Best Playstation 4 Headset – Philips SHP9500 + Vmoda Boom Mic

PS4-USB-Headset
So for years, YEARS, I’ve been using the Playstation headsets. They are wireless, work on PC, Mac, and Playstation, and sound really good to my ears. The reason I have recently moved away from them is because of the microphone quality. Since I started streaming it had become painfully obvious that the quality of microphone was really quite poor. It works fine for chat, but for something where your voice is being recorded it kinda sounds like poop.

I had recently picked up a pair of Philips SHP9500 headphones, which are incredible by the way. They are open ear-cups so you can still hear whats going on around you and you don’t end up screaming while trying to adjust the volume of your voice over whatever you’re listening to. The open design also creates a nice airy feeling to the sound, which I’ve found a really quite impressive compared to my experience with closed ear-cups in the past. They sound great. I also really love how light these headphones are. They weigh very little and feel comfortable on my head for hours. They are comfortable as hell. The last really notable thing about these headphones is that they have a removable cable…

Enter the Vmoda Boom Mic. What this is is essentially a replacement cable for your headphones that has an adjustable boom microphone built into the end that connects to your headphones, converting them into a headset. Its got an inline volume control and mute toggle, which is great, and sounds WORLDS better than the Playstation Pulse Elite, or Gold Wireless Headset mics. If you’re not into the Vmoda, another option would be the AntLion Modmic. I ended up opting for the Vmoda because it results in a single cable, which was more attractive to me.

When I tried plugging into the controller, my audio kept cutting out.

Vmoda-Boom-Inline

Now for most people this would be the end of the story. Since the PS4 has a headphone jack in the controller you can just plug it in and be done with it. When I tried plugging into the controller, my audio kept cutting out. After looking online I discovered that can happen if your area has a lot of wireless and bluetooth signals competing for the airwaves so I needed a way to convert it into a corded solution.

From here I got a splitter which converted the single headphone cable to a mic and a headphone jack, then used this adapter to convert these two separate signals into a single USB connection. Then added an extension USB cable so that I can sit in my chair I use to play games. The result is fantastic, albeit kind of ridiculous, but it works really well and I’ve really enjoyed both the sound quality and consistency that it provides. I can heartily recommend any of the products listed above if you want to have a similar setup for amateur streaming of videogames.

I also have a pair Custom One Pro headphones that I use when I’m using the mic and am playing with other people. The closed ear-cups provide a better seal, which means much much less sound leakage. If you have the volume up really loud on the open headphones like the Philips, the mic can pick it up which can give the people you’re playing with an echo. The rest of the setup stays the same. These headphones are very comfortable, but the soundstage and airiness aren’t nearly as good as the SHP9500’s.

Oh, and before anyone asks, the thing I have my headphones on up top is actually a rack that is meant to be used for attaching to a wall and holding a hose, but it works great for headphones.

Casper Mattress Review – Sleep Dangerously

casper

I’ve had a bad back since being a teenager. Competitive swimming left me with small stress fractures in the lower vertebrae of my spine. Getting hit by a car didn’t help the situation either – point being, my back isn’t great. Over the past couple months my old mattress had been making it abundantly clear that it was no longer cutting the mustard. Each morning was met with a painful sitting up period where my back felt as if it was crushing into itself followed by a painful standing period. Once vertical, I’d stumble out of the bedroom gripping my lower back and begin my morning routine.

I’d heard about memory foam mattresses and how great they are, but that those benefits came with some steep costs. Namely trapping heat making for a hot sleep, and a weird feeling of being enveloped. Neither of these things sounded like something I want any part of – my search continued. Then one day at work a co-worker told me that a friend of his had bought a mattress from a sleep startup called Casper. I went over to their site at caspersleep.com (which is pretty slick looking) and read up on it. The mattress is made in New York and consists of a memory foam core, with a latex top. They say this adds more bounce to the mattress which benefits “bed sports”, sleeps cooler, and provides the much needed support someone with say a 3 minute standing process each morning may benefit from. The best part about the mattress is that there is a 40 day return policy where if you don’t like it you can have them come pick it up within 40 days for a refund.

Casper-Mattress

I ordered a queen size for $850 (a super reasonable price as far as I’m concerned). My friend ended up ordering one right after me and she put down my name and email address and said I was her referrer, and they gave her $75 off and gave me $75 cash. Not bad. When the bed came, it arrived in a relatively small box I opened it up and within minutes the mattress had inflated and expanded to its full size. There was a little bit of a plastic smell to it (called off gassing I would learn later). But that went away within a couple hours. It was firmer than I had expected, but felt comfortable.

