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Friday, July 14, 2023

The NEW Hagerman Cornet MM Tube Phono Preamp

A new piece of gear for my system arrived today. The newly released 4th generation Cornet MM tube phono preamp from Hagerman Audio Labs. It looks stunning next to my Audio Technica LP-7. I’ve been wanting a true tube preamp for my turntable for some time, so I’ve done my homework on this one. I like the circuit for many reasons, it appears to be an intelligent design, more than what I will get into here but in summery it utilizes a pair of 12AX7’s for amplification with passive RIAA equalization between the class A stages. A 12AU7 is used as cathode follower in order to drive the output. I was pleased to see it arrived with modern Russian made Mullard tubes instead of the JJs pictured on their website. Mullard tubes are known for their low noise and linear bandwidth for high fidelity applications. The circuit board layout looks like it was engineered with the best practices in mind. I like the symmetry, spacing and big ground planes. The 15v wall wart which powers the preamp is a hefty 36 watt big boy. The switch mode circuitry which takes the 15v and converts to high voltage for the plates of the tubes runs at 50Khz, which is out of the audio band, as opposed to a “linear” supply which technically switches at 60hz and often induces that hum we all dread. So how does it sound? The tubes had about 30 minutes on the odometer before I went through a few LPs, and the sound doesn’t disappoint. The Monty Alexander Trio Live at Montreux’s all analog LP’s first track, “Nite Mist Blues” is a lively track that I just love and I never heard it sounding better! It will be interesting to hear what develops as the tubes break in and I am able to sample more tracks. If you’re looking for an excellent designed true tube MM phono preamp for a reasonable cost, you’d be crazy to not give the Cornet some serious consideration.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The BEST flashlight that should be in your pocket!

 The BEST flashlight that should be in your pocket! 

I’ve carried various flashlights for decades, long before LED flashlights were possible. When LED replacement lamps started coming out, there was a renewed interest in what was possible in flashlight performance in both battery life and brightness. 

I’m the kind of guy when asked “Do you need a light turned on?” I usually reply that I have my own personal lighting while I illuminate my path. While I’ve carried different sizes of flashlights big and small, a year or so back I finally settled on one that’s a balance between size, battery life, and light output. Prior to this flashlight I used to carry a larger FourSevens Quark Pro. It used bigger AA batteries, had a multitude of modes, even Bluetooth. It was a bit over the top. Then I lost it one day. Crap. There goes $90+. So I decided to downsize a bit. The flashlight that fits this role is the Streamlight Stylus Pro

Let’s look at a few key points of this flashlight.

1. COST - The Streamlight Stylus Pro is under $20 delivered from Amazon, AND it comes with batteries. I can lose this flashlight and it’s really no big deal because it’s hard to complain about the price. 

2. SIZE. Since it uses a pair of AAA batteries it’s about the diameter of your pinky finger. That means you can place it in the corner of your front pocket and move about your day not feeling it. AAA batteries are common and low priced. We’ll talk more about batteries later. 

3. QUALITY BUILT. The clip is strong, so it holds fairly tight in your pocket. It’s also removable, which means you can replace it if it breaks. It rarely comes off by accident. I’ve never had to order one. The anodized aluminum construction makes it lightweight and you have the ability to engrave it with your info. I have a handy little rotary engraver that I love for things like this. The tail cap is o-ring sealed and the power button has a nice firm click on and off. Sure it doesn’t have precision square cut threads like a Quark, but who cares? 

It comes with a nylon belt holster which I find cumbersome and generally leave it in the pack. This flashlight belongs in your pocket!  Is it as bright as the $90+ Quark? No, but it’s plenty bright enough to assist with 99% of your daily needs. It only has one brightness level. It’s either on or off. Often said simplicity = reliability. 

Let’s talk about batteries for a minute. While I have a vast array of Eneloop rechargeables, I find that quality alkaline batteries last the longest and are the brightest. I would avoid the expensive lithium AAA batteries. Why? Because regular alkalines will warn you well in advance when it’s time to change them. The light will start to be dimmer and you will notice, however you still have usable light for some time. Lithium cells offer nearly full power until the bitter end and drop dead instantly with no warning, usually while you’re in the middle of something important. The batteries I like the best and suggest are the ones from IKEA and also the newer “leak proof” batteries from Anker - The same company who makes high quality USB chargers that everyone raves about. I don’t trust any other chargers for my Apple products other than the OEM or Anker. Costco’s Kirkland branded batteries are pretty good too. I recently had a bad pack of Duracell’s that leaked in many of my devices and destroyed a couple of them, so I stay away from them now. 

