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Evshrug's "If I knew then what I know now" discussion journal.

Discussion in 'Video Games Discussion' started by evshrug, Jan 17, 2013.
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  1. raband
    Anything you've learnt in the last year that you wish you knew earlier?

    Has becoming a rep/sponsor limited some stuff you can comment on?

    You've always been (and still are) one of those I know I can trust and rely on for honest opinions and discussion. Are you still allowed to be critical of products, or is it "if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything"?
     
    Evshrug likes this.
  2. Evshrug
    Haha, I really appreciate your appraisal!

    I actually had a good idea that takes some of the things from this thread and some other stuff I haven’t written yet, looking for a way to package it up with a pretty bow Figuratively speaking, of course... or am I?

    The way I can post on Head-Fi definitely has changed since becoming a freelance member of the trade, and honestly some of it crept up on me as a surprise because there’s a lot of overlap between being a contributing member of the community and a member of the trade. I still buy stuff and explore around, but I’ve had to have a few posts taken down because some things I thought were neutral or observations apparently were not. It’s easier to say nothing... but that crushes the spirit of what has kept me on Head-Fi for all these years! I need to change a bit how I contribute... and as my resources grow, you’ll see me providing content in whole new ways!

    One example... all those Sennheiser Q&A’s? I wrote those, trying to anticipate the questions people ask. I’ve got a final draft of another one I’m waiting for Sennheiser’s graphic design department to spiffy up. I got approval for another Sennheiser project that I’m VERY excited to announce on the Sponsor Announcements and Promotions forum soon... that should be cool , something for you to watch out for. I’m also attending more CanJams; I got to help Sennheiser at CanJam NYC this year (I wonder if that interview with Jana will ever surface, since she got that great promotion with Stereophile!), and either Dekoni or Sennheiser will be endorsing me to go to RMAF this year. In New York, I actually helped out some other companies pack up and move stuff after I finished packing up the Sennheiser booth, and it’s cool to hang out with friends and community at dinners and events around the CanJams. Dekoni wants to do some Polls and small giveaways, that should be fun to set up! Hopefully I’ll be exploding Dekoni’s instagram @DekoniAudio soon, as I learn more and more about how to do cool stuff on Instagram and Facebook, and get to use my camera some more.

    Of course, there’s also some stuff I didn’t know then, but I can’t tell you now :wink: Like the HD 660 S I got to hear at Sennheiser Headquarters when we had a “Charlie and the Headphone Factory” kind of tour and the focus group of guests also shared what mattered most to them in audio, or the HD 820 prototypes I heard back when they were yellow 3D printed stuff and glued together, I couldn’t talk about that before but now I can say those were super exciting moments!

    I was also playing with the idea of doing a follow-up video to my headphone leak video on YouTube, but this time with all the Sennheiser headphones I have at my home office right now. I was surprised how many views I got to that video... it was intended to show one guy how quiet a particular headphone leaked, compared to normal speaking volume. I got a lot of feedback that people didn’t intentionally understand why I was talking throughout the video... If I did it again, I could explain that all headphones leak if you have a sensitive enough microphone and turn the volume high enough, so viewers should adjust their volume to make it sound like I was speaking at normal volume, and compare the leak to that. I could post that video here... think that’d be a good idea?
     
    raband likes this.
  3. raband
    Thanks heaps for the detailed reply.

    Obviously a new line drawn that you have to work out the best way to traverse.

    Definitely made me jealous as to some of the inside knowledge of upcoming product you get.

    Looking forward to the upcoming releases.
     
    Evshrug likes this.
  4. Evshrug
    Sorry to make you jealous!
     
  5. Evshrug
    Why Use Sidetone?

    Sidetone, or “Mic Montoring,” is a feature that allows the wearer of a headset or user of a standalone microphone hear a live feed of what the microphone is picking up. It is used by gamers, but also often by musicians, voice talent (voice actors, audiobook narrators, etc), and broadcasters.

    Recently, I engaged in a debate on another thread with people that wanted to turn the feature off, and it got me wondering... what would the benefits be of always having it on, especially for gamers?


    Bad Sidetone giving a Bad Rep
    Have you ever tried testing your mic’s gain setting in Windows, buy turning on “monitoring” in the audio properties control panel? You say “Hi” and Windows says “Hi” back, like an echo in a cave or gym. That lag makes it VERY difficult (for me at least) to form longer sentences because it sounds like you are interrupting and talking over yourself.

