Saturday, April 17, 2021

Cool Tools for the Road Warriors

I recently traveled to Australia and New Zealand to teach classes on

regulatory compliance, risk management, and the use of controls.

The flight from LAX to Brisbane was supposed to take about 14 hours, so I

took two main batteries and two auxiliary batteries for my Dell Latitude

D800, figuring on getting six to 10 hours of work out of them. I also

took two extended batteries for my Axim.

Lately, I had been toying with the idea of getting some of the new noise

canceling headphones to reduce the deafness I have in long journeys. Not

only do I battle the constant drone of the jet engines, but I have to

crank up the volume in the small in-the-ear headphones to the point that

I really question what I’m doing to my hearing.

After some research on the $299 Bose noise canceling unit and $199

Solitude headphones, I opted to go with the recommendations I read and

bought a Solitude set. They fold down substantially to take up little

space, the earcups are very adjustable, the two AAA batteries are

supposed to last around 35 hours, and the frequency response from the

40mm drivers was rated at 20 to 20,000 Hz.

I really didn’t know what to expect. I tried them on at home and while

there wasn’t much difference, the noise canceling on the plane is simply

amazing. They are rated at 18db of noise reduction and excel at

repetitive sound — especially at the frequencies that jet engines make

through the cabin.

The headphones are built quite solidly so even with the noise canceling

turned off, they reduce some of the noise. Turn the canceling technology

on and it is truly remarkable.

To add to the versatility, the headphones come with a nice nylon

softcase, a standard 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch cord, and then two adapters to

use audio plugs, as well as the dual-1/8 inch plugs you see on some

airplanes. In fact, one of the reasons for selecting the Solitudes was

the use of a standard audio cord. If I lose or break the cord that came

with the headphones, all I need is a male-male 1/8 inch stereo cord to be

back in business.

While I’ve been disappointed with airplane sound system quality in the

past, listening to movies on the Qantas in-seat entertainment system was

dramatically improved, as was listening to both sound files and movies

through my PC.

While in Sydney, I wandered around downtown going to CD and electronics

shops.

Up to then, I’d listened to MP3s on my PC and my Axim. The only beef I’ve

ever had with the Axim X30 is the really poor music handling it has, plus

I wanted something small and very portable. At any rate, I wandered

around from store to store and went in one shop with a great music and

player selection. I struck up a conversation with a knowledgeable fellow

who showed me a lot of models. They had the big iPods, stuff from

Creative Labs and all kinds of units.

Then, he showed me the iRiver T20MT with 1GB of storage. Wow! This thing

is the size of a USB memory stick of a year ago and plugs straight into

the USB port. Not only do you use the USB to move audio files around, but

it also charges the 14 hour battery!

Between the size, easy controls and great sound, he sold me on the unit

— very easily, too, I might add. I paid about $211 U.S. for the unit, a

small belt case, a set of Sony Turbo headphones and taxes. You may wonder

why I bought the Sony headphones, but it was for safety and it’s ultra

light when walking around urban areas.

I immediately took the unit back to my hotel, plugged it in, downloaded a

bunch of songs and let it charge. The disappointing catch some may

encounter is that this is an Australian model that iRiver isn’t marketing

in the U.S. If you go to the iRiver

site and look at MP3 players for Australia, you can see the specs. By

using Froogle, hopefully you can find places that will sell it to you

wherever you live. I am very impressed by the software used to manage the

songs and the audio quality. It’s a joy to use.

As I write this column, I am on a flight from LAX to Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Solitude headphones are working spectacularly with the iRiver — they

make are a fantastic combination.

As an aside, I am always amazed at how fast notebooks consume the

batteries even when set to low power. I wish I could get 14 hours with my

notebook. But beware of taking tons of batteries when you’re flying with

Qantas. The airline caps you at 7KG on domestic and international flights

originating from Australia and New Zealand. I wound up having to check

them.

Bottom line… if you travel a lot, you absolutely need to check out the

noise canceling headphones. They are definitely worth the investment for

use with your MP3 player, notebook, etc.

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