Finally! The near-perfect custom cable set for your custom in-ear monitors.

I own a set of JH Audio 13Pro custom in-ear monitors. These are high-end headphones which sound amazing and will set you back $1000 if you don’t get them on special ;-)

Over the course of owning these, I have come to realize just how much not only file quality (128k 256k 320k MP3 vs AAC etc) but also equipment and cable quality matter. I have honed my portable system to the point that I have a great sounding system – JHAs driven by a Centrance HiFi-M8 DAC, fed by my iPhone/iPad.

But…

If I want to be able to use my JHAs with an iPhone, and use volume controls and Mic for regular calls, then I have a big problem. The cables that are available to plug into an iPhone are bad. bad.

You may have seen an earlier post I made about trying to connect my JH Audio 13 Pro CIEMs to an iPhone cable successfully… The result of which is a cable that didn’t do particularly well either.

I had a few custom cables made by a guy in China, and those, too, were bad. I even went so far as to write an iOS App which would detect a proper Mic module on a cable, since three of his cables actually didn’t work with a Mic.

I also hacked a set of Ultimate Ear cables… which have reversed polarity, which butchers the sound stage…

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So it seems to me that the only way of getting the full quality from my setup is to have interchangeable cables. A set for when I want to listen to high fidelity music, and a set for when I am using a direct connect to my iPhone… sacrificing quality for a Mic control.

The snafu here is that to do this, I would have to plug/unplug the connectors that connect directly to the IEM. The connectors have two pins and stay put through basic friction… which means the more you plug/unplug them, the more they become loose. Im talking 5 or 6 plug/unplug cycles before a cable starts to literally wiggle itself loose.

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After a lot of custom cables, I finally found Moon-Audio. (Actually, I finally spent time to learn more about what they did instead of dismissing “high end cables” as voodoo and a way to extract money from me)

Moon Audio makes a Silver Dragon (and many other cables)  for various headphones, including JH IEMs. If you use one of these cables with your existing system, I have to say, that it sounds fantastic. It makes about as much difference as plugging in an external DAC like the Centrance HiFi-M8. Really.

What mae me order it, however, was  that these cables can be ordered with a Male miniXLR connector allowing you to switch out what you actually connect your headphones/monitors to. In my case I have a balanced RSA cable and a “regular” stereo minijack:

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First prototype interchangeable iPhone Cable:

Now the only thing I need is an “iPhone control” cable. What I did was to go out and buy the components I needed to mock one of these up. A female MiniXLR with 4 pins, an iPhone minijack (TRRS Minijack) and the old Mic remote pod I removed from the official JH Audio iPhone cable. (Yes, I have tried a LOT of iPhone cables)

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The result is a working prototype, shown above.

Next, I contacted Drew at Moon Audio to make me a proper one of these using the fantastic cable found in the Silver Dragons, with not only great components and construction (silver cables, silver solder, high-quality XLR etc etc) with no iPhone control actually connected, since they don’t usually do it.

The connections look like this under the hood:

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I had to find an iPhone mic control to attach to the end. As it turns out a few of the vendors seem to use the same module. (Ultimte ears, Beats and a few others) The easiest way to source one of them is Amazon – search for a Beats replacement iPhone cable. It also does make a difference which pins are connected to which pins in the control, as there must be some diodes in there, so its important to use a multimeter to note what is what. Luckily the Beats control snaps off easily…

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Drew from Moon Audio made me my custom cable, and I soldered the iPhone control to it, and added a clip for the cable, resulting in a complete, high-quality iPhone cable:

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Impressions to follow….

IETF does not come to consensus on WebRTC MTI Codec

Well…. we had hoped there would be closure today, but alas, the big brains on the block did their best US-Politics impressions instead and managed not to come to consensus on which codec should be mandated to implement in WebRTC today.

Stay tuned for the next round…

Huge news in WebRTC/Video: Cisco open-sources, gives away free H.264

Cisco H.264 is open source and free

Just head of the November IETF meeting where the decision on which codec should be mandatory to implement in WebRTC, Cisco Systems’ Rowan Trollope has announced that Cisco will “provide an open source distribution of H.264 and do so while not passing on licensing costs to other parties” which opens up the ability for browser manufacturers to embed Cisco’s own H.264 code into their WebRTC browser stacks free of charge.

