In this episode of CONNECTED, we dive into one of Apple's most controversial products – AirPods Max. Later in the episode, we also discuss the ethics of computational audio, and how it may evolve over the coming years.
Brian: Is it AirPods Max is or AirPods Max are? I’m always confused about that.
Jason: I feel like it’s AirPods Max is because,
Brian: just because like AirPods is Apple’s name for, you know, headphones or earphones, would you say my headphones are nice or my headphones is nice.
Jason: You definitely would say your headphones are nice. You have to keep in mind naming the structures like this with a company like Apple, it kind of has to be is, I mean, people say iPhone is not, iPhones are
Brian: whatever. Yeah. But, but the iPhone branding doesn’t have an S at the end of the name.
Jason: That’s a good point. That is a good point. I feel some naming conventions just become strong enough to defy grammar.
And this may just
Brian: be one of them. Well, how about you say is an ICR and then at least one of us will be right.
Jason: That’s normal. I’m all for that.
Brian: It’s going to be very confusing. All right. So what is AirPods Max? Let’s kind of roll back in time to when Apple, well, Apple has kind of been in the earphone slash headphone game for a long time.
So going all the way back to the iPod, you know, those white. Earphones that shipped with the iPod were kind of iconic in a way, you know, I don’t know if you remember those, like those blue and green and yellow advertisements. And then it would just be like, like a black person, like a black person,
the only right now, a black silhouette of a person. Oh,
Jason: I remember those headphones. I remember being in middle school and the color of the color headphones you had just like dictated your whole personality. It’s like, if you had blue headphones, you you’re a one time. If you’re agreeing you’re the weirdo, no one talked to you and everybody wanted, I forget what color it was like one color that was like kind of common.
Everybody wanted that color.
Brian: Only Apple. One was white. The actual earphone was white, but the iPod was a, of course, many days.
Jason: Um, is he, how much Irene
Brian: number? Yeah, I think you were talking about like the colors of the iPod, cause like the iPod mini and I think the iPod shuffle, Seth, you know, you just plug your headphones in and press play.
You can’t even choose what song to play. Music comes out.
Jason: It just shot. That was back in the day.
Brian: Yeah. So, Oh, they, they kind of been in the earphone space for a while and. Also, I guess the overall speaker space as well, they sold a, I forgot what it was called, but they sold like a speaker for awhile and then maybe didn’t sell well, but now of course they have the home pod and a few different things, but, but just on the headphone slash earphone side, you had those original ones.
And then a few years ago, they moved into the wireless world with AirPods. And then after that came AirPods pro. And now they have AirPods Max. So AirPods Max is the first over the ear. Headphone. I’m
Jason: to say not to cut you off, but you’re saying this just make me think in many ways. And they’ve been really pushing various innovations in that consumer headphone market.
Like studio headphones, for example, that’s just been a thing since forever. And people still use them now for various reasons, but people felt more of a reason to get a more unique kinds of headphones because the iPod came out. It just wasn’t as ubiquitous, like in culture. And the same thing happened when I phone went to wireless headphones or rather when they stopped shipping phones with a headphone Jack.
So you had to go wireless one way or the other. Are you to have to, but it was heavily encouraged. And now, because of that, you’re seeing all this, this push to create these more high-end consumer quote, unquote, consumer wireless headphones, and then the, how do you create, how do you build technology within that?
Brian: Yeah. And the move to wireless is very interesting for a consumer. I think because for a while, if you wanted to get really good sound, you really had to invest in a pair of. I would say the minimum, like 500 bucks, 600 bucks, you’re getting into Sennheiser HD six 50 and higher. So if you want really good sound, like that’s kind of the price that you had to pay.
And the advantage of having a wired, headphone as well as you can. Yeah. I have the lossless stream, you know, from your phone or from your computer or whatever, but when you move into the wireless, that kind of all goes away because you’re kind of limited to the bandwidth that can be provided by Bluetooth.
And then you move into these lossy kind of formats. I think Apple specifically uses AAC. Yes. It’s interesting what Apple has been doing. And we’ll talk about more about this later, but this idea of computationally enhancing the sound in order to make it sound better from a lossy format is really interesting.
They’re kind of doing that with their phones as well. So if you like have an iPhone and you take a picture, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the background with the software and also the hardware as well, where they’re actually enhancing the picture. So it looks good. So they’re taking like the relatively crappy data from the sensor as compared to like a camera with a big sensor, you know, like if you go for like a full frame camera, That’s going to have a lot more like depth in the data that is perceived by the sensor.
But the iPhone sensor is quite small. It’s like extremely small and the lens is quite small as well. Now you don’t have that giant piece of class in front through all of these software enhancements. They’re able to make a really good looking picture. And that’s exactly what they’re doing with AirPods Max as well.
And. The overall AirPods line is they’re taking what is relatively crappy sounding sound, you know, like an AAC stream, as opposed to flack or Apple lossless and somehow enhancing that. So I think AirPods Max is a really interesting product because it seems to be expensive when you first look at the price.
So it retails for $550. Yes. And as with many Apple things, the first comment is always going to be that’s too expensive. That’s too expensive. That’s way too
Jason: expensive. The funniest thing, when looking up reviews, like when researching for this, every mainstream site I could find that was like front and center.
Even if it didn’t specifically say it costs a lot, they’re just mentioning that price point. So often in the title and the byline in the first paragraph or two, I
Brian: almost think it’s on purpose that some people do that. Cause they know that if they start off with look what this $549 headphone can do, you know, that might get some clicks.
Cause showcasey, I guess, yeah. It’s the price points can generate some sort of buzz in a way. But I think what a lot of people are are missing is just. They’re confusing price point and value. So $549 for anything is from an absolute perspective. You know, if you look at it objectively, that’s a lot of money, you know, you can do a lot with 549 bucks in some places that’s like a month of rent.
And to just say like $549 is expensive is, is just strange. Because again, it’s just a price point. What I want to know is if you think AirPods, max are worth that much, you know, just not look at it as a number. So what’s your thoughts, Jason, on like, as someone who kind of has an idea about the headphone market.
What do you think about $549? And like, if you were to pay that much for headphones, what would you expect from them? And then we can abstract off of that too. Whether AirPods Max are worth that much. I
Jason: think the key thing to remember with stuff like this, it’s a very basic argument, but think of what you’re getting, when you are paying that much money for something, let’s say you have headphones that do.
Costs say like a hundred, $200 less than that 200, $300 range, which I think people are used to paying for sounds funny, using this word, but let’s say like, quote unquote, traditional headphones that are, you plug them into something and you get really good audio out of that. These headphones, they do more than that.
They are essentially computers with the specific function of providing sound. And I think it’s important to keep that in mind, because you are essentially, you’re paying for all of the technology that is going into creating this device. That’s going into propagating the sound, the components within them.
Sure. Those are well made. Those are, they are very high class components, but we computer aspects within these things, people I think are still not used to realizing how much we use. Computers or tools like that in more consumer grade hardware audio in general tends to be. One of those spaces where when you get into people who are very, very passionate about audio tools and audio resources and audio gear, there’s this desire to be as good as you can with the components you have also being old school.
And part of that means having quote unquote, Morgan, more traditional components in those things, and you can raise the price if you’re getting like more high class components, as long as they’re still traditional and people like, okay, this has this very unique, say kinder material for this speaker, that’s in this thing.
Or this is a whole other conversation, but let’s say the cabling within the headphones are unique in whatever way. So we’re going to cost more for that. And we’re used to thinking you add these elements, you get that higher cost. We’re not used to thinking about that with computers or there’s a better word for using there’s a better word for computer components.
Just can’t think of it right now, but I think can be hard to understand that a computer and a device like this can either be very inexpensive or very hesitate to use the word expensive, but we’ll just use that word anyway.
Brian: I think what a lot of people are missing. Is the fact that the AirPods Max, like you said, is a computational device that just happens to look like headphones.
So I’ve seen a lot of people make comparisons to like, Hey, I can spend 300 bucks less and get a pair of like MDR 75 Oh six or something.
Jason: Like where I am in New York city. They’re more than a couple boutique headphone companies where they will sell headphones that do sound very good for even as low as 150, a hundred dollars.
And they rival the, say $300 headphones back in the day. But again, it’s a different space.
Brian: Yeah. It’s a completely different space. And. I feel like that when you boil it down to just comparing them as headphones, because I feel like that’s not doing justice to what the AirPods Max actually are. That’s kind of like comparing a bicycle to a car.
And in this case, the traditional headphone would be the bicycle and the car would be the AirPods Max, and they both do the same job. They get you. From point a to point B, but one of them has, you know, all of this extra stuff built in and we don’t even have to go as like contrast he has a bicycle versus a car.
It could just be maybe a car versus a self-driving car.
Jason: I was about to say, even the gas fueled car versus an electric car, it’s just
Brian: different. And. The whole point of AirPods, max is there is this processing stage in between your device and your ears that actively does something to enhance the sound.
And it’s not really a matter if you need that or not. Cause like, if you, if you don’t want that, then you wouldn’t be looking at AirPods Max in the first place. So why are you complaining about the price? But if you’re someone who is looking for that processing stage, Looking for something that is wireless, but can also work as a wired headphone as well.
I think it’s very cool. And just to like expand on some of those processing layers that exists, it’s all about this idea of computational sound, where I think it’s in the right ear cup. There’s actually a multi-core processor in there, which, which is super cool. You also have to think about the R and D that went into that.
Not only from the hardware side, but also the software side as well. So I think a lot of companies can just shove a chip into a headphone and call it computational. But I think the real magic is how that chip is used. So the exact, I guess, math, that it runs to process the sound and how they use the overall system to enhance the sound.
So in the case of AirPods, max, there was actually. Multiple embedded microphones around the headphone
Jason: yeah. On the inside and on the outside. I think talking about these miniature microphones, these noise canceling microphones that are in these headphones. Yeah. It goes to the same issue that people have when it comes to computational devices, because I think.
In this day and age, we’re used to hearing about noise canceling headphones, but the average person really thinks about what does that really mean? You mean like how do those devices work? And then also how effectively, how effective are they in the product that they’re in? Just wanted to throw that in
How about you kind of give an outline of how this noise cancellation works, you know, just microphones on the outside, switch up the phase to cancel it out.
Jason: Actually, you hear sound ensues your eardrum, and depending on the way, the two or more sounds are entering your eardrum there, the waves of those sounds will essentially they’ll conflict with each other and cancel part of that sound out and yeah.
Noise canceling headphones work because unless headphones can’t completely block out all of the sound that is coming into your area, whether they’re in ear, around ear or over the air. So you have microphones that sit on the asset of these headphones that are picking up the sound around you and feeding that into your, into the actual driver of the headphone.
Along with the actual music that’s playing. And technology for essentially is that by playing this external sound, that’s being processed by the headphones, into your ear. That is that in effect, canceling out the natural sound. That’s coming through the headphones, into your as well. And so you’re not hearing that backward, that sort of, that background noise so much, and depending on the build quality of these microphones and the headphones in general, because you have to make sure that you’re okay.
You’re only canceling out external sound and not the actual sound from whatever you’re listening to through those headphones. Not to use this kind of phrase, but it’s a complicated process. You can’t just throw some microphones onto a set of headphones and just have it work. You got to make sure you process it properly.
You need some kind of properly working DSP, digital signal processing to make it work. Right.
Brian: So I’m not like a DSP expert, but I want to lay out a few things here and see if you agree with me. So. I think when it comes to noise canceling one of the most important things is to minimize the latency between the actual pickup of the external sound and also the actual cancellation process.
So, and I think that’s important because as with anything in life, you know, the X axis is always going to be time. Like if you imagine the original source is on one timeline, The reverse way form that you would use to cancel out. That is always a little bit after. So the more space you have in between the original source and the cancellation, the less good it’s going to sound.
I think. Because the idea is to, for complete 100% cancellation, it would have to be
Jason: the both ways have to be occurring at the same
Brian: time. It’s not possible, right? Because that would only be possible. If the AirPods Max knew in advance, what was happening in the future. That’s obviously not going to happen yet, maybe in the future, but.
For now how the noise cancellation is working is that it’s recording and it’s doing something and it generates inverse way from that also takes into account the sound that is being pumped through from your phone. And doing that all in a very low latency way is quite a feat, I think because you kind of need to optimize the math behind it in order to work as fast as possible.
And I have to say that after using AirPods, max for, I think a week and a half now, almost two weeks, the noise cancellation is insane. Just I’m walking around. Yeah. So I was walking around like the busiest part of Tokyo. And I could barely hear anything, you know, there’s traffic, there’s people. And once I put the headphones into the noise cancellation mode, almost all I heard was the music.
And even if I was listening to like a podcast, I really couldn’t hear much of the background noise. And that’s like way better than a lot of the noise canceling stuff. I’ve I’ve used in the past.
Jason: What’s most fascinating to me. And to go back to your point on price point and why you have to consider why these things cost, the things that they do, technology like that has existed, but that exists.
It tends to exist more in either live sound or in installation, a V where you’re either you’re attic, you’re setting up for a concert. Or you are setting up for even as like a conference conference or something like that. And in those kinds of situations, when you’re installing gear for a semi-permanent basis, it makes sense to spend lots and lots and lots of money on these DSP processors for, let’s say you have like a speaker array in your space, whether it’s like for your you’re hanging speakers from the ceiling, or if you’re building speakers into your walls and ceilings.
Where in situations like that you’d need your DSP to be pretty on point for something to sound pretty. Even with these kinds of speakers across like a 12, 15, 50 foot space. I’d imagine people coming from those, those spaces are used to use to knowing and seeing these kinds of things. And that’s what makes this so fascinating that you can have this technology in my eyes.
It’s a high-end consumer product, but it’s still a consumer product. It’s not specifically meant for the audio professional. It’s meant for the average person who can afford it. And once it’s kind of Hi-Fi gear. And it’s really fascinating to see technology at this scale coming out of the installation space and showing up here how it is.
Brian: And I think that a lot of people were kind of seeing the AirPods Max price point and assuming that it’s, you know, for the pros, but I do have to say as someone who was kind of working as a pro. The AirPods Max is actually way more expensive than a lot of gear that we would consider pro. Right. So if you walk into any recording, plays the headphones that the engineer, or like the singer or the drummer, you know, the ones that they’re using and they are pros, right.
The ones that they’re using is probably like a hundred bucks, 200 bucks. Max, certainly the people who do the mixing and the mastering after that, they’re doing it on more expensive gear. But I don’t think that AirPods Max was ever marketed as a pro thing. So like, if you notice on the Apple website, the actual AirPods Max page doesn’t even mention anything about.
Main stage. Doesn’t mention anything about studio logic. Yeah. It’s just, it’s clearly a higher end consumer product and which
Jason: is fascinating too, because that’s, that has always been Apple’s market all the way back even to when the iPod originally, well,
Brian: I think things are changing now, actually. In what way?
I no longer believe that Apple is strictly a high-end brand. Interesting. I think for a long time, it was kind of like that because in order to get professional stuff, like if you’re looking for a laptop that can do pro things like music production and things along those lines, you’re looking at kind of a minimum 2000 to $3,000 things.
So if you were to have a windows, desktop, or a windows laptop that could do the same thing, those would be much cheaper. You know, maybe you’re looking at $1,000. Over the past few years, I think Apple has kind of saturated that higher end market. And now they’re looking to expand downward, which is really interesting because most companies expand upward, started at the upward place.
So now they’re expanding downward and you can see that extremely clearly. So in the iPhone line, they now have the iPhone se, which is a very low priced phone. Most clearly is the line of Mac books and I guess their computers in general. So I’m sure people who are kind of Apple fans have recently been very excited about the new chips that have come out.
So for a long time, Apple was using power PC chips, and then they switched to Intel chips like a few years ago, probably more than a few years ago now we’re getting old, but
Jason: it was a big thing when it happened too. It’s very surprising.
Brian: Yeah. And they recently switched over to their own ships. It’s called the
So it’s based on the chips that are in the iPad. These are the M one chips that are in the new Mac mini Mac book, air and Mac book pro 13 inch MacBook pro. And it’s really interesting that Apple chose these three computers to put their chips in first, because these are their lowest spec things. You know, the Mac mini.
The MacBook air is like the most popular laptop for people going to college. And just the action of putting their own ships in isn’t isn’t extraordinary or something like that. But what is extraordinary is the level of performance that you get. So just for example, I was doing some benchmark testing. My wife recently got the new M one MacBook air.
So we were testing like final cut, pro testing, some logic stuff. Mainstage. And her $900 Mac book, air outperformed, my $5,000 Mac book pro from a year ago. That’s right. Which
Jason: is wild. And I on a time too, that’s that’s insane. And there’s no fan. Yeah. As a, as a PC person that boggles my mind a little bit
Brian: thinking about like access to performance per dollar, it’s completely absurd.
And this is again, they chose to do this first in their lowest spec computers. So these are the worst chips that they’re ever going to make for max and it’s outperforming Intel like 200%, 300%, 500%. You know, I was doing some tests with Mainstage just stacking up. Think the reverb plugin and the M one MacBook air, again, a thousand dollars versus my $5,000 like fully specked out 16 inch Mac book pro.
The MacBook air was able to do twice as many instances of the plugin, which is
Jason: wild. That is
Brian: wild. So now I think there’s a real case to be made that Apple is no longer exclusively targeting the high end market. When you know, now, if you were to buy an Intel computer, that was as powerful as the Mac book air.
You would be spending two to three times more, which was never the case in the past. It was always backwards
Jason: going back to say 15 years ago or so let’s say for us people working in creative fields, the dogma was you have to use an Apple device because the soft, the hardware itself, which is. More consistent between different people, if you’re collaborating and the software just tends to be built better for those devices because of the people, making those things.
I think for various reasons, this is like an outsider looking in kind of perspective, but it seemed like over the past, let’s say 12 or so years you’d have many people trying to do whatever they can to move away from Apple centric spaces. So be rise of people using PCs. And flaunting it in a sense in creative spaces, the rise of software.
Either purpose-built for both Mac and windows or even people using windows only software and still like not having an issue with collaboration other than might also just be the consequence of the globalization of the creative fields. People are just using different kinds of things are more aware of them.
But it’s almost feels like this is a way for Apple to move back into that world. Many people wouldn’t w would not using these devices pass because of that price point, regardless of how good those things are. But if you, now, you already have your, let’s say your software infrastructure, and you’re used to using Apple, and you’re considering going to PC because you don’t have seeing the point of the cost, but devices like this are going to come out or seeing how well these devices are even more powerful.
