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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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Sony WH-1000MX2

So, Sony’s WH-1000MX2 successor the WH-1000MX3 was released yesterday. As usual there’s plenty of reviews praising it and how it could dethrone the Bose QC-35 II and how it’s slightly better than the already good WH-1000MX2, etc etc etc.

I think I will skip the WH-1000MX3. Unless the geek in me succumbs to some crazy desire to buy it even though I dislike the WH-1000MX2 – I hope that never happens!

I am in the enviable (to me at least) position of owning the Sennheiser PXC 550, the Bose QC-35 II, and the Sony WH-1000MX2. No, I didn’t buy all of these together … I am not that rich! The purchases happened over the course of a year or two through some patient waiting for deals to come up for these headsets. I started off with the Sennheiser PXC 550 because the Bose QC-35 and the Sony MDR-1000X were both expensive and I was able to get the PXC 550 on a deal from Amazon UK during Christmas/ New Year. I love the PXC 550. They have a lot of the features I want. Excellent mic quality, the ability to simultaneously pair with 2 devices, comfortable to use, touch controls, the ability to connect a computer via USB cable (in addition to the Bluetooth pairing with other devices), a headphone cable that comes with a mic so that you can use the headset with mic too even if its power is dead and you have to connect to a computer/ phone. Plenty of good features, and the noise cancelling’s good too.

Speaking of noise cancelling, I don’t understand all these reviews that say any of these three headphones offer amazing noise cancelling … the reviewer can’t hear the city noise, airplane rumbles above, etc. I use them in the metro and bus and yes they noise cancel a lot but it’s not absolute silence. Maybe it’s because I listen to a lot of audiobooks and so am more perceptive to the noise around me, but I can easily hear announcements and people talking around me (not all the people, but at least the louder ones) even with noise cancelling turned to a max. In fact, for me the noise cancelling of these headphones is on par with a good pair of in-ear earphones as long as they fit in snugly (e.g. the Beats X in my case).

Anyways, back to the Sony WH-1000MX2. About a year and more after buying the PXC 550 I bought the WH-1000MX2 coz they too were on some deal. Initially I was very enthusiastic about these headphones. I mean pretty much every reviews praises them and raves about how awesome they are and totally dethrones the Bose QC 35 … and they don’t even mention the PXC 550 (and if they do it is in passing) because the comparison is almost always between Sony and Bose. The WH-1000MX2 doesn’t dual pair, nor does its cable come with mic nor can it connect to your computer via USB, but its app has a lot of (gimmicky?) features like customizing the noise cancelling based on the environment, and some equalizer settings etc. Like I said, initially I was very enthusiastic about these and started using the WH-1000MX2 a lot more. I even took it on some long trips because of how awesome it is supposed to be on-flight etc. Yup, it’s great and all that … and maybe (just maybe) it’s noise cancelling is a tad better than the PXC 550, but boy is it uncomfortable! I put it on my head, it’s like there’s this big block stuck on it. My head feels heavy. The band is like a clasp around my ears, on my head. The thing feels huge. Forget wearing it on a long distance flight … I must have worn mine for an hour at most before my ears began hurting and I had to take a break. And since then I have an aversion to the WH-1000MX2 so much so that I barely use it nowadays. In fact, just today I thought I’d try it again because it’s been a while … but nope, 15 mins was all I could manage wearing it! I absolutely do not like the WH-1000MX2 due to their size and heaviness. I get a headache pretty soon after wearing it (my head is still aching from the past 15 mins of wearing these).

That’s not to say the PXC 550 is all perfect in terms of wearing comfort. It’s not, but it is nowhere as bad as the WH-1000 MX2. Nowadays I get a headache after an hour maybe of wearing it in the metro (and in fact I have stopped taking it on my commute and switched to the Beats X) but I think it’s more psychological coz these headaches began after using the WH-1000MX2. I think my head somehow reacts negatively to the PXC 550 too coz of the WH-1000MX2. They are not as heavy of big, but yes they are tighter and more snug than the Bose QC 35 II.

