Thursday, May 14, 2009

Can you hear me now?

Okay, lame title. It wouldn't be so lame if Verizon hadn't driven it into the ground! It's a phrase that's been heard in my car many, many times lately (but not anymore). This is a story about two ears (and their owner (who has a small outer ear and ridiculously narrow ear canals - probably not relevant)) in search of headphones - for both cell phone and MP3 player.

MP3 Player "Earbuds"
I've written more than once about the saga of my earbud search for my iPod (Olivia). Starting almost a year ago, I announced that I was on the hunt for a replacement -- the Apple buds really hurt my ears. A few days later, I announced that I'd found the perfect solution: a pair of buds that went further into the ear and were all kinds of soft & squishy (aka canal-sealing buds).

All seemed well. I had to use the smallest covers (the child-size ones), but they fit very comfortably. Alas! Instant dizzy spell, thanks to my Miniere's, which hardly bugged me anymore. I waited a week and tried again and was immediately dizzy. Well, crap. Pouting, I went back to the original Apple buds, hesitant to spend a dime on another pair that might end up being a waste. With money being tight, they were hardly a priority (The Skull Candy buds are on their way to a reader who has similar fit issues and was looking for resources. I cleaned 'em up really well, and am sending another alcohol pad in case she can't find replacement covers. I did only wear them twice, for a few minutes each time.)

earphone1Well, last week, the Apple buds broke a little (speaker side on one of the ear pieces popped off), plus the sound quality has been diminishing (they are three years old and have taken a beating). I took advantage of the Rite Aid campaign* to transfer Sheldon's prescriptions and get two $25 gift cards. Out of desperation, I grabbed the cheapest pair they had ($5.99) and used one of the cards to pay for it. Woot! It's just a tiny bit smaller (see crappy pic, left - new ones on top, Apple on bottom), but that seems to make all the difference: it fits better and is more comfortable. The sound quality is better, too. Haven't reached perfection yet, but I'm closer to it than I've been.

Specifics: Maxell Stereo EB-125 Earbuds. (No link because I don't know what site to link to, since I'm still pissed at Amazon over their indexing SNAFU a couple of weeks ago and have never heard of the other companies that came up with a search, but here's a pic, right.)

*Worth it for the gift cards, but what a serious pain in the ass! I had to go a total of 3 times to get one of the pills refilled - a med that Shel has been taking for two years. No other drugstore has ever had a delay in filling that script, but this store could not do it. And every time I went, the wait was long and annoying. (The third time, they had the pills and they were bottled up, but whoever finished it hadn't followed their process and it had to be repriced. In my favor, so I appreciate it, but this was the third time, so I was annoyed.)

Cell Phone Headset
cell headphone1This headset is dorky as hell, but, for the first time, people I'm talking to can hear me. Apologies for the picture - it was taken on laundry day, so no makeup and hey, there are my sheets in the back seat (in one of the Ikea bags I use to tote laundry to & fro.) I wish my necklace wasn't flipped over, because it's cool.

The headset pictured is, no kidding, my fourth in three weeks. I had a vague recollection of a law being passed forbidding drivers in the city of Detroit to hold their cell phones up to their heads. I'm too lazy to look it up, but don't want to risk a ticket. Besides, the driving is scary at times, so being hands-free is a good thing - I'd do it anyway if there wasn't a law (stupid, useless laws). The speakerphone on my cell kind of sucks, so I've been on the search for an affordable, but usable, headset.

#1: Purchased at Kmart. When I plugged it in, it let loose with a high-pitched squeal and redialed the last number I'd called. Oh, not good, but livable if I could use it to talk to people. Result: nope - no one could hear me, at full volume and shouting. Returned for a full refund.

#2: Borrowed from work. Looked high-tech and expensive. Also emitted the squeal, but did not dial my phone for me (appreciated). Result: Sadly, no one could hear me. I scrubbed it down with alcohol (again) and returned it to the box of miscellaneous phone parts (maybe that's why it was in the box to begin with).

#3: Cheating -- I found an old one in my car that had a broken ear piece (the little speaker was hanging by tiny wires). I glued it back together and tried it. Result: nope - squeal, followed by redial, followed by "You're so muffled." I don't remember if the thing worked with my previous phone. Probably not. Tossed into the trash.

#4: Purchased on Saturday at Best Buy. $14.99 ($6 less than the "best" one, with a really short boom), and recommended by one of the sales associates. I look like a helicopter pilot, but everyone I've tried talking to on it can hear me. Besides not being very portable, the only drawback I've found is that there is no connect/disconnect button anywhere (I have to use the buttons on the phone). The little button that I thought performed that function is a mute button, which could have its benefits. All-in-all, I'm quite satisfied.

Specifics: Rocketfish Hands-free Over-the-head Headset. Also works on X-box Live, or so I'm told. Not suitable for Skype.

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