Spyder helmets

I have been looking around for a second lid since I got my Zeus helmet; obviously, I could not back-ride anyone if one of us were to be left helmet-less. My quest for the best deal at the lowest possible price led my to a familiar, but personally unexplored brand – Spyder. Their stalls are situated in very-high traffic locations among the popular 5-minutes-away malls from my place. Spyder – that sunglasses store who recently carried helmets and other headgear.

I was looking for something completely different from my full-faced and solid-colored Zeus ZS-805. I ditched the idea of going modular for safety reasons. So, what I have here is another full-faced helmet, but this time with fancy graphics. This is their “Sphinx” model, a 2008 release which costs Php 2,900. The pads are removable. Not bad.

Honestly, I don’t know if the certifications listed on this lid are real. Spyder is not that popular abroad like Zeus, so there are no real reviews on them. I do know however, that in MCP (motorcyclephilippines.com), there is a story of a guy who crashed wearing a Spyder helmet. Yes, he’s very much alive and well.

Final thoughts? For a first helmet I’d buy a Zeus – their popular and tested worldwide, and they’re basically the same price but Zeus helmets are much lighter. Vision is better on my Zeus as well. I do however, like the aesthetics’s of Spyder better. They look like expensive helmets and the designs are sick. Here is a non-updated website of Spyder.

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My Kawasaki Ninja ZXR 250

Unleashing the biker in me

When I was a kid, people would “angkas me” on all sorts of motorcycles. My father owned a motocross-looking bike; my home-service barber, just to be able to snip an inch of my hair, would promise to give me a ride after – if I behave properly whilst getting a haircut. He called it “one-round,” so I was “one-round boy” back in the day. In high school my dad brought home one day two 50cc scooters. Those were my “rides.” I’d bring it to band jamming – one trip to bring my guitar, another to bring a small amplifier, to the park to play basketball, to school, to Town Center.

Although I’m still a car-boy at heart, I figured I needed another means to get me by the near places. Fetch my girl from work outside the village, go to the mall, bring her home, before finally returning home averages at around Php 100 for gas – an almost daily expense. I wanted a scooter to begin with but a thought entered my mind – “Si Mark hindi na naka-graduate sa scooter.” Then my cousin started yapping about how he’s thinking of riding a motorcycle when he goes to nursing school.

So, after about a month of lurking over all sorts of classifieds and motorcycle forums, I had a clear idea of what I wanted and a working budget. A 250cc standard or sports bike fits the bill nicely. My type – slow and low driving – screams cruisers (Harley, Honda Steed) , but I still can’t fathom how I’d look on one of those. I also crossed out China-made bikes early on, but don’t blame me, I just believe what I read. After checking out a handful of really thrashed bikes, things were starting to look good. I did stretch my budget far and wide from the original, but I honestly think I found a good deal.

Below is what I got – a 1997 Kawasaki ZXR 250 RR (race replica) Ninja. A 250cc, non-highway legal, old but new-school looking sports bike. Condition is excellent. Seller is a veteran player, owns a shop, will take care of maintenance, and is an honest, bike-loving married couple. Honestly, I’m not digging the paint scheme much, but I figured I’d get future, inevitable scratches and dings out of the way first before I even consider pimping it up. I do consider myself a semi-beginner biker. Vroom! The coolest thing that blogging bought?

Kawasaki ZXR 250

Found the service manual of this bike.

Zeus ZS-805 helmet

Where’s the bike, you say? Soon, soon. I’ve spent this whole month-long year looking for a good motorcycle, and now that it’s slowly getting closer to reality, I figured I’d get a head start on safety. That, and the fact that it would be silly not to be able to test drive my bike on delivery day – village law requires helmets for all riders.

Research tells me helmets can cost anywhere from Php 600 to an arm and a leg. I needed to find the good medium or the bargain buy. Enter Zeus helmets. Taiwan-made but praised even in the U.S., simply because it passed all the helmet-standards testing known to man. Snell, ECE 22.05, DOT, what have you. This thing costs Php 2,000 only, and is one of the cheapest and simplest models. It’s a full-face, so yosi break means remove-helmet-entirely. Bought it over at Motoworld, Mall of Asia yesterday.

