Dedicated reviews of affordable technology including headphones, mice, monitors, printers and other peripherals for the budget user. And, once in a while, a pinch of random opinion.

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Showing posts with label headsets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label headsets. Show all posts

What you should get instead of an iPhone 11 (Xiaomi Mi 9)


The iPhone 11 costs a mammoth $700 and is widely regarded as more of a status symbol than a communications tool. In this post, we explore the opportunity costs of the $700 spent on the iPhone and see what we could use that money for. We start with picking the best affordable flagship out there and will then move on to the accessories that could be bought for the money saved by buying our featured phone.
Why buy a phone when you can get a Smartwatch and Headset too?

The Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9 (about $400)

Xiaomi Mi 9 is probably the best phone you can exchange your money for at the moment. It gives you an enormous bang for every single dollar or pound you pay for it. The phone is capable of using both 4G and 5G networks – providing blistering futuristic internet speeds. It runs the best of class Snapdragon 855 and packs 6 gigs of RAM, a combination which in term of pure performance outshines the best of most brands flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S10.

The Xaomi Mi 9
It has an AnTuTu rating of about 372 which is about 14% better than the S10. (which is at 326) You could play any game and use any app at the speed of light. The iPhone 11 itself is slightly better in terms of performance but from a lens of performance per dollar spend, it is not even in the game.
AnTuTu ratings of the iPhone 11, Mi 9 and Galaxy S10. Higher is better.
According to Android Authority, its battery capacity at 3300mAh is adequate, but not extraordinary. They are awed by the phone’s gorgeous screen, slick premium look and snappy UI response when using regular apps.  The phone’s 6.39-inch screen is made of AMOLED which gives it an infinite contrast ratio and superb visibility in sunlight. There is also a under-screen finger print reader. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 which reinforces drop damage resistance and extends the life of the phone in general.

It has three cameras at the back, a 4k-capable 48-megapixel Sony sensor as well as ones with telephoto and wide-angle lenses. The picture quality is arguably close, but obviously not better than those taken by the iPhone 11 and is significantly improved if the inbuilt camera app is ditched for the Google Photos app.

It has wireless charging up to 20 watts, which we don’t recommend using for two reasons – wireless charging in general is less power-efficient and wastes energy and the charger itself needs to be purchased separately, which eats into the affordable user’s wallet.

The slick premium look of the Mi 9's back
For all of these reasons, Kategat firmly believes that you are better off spending $400 on the Mi 9 rather than $300 extra for just the marginal benefits of the iPhone 11. Let’s now explore what we can do for the remaining $300.

As an alternative, consider the OnePlus 5T as an affordable but older flagship which you can get for even cheaper.

Get the Mi 9 from Amazon now

 

The Headset: Logitech H800 Bluetooth headset (under $100)

The next item we could buy is a headset to go with the phone. The H800 is an excellent headset in terms of quality and durability. It would go well with the Mi 9. The H800 features a sleek and elegant design with plenty of padding for comfort. It pairs with a phone via Bluetooth and also has a wireless receiver to be used for laptops without Bluetooth or if you don’t want to use Bluetooth. The mic is noise cancelling for a crisp calling experience and can also be retracted and tucked away out of sight.

The H800's small profile makes it an ideal companion for anyone on the go.
In terms of quality, it offers a modest frequency response suitable for all users outside of hobbies audiophiles. You get good base and average treble, however the most important part of the spectrum for calls – the mids – would be excellent for both the mic while recording and the headset while reproducing sound.  It offers between 5 and 7 hours of wireless use, suitable for most casual users. It has two other features which adds added convenience, buttons on the side allows you to answer calls and control music without reaching for your phone. A fold-able design means you can tuck it away in a small pouch when not used.

Learn more about other Logitech headsets below this price point.

Get the Logitech H800 from Amazon now.


