Do not fly with your cMoy amp
Aug 12, 2008 at 6:03 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 27

FugaziDave

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Not sure where the best place to post this is, so moderators feel free to relocate if this isn't the right forum. Copypasta from my blog...

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I just got back from a trip, but last night when I was getting off the plane, it looked like I might be held up. In short, don't fly with your cMoy amp.

For my listening pleasure, I have some nice Roland headphones and a portable cMoy headphone amp that is built into an Altoids tin. Really cool little device, the amp is, and it sounds great too. However, it apparently looks rather suspicious to people in the airline industry.

About halfway through my flight back from Ohio to Texas, two of the flight attendants took a distinct interest in my amp. I showed them how it worked, explained the whole thing and why it helped get better sound out of good headphones. Simple enough, right? So I thought.

Until I was exiting the plane, anyway. The captain stopped me and asked to see it. I pulled it out, showed it to him, and it was explained to me that it's exactly the sort of thing that the TSA should have noticed when I was going through security. Loose wires, switches, and a power supply - apparently it looks sort of like a detonator. As the pilot put it, "The only thing missing is a stick of dynamite."

He took some pictures of it to send to the TSA to ask how it got through without any questions, though he assured me I wouldn't be mentioned by name or anything. Not that I'm worried - it's a headphone amp and nothing else and that much is very easily proven. Still, it was a little weird. But, that was all it was, and so I started down the jetway to go pick up my bag. I got about halfway down when three attendants and a handful of TSA folks showed up.

Round two of explaining also involved a demonstration of how it worked and what the switch (bass boost) and knob (volume) did. Several TSA people, an attendant, and the pilot all listened briefly and seemed satisfied enough. Then four police officers showed up. Cue round three of explaining. Everybody looked a bit concerned but eventually satisfied, especially once the various people had listened to a little music through the setup.

Ten minutes later I finally was on my way to get my bag, but the whole thing pointed out just how easily one can unintentionally cause a bit of a scare. Everyone was very professional about it, and I was very forthcoming with information about the device and making with the demonstration, so ultimately everything was fine and things didn't get crazy. I was not detained anywhere, I was not interrogated, there were no background checks or cavity searches.

Though everything ended up being fine, I don't think I'll be flying with my cMoy again any time soon. At the very least, not before I build it into a more standard-looking enclosure like an aluminum stomp box and maybe write up an explanation of precisely what it is along with a wiring diagram to help dispel any concerns.

This whole experience really highlights just how sensitive things are in air travel where security is concerned. Rightly so, I think, as it is important for the TSA, etc to do what they need to in order for people to be safe. As much as a pain as the security stuff can be, ultimately it is important. I don't deny that the system could be improved vastly, but for now it's what we have to work with. At the same time, we as travelers should do what we can to help streamline the process. That is, don't do things like take suspicious-looking electronic items on board an aircraft. The reasons are twofold. One, we don't need the extra hassle in our lives. Two, with everything they already have to worry about, the airline industry absolutely does not need any extra false alarms. Things are complicated enough already.

So yeah, be careful if you intend to fly with a headphone amp or any other home-brewed electronics like that.

Oh, and the airline people were all quite impressed with the sound.

EDIT: Note that mine is one of the JDS Labs amps, so it's a super-clean build (below) and not a crazy mess of wires like some cMoys are inside.

Inside.jpg
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 6:09 PM Post #2 of 27

oicdn

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That sucks....I've flown with headphone amps, but nothing ever had loose wires, or "looked suspect" because of it being in an altoids tin.

Atleast you didn't get detained or missed a flight because of it. Can you imagine if you had to make a connecting flight and were cutting it close? How much would that have sucked?
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 6:34 PM Post #3 of 27

zyxwvutsr

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There have been instances in the past where DIY amps such as the CMoy have been confiscated at the security gate.
If you must take the amp to your travel destination, put it with your checked baggage.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 6:35 PM Post #4 of 27

FugaziDave

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Thing is, that would defeat the purpose of taking it in the first place. When I fly, I listen to music. But, if that's how it is, that's how it is I suppose.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 6:37 PM Post #5 of 27

RAQemUP

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Last month, on my flights to and from Japan, I had with me in my backpack my 2 ipods and a sync cable, a Headsix, a D2 Viper with charge cable and USB cable, 3 sets of headphones, a laptop with charger, and a Nintendo DS with charger. Basically tons and tons of wires and no one ever gave me any problems. They never opened my backpack even for a slight look in either the US checkpoint or the Japan one. Also no questions when I was on the plane with my ipod>LoD>amp.