They flashlights are available on Amazon for the best price in various colors. There is even a micro version now which takes only 1 AAA battery and can fit in the smallest of pockets. You can also buy extra tail caps and clips if needed, but I’ve only lost a clip once over the years and never had a tail cap switch fail. Lastly I have a small rotary engraver that is the handiest little thing in the world for marking tools of all kinds. I have my name and cell phone # engraved in the flashlight should I ever loose it and an honest soul comes upon it. I recommend this engraver over those old fashioned plug in models with the big needle tip your dad had in the garage. It uses the same great AAA batteries I talked about and just hold it like a pen and hit the button.

Here’s are links to these items.

Streamlight Stylus Pro RED - Currently $15. Super deal!
Streamlight Stylus Micro - Smaller length, takes 1 AAA battery, not quite as bright but same great qualities. 
Streamlight spare clip & switch cap -  This is only $1 more than the clip alone, get the switch cap for the extra buck

Eneloop rechargable AAAs - Work great and good to have around house
IKEA AAA Alkaline 30 Pack - Some of the best Alkaline batteries ever tested.
Anker AAA Alkaline batteries 24 pack - Great batteries in a leakproof design
Folai Cordless Engraver Pen with diamond tip - Mark your tools ASAP!
Join Coinbase - develop skills for using the future of money.

And heres a pic of my beat up Streamlight Pro, still working great!  I replaced the clip I lost with a new clip and black tailcap. Its only $1 more to order a spare clip WITH a new tailcap. As a bonus it differentiates my flashlight from my coworkers at a quick glance.

I enjoy sharing my experiences and life hacks that make my life easier and hopefully yours as well. 

Note that this article contains Amazon affiliate links and while I do get a small compensation if you purchase through my links, it doesn’t cost you a penny more to do so and helps me continue to write honest reviews of products I personally use. Thanks for reading!

Note - I also will accept any small donation with cryptocurrency. If you never dealt with crypto, this is the best time to learn because this is the future. Practice by sending a buck my way! lol. Coinbase is the best way to get started. Use this link to join.

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Staying Healthy During The Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Staying Healthy During the Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond

  Updated August 6, 2020  

A lot of people ask me what I’ve been doing to stay healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic. As an essential employee at my workplace, I have to go to work and be around people so it makes sense that I should be doing whatever I can to avoid catching and spreading this virus. Aside from the common sense things you should be doing like wearing a mask in public, washing your hands, and using hand sanitizers I’d like to discuss health lifestyle and supplementations I’ve worked into my routine and why you should consider the same. Full disclosure. I’m not a doctor, and not even in the medical field, I’m just a research geek!  This isn’t medical advise for anyone. It’s just what I’ve found works for me after much research online. This article contains affiliate links which make it easier for you to find the products I'm using. I wouldn’t link to anything I don’t use myself, and to be honest hardly anyone clicks on my links anyhow. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1.  Multivitamin - 1 daily

I believe mostly everyone would benefit from a daily multivitamin. Nobody has the perfect diet that gives your body everything it needs in the proper ratios from the food you’re eating. Most people chose to only put food in their bodies which give them pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with that, life would be quite boring if you didn’t enjoy eating. You also know often these choices aren’t optimal nutritionally. You might have heard before “Multivitamins are inexpensive insurance”. There’s a bit of truth to that statement. A good multivitamin can help cover the nutritional dietary gap and as cheap as they are there’s no reason you should skip taking a multivitamin. But which one to take? The choices are endless. I try to seek out the best possible gender based multivitamin that doesn’t break the bank, yet provide the basic foundation of vitamins and minerals along with an expansive list of known supplements to support your body. Currently I’m taking Nature’s Way Alive! Once Daily Men’s 50+.  Have a look at the label yourself. It covers the essentials, and then some. Noteworthy to a good immune system you’ll see it contains nice amounts of Zinc, Magnesium & B6. In addition it contains digestive enzymes & mushroom complex. All great for immunity and derived from whole foods. 