Device has come out in the coming years. It’s more of an incentive to stay within the ecosystem you’re already in you’re you’re, you’re getting your cake and you’re getting to eat it.
Brian: I think it just kind of flips the whole game because especially for professionals, we were kind of brainwashed for the past decade or two to think that if you wanted a device that you can do professional stuff on, you had to spend a lot of money and it was going to be big.
And so it was, it was always like high powered and big versus low powered and small. Now you have this high powered and small and cool and inexpensive computer. It almost seems like cheating. It’s like, is this a joke? Like how, how is this even possible for right. And I think for people like me who, you know, I’ve historically made a computer purchase, I don’t know every.
Two to three years. And just with my work, kind of depends on how fast I can render things and stuff along those lines. So yeah, upgrading does help and does save time for me. So my price range has always been like three to 5,000 for a new laptop. And now for the first time, it’s like, I can actually get away with spending less than $1,500.
Which is completely crazy. It was
Jason: wild. It is
Brian: wild. I think we should expand on this topic. And in a future episode is I have a lot of stuff to say about computers, but yeah, we get on this tangent. How did we get on this tangent in the first place we were saying AirPods Max was for the high end.
Jason: It’s like that juxtaposition of having higher.
Costing devices in a, what seems to be a consumer market and then going into, what does it, what does it mean for a market to be a consumer market? And what does it mean for a product line to be targeting that space and how Apple from going way back to the iPod, they’ve been always aiming for. Well, to jump out of the tangent, started with like, is Apple really aiming for that high-end market?
And in the sense they are, like you said, they’re moving towards not doing that so much, but historically that was in a sense, their niche. I think you put it really a wall where they re they have saturated that market. If you think high-end Western products, most likely you’re thinking of Apple one way or the other, or if not, Apple than probably a device that was influenced by something that Apple tree,
Brian: I want to actually rephrase what I said.
I don’t think that Apple is expanding too. The low end, cause there’s nothing low end about the MacBook air. Now, when I hear low end, I feel like, I think, you know, cheap plastic parts or like the screens or something
Jason: like that, things designed to be replaceable. I
Brian: actually think what Apple is doing is for the better part of its existence.
It grew its branding as like a high-end. Not really exclusive because anyone can buy it. But you know, exclusive as in, there is a certain threshold that you need to spend in order to get it, you know, it’s not like, it’s not like you have to sign up for something to buy it. No, no, no, no. It’s totally a threshold.
It’s not like a gate, you know? Yes. Yeah. So you don’t have to like sign up to buy it. Right. That’s a topic
Jason: in itself actually related relating to anything, computer related threshold versus gate. I, I think that I can’t even word the thought I’m trying to make with this, because I think that also plays into the anxiety that people feel when they see this cost.
And I think a consumer can see this, these price points and say, That these things are in a gated community that you have to be in a space where you’re getting that kind of income, I guess, to really afford this. And because of that, it’s not really for you because you don’t think that’s not, that’s a thing you’re going to be getting into, which is a different mindset from saying.
Getting to a point where getting this device makes sense for you. That’s what I feel when I’m, when I see threshold, I think that’s probably a healthier way of looking at it. When
Brian: I think gate, I see, like, there’s something that you actually. Have to sign up for, or you have to gain like exclusive access and you can, I guess you can abstract out from that, like, Oh, you have to be a certain level of success in order to be able to afford that.
But that’s not directly related to what Apple is doing. You know, if you’re talking about access to income, that can actually afford you a lot more things than just things from Apple. So. What I’m saying is just, you can just go walk into the store and buy something, you know, there’s no process where you need to talk to someone and then gain access.
And then only after that you have a chance to buy. Yeah,
Brian: And just to finish off the point of Apple being low end. Yeah. So what I said was Apple started at the high end and they’re expanding to the low end. I actually take that back. I think instead what they’re doing is they’re just. Raising the bar, you know, what used to be considered as high-end is now accessible to more people?
Not necessarily because they’re targeting the low end, just because they’re making the high-end more accessible because they’re actually doing a lot more on the high end as well. So like now you have them recently in the past era to put out the new Mac pro, which was quite outdated for a long time. Now they have a new Mac pro.
And that’s like super high end. So you’re spending like 60 grand on a new thing. So now there, now it’s really interesting. Cause I feel like not many companies have this kind of structure where there just is no low end. The low end is already what I would consider actually relatively high-end in terms of industrial design and like the quality of the build, the features, the performance it’s all high end.
So it’s making that high end technology more accessible. Oh man.
Jason: No, th th there’s just so much to say on this. This is the thing that, to pre-phase this, I think anybody who is deeply interested in Android phones, I guess this is almost like a sort of question that was happening within the smartphone world, from the era in the early 2010s where Android and phones that catered to the Android OS back then.
Many of them, you would consider low end, but the software was good enough that people would say it doesn’t really matter what kind of phone it is. If you get a phone that just does what you to do outside of that space, though, back then, you would still have the iPhone, which existed from someone who, and I guess in the Android space, it seemed like this whole other plane of whatever it is.
And over the years, that mentality largely has, I would say it’s largely disappeared. I mean, Android phones are across the road for sure. And there are many different models and kinds, but back then, you would never think to see a phone like the pixel series, because it seemed like that was just not ever going to be what Android was going to focus on.
I should say Google was going to focus on is it’s almost as though the selling point for many Android phones was getting a phone that was not in that space that the iPhone was taking up back then, but now the iPhone has existed for 12 years. That space isn’t large. It doesn’t really exist because now Android makers are seeing that it’s very feasible to make either of these, not even so much super high-end, but.
Even like approaching quote unquote high-end space with their smartphones and people will still get them. People will still buy them and talk about them and do what they want to do with them.
Brian: I think the new, like Android phones, I don’t know the experience series or the pixels, the Samsung phones they’re actually built extremely well.
And if we’re talking about overall quality, I. I definitely think it’s at least comparable to the iPhone, which is not the case a long time ago.
Jason: I think. No, they, they, they weren’t, they really, really, really weren’t. They were a good for sure, but like not, it’s not the same level at all. At the time being an Android communities, people just didn’t really care because that wasn’t what they were seeking in a phone.
And it’s fascinating because it wasn’t instantaneous. It was very much a gradual shift across the, across the past decade, just slowly and surely people put more of a focus on having that. Maybe not high end, but definitely higher and experience in Android phones possibly because. This reminds me of something that we’ll see discussed even about the internet as a whole, where, when the internet was first created, it was essentially a social club for people who were interested in that form of tech.
And so at that time, it didn’t really matter like how polished or anything it was, it just needed to exist. But now that we’ve gotten to a point where we have so many internet companies. That mentality on the internet is extremely hard to find because everyone’s like, why have the, the more basic experience when you can have just like go on WordPress and create a website, it doesn’t cost a lot of money.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort and your situation can be just far nicer than however, could it have been like 15 years ago? I think we’re, we’re seeing that across. All use different markets. And just to bring it back into the headphones space, we’re seeing that with headphones, but unless you, unless you really just want like a basic pair of buds that, you know, you’re going to go bad.
So it doesn’t really matter. If you really want to hear that good audio, you have the option of getting that good audio. Now that’s a really
Brian: good loop back here because. I do want to talk about how the AirPods Max sound cause that was kind of the whole purpose of this episode, but it’s funny that you mentioned WordPress and kind of the whole accessibility of the internet kind of thing, because I was writing notes for episode three and that’s actually what I was starting to think about.
So. But yeah, I think all in all the AirPods Max sound really good, certainly better than I expected, because I do have not a fetish, but I have an appreciation for headphones. And I actually compared the AirPods Max with a few of my headphones. So the classic, you know, Sennheiser HD 600, I think I have.
So those are kind of the standard good sounding open back headphones. And they compared very well and all the way up to a headphone called the Focal Utopia, which is a $5,000 pair of headphones. And to be honest, it was comparable, which is really interesting to me because not only is the AirPods Max, when they’re being used in wireless mode.
Not only are they incapable of streaming gloss live stream. So when I listened to the focals and the Sennheisers and I also did a comparison against the Nighthawks. So those are, I think in the $400, $500 range. So the Sennheiser is like three 50 and the full cows, legitimately $5,000 headphone and it was comparable.
And you also have to factor in that. These wired headphones. I was playing lossless streams. And the AirPods Max was playing was streaming AAC from my Mac book. So you already have that like loss of, I don’t want to say fidelity, because again, it depends on the source song, right? Like the thing that you listened to, if all of that can be compressed without much perceivable loss into like a 256 kbps AAC stream, then.
Effectively like, you know, there’s no difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to AAC or, or lossless, but it was just very interesting to me because the reasons that I have the other headphones were always because I was looking for something very detailed. It’s just very interesting that the AirPods and max were even capable of being comparable to those headphones.
Yeah. So I guess the thing that I just want to say is I was pleasantly surprised with the sound quality. And I do say that because like I mentioned, I do have a history of being very picky about that kind of stuff. I purposely don’t want to say too much about sound quality because it’s very subjective.
You know what sounds good to me might not sound good to you, to me as someone who primarily uses AirPods Max, to listen to jazz, pop music, rock notice. They’re also great for synth stuff. One thing that they’re not so great with is classical. I feel like. And that might be because of my background in classical, where I can sort of tell if it sounds enhanced, but that’s also like a question that I should answer myself.
Like, is there anything wrong with classical? That sounds enhanced.
Jason: I think it would surprise a lot of classical of fiction autos. How much editing and processing can actually happen when making classical recordings, then we try to go as close to the recording process and then take that to the production, the sound production process.
So obviously when you record this kind of music, the goal is transparency. Always. That is why you’re recording. You’re listening to you recording like a symphony, for example. A symphony orchestra and you will see so many microphones across the space, inside the space, inside the orchestra, so on and so forth.
Yeah. When you record classical music, the goal is to be as transparent as possible. So you tend to use these higher grade mikes and higher grade preamps. Which I guess is, will be another discussion point where there comes a certain point where the preamps you use and the audio digital converters you use, like there is kind of a ceiling at which point you have to question like what you’re recording is going to have that noticeable of a difference.
But anyway, you try to record these things as cleanly as possible when you mix depends on the record label, essentially. And then the mixing art, the mixing professionals that they use. You might have not had too many effects on the audio itself where you do strive to have minimal compression and minimally queue, but it does happen.
It’s very, very transparent, but it does happen. But even more so than that, you’ll be surprised how often editing can happening in that world, where. You’re listening to a performance and that performance isn’t a single live performance. The recording is the recording artist playing through the piece multiple times and probably the producer or the editor stitching it into a single take.
That sounds extremely it’s again, it sounds like a full performance going into the idea for that. Well, the, in terms of truthfulness of what someone is hearing, technically speaking, it’s not bad. But it’s not that truthful. So when you have that in that space, it’s funny to me, not you specifically, of course, but just hearing the idea that when you listen to classical music, you want it to sound as cleanly as possible because a recording as a recording and like by its definition and recording as a manipulation, you can’t really record something.
In the same way it would sound if you live, if you were in the space that the sound is originally coming from, and this is very, maybe this is too
Brian: abstract. No, that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. Let’s go even more abstract. So I think that there’s like when you’re talking about effects processing, I think there’s a difference between effects processing that takes place during the production of the record versus afterwards.
So. The idea there is. Yeah. Like of course some EPQ is going to happen. They’re not just going to stick a few mics up and do nothing, you know, straight from, it’s not going to be like a raw thing just that they burned to a disc, but I think, Oh yeah,
Jason: no, no. That I asked to clarify my own comments. Now I’m not going to say it’s the majority, but it’s fast.
A very large part of that industry is literally that when you’re the kind of person who wants to focus more on the recording than the mixing, that space does really well by you because of many miking techniques that we know of today, come from recording live concerts so they can sound as natural as possible.
So you don’t have cue.
Brian: I think it depends how deep we want to get into this, because if you’re a recording engineer, And you’ve been tasked with a job where you go to record a symphony or, or something. If you think about it, what does affects processing even mean? I think a lot of people default to like, EEQ compression, those kinds of things, but you also have to think about like Mike placement is actually a type of EEQ the way that you place the mic is going to change the frequency response of what you’re going to get.
And the same thing with the preamps. Preamps are in a hundred percent, you know, they add some sort of thing, right? Even the cleanest preamps that you’re going to get, they might add something. So some people choose certain preamps because they think they’re warm or something. So what does warm mean? It just means that there’s a boost in the mid, so that in itself is an IQ, but all of those kinds of things are baked into the recording process and.
That is kind of informed by the preferences of maybe if you’re doing a symphony thing, maybe that’s informed by the decisions of the engineer or the conductor, even the…
Jason: …space that you record in.
Brian: Right. Right. So, I don’t consider effects processing in the context of production to be an issue or anything because all of that is baked in, you know, it’s baked in.
It’s nothing that I can change, but I also know that’s the intention of the person who made this thing. Once that rolls off the assembly line as a finished disc, or like a finished file. I feel like when I listened to classical, I’m less inclined to do additional stuff to that file just because of my background in classical, you know, there’s such a high emphasis on like tone, you know, I feel like the emphasis on tone, the emphasis on Tambor is much less of a focus for pop music or for jazz, unless you’re getting to really high end jazz.
But if you listen to jazz for like the overall vibe, The exact Tamber. You’re not, you’re not judging someone’s tone, you know,
Jason: unless you’re a player, which is, well, that’s not the average listener that might actually be the case with jazz, but that that’s a tangent.
Brian: That’s where I come from though. Like, I don’t play jazz, but I feel like if I was like a jazz bassist or a jazz drummer, I would kind of like try to tune myself into that guys.
Like snare drum is sounding. I got a bit weird
Jason: as a jazz basis. That’s literally what I do. I can’t listen to a jazz recording if I don’t like how the bass sounds for the most part
Brian: back to the idea of sound quality being subjective, because, and that’s maybe why I don’t like the AirPods Max for the classical stuff, because they do do like on the fly adaptive EEQ.
And so depending on how the AirPods Max here is the music it’s going to EEQ it to what it determines to be real or good. So what it shows me what it plays back to me, they might not be like bit forbid. The intention of the artist was, and for classical, that’s an issue for me, just because of my background for pop music.
It’s not an issue for me, just because my perspective towards pop is just it’s drenched in effects. A little bit of IQ is not, is not going to kill it, but. If someone’s blood, sweat and tears is in making pop records, maybe they’ll have a different idea of that. This takes
Jason: me back to the first time I tried to getting into Bluetooth headphones back in when I was in high school.
So this would have been like 2007, 2008. And as a mini tangent, it was fascinating to me knowing how long. All these devices last now, because back then I was like, I, I had a two hour train ride getting from high school back to my place and I would get these headphones and back then they would all literally last two hours.
Exactly. So I ever had to charge the headphones and start them right when I got on the train, knowing that when the music basically dies, if I’m not already a home, I’m close to being home. And it’s just cool to me to see how long these devices last. Now it’s really fascinating, but one thing that I never realized back then until I started doing it, you’re right in that for me, I couldn’t listen to things.
I couldn’t listen to heavily EQT headphones. If I wanted to listen to jazz for the exact same reason, because even back then not being able to play it super well, I could still tell it, this sounds wrong. This is not how it’s supposed to sound clearly. And even though I would say jazz, jazz musicians do care about town bourbon nine, the same way that classical musicians do, but they do care about it enough that when you record, they do have, if they recorded in a way that allows the fidelity of their sound to come through.
Then they do want to be heard in a certain way. They want their instruments to be clear. The only time that wouldn’t be the case. I mean, there are many live recordings from back in the fifties and sixties, but it’s just the nature of many of the shows that were happening back then, the way. And the only way many of these bands could record in the first place, but you’re right.
Like I could listen to pop or rock or anything basically made after say the seventies. I don’t even notice it as that much of an issue. I listen to anything before like 1970, even going to some beach boys records from back in the sixties. It’s kind of the same thing. It doesn’t sound right. You can tell something’s missing.
And this is kind of a weird issue, I guess, but that was the thing that used to frustrate me with. I remember when beats came out, for example, And this, this whole online discourse on, why would you get these? This is actually kind of a similar argument in a way, but I remember when beats came out and people were like, why are you paying back then $300 for these headphones that plug something in, you get sound, people were like, why do people care about getting these things?
And that’s. There are other arguments about why beats would be valued the way they are. But for me personally, I never got into them because they are so Sam. So this is very, all the base, all the bass everywhere. And like I’m a bass player, but even then, like this. Based guys, it has to sit the right away with the rest of the sign.
You can’t just pump it in every kind of music you listen to. I mean, I was already kind of not into had headphones before that, when I tried getting into beats that has turned me off from anything like that. That’s why now, for example, I only ever use like either studio headphones or headphones for live sound because I cannot stand that kind of, it’s almost like its own kind of sound and I just cannot stand it.
It really. Really bugs me
Brian: for me. I used to be the same way as you, so going back, I never really got into beats. You know, I certainly saw them everywhere. It seemed like everyone in high school had them and they were very popular. They were also like super cheaply bade. It was just like crappy plastic. And ironically Apple owns beats.
Now. I’m not sure if you knew that. I think, yeah. For a long time too. I really valued transparency and you know, not overemphasizing certain parts of the frequency range. And that led me to purchases. Like I got the Sony 75 Oh 6 cent that I was like, Oh, these are crap. You know, they like the high-mids.
Just, just shine through. Yeah. Yeah. And then as well. Yeah, of course they do, because they’re kind of meant to be on your ears when you’re recording. And they were very popular for singers for those kinds of people. That range is what they have to hear. So that makes sense. And then I moved on to a bunch of any years.
Shure SE535, SE846, and some other ones. But you know, there was always this focus on, I want to hear what’s real. And that was important to me. Maybe back then, cause I listened to a lot of classical music. I listened to a lot of high-end jazz stuff and back then I didn’t listen to jazz for the vibes.
I really did listen for the, you know, The sound quality of the trumpet or, you know, John Coltrane’s like breathing. Yeah. Yeah. Which
Jason: makes, which makes sense though. That makes perfect sense.
Brian: Like now maybe my musical tastes have changed just because, well, I think there’s a few things. I think one major reason is I no longer have time to like, ponder about music.
Yeah, just taking care of kid all day. I just want to put something on my head at night. That sounds good. Now I don’t want to fuss around with trying to find a lossless stream of this particular release of this song and all of that stuff, which I used to be super into it. So, yeah. So I think that’s why AirPods Max is appealing to me.
Like now. I still do listen to classical and all of those things, but much less because when I try to listen to those things, I need the background to be completely quiet. You know, I’m listening on the open back headphones and you know, there’s just not really a time and place for that now. So I’ve kind of switched to listening to a lot of pop music.
I’ve been listening to a lot of K-pop rock. Stuff where historically, I never really cared about tambour and tone and those things, so, and they just sound good on, on AirPods Max. And then lastly, I think the barrier that I have with AirPods, max and listening to classical has to do with the noise cancellation.
Cause like we said earlier, it’s kind of an amalgamation of the inverse wave form of what’s coming in. Plus the music coming out. So there is some alteration there of the source wave form, and maybe just like mentally philosophically it’s. Yeah. So maybe that’s what’s going on. I mean, I feel
Jason: like I’ve gone in a different direction, but for the exact same reason where like, if I’m listening to music like that, like say for me it would be like jazz, experimental stuff.
Electronic music. I try to just not even use headphones. I try to always use some kind of speaker. And it’s funny though, because for the longest time I would always make sure I had my interface and I had my mixing monitors. So it could be very clean, like perfectly placed with the foam and everything, and make sure that you bringing on your backpack.
It’s like I have a whole, the whole truck, my whole set of the battery parts speaker.
Brian: You go to the restaurant and set it down on the table. Like,
Jason: Oh, I like to get a meal for myself and for my assistant in her mind. But if I’m listening to a speaker now, literally Anker speaker, like a little $30 consumer
Brian: kind of thing.
I’m surprised you were always doing like the full on setups. I was
Jason: I’m I’m still surprised now, honestly, I don’t know why. I like it, even knowing that there is also very much an IQ on this, but it’s transparent enough that it just gets the job done. Also, I realized actually how you said the way you listen to music came from your background as a class, I will say, as a classical musician.
For example, I think this came to me from my background, just working. Specifically, not even in live concerts, but in live sound for events. And then also an installation where it’s just, it’s not a battle that’s worth fighting for me. If I really want to get that, like I prefer listening to music with speakers.
So for me, where you are with headphones, I would be going into like amps, DACs speakers and things like that. I just never got into that world in the slightest because when it comes to, when you’re going into that space, what matters almost as much as the speaker is a space that the speaker is propagating sound in.
You got to have. And you don’t have to, you don’t have to treat your room, but the way your room is built up will affect your sound. Similar to how you record something, the way you use your mics, then parts you cue the, send something in the space, the way your room is set up and like where you are in the space does the same thing.
And I’m only, this is just personal opinion. But for me, whenever I go into thoughts like that, I’m like, it’s not worth the effort. Like what’s the next, what is the. Closest thing I can do. So I’m not thinking about it. Cause if I think about it, I will drive myself insane. And that just the speaker in any and same thing when I’m going, I actually don’t listen to music very often when I’m outside for kind of a similar reason where I don’t, I don’t, I tend if, when I haven’t used a really good set of noise canceling headphones in a while, so I know that technology has gone way better.
But when I did use them in the past, like it kind of actually threw me off. Like I really, they were too good because I couldn’t hear anything around me, which was great. And I like being able to hear the space around me when I listen to something at the same time, less than one on the subway, I need headphones with very, I I’m a tech person.
I forgot the right terminology yet. Like, like low, um, What’s the word, low image, like, yeah, like as little resistance as possible so they can get as loud as possible. So I can actually hear them. And I can’t do that because my ears are messed up from just working in concert for so long. So I can’t, I have to blast my headphones to hear the music properly, but I know that if I do that, I damaged my head.
I had damaged my ears. So. What is also why I like speakers it’s it seems to it’s more distance. Yeah. So it seems a little bit safer. So I, I, at that point I was like, it’s I, I have this Anker speaker when I’m home. And when I’m on the subway, I have these like three $15 Sony headphones. And I just use that also, even if I were to like, raise the volume from on the train, the train is just going to be so loud, which is why I’m spending most of my time.
Is it just like, is this simulate? Cause they’re worth it or not? Basically. Now I still have headphones that I, if I want to sit down and like have like a private experience of myself, I do have headphones for that purpose. And I do want to expand that eventually because it’s just a different way of experiencing the sound.
I like having that variety and I will one day have like proper speakers in my room. Again, just I can’t right now. Yeah, it’s fascinating to me. I was just thinking a lie, as you’re saying this, the way our listening habits change as we get older. And I feel like there’s always talk on how tastes change or they get set at a certain age in our life.
But I find that in that discourse, no one ever talks about the practical reasons. Like if, if you don’t mind me mentioning it, for example, like you said, like part of what you were saying of why you changed the way you listen to music, Is because you have a kid and there’s a huge fucking responsibility.
And even if it wasn’t a, another living human being, just having an extremely serious responsibility is going to change the way you can listen to music. It’s hard to find unless it’s part of your job, it’s hard to find that time to just sit down and either just listen to something, or like you said, even just look for something, especially I feel for.
People like you and me, where are, if I’m like, it’s probably like, um, a generalization on you, but I would say like our original music tastes are T are kinds of music that aren’t in the mainstream. And by that, I mean like jazz music and classical music for me, especially like live concerts, finding that kind of stuff is not easy.
You do need to sit down and dig to find that kind of stuff. Yeah.
Brian: I think everything that you said is right. I was just very surprised that you use a small speaker now. Yeah. I
Jason: figured you would be
Brian: at the same time. I feel like a lot of sound people. I know, kind of view sound as more utilitarian, you know,
Jason: that’s exactly it though.
It’s true. It’s it’s the, a lot of people have like impart this kind of mysticism on music. W I buy both its propagation and its creation. And I find when you work in an industry, when you work in the industry in such a way that has you catering to musicians, I haven’t just being a musician. I don’t know.
You just, you just lose that like pretty quickly. I know for me, like for example, probably the thing that made me really level-headed about playing in New York. Is working at a jazz venue and seeing like eight something new jazz bands every week for like a year and a half. And they’re not all just jazz.
We’re just seeing all this music of all his live music. And it just, I’m not going to say kills that in me, because that sounds negative. I see it as really a much, a really a positive. And I find that out a real, what? You said, many sound people. I know they. Again, it’s not negative, but it’s just, this is just the thing that I enjoy.
Right. Food forward, building something. It’s just another thing that this is a part of your life.
Brian: It’s very interesting that you say that because you were in the context of the sound industry, you were working in a more technical role where it was more about setup, you know, about making sure things are stable and.
Reliable, you know, no, no room for unexpected fun and stuff. Yes, exactly. Meanwhile, when I was working in, in sound, it was more on the creating sounds side and my gear choices were informed by that because, Oh, I should probably like hear what I’m creating. Right? Like the whole thing, you know, if I’m doing like a synth bass or something, I.
Better find something that I can actually hear the bass, you know, not like a random Bluetooth speaker. So maybe there’s something behind that where technical, technical, technically minded people. And that’s not to say that you’re not creative, you know, but like professionally, your, your role was more on the technical side.
So maybe. That kind of person is more inclined to just be like, okay, let me just find a speaker. You know, it’s just a speaker. Meanwhile, someone on the creative side might be more used to hearing everything and kind of have more need or wanting for like a high-end set up. So I don’t know if like, I don’t know if that is true, but I feel like for me, just.
Having a background of, you know, try trying to find the right string sounds, trying to design like the right sense sound. It was very much about, I need to hear as much of this as I can.
Jason: I think there’s a lot to that though. I would 100% agree with you on that. I think, I think, I think it goes again to the idea of the.
Magic of it all getting knocked out of you. Cause I know for me like nine, I are even wondering if it’s worth it. Like if I really wanted to, like, I, I would know how to create like a extremely like tens of thousands of dollars level space for like listening to music very well. I think part of the reason why I do just get like a basic Bluetooth speaker is that I blew it.
I’m like this isn’t worth it. If for knowing what I know, I would basically have to do that to be truly satisfied with what I’m doing. And for me personally, I’m a guy of extremes. So like, I’m like, if I am not going to go all the way that, to that direction and let me just stay frequent, simple and not worry so much about.
Those technical details, because it’s hard to turn that kind of stuff off. Like if I, like I have a, I’m getting ready to leave a practice space, for example, for a financial reasons. And I have a lot of soundproofing in that space. And a lot of that was just given to me because I, if I were to try to seek out soundproofing for this room, I would just go crazy.
I would probably just build a room in the room to just decouple it from the building. That’s a practice space or something. Cause that’s, that’s the, and I don’t think this experience I’m talking about is universal. I think it’s, this is the way it goes just to your personality, because it’s the idea that when you have the knowledge, how do you temper yourself to use it when it’s appropriate?
And then how do you turn off that part of your brain when. It’s not appropriate. That’s a
Brian: great trait to have, you know, with things in sound and often things in creative industries in general, you, you, you can quickly go bankrupt.
Jason: Yes. It’s funny. Also seeing related industries. I mean, like we were going, I think we’re going to talk about this a little bit in the next episode, but look at photography, for example, that’s.
It’s kind of a similar situation for me, where I purposely nowadays will pro like, just go with the camera on my phone, especially now that the camera is good enough, because for me to get the camera, the proper camera device that I want to get, I just can’t afford it as not even that it’s like very expensive.
