Some New Stuff: Mini Reviews

“Mstand Laptop Stand By Rain Design” (Rain Design)

Ever since I got my Macbook Pro, I was using the box it came as a stand when I sat at my desk. It raised it up enough for use, but not quite enough for comfort and it was an inelegant solution. Plus, I lost a great deal of desk real estate to the box itself, which made the surface pretty much useless for writing letters, or filling out forms, etc.

I had been eyeing the MStand for a while now, but the earlier versions of it (in fact the one pictured above) had a solid lip that completely blocked the lid button, so when you went to open the computer you had to lift it off the stand. However, new ones have been reengineered–i.e., they’ve had a divot of about 3/4 of an inch across cut out of the lip that keeps the computer on the stand. Real world pics:

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Conclusion: while a bit on the pricey side, the elegance and deskspace that the Mstand offers is worth it and I highly recommend it if you use a laptop regularly at a desk.

“Jabra C820S Active Noise Cancelling Stereo Headphones” (Jabra)

I came across an amazing deal on these noise canceling headphones on Buy.com the day after Christmas: $50 and free shipping. Now, I have a decent pair of Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3 earphones which have been a life-saver on the subways here in NYC. The Super.fi’s do an excellent job at blocking outside noise and have a decent, albeit not terribly rich, sound. However, I was never able to get them to keep a good seal in my ears using the rubber tips, despite trying all of them at various times. I do get a consistent seal with the foam tips, and have been using those for the past year or so, but those need to be disposed of every few weeks or so depending on, you know, how dirty your ears tend to be. In short, I am glad to have them, and because of their small size I am sure there will be times when they are my earphones of choice.

But I gotta say, I am really psyched I came across the Jabra’s on such an excellent sale. While they don’t block out sounds in the same way as the UE earphones–these create soundwaves in opposition to the surrounding noise and thus cancels the sound, whereas the UEs simply block sounds because they fit into your ear canal–and so don’t block the most egregious subway and city street noises to quite the same extent, the richness of the sound and the superb noise canceling ability in places like coffee shops, airports, or even your own apartment is stunning. You flip the switch on and it’s like the rest of the world fades away, far away and you are left with your music or your audiobook playing very intimately and closely and with a richness that earphones can’t match (at least at a sub-$1000 level). Sometimes I find myself using them in my apartment even when J is out and there is no other noise but my own music, simply because they isolate me from the world in a way that helps concentrate and/or relax.

Other cool aspects of these headphones are that they still work when the AAA battery that powers the active noise cancellation is dead. I guess the Bose equivalents to these are twice the price, and can only work with active noise canceling on. Additionally, the cable that goes between the headphones and your audio source is not built into the headphones. Instead, there is an 1/8″ jack in the left earcup that you plug the cable into. Which means that if you wanted to just cancel out ambient sound and give yourself a quiet place, you can do so without having to figure out what to do with the cable. I also find them to be highly comfortable and have no problems wearing them for hours at a time. Even with a AAA battery, they are light and the foam padding around the ears is the perfect size, at least for my head & ears.

While I wouldn’t have bought these at their stated retail price of $179 – I would definitely buy them at around $125 and am hugely glad I found them on sale. I’m enjoying them right now, listening to Water’s Edge from the album “Sweet revenge” by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Conclusion: I can’t compare them directly to their Bose competitors, but I love these headphones. If you are in the market for noise canceling headphones, definitely give these a try, especially if you can find a good deal on them.

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