    2.  Zinc, Quercetin, EGCg (green tea) 2x daily

This combination is key for preventing RNA virus replication. Zinc is well known for preventing the virus from replicating inside your cells. The problem has always been getting the zinc into the cell where it needs to be. Both quercetin and EGCG are known as zinc ionophores. They help get the zinc where it needs to be. There is plenty written on this topic if you’d like the technicals on this action. Interestingly this is also a mechanism of hydroxychloroquine. You can look at this combination as the OTC version of the hydroxychloroquine regiment. 

I take 2 different types of zinc. In the AM I take Triquetra Health’s Ionized Zinc. It’s a liquid you can put right in your mouth or in a glass of water. It doesn’t taste very good, but I don’t mind it really. I do 1/4 dropper (.25mL) before going to work . In the evenings I take a zinc tablet, specifically Solgar’s Chelated Zinc 22mg. It’s a name brand you can trust and it’s chelated for better absorption. Between these 2 additional different types of zinc, I feel I’m getting enough zinc in my system. 

At the same time, I take 1 capsule of Now Foods Quercetin and 1 capsule of Now Foods EGCg. Now Foods is also a trusted brand which I believe to be of high quality. The EGCg is sourced from green tea. If you have issues sleeping, I believe you could skip this on your evening dose. It doesn’t seem to effect me at all so I use it in my evening dose as well. The quercetin and EGCg do the same thing more or less, I just like to use them both to cover my bases. Just be sure to use them at the same time as the zinc supplement. 

    3.  Vitamin D - 5000 iu daily

Much has been written about Vitamin D deficiency in modern times. My research shows that most people today lack sufficient levels of this hormone. Your body can manufacture some from exposure to UV sunlight, however you won’t get enough no matter how long you’ve been outside even if you’re butt naked! There also isn’t enough in any multivitamin so you have to add this to your regiment. This is especially important if your ancestors evolved in the equatorial regions of the globe, where the UV sun exposure Was maximized and now you live north or south on the globe. Some statistics are showing African Americans and Latinos are more susceptible to the Covid-19 virus, and the lack of vitamin D could be playing a role here. Again, it’s a cheap and affordable supplement so you really can’t go wrong taking it. I like Now Foods Vitamin D3. If you want to spend a little more, I think the addition of K2 to the D is looking beneficial. This can be had in Vitamin K2 MK7 with D3 Supplement by LiveWell

    4.  Mushroom Powder - 1 capsule per day

I’m a big believer in the power of mushrooms in the field of nutropics and immunity boosters. I’ve followed the works of the famous Dr. Andrew Weil MD, a leading doctor in Integrative Medicine for many years. He’s a big proponent of medicinal mushrooms for their immune boosting, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. When I take a mushroom complex, it gives me what I can only describe as coffee for the brain, without the jitters. I would defiantly recommend taking this before a test or exam! I use Naturealm’s Sacred 7 mushroom powder. It’s a blend of 7 great mushroom varieties. I make my own capsules with it, as it tends to be cheaper that way. Some people mix it in with their coffee but I find it tends to gather in the bottom of the cup. You can also buy it in premade capsule form. Sacred 7 Organic Mushroom Extract Capsule

    5.  SuperLysine+ - 2 capsules once a day on an empty stomach.

Quantum Health Super Lysine+ is a nice little supplement I’ve been taking intermittently for years. Usually once I feel any sort of indication that I might be getting sick. Nowadays I take it every morning before my coffee. It contains Garlic, L-lysine, Vitamin C, Echinaccea, Propolis, Liqorice root and some calcium. All great ingredients to bolster your body’s immune defenses. The bottle says 3 daily, but I think 2 is enough if you’re taking it every day,

    6. Probiotic - 1 capsule a day before bed on empty stomach

I just started taking Wholesome Wellness Organic Probiotics 100 Billion CFU. More and more I am hearing about gut health for a healthy immune system. Many Americans diets do not contain enough fermented foods where these healthy bacteria are obtained. I chose this supplement for a few reasons. The strains are those same ones contained in fermented foods, many of which are in Middle Eastern diet. This contains PREbiotics, which are the food the bacteria needs to get a head start colonizing in your system. Digestive enzymes are also included. I feel this is a great well rounded probiotic supplement to start taking. Try to take it at night before bed on an empty stomach. This is when your stomach acid level is lowest and the bacteria have the best chance to make it your intestines.

