The world’s most expensive 1-port USB hub, Schiit Audio's Jason Stoddard joked about the Wyrd. The story was as its namesake (it's pronounced "weird"): Jason and Mike put together a USB filter expecting it to have no effect on their already carefully considered DAC USB inputs and were surprised when the sound quality improved. With similar exclamation from others who tried the prototype, they put it into production promising nothing.
I’ve spent a number of years mucking about with DAC inputs, using converters and power supplies ranging up into the four-figure mark, so at $99 the Wyrd was a no-brainer. Jitter, having long been quite thoroughly dealt with in USB lead many to wonder what was causing the differences with various devices and cables, and noise from the computer being sent over the USB lines was revealed to be the culprit. It is now strapped to my Hugo, achieving what previously an Audiophilleo 1 did for it. When up-sampling to 384 kHz, USB transmission quality becomes critical and the Wyrd ensures glitch-free listening to USB DACs in those cases. I’ve also used it when I had trouble transferring music files to DAPs using Android File Transfer on my Mac, which would drop transfers far too readily if the transfer was interrupted in any way.
For devices which already have, say, galvanic isolation on their USB inputs the Wyrd may have no benefit. I’ve heard it may even not work well with some devices. But for $99 it has proven to be a versatile and useful device that has solved even some problems I didn’t know I had.
V-MODA Faders and Etymotic ETYPlugs
Every single Head-Fi'er should be carrying tuned earplugs on their person everywhere they go. I do. At the very least, consider picking up a set for those times you know you'll be going to concerts, motor sports events, the movie theater (yes, movies are often played way loud), on airplanes, dance clubs...and the list goes on.
Both the V-MODA Faders and Etymotic ETYPlugs have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 12 dB (decibels), and both may provide up to 20 decibels of noise reduction when used properly. If you're wondering why one would spend the scratch on these instead of just using those giveaway foam earplugs or wadded-up tissue paper, it's because these are tuned earplugs. Normal earplugs block noise indiscriminately, resulting in muffled sound and smothered details. Tuned earplugs, on the other hand, sound like turning the world's volume knob to the left, with things getting quieter, but details being maintained.
When attending loud concerts, I've found that tuned earplugs actually help to hear the music more clearly. At loud movies, they can take the too-loud edge off explosions and other ear-piercing special effects, yet still allow me to hear the dialog clearly.
For example, a 12 dB reduction can mean the difference between a 106 dB concert, only four minutes of which can result in permanent hearing damage; or a reduction to 94 dB, which is rated for one hour of listening before permanent hearing damage sets in. And, again, if used correctly, you may achieve even more than 12 dB reduction with these earplugs.
I own both the Faders and the ETYPlugs, and strongly recommend either. Personally, I prefer the Faders, for not just the style (the Faders look like IEMs, and the ETYPlugs look like plastic tubes sticking out of your ears), but also the sound (I feel the Faders let more treble detail through).
Seriously, fellow Head-Fi'ers, regardless of which of these earplugs you choose, take your hearing protection very seriously.
(So why am I including a Bluetooth mobile phone headset in the Head-Fi Buying Guide? Because it's made by one of our favorite headphone makers; and because it's the best Bluetooth headset I've yet used.)
I received the press release for the Sennheiser PRESENCE from Sennheiser's PR team, and just happened to be in the market for a new Bluetooth earpiece to replace the one I had that wasn't working well with my new iPhone 5S. I immediately went to the Sennheiser online store and bought one, and the PRESENCE has so far been the best Bluetooth earpiece I've yet used.
My iPhone 7 PLus is equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, and the Sennheiser PRESENCE is too. I'm not sure if it's at all to do with Bluetooth 4.0, but call quality with the PRESENCE is fantastic. The only other Bluetooth headset I have that people on the other end say sounds like I'm not on a headset is the Sony MDR-1RBT, but that's a full-size over-ear, circumaural stereo headphone.
Also, a few models I've purchased in the past claimed resistance to wind, yet all would make it sound like I was in the middle of a blizzard if even a light breeze was blowing directly on it. The Sennheiser PRESENCE uses something Sennheiser calls WindSafe technology, and it actually works! During one hilarious test, Joe held up a box fan, set it on high, and pointed it at my head while talking to another colleague on the phone. On the highest fan setting, the other party could hear the fan, but the sound of air buffeting the microphones wasn't enough to keep us from talking. Apparently the PRESENCE uses three digital microphones to help separate the user's voice from the wind.
Those three digital microphones are also used to provide tremendous general noise reduction--most of the time, the other party can't hear much of what's going on in the background, even when I'm in loud places.