Smartwatch: Amazfit Bip (under $100)

Yes, of course, we still can afford a smartwatch too. The Amazfit bip is certainly a unique watch primarily intended as a sports watch but could also be used as a casual watch. It has all of the core features a smartwatch would have: a heart rate monitor and an activity tracker with a pedometer and GPS/GLONASS. The watch has an enduring battery life of close to a month of use, and is water resistant too. You also get the traditional smartwatch notifications such as WhatsApp, Facebook messages and information on incoming calls. The Oynx black version goes well with the Mi 9 phone too.
The Amazfit Bip
With the Mi 9, the H800 and the Amazfit Bip, you now have a phone, a solid headset and a time-tested smartwatch, and yet we still have $100 to spend on anything else we wish for. What a deal indeed.
Packaging of the Amazfit Bip
Get the Amazfit Bip from Amazon now:



Image credits:

Atmos for headphones and binaural sound


We humans have only two ears, on the left and the right. If we can only intake sound from only two “sound sensors” how it possible for us for us to discern sound originating from every single angle? Not only from left and right, but straight ahead, directly behind us and even above and below us. Close your eyes and listen to your surroundings, you can pinpoint exactly where each source of sound is, but how is this possible?
Atmos for headphones converts multi-channel audio to binaural sound
The answer comes in two parts, brilliant engineering on the part of our outer ear and some accurate post-processing. Contrary to what most people think, the outer ear – the piece of cartilage known as the auricle – does have a purpose. Because of its shape its able to focus and reflect sound originating from the font and attenuate (slightly reduce) sound originating from the back. The frequencies are also slightly shifted and delayed. The audio processing regions of our brains are then able to use these slight changes to decode where the signal is coming from.
The outer ear focuses and changes the pitch of sound based on the originating angle.
When we wear headphones or earphones, our outer ear does not play a big part as the sound skips the audio tuning usually performed by the outer ear and directly goes into the middle and inner ear. The post-processing component does not get the required shifted frequencies and so does not decipher any direction and distance data – so you generally can’t feel or get a sense of the where the sound originates from.

However, a workaround to this is known as binaural recording, this uses a dummy head or a mannequin head with externa ears. Inside each ear is a microphone that records audio exactly how it is perceived inside the ear. Sound waves bounce off the dummy head and external ear reaching the microphone exactly how the dummy would hear it if it were a real human. When this is played back over headphones, the listener gets the perception of hearing the sound as though it has already bounced off the external ear, giving the perception of surround sound.
A binaural recording mannequin.
The dummy head is not used to record sound in movies, TV and games. Rather it is recorded in multiple channels (microphones) and designed to play back over the same number of speakers. Sound from these speakers are meant to bounce off your external ear and be processed by your brain. Hence you don’t get binaural and you can’t experience surround sound in a headphone.

This is the problem Dolby Atmos for Headphones seems to solve. Dolby Atmos for Headphones works by taking sound from multi-channel audio such as Dolby TruHD or Atmos and processing them in to binaural audio so it gives a surround sound experience. Atmos for headphones uses an algorithm that can create a binaural effect which can create virtual speakers in any angle and distance. With Atmos, it can tap into the object meta data and create infinite channels to create sound originating in any direction.

You don’t need an expensive headphone to experience amazing virtual sound You could even use an affordable Logitech or Shure headphone to get the same amazing effect. Read our reviews.

See also
Binaural recording image source - https://staff.aist.go.jp/ashihara-k/mhs.html. Licensed under under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Exceptional but economical, two Shure Headphones explored


Shure is well known to put out products that target the audio professional and audiophiles – people who work in the recording or performing industries and at times individuals that claim to have wider audio response spectrum. However, as we explore the brand’s offerings further, you will also find devices that suite the regular headphone user and casual music listener too.


Just 10 years ago, Shure did not offer products for the regular user. It was only relatively recently that they offered headphones for the regular Joe and Jane. We delve into two of Shure’s more economical audio pieces, what we consider professionally crafted masterpieces for the non-professional user.

