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Photos of the Day: Birds Flying in the Sky

Photos of the Day: Birds Flying in the Sky

Hi everyone,

Today, as I was out picking up my mail, I noticed a lot of birds flying in the sky. I found this interesting, as they were all lined up and flying in the same direction, with more birds coming from behind, so I decided to take some photos of them. Hope you all like them!

Photos taken with a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with firmware ending in AUAJ.

Woodpecker – June 2020

Woodpecker – June 2020

Hi everyone,

I’m in the process of organizing my photos and I came with these photos I took of a Woodpecker that visited my backyard back in June 2020. These birds are common in my area due to the abundance of trees.

Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra with firmware ending in ATE6.

My 2020 in Audio Gear

My 2020 in Audio Gear

Hi everyone,

Last year was a great one when it came to acquiring new Audio Gear. In this post, I’ll talk about my acquisitions with a bit of overview for each product.

Digital Audio Players

In 2020, I got the FiiO M5, the Shanling Q1, the Hiby R3 Pro Saber, and the Hidizs AP80 Pro. These 4 companies do great products, so I went ahead and ordered their newest products. I had the Shanling Q1 already preordered on Kickstarter.

FiiO M5

FiiO M5

The FiiO M5 is a hybrid DAP. I say it’s hybrid because it also has a Qualcomm Bluetooth chip inside that makes it work as a Bluetooth receiver and transmitter separately. While products like Hiby and Hidizs DAPs also have Bluetooth receive/transmit functions, these work entirely using their Ingenic X1000E CPU and their Bluetooth chip, while the FiiO M5 uses its CSR8675 chip for this purpose.

The sound quality of the M5 is musical, using an AKM AK4377 with Velvet Sound, which seems to focus on mid details. The only downside is that a USB DAC cannot be used when using it in Bluetooth receive mode, and that it does not supports Opus files.

Hiby R3 Pro Saber

Hiby R3 Pro Saber

The Hiby R3 Pro Saber is a derivative product from the Hiby R3 Pro. Its main difference is that it uses 2x ESS 9218p DACs as opposed to the dual Cirrus Logic DACs found in the Hiby R3 Pro. Hiby claims the R3 Pro Saber offers a more analytical sound, and I can describe the sound as being more airy and open than the R3 Pro. This has been my favorite DAP to this date.

Hidizs AP80 Pro

The Hidizs AP80 Pro is the successor of the original Hidizs AP80 (pictured on the left). Its main difference is that it now offers dual ESS 9218p DACS and the Hiby HBC3000 FPGA. These same DACs and FPGA are found in the Hiby R3 Pro Saber, but they sound completely different. I would describe the sound of the AP80 Pro as being more warmer, especially in the bass, while the sound of the Hiby R3 Pro Saber is more open and fuller. I think that the AP80 Pro would fit those who seek deep bass while the Hiby R3 Pro Saber fits those looking for a more musical and open sound.

Shanling Q1

Shanling Q1

The Shanling Q1 (Pictured in the bottom center) was launched in Kickstarter. This player didn’t had Wifi until a later update added it with the DLNA feature. It also uses an ESS 9218p, but sounds different than the Hiby R3 Pro Saber and Hidizs AP80 Pro. The sound seems to be centered around mids. It sounds good, but different at the same time. The only downside is that the headphone jack is right in the middle and it is slippery. The buttons are also sensitive, but otherwise it’s a good DAP.

DACs and Dongles

Moving to the DACs and Dongles category, last year I got the new Tempotec BHD, the IFI Hip-Dac, and an off-brand very cheap DAC that’s surprisingly good.

IFI Hip-Dac

IFI Hip-Dac

The IFI Hip-Dac is an affordable DAC with a Burr-Brown DAC. It also renders MQA. Its sound is warm. On the back, it has a USB-C port which is only for charging, while a USB-A Male port is used for data. I rarely use this DAC because of the weird ports and I’d rather prefer it having 2 USB-C ports rather than its USB-A port. On the good side, the analog volume potentiometer works great, but be careful with sensitive IEMs as the volume gets extremely loud!