Zeus ZS-805

Philips SHP1900

Whoa! Two headphone-posts in a row. Actually, I’ve had this longer than my AKG K 240 Studio; they are not in the same league. When I bought my Creative Zen Vision:M, I saw these neat-looking Philips full-sized headphones for less than a grand. Impulse shopping at it’s finest, I went home with a new portable with the ability to compare and observe how well it pairs with different headphones and earphones.

This thing cost me Php 615 only. Again, only. A dinner-date costs more than these. I’m sure you could think of a million other things that cost more than these. And that’s where I will center my review on. To date, these are my most-used headphones. I use them when I’m working, I use them when I watch movies before I sleep, I use them with my portable. It’s as light as a feather, as comfortable as a pair of boxers, and, with it’s price, you wouldn’t mind a little scratch, bump and bruise here and there. It’s made of tough plastic which is not prone to scratching. As for the sound, let’s just say it’s decent and excellent for Php 615. The general sound characteristic leans toward the muddy, muffled sound. There is a little detail in there though, and the sound is quite balanced.

I love these headphones. I’ve been wanting to go back to the shop I bought it from and buy an extra pair. I’m not that sure but I think it was AstroVision. These, are by far, the best Php 615 I’ve ever spent. I can’t stress that enough. Nowadays it’s so rare that you get what you pay for, and this purchase reminds me that there is still some light at the end of the tunnel. Philips SHP1900, the best Php 615 I’ve ever spent.

Philips SHP1900

My AKG K 240 Studio

Thoughts In Binary, AKG K240 Studio

I’m doing this short review because one, I like headphones; two, I’ve already posted a previous headphone review (Audio-Technica ATH-PRO5V), got decent traffic, and sold a link with TLA; and three, these cans rock! I did however bought these 3 months ago, the review has always been in my saved drafts, but only finished it now. This cost me Php 7,900, bought new, and is my most-expensive pair to date. They’re not even considered high-end, mind you.

Build-quality

My very first impression was it looked better on photos. From AKG’s official site particularly, most probably because of the uber-dramatic photos they produced. The cans look nice though, don’t get me wrong, just not as pretty as say Audio-Technica headphones. But that’s just me. Earpads are made of tough leather, the earcups are made of plastic with a gold aluminum outline which made them look classy. The headband is made of leather, then there are two metal bands above them. The headphones adjust automatically on your head via 2 stretchable garters on either side. It seems that they can withstand abuse, otherwise it would be impossible to use the cans if they break. The cord is not too thick, not too thin. The jack is made of plastic and on the other side, a small removable mini-pl plug. Close-up photos available here.

Comfort

These are circumaural, open-design headphones and they fit the bill nicely. The pads touch none of my ears – I have an average-sized ear. Weight is just right, not too light, not too heavy. The clasp is somewhere on the weak side, but it won’t fall from serious head-banging. The open design means no outside noise is blocked, and this pair really blocks almost none. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but that means you must be in complete solitude to enjoy music and avoid disturbing others.

Sound Quality

Let me just start by saying that I’m not an uber-critical audiophile. I know what I want, I know what sounds good, but I don’t go through as much trouble as knowing the difference in sound between two audio cables. Coming from an Audio-Technica, I found these cans too tinny at the beginning – Audio-Technica’s have exaggerated mids. Plus, they do need a decent amount of burn-in. So, after completing the break-in period, I began to understand all the fuss behind these cans. The AKG K 240 Studio is a particularly popular model by the way, spanning over 30 years of studio and home use all over the world.