It’s just, I, I just, I know it be too much of a money sink, which. As a 100% tangent off of this topic, I will say I am very excited that the pixel phones nowadays are on the level that they are because as a person who likes taking pictures, but likes Android phones that space. I mean, now it’s being like really like rock solid for a couple of years.
But before like 2015, it was a complete crap shoot. The optics. In the Google and any Google phone would just complete shit.
Brian: I think the photography thing is a great topic and we will touch more on that in the next episode. But I did want to mention, you know, some of that in this episode as well. And that’s kind of in the context of just moving of us as a species, moving to computational sensory consumption.
So, you know, there’s computational things that you can see. So. In this example, like if you take a picture and then your iPhone or your Android phone does something to that picture and then you see it, but it doesn’t exactly reflect what is completely there in the real world. You know, that’s an example of visual census.
So here in the AirPods, max, we have computational sound. Before we make the link to photography. I do want to discuss just for like a little bit, like discuss the ethics of computational sound and what we think of that. And also how computational devices like these will change over time. Like, do we think it’s going to be like a niche thing or do we think it’s going to go mainstream?
So first let’s quickly give our thoughts on the ethics. Like what’s your, for some context, what I mean here is that for example, the AirPods Max do have what is called a transparency mode and what that is basically is it lets you hear what’s around you and it’s actually super cool because when I use transparency mode and I’m walking down the street, And I can hear so many more things.
Cause it’s basically like amplifying the environment around you. And the AirPods Max is like built in components that allow it to know where it is within space. So when you actually turn your head around the computational axis actually changes as well. So the placement of what’s happening behind you is what you would actually hear if you did not have the headphones on.
So. That’s really interesting. And just as an example, I was walking down the street last night and there was someone like 10 feet behind me. And I could clearly hear his footsteps just through the headphones and wild. And it was like crystal clear. And I was like, Oh, this is, this must be like, what dogs can hear or something, because it just seemed like, it almost seemed like.
And augmentation of the human body. And like, that’s another topic, like maybe that’s where all of this is going, where now these things are external to us. And who knows maybe in 10 years, you know, computational enhancement of what’s around, you will maybe be inside you. So it almost goes into like transformation of the human being as.
A physical object.
Jason: Well, I mean, going into that last bit, you’re talking about, there are major health benefits, I would say for that kind of thing, just in the context of audio, like, imagine if you could implant, you get to the point where we could implant something like this into someone who is hard of hearing, so they can have that high quality hearing without having your hearing aid outside of your ear, which can be an issue for various parts of life.
I definitely think this is where we’re going in the consumer world, I think more, more and more people will want the experience, like look at augmented reality where you don’t even realize that you’re wearing certain things, but certain senses. Are increased. And because of that, certain experiences feel much more fulfilling.
I think that is, I mean, on a more heavy handed way of looking at it, just look at filters on photos. For example, like Instagram filters, Snapchat filters, just filters built into your camera. The people, people love these things. And I think that’s going to continue to get more and more pervasive in our society as it becomes more integrated in our various technologies.
Brian: about the dark side of this though. Let me explain this because I think it can potentially be really, really, really dark. So let me draw an analogy to, to the internet. Okay. So. Back in the day when everyone was making their Facebook account, it was like a very casual slash fun. You know, there was no intention of using the plan form as a weapon, which there is clearly now where you have these like corporate interest groups or something that are able to, you know, fund advertisements in order to shift the opinion of the public.
And when Facebook first started, that mechanism did not exist. So I feel like now we’re at the stage where these computational device is that essentially make us into robots. If you think about it, the phone in your hand contains everything that you would ever need to know about the history of the world.
And currently the limit of that is bandwidth because our fingers can only type at a certain top speed. So the rate of information that we can absorb is limited by our fingers. So these devices that we have now are external to our body. There is no direct interface with our brain yet until Elon Musk starts to implant those chips, which I’m thinking of getting one, if it ever comes to bear, you know, they’re actually doing some testing now.
But the point is like, we are already essentially robots. All of us on this planet who have access to smartphones are infinitely smarter than people from a hundred years ago. Just because if you don’t know something, you could instantly look it up. So from that perspective, you know, we’re already robots and.
And just going back to the Facebook thing, like these things always start as something cute as something fun back when the app store was first made, like what kind of apps were there? You know, like flashlights and yeah,
Jason: that’s so crazy to think about. Yeah.
Brian: Games. People didn’t really know what they could do yet, but.
Over time. Things have went into two ways. So you have like these extremely great things that platforms like Facebook allow, you know, just being able to connect with people all around the world, but that also opens up like the more people that are on board, the platform, the higher chance that someone is going to try to leverage it in order to provoke people serve their needs.
Yeah. So what if we are at the stage with these devices like AirPods, max. Like our iPhones, like these VR glasses that essentially paint a different world. What if these hardware devices in the physical world are at the stage now where Facebook was 10 or 15 years ago, where it was just like fun. It was like, cool.
Like, I can cancel out the noise. I can do transparency mode and hear
Jason: better. Took that phase science fiction, the story where everything looks super cool and shiny. So we’re going to
Brian: enjoy it. You saw that episode of black mirror where the soldier or something had these glasses. That depicted? No, it wasn’t glasses.
I think it was like an embedded thing in the eye or something where it made people appear as zombies. And then he was walking around and they thought they were killing zombies. Like there was some infection in the world and their job was to kill zombies, but at the end, something went wrong with his eye.
Like his head hit the ground or something. This might not be completely accurate, but this was what happened in the episode. Just, I’m not sure if he hit his head, but at the end, the thing stopped working and he saw all of these are actually real people, but the, I was programmed to display them as well.
Okay. You’ve seen this. Yeah. So this is kind of exactly what I’m talking about here, because back when we had Facebook 10 or 15 years ago, it was sign up and talk to your friends. You can share updates about you pooping on the toilet or something. But now what have we seen from Facebook in the past year?
Fake news lies people threatening to kill each other on Facebook, people killing each other on Facebook. People are trying to like push their views. Like Joe Biden is the president and Trump is president. Like it’s not objective anymore. Facebook was objective at one point, like if I say I’m taking the poop right now, taking the poop.
Now you really don’t know. And if you actually think about it, Facebook has evolved into much more than a feed. It’s a feed that is tailored to the user in order for that user to use Facebook more. So it’s a feedback loop and there are billions of people who use Facebook. So essentially there are billions of Facebook because everyone’s Facebook feed looks different.
So that means like you can present a different reality of the world to everyone. And what if that’s where these devices are going? So. What if one day AirPods are no longer external, you know what, if they’re embedded into your body and they can be programmed to present a different view of the world and it can like, make sure you hear certain things, make sure you don’t hear certain things.
Yeah. And the experience is kind of completed with, you know, these classes that can make the world look different. You know, maybe if XYZ company that makes the glasses feels like, Oh, I don’t want you to hear this thing. Or I don’t want you to see this thing, or I want you to see this thing, but it’s actually not what it appears to be.
So right now we can still be in control of that because these things are external. You know, if the AirPods, I feel like are not presenting what I deem to be the real world, I can just take them off and I can still hear the real world. But I feel like the way that we’re going with these computational devices, where chips keep getting smaller.
And at some point they’re going to be small enough to put inside. And then after that, it’s not going to be such an easy process to distinguish maybe what’s real or what’s not real. So that’s kind of the ethics of computational devices that, that I’ve been thinking about. You know, I’m not saying this is going to happen, but I’m just saying like the concept of a layer in between the real world and what we perceive can be manipulated in a very bad.
Jason: I was thinking about this for a completely unrelated reason earlier today. I actually just think of the acronym IRL. In real life and the way we would use it back in the day when we were chatting with people,
Brian: I never used that. Can you explain like what that was supposed to mean? IRL? I know it means in real life, but like, what did that mean back then?
Jason: So it’s, it’s like, let’s say you’re talking with someone you’re like, Oh yeah, we’ll do a, we’ll do these things. And don’t talk about these things online. Because we’re in an online space, but when we’re in real life, like when we’re face to face, we’re not going to go into this and talk about it. But let’s say you have your online friends or you have your, and you have your IRL friends.
So you have the people let’s say you would know through social media, through gaming, through forums, through things like that. And you only know them through those, through those channels. So you only know them through each, each other’s online personas. And then you have your in real life friends, the people you say, if you’re younger, you know, from school and from activities and things like that.
And I brought that up because there’s basically a divide where you have a life that you can have online, and then you have your life that you have when you’re not online. But going to the point of what you’re saying nowadays, that divide is getting smaller and smaller every year. Like what really is.
What is online and what’s, what’s real life. When, if you’re doing things online, it really does impact your actual life. Is that really a separate space anymore or not? Right. And that’s a good point. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s like, well, you’re going into what you’re saying now. Like we’re doing these, we’ll add these devices out.
Enhance. The world around us, essentially, we are literally creating Rose, tinted glasses for ourselves. And if you get to a point where we are always wearing these things, our point, if that is your reality all the time, then what is real life? As you said, What is real and what is not. And if you can always put on these things and experience the world through these Rose tinted devices, then what point is there in making your senses and your experiences around you better without those devices, those devices will be your norm.
It looks like I can, I can do this. And I enjoy this they’re pretty high level. Why would I need or want to do anything else? Why would I want, why would I need her want to do anything that’s not through these devices. That’s
Brian: really true. And that kind of makes me think about how this trend of computational sound is going to evolve over time.
