Battling iPhone's GSM Buzz 3: Behringer MS40 Digital

Edit: This is the third in a series of four articles on Battling iPhone’s GSM Buzz. A solution to this issue is described in the fourth installment.

Here is what I hope will be the final installment of my Battling iPhone’s GSM Buzz series. It has become somewhat of an abiding obsession to outfit my G5 workstation with speakers that don’t go rat-a-tat-tat every time my iPhone wants to talk to a cell tower. You readers have been very helpful with your suggestions, and I hope you’ve gotten some use out of my commentary (even if it’s only Schadenfreude or commiseration).

Martin started me off on a new angle, and I commenced a search for a pair of computer speakers that could make use of my G5’s optical audio out. I found them for a slight premium over my original budget of $100 in the Behringer MS40 Digital Monitor Speakers. American Musical Supply have them for $129 through Amazon. I also picked up an inexpensive digital optical cable from them, since they had free shipping on orders of $50 or more.

I have to say I was impressed with the service of AMS. I contacted Behringer directly about GSM buzz, and received no response. I repurposed my email to AMS and heard a reply within a day. They even responded to a follow-up. Here’s how it went:

Me:  

I was wondering if the digital coaxial and/or digital optical
interface of the Behringer MS20 and MS40 multimedia speakers does anything to alleviate interference from GSM  mobile phones (GSM Buzz). I currently have a Mac tower and a docked iPhone in my studio, and the phone has caused significant interference with all analog speakers I’ve tried. See discussions here and here.

I did see the below instructions from the manufacturer, and wondered if a GSM mobile phone counted as a high-frequency source. I also have 802.11 wifi at home, and wonder if that would interfere.

IMPORTANT NOTES CONCERNING INSTALLATION: The sound quality may diminish within the range of powerful broadcasting stations and high-frequency sources…

AMS:

Optical connections use light channeled through a fiberoptic cable and radio/cell phone transmissions should not affect it.  If you are experiencing gsm buzz you may want to check your cables and make sure they have sufficient shielding/insulation.  You may want to make sure the electrical outlets have proper grounding as well.

Well, this was the first I’d heard of checking the electrical outlets for proper grounding. As for the shielded cables, I could see this was leading to a recommendation that I drop another C-note on Monster-branded cables, and all I see on audiophile sites is hate for their price/quality quotient.

As for the Behringer MS40 digital monitors, I was willing to give optical a try. Especially if the risk was only $29.99 over my initial $100 budget (list, for what it’s worth, is $196.49). Sure, the MS20s (20 watt vs. 40 watt) were also on sale for $87.95, but I’m a sucker for the extra power. So I punched the purchase button on a Friday, and got the box the next Monday.

Speaking of which, I’ve been very impressed by how quickly Amazon (and now AMS) has delivered my packages to NYC (every time for free), and also how quickly my returns and refunds have been completed. Both the Klipsch and the M-Audio have been returned and refunded as I write this. Shipping and returning have all beat their time estimates by several days. It might be because I’m in a huge city, or it might be a case of underpromising and overdelivering. Either way, the lesson is that Super Saver shipping is quite sufficient, and all those inducements to pay extra for expedited shipping is usually a waste.

Okay, so this time the box was huge. My mailroom at work wrapped it with string so I could carry it to the train. I’m a big guy, and this tested my upper body strength. I switched carrying arms about a dozen times in the four blocks I had to walk. When I got home, I unpacked two substantial wooden cabinets, 11 inches tall, 9.625 inches deep, and almost 7 inches wide. That’s some serious desk real estate—I won’t deny it.

One thing I want to immediately point out about connecting optical cables to your mac is that the volume controls on the keyboard do not work unless you mute the sound entirely. The volume has to either be controlled through your apps or through the knob on the right speaker.  Maybe there’s some plugin I’m missing and one of you can set me straight.

I tested the speakers on a variety of music, and they’re awesome. All the detail I discovered in the M-Audio Studio Pro 3s was there and more. The high- and mid-frequency sounds are very much in the foreground, and while the bass is strong, it appears to reside more in the background. This is not to say there is a lack of bass here for a 2.0 system—quite to the contrary, it has the most of any I’ve tested—but I don’t want to get the inevitable hate mail about how subwoofers are the only way to get proper bass.

There is so much detail in the sound that I actually found myself nitpicking flaws in the music. On live classical tracks, you can hear the odd cough in the hall. On hip-hop tracks, you can hear where some samples don’t quite connect. I suppose that is because these are proper studio monitors, not consumer-grade "speakers" which may smooth-over some detail in service of a more balanced "mix."

You have to be careful with the volume on the MS40s. I never got any distortion, but they definitely "go to 11." The sound is so enveloping that you could actually endanger your hearing. I had some mild ringing in my ears after testing through my library for an hour or so. I don’t want chronic tinnitus, so I’ll be keeping the volume at a reasonable level from now on.

I heard no GSM buzz at all from the right speaker, which is the one that has the optical input. The left, however, didn’t take long. Here’s my next note to AMS: 

Me:

I’ve installed the MS 40 speakers, and the right speaker has no buzz. The RCA cable connecting the speaker appears to be cheaply made, and I am getting a little buzz on the left side. Can you recomme

nd a good shielded RCA cable in the 3′ range? What should I look for in a shielded RCA cable?