Thats about it for the supplements I take for immunity. I do take a few other things for general health like fish oil, coq10 and turmeric. Probably one of the best things you can do for yourself is avoiding sugar. By that I mean ALL sugars. Carbohydrates to be exact. Sugar is the devil. It’s addictive and it’s in almost everything because of that. It’s actually toxic to the body the same way alcohol is. I’m not making that up, so go look it up if you find that hard to believe. The best way to avoid excess sugars is to adopt a ketogenic lifestyle. That’s avoiding all sugars such as candy, soda, noodles and bread. If that sounds too difficult, it’s really not as bad as it sounds. Eating all the steak, chicken, seafood, eggs, bacon and salad you want doesn’t sound THAT bad does it?  Plus you’ll discover ways to make treats with healthy sugar substitutes like cheesecake, peanut butter cookies and scones that taste great. How will you be rewarded for this shift in eating lifestyle? For starters you’ll lose weight. You clothes will fit better. You won’t become diabetic. You’ll knees and feet won’t hurt as much. You’ll look and feel younger. You’ll have lower blood pressure. You’ll have better blood test results. You won’t need as much aspirin, tums, acid reducers, etc. You’ll just plain be a better, healthier and happier person! Personally I’ve experienced all these advantages since I started a ketogenic diet in October 2019. Maybe I’ll write more about it if there is interest? It’s probably the very best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones, in these Covid times and beyond. Stay healthy my friends!

Summary of my immunity boosting regiment. *

Updated August 6, 2020

1. Multivitamin 1x a day - Choose one that fits your gender & age!

2. Zinc - 1/4 dropper or 1 pill  2x a day 

3. Quercetin - 1 capsule 2x a day

4. EGCg - 1 capsule 2x a day

5. Vitamin D3 - 1 caplet 5000iu 1x a day

6. Mushroom Powder - 1 capsule 1x a day

Sacred 7 Organic Mushroom Extract Capsule
NutriFlair Mushroom Supplement - Heres a more affordable alternative I just picked up to try. It seems to have a nice mix of mushrooms, but focuses on the top 3. Servige size is 3, but I still only take 1 a day.

7. SuperLysine+ 2 tablets 1x a day

Quantum Health Super Lysine+

8. Probiotics -  1 capsule before bed on empty stomach

Wholesome Wellness Organic Probiotics 100 Billion CFU

* I start my morning with the SuperLysine and a cup of coffee. I have the multivitamin, mushroom & vitamin D with my morning meal. Before I leave for work I have the zinc, quercetin, and EGCg combo. After work I have the zinc, quercetin, and EGCg combo again. I take the probiotic right before bed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Basspig's Wireless Headphone Review

Basspig's Headphone Review

Bottom line....he gives the Sennheiser Momentum wireless headphones the Bass Pig Tested and Approved Seal.

The video is worth watching if you're considering purchasing wireless headphones in this class.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mitigating Midrange Leakage in Ported Speakers with Acoustic Cotton

Here's a short video I did demonstrating the ability of acoustic cotton to absorb midrange inside of a speaker cabinet. These are the new "main" speakers in my system, which I'll write a post about soon.

The cotton products I used are 2" thick 2x4 panels from ATS Acoustics as found here on Amazon. As well as some Frost King cotton insulation which works really well for going around tight corners of braces and when near port openings as not to interfere with airflow. Its advertised as 1" thick, but its less than that. It is very affordable too, as found here on Amazon. As usual, I just glue it in using my favorite adhesive.

Stay away from fiberglass and rock wool products for ported speakers, as they would eject little bits of material into the air you breathe and aren't very friendly to work with.

Please watch my video, It is only a minute long and demonstrates how well cotton works. I'm not very good at making videos yet, but its a start!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Streamlight Siege LED Lantern Review

Today I review the Streamlight Siege LED Lantern

Those that know me, know that I'm an LED lighting fanatic from way back. Streamlight is a trusted brand from those days who's AAAA flashlights were amongst my favorite EDC (Every Day Carry) items. I always wanted an LED lantern for those occasional power outages we get here and I always trusted the Streamlight brand so for $30 in my Amazon cart it goes. Once received I was so impressed with it I had to write up a little review. Sure you can watch a YouTube video review about them, but none of them encompass all the facts that I'm going to tell you about it here.

Physically it's not a huge lantern at just over 7" tall so it doesn't take up that much space. It weights almost 2 pounds which makes it seem heavy for its size but also instills some sense of quality. The body is made of a heavy polymer but the base, middle and top is covered in a grippy non slip rubber. In other words, the places you need to grip the lantern to do things like change the batteries, remove the top, grab to push the button all have this material. And it makes the base very skid resistant when sitting on a surface. All this gives the lantern a 6.5 foot drop rating. They were really smart with this design.