And thus we come to the Bose QC 35 II. I got these earlier this year. I waited patiently for a deal, but surprisingly Bose headphones don’t seem to go on deals! Finally I purchased one on a 6-month installment. And am I glad I did that! Of all the three headphones, the Bose QC 35 II is the best in terms of comfort and fit. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten tired wearing it (I hope I don’t jinx it now!), and not only that I love their app and Bluetooth pairing. The QC 35 II, like the PXC 550, can pair to two devices. But unlike the PXC 550 it seems to be smarter. With the PXC 550 say I was paired to my two phones and listening to music on the first one. If I were to open the second phone now, and it was not in a vibration mode, because the phone makes a click sound when it is unlocked the PXC 550 turns its focus to the second phone. In a few seconds it realizes nothing more is happening, but that is a silly irritation to my flow. Later on if the second phone makes any sort of noise, the PXC 550 again focuses on that. In contrast the Bose doesn’t do any of these. It will continue playing music from the first one until I actually start playing some music from the second one (or I get a call on it). That said, I think the Bose is able to pull this off because it does (maybe) low energy Bluetooth pairing with the non-active device. I feel this because I have noticed that occasionally it drops the second device (I wont see the Bose connected to the second device in its status bar) until I push the button on the Bose to make it pair with all devices or until I unlock the phone and then it reconnects. It’s not a big deal and the few times this doesn’t work outweighs the convenience of it not messing things up like the PXC 550 does.

Oh, and the Bose app. Wonderful! The PXC 550 has the most useless app of the lot. (The Sony one is gimmicky like I said above). Not only does the Bose app provide regular firmware updates to the headphones it also makes pairing with more than 2 devices a breeze. I am able to disconnect a device from the app itself, thus putting the headphones into pairing mode and then connect to it from another device. So convenient! If only other headphone manufactures too would put their app to good use like this.

If the Bose QC 35 II has one thing against it, it’s the thing that it disconnects from all devices after a timeout (5 mins by default I think). So if I am listening to something and pause the music for a while, it will disconnect after 5 mins. Of course I can push a button to make it pair again, but often one tends to forget that. For now I bumped up the timeout to 20 mins so it’s not a big deal. However, I noticed that when I have the Bose paired with my laptop over Bluetooth and I am using it for calls via Lync on Citrix, even though the Bose is active it seems to think it is not being used and so after the timeout period it just disconnects. Crazy! Thankfully that is not a frequent thing I do so I don’t really care much for it.

Anyways, to conclude. Sony WH-1000MX2 sucks, and I don’t buy all these reviews that praise the WH-1000MX3 like it’s some amazing thing that will dethrone all other noise cancelling headphones. Nothing beats the Bose QC 35 II my book currently.

Bose SoundSport Wireless

I had got myself a pair of Beats Wireless X some weeks back. I am not a Beats fan per se, but I bought these as they come with the W1 chip and I was curious. They were decently priced too. 

I loved these for the fit and sound quality. I didn’t expect much in terms of sound but it was great (I was listening to the score of Flash vs Arrow while trying these and it was amazing). I think the sound was great also due to the fit. They went deep into my ears and were snug. Nice!

I didn’t like them for their length. It was not bad but a tad shorter would have been preferred. I wouldn’t have minded if the neckband wasn’t really a neckband but just a part of the overall cable. More flexible/ foldable etc I mean. I wasn’t a fan of the carrying pouch it came with, but I got the hang of it after reading the manuals and watching some YouTube videos. What I absolutely hated was the powering on and pairing part – it was always a hit and miss pressing the power button and waiting for it to pair. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. (So much for the W1!)

Unfortunately these earphones broke after a week of use (maybe even less). I had worn them out for a walk and also for a visit to my daughter’s swimming classes. Both times the environment was humid and I had sweated a lot – I figure that’s what broke it. The next day I noticed they ran out of battery even though I had charged the previous day, and then when I tried charging again I saw that they weren’t charging at all. Apparently it’s a known issue, and the only fix is a replacement. I sent it back to the shop but they couldn’t replace it and thus refunded me. 

Boo. 

Using the Beats spoilt me though so I Googled for a good pair of Bluetooth in ear headphones and came across the Bose SoundSport Wireless via What Hi-Fi. Ordered online and got these today. Here’s some first impressions. 

Their fit isn’t as snug as the Beats but it is something. It’s solid. One wouldn’t think these will fit in so strongly (and these aren’t my first Bose headphones with their special Stay Hear tips) but they do. I tried pulling them out via a few tugs and they didn’t budge. Nice!

Since the fit isn’t snug though a lot of background noise comes in. That spoils the listening experience if you are outside and it’s noisy. They are less noise isolating than most of my cheaper in ear headphones. I wish it was better. 

The sound signature is amazing. That’s one area where again Bose is different but good. It’s very “clean”. Nothing extra/ punchy. Feels very pure. Not sure if such words make sense in this context but that’s what I feel like. I have noticed these with other Bose headphones too. I wouldn’t say I am always a fan of these as I prefer my Sennheiser’s over Bose for instance, but that’s just coz I prefer the Sennheiser sound signature and I know in my head that the Bose signature is unique and has its place. I don’t dislike the sound signature as I might of other brands. 