Tempotec Sonata BHD

The Tempotec Sonata BHD can be considered a “successor” to the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro. This one has dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 and has a 2.5mm output. It also shares the independent volume controls as the HD Pro. On the downsides, this one doesn’t have a detachable cable, and like the HD Pro, it has few volume steps. On the good side, it shares the same sound signature as the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro and doesn’t get warm.

Geekuy USB DAC

Geekuy DAC

This one was a surprise find on Amazon. It is very cheap, considering it has an XMOS controller and an ESS DAC. It also features a 3.5mm output. For the price, I was surprised at how good it sounds. It also doesn’t generate heat, is USB Audio Class 2.0, and works great with the PC. However, it had compatibility issues with my DAPs.

Bluetooth receivers

In this category, I got the FiiO UTWS1 (My favorites!), the Shanling UP4, the Qudelix 5K, and the new TRN BT20S Pro.

FiiO UTWS1

FiiO UTWS1

The FiiO UTWS1 seems to be a rebranded TRN BT20S with a different button configuration and better volume control. Its advantages are a more functional button configuration that includes raising and lowering the volume. This is the most warm Bluetooth adapter I have, which would satisfy bass lovers.

Shanling UP4

Shanling UP4

The Shanling UP4 is yet another product using dual ESS 9218p DACs. It, again, sounds differently than other products with the ES9218p. This time, it is warmer yet musical at the same time. When compared to the similar FiiO BTR5, which also uses the same dual ES9218p DACs, the sound of that one is more analytical, working best for treble and more analytical detail retrieval, while the Shanling UP4 works best for concert-like music and to be immersed into the music experience. It has a volume knob and supports major Bluetooth formats, which is standard in this kind of products nowadays. It also supports USB DAC functionality up to 16bit/48khz due to it its Qualcomm CSR8675 SoC.

Qudelix 5K

Qudelix 5K

The Qudelix 5K is made by a team of people who, according to sources, are the same ones who did the original EarStudio ES100 Bluetooth adapter. The Quidelix 5K is unique in that it uses the newer Qualcomm QCC5124 SoC versus the usual CSR8675 that others use. It also supports USB DAC mode up to 96Khz due to the improvements of the chip. It, again, uses dual ES9218p DACs, but sounds different due to the implementation used as well as their DSP processing. It sounds clean and not harsh. My only complaint is the button learning curve.

TRN BT20S Pro

TRN BT20S Pro

The TRN BT20S Pro is the successor of the TRN BT20S. They now include their own charging case which replaces the Micro USB port on the units. The hooks are also replaceable shall they go bad or you’d like to switch from 2-pin to MMCX. Unfortunately, it doesn’t play well with my phone as the volume is too loud. They also still have some hissing noise that’s also noticeable in their previous versions.

Bluetooth transmitters

The only Bluetooth transmitter I purchased last year was the Avantree DG80.

The Avantree DG80 supports aptX Low Latency, as seen on the FiiO BTR5 on the right. It is a small dongle that transmits audio from a PC or other devices supporting USB Audio Class 1 products. I’ve been an Avantree customer for some time due to their excellent transmitter and receiver devices, and their excellent support.

Headphones

Last year, the only headphone acquired was the KZ ZAX.

KZ ZAX

The KZ ZAX uses 8 drivers per side, consisting of 1 dynamic driver and 7 Balanced Armatures. The sound profile is V-shaped. It sounds somewhat similar to the KZ ZS10 Pro, yet more refined and doesn’t have a metallic sound that the ZS10 Pro suffered from. The sound is clean too and I sometimes listen to this over the Hidizs MS4, which are the ones I use the most. They retrieve a lot of detail in the music despite their V-shaped signature. On the downside, they do not isolate sound as well.

Headphone tips

Late in 2019, I ordered the NiceHCK Spiral tips, which I received early in 2020. Later in the year I ordered some tips from AZLA.

NiceHCK Spiral Tips

NiceHCK Spiral Tips

The NiceHCK Spiral tips have a spiral form in them. I ordered them after comparing them to other tips and making the nozzle close to the ears. The sound isolation is very good and improves bass in most cases.

AZLA SednaEarFitLight

AZLA SednaEarFitLight

I brought these tips accidentally, because it resembled the bass tips of the Hidizs MS4. Turns out the nozzle stays far from the ear, but they did improve the sound stage.