SRH240A

Even their most affordable offering – the SRH240A – features the neodymium drivers, the world’s strongest magnets. For an economical headphone, it has a rather stylish, polished demeanour, but is not too outlandish. You also get a gold-plated headphone jack but surprisingly does not appear to have good protection on the wires. They do claim their “Legendary Shure quality” so while the wires themselves are thin, they might last a good 3-4 years.
The SRH240A pairs well with a smartphone
The SRH240A pairs well with a smartphone
The ear-cup padding is comfortable and would easily cut out some decent ambient sound. It has a full 20Hz – 20KHz which can reproduce exceptional base. Most other headphones start at 200Hz which cuts out some of the deepest levels of base. It has an impedance of 38ohms so you’ll hear some amazing sound when connected to a high-power device like a laptop but still profound sound when listening to on a smartphone.

SRH440
SRH440 Packaging
SRH440 Packaging
The 440 is about twice the price of the 240A but you certainly get a lot of advantages. The connecting wires are replaceable, and they look better than that of the 240. The wires must be screwed in rather than plugged in which ensures they don’t fall off when pulled.  The headphones are foldable and comes in an exquisite carrying bag. The cusps are highly adjustable whist looking very durable.
SRH440 Source: Instagram, @dubmethod
Source: Instagram, @dubmethod
You still get the superb 40mm neodymium magnet drivers that the SRH240A brings, but what is astounding is the range of sound. It starts at a crazy 10Hz – you could listen to even the punchiest of base – and goes all the way up to 22KHz. That’s a pitch so high that only 10-year-old kids and mosquitoes can pick up. There isn’t sound outside this spectrum that the human ear could pick up!
The impedance is 44ohms, so it might not be perfect for smartphones but would work well with devices with more driving power – like a laptop or TV.  If you are in between an audiophile and a human, this is what Kategat recommends to you.

Read also:

Affordable Logitech headphones

Affordable Logitech headsets


Logitech is ubiquitous within both the gaming community as well as the white-collar class. The brand is the bread and butter of computing peripherals. This time we will be reviewing their affordable headset offerings.

H111 (3.5mm jack)
Logitech H111
Logitech H111
The H111 is an inexpensive yet highly versatile headset with a full 20Hz – 200kHz frequency response. The impedance level of 32 ohms will also give you good volume and will be just enough to hear some base. The boom microphone also has a good frequency and will be able to record with clarity. This headset is okay for gaming, excellent for calls on your smartphone or computer, and will be an affordable daily driver.

The foam rests comfortably on the external ear and the size is extendable by a good two inches. It can be worn for about four hours comfortably. The H110 is another model that features two 3.5mm jacks but is exactly the same in all other regard.

Get it from Amazon:



H151 (3.5 mm jack with volume dial)
Logitech H151
The H151 is an upgrade over the H111 – it has a volume dial and a mute toggle. It still has the full spectrum audio and excellent sound capture through the noise cancelling microphone. This suits calling and use as a phone headset as the recording range is slightly lower. The impedance is also lower which means that clarity might reduce at earsplitting high volumes. It has a slightly more comfortable foam than the H151. The dual jack equivalent of this is the H150.

Get it from Amazon:



H370 (USB A)
Logitech H370
Logitech H370
The H370 is a bit more stylish than the previous ones with a curved angle just above the ear pads. Unlike the 111 and the 151, it does not have a 3.5mm jack and instead uses USB Type-A or the standard USB port. Like the H151, it has controls for volume and a mute button; however, the controls are on the wire and not on the ear pad itself.

All three of these models are quite lightweight and do not put a lot of strain on your head. However, there is one interesting downside, the frequency response for the speakers are 100 – 10KHz which reduces the dynamic range on the treble side. And because of this, the sound will usually be dynamically compressed to the new range, so there could be a loss of base too. This is surprising, since the H370 has a higher price point compared to the other Logitech offers above, the H111 and H151.

The H370 is suited to uses of computers and laptop that don’t have a 3.5mm jack – especially those that use a soft phone. Using this for casual music is not recommended unless your source music too is of an inferior quality.

The H370 isn't on Amazon, check out a related headphone: