Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Understanding headphones vs headset vs earbuds, on-ear vs over-ear vs in-ear, wired vs wireless vs true wireless, closed-back vs open-back

It seems that there are quite a lot of earphones related terms nowadays.

It is imperative for you to understand what the terms meant, so that, from their product description, you can understand the nature of the earphones you are aiming for. This will help you ensure that you won't buy the wrong type of earphones that is different from your real preference.

Headphones vs headset vs earbuds

  • Headphones - the sound device with 2 drivers, connected by a headband, to be worn over your head and covering your ears with its ear cups.
In terms of audio playback channel, they can be of:
    • Mono - single-channel audio. Both left and right drivers playing the same audio.
    • Stereo - dual-channel audio. The sound is divided into left channel and right channel. This enables the headphones to produce wider sound width, and the ability to create sound directionality, perspective, as well as simulation of real space.
The ear cups can be of type:

    • Foldable - more easier to carry in flatter pouch.
    • Non-foldable - more suitable to be used at fixed location.
The headphones can be of type:
    • Without noise-canceling treatment - you can still hear the external noise, mixing together with the voice coming from the headphones itself.
    • Passive noise-canceling - able to isolate external noise with the headphones structure and material used. This can minimize the disturbance and annoyance of ambient noise when you are listening through your headphones.
    • Active noise-canceling (ANC) - able to eliminate external ambient noise by producing sound waves with frequency that cancel out the ambient noise frequency. This can create a quiet listening environment for you to focus on the sound coming from your headphones only.
The headphones can be of type:
    • On-ear - the ear cups are put right on your ears. This type of headphones usually has smaller ear cups. Some of the disadvantages of on-ear headphones including:
      • Poorer ambient noise isolation.
      • More tendency of voice leakage - people near you can hear what you are listening to.
      • Need to clamp tightly onto your ears, will cause ears pain when use for long time.
    • Over-ear - the ear cups are larger and sit on your outer ears. This type of headphones are usually more comfortable to wear, has better ambient noise isolation, can prevent voice leakage. They usually have a more expansive sound stage. Depends on the material used, when use for long time, you might feel heat building up at your ears due to poor air ventilation.
The headphones can be of type:
    • Closed-back - the ear cups are fully covering your ears.
    • Open-back - there is a gap at the back of the headphones, so that you are still able to listen to your own voice more clearly when you speak. It also provides better ventilation to have less heat building up after long use.

  • Headset - is a kind of headphones with built-in microphone to capture voice input.
The microphone can be:
    • Internal - inside the ear cups. Less external parts. Voice quality might not be as good as the one with external microphone, because the mic(s) are located further away from the mouth.
    • External - normally in a form of boom mic which can be positioned right in front of your mouth. The external microphone can be of type detachable or non-detachable from the headset.
Better type of microphone has echo-canceling feature to prevent echoing the sound coming from the sound output device.

Better type of microphone also has noise-canceling feature to filter out ambient noise such as the noise from wind, motor, fan, air-cond, moving vehicle, TV, etc.

  • Earbuds - are without headbands, small in size, fits directly into your ears. They are very portable, but usually have shorter battery life, and could drop off from your ear when you jump or move vigorously. They are also more intrusive in nature, and some people find uncomfortable wearing them.
The earbuds can be of type:
    • On-ear - less intrusive in nature.
    • In-ear - to be put into your ear canal. This can provide better passive noise cancellation.

Wired vs wireless vs true wireless

  • Wired earphones, regardless they are headphones, headset or earbuds, has audio wire connecting them to the sound-producing device, which can be a handphone, computer, MP3, musical instrument, etc.
The wire can be of one-way type, sending sound signal from the source device to the earphones. On the other hand, two-ways wire can also send sound signal from microphone of headset to the connected device.

Signal sending in the wire can be of analog type or digital type.

For digital type of audio, the coding format can be of:
    • aptX (Qualcomm)
    • LDAC (Sony)
    • AAC
    • SBC
    • FLAC
    • ...
but more importantly for the quality of audio is its bitrate in kilobits per second (kbps). The higher the better.

  • Wireless earphones communicate with the attached device using wireless communication, which can be of proprietary protocol, Bluetooth, or even WiFi. 
Bluetooth is commonly used, because it is easier to do pairing, consumes less electric power, but it is also limited by relatively short reaching distance.

Certain wired earphones can work without any battery, powered by the electric current in their own wire. But all wireless earphones need to have their own power supply, usually in the form of built-in rechargeable battery.

  • True wireless earbuds refer to earbuds without any wire. This is to distinguish from certain wireless earbuds that are still connecting the right earbud and left earbud to each other with a wire or a band.
Certain true wireless earbuds have internal microphone too, mainly for handling phone calls.

Certain wired earbuds consist of additional components such as:
    • Microphone that attached to the wire.
    • Control dial to control the sound volume easily.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

My Nippon II NP2-348T mechanical 24-hour segmented timer electric power switch

If you want a certain electrical appliance to be switched on during certain time period(s) of the day, and be switched off otherwise, this Nippon II NP2-348T mechanical 24-hour segmented timer electric power switch can be very handy to you. It cost only less than RM20.

Some examples of usage including:

  • Switching on your TV and set-top-box during day time, and switch them off at midnight.
  • Switching on a light during night time, and switch it off during day time.
  • Switching on a Wifi AP during day time, and switch it off at midnight.
  • Switching on a power charger for 3 hours, then switch it off.
This mechanical segmented timer switches is designed to work in a "set it and forget it" manner. You just need to set it correctly for one time, and it will continuously switch on/off the electricity supply of its socket according to your setting, on daily basis.

Programming this mechanical timer switch is pretty easy.

Each tappet on its dial represents a 15 minutes time interval. If it is pushed in, there will be electricity supply to its socket during that 15 minutes time interval; otherwise, if it is pulled out, there will be no electricity supply to its socket during that 15 minutes time interval.

There are 96 tappets on the dial. You program the timer switch by pushing in and pulling out the tappets accordingly.

When plugged into the wall socket with power switched on, the dial will rotate like a clock, and the electricity supply to its socket will be turned on/off according to your setting.

To make it works at the right timing, just locate an arrow at its top right corner, then dial its ring so that the arrow is pointing to the current time.

There is a bypass switch at its right hand side. If you switch it to "On", the timer will continuously supply electricity to its power socket, and ignore all the settings programmed with its tappets. This is handy when you want to turn on your electric appliance during the time period which it is programmed to be off.

If you switch the bypass switch to "Timer", then it will work according to your programmed time schedule.

If you want to switch off the electricity supply to your appliance during the time period which it is supposed to be on, you can just turn off the wall socket power supply.

However, turning off the wall socket power supply will also stop the dial from rotating. You will need to adjust the dial position to current time after you turned on the wall socket power supply again.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Rectangular wooden digital LED alarm clock with humidity and temperature display

I have bought this rectangular wooden digital LED alarm clock with humidity and temperature display during the recent 12.12 online sale fiesta, at the price of slightly below RM40.

You can use it as a normal desktop clock (with the alarm function switched off) and also as your bedside alarm clock (with up to 3 different alarm time settings).

It is pretty feature-rich. Other than displaying the time (in either 12-hour or 24-hour format), it also displays the humidity (in RH percentage) and room temperature (in either degree Celsius or Fahrenheit). In DP-1 display mode, it can even show the date of today.

When your air-cond is turned off, and the humidity is above 75%, there is a high possibility that it is going to rain.

In normal days, the humidity level should be between 35%-65%. Higher than that, you should consider using dehumidifier to prevent the growth of mold and pests. Lower than that, you should consider using humidifier instead to safeguard the lifespan of your wooden floorings and furniture.

When your air-cond is turned on, both the humidity and temperature should drop. The room temperature should stay at the level that you set for your air-cond, otherwise you might need to service your air-cond as it no longer able to condition your room temperature according to your setting.

There are 3 power sources for this alarm clock:
  • Internal CR2032 battery, used as emergency power source to memorize your clock settings and to keep the time running when there is no other power sources available.
  • 4x AAA batteries, used as emergency power source for the alarm clock to function as normal, in the event of electricity blackout. Without the USB power source, the AAA batteries will be used up within 24 hours.
  • DC 5V 300mA USB power source, which is the main power source for this alarm clock. Note that the alarm clock only comes with a USB cable, and you need to prepare your own wall charger to supply the DC 5V 300mA power supply to the clock.

There are only 3 buttons at the back of the clock (Set, Up and Down), making it a little bit tricky to set up the clock. Anyhow, it comes with a comprehensive multilingual instruction manual for you to refer to when setting up the clock.

There are 3 brightness levels for its LED display. During 6.00pm to 6.59am, the brightness level will be automatically switched to the lowest. This is a nice feature so that its LED display will not be too bright at night until it might disturb your sleep.

The LED display even has a "power saving" mode that will turn it off after 15 seconds of display. You can either touch the clock with your hand, or make some noise by clapping your hands near the clock, to bring up the display. You can also turn off this "power saving" mode for the LED display to stay on.

This clock has altogether 3 alarms, which you can set up to 3 different time of the day for it to chime. In addition, it also has a setting for the alarm function to only work during weekdays, and it won't wake you up during weekends.

All in all, I find this alarm clock elegant looking, feature rich and practical to use. It is inexpensive too, either for own use or as a presentable gift.

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