The sound is bright and shiny – in a good way. Detail and tonal balance are excellent. You would definitely hear things you haven’t heard before even from really old records. I guess the strength of these cans are it’s highs. Bass is adequate and not weak, mids are a little scooped but ok, and the highs are just phenomenal. These provide a different way of enjoying music from what I’m used to. I could probably listen to music over night without fatigue. You might think bright equals fatigue, which I thought so too, but they are bright in a smooth way. Think shiny white silk. And, since I’m not really into criticizing each frequency range, I’ll just end the sound review with four words: bright, shiny, shimmering, splendid.

Final Thoughts

The AKG K 240 Studio is a good buy for me. It makes me wonder what’s still in store with the higher-end cans such as the almost-double this price AKG K 701. But I honestly don’t think it will double my 240’s performance. Probably a little improvement here and there, but definitely not overtaken badly. These won’t work well with portables like iPods because they need amplification to sound right. They won’t sound bad unamplified though, they just won’t sound the way they were meant to be. Is it worth the Php 7,900 price tag? For me it is. I love listening to music but I still can’t afford high-end home audio equipment. This is my “cheaper” alternative to audiophilism.

January 5, 2009 update

I can’t believe how fast my cans became obsolete. Shortly after posting this, AKG came out with the K 240 MK II, which is supposed to be a “better” version of the Studio, but, what I really have my eyes set on are the K 242 HDs. Lovely.

December 26, 2009 update

The new line of AKG wireless headphones are damn sleek.

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My Creative ZEN Vision:M

60 GB

Finally decided the Vision:M was my “iPod” of choice. I bought this last Monday (October 22) on BPI’s 0% interest, 12-month installment plan. It cost me Php 16,999 @ Php 1416.58 monthly. Electroworld, Alabang Town Center was the only store down south that carried these, and only came in white, hence, that’s what I ended up with. Also, it came with a free universal power adapter (socket charger) worth around Php 2,500. First, let me lead you to some photos I took, and a short “experimental” video to match.

Short review

I never really liked the idea of limiting myself to iTunes so an iPod was never really in order. However, the recent release of a 160 GB Classic was enough to tickle my fancy. In the end, I thought that having a 160 GB device without being able to use it as a sort of storage device was useless. I don’t have that much songs, nor videos. Being able to “cut and paste,” as well as play a vast array of media file formats was what I really wanted – download videos, copy straight to ZEN Vision:M, ala USB thumb drive.

Up to this point I haven’t read the manual. I did what was vigorously printed in the box and on the unit (via sticker). “Do not connect the unit without installing the software first.” I’m not that “daring” so that’s exactly what I did. The installation disc came with Creative’s Media Explorer, MediaSource 5, AudibleManager, and Windows Media Player (I think). Media Explorer is the only thing you need, MediaSource 5 has some handy music and video converting tools, and a built-in player – I did try it, it was ok – but I already have programs for those.

Thanks to my free charger, I only waited 2 hours before actually plugging the Vision:M to my laptop – by the way, without an external charger, the only way you can charge is via USB (yes, I know it sucks). It was detected in an instant. I opened Media Explorer, and dragged a couple of videos and test tunes. It took me a good 5 minutes to fully navigate through the player. Prior to this I don’t know what a Touch Pad was. I figured it out and thought “Ah, ala iPod!”

Videos are so damn clear. The screen is really small, but somehow, I find watching videos here over the bigger-screened P990i more pleasing – because of the resolution and color depth. I tried watching a full episode of Heroes, I need not rewind to review “I don’t think I saw that clearly” moments.

On to music and sound quality. I am really particular with sound quality, which is why I spent weeks researching how the Vision:M fairs with other portables. First of was the stock earphones. It sounded better than my 10-year old JVC headphones, and my Php 615 Philips SHP 1900. These earphones are not cheapo throw-it away earphones. I believe Creative spent much time getting it to match well with the player. I haven’t heard my music files sound this good in a long time. Hooking a laptop or computer to your sound system does not do it in terms of sound quality. You need a good DAC (Digital-Analog Converter) – found in your soundcard – to make it sound good. Now, unless you’re running a Php 10,000 soundcard, your stock DAC sucks. In the Vision:M, I believe that everything from the DAC, to the small thing that amplifies the earphones are above par. This thing sounds good.

