Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Grado

Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY

First impressions usually count for a lot, correct?  Well, my first impression of a Grado product was not all that positive.  I had a small LAN party at my house one night and I invited over the audio lead for Ritual Entertainment and got him set up on one of the test machines.  He pulled out a pair of Grado SR225 headphones and plugged them in.  I looked at them and thought, “Why does this audio guy have such terrible headphones?”  Just like most others that have looked at Grados the first time, I thought these were similar to a set of WWII headsets, and likely sounded about as good.  I offered my friend a more “gaming friendly” set of headphones.  He laughed at me and said no thanks.

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The packaging is relatively bland as compared to other competing "high end" headphones. Grado has a reputation of under-promising, yet overperforming.

I of course asked him about his headphones that he was so enamored with and he told me a little bit about how good they actually were and that he was quite happy to game on them.  This of course got me quite interested in what exactly Grado had to offer.  Those “cheap looking” headphones are anything but cheap.  While the aesthetics can be debated, but what can’t be is that Grado makes a pretty great series of products.

Grado was founded by Joseph Grado in 1953.  Sadly, Joseph passed away this year.  Though he had been retired for some time, the company is still family owned and we are now seeing the 3rd generation of Grados getting involved in the day to day workings of the company.  The headquarters was actually the site of the family fruit business before Joseph decided to go into the audio industry.  They originally specialized in phonograph heads as well as other phono accessories, and it wasn’t until 1989 that Grado introduced their first headphones.  Headphones are not exactly a market where there are massive technological leaps, so it appears as though there has been around three distinct generations of headphone designs from Grado with the Prestige series.  The originals were introduced in the mid-90s then in the mid 2000s with the updated “i” series, and finally we have the latest “e” models that were released last year.

The company also offers five different lines of headphones that range from the $50 eGrado up to the $1700 PS1000E.  They also use a variety of materials from plastic, to metal, and finally the very famous wood based headphones.  In fact, they have a limited edition Grado Heritage run that was made from a maple tree cut down in Brooklyn very near to the workshop where Grado still handcrafts their headphones.

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That townhouse in the middle? That is where the vast majority of Grado headphones are made. Not exactly what most expect considering the reputation of the Grado brand. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Grado)

I was sent the latest SR225e models to take a listen to some time back.  I finally got to a place where I could just sit down and pen about my thoughts and experience with these headphones.

Click here to read the entire Grado SR225e review!

Powercolor has a soundcard; check out the Devil HDX

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: devil hdx, powercolor, audio, sound card, opamp

Yes, PCIe soundcards are still being made and Powercolor's Devil HDX is up for review on Overclockers Club.  As with most new cards this one features three OPAMPs which can can be removed and swapped with another to change the sound that is sent to your headset or speakers.  On the back are a 124db rated 6.3mm headphone jack, left and right RCA jacks, Coax output, and an optical output.  The daughtercard sports 5 standard analog 3.5mm jacks to give you 7.1 surround sound support if you have the speakers for it.  It is about $160 so make sure you have ears that are good enough to deserve high end sound, for many users this might be a bit of overkill.

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"Setup as a stand alone solution, the Devil HDX gets to play in the best of both worlds with 124dB rated performance from the parent card and the option of running 7.1 sound through the addition of the daughter card. Here is my only beef with the Devil HDX. I know these are options that add cost, but when cultivating a brand it would just add to the package."

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Audio Corner

 

teSports Shock 3D 7.1, virtual surround to hear them sneaking up on you

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2015 - 07:37 PM |
Tagged: thermaltake esports, Shock 3D 7.1, audio

teSports Shock 3D 7.1 has two 40mm drivers with a 20Hz-20KHz range that can emulate 7.1 sound for positional audio when you are gaming.  In addition to gaming, eTeknix listened to a variety of audio sources and found the headset to be useful for listening to music and movies. The earcups will take some breaking in but once your ears have shaped them apparently these are very comfortable to wear.  If you don't mind virtual surround sound and are looking for  a gaming headset that is under $100 then take a peek at the review.

