Tag Archives: Headphones

Lunch with a friend (and a hearty side of enabling)

That’s BJ on the left and me on the right at our favorite burrito joint.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with my good friend, BJ Leiderman.  If you ever listen to public radio programming, especially NPR, you’ve probably heard BJ’s name.

BJ is a musician, singer, and composer, and has written the bulk of the theme music you hear on National Public Radio (NPR). His music is hard to get out of your head. Every time I listen to NPR shows like Marketplace, Morning Edition, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, Car Talk, or Science Friday, I hear BJ’s catchy tunes.

Moreover, BJ is an awesome fellow.  But it’s dangerous hanging with him because he’s also…well, an enabler, when it comes to sound gear.

Often, when we hang out, I walk away from the meet-up with a new app, a new song in my head, or the sudden need for a new piece of kit.

Friday was a prime example.  You may notice that I’m wearing headphones in the photo at the top of the page. Here’s how this played out…

BJ asked if I had seen one of his latest animated music videos–one that is was featured on his new album, “BJ.”  Instead of simply showing the video to me on his phone and/or playing the music through his iPhone’s speaker, BJ ran to his car and came back with a set of Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Noise-Cancelling headphones, then handed me his phone with the video queued up.

We were in a crowded, noisy restaurant during the lunch hour, but when I put on the headphones, all ambient sounds were instantly and utterly squelched. As his video played, it sounded like I was sitting in a recording studio listening to monitors. Absolutely phenomenal.

The headphone’s noise-cancelling technology is so good, in fact, I could barely hear my own voice as I spoke.

The audio fidelity was spot-on, too––there’s a nice balance from bass to treble.  Though I’m sure your audio player’s EQ could customize this.

I walk around all of the time with a cheap pair of in-ear headphones in my pocket for use with my phone, radios, or simply to decrease ambient noise while I’m trying to work or sleep.

Here’s the video BJ shared, by the way:

Click here to view on YouTube.

BJ, being the cool and compassionate character he is, had this fun song animated by young adult artists with autism at Exceptional Minds Animation Studios in LA, with the support of Howard Hoffman. 

In real life, his dog Maizey is a sweetheart, and certainly BJ’s fuzzy brown soulmate.

You can check out BJ’s album on his website, and if you like it, there are a number of ways you can purchase both digital and physical copies. Click here to buy a copy.

And BJ, if you’re reading this––thanks a lot for spending $300 of my hard-earned cash on headphones.

And I get accused of enabling––?  Karma, I guess.

Guest Post: Old School Infrared Wireless Headphones

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


Old School (Infrared) Wireless Headphones

by Mario Filippi (N2HUN)

Have you ever mindlessly walked away from your TV with headphones/ear buds still tethered, causing all sorts of havoc? Been there, done that hi hi! Let’s face it; there are plenty of avenues to remedy the situation by upgrading to wireless headphones. Nowadays most state of the art wireless headphones use radio frequencies to achieve a wireless method of listening. For example, my XYL blissfully listens to TV audio with Sony stereo wireless headphones, using a frequency of 915.5 MHz; below is the actual signal viewed with an RTL-SDR dongle.

Sony wireless headphones signal viewed via a SDR dongle; FM modulation.

But hold the presses: there’s good news for folks not averse to old-school technology.

I recently purchased a set of RCA wireless headphones using infrared technology from shopgoodwill.com.  Yes, those of us who are somewhat long in the tooth remember infrared as the common method for consumers to “cut the headphone cord” way back when.  Infrared is located just above the radio frequency spectrum starting around 300 Gigs (Gigahertz) and is still commonly used in TV and satellite remotes, but less so now with modern wireless headphones operating in the  900 MHz  and 2.4 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) bands.

Admittedly, the new breed of wireless headphones possesses an array of options not available with older infrared units, but if you are satisfied with a no-frills method of headphone freedom (well about 25 feet range that is), check out the pre-owned inventory offered on shopgoodwill.com.  The pair I purchased started at  $7.99 with no other interested bidders so the total with shipping was $16.82 with the original box and was complete, including the rechargeable NiCad batteries which still functioned but undoubtedly will need replacing.  To boot, the money went to a charitable organization.