If you want to hang the light or tote it around, there is a handle which you can pull up. The handle is covered in a hard gritty coating and is notched in the center so you can hang it on a tree branch or rope and it will remain centered. When not in use it flips down towards the base and snaps into place. Also for hanging is a D-ring which is conveniently recessed into the top. You'll also find one located on the bottom of the base for hanging the lantern upside down. When hanging upside down you can remove the top diffuser and the light will cast straight downwards. Notice the diffuser top has an o-ring seal. Yes the lantern is waterproof. As a matter of fact it floats. And it floats correctly! The base sinks below the water and the top stays above the waterline, where you need the light to shine. Perfect for the pool or when you drop your Glock in the Jacuzzi. 

With the top removed you can see 5 LEDs inside the lantern, still covered by a clear hemispherical bubble. The 4 outer LEDs are the white LEDs which they like to call "C4" That's just marketing talk for Controlled Collapse Chip Connection the way these LED chips are attached to the board, an industry standard method that's been around since the 1960s. Honestly I'm not sure what brand the actual LED chips are, it's irrelevant to the end user anyways. The LED in the center is red in color and can be used for night vision or an SOS strobe. 

Pushing the button turns the light on, and if you push it within a few seconds, it cycles to the next lower brightness else it powers back off. If you hold he button in, it goes to red light mode and red SOS modes. It' pretty easy to figure out. The cool thing is the power button itself also lights up. It's green if your battery power is good and red if the batteries are getting weak. Smart! 

How long the batteries last depends on how bright you want the lantern and which version of the lantern you get. I opted for the 3 D-cell version of the lantern. It's a common cell size with good maH capacity. To change batteries, the bottom easily twists off and features an o-ring seal and keyed center stud. For a backup you can get these AA to D-cell adapters and use your rechargeable Eneloop AA batteries. These adapters are better than most as they take a pair of AA's instead of singles, increasing the maH capacity over single battery adapters. When you order the adapters, be patient as they are shipped on the sloooow boat from China. 

Bottom line If you've been wanting a super high quality LED lantern this is the one to get. You can buy it on Amazon here.

If you want a cheaper alternative, the ones from Etekcity are quite a value. You get a 4-pack for $25.99 or an upgraded model 4-pack for $31.99. Note they take AA batteries, so no adapters needed.

Amazon reviews are solid 5-stars for either of these lanterns.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Optoma UHD65 4k Projector Added

I’m enjoying revisiting my Blu-ray collection since I’ve installed this $1500 factory refurbished Optoma UHD65 HDR 4k projector. I’m finding that the upscaled 1080p video has taken on a newfound amount of sharpness and detail. Even though it uses a native 2716x1528 DLP imager chip, its pixel shifter allows a full 3820x2160 (8.3 million) discrete, addressable pixels on the screen for a very affordable price. The downside to pixel shifting projectors is the pixels overlap a bit compared to a native 4k imager chip projector. Still the picture is stunning compared to a HD 1920x1080 projector. To me, the Achilles heel of the projector is the amount of noise it makes. It can be distracting during quiet scenes. I must have been spoiled by the low noise of my JVC RS40 but at this price point I can live with it. I would also say the black level isn’t super deep, but adequate considering how bright this projector is. Overall it puts me one step closer to my goal of having the best seat at a live concert and a welcome improvement in picture quality over my JVC. Sorry no screenshots, I only have a smartphone camera and its difficult to get exposure and resolution to represent what I see in person!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Thoughts on Surge Protection and UPS Battery Backups


This isn't going to be a long winded article, but a brief overview and tips on what I've found works for me so please give it a read and hopefully I can help improve your level of protection.

Any electronic equipment you may own such as televisions, network & computer gear, home theater equipment, modern washers and dryers, etc. is susceptible to damage caused by poor utility power. Often damage occurs in tiny increments unbeknownst to the user until a catastrophic failure occurs. This is why you should think about protecting your investment right from the start.