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"TteSports products have been a popular choice with gamers around the world for many years now, the companies unrelenting focus and dedication to the gaming scene has seen them produce some of the best performing and some of the most competitively priced peripherals on the market today and hopefully, we’ll be seeing a repeat of that again today."

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Source: eTeknix

Razer Seiren Elite is a microphone of many talents

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: razer, Seiren Elite, microphone, audio

The Razer Seiren Elite is a microphone which can be used in almost any situation, for meetings it can be set to omnidirectional, for conversations it can be bidirectional, the stereo mode is good for aspiring musicians and the cardioid is great for solo podcasts.  All are accessible via a switch that sits on the same side as the gain adjustment and the zero delay headset connection is perfect for those recording as opposed to broadcasting live.  Thankfully the multiple modes do not mean that it can do many things poorly, the testing MadShrimps did showed it performed well in all four modes.  At $150 it is a very good value for those who need a microphone that can fulfill a variety of roles.

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"Thanks to the three 14mm condenser capsules, Seiren can function in four different modes: cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional or bidirectional, in order to accommodate different recording environments. Even if you do not use it in a professional environment, it should bring a lot of benefit to people which record streams daily/weekly thanks to the added clarity but also to the ones which talk a lot on Skype or any other audio/video conference programs."

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Source: Mad Shrimps
Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Codemasters

Digging in a Little Deeper into the DiRT

Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to play the early access "DiRT Rally" title from Codemasters.  This is a much more simulation based title that is currently PC only, which is a big switch for Codemasters and how they usually release their premier racing offerings.  I was able to get a hold of Paul Coleman from Codemasters and set up a written interview with him.  Paul's answers will be in italics.

Who are you, what do you do at Codemasters, and what do you do in your spare time away from the virtual wheel?

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Hi my name is Paul Coleman and I am the Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally. I’m responsible for making sure that the game is the most authentic representation of the sport it can be, I’m essentially representing the player in the studio. In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips with my family in our 1M Coupe. I’ve been co-driving in real world rally events for the last three years and I’ve used that experience to write and voice the co-driver calls in game.

If there is one area that DiRT has really excelled at is keeping frame rate consistent throughout multiple environments.  Many games, especially those using cutting edge rendering techniques, often have dramatic frame rate drops at times.  How do you get around this while still creating a very impressive looking game?

The engine that DiRT Rally has been built on has been constantly iterated on over the years and we have always been looking at ways of improving the look of the game while maintaining decent performance. That together with the fact that we work closely with GPU manufacturers on each project ensures that we stay current. We also have very strict performance monitoring systems that have come from optimising games for console. These systems have proved very useful when building DiRT Rally even though the game is exclusively on PC.

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How do you balance out different controller use cases?  While many hard core racers use a wheel, I have seen very competitive racing from people using handheld controllers as well as keyboards.  Do you handicap/help those particular implementations so as not to make it overly frustrating to those users?  I ask due to the difference in degrees of precision that a gamepad has vs. a wheel that can rotate 900 degrees.

Again this comes back to the fact that we have traditionally developed for console where the primary input device is a handheld controller. This is an area that other sims don’t usually have to worry about but for us it was second nature. There are systems that we have that add a layer between the handheld controller or keyboard and the game which help those guys but the wheel is without a doubt the best way to experience DiRT Rally as it is a direct input.

Continue reading the entire DiRT Rally Interview here!

Need a little high end audio? Check out HiFiMAN's EF100 DAC and Amp

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: audio, hifiman, EF100, DAC, tube

Just the look of the EF100 DAC from HiFiMAN gives you the notion that this is not an entry level peice of audio equipment, it is aimed at those who desire near studio quality audio but who lack the means to rent studio time or buy professional level equipment.  The $500 price tag is steep but you get what you pay for, a tube driven amplifier with C-Media CM102s inside with two analogue inputs, a mini-jack and RCA inputs. If this sounds like something you might need in your life check out TechPowerUp's review right here.

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"HiFiMAN has a reputation for producing great headphone amplifiers. Today, we take a look at their newest do-it-all headphone amplifier & DAC combo with an on-board T-amp. This all-encompassing device features a class A/B headphone amplifier with a tube input stage. Despite all its features, it sells for $499, which is quite impressive."

