Monday, July 13, 2009

A Spark, a Shuffle, a Dog, and Boom Booms!

I'm back. Yup! I haven't been blogging for a while.......... by choice. I have had my hands full as of late, and based on my last entry, you probably know why. We now have 22 house companions. Yes you read right 22, and more are coming. Wendy and Tiny are both pregnant. Heehee. Wee! More puppies. Well, that is not exactly what I will blog about today.

Last June 6, 2009. Victorina held a meeting and we were to meet at Bonifacio High Street, which was great for me since it was only a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. It turned out that Philips had an event to introduce their new line of MP3 players in the market that same day. And mind you, these babies are quite affordable. I have been a fan of Philips from way back. And it was a treat to know that they have these new line of MP3 gadgets in store which are far more affordable and user friendly than the iPods.

I am a gadget addict. I literally spend more on gadgets than I do on clothes. Needless to say, I feel naked walking around without any form of gadgetry on me. But none, of all the gadgets that were on display that night, got my fancy. They were all too aesthetically common for my taste. At that point, I was ready for another gadget. My last acquisition being the MSI Wind Netbook which I almost never turn off even if I leave the house. It never gets hot, despite working almost 24/7, a real good buy for me. To clear things up, I don't just up and buy any gadget on impulse. I see first what it is capable of and what the manufacturers promise it can and cannot do. How sturdy it is and if it is easily upgradable, and of course, pleasing to look at (Read: It doesn't look weird or outlandish).

The surprise of the evening came not from the Philips event itself but from Atty. Trixie Angeles. We were merrily chatting as we proceeded to register for the Philips event (there was a draw wherein prizes were Philips products), Atty. Trixie takes this little square device out from her bag. I was curious but didn't say a thing for I did not know what it was. Then she says it was a Philips GoGear device she got from a raffle. It was 4 gigs and can record this and that. It has a built in FM radio. It was a cute little thing. And I wanted one right on the spot. Unfortunately, there was none displayed that night despite it being flashed on the screens during the event, as I found out later on. The next day, I researched on the product and then two days after, I set out to look for that Philips Gadget which was called the Spark.

I am not really keen on buying anything without trying it out. No matter how cheap they may be. More so if they cost an arm and a leg. But I was in a hurry and besides, if I don't like it, I can always return it. The seller better not give me their litany of no return no exchange policy. As far as I am concerned, that is against the consumer act. But luckily, there was no need. After charging it via USB, I found it was so simple to transfer music and pictures into the device. Just click, drag, and drop. So much simpler than the iPod. Then I found out that if the song has an embedded album cover to it, it will display it in the screen as the song plays, or if you embed it to the MP3 yourself. Cool. The interface is so simple. The navigation buttons are the screen edges. Even with the headset it came with, the little thing sounded great most especially when using the full-sound technology that greatly improves sound quality. Alas, it can only play MP3, WAV, and WMA files. But I didn't care. It still sounded great. What's more, it can play up to 27 hours non-stop before recharging. Neat! That blows the new iPod Shuffle out of the water with only 10 hours continuous running time, and the new shuffle, as in the previous model, doesn't even have a screen. It just got smaller, and it now supposedly "talks."
And to think I almost bought this latest iPod Shuffle. It's cute and all, but I don't like the idea of having to listen to an electronic voice telling me what I am listening to. And the lack of tweaking the sound via equalizers to get maximum output that will suit my ears is a big no no. Add to that, the controls are now on the headphone cable. Oh, oh. That limits the owner to use none other than proprietary headphones Apple sells, or from Apple friendly manufacturers. That is not good considering no pair of ears are made alike. Not all manufacturers make good sounding headphones. Thank you Atty. Trixie for subconsciously showing me a better alternative in the Philips GoGear Spark. In electronics, expensive isn't everything. And when a gadget is expensive, it doesn't literally translate as having a superior product.

Just recently, I've updated the firmware on the Philips GoGear Spark and it can now play APE (Monkey Audio) and FLAC formats. Perfect! Now I can listen to Lossless audio. I have also bought replacement earbuds for my Spark. I got me a Philips SHE-7850.
The Spark sounded even better with it than with the earbuds that came with the unit. Then I got curious how an in-ear earbud will sound with the Spark. So I brought mine along to electronic showrooms and tried out JVC, Bose, Sennheiser and Shure. They all sounded good but they don't fit my ears quite right, some are uncomfortable to put and have on, plus they do not stay on like they are supposed to. So one has to shove them back in from time to time. Another drawback, they are expensive. Some almost costs triple than the player itself. Not for me. Even if I had the money, I wouldn't subject my ears to such expensive aural and physical torture, so I scrapped the idea.

Just yesterday, I took Noah (one of my Chihuahuas) for a stroll around Fort Bonifacio. Our last stop was Bonifacio High Street. I've trained Noah well enough that he doesn't need a collar to obey me. He doesn't get distracted by people, or other dogs we meet. That is why he is so easy to bring along.

We passed by this store which sells among other things earphones, headphones, in-ear earbuds, etc. Noah and I went in the store and I was elated the staff was not against Noah walking freely by my side. Some stores and shops don't like it when you bring non-human companions in. Then I saw among the displays this inexpensive metallic earphone from A4Tech (MK-650) for only P350 (about US$7.20 at the current exchange rate). I have used a lot of A4Tech products in the past and I find them durable and reliable, so curiosity got the best of me. It says on the package that it is an iSecureFit, noise cancelling, sound isolating, in ear design metallic earphone. It also claims that it works like an earplug to block out noise and enables one to listen comfortably at lower volumes even in loud environments. So I bought it, tried it out on the spot, but not expecting anything spectacular from a, well, cheap product. BOOM! I WAS WRONG!

Not only did the Spark sounded great with the MK-650, I had to lower the volume a little past below half, turn off full sound, and customize equalization. WOW! I do appreciate a product that does what it says right there on the package. It was easy and comfortable in the ears, made of metal, it does cancel noise, and you also need to lower the volume and still hear comfortably. The Bass, Treble, Highs and Lows are well pronounced. Thank goodness the Spark can be customizable. I was shockingly impressed that I bought another pair right then and there, just in case the other pair got into some form of accident. And they do come in different colors too. I've read later on that A4Tech's MK-650 is a clone of Maximo iM-490, see picture below.
Be that as it may, I find A4Tech's MK-650 worth more than the P350 I paid for it. And if Trixie gets to read this, I would highly suggest she gets a pair, it is truly worth it. I wonder... where can I find and try out Maximo iM-490?

Because of the sound quality I got from A4Tech's MK-650, I decided to get me a pair of in-ear earbuds from Philips to match my Spark. After checking out several models, most notably SHE9800 and the SHE9850, which I believe are way overpriced locally. I contemplated instead on getting the:

Philips SHE9550
or the
Philips SHE9700
I was able to try out both models in a store at Parksquare Makati, they had trial units which is quite rare for sealed mid-range products. Both sounded great, but I ended up getting the SHE9700 because my ears find it sounds better, and they fit my ears quite nicely.
Auditory gadget adventure sated... for now. I wonder how long before my finger itches for a new gadget? Hey, I heard that the pocket sized Optoma Pico PK-101 Projector is now out in the market.... Or that new Vuzix Wrap 920AV Video Eyewear... Guess I better check those out soon.


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