Surge Protection

Surge protection. This is the first line of defense. Its affordable and a must. If you're going to do only one thing tp protect your equipment, get a surge protector. Surges are caused by a variety of reasons such as lightning storms, generation snafus, maintenance of infrastructure and more. I typically use power strips with surge protection but also I use the type that sit right at an outlet. The thing to remember about these surge protectors is that they don't last forever. They contain a protection device known as a MOV - Metal Oxide Varistor. They absorb spikes of energy until they fail. Sometimes they just stop working and other times they burn up. For the latter reason I now try to buy only devices with metal cases, although this isn't always possible. When installing a new surge protector, get into the habit of writing the date on the surge protector with a permanent marker. After 5 years or so, consider replacing them. Its invisibly done its job for a great price and is most likely degraded significantly. You'll notice some have indicator lights to show the protection is working, but you can't rely on that indicator as foolproof. Energy absorption is rated in Joules so when shopping the more the better. Here's a few different surge protectors I personally use and like.

Tripp Lite Isobar - Brand name protection, noise filtering, metal housing, high quality. Choose your  outlet configuration.
Tripp Lite Basic Power Strip - Brand name, noise filtering, metal.
Belkin 10 Outlet - Nice large metal power strip with quality components.
Tripp Lite 3 Outlet - Small, fits on outlet. Value oriented.
Belkin 6 Outlet - Replaces outlet plate and screws into place. 6 outlets swivel. Value oriented.

* If your equipment that needs protecting is very expensive and you want to kick it up a notch, consider a surge protector which uses "series mode protection" instead of MOVs. This isn't a cheap option, but when only the best will do this is it. There are no sacrificial components that wear out. I use a Furman Pro-R in my home theater signal processing rack. Besides series mode protection you get advanced filtering capabilities, power factor correction with reserve current, and a slew of other features. There are other companies out there that also produce series mode protection surge suppressors such as ZeroSurge & Brickwall which are a little more affordable.

While treating surges at the outlet level is good, you should also consider a surge protection device right at your main breaker panel. This type of device has two main advantages. Its the first place a surge is seen and can act quickly to absorb energy before its distributed to various outlets. Second, they protects every device in your home including split phase 240v appliances! Modern clothes washers, dryers, dish washers and ovens are often found with advanced electronics inside and benefit from this type of surge protection. Also they are no longer expensive and can be found cheaply on Amazon or Home Depot. They aren't hard to install if you're comfortable working inside an electrical panel. If not, its very easy for an electrician to install and shouldn't cost very in labor. I use this Eaton Surge Protector for less than $100, but there are many others.

UPS - Uninterruptable Power Supplies, AKA Battery Backups

Battery backups not only provide you with extended uptime when the utility power completely fails, but provide a steady source power for times when you have power fail for half second or so. Many times during a blackout when the power is restored it can flicker back and forth for a second or so before its solid. This is also VERY bad for electronics. Battery backups can fill in this gap and prevent damage. They can also provide boost & trim functions which deal with sagging power during brownout conditions as well as over voltage conditions. As you can see they are the second layer of protection next to surge protectors in keeping your electronics safe. Many have built in surge protection as well, but keep in mind if they are MOV based they don't last forever, so I always encourage using separate surge protection in conjunction with battery backup systems.

My battery backup of choice is the APC-Smart UPS. I've tried others and always come back to these. APC is the leader in the field of UPS systems. What makes these better than the average lower priced battery backup you find in stores is the fact they output a real sine wave instead of a square wave or stepped square wave, so the output waveform looks identical (and in some cases better) than what the utility company provides. Sine wave output makes appliances with motors start easier, they have less harmonic content to be filtered by the appliance, and some computer power supplies simply refuse to run on a square wave input.

When shopping for an APC-Smart UPS, first you must size it correctly for your load. They are rated in volt-amps, which a a measure of power similar to watts. If you're interested in the details of these differences much is published on the internet and can easily be found with a simple search. To make it simple, I'll talk mostly about watts. A very common sized backup is an APC-Smart UPS model SUA1000 backup. Its rated for 1000va / 670 watts. Which means, you can't connect a 1000 watt load to it and expect it to sustain power. There are general rules of thumb I've read about, such as 60% upsizing the backup to the load, but there is wiggle room to be had. If you're battery backup is rated for twice the load you place on it, you'll get longer run time and less stress on the batteries, so that's what I aim for. If you don't know how many watts your load is going to be, grab yourself one of these handy little Kill A Watt electric usage meters to measure the power consumption of anything you plug into it.

Speaking of run time, this is an area most people don't think about. At full load 670 watts, our example SUA1000 is good for about 4 minutes of runtime before it shuts down. At half load 335 watts, its rated to run for 4-5 times as long, which takes it out to 18 minutes. See why I like to size them at 2x the load? You get 4-5x return on the runtime. You'll also find that "bigger" backups support heavier watt loads, but don't necessarily give you longer run times, even with smaller loads. However 5-20 minutes often gives you enough time to properly shut down a computer or unplug devices until utility power is restored. That said if your goal is to keep a device running as long as possible, such as a critical system like a boiler's controls, or a sump pump or even your cable modem/router then you need to pay close attention to runtimes and look for an APC-Smart XL backup. The XL means extended runtime. You pay slightly more for the XL models, but you get longer run times, better batteries, more watt capability, and heavy duty components with better cooling. You also get an Anderson connector on the back to plug in additional battery packs for even longer runtimes. In fact, the XLs are the only type I purchase anymore due to these features. An APC-Smart 1000XL for example will run for 10 minutes at full 800 watts and 33 minutes at half power 400 watts. If you have a 50 watt load, it will run for 5 hours! Compare that to the non-XL version which would run a 50 watt load for 3 hours. Models differ, so its very important to research the runtime charts. I find the APC-Smart 1000XL tower to be a really good bang for the buck UPS. It has a longer runtime than the much larger APC-Smart 1400XL, despite its capability to power a larger load. I use one on my DIY network rack and it keeps my router, modem, and main switch and access points running for hours on end.

Know that the batteries will typically last about 3-5 years. Expect to replace them at these intervals. The best prices can be found online. I tend to examine my batteries after a few years, because once they start to fail they can crack, bulge and leak. When you do replace batteries, find out how to perform a "reset" to let the UPS know you have new batteries and the runtime will be accurately displayed.

My next tip is while these APC models are pretty expensive, you can find them refurbished with new batteries for a great price. My favorite place to purchase them is Full disclosure - My only affiliation with them is that I'm a happy customer. The prices are about the best I've found from all the online stores. I've bought several from them and I've been satisfied each time. Expect to pay a nominal shipping charge, because these are heavy items. I can tell you my last purchase from them was a 60 lbs rack mounted SMX750 that was double boxed and bubble wrapped and arrived in perfect shape.

In a future article, I plan to document playing around with connecting large external batteries on these XL backups to really push the runtime out for days at a time. There is more to it than just plugging them in!

Monday, September 4, 2017

DIY Network Rack

My network gear has growing like a travelling watermelon vine, so I decided its time to consolidate everything into some sort of 19" rack. A friend gave me a pair of rack rails a few months ago and I set about figuring out how I was going to implement them. After some research and thought, I found a simple design using 2x4s connected with pocket screws to frame out the rails from a fellow blogger which can be found here Tom Builds Stuff - DIY Server Rack Plans.

I've always been pleased with pocket hole joinery via my Kreg Jig. For this build I wanted to go heavy duty and used a Kreg KJHD jig with their Heavy Duty pocket screws. Kreg's KJHD line is for use in 2x4, 2x6, etc lumber. The screws as you can see are heavier and are come with an anti-corrosion coating with for outdoor use. As usual, the whole process of doing pocket joints is a pleasure.

Most of my lumber I already had sitting around. Several pieces I had were from old skids that were full of staples that I was going to burn, so I pulled them out of my recycle pile, removed the staples and cut off the bad parts. The wheels are 3" polyurethane with both wheel lock and caster lock cost about $7.50 per wheel. I liked them better than the wheels at Harbor Freight and they were only about $7.50 per wheel. You can find them HERE on Amazon. My rack won't see much rolling, but I wanted to be able to easily swing the rack around to access the back.

I was going to make a plywood top and bottom, however I had those recycled 2x4 scraps laying around to put to use and the whole open space concept for airflow was appealing to me. I placed the 2x4s across the width on the bottom because I knew I'd have a long UPS and a PC needing depth support. The top I figured I might have a monitor and keyboard for server access, so I placed 2x4's across front to back to support wide items.

Here you can see my initial setup of the rack in my basement, next to a workbench and the rear of my in wall audio rack. With all 4 wheels locked, I was relieved that the rack is pretty solid. This was a concern, as I wanted to keep the NAS as stable as possible. Theres still some cleanup to do, but its up and running. Best of all, there is no glue in the rack and I'm free to break down the entire thing and reuse any of it at anytime I want, or add to it in any way I see fit. Versatility is the name of the game when you build it yourself.

Below is a list of some of the gear currently in the rack, with links.

Ubiquiti US-24 port Unifi Switch
Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway (router)
Ubiquiti Unifi Cloudy Key
Ubiquiti Networks Unifi 802.11ac Dual-Radio PRO Access Point (not pictured)
Motorola SB6141 Cable Modem
Synology DS1817+ 8GB NAS - loaded with 5 HGST 8TB NAS drives in a RAID6 array and 2 Samsung 2TB Spinpoint drives in a RAID0 array.
Synology DS211 - backup target 2 Seagate 4TB drives in a RAID0 array.
Western Digital MyBook 4TB USB3 - backup target
SiliconeDust HDHomeRun Extend - Over the air networked HD broadcast tuner (new version)
APC SUA1000XL Battery Backup - Extended Runtime battery backup.
Dell Studio XPS9000 - Core i7 4GB - Sitting idle for future use.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Carver C-9 Sonic Hologram Generator

I just installed an interesting piece of gear into the signal processing rack of my sound system, a Carver C-9 Sonic Hologram Generator. Designed by Bob Carver in the 80's, his Sonic Hologram Generator has been a feature in various Carver preamps at the time. The C-9 is a stand alone unit that some have called his finest implementation of the technology. I've wanted to tinker with Sonic Holography in my own system ever since it was demonstrated to me by a friend, Mark "Basspig" Weiss in his incredible sound system

The problem it attempts to solve is called acoustical crosstalk. What's that? For example the sound from your LEFT speaker is heard by your LEFT ear. Inevitably some of this sound is also heard by your RIGHT ear slightly delayed, otherwise known as acoustical crosstalk. This can cause some anomalies in our perception of the sound. Headphone aficionados don't experience this crosstalk at all as you can imagine, which is one of the reasons people love the sound of headphones.

So what does this thing do?

It's basic function is to take a 2-channel audio recording and attempt to eliminate acoustical crosstalk between the speakers and your ears. The Sonic Hologram Generator does this by sending an inverted copy of the audio signal to the opposing speaker with amplitude and delay such that it actively cancels the crosstalk at your ear. This can create a similar effect to using headphones, only instead of the sound appearing only inside your head as headphones do, the sound can appear in front of you anywhere in a 180 degree hemisphere. When implemented correctly, it sounds incredible. For a very detailed explanation you can read about it in the patent here. Simplified in the diagram below the Lr and Rl paths get nulled out by producing an inverted signal from the opposing speaker mixed in with the wanted direct sound paths Ll and Rr.

This all sounds interesting but there are a few downsides to be aware of. 

1. It's very dependent on the program material chosen. Not all music lends itself to the effect. 

2. Some rooms it just doesn't work well in. Speaker placement and listening position is critical. See the manual for more information. 

3. You must be in the "sweet spot" to hear the effect. If you move about 18" in either direction the effect goes away. This can be adjusted by a small amount with the Listening Aperture button. 

Despite these shortcomings I look forward to playing around with the C-9 with my 2-channel recordings. You can find the C-9 on EBay for $100 or less most of the time, which is where I bought mine. Upon receiving I opened its up to examine the inside and it looked really clean and in good condition. The power supply electrolytic capacitors showed no signs of distress and the rest of the caps are green polyester film types. I did clean the switches and RCA connectors with Deoxit D5 while it was apart. You can install this in series with any music source like a CD player or if your processor has an external tape loop connection you can use that. There are 2 sets of RCA connectors on the rear, in and out for the left and right. The unit itself has no power on/off button, but it does have a bypass/engage switch. I might add a power switch to the front panel in the future. There are also some other switches for varying parameters to a degree. Listening Aperture can be set to narrow or wide and Injection Ratio can be set to normal or theoretical. This is the amount of crosstalk correction applied. Also note that you may use this device to encode the Sonic Holography signals into a recording itself for playback on a system without the hardware.

While I find discrete multichannel audio greatly enjoyable to listen to, the selection is limited. There are a lot more 2-channel recordings in the world to hear. Sure we have Dolby PL2x and DTS's Neo:6 and many other processing modes that create multichannel surround from a 2-channel source but properly dialed in stereo sounds good too. Add in a Sonic Hologram Generator and if your setup is just right you will swear there are speakers in places none exist. That's magical!