(There has been some work to show the true costs of H.264 licensing, and suffice to say, it has not been free up to this point. Estimates pin the cost to implement it in browsers for realtime communications at around $0.10 per browser. )

Cisco’s Michael Enescu, Cisco’s CTO of Open Source Initiatives actually let the ct out of the bag at 7am EST today, but few noticed.

What this means?

This essentially means that the way is cleared for the IETF to choose Cisco’s open source H.264 codec as “the standard” for HTML5 based native browser real time vide communications. The main pushback against choosing H.264 as the standard, and rather picking Google’s VP8 has come from those who have issues with licensing cost. Now a non-issue.

What this means for you is that the HTML5 real-time video codec likely to land in your favorite browser will be able to talk natively to the vast majority of other video, telepresence systems, surveillance systems and more in existence today, including those of Cisco… No plugins required.

What that means is that there is no longer an unfair advantage for thick apps like Skype. If Facebook.com or Salesforce.com can do as good a live real-time bi-directional video stream as Skype, why bother fire up Skype when all it has in addition is a contact list… whereas Facebook has your social graph and Salesforce has all your sales data?

In fairness, this still needs to be voted on by the IETF, which will likely happen by November 8th.

More background

WebRTC is a free, open project that enables web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple Javascript APIs. Take a look at a video diving into WebRTC here It is likely to be a huge disruptor in the communications industry.

The WebRTC standards are being driven at the IETF (protocol level) and W3C (javascript api level), and both these groups are open and encourage participation of all interested parties…

Currently there are two competing standards for the must implement video codec: H.264 and VP8

If H.264 is made mandatory:

  • Users of web browsers will be able to interoperate natively with existing h.264 capable devices’ video streams.
  • Hardware acceleration of H.264 in graphics chipsets can be leveraged to improve quality and battery life
  • Browser makers may need to secure H.264 licenses to implement the codec, but they would know they are legally compliant

The big news here is that the third bullet of this list is now gone and is not a factor, which is HUGE news. 

If only VP8 is mandatory:

  • WebRTC will not directly interoperate with just about any of the existing video clients and hardware that existing video providers and other telecomm companies make (which are based on H.264)
  • Transcoders will need to be deployed at cost and cause more complexity and hairpinning
  • Google is giving VP8 away for free to all including browser makaers
  • There are still some potential outstanding patent disputes (notably from Nokia) against VP8, leaving browser makers open to potential legal action

But which one is “better”?
This is the heart of the conversation. The proponents of VP8 claim better performance of up to 10%, whereas proponents of H.264 show better results in their tests. Baselines and compression parameters will be tweaked by both… but I think on average performance of both will ultimately be similar enough to make this a wash. Whats more material is interoperability and licensing.

See IETF draft proposing H.264 be mandatory       See IETF draft proposing VP8 be mandatory


It is in the best interest of almost every single existing video user out there that H.264 be a MTI codec in this standard. Google’s own webrtc.org site doesnt even mention it. (They are pushing VP8)

 

What about iOS support?

If you read the FAQ on the Cisco open264.org site you’ll notice that iOS is explicitly omitted since Apple does not allow code to be installed at runtime. A few have panicked at this, but its highly likely that if H.264 is standardized upon for WebRTC that Apple will simply use their existing H.264 libraries which are used in FaceTime and light up the functionality in Safari anyway. In fact its likely then that Safari will be the only .264 browser on iOS thats actually hardware accelerated (Apple does not allow any other companies access to H.264 hardware acceleration on the platforms)

 

Jonathan Rosenberg’s Email to the IETF WebRTC working group mailer:

I’d like to make an announcement material to the conversations around MTI video codecs in rtcweb.

Cisco is announcing today that we will take our H.264 implementation, and open source it under BSD license terms. Development and maintenance will be overseen by a board from industry and the open source community.  Furthermore, we will provide a binary form suitable for inclusion in applications across a number of different operating systems (Windows, MacOS, Linux x86, Linux ARM and Android ARM), and make this binary module available for download from the Internet. We will not pass on our MPEG-LA licensing costs for this module, and based on the current licensing environment, this will effectively make H.264 free for use on supported platforms.