    Years ago, I had some option for mic monitoring while gaming, and the lag was so bad that teamspeak was like trying to sing in rounds with myself, and it was so distracting that I turned it off and wrote off the feature pretty much for good. I thought there always would be SOME audible lag, but now I’ve learned that hardware playback options (most soundcards and most gaming headphones with DSPs) really are able to have imperceptible lag, and the experience is much more like when you naturally hear yourself with open headphones or talking with no headphones at all.

    After getting used to it, learning to appreciate and rely on mic monitoring, it’s actually difficult for me to think of any time you might use a mic where it isn’t important to consider what audio the mic is picking up – with one exception.


    Why use it: the Social Contract

    Kinect Mics. AAAAAH!

    The microphone itself isn’t all that bad, obviously it is intelligible enough for voice commands, and visiting at a friends house it served in a pinch as a microphone when I moved it and sat it on the couch near my head. But any console gamer knows what the problem is: there’s often that one guy, who leaves his mic on, you can hear his fans, you can hear his parents fighting in the other room, and you can hear someone singing in the shower. Don’t be “that guy,” it drives everyone else nuts and eventually they mute him, even if the gamer is actually trying to talk in the game.

    Many gaming microphones try to prevent all that background garbage by being short-range boom mics, uni-directional or beamforming, or even active noise cancelling, and those things help, but even then the wearer doesn’t know if they’re breathing into the mic, picking up a buzz from some bad electrical grounding issue, or simply self-aware that they’re shouting into the mic.

    If optimized microphones and sidetone were not optional, but the default option just like the Kinect was the default microphone for early adopters of the XBox One, imagine how much easier it would be for each person to engage in enjoyable teamspeak? It’s being socially responsible. Sidetone is like the sense of touch: it helps give you a feel for if you can be heard well, or if there’s a problem that needs fixing.


    Why use it: Improving Performance & Clarity

    When you go out to lunch with our friends, you hear your voice in two ways: through the air, and conducted through your jawbones. With closed headphones and headsets, you mostly hear your voice through bone conduction: a muffled, nasally, very resonant version of what you actually sound like. Our brains either try to overcompensate and we over enunciate everything, or the opposite and mush up the little nuances. It’s like being partially deaf.

    Great musicians have great ears, listening to themselves helps to calculate adjustments to prevent from their sound from falling flat or sharp. People who rely on their speechcraft also sound more natural or dynamic when they can hear themselves, it affords them better control over their performance. And gamers... it can help us be mindful against shouting, or if we start breathing into the mic, or if we’re mumbling. Nice audio is more pleasant to listen to and makes it more likely that someone will listen.

    Plus, with closed headphones, a sidetone can be more pleasant and natural sounding to the wearer than just hearing the honky muffled version of their voice.


    The One Exception

    Feel free to tell me something I don’t know (that’s KIND OF THE POINT of this thread!), but I can literally only think of one instance where a well implemented sidetone could be a detriment. That would be with an open headset, where the sound leaks so bad that the microphone picks it up and you start a feedback loop (BUZZZZ!!). Even then, I could argue that would not be a “well-implemented” sidetone, as turning the sidetone feature on (at full “++” volume) with my Sennheiser GSX 1000 USB sound processor and my Sennheiser PC37X headset, which is an open-backed set with a short-distance cardioid Mic on a boom arm, doesn’t cause me any feedback issues.

    Thanks for reading!
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2018
  6. Evshrug
    @Vader2k, you’re the best!
    I realized I was derailing the other thread, but there was something in it worth exploring, and general enough that I could write about it despite being a freelance “Industry Insider.” Thanks for reading/the like!
     
  7. Vader2k
    Oh wow, you expanded since I saw it around... 2 AM, I think. It's even better now! You're welcome, though. It's a solid topic and worth discussing the merits even if the feature can seem off-putting initially.

    I love your guide here and think it's a great companion to MLE's thread, and a good touchstone for both newbies to the hobby and seasoned people who might just need a refresher on a specific aspect.

    Happy to see you're still adding to it!
     