I’ll reserve the minor (unimportant) details of it’s sound quality in other forums. Overall, this player packs a wallop. It’s millimeters thicker than an iPod (does it really matter?). It’s got style as well. Especially that ripple effect on the back. The back portion is made of metal, the front made of standard iPod-like plastic. I’m sure it scratches quick so I really need a case for this. This is my first Portable Media Player (but I’ve had numerous encounters with iPods and others), and I am in no way regretting my choice. Creative ZEN Vision:M, at 60 GBs, for me it has everything, and then some.

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My Audio-Technica ATH-PRO5V

I love anything and everything audio. I believe it was Attorney Arambulo who said “Buhay mo audio,” some ten years ago, when he’d catch me tinkering with my car’s stereo at home instead of being dressed for the night-to-be-gimmick. I have been fascinated with car audio for at least 10 years now, I have spent 15 years in quest for the ultimate guitar tone and recently, I’ve been trying to break the hi-fi scene with budget systems and head-fi (headphones).

I’m no Audiophile. For me, the ultimate audio nirvana is a live performance. Fortunately, I find myself in a live performance or watching a live performance at least once a week. The path to a good sounding live performance (musician) is as tricky as reproducing music that is “as close to the original” as possible (audiophile), but are two very different things. However, the freedom to listen to whatever you want whenever, is a privilege to the audiophile.

The review

Since my entry-level Sennheiser HD202 is still as lost as my Palm Treo 600, I decided it was time for a much needed upgrade in cans (headphones). This is my first attempt at reviewing an audio product, and I will only go as far as describing build-quality, comfort and tonality, with some comparisons for each category. Welcome to a new category in my blog.

Build-quality

I have some up-close photos of the headphones here. The jack is a gold-plated 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack that comes with a screw-on 6.35 mm adapter which is also gold-plated. The cord runs on only one side and is coiled and thick. It is heavy and I don’t recommend stretching the coil because the weight will literally drag you down. The outside area of the earpieces are made of tough plastic. It looks brittle and might be prone to cracking as compared to my Sennheiser HD202s, which will probably bend or dent first before cracking. The earpieces rotate 180 degrees – for DJ use. There’s a thin wire that’s exposed which runs from the earpieces to the headband. It extends as you adjust the earpieces. They might get caught on something but they look tough. The headband has ample padding, not like the ATH-M50 which is a bit overkill. By the way, PRO5V means it’s silver, PRO5 is black, and there’s also a camouflage version of these cans.

Comfort

The ATH-PRO5V is considered circumaural. For me, it’s only semi. It’s also kind of tight (clasp) so I wouldn’t recommend it for long listening. The Audio-Technica ATH-M30 has the same size earpiece but has a deeper groove (so you fit more of your ear). The PRO5V has a tighter clasp than the ATH-M30. I find this ATH-PRO5V as uncomfortable as my HD202s. The ear padding is made of that thin shiny leather-like material that traps heat so you are prone to sweating. These are closed-back headphones and do an excellent job of isolating noise.

Sennheiser HD555 and HD202

I’ll describe the PRO5V’s tonality by way of comparison. Until now, the HD555 is the best-sounding headphones I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with. I describe the sound of the HD555 as “white.” It’s clear, smooth and very well-detailed. Comparing these with the HD555 makes the PRO5V sound really colored and dark. The HD202s on the other hand, are just my all-around cans. I never really liked it’s sound but it’s cheap (Php 1,400) and decent.