AZLA SednaEarFit Xelastec

Made from a different material than silicone, these have a sticky feeling. I wrote a more detailed review of these that you can find here.


And that was my 2020 in music gear. In my next post, I’ll talk about my acquisitions for 2021 that I will be reviewing as I receive them.

I haven’t received most of the products above, so keep looking forward to my reviews over the year too along with my new 2021 gear!

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano: AC600 USB 2.0 Wireless Adapter

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano: AC600 USB 2.0 Wireless Adapter

Hi everyone,

Today, I’ll show you the TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB 2.0 Wireless Adapter:

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB2.0 Wireless Adapter 1

This is a USB 2.0 Wireless Adapter about the size of a mouse USB receiver, very small. It follows the Wireless AC protocol and should theoretically give us speeds of up to 600Mbit/s. If that’s true or not, we’ll see later in this post.

This wireless receiver is currently being sold at about $13 dollars on Amazon, or at $12 if you buy them as a “Renewed” item, which is Amazon’s terms for refurbished items.

The above ones were purchased renewed, as this is more friendly to the planet and should work just like a new one. In fact, you can see one of them is packaged differently than the other. This doesn’t matter, but you know they are repackaged items because of how they are.

Unboxing

The front of the box shows the overall product details, like saying it should be faster on the 2.4Ghz band and that it also supports the 5Ghz band, given it’s a dual band adapter:

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB2.0 Wireless Adapter 2

On the back, we have a better description of the adapter:

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB2.0 Wireless Adapter 3

The receiver is packaged inside this big box:

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB2.0 Wireless Adapter 4

The reason for it to be big is that they have packaged a regular CD with the device driver. It has to be known that Windows 10 detects the adapter natively and uses its own driver, as we will see later too.

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB2.0 Wireless Adapter 5

We also have the user manual and an Amazon Certified Refurbished card.

The adapter is really small:

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB2.0 Wireless Adapter 6

Taken out of the box:

TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 USB2.0 Wireless Adapter 7

Now it’s time to plug it into my laptop. Almost unnoticeable:

Testing

The TP-Link Archer T2U Nano is natively recognized by Windows 10, and uses Microsoft’s native driver:

TP-Link T2U Nano speedtest 4

However, it only seems to be using a fraction of my wireless router, only showing it is running at a rate of 86.7Mbit/s:

TP-Link T2U Nano speedtest 1

In fact, running a speed test doesn’t give the maximum speed of 250Mbit/s of download I’m supposed to be getting:

In comparison, when using the laptop’s integrated Wifi card, it indeed reaches the full 250Mbit/s speed:

I then decided to use TP-Link’s driver to see if that would improve things, but infortunately that wasn’t the case:

And even switched to the other adapter to make sure it wasn’t defective. Unfortunately, I also got a slower than expected speed:

TP-Link T2U Nano speedtest 9

Conclusion

The TP-Link Archer T2U is a small wireless adapter. Maybe it’s because of that the fact that we don’t see the full speed being utilized, but one thing is for sure; it serves its initial purpose of bringing Wi-Fi to a laptop. While it may be slow, we can also see that the adapter works simply by inserting it. No extra drivers are needed on Windows 10, and we can start navigating the web fast.

For just $12 or $13 dollars, we can’t expect it to do miracles with the speed, but it will keep you connected with no dropouts.

The internet plan used for the purpose of this review is 250Mbit/s of download and 25mbit/s of upload speed.

If you’re interested, you can purchase this item on Amazon below:

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Nintendo Switch unboxing

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Nintendo Switch unboxing

Hi everyone,

Today, we’ll see some photos of the case and game card of the new Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory game for the Nintendo Switch.

We’ll start with the game case exterior:

Opening the case, we just see some text and the game card itself:

And now, let’s take a closer look at the game card:

Music Rhythm games are one of my favorites to play, and this is no exception. While I haven’t played most Kingdom Hearts game, my first one was Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the Gameboy Advance. Then, I played the Nintendo DS games but haven’t played the PS3/PS4 games as I don’t own one and it’s unlikely I’ll get one either. Either way, I’m enjoying this game so far.

SednaEarFit Xelastec Review

SednaEarFit Xelastec Review

Ever since I got my Hidizs MS4 IEM, I became a journey to try several ear tips, after I lost one of their “Bass” ear tips. This journey began with me trying some Chinese replacements tips, in particular, some called “Spiral ear tips”. They were good, but I still tried other tips, including the highly acclaimed Spinfits.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t pleased with the Spinfits, as I found it degraded the sound to my likes. It was until I found the AZLA SednaEarFitLight that I was really pleased with how the sound came from them.

SednaEarFit Xelastec 5

AZLA is known to make one of the best ear tips. Their SednaEarFit line improves both sound and comfort, but one of their issues has to do with getting the right fit, and the high price. However, once you find the correct size for you, you will be really pleased with how they sound.

AZLA recently released the SednaEarFit Xelastec, which is made of different material that adapts to your ear. This makes them fit great and will not, theoretically, fall.

SednaEarFit Xelastec 1

I found that one of the most important thing that affects the size is the nozzle size and diameter. The smaller the diameter, the more dull the sound will be, and the longer or shorter the nozzle length is, is how the sound frequency will get affected.

SednaEarFit Xelastec 2

On the Hidizs MS4, the shorter the nozzle length is, will produce more bass, great mids, and tame the treble. The longer the nozzle length is, there may be less bass, with more treble sparks, and the mids, well, fall in the middle or may get behind.

Once I tried the SednaEarFit Xelastec, they became my favorite ear tip. Here’s why:

Ease of use

Some ear tips have a hard time getting placed in the IEM nozzle, because of its diameter. This was the case when I got the Spinfit ear tip, as the diameter was small. With the SednaEarFit Xelastec, they just fit without having any struggles. This may be due to its adapting material.

Sound

The nozzle length of the Xelastec is shorter and just a bit smaller than their SednaEarFitLight. However, due to the material it’s made, the sound doesn’t get affected much. In fact, it does a great job to reproduce a great frequency response. The bass isn’t overwhelmed but is improved. The mids comes more forward but not too much. The treble is tamed with no sparks to it. The sound stage is very good to my likes, which is a forward sound with great instrument separation and energy.

Fit

This really depends on the tip size used. In my case, the best size is their ML (Medium-Large) size. They are very comfortable and fits very nice in my ears. I can use them for hours without getting itchy or without causing discomfort. They also do not fall. The material they are made will give you a sticky feeling, unlike silicone tips which depending on the one used, may cause you some itch and discomfort.

SednaEarFit Xelastec 7

The only downside is that due to them being kind of sticky, you may have to clean them often.

Price

Let’s be honest, these tips are not cheap, but they are really worth it. The main problem you’ll probably face is spending money to test the different tip sizes. I used to be a medium size when it comes to tips, but for the AZLA tips, the best ones are their Medium-Large. Fortunately, you can get various tip sizes but at a premium.

Personally, I got the pack that comes with medium, medium-large, and large tips, just to see if the medium-large would still fit or I needed to go down to the medium tips. The large ones are large indeed.

SednaEarFit Xelastec 3

So, for starters, you may want to start here. At a price of $28.00, each tip size comes at $9.33 approximately.

Conclusion

I can recommend these tips if you’re looking for comfort without compromising the sound. It may even improve it depending on which tips you are using. Remember that not all tips will produce the same sound with every IEM, so your mileage will vary here, but if you, like me, own the Hidizs MS4 IEM, I can recommend them. AZLA makes one of the most amazing and high quality ear tips I’ve ever used.

You can get these tips on Amazon here:

Individual sizes:

The Western Digital 14TB Easystore Hard Disk Drive

The Western Digital 14TB Easystore Hard Disk Drive

Hi everyone,

Today, I’ll show you the 14TB Western Digital Easystore Hard Disk Drive. This is an external hard drive sold at Best Buy in the United State, and sometimes they sell them at a special price.

The drive comes with a USB 3.0 conection. It has plenty of space to store our precious data as well as allowing us to store backup copies of it. These hard drives are filled with helium which makes them not get too hot when we are using them.

Unboxing

The box comes with a simple presentation, usual of hard disk drives boxes:

When we open it, we see the hard drive:

On the side, we see the cables and the manual:

Disk Benchmark

I connected the drive on Windows which recognized it as a 12.7TB drive. I then went ahead and ran a benchmark using the CystalDiskMark utility. It reported over 200MB+ read/write speed:

Here’s a video of the benchmark, altough I used another drive and it reported over 170MB+. The difference was that this other 14TB drive already had data in it:

Conclusion

With 12.7TB reported on windows, this drive allows us to store huge amounts of data and store backups. It is very fast and comes with typical Western Digital quality. I expect this drive to hold still for a lot of years, as my previous Western Digital drives are still operating excellent.

You can buy this hard disk drive on Best Buy here.

The Avantree DG80 USB Bluetooth Audio Transmitter

The Avantree DG80 USB Bluetooth Audio Transmitter

Hi everyone,

Today, I’ll show you the Avantree DG80 Bluetooth USB Audio Transmitter:

Avantree DG80 - 1

This is a Bluetooth adapter that works as a PC audio card. It transmits audio via Bluetooth using the SBC, FastStream, aptX, or aptX Low Latency codec, depending on which codecc your headphone or adapter supports. Having the aptX codec provides us with a better audio experience.

The aptX Low Latency codec allows us to watch movies and videos without any audio delay. Most Bluetooth receivers today support this codec and having a transmitter with it makes us take advantage of this.

Avantree DG80 - 2

Unboxing

The DG80 packaging is small and simple.

Avantree DG80 - 3

We can see the adapter along with its manual and documentation behind.

We can see the transmitter is really small.

Finally, we have the included documentation.

Avantree DG80 - 9

Package content:

Avantree DG80 - 10

Using the transmitter

Using this transmitter is as simple as plugging it into a USB port and going into pairing mode.

Avantree DG80 - 11

We can see Windows detects it as Avantree DG80.

Avantree DG80 Settings 2

The transmitter has a bit depth and sample rate of 16bit/48khz, which is common with these adapters.

Avantree DG80 Settings 3

I paired it with my Fiio BTR5 and we can see it is using the aptX Low Latency codec.

Avantree DG80 - 12

Here’s a video of the pairing process of the adapter:

Audio Quality

Becuase this transmitter uses a Qualcomm chipset, the sound quality is realy great, thanks to its support of the aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs.

Signal strength

Avantree claims the adapter will work up to 30 meters or 100 feet. This may be true unless there are some obstacles in the way. In my tests with the Whooshi adapter, known to have signal issues, I was able to listen to music while I was in the same room. However, going away I could hear the audio getting cut. If you’re looking for the best signal range, the Avantree DG60 is a better choice.

Conclusion

If you still do not have a USB Bluetooth audio transmitter, the Avantree DG80 is a good start. It’s small, portable, and cheap. It also supports the aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs to provide excellent audio quality.

The OWC Mercury Pro 5.25″ External Optical Drive Enclosure

The OWC Mercury Pro 5.25″ External Optical Drive Enclosure

Hi everyone,

Today, I’ll show you the OWC Mercury Pro 5.25″ External Optical Drive Enclosure:

OWC Mercury Pro 1

This is an enclosure designed for Internal 5.25″ CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray drives. It uses a USB 3.1 Gen 1 connection to transfer files faster than when using USB 2.0. This mainly applies to Blu-Ray discs since they can have a very high transfer rate when compared to CD or DVD, hence having a USB 3.1 Gen 1 connection allows us to benefit by having faster transfer speeds.

Unboxing

The enclosure comes in a simple box where when opened, we see a box that contains the power and USB cable as well as the screws needed to mount the drive:

We then see the enclosure below:

OWC Mercury Pro 6

It comes protected inside a plastic bag:

Once we take it out of the bag, we can see the shiny metal enclosure:

Inside, we can see the board and SATA cables:

OWC Mercury Pro 12

Installation

I took out my LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray drive from my desktop so I can use in the enclosure on all of my computers:

Installation was very easy. The drive was inserted and the screws were installed on the sides and bottom. The result is very nice looking portable desktop drive:

OWC Mercury Pro 19

Windows 10 detects it as Mercury Pro Optical and lets us know that it is connected via USB 3.0:

OWC Mercury Pro 20

So far, the enclosure has been working very great.

Now, I need another enclosure for my LiteOn iHAS524 drive, which is still my preferred drive to read and write CD and DVD.