Wireless IR stereo headphones from shopgoodwill.com

Interestingly, I tried using the wireless IR headphones in conjunction with a shortwave receiver (Panasonic DR22) but there was lots of interference, evidently from the IR transmitter; shortwave and the AM BCB were wiped out by the interference. Now on the FM BCB it worked fine. Even tried it with a scanner and it seemed to work well with FM transmissions (police, fire, EMS) but not with aero AM (108 – 136 MHz).

In the end my venerable older headphones have been relegated to the “shelf of infrequently utilized equipment.” Radio hobbyists might want to visit www.shopgoodwill.com as there are lots more radio memorabilia for window shopping or adding to one’s armamentarium. Remember to read the descriptions carefully as to the working condition. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not associated with ShopGoodWill in any way except that I’m a very satisfied customer. And yes, there are new, state-of-the-art wireless headphones available at a comparable price, so why the reason for this tale? Well, for knowledge, a little history, and a dash of sentimentality, that’s all! hi hi!


Thanks, Mario!

I briefly worked in a RadioShack store in the mid 1990s. We had a set of IR wireless headphones on display and hooked up to a receiver. I remember putting them on and listening to music after/before store hours completing mindless tasks like inventory, clean up, etc. It felt incredibly liberating to walk around the store without a headphone cord umbilical cord! The IR footprint covered the entire store, but fell apart if I had to duck below an end-cap or shelf partition.  

Thank you for taking us on a wireless stroll down memory lane, Mario!

A review of CozyPhones sleep headphones

A few months ago, SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi–being both a good friend and an (ahem!) enabler–sent the following note:

My XYL bought me a set of CozyPhones for Christmas.  If you like listening to the radio, especially at night while in bed, these work great. Speakers are nice and flat.  And if you are outdoors you can listen to shortwave and not suffer from ear frostbite hihi.

https://www.cozyphones.com/

[I’ve attached the photo below of] the one I got.  Absolutely amazing!

Little did Mario know that, back in 2014, I ordered a pair of similar sleep headphones by the company Acoustic Sheep after reading SWLing Post contributor Anil Raj’s brilliant entry in our Virtual Radio Challenge II.

I purchased an open-box pair of the Acoustic Sheep SleepPhones for about $33 and was very pleased with the purchased…initially, at least.

I used the Acoustic Sheep SleepPhones a couple nights a week for several months. I was disappointed, however, when the braided jacketing started coming off of the headphone cord, bunching up, and the rubberized jacketing underneath began staining my pillowcase, so I was no longer able to wear them at home or when traveling. My wife was amused and said it looked as if I had worn mascara to bed.  Well, at least until she attempted to clean the marks off of the pillowcase with limited success.

I feel it’s only fair to state that my SleepPhones were a fairly new product in 2014, thus may have been an early iteration and may not accurately reflect what the product is like currently. I’m guessing that Acoustic Sheep have improved the design and reinforced the jacketing since then, because they seem to enjoy relatively positive reviews on Amazon.

Panasonic Ergo Fit (in-ear) Headphones

At any rate, I set the troublesome SleepPhones aside and and went back to using my go-to in-ear sleep phones: the Panasonic Ergo Fit Headphones. The Panasonics are the least uncomfortable of all of the in-ear headphones and do a decent job of isolating any environmental noises while you sleep. Still, having something inside your ear while you slumber isn’t exactly the definition of comfort.

Enter CozyPhones

I replied to Mario’s email telling him about my experience with the SleepPhones. He encouraged me to give the CozyPhones a try.

I took a quick glance at Amazon (the only distributor I could find for CozyPhones) and the price for a pair was only $22. Almost $16 cheaper than a pair of new SleepPhones?  I even noticed combo packs with two sets of CozyPhones for $24. My doubts about quality resurfaced.

I decided to contact CozyPhones customer service directly and ask if their headphones were likely to experience the same problem as my SleepPhones–I mentioned my hesitancy and the fact these would likely be mentioned in a frank review (hint, hint: if quality is poor, this will get a negative review).

They promptly addressed my concerns, standing confidently behind their product, and even offered to send a sample. One week later, the CozyPhones arrived.

The CozyPhones arrived in a thick plastic re-sealable bag (seen above)–a nice touch! Included in the package were both the headphones and a satin carry bag.