    Evshrug likes this.
  8. Evshrug
    Thanks bud! Every once in awhile.
    I had to finish typing the post out in my notes app, Head-Fi often does this thing where it doesn’t let me scroll when I type with my phone. And, for some reason, I don’t get writer’s block when I type on my phone, haha!
     
    Vader2k likes this.
  9. Evshrug
    Something special arrived in the mail, after a long, 3 year wait... I have a feeling it's going to be worth it though!
    Unboxing video:
    I probably won't be able to "review" it with opinions, but I might be able to still film setup and describe it's functions.

    Gameplay in the 2019 Modern Warfare beta
    Initial impressions about the game as I come to grips with the gameplay, and a highlight moment within the last 10 minutes!
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2019
    conquerator2 likes this.
  10. Evshrug
    Is Bluetooth as Good as a Wired Connection?

    Back when I visited CanJam NYC in 2016, I got to talking to the two founding members of Bluewave, and after some extended conversation and demo of their soon-to-release Bluetooth receiver/DAC/Amp, the GET. They argued that the quality of Bluetooth has reached a point where the internal components used had a bigger impact on the final sound quality than the fact that it was wireless, and their device would have better sound quality than the headphone jack in my smartphone. I thought this was an interesting challenge, and I had to research and rethink my perspective on Bluetooth audio.

    You see, Bluetooth is a digital transmission, so it bypasses capacitance and EMI factors of headphone cables. Then, the Bluetooth receiver must then use a DSP (like a computer) to decode and decompress the transmission, a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) and an Amplifier before outputting to the headphone transducer (speaker). When you buy a Bluetooth receiver, you’re also buying a DAC and an amp! With a made-for-Audio Bluetooth receiver, all the components inside have the opportunity to be built to higher spec than what is included in a smartphone or laptop.

    The current state of Bluetooth audio is different than most people realize, and better than the stigma. There are advantages and disadvantages, besides not having a cord coming from your pocket.

    Shortlist of +Pros and -Cons
    +High res Bluetooth codecs (aptX HD, LDAC, LHDC) don’t have to re-compress Spotify Premium streams and have little to no compression added to FLAC streams close to CD quality (TIDAL HiFi, Qobuz high res).
    +Bluetooth can extend further than most wires included with headphones.
    +Wires (especially longer wires) can affect the sound reproduction, but Bluetooth is transmitted digitally with error correction, and the BT receiver, DSP, DAC, Amp, and headphone transducer/speaker are either point-to-point soldered together or have very short signal paths.
    +The DAC and Amp can also be tailored to match the headphone.

    The downsides:
    -Latency is reduced but still present.
    -While Bluetooth range is pretty long, sometimes it can be blocked by walls or subject to interference when many Bluetooth signals are blasting nearby.
    -Bluetooth headsets are limited by battery life, and the source (I.E. your phone) drains battery a little faster than a wired connection.
    -A battery and other electronics in a headphone/headset mean more weight and bulk, which is often the reason behind neckbands or short battery life in True Wireless IEMs.
    -Bluetooth audio can only be sent to one device, so no silent discos.

    Bluetooth 5 and 5.1
    Back when the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, iPhone 8/X, and Samsung Galaxy S8 were coming out with Bluetooth 5 in 2017, I got really excited about its increased power that could be used for range or data transmission rate. Figures like 2 Mbit/s burst transmission at short range or lowering the transmission rate to achieve over 300 feet of range boggled my mind, and had me thinking Bluetooth could become an alternative for WiFi in some cases. However, I later learned that those high figures were only possible with two “class 1” Bluetooth devices (both transmitter and receiver), and that in a more practical sense these Bluetooth codecs would mostly affect advertising and “Internet of Things” devices. Bluetooth audio would remain mostly the same as the 4.2 era, with about the same 30 foot range and the audio bitrate determined by the Bluetooth codec.

    Codec Conundrums
    Want to stream Spotify Premium, Apple Music, or a social service like YouTube and Facebook? Bluetooth that supports AAC or aptX will be enough to transmit the audio without further compression. Want to stream TIDAL or Qobuz Hi Res tiers of service? Qualcomm’s AptX HD, Sony’s LDAC, and Savitech’s LHDC can carry higher bitrates, and at short range in a good environment LDAC and LHDC can “carry” most of a CD-quality FLAC amount of data, but they’ll probably need to compress the data just a little. AptX Low Latency and similar codecs interest me the most for gaming, because lag is always our enemy!