AMS:

I would suggest the following…
http://www.americanmusical.com/item–i-MON-I1001M.html

Argh. The dreaded Monster cable recco. I went over to Radioshack, because I didn’t want to pay shipping, and I picked up a shielded RCA cable. I demurred on the Monster for $30, and got a house brand "Gold Series" stereo audio cable for about $17. And it was a waste of time and money. No change in the buzz on the left. I may try the Monster, but I really don’t hold out any hope. If it really could make a difference, I’m sure one of you will weigh in.

Maybe there’s something to AMS’s "Properly-Grounded Outlet" hypothesis. I’ve got a couple of upcoming projects around the house for the local electrician, and I’ll make sure he takes a look. In the meantime, that first attribute of the MS40s that I told you about—the weight—is what will keep them on my desk. They’re too heavy to return. The buzz is certainly a lot less than the Klipsch or Logitech speakers, and maybe a new wall outlet will make everything all right in the end. Plus, my arms are tired.

Election coverage…

OK – this has nothing to do with Apple – but it may be of some use to people outside the US.  We found over at Valleywag – they embedded MSNBC’s election coverage into the website.  Hey – MSNBC isn’t our favorite but embedding and allowing people all over the world to watch on the internet is OK by us.  It even works on Macs. 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22425001/vp/22887506#22887506

..or you could get a Slingbox

How much does 8gb of RAM cost in an iPod/iPhone?

8Gb iPod Touch $300      8Gb iPhone – $400
16Gb iPod Touch $400    16Gb iPhone – $500
32Gb iPod Touch $500

It should be $100 for 8GB right?   Memory controllers and packaging design cost money – but for the most part on Apple iPhones and iPod Touches, the only difference is the RAM size.  To go from a 8Gb iPhone to a 16Gb iPhone – $100.  From a 8Gb iPod to a 16Gb iPod.  $100.

But to go from a 16Gb iPod to a 32GB iPod, 16GB of RAM,  it is also only $100.  How can they afford that?  It seems like quite a deal – even at $500.

Just an observation…

 

 

32Gb iPod touch, 16Gb iPhone released today.

Apple today released the 32Gb iPod touch and the iPhone at 16Gb.  The sizes of the devices and the feature sets appear to be the same.  The prices for the higher capacities raise the bar to $499 for the top of the line for each model.

Check it

 Apple Press release:

Apple Adds New iPhone & iPod touch Models

CUPERTINO, California—February 5, 2008—Apple® today added new models of the iPhone™ and iPod® touch which have double the memory, doubling the amount of music, photos and videos that customers can carry with them wherever they go. The revolutionary iPhone now comes in a new 16GB model for $499, joining the 8GB model for $399. iPod touch now comes in a 32GB model for $499, joining the 16GB model for $399 and the 8GB model for $299.

“For some users, there’s never enough memory,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod and iPhone Product Marketing. “Now people can enjoy even more of their music, photos and videos on the most revolutionary mobile phone and best Wi-Fi mobile device in the world.”

Both iPhone and iPod touch feature Apple’s revolutionary Multi-Touch™ user interface and pioneering software that allows users to find and enjoy all their music, videos, photos and more with just a touch of their finger. All iPhone and iPod touch models include the latest software enhancements announced last month including the ability to automatically find your location using the new Maps application*; create Web Clips for your favorite websites; customize your home screen and watch movies from the new iTunes® Movie Rentals. Both iPhone and iPod touch feature the world’s most advanced mobile web browser in the world with Safari™ and great mobile applications including Mail, Maps, Stocks, Weather and Notes.

Pricing & Availability The new 16GB iPhone is available immediately for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and AT&T retail and online stores. The 32GB iPod touch is available worldwide immediately for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) through the Apple Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers. iTunes Movie Rentals are available in the US only. iPhone and iPod touch require a Mac® with a USB 2.0 port, Mac OS® X 10.4.10 or later and iTunes 7.6; or a Windows PC with a USB 2.0 port and Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (Service Pack 2) or later and iTunes 7.6.

*Availability and precision of Maps positioning features will vary depending on actual location.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

 

More of Europe to be on the iPhone bandwagon shortly

Italy, Spain and Switzerland are next up in getting the iPhone officially from Apple according to a post by Macworld UK.

Spain Telefonica (parent company of  O2, the UK iPhone provider) and Telecom Italia Mobile for Italy are both said to be in the latter stages of a planned release..   Macity has reported that iPhone’s software already includes a piece of code (the TIM_Italy.bundle) that strongly suggests support for that network is already being built-in.

The announcements are going down next week in Barcelona at the World Mobile Congress (Feb 11-14) according to their sources.

A third publication, Le Temps, claims that Switzerland will also carry the iPhone on Swisscom by late February.  That is for the few people left in Europe who don’t already have a hacked iPhone.