Do you think that more of these headphone companies are going to start doing this? Like how could they possibly do this though? Right? Because. Like one of the reasons Apple is able to do this because they’re so focused on enhancing the technology of the consumer market, as well as they they’re sitting on a trillion dollars, they have a lot of cash to throw at this.
And first to put together a DSP team that is capable of miniaturizing, all of these like passive ETQ and all of these different concepts into a very high performance chip. That also is very efficient with power is very, very difficult. Do you think that traditional headphone companies are going to go this route or are they going to go even further in the other direction and really buckled down on the traditional consumption of sound through headphones?
Jason: So I think a good comparison to what you’re saying now, people said the same thing about, um, VR about. Arguments reality about smartphones, computers, everything. Yeah. Like any, any piece of technology, it’s just, it gets better and it gets smaller. As you said, we nowadays know more than pretty much the vast majority probably of the world.
Any one person knew knows more today or has access to more knowledge today than the vast majority of the world a hundred years ago, because of the smartphone. There’s so much on these devices, not only on them, but so much access that these things give and just becomes easier and easier and easier to have them.
I mean, take a smartphone again. You can have. Today, a decent smartphone for a hundred bucks, new, which is in the grand scheme of things. Not a lot of money. That’s fair. And that’s, that’s going to keep on getting smaller and smaller. So I think there will always be holdouts people who will care the market.
Or cater to that market of those who don’t want to get involved with this because those markets will always exist for until the end of time. So that will always be a thing. And that that space will always become better at doing what it does. But I think the overall consumer world definitely is going to move towards devices like this.
It will take probably, well, I mean, who knows? Maybe another decade. Yeah, maybe less. I do think. I would take cameras, for example, for in smartphones I’m sh I bet you, the average smartphone user doesn’t even realize that their phone has this kind of power. For pictures because they’re probably just now people just growing up, assuming that if you take a picture of something, it would just always look good because your phone cat phones camera is only certain good pictures and they’re always taking better pictures.
Cause the phones, the phones keep getting better and better. So I think stuff like that I think is a good parameter seeing how. Accepted this stuff is I think once we can see technology like this in honestly, headphones that come with smartphones and that gets better and better. People are going to really just get used to, without even thinking about it.
I mean, look, yeah. Headphones, for example, just the EEQ that’s on them. I mean back in like way back, like 20, 30 years ago, you’re using headphones and you just know, like now these headphones are not going to sound as good as my home set up because it’s the eighties and that’s just what’s to be expected.
Right. Holidays people don’t even like, well, think about the eco that’s on the headphones that they use, even whether it has computational audio or not, because you’re just used to hearing like how you were saying before, how. You’re listening to, um, the MDR seven 75 Oh six is for example. And yes, they have that mid range.
Yeah. Beyond that. They’re pretty damn clean. And. I love I’ll give, like, when we were, when we were in school, I would have these clean headphones, like different different brands. I’d give them to a friend to listen and there’s always even back then. I’d be like, these headphones sound terrible. Why are you even listening to music on this?
It’s like, it’s not that it sounds terrible. It’s just, we’re not used to hearing non-acute audio anymore. Just as a society in general. That’s true. Yeah, I think that’s something to just keep on going. I think if anything will end up happening is when we can implant these things, because I do think that’s going to happen at some point.
Not only will cause things, for example, right now, these headphones, the, the AirPods Max, they will pre EEQ everything. But that is going to be the same IQ that everyone hears, although interpreted differently because everyone’s ears are different. That’s what happening though, is these devices will start equaling sound to specifically match the user listening in on it.
So whatever, like let’s say, like you, you don’t even realize it, but you enjoy listening to stuff with a bumping like 200 Hertz or 400 Hertz or. 367.5 Hertz. And somehow these headphones will know this and they will bump that can level that, that frequency in the music to just the right in mouse that has your sweet spot, kind of like with, um, I haven’t seen, I can’t even think straight right now.
Think of like, um, like you’re texting with. What do you call it? Your phone learns how you text and give you better suggestions, spelling or whatever. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Or even you’re used to, you put in Google results and then your Google learns or whatever the search engine you use learns, how are you going to type in what your texts it’s going to be?
The exact same thing for audio.
Brian: That’s actually a side that I’ve never thought of. And I think that. And that’s potentially really powerful. And that’s exactly why I think that these kinds of computational devices are going to be implanted into us at some point, because what do you gain when you implant something into the brain?
Suddenly you have access to brain activity directly, and that allows the devices that are connected to that ship to react in a way. So. Based on what you were talking about. Like maybe there’s a chip inside you that has studied how the brain reacts to good sound or what the person thinks is good sound and it can try different things.
And then if it can see that like a certain song eco a certain way makes something happen in your brain, that’s your new preset and that’s. Only possible know, just think about how crazy they are.
Jason: Yeah, it is crazy. But I can like
Brian: be aware of the dopamine within your bloodstream or, yeah, it can sense like my new changes in your heart rate and just make decisions based off that.
But wow. That’s really weird. But like back to the point about the evolution of computational sound. I, I think these mainstream headphone companies, so the mainstream headphone companies would be like Sony, maybe. Sure. To a certain extent like
Jason: Sennheiser Sennheiser. Definitely. Yeah. Oh, skull
Brian: candy. Yeah. So for like those brands, I feel like.
For their lines of headphones that are targeted towards consumers. I think there will be a move towards computational things built in. I feel like two or three or five years down the line, it’s going to be like, Oh, if you sell a headphone to a consumer without transparency mode or like the AirPods Max also has.
Something called spatial audio, where they can actually condense like 5.1, 9.1 sound down into your headphones. And it sounds real, you know, you turn your head around wild. It actually changes the sound. That’s
Jason: what you meant. That’s insane. That is insane.
Brian: The spatial aspect of it and the transparency mode is the thing where.
You can hear what’s going on around you. So yeah, I think that these types of features that essentially boiled down things that were not possible before, because before, if you want it like a 9.1, 5.1 system, you had to. You know, sit down, you had to put five speakers, one subwoofer, and you know, you need to treat your room and even then that’s only tweaked for a single sweet spot.
Yeah. If you move like a foot or two to the side, then you’re no longer in the sweet spot and here comes AirPods. Max, you know, of course it’s not the exact same thing as a full 5.1 setup. But there’s this thing where, you know, if you’re just watching Netflix or something on your iPad and you just move your head around, you know, you move your iPad around the AirPods.
Max is aware of that movement and will change the sound field. And I tested this, you know, it really does sound like a 5.1 ish kind of experience. And yeah. So I think that these mainstream brands are going to try to go down that route. But I think the really high end brands. The brands like Vocale and maybe Sennheisers high-end stuff.
I think they’re going to try to double down on what they’re already doing. They’re going
Jason: to niche niche out.
Brian: Yeah. And I think that’s going to happen because right now we still have brands in camera’s, you know, like the Leica cameras, let’s say they still make really expensive. Film cameras were in a world where everyone else is making the latest 240 frames per second, you know, 50 megapixel sensors, 15 frames per second, capture
Jason: smartphones with cameras in them.
Brian: what’s going to end up happening in the headphone world where the traditional headphones that we see now are going to kind of have a similar fate as film in the camera world. Like if you’re trying to buy new things, like, of course there’s always gonna be film. Cameras are cheap, but if you’re trying to buy a new, nice film camera is going to be expensive.
And I feel like if you’re maybe five years down the line, if you want a really nice pair of traditional headphones, it might be very expensive because it’s going to be a niche product and people want it for a specific reason, you know, maybe it’s because they want to get away from that computational world.
Or it might be like, because their work needs, because I think people who make records, you know, mixed sound, they’re still going to need those headphones that aren’t wireless, just because of sound quality latency, all of these different things as well.
Jason: It will be another group. I wouldn’t be surprised I need this crime enforcement or sorry, law enforcement, where you need to know that if you’re listening to something for evidence.
You need to know that this thing, that you’re, what you’re hearing is what it actually is. What you’re seeing is the, it actually is. And in a semi-related world, you know, obviously you have like, don’t text and drive. For example, we’re going to probably have something similar where if you’re walking down the street, People are going to have there wedding be blasting music without, with noise canceling on and not be aware of their surroundings and accents are going to happen.
Like once it starts to become more commonplace in the public and we’ll deal with that fallout as it happens, I think stuff like that. It’s going to have to happen before. And, or other stuff like that is going to happen. And then the more traditional headphones are going to find their place after that, where we’ll say, Hey, you want to make sure you can walk around and you can hear what you’re talking to.
What’s going on around you or even your parents. And you’re like, I want to know my kids are listening to stuff and they can hear what’s going on around them. They’ll going to start getting their kids like quote unquote, traditional headphones and things like that. And like, those are super specific needs.
But I think to your point, exactly that that’s where these things are going to go. You can have these niche desires and these, the older style headphones will serve those niche desires at the same time. So what’s fascinating is that you look at. No, every, every source that I would read about the change to film for video and photography is, would say that it was pretty instantaneous, not instantaneous, but it was pretty damn fast.
Right. And I think we haven’t really, I mean, we don’t really have the raw number of products to serve this in audio, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes slower because people are so passionate about audio and music related things. They are excited much. Like, don’t try to take a person’s audio set up from the Bay.