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Source: techPowerUp

Budget headphones that are just good enough, Ozone Rage ST

Subject: General Tech | May 15, 2015 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: audio, ozone, Rage ST, gaming headset

With a pricetag of $40 many may be a bit leery of purchasing the Ozone Rage ST Headset as it is significantly lower in price than most gaming headsets which implies lower quality too.  It does use the 40mm drivers common in most headsets with a response range of  20-20kHz but the microphone is omnidirectional as opposed to unidirectional which means you will send background noise.  Modders-Inc tried it out and were pleasantly surprised; while it has none of the extra features that $100+ headsets do, the overall quality was worth the price of admission.  If you are in need of a headset but are strapped for cash, these are a good choice for you.

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"Despite the stereotype, gamers are social creatures too. Competitive games after all requires another person to play with, but as expressive as some gestures may be such as virtual teabagging, it is not nearly as effective in conveying what you really feel when you shout out expletives through a headset. It feels very natural in fact that one almost feels …"

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Audio Corner

Source: Modders Inc

Cooler Master updates their headset lineup with the CM Storm Sirus-C

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2015 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: Sirus, headphones, gaming headset, cooler master, CM Storm, audio

Many, many moons ago Josh reviewed the CM Storm Sirus Surround headphones, the first of their line and good for gaming, if not for music.  Cooler Master have released an updated version called the Sirus-C which keep the infamous gold plated USB plug while shrinking the inline sound card and reducing the number of drivers in the earcups to two, a 44 mm full range and 40 mm sub. TechPowerUp provided an overview of the new headset and came to the conclusion that these would better serve a console gamer looking for a good plug and play audio solution, but feel there are better choices for the PC gamer.  This especially holds true with the current asking price of $156 on Amazon, as there is a lot of competition at that price point.

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"CM Storm's newest do-it-all headset is put to the test. The Sirus-C is compatible with all major console systems and features its own in-line USB sound card. The design is like previous Sirus headsets on the outside, but it now uses a dual-driver setup on the inside."

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Audio Corner

Source: techPowerUp

HiFiMAN's HE-400i Planar Magnetic Headphones for those with the ears to hear

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2015 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: audio, hifiman, HE-400i

When HiFiMan refers to the single-sided planar magnetic driver in the HE-400i headset they are describing the positioning of the magnets within the drivers, single sided only have magnets on the side of the driver that is facing away from your ear.  As you might expect from this design decision this is not an inexpensive gaming headset but a high end audiophile headset and the $500 price tag further emphasizes this.  TechPowerUp had a chance to don these earphones and try them out, connected to JDSLabs C5D and O2 headphone amps and were more than impressed.  Indeed the bass reproduction of the HE-400i came near to matching the HE-560 which is twice the price.  If you have a decent headphone amp and discerning ears then HiFiMan is brand to take under consideration.

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"HiFiMAN has always been known to produce some pretty interesting high-end headphones. Today, we take a look at the new HE-400i. It uses the same magnet array technology HiFiMAN introduced with the critically acclaimed HE-560."

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Audio Corner

Source: techPowerUp

Gigabyte's Force H3X is great for gaming but perhaps not podcasting

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2015 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, audio, Force H3X, gaming headset, analog

Gigabyte's Force H3X gaming headset sports the 50mm neodymium drivers we have become used to, with a decent frequency response range of 20Hz to 20KHz.  The microphone is a bit different, using two 2mm pickup drivers on each side for a total of four but from the testing Modders Inc performed it did not help with the quality of your recorded audio.  This does not matter so much on a gaming headset but this is perhaps not the best choice for a budding YouTube star.  For audio in gaming Modders Inc does give the headset good marks and they also found it to be very comfortable over long periods of time, definitely worth checking out if you are in the market for a new headset to game with.

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"Don't you hate that when you are camping with a sniper rifle and all of the sudden some one sneaks up behind you and puts a knife through your head? Of course! We have all been there. Don't you wish you heard that guy who was sneaking up on you? Maybe then you could have switched to a Desert Eagle …"

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Source: Modders Inc