It’s been over 40 days since I received my Casper, and I am pretty happy with it. I find myself falling asleep faster on it than on my old mattress. I no longer have the lengthy and painful standing ritual in the mornings, either. I still wake up with back pain on occasion, but its not nearly as bad as it was on my old bed. And its no where near as often. I’m pretty impressed with it.

My girlfriend’s experience is a little different than mine, though. Her back is fine, but after sleeping on the Casper she discovered that she was waking up with lower back pain. According to her research it may be because on foam mattresses people tend to move around less. So if you fall asleep in a position where you are not aligned you may have some issued. I emailed the Casper customer support line telling them that our 40 day trial period was already over, but we were having some issues with the mattress. In addition to extending the length of our trial period the representative is shipping a gel mattress topper (at no cost to me), saying that it could help with her back issues and that he is sorry that she is having pain.

Last night she experimented with putting a pillow between her knees to keep everything lined up and said she felt a lot better in the morning so I am hoping that this topper will also help. I am blown away but their customer service, and genuine caring about their customers. I’ll update this post to let ya know the effects of the gel topper on both myself and my girlfriend, but I have high hopes.

Looks like Casper has changed the way they do the referral program. Use this link to get $50 off, and it will kick me back $50 as well.

UPDATE: So the topper they sent us was a Milliard Gel Infused Memory Foam from amazon. It’s great! It adds a very soft upper layer similar to pillow top mattresses. It is made with gel infused memory foam, so its supposed to have cooling properties (which I haven’t noticed really, but it doesn’t seem to trap heat which I am fine with). My girlfriend hasn’t complained of back issues since the first night we added the pad to the bed so mission accomplished. New bed forever!

UPDATE 2: Looks like Casper has changed the way they do the referral program. Use this link to get $50 off, and it will kick me back $50 as well. They also seem to have extended the 40 day trial to 100 days.

UPDATE 3: A commenter on the blog said that they are no longer giving out toppers. It was something that Casper was doing pre-2016, and is no longer something they do. If you buy a Casper now, they likely wont give you a topper if you complain. Can still buy one, though.

They say that bad things happen in threes.

Lets hope that it ends there. Over the past several weeks I’ve had to deal with a lost-in-the-mail camera lens, a double charged iPhone + applecare plan, and now today a sickly computer. I would very much like this to be the last of these events.

Today Liz was playing LOTRO and the computer started crashing. I assumed it was a driver issue so I updated them. No good. Looking inside the case to make sure that the connections were solid I noticed a dust issue. Maybe the CPU was overheating. We went and got some canned air at Best Buy and I blew out the inside of the case. According to CoreTemp that dropped the CPU temp by about 7 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately it didn’t fix anything. I uninstalled the drivers in safe mode and let it reinstall them on its own. It seemed to work, but a few hours later when she went to play it flipped out again eventually crashing to a blue screen. Even after restarting the computer was flashing green and pink and showing hundreds of flashing squares ( had to reinstall the drivers again to get it to stop). I ordered a cheap new nvidia video card (which will probably still be more powerful than my now 4 year old 8800 GTX). If this solves the problem awesome, if not… maybe its the RAM? Whatever, that’s cheap too. Past that though… They say that bad things happen in threes.

Demon’s Souls

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I imported the Asian version of From Software’s “Demon’s Souls” a few weeks ago. I’ve been playing for about 10 hours so far and I feel I’ve gotten enough playtime I’m to formulate some feelings on the game. The first thing you’ll notice about Demon’s Souls is its difficulty, which will be extremely polarizing. You’ll either appreciate the challenge and work really hard to overcome it, or you’ll be turned off by it and never want to see this game again.

Now a bit of back story. Demon’s Souls takes place in the fictional kingdom of Boletaria, a once great nation now being ravaged by a demon scourge. As a result, people who die are trapped in what is called The Nexus. After a brief tutorial level you are thrown into a battle with a gigantic boss, who proceeds to kill you in one hit. This sets up the game’s story and gives you a bit of a taste for just how challenging the game will be. The Nexus is the game’s main hub where you can teleport to the various stages, buy or store items, and learn or upgrade skills (after you beat level 1-1).

When you start the game the only level available to you is 1-1. This serves as a time for you to learn the combat, and the basic skills in the game like dodging, attacking, and blocking. Over the course of the level you open up shortcuts which let you get back to areas deeper in the level without having to fight through the whole thing again if you die (which you most likely will). There will be enemies you just cant beat in the beginning so these shortcuts act as a path to get to various parts of the level to revisit these super enemies. Anyway, at some point in level 1 you open a large gate to the first boss. Once the first boss is dispatched all 4 other areas levels become available as well as the ability to go deeper into level 1 (and giving you a second entry point to the level in the process), it also opens up the ability to purchase skill upgrades and magic. Enter souls. Souls are the game’s money–they are used to upgrade your stats (strength, endurance, vitality, etc), buy or upgrade and fix your weapons, and purchase magical spells. Part of this games difficulty comes from the way in which souls are handled. You gain souls by defeating enemies. Weaklings can give you 6-60 souls, and bigger guys and bosses can give you thousands. If you die however, all of the souls you have at the time are dropped, but you can fight back to where you died and pick them back up, but if you die on your way there a new set of souls drop and the original (usually larger) sum disappears.

There are also various online features to the game including 4 player co-op, and a sort of MMO style online mode where you can see other players as ghosts in your world. You can also leave messages on the ground for others to read and to warn them of danger or of secret items. If you see a message that you find helpful, you can rate it which will give some life back to the person that left the message. You can also leave messages if there is a part you’re having trouble passing and passers by will be able to lend a hand by rating your message and refilling your life. This is why you’ll see a ton of “This is harsh. Evaluate me.” messages. There is even a PVP system in the game where players can force themselves into other someone else world and stalk and kill them as a phantom.

I am having a lot of fun with Demon’s Souls so far, and I cant wait to see some of the later areas in the game. Though, I think I’ll level up a little bit more first.

New Medicom Metal Gear Figures

metal-gear-figures

Medicom, makers of the 12″ Raiden and Old Snake figures, are making some new Metal Gear figures. These ones are much smaller, about 6″ tall, but look like they are a lot more detailed than the other 6″ figures that came out. The new set has Vamp, Raiden, and Old Snake from MGS4, and Naked Snake and The Boss from MGS3. Badass. They also look like they are a little more stylized, which is kinda cool.

They come out in September and will retail for 3500 yen (About $35 USD). They’ll be available at Hobby Link Japan.

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Precision Design DSLR300 Flash Review

A few days ago I mentioned how I had purchased a flash for my camera. Well I’ve had a few days to mess around with it and have a few thoughts. First of all, this flash is BRIGHT. I’ve taken pictures in very low light situations and when I bounced it properly, it came out great. My one complaint is that the flash and the camera dont do as much talking as I imagine an official Olympus Flash would do. The camrea’s flash settings really dont effect how the flash fires at all. How you can controll it is the little switch on the back of the flash itself it has a few different modes that are different strengths.

All that being said, I’m glad I bought it. For the price you really cant beat it. It has a great range of motion so you can pretty much always get it to point where you want it to bounce.

Counterfeit One Piece Figures (Megahouse) – Spotting Fakes.

I’ve been buying Megahouse One Piece figures for awhile now. It’s been a combination of getting them on ebay and from hobby link and so far I’ve been pretty lucky. A few weeks ago I purchased a Luffy figure from an ebay user with a pretty high (98.8%) positive rating. For around $20, this seemed to good to be true.

It was. I got the figure a few days ago and it is totally a counterfeit. I cracked the cheap plastic base trying to get the feet into the pegs, and noticed that there were several differences. And awayyyyyy we go!

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The hair on the counterfeit is a lot less detailed, and the tips aren’t as sharp. You’ll also notice that there is a weird bumpiness to it. The whole figure is made out of a hard shiny plastic instead of a smooth matte vinyl, so you can see there is a lot more specular highlights on the fake. The color of the skin tone is also off (lighter and less red). The eyes and eyebrows are poorly painted, as well. The eye’s lines are thicker, and the eyebrows are thinner. It also looks like the face is slightly higher up on the head in the fake one. Its weird how all this small stuff makes it look so much less like Luffy.

luffy_megahouse_torso

The torso probably has the biggest differences between the genuine Megahouse figure and the fake. The shirt is in an entirely different position and looks a lot lower quality. The hands are further apart and the wrist on his left arm is tilted back more. Also, the hat wont sit correctly.

luffy_megahouse_pants

The pants, like most other places on the figure are painted much more sloppily. You can see the blue spilling over onto the white frayed part. The white part itself is much more solid of a color instead of being more rendered.

There are other differences, too. Molding issues like visible seams, the actual torso being less detailed, scuffs and dark spots on the skin, The base not fitting the feet, The feet being way too long and weird looking, etc…

The moral of the story here is to order them from legit sites and that if you find a deal that is too good to be true you’re probably right. Lesson learned.