We’ll go crazy. Well,
Brian: you also have to think that like, headphones are devices for consumption and camera’s are devices for creation. Yeah. So that’s, that’s a big difference. Maybe there’s something in there too. Yeah.
Jason: Big, big difference. I think back even going again. So when the, I, when the first iPhone, without a headphone Jack came out and how the world was like, you can take away headphone jacks.
No, one’s going to buy a phones like that. Also we’re all going to lose our AirPods because they’re going to just fall out of our ears. And a year later, everybody followed suit and that’s never changed. I mean, you have less than high-end phones. I still have headphone jacks like pixel phone. When they have put out their flagship phones, they will always put out a secondary phone.
It’s like an iPhone se. And those always have, have headphone jacks, for example, but by and large, the flagship phones of our names, none of them have it. They all go Bluetooth instead. And that’s going to be a thing that’s not going to change. I mean, same thing with computers. Confused about small enough to start removing certain ports.
And people are like, no, you gotta have all your ports. And now all use dongles, max, sorry, went to using almost all. USB-C saying that correctly. And people are like, that’s not gonna work. You gotta have some normal USB. Um, and then it worked and then Africa and then it worked and then you will see windows.
In general, moving that direction very soon. It’s still not really there yet, but it will. It will, from a business standpoint, is it just makes sense to have everything be on the same level of playing field and send them in Bluetooth. Technically speaking, if every headphone connects over Bluetooth, they’re all connecting over the same standard.
And now as a standard that you can just improve upon. Yeah.
Brian: I think that Bluetooth is very interesting because. Over the past decade, you know, it’s improved a lot in terms of latency with, and yeah, like back then, as you said, when you had your Bluetooth headphones, now they have Bluetooth low power. So these things last forever, I think the AirPods Max lasts for like 20 hours of listening, which is more than enough for a day.
I think as soon as we get to the point where I think Bluetooth is capable of streaming, lossless. In terms of the bandwidth and how realistic it actually is. I think that’s going to be really cool, even though I would say that most people probably can’t hear the difference between MP3, like the one 92 MP3 and lossless, but it’s nice to
Yeah, I agree with that. I would argue we’re there now. And that’s also why Bluetooth headphones have taken off so much. I think people who live in think of the fact that anymore, that I don’t know when you connect AirPods to your iPhone, is it clear that you’re using Bluetooth to do it?
Brian: When you first turn on your AirPods, like a, pop-up just shows up on your iPhone that just says, and you just press the connect button and then it’s done.
And after an, after it connects to your iPhone, all of the devices that are associated with the same iCloud account as your iPhone, it’s aware of the new pair of headphones. So I had to pair it with my iPhone. And then when I went over to my laptop, it knew that the AirPods Max were on. And it transferred the sound over.
Jason: That makes a lot of sense to me. And I think that stuff like that, where if you’re looking at this, like 20 years ago, it almost looks like magic that just connects like that. I forget exactly the point I was trying to make, but I guess the nuts and bolts as to why certain things are happening, those things are just continuously fitting into the background and things are just working.
So with this, for example, by how the AirPods Max, it doesn’t have a par button, right? I guess the. AirPods, do they have an actual, like power switch on them or anything like that? The
Brian: AirPods Max actually has no power switch and a lot of people are making a big deal out of that.
Jason: I sure you, in a year from now that won’t even be a consideration because people be like, why waste the energy of turning it on and off?
It just knows when I want to use it. And then you just charge it when you’re not using it. Well, I
Brian: think it makes sense for a device like this to not have a power button for a few reasons. Just. First of all the battery life is already 20 hours of listening time. So that’s actual put it on in your head, play a song.
And if you were just to put it on a table and it actually goes into a low power mode after, I don’t know a certain number of hours. And after a certain number of days, it goes into an ultra low mode where it can last, I don’t know, it could last a month, maybe. So I don’t get the point of a power button because you know, there’s not a lot of benefit to it.
There isn’t at the same time, there’s a lot of benefit to not, I have a power button here because they make this to be seamless. It should be once you put it on your head, the music should be able to start playing and it’s not put it on your head and then turn the power on is not the best experience that you can have.
It’s not like
Brian: And the thing is like, when these things have all of the sensors and like the gyroscope and stuff. So actually in the process of when you’re putting it on your head, it knows that in one or two seconds, it’s going to need to start playing. So it can use that buffer time to prepare itself.
So that means to prepare itself out of the low power mode or whatever it is, you know, that’s why these experiences are so seamless. Because there’s no interruption in the flow of how you use the product. And I don’t know why this concept is so hard for people to understand. There’s so much blog posts about like, this is the worst thing in the world has no power button.
And then you ask them like, what would a power button enable you to do? And then they’re like, I don’t know,
Jason: people got to argue about stupid stuff for clicks allies. Cause it’s. I mean, I’ll be honest. Even someone like me, I am a die hard, um, wired headphones snob. I will 100% admit to that. But even with me being that kind of person, it would be dumb for me to not understand why Bluetooth is.
So especially like knowing. Cause as far as I know, that’s not really the experience on Android. So knowing that that’s the experience on Apple, where it is, you literally can pick it up and it just works. I mean, if all you want is to get the damn thing to work then. Yeah. How do you argue against that?
That makes so much sense. It’s again, especially if that battery life is so long.
Brian: Exactly. Well, this was a very long episode. Yeah.
Jason: It’s a lot of everything. At least five different topics in one. Yeah.
Brian: But I think it was a good discussion. I think this was a good test run for the podcast. I think now we have a good idea of what it is.
Yes. If you made it this far into the show, it probably would be nice for you to understand how this came to be. So basically I just called Jason and I was like, I want to do a tech podcast. That was the end of it. You know, you don’t even need a long explanation, but I guess more on the, I think a lot of tech podcasts are very, they just scratch the surface.
You know, I listened to a lot of tech podcasts that we’re talking about the AirPods Max, or fill in the blank of whatever tech topic you want. And it’s always just. You know, the AirPods Max are expensive. The AirPods Max are Apple’s first headphones and they saw, or like the AirPods Max case needs to be revamped or, you know, these, these really.
And the picky kind of things. Not only is it nitpicky, it’s also missing the overall points of things. And, and I think the underlying, you know, influences talking about how and why something exists is a lot more interesting than just like, Oh, they only made it in white, black, blue, green, and pink. Like, why didn’t they do a specific shade of turquoise
Listeners can’t see this, but like I’m cringing so hard right now. I mean, it’s true though. These, to your first point, it’s true. You don’t need a big reason to do anything. I would say whatever reason you need to just do something, run with that and just do what it is, where to do it and figure it out.
Brian: I also wanted to draw on our past experience as.
People who are knowledgeable about, you know, sound and photography, those kinds of
Jason: things, all about sound in fields that aren’t normally discussed. Yeah. I don’t really know any other spaces that actually talk about electronic music designers. I don’t know any spaces that talk about installation tech, it’s nine, the blog world or in the podcast world.
And I think the perspective for a musician or a live sound engineer, and that’s always great to hear sure. But audio is much more than that. And I think it does a better service. Just to people who are curious about the entire audio industry to know, like there are other worlds out there beyond playing an instrument and making a band sound good.
Brian: Right? Yeah. Well, and I think that kind of background also helps you establish more context into a product like the AirPods Max cause, cause like we were saying before, there’s. There’s all these people out there. I was just listening to a podcast yesterday where a few guys were like, I think one of them really liked it.
And the other two were just trying to like compare the AirPods Max to, you know, these traditional headphones. And they completely missed the point as to why those cannot be compared, or maybe they should not be because they’re actually in completely different classes. And I think having the experience and knowing why the traditional headphones exist and exactly what they are versus what the AirPods Max are really helps give a better representation of the product.
And it makes us sound like not as stupid as we could. I think that like when I listened to people talking and you know, they’re completely for real. They are actually speaking from their heart. They just don’t know enough and that’s not their fault. You know, they’re just not as well tuned in because they didn’t spend their life working in a certain place or in a certain industry.
You know, they just see these are headphones, one’s cheaper and it sounds good to them. Then the more expensive one must be bad, you know?
Jason: So I know for example, I like listening to podcasts. By musicians who don’t necessarily play in bands, who not to say I’m honestly, when someone is playing in a band or was trying to work in popular music.
If you try and do that for your career and for your living, you definitely have to have a certain kind of mindset for it. But I think it’s rare to hear people talk about the philosophical ideas behind the things that they consume and create, especially when it comes to adjacent topics or products to what you do.
I think, especially in spaces that catered to a pro-sumer market, which audio tends to do is various subsections. A lot of talk tends to be on the nuts and bolts of what you’re seeing and that this at face value idea, like this thing, like you just said, Brian, this thing costs more and is missing these details that I’m used to seeing in all these other things.
So I’m just going to talk about these comparisons again at surface level. And that is well and good for sure. But. I think as technology continues to blend with our everyday lives, it’s particularly, particularly in ways we don’t even recognize it’s important to take into consideration. What’s that what that is going to mean for us in the future?
Brian: Exactly. That is the premise of the podcast. Just diving a little deeper into what is otherwise not dive too deeply into enough, just like that. Just like that. All right. Thanks for listening. Maybe by the next episode, we’ll have some kind of website up or some kind of social maybe, or we’ll just remain mysterious forever.
Like we’ll always say, yeah, check the link in the show notes, but there’s never going to be any show notes.