We believe that this contribution to the community can help address the concerns many have raised around selection of H.264 as MTI. I firmly believe that with H.264 we can achieve maximal interoperability and now, do it with open source and for free (well, at least for others – its not free for Cisco J)

More information on the open source project can be found at http://www.openh264.org, which is sparse now but more coming soon.

Thx,

Jonathan R.

Jonathan Rosenberg, PhD

VP, CTO Collaboration

Cisco Systems

jdrosen@cisco.com

Its high time Facebook, Youtube and other ad-based websites allowed us to remove ads by charging a modest fee…

You have all seen the now famous cartoon:

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I know Facebook, Youtube and other sites all make money from advertising, but my feeds are becoming awfully spammy…. and so are those of my friends.

Now, these sites make money for ad impressions and click-thru, but I almost never click any ads…I have advertised using Google’s services before and per-click costs can vary widely, but based on my habits on Facebook, I can’t be generating any revenue except maybe four or five times a year.

How about charging me marginally more money than Facebook makes from throwing ads at my eyeballs, for turning off all this garbage in my feed?

For me I think $1.99 or $2.99 a month is actually more money than Facebook makes from me, and would be happy paying it.

For a $10 a month budget I could turn off ads on Facebook, Youtube and a few other sites, and I am all for it.

Even better, why doesn’t someone less lazy and with better connections than me negotiate deals with the top sites and offer ad-free as a service I can spend my $25 a month on: I can join Ad-Free and turn off ads on all affiliated sites, and let the money trickle through to them – to turn off ALL ads across my top sites…

C’mon guys, lets us pay our way out from all the garbage.

Mounting iPod Touch to the wall for easy-access controller…

We have a bunch of Sonos speakers around the house, but Sonos is no longer updating their controller software and pushing users to iPods/iPads/iPhones – which makes complete sense.

One issue with this is we need a replacement for the dockable controllers, and an iPod touch is a natural candidate.

Today I created a mount for an iPod touch using a blank faceplate, some neodymium magnets and an Apple mini charger…

I hot glued some big magnets to the back of the faceplate, and superglued some very low profile magnets to the back of the iPod touch. Watch out! As soon as those magnets on the iPod touch get near it they want to drift to the magnetic parts inside the ‘touch.

I soldered leads to an Apple mini charger and hit it in the electrical box behind the faceplate…

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Mophe Juicepack Helium seems to interfere with iPhone inline mics

I have found a HUGE problem with my Mohpie JucicePack Helium. In essence, it disables the inline Mic in Apple and 3rd party headsets… exactly what you don’t want when walking through an airport… which is exactly when I want a JuicePack!

  • If I place my iPhone 5 into the Mophie Juicepack Helium, and then connect a mic cable, the mic is not active.
  • If I thread the cable throughout he juice pack mic hole and plug it into the iPhone and then attach the Juicepack, the Mic works.
  • As soon as you disconnect and reconnect the mic cable… blammo. Dead mic again.

This basically means the JuicePack either disables your Mic… or is a royal pain in the ass..

To test to see if your iPhone thinks you have a mic attached to your headphone cable, you can use my app here, called MiCheck. This app will tell you if the iPhone thinks there is an external Mic connected or not:

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Is your JuicePack doing the same?

A better cable for your Vamp Verza + iPhone 5

The cable that comes with the Vamp Verza for an iPhone 5 is a short cable thats pretty standard. The issue is that if you have headphones attached, and you put this rig in your pocket or case, the short cable takes a lot of strain since its on the bottom of the phone, and the Vamp’s headphone socket is on top.

To make a MUCH sturdier cable, I used a Griffin micro USB cable for $12 as well as an Apple MicroUSB to Lightning adapter for $20:

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Adding them together and looping them around to connect the Vamp is great, but they need some serious strain relief, provided by a zip tie:

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Now the opposite is true when you remove the cable – it wants to push the connectors together, and you may lose the ziptie… so a little hot gluing later, I have a rock solid cable that blows away the POS standard cable:

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