Real Triggers – Snap on reality

gioteck-real-triggers

When going from the PS2 to the PS3 Sony switched up the back 2 shoulder buttons. Instead of being normal buttons like L/R1 they added triggers. While this decision was probably for the best, the shape they chose for the triggers is not so positive. Throwing all ergonomics aside and spitting in the face of rational thought, they felt that convex triggers were the way to go. I don’t need to tell you that certain situations in gaming can get intense, which in this case these convex monstrosities result in slippery ass triggers which your fingers slide right off of.

Enter the Gioteck “Real” Triggers. Assuring you of their existence right in the name, these triggers pop over the existing triggers on your Sixaxis or Dual Shock 3. Once attached they make your triggers concave, so your sweaty little fingers stay right where they should be. For only $5 they pretty much fix my only gripe with the PS3 controller. Neat-O, I cant wait for mine to come in the mail!

New, New, New Boots

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I haven’t been having very good luck with boots. The pair of Aldo boots that I bought at the beginning of December have broken. The sole split where your foot flexes, and the heels are worn down pretty bad. I tried to go see if I could get them fixed, but the shoe repair guy said it’d cost like $50 to fix them, and seeing as I only spent like $80 on them to begin with it didn’t really make much sense. Liz suggested that I buy a really nice pair, so if they did break it would make sense to fix them, plus they’d probably last longer to begin with. I ended up getting some Blokes “Sick Bloke” boots. Hopefully this pair will last more than 4 months.

Update: So I just got the boots in the mail this morning and I’ve been wearing them all day at work. I really like them a lot. They look pretty sharp, and feel like they are really well made. I think their longevity is almost certainly going to trump every pair of boots I’ve owned recently… knock on wood.

Mad Catz Fight Stick SE

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This weekend I placed an order for my Mad Cats Fight Stick SE. Unfortunately, everywhere is sold out at the moment, but I’ve found reports around the internet which assures that they will be replenished through March and April. Street Fighter IV is one of the best, most fun fighting games I’ve played in awhile.

It’s unfortunate that Buy.com is saying they arent expecting more till March. Awesome.

New shipment from amazon.com!

So today I got a bunch of stuff I ordered from Amazon with a gift certificate.

Dr. Horrible Sing Along Blog DVD
I watched it online. Liked it a lot and figured that it’d be worth owning. How can you go wrong with Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion!? YOU CAN’T!

The Time Traveler’s Wife
I was looking for a book to read and liz said that I’d probably enjoy this one.

Human Anatomy for Artists
I am an artist, and I like human anatomy. The choice seemed clear.

New Router – Linksys WRT54GL

For the past 3 years I’ve gone through 2 routers. My first was a Netgear Wireless-G, my second was a Belkin Wireless-N. I’ve been pretty consistently frustrated with both for this whole time. My Belkin, for example, would disconnect me almost daily requiring me to go in and fiddle with a bunch of things to make it work again. Also, UPNP never worked so I had to set up all sorts of port forwarding and if you wanted to DMZ something it would F up your whole network.

Anyway all that hellish crap is in the past. I just got a new Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G router and its fucking amazing. One of the first things I did was update the firmware to the custom Tomato firmware. I really liked how tomato scanned the wireless signals in my house to help figure out what a good channel to set it to is. UPNP actually works, too. I didnt have to forward a single port yet I can download torrents with perfect NAT, and get PS3 NAT2!

If anyone out there in internet land is looking for a new router the Linksys WRT54GL is a fantastic choice.

New boots (attempt 2)

After my first attempt to get some boots, I needed some time to recover from the shock and dismay that I had endured. Well, its 6 months later and I’m ready to try again. I was looking around and I found some that I liked on Aldoshoes.com. Whats even better is that they are $140 boots on sale for $79, and I found a coupon on retailmenot.com for an additional 15% off. So far so good. Also, I’ve been big into not having laces recently so this helps me continue that trend.

Today I bought 2 things.

How does it feel to be lied to, reader? I actually I bought several things today, we went grocery shopping. The 2 high ticket items are the ones pictured above– Little Big Planet and an Energizer Charge Station for PS3 Controllers. I figured that Little Big Planet is a good way to get some color and light-heartedness after long bouts of Fallout 3, which I plan on playing the majority of the day tomorrow.

Little Big Planet feels a lot better than it did during the beta. A lot of the official levels are really inventive and cool. I’ve also played a lot of the really great user created levels that I’ve been seeing people talk about online.