The only reason I can think you had problems is because of the DIY look of your cmoy which people saw you "playing" with while you were in your seat. Maybe you should get a small cloth bag (or maybe one of those ipod sock cover things) and leave your cmoy in there while in use on the plane/airport.

There is a positive out of all of this though. You had quite a few people listen to your portable setup and may have gotten someone curious in attaining better sound themselves.
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 6:38 PM Post #6 of 27

Golden Monkey

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Interesting read...I'd often wondered about exactly that sort of thing. It's bad enough explaing to the "average joe" what a headphone amp even IS, and why you'd need it...I couldn't imagine trying to explain it to the TSA and a bunch of cops. I mean, these people get pissed off and harass the F out of you over a friggin' tiny bottle of hairspray. I can see how they'd get all worked up over a little mint tin filled with wires, chips, a battery, and a "dubious" function. I got hassled going to Hawaii recently when i had my Samsung Q-1 tablet PC...they made me turn it on and show them it actually was a computer. They said they'd never seen one that small, and were concerned...

The first time I saw an Altoid tin amp, I immediately thought "wow, that thing looks like a terrorist's device". Lucky you didn't get cavity searched, lol.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 6:53 PM Post #7 of 27

aluren

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TSA re-examined my Vcap dock and cables to connect to my ipod. I just told them what it was and they let me go. Since then I never brought my Vcap dock on a flight again... But non-DIY amps like the Pico or Predator always get through fine for me.

also, during flights, i always get asked what my amp is (when connected to my ipod). i just tell them it's an supplement battery for the ipod. no questions followed. works every time!
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 7:09 PM Post #8 of 27

G-man

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Quote:

Originally Posted by aluren /img/forum/go_quote.gif
...

also, during flights, i always get asked what my amp is (when connected to my ipod). i just tell them it's an supplement battery for the ipod. no questions followed. works every time!



nice trick.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 7:26 PM Post #9 of 27

Agnostic

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So the lesson here is, if you want to blow up a plain use a Hammond enclosure instead of a Altoids tin.
biggrin.gif
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 8:24 PM Post #11 of 27

bryguy27007

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Quote:

Originally Posted by aluren /img/forum/go_quote.gif
also, during flights, i always get asked what my amp is (when connected to my ipod). i just tell them it's an supplement battery for the ipod. no questions followed. works every time!


That is a very nice trick.

Interesting read, and kind of disappointing in a way.
I fly a lot and would want to be getting the most out of my portable set up.
I wonder if it is worth the risk.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 9:15 PM Post #12 of 27

nsx_23

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I always try and minimize the amount of gear I have to carry around when flying. Saves the hassle.

I seem to recall there being a scare when the Macbook air first came out because the security people didn't know what it was.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 9:24 PM Post #13 of 27

aegid

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I have friends who work at the airport in all manner of positions, security and otherwise, and I have to say that they just don't care. Actually, the vast majority of government employees just don't care. They're there to do a job and get paid and not much else. Even if they're supposed to be all eagle-eyed looking out for the safety of others, half the time they aren't. Unless it really looks like it could be a bomb (like your cmoy did), they won't notice. That's just how it is. They're human and don't care as much as you might want them to.

Whenever someone asks about my amps, I just say it makes the music sound better. That's usually the end of the conversation. And like someone else has already said, prebuilt amps (my D2 Boa, Minibox-E+) tend to not get any questions at all.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 9:36 PM Post #14 of 27

LostOne.TR

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I thought this story would have gone in a far worst direction from the initial title. Guess my imagination got the best of me.
I do see though how they could be worried about it, and I guess commercial portable products are probably better suited for this use as others have mentioned.
 
Aug 12, 2008 at 10:10 PM Post #15 of 27

thekid22

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I was once held up for an hour at the miami airport for flying with a PINT in an altoid tin... I had flown with it at least 20 times but the TSA brought in a bomb sniffing dog, and IR shielding...
I was only saved because the head of airport security said that his son makes amps like this and believed my story.
 

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