Audio-Technica ANC7 QuietPoint, ATH-M50, ATH-M30, ATH-T22

These are what I was able to audition in the store. Of course, I was only deciding between the ATH-M30 and the ATH-PRO5V but the staff was kind enough to let me audition their other cans. First off, the ATH-ANC7 which is valued at Php 12,000. These cans are in a league of it’s own. They are active noise-cancelling headphones. It uses 2 AAA batteries for noise-cancelling but can work without. Without music, noise-cancelling is like covering your ears tight with your palms. You can still hear and understand people talking but other noises are practically gone. With music, turning on the noise-cancelling feature is like making the music louder. In reality, it just seems that way because the only thing you can hear is the music itself. It’s considered active because they have microphones. Microphones pick up sound and they are reproduced through speakers, these cans have some sort of “reverse speakers” that negate the sound instead of reproducing them. The sound of these cans are unbelievable. It still carries what for me is the Audio-Technica signature sound – warm and darkish. The PRO5V is nothing compared to the detail and overall sound of these cans.

At first, I couldn’t tell the difference between the ATH-M30 and the ATH-PRO5V. Finally when I was able to tell a slight difference, I figured that the PRO5V is more “in your face” than the laid-back M30. I would probably consider the M30 for longer listening sessions and the PRO5V for monitoring.

I was only able to spend about a minute listening to the ATH-M50. My real first impression was that it sounded like the M30 but was thinner. I figured it’s something that needs a lot of breaking-in. I can’t comment more on the M50’s sound.

The ATH-T22, which is valued at Php 1,300 is in a league of it’s own compared with the above Audio-Technicas. It sounds cheap. If I had a hard time differentiating between the M50, M30 and PROV5, I had no problems differentiating between the ATH-T22 and the ANC7, except that they are on the opposite sides of the sound quality spectrum.

Audio-Technica PRO5V listening impressions

I would consider these cans excellent for monitoring and mixing. The instruments are well defined and you could almost block yourself from listening to a particular instrument only. I also noticed that guitars sound meaner more real. This led me to testing them with my guitar (hooked on a ToneWorks processor). These are by far the best headphones I’ve used for guitars. The mids of these cans are really out there – which is probably why it sounded great for guitar monitoring. However, it (mids) can also be “too much” for other applications. In particular, I don’t like how vocals sound in these headphones. They sound too sticky and not-lifelike. They sound too “brown” (maybe dark brown) but not tube-like. There’s also the fatigue factor, so it’s not good for long listening hours. I can see myself using these headphones for learning guitar parts or other instruments on recorded materials.

Final thoughts

These are worth Php 3,660 with an additional 10% off for cash buyers. I bought them at Hi-Fi Lounge in Festival Mall, Muntinlupa (Philippines). I do not regret not choosing the ATH-M30 (Php 3,000) over these because I figured it suits my (all-around) needs. It’s definitely an upgrade from my HD202 but I think I need another pair suited solely for listening. Other than that, let me just remind you that this review is personal and I don’t expect everyone to agree. It’s always best to listen to them yourselves. By the way, I used a lot of different sources for these cans (amplified and unamplified) and not just the usual iPod. If you’re not from the Philippines, you can buy these headphones online at Amazon for only $49.99. Click on the image below to see more photos.

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My cheap Sony Ericsson P990i

How it came about

I just realized I can live without a laptop of my own, but, without a PDA, no. And, since I am still forbidden from reuniting with my self-destructing Palm Treo 600, I scouted for a new companion. I feel so helpless not being able to write my thoughts in binary. Blog topics, things to do, things to buy and sell, song ideas – these are just some of the things that randomly pop in my head, and, without a tool to remember them by, I’ve lost forever that-which-might-have-been-something-special.

Like I’ve said in my previous post, I was torn between Nokia’s E61i and this Sony Ericsson P990i. The E61i is the better smartphone but temptation is a bitch, and budget is tight. Currently, the E61i sells for around Php 20,000 brand new. The P990i, get ready for this, Php 13,000 only. Not bad for something that sold for Php 40,000 when in first came out. And, to add to my already uber cheapassness, I bought a used unit for Php 11,500. The unit is complete, still under warranty, has zero body scratches, and the only aesthetic blemish is some wear on the menu button.

