Sunday, June 18, 2017

I hate magic

What is magic? 

mag·ic (noun) - the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

Why do I hate magic?
It spoils the ordinary, it raises the expectations of daily interactions, it provides excitement to usually unexciting experiences. It is a word I loathe almost as much as "rockstar" or "ninja", hell it might as well be in the recruiter cold-calling playbook as far as I am concerned. Unfortunately, it is an adjective I now must use.

I have hated the Apple earbuds that have accompanied every iPhone and iPod I have ever purchased. The earbuds sound horrible, the cord knots up, they are constantly falling out, and if they are seated tightly enough to not fall out they end up causing discomfort quicker than spoiled sushi. So what did Apple do? They introduced a new version that is uglier than sin, requires charging to use and cost $169!!! It's official, Apple has gone full potato on us.

Enter the spoiler: Apple Airpods

Apple Airpods entered the market to address the annoying removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack from the latest generation iPhone. When I first saw the Airpods on stage I thought "Wow, if Steve was still alive there would be a hanging for this". The first time I saw them in use I couldn't help but be shocked and appalled at the same time. They were the ugliest thing I had ever seen from a company whose soul-image is around creating beauty. I guess the designer of the neon coloured iMacs back in 2002 was allowed to have a second go at a product launch.

At home, I have a set of high-end Fostex over the ear headphones driven by a lovely little Schiits tube amp. If I am at work or travelling I have a set of Bose over the ear headphones with me (lets not even talk about how shitty these actually are - but fill an unfilled void). For everywhere in between, I have a set of Jaybird wireless in-ears. I have this audio problem licked.



On the go:

The Jaybirds have the same problem for me as all other in-ear headphones, they don't F'ing stay in. Regardless how many aftermarket memory foam inserts I try, they slowly wiggle out. However the Jaybirds have a second party trick, they are never charged when I need them. They take a microUSB charger and often live on my desk or in my backpack until I need them, at which time they quickly find their way to some dark corner of my house where I keep the one microUSB charging cable. They live on that cable for a few days until I realise I needed them and don't have them. Then they quickly go back in the backpack, and the cycle repeats. It is a vicious cycle but occasionally when the Moon is in alignment with Jupiter they are actually there when I need them.

Long Live Jaybirds, RIP Jaybirds!
Well after a few years of the vicious cycle described above the Jaybirds have died. I needed a replacement, and a set of these ugly as sin Airpods landed in my lap. I figured I will try them for a day, affirm everything I know and hate about them and proceed to scalp them on eBay for more than I paid for them (as of writing there is a 8+ week lead time on them from Apple).

So how bad are they?

I am not going to write an in-depth review on them, other far better writers have done this already. What I will say is they are truly magical. It turns out everything I felt was wrong with in-ear headphones wasn't the headphones themselves, it was the cord. Remove the cord and all the problems fade away. Combined with a very well thought out carrying case that doubles as a charger and all other wireless headphone problems vanish as well.

Sound quality - 6/10 (for what they are, remember BT is not for high-quality audio)
Visual design - 3/10
Visual design when worn - -50/10
Quality of build/materials - 10/10
Ease of setup/use - 10/10
Trojaning into your life - 10/10
Sets I now own - 2 - I hate me too

If you own an iPhone and walk/run/commute on public transit or use a Bluetooth headset, you need to own a pair. They are one of the few pieces of technology I would ever call magical.

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