As is fashion the headphones come with an app too. And unlike the Beats and many other Bluetooth headphones you can pair two phones at the same time (note: same time – simultaneously). That’s convenient for a chap like me who has two phones. 

Anthromorphizing

So. Previously I had my OnePlus 3T and iPhone 6 paired with the Sennheiser PXC 550. Whenever I’d connect the headphones would announce the OnePlus 3T as “phone 1” and iPhone as “phone 2” as that’s the order I had initially paired them in. 

Ever since I paired the iPhone 7 Plus though the headphones announce both phones as “phone 1”. I find that funny coz I imagine it must be confusing to the headphones to have two phones that are both “phone 1” and in my mind it’s as though the iPhone 7 Plus is trying to be a dominant partner and say “no, I too must be phone 1! period!” :)

Just an example of how we try and assign human attributes to gadgets and other things. I find it funny that I am attributing some “nature” to the phone. This is not the only one though. I find that the iPhone 7 Plus gets along better with the OnePlus 3T and Sennheisers. If I have music playing from the OnePlus 3T and I turn on the iPhone 6 it would “claim” the channel so to say by blocking out the OnePlus 3T. The latter would continue playing but nothing comes out of the Sennheisers any more. The iPhone 7 Plus on the other hand is better. It too takes over but 1) pauses the OnePlus 3T and 2) if I am not playing any audio it gives control back to OnePlus 3T and resumes playing music. Again there’s some techie reason for this I am sure, but in my mind I attribute qualities like the iPhone 7 Plus gets along better or whatever. 

Anyhoo. That’s all! :)

New Gadgets

I didn’t realize I had a Gadgets category on this blog. Funny I forgot about it, considering I had blogged just a few months back about my new Kindles. 

Anyhoo. Two more gadget updates in case anyone’s interested. 

I bought a new phone for myself. The OnePlus 3T. 128GB/ Gunmetal version. Lovely phone! 

And I bought a new pair of headphones. The noise-canceling Bluetooth sort of headphones. :) Got myself a Sennheiser PXC 550 – which sounds so formal and uncool, but it’s a good pair of headphones nevertheless. It would be in the same category as the Bose QC 35 or the Sony MDX-1000X. I haven’t used either of them but I went with the Sennheiser as it had way more features than either of those, and I was able to get it at the same price point (well, slightly cheaper actually) as the Sony MDX-1000X (which is what I was eyeing, until I came across the PSX 550). 

Cool features of the Sennheiser PXC500 in a nutshell:

  1. It comes with a wired cable with a mic, so even if you run out of battery you can use the headset with no compromises (most other Bluetooth headsets that come with a cable don’t include a mic).
  2. It has a great battery life (30 hours or something, I think; I dunno, I just charge it every weekend or so).
  3. I like the touch controls – lets me easily pause, rewind, forward via a touch on the right ear cup.
  4. The headphones have an inbuilt DSP for modes like speech (useful for podcasts & audio books), movies (useful for movies or listening to film scores), club (I never use this), or none.
  5. Using the companion Android & iOS app you can create custom equalizer settings (I don’t use this) and also enable a cool feature that automatically pauses the music when you take off the headphones (but I turned it off since I discovered that I use the headphones a lot when walking, and the sweat that accumulates seems to confuse these sensors and they randomly pause the music). 
  6. There’s no off/ on button. Simply take off headphones and fold them flat (which is what I always do) and it powers them off! So nice. Unfold and they power on. 
  7. It can connect to 2 devices at the same time. Sooo convenient! It can remember up to 8 (or is it 10) devices – but it only connects automatically to the last 2. 
  8. You can turn off the noise-cancelling or set a percentage for it (which you set via the app). So it doesn’t have to be full noise-cancelling always. Personally, I don’t find any difference between full and a percentage. Which makes me wonder if it’s doing a proper noise-cancelling or not, but I know it blocks out most noise so it’s doing something. One thing I learn about “noise cancelling” is that it doesn’t not entirely cancel noise as the ads might have you believe. You can still hear train announcements and a bit of the background noise – so it’s not totally silent! 
  9. When there’s no music playing you can double tap the right ear cup to turn on a mode that pulls in the surrounding noise via the mics into your ears. So you can hear even more clearly what’s on your surroundings – say you want to talk to someone and don’t want to take off the headphones (and because they are around the ear they still block out noise even if noise cancelling is off). This mode’s useful for that. 

That’s all I think!