As far as talk time goes, I've not had a Bluetooth earpiece provide longer talk time in actual use. The Sennheiser PRESENCE is rated for up to ten hours of talk time, and based on my experience so far I find that rated battery life a fair expectation.
The PRESENCE also looks very cool, which is nice--some of the other ones I've worn in the past were awkward looking. With the PRESENCE, I get both the best Bluetooth earpiece I've yet used, as well as the one of the most stylish ones I've seen to date.
My complaints about the Sennheiser PRESENCE are limited to its buttons. To keep the PRESENCE's appearance sleek, all three of its buttons are very shallow in their actions, and don't provide positive enough clicks for me. I'd have gladly sacrificed a wee bit of sleekness for slightly prouder buttons.
If you spend a lot of time talking on your mobile phone--and especially if you have a Bluetooth 4.0 capable phone--definitely give the Sennheiser PRESENCE a try. Again, it is, by a significant margin, the best Bluetooth headset I’ve used so far.
V-MODA BoomPro Microphone and Master & Dynamic Boom Mic
Two of the companies making some of the most durable, fashion-forward headphones are V-MODA and Master & Dynamic. V-MODA has made sleek Italian design and fashion an inspiration for their headphone design, even moving their design studio to Milan, with an Italian design staff. Master & Dynamic's headphones have what I've seen described as mid-century American industrial design, with their offices in New York City
Both V-MODA and Master & Dynamic have developed outstanding boom microphone add-ons for their headphones, designed to match and compliment their respective headphone lines. The nice thing is that both of these microphones should work with most headphones (whether or not by V-MODA or Master & Dynamic) that have a stereo 3.5mm headphone cable input.
The Master & Dynamic Boom Mic is made of machined anodized aluminum, and available in either black or silver. The mic capsule is unidirectional, intended to minimize ambient noise and focus on your voice. The arm rotates 240 degrees on a hinge. Like Master & Dynamic's headphones, the cable on the Boom Mic is covered in a woven material, and has an in-line answer/end button. The Boom Mic also comes with a very nice canvas storage case with a strong magnetic closure.
I've been using the Boom Mic with the MH40 for a little while, and the voice quality is very good, working well for gaming, video conferencing and phone calls. As promoted, the Boom Mic does a nice job focusing on the voice, keeping surrounding noises buried in the background nicely.
The Boom Mic was obviously designed to perfectly match the distinctive aesthetic of Master & Dynamic's headphones, and, when attached to either the MH30 or MH40, it looks unbelievably cool. At its price of $129.00, the Boom Mic is on the more expensive side--and its super-specific aesthetic may not match a lot of other headphones' styles. Because of the price and style, I recommend the Boom Mic strongly for Master & Dynamic headphone owners, but not as much for owners of other headphones, unless you find that the Boom Mic just happens to match or compliment the design of your current headphone.
The V-MODA BoomPro Microphone is also outstanding, and the easier recommendation to make for both owners of V-MODA headphones, as well as owners of non-V-MODA headphones that have a stereo 3.5mm headphone cable input. It's an easier recommendation especially because of its low $29.99 price, but also because the BoomPro's design is a little more versatile for use with headphones by other brands.
The outgoing voice quality with the BoomPro is similarly excellent. In fact, after all of our professional microphones were stolen recently, we made an emergency decision to use V-MODA BoomPro Microphones for recording a few Head-Fi TV episodes, and the resulting audio was surprisingly good. I've also used the BoomPro for gaming, and it's wonderful for that, too. I also like that the BoomPro's arm is made of something V-MODA calls SteelFlex, which lets you place the capsule closer to your mouth for greater immediacy and clarity.
If you're a Master & Dynamic headphone owner--and the $129.00 price doesn't scare you away--the Master & Dynamic Boom Mic is what I recommend for you. It looks amazing with Master & Dynamic's headphones, and sounds as good as it looks. For V-MODA owners--and owners of any other types of headphones with a stereo 3.5mm headphone cable input--the very affordable $29.00 is an absolute no-brainer recommendation.
Westone Monitor Vault
When you buy a high-end in-ear monitor, you usually get some sort of protective case with it. Sometimes, though, the included case isn't the ideal size--more often than not, in my experience, the included protective case is larger than I'd like (sometimes far larger).
For all my pricey IEMs, I use the Westone Monitor Vault. It's weather resistant (but not dunk proof, so don't submerge it), its polymer shell rugged, and has a protective foam interior. The fit is snug with most of my IEMs, but that keeps my in-ears from rattling around loose inside. It's just big enough to surround your IEMs with its armor, and that's all I need.
None of my IEMs have ever been damaged or destroyed while in the Westone Monitor Vault, and it takes up minimal space in my bags. The Westone Monitor Vault is very inexpensive, very compact peace of mind.