Performance

Let’s be frank here: with sleep phones, I’m not expecting the same audio fidelity I would achieve with my Sennheiser HD558s––which, by the way, would be incredibly uncomfortable as sleep headphone; I simply wanted to be able to listen to my bedside radio as I drifted off.

Here’s what I do expect from a pair of sleep headphones:

  • decent audio fidelity at low volume levels–something suitable for listening to AM or shortwave radio
  • something with enough sound isolation that it won’t keep my wife awake while I listen to the Voice of Greece into the wee hours
  • comfort around my head and against my ears as I lie on a pillow…actually, this might be the #1 priority for me
  • headband’s earphones (speakers) stay in place, don’t shift within the band
  • quality construction and the potential for product longevity
  • no black marks on my pillowcase!

Let’s see how the CozyPhones deliver on my points:

Audio fidelity

The CozyPhones easily pass this test. I’m very pleased with audio fidelity for radio listening. Indeed, the audio response is pretty well tailored for AM/SW broadcast listening. FM and music sounds fine, too; good enough that I would consider wearing these in the winter while hiking. Again, these are not audiophile quality to be sure, but they surpass my needs for this application.

Sound isolation

The CozyPhones do a respectable job in this regard. My wife can’t hear what I’m listening to while lying in bed, not even a hint of what I hear. Now, if I were hard of hearing, listening to music and had the volume cranked up, I’m sure she’d at least hear percussive sounds.

Comfort

I should note hear that there are essentially four versions of CozyPhones:

CozyPhones sent me the second version mentioned above, the headphones with Cool Mesh lining and a lightweight Lycra-like exterior. I was quite pleased, as it’s what I would have selected. If anything, I tend to generate a lot of heat, so don’t like products that make me feel even warmer at night while I sleep.

After a few months with the CozyPhones I can say that I’m very pleased with how comfortable they are. The material is soft, the headphone speakers are very thin and seem to stay in place even as I move around and adjust my head on the pillow during the night.

Quality

The SleepPhones I purchased in 2014, in contrast, were also comfortable, but the earphones, essentially mini speakers, tended to migrate within the soft headband. I’d often wake up and find the speakers had completely moved within the band away from my ears; it was then a matter of trying to bunch up the headband material and re-position the speakers.

The CozyPhones don’t seem to have this problem. The ear speakers might shift a little some nights, but not enough to be annoying–certainly not as the SleepPhones initially did.

The braided headphones cord is non-obtrusive and comes out the back of the headphones. So far, the CozyPhones haven’t suffered the same fate as the SleepPhones–the braid has remained intact and seems quite sturdy, resilient to light tugging and normal movement.

And as for my pillowcase?  Still clean…no black marks.

Summary

If, like me, you enjoy listening to radio in bed, but don’t want to disturb your partner, CozyPhones really are a fantastic option.

Perhaps as a side effect of my years of SW listening, I find I’m a bit sensitive to environmental noises when I travel; often hallway noises, nearby traffic, children screaming, doors slamming, can disturb me, so I never leave home without earphones in my pack to quiet the noise. Quite often I’ll listen to my radio at bedtime, then, right before nodding off, I tune to a blank spot on the AM dial to the soothing sound of static. This “white noise” tends to drown out other abrupt environmental noises, and I find I drift off peacefully.

I think CozyPhones will serve you well. At $18-22 shipped? I think they’re a good bargain and a great gift. In fact, I intend to buy a pair for my wife!  Shhhh…don’t tell her.

Click here to view CozyPhones on Amazon.

Yamaha CM500 Headphones on sale

YamahaCM500I’ve been using a set of Yamaha CM500 headphones for shortwave radio listening for a couple of years now. They have great audio characteristics for both AM and single-side band listening. They’re very comfortable on the ears and can be worn for long periods of time.

If you’re an amateur radio operator, you’ll be happy to know that the CM500 has an excellent built-in microphone (I write a bit more about this on QRPer.com). Of course, these can be used for a number of other computer applications like Skype.

For a limited time, you can purchase a set of Yamaha CM500’s on sale at Sam Ash music for only $45 US. The regular price is $55 US (still a great value).  I am very tempted to buy a second pair while they’re on sale.