The Headphone Thing

I have always enjoyed my music and sound quality has been important, my music tastes cross a wide range so everything from a chest vibrating bass to the crystal clear highs needed for an alto voice need to be reproduced when I am listening intently and relaxing at home.

Headphones have always been a neglected way of listening to the radio or using music to block surrounding noise using my phone or mp3 player while out and about. I have always tended to go for the cheaper end of the market believing that these in ear and over ear phones could never accurately reproduce the music I enjoyed. Believing this I could never justify spending much on these and mocking those that spent ludicrous amounts of money on something that was totally flawed, viewing the expensive sets as nothing more than jewellery.

Now my life has changed, living in a high density city where my preferred volume levels would cause neighbourly disputes plus I no longer have the space for a proper hi-fi setup that can offer the fidelity I want and enjoy. I had resigned myself to listening to my music at a reduced quality level using headphones of some type and have been suffering this but finding less and less enjoyment.

Then a combination of a shop discount and some gift vouchers I was in the position to try some more expensive headphones for virtually nothing. So I did a little research and found a few online reviews of a particular set of reasonably priced phones offered outstanding sound for the price. Now these were well above a figure I would consider spending but substantially below what most audiophiles appear to spend and being compared to these, outrageously in my mind, high priced items.

So as there was little financial commitment from me I decided to give them a go and ordered them.

In my hand a little while later I had a pair of Skullcandys headphones going by the name of “grind”. Looking quite stylish and they seemed to be well made but seemed far to light for any bass, I thought oh well at least they look comfortable and I am not going to be embarrassed if anyone sees me in them. I have joined the fashion victims.

Well I plugged them in and chose a George Ezra album to start my listening, not expecting anything more than my usual experience, flubby bass lines and muddy detail. I was amazed from the first note, there was a nice controlled bass without the detail being washed out. It was a real epiphany, surely this was not possible. Okay let’s not be silly in no way does it compare to a full properly balanced set of speakers with a matched amp but this was not what I expected. It’s fair to say I was impressed and rapidly cycled through a huge range of my favourites from Freddie Mercury’s soaring voice, Maroon 5’s “Daylight”, Nina Simone, Adele (as you do), a few Chopin piano pieces and “The Planet Suite” from Holst. I was excited, this was well above expectation and I was enjoying the music hugely. So some further research on reviews of this set of headphones confirmed that most reviewers felt they were an outstanding purchase.

So congratulations Skullcandy these are really great, I through a series of lucky coincidences got headphones that impressed and charmed me. I suspect that if I had chosen randomly in this price range I would still hold the same impression and be missing out on the beauty of my music, but no longer. I am thinking that if these headphones sound this enjoyable then maybe I should invest a bit more money on a better set and see how much better the experience can be.

Is the Mercedes seat a done deal.

With reports coming out that Wehrlein is now a Sauber driver. That must mean that Wolf’s negotiations with the Sauber team have restarted and come to a conclusion. Probably not successfully from Pascal’s point of view as he must have thought he had a good chance of that top berth.

What does this mean, after Bottas’ visit to the Mercedes base, presumably for a seat fitting, is he the man ? Getting a second chance to prove his abilities after a largely lack lustre 2016. Though that may be more to do with the car and the lack of competitive pressure from his team mate than anything else.

Where does this leave Williams with an ageing, “un-competitive” driver if Massa steps back into his seat and an untested rookie. Is the deal for engines (possibly sweetened by the early joining of Lowe) and the money from Stroll work the risk of sliding even further down the grid. These things must have occupied Claire and Frank’s minds over the holiday period especially with McLaren showing signs of re-emerging, though that may be a different story with the machinations going on there. Maybe Frank and Claire know something about Lance that we don’t, they after all have a lot of data to peruse.

With all the changes in 2017 and Nico Rosberg’s bomb shell there are probably some crazy betting odds out there. Enjoy the 2017 season fans, it could be a banger.

Storm Signal 8 or Hong Kong snow day

Here I am in a city that famously never stops,you can usually wander the streets of Central at 2am but you will not be alone. Yet I woke today to look out at empty pavements and only the occasional vehicle braving the tarmac of the motorways. A much anticipated Signal 8 has been raised by the Hong Kong Observatory, closing schools and offices and emptying the streets.

The advice on official websites gives sobering warnings about locking and taping your windows, keeping away from the windward side of your home, along with what you would consider unnecessary statements about not engaging in watersports. In my head the thought flashes through that If someone is engaging in those, they must be a prime candidate for the Darwin Awards.

Sitting looking out from the 27th floor I can hear the wind building as typhoon Haima moves closer to Hong Kong, only light rain so far and cozily ensconced with a coffee and my laptop, the wind may be voicing its presence but it does not even tremble the glass as yet, I feel like a distant observer.

My view encompasses empty basketball courts normally busy in all weather until 10:30 at night, swimming pools with wind whipped waters abandoned by the swimmers and lifeguards and trees beginning to bend in the strengthening storm. Here and there I see people doing their duty as dog owners bending into the wind and fighting umbrellas, leads and doggie mess bags as their faithful companions having forgotten their excitement for walkies now question the foolish expedition in the wind and the rain when they would rather be curled up at home.

So here I sit in my isolated eyrie surveying the streets with an anticipation of the impending typhoon and contemplating the foolish idea of heading outside. All the while I know that school kids are sitting at home probably being forced to study by unhappy parents with yesterday’s excited anticipation of a day off school evaporating as the realities of Hong Kong’s equivalent of a Snow Day set in.

Hong Kong in 300

Say Hong Kong and across most people’s minds floats images of sparkling lights and towers of glass and steel floating in a harbour crisscrossed by a host of small boats with the occasional red sailed junk passing by. Yes that city with it’s metronomic MTR is here. But step out of your taxi or limo and walk the streets and discover a complex character. Within this bustling city lies many cultures, from the feisty local Chinese proclaiming their differences with the mainland Chinese, who just as strongly protest. In this mix comes cultures from across Asia and the world each demonstrating and retaining their uniqueness and traditions.  

From the Filipino housemaids and nannies thronging the streets on a Sunday to the South East Asians maintaining their traditional dress and of course the expat Westerners seeking out the McDonalds and Starbucks. This richness and diversity is nowhere more obvious than in it’s food culture, every street offers an amazing plethora of small eateries offering culinary treats from all over the world, many strange to my eye but thronging with customers, so earmarked to consider in the future. Small entrepreneurs with their tiny shops and market stalls abound, all having fully bought into the market culture of the city and striving to grab their slice of the giant wave of money passing through the city.

This is Hong Kong, love it or hate it you have to respect it, from the little old lady pushing her cart of recycling cardboard regardless of traffic or pedestrians, the taxi driver who doesn’t seem to care if you get in or not. Up to the billionaire in his LED encrusted castle of glass in Central, they all play a part and they are all noisily reaching for more. This crazy, amazing city makes me smile.