed version of the PB12-NSD) went on final closeout, having been replaced some time ago by newer models. I was so happy with the PB12-NSD upgrade that I couldn’t pass the chance up!
First off, I was pretty wrong in thinking this wouldn’t make a big difference in my PC setup. In retrospect this is obvious, but because I use smaller bookshelf speakers in my PC setup compared to the HT setup, the sub is actually much more important since it’s actually handling a greater portion of the overall audio spectrum. In any case, the upgrade was very worthwhile; unexpectedly, I actually have a greater tendency to listen to music while working at my desk than before, and it’s a much closer experience to the bigger speakers elsewhere in my home.
I also learned something I wish I’d known earlier about setting phase on a subwoofer, which historically I’d always done via trial & error with no confidence I was making any real difference. A forum post somewhere recommended simply playing an 80Hz test tone (or whatever crossover frequency you wish), using an SPL meter (or your ears) in your main listening position, and tuning phase to maximize amplitude. Subjectively, it feels like that approach worked really well, even with the $17 SPL meter I use.
Canon Pixma Pro-100
I’ve been on the fence about getting a photo printer. It’s generally not necessary, because Costco and others will happily use a high quality printer on whatever you care to send them, and they’re just a few minutes from my home. Two things finally got me to pull the trigger on this. The first was a rebate from Canon that effectively reduced the price of this printer to $200 (half it’s normal price). The second was looking into color gamut, and realizing that the color gamut (range of colors that can be represented) is higher for my camera, this printer, and monitor than it is for the (sRGB) JPEGs that any consumer photo service is willing to accept. In other words, exporting my photos to JPEG and sending them to Costco meant a loss of certain colors that their printers (and now mine) would actually be fully capable of reproducing.
Is this difference visible? I honestly haven’t done enough testing to know yet, but for 50% off, I was willing to experiment. It’s half worth it just to install all the ink cartridges, each of which gets has its own impressive glowing LED once properly installed:
P.S. the LEDs in that picture are a good example of a color that’s out of gamut, which is partially way the image above doesn’t look as nice as the real thing :).
Tamrac JETTY 7
I already have a fairly crazy number of camera bags, each of which seems to serve a different purpose. The Think Tank Digital Holster 40 is great when I’m bringing just one lens; the Lowepro Rezo 180AW worked well with a few smaller lenses (not the f/2.8 zooms) plus a flash but was a bit bulkier to carry around; the Tamrac Rally 7 is still the travel bag I use all the time when I need to bring a 15″ laptop, my D800, and several large lenses. Amazingly, this still left me wanting a bag that was as unintrusive as the Think Tank, but sufficient to carry a pair of smaller lenses. The Tamrac JETTY 7 turned out to fit this bill quite well – it decently holds the D800, a couple of full frame primes (one attached to the body), a small flash (in the front compartment) – and even a tablet, though I never bring one:
I tried this bag mainly because it was on sale at Costco, but I now use it regularly – though amazingly, I do so alongside all three of the other bags mentioned, which still see active use!
Motorola Nexus 6
Valerie completely the destruction of her Nexus 4 about a year ago, so I needed to either get her a new phone, or give her my Nexus 5 and switch to something else. I decided to try the Moto Nexus 6 to see how I felt about the oversized phone thing. I find it… a little oversized. The increased screen real estate is nice, but no amount of getting used to the phone will increase the size of my hand. In any case, there’s plenty of material out there on this and every other phone, and 12 months later it’s old news, so enough said on this!