    Wireless Options
    We’re seeing many releases now for Bluetooth. There are the traditional on-ear/over ear headphones, neckband IEMs, what I’ll call neck-wire IEMs, and True Wireless IEMs, as well as Bluetooth Receivers.

    On/Over-ear headphones were the first type of Bluetooth Headphones, but these days some manufacturers are beginning to experiment with Hi-Res Bluetooth headphones that are meant for serious listening.

    Accessory neckbands that add Bluetooth to existing IEM models or are hardwired to rereleases of earpiece capsules (for example, the IE 80S BT or the CX 7.00bt from Sennheiser) add flexibility, and put the weight of the battery, remote controls, and electronics on your neck instead of hanging on your ear, and they often use the extra space for larger batteries and sometimes dual microphones for noise cancellation. Neckbands are also an easy solution for how to share one Bluetooth connection between the left and right channels. Neck-Wire Bluetooth IEMs, such as the Sennheiser Momentum Free, have an in-line “pod” hanging from the ear with the electronics, a shorter battery life, but they are flexible and easier to fold up into a small pocket-sized case.

    True Wireless IEMs deserve their own paragraph here! They may be the newest, hottest thing, but they’re tricky to do well. First thing people realize is the earpiece battery life is shorter than we’re used to, and almost all of these come with a “charging case” that is essentially a battery bank... but I only use IEMs for one or two hours at a time before needing a break, and I recommend thinking about how long a typical IEM session comfortably lasts. These are intended as everyday carry devices, so charging at night or after long-term storage is to be expected. Second, how to sync and share audio between the left and right ear pieces? I’ve had different engineers tell me that basically the best way to go is NFMI, or Near Field Magnetic Induction. Bluetooth has difficulty transmitting through water or dense materials – like our bodies – so magnetic induction is better because it can go through or around the head to keep the earpieces in sync. One earpiece has to be the “Master,” so that’s why usually there’s one earpiece that drains battery faster than the other side. Thirdly, they’re a bit heavier than wired IEMs.

    Bluetooth Receiver devices are a new category, and shouldn’t be overlooked. You could also call them a wireless adapter, because what you do is plug regular wired headphones or IEMs into this (usually little) device, and the device does everything from streaming the audio to powering your headphones. That way, if you already have a headphone with a sound you like, you can have your favorite flavor and get it in Wireless too. There are also a number of Digital Audio Players (DAPs) that also have a 2-way Bluetooth function, so they can also act as wireless adapters in addition to being their own source of audio.

    DLNA servers or Airplay over WiFi are still going to be our uncompressed digital wireless solutions for now, and RF Wireless is still going to be the lag-free solution that should appeal most to gamers, though RF options are fewer now than they once were.

    Wireless and Gamers
    Well, the biggest issue I’ve seen is lag. Bluetooth receivers have work to do before they can playback sound. Furthermore, if Chat with a microphone channel is meant to send audio back to the gaming device, that cuts into the total available bandwidth and only certain audio codecs support an audio return channel. Games like PUBG Mobile switch to audio codecs usually meant for phone calls, which leads to noticeable drops in the game audio quality. That’s why Turtle Beach, Astro, and other gaming headset makers have often made “headset and base” combo units, using RF instead of Bluetooth. Sennheiser’s new GSP 670 and GSP 370 use a USB dongle that acts as an 2.4 GHz RF transmitter instead of using a big base station, and the GSP 670 only has Bluetooth 5 as a secondary transmission option for mobile devices. Lastly, wireless bandwidth, whether Bluetooth or RF, is usually only enough for stereo playback... so if you want a true binaural “Surround Sound” mix, the processing has to be done before transmission, otherwise the two channels of information are only really suitable for emulating two speakers in front of you.

    However, I see some hope! Again, AptX LL helps a lot with the latency issue. And I don’t know what codec is supported with Call of Duty Mobile on my iPad, but I have a certain Planar Magnetic Bluetooth Gaming headphone that performs much better in the new game than PUBG, essentially with playable latency and much better audio quality!

    Conclusion
    Personally, I’ve observed huge advancements in Bluetooth audio over the years. Much of the old stigmas have been addressed, and I’m excited to see where the future takes us. As always, feel free to comment, correct, or add to the info here :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
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