My take on the Sony Ericsson P990i

Reviews of this unit are already abundantly scattered all over the internet. I’ll add here some of the more useful links that helped my decision, then I’ll add my personal take. PhilMUG.PH has one of the earliest threads discussing the P990i. Then you might as well view the longer thread discussing the Nokia E61i (113 pages). A thread on MaPa1ad entitled Goodbye Palm… Hello P990i is a good read. And, a nice, short video review at YouTube for the lazy reader.

I came from a very primitive Palm Treo 600 so all these new features are just perks. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a semi-decent camera (2-megapixel), video recording, 3G, 3D games, a high-resolution screen (240×320 pixels, 256K colors) – are just some of the things I’ll try to incorporate in my daily life. Wi-Fi on a phone for me is just something to brag about. Sites are just so cramped and are a pain to look at. The 2-megapixel camera is a welcome addition to take emergency precious moments – it also comes with a built in flash and auto-focus. The screen is really nice and crisp.

I used to be able to do everything in my Treo without ever using the stylus, I can’t seem to do that now – there are just some things that are unaccessible with the jog dial. The qwerty keypad is a little cramped, although the addition of a regular phone keypad means I can do one-hand texting once again. The phone’s responsiveness (programs, overall speed) could be better, it’s not really that buggy, and I know there is a new firmware upgrade for the unit (which I haven’t done). Battery life, well, I’ve yet to drain my first charge – I’m only 6 hours in and only an eighth taken from the battery meter. For now I have to say I’m a happy camper. I’ll probably follow-up on this post once I update the firmware.

I recommend this phone and here’s why

I spent the same amount for my Treo 600 some 2 years ago. With so much more, at this price, you can’t go wrong. The only difference between this and the other smartphones (with the same features, particularly the E61i) is the responsiveness – and it’s something you can learn to live with (adjust to). By the way, I also took some close-ups of the phone, click on the image below to view them.

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Acer Aspire 5570ANWXCi

Finally

A new laptop. After two years of dealing with my slow Compaq Presario M2000, I finally decided it was time to part ways. A couple of window shopping sessions, online lurking, research, and I’ve found the right one. An Acer Aspire at only Php 39,900.00. It was either this, a gorgeous all-black HP 500 for Php 39,990.00, and a used Dell Inspiron 710m 12.1″ that was worth Php 91,888.00 when it first came out. The Dell was a really good steal; I just thought the 12.1″ screen might be a little too small for me. That, warranty issues, plus the fact that the seller admits to it having a couple of scratches; I just can’t live with that. The HP 500 on the other hand had an older processor and a smaller hard disk. Plus, the salesman said something about it not having drivers included.

Bang for the buck

This new notebook replaces last year’s Acer Aspire 3628ANWXCi in terms of value for money. Compared with the 3628, my 5570 has an upgraded Intel Core Solo processor, 512 MB DDR2 and 80GB HDD; all of that for the same Php 39,900.00 price tag. For complete specifications, click here. Oh, and it also came with a free Apacer 1GB thumb drive.

Raves

After getting used to a Celeron, anything higher will already satisfy me. However, I’m really loving the CrystalBrite LCD screen. It’s really sharp, bright and nice to look at; almost made the whites on my old notebook yellowish. I also noticed how powerful the wireless LAN is on this notebook. I’m getting really good reception at home in areas that were impossible with my Compaq.

Raves

For what this thing is worth, I have no complaints. It’s either that or I’m just easy to please. Ok, nothing’s perfect. If I could ask for more I probably would have wanted a DVD writer, it only comes with a DVD-CDRW drive, and a bundled Windows XP software. Nothing more.

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That huge Zippo

Finally, a solution to my never-ending stolen, misplaced, left-behind lighter dilemma. From Lighters Galore, this hippo-of-a-Zippo at Php 430.00 is actually cheaper than your standard-sized Zippo lighter. It eats up about a third of the regular 125 ml lighter fluid and is bound to light me up for all eternity, not to mention the endless “Need a light?” pick-up lines I will be pulling out soon.

By the way, there’s a bigger version of this at Php 840.00 and is almost twice it’s size. But that is just overkill.

“‘Te, nakita mo ba lighter ko?”

Zippo the hippo