 

One-click 1.1.3 iPhone hack

All of you holier-than-thou iPhone users that would never, ever, hack your sacred virgin iPhone, call out your high horse (whew), because a one click install has been developed for the 1.1.3 iPhone Jailbreak.

OK.  It’s not as easy as last time, when you could just happen over to http://jailbreakme.com and restart.  It is only a one click install if you are on hacked version 1.1.1 or 1.1.2.  And it involves downloading a 200mb file over wifi.  That’s at least 20 minutes of time.

If you are already on 1.1.3, it’s fairly straight forward to get down to 1.1.1.  Just follow a simple downgrade procedure.  Once you are downgraded – hit the lifehacker link.

Also, for you who’ve already been jailbroke, some of the apps need a rework to work with 1.1.3 because of the new "mobile" user that applications are running as and the new preferences location.

As always, use at your own risk.  Apple warranty will void (just like upgrading a hard drive on a laptop), kittens will die and Steve Jobs will cry.

via LifehaX0r

 

We know what happened to all of the missing iPhones

They were hacked.  There are a lot of people who use phones outside of AT&T, and the European carriers.  But, are 1/3 of Apple’s iPhones hacked?  Probably.

For the people who say that they are in the "channel", we have to wonder what they are referring to.  RoughlyDrafted points this out as well.    iPhones are only sold by Apple’s online store and retail and its telecom partners.  Not by Best Buy or Target or Circuit City.  Apple knows exactly what’s in its inventory.  It also knows what AT&T and the EU’s got on their shelves.

Frankly, we think Apple wants us to say it.  Yes, "one-third of iPhones are now hacked to work on non-sanctioned providers".  Apple had to make this deal with the mobile carriers to let them use their networks for a reasonable fee.  Apple agreed to lock the iPhone down enough so that people would be coerced into using the providers.  But Apple wants this phone in as many hands as possible.  The ten million mark is something they’d like to make come hell or high water.  They probably weren’t anticipating a recession to be thrown into the mix either.

So there are over 2 billion people in China and India.  Is it impossible to believe that 200,000 of them (1/10,000th)  snapped up iPhones?  Now add in a bunch of Canadians, Mexicans, Indonesians Australians and Europeans.  It isn’t hard to find hacked iPhones.  Just look at our Google ads!  It also isn’t illegal.

Is it really so hard to believe?

18 84 58 A6 D1 50 34 DF E3 86 F2 3B 61 D4 37 74

Shopping for an Apple TV

I was complimented by the salesperson at the 5th Avenue Apple Store for my preparation. I had brought the manuals of my Scientific Atlanta Cable box, my Sony 5.1 system, my Samsung HDTV, and a drawing of how I thought I would rout the cables. I wanted to buy an Apple TV, but I wanted to make sure I could integrate it with my system so I could have HD from the cable box and the ATV (My 5.1 system has a standard DVD player built in—for an essay on why BluRay and HDDVD are irrelevant, see, The Chums of Chance Embrace Digital Downloading at 720p, and Rejoice at the Advent of 1080i Two Years Later) and 5.1 sound from ATV, Cable, and the Sony box.

We figured out a way that I could use the optical output on the ATV to give me surround in my Video 2 port and how the cable box had a spare coaxial audio port that could do the same on Video 1. I’d need an HDMI cable (do not buy these at retail, if you don’t already know—you can save around 80% online) and that RCA coax, and I’d be ready. I was reaching for my Amex. Then I happened to mention that once I owned an ATV, I could move my Airport Express (which sits next to my cable box and cable modem) down to the basement so I can finally move my ugly and not-often-used brother laser printer out of my office.

That’s when the salesperson gave me a funny look and asked if I also wanted to get an Airport Extreme base station. I was confused. Why would I need an airport extreme base station if I already have an Apple TV? And then he dropped the bomb: The Apple TV, despite having an Ethernet input and a 802.11n card, is not a router.

What?? Why not? Doesn’t ATV already have all the appropriate hardware to be a router? I’m not an engineer, but how much money are we talking to make this box a router? Is it above a dollar?

So now, instead of expanding my wireless network by putting my Airport Express in the basement with my printer, I would need to keep the airport express and the ATV together in my TV hutch so the ATV can receive a signal from the AX, six inches away. My two computers (one is a MacBook) receive their internet connections from the AX now, which has allowed me to place the G5 tower where I won’t have to drill holes to rout cat5 cables. I know these last few sentences have been inelegant, but that’s my beef—Apple is the king of elegance. Wouldn’t adding routing capabilities to ATV make the box more, well, Apple-y?

In my situation, the answer is absolutely. I would gladly be an early adopter of ATV, even with it’s 720p petitHD spec, if it meant I could also use it as a router. I would do it just for the elegance alone. But without a router, my TV hutch starts to look like an IT office, with a million blinking lights and a Medusa’s coif of cables everywhere. Screw that. I’ll wait until ATV gets a router and 1080i.

Unless, dear Steve, there is a firmware update in the near future that will give me my wish? Let me know…

Battling iPhone's GSM Buzz 2: Klipsch is a Turkey

Edit: This is the second in a series of four articles on Battling iPhone’s GSM Buzz. A solution to this issue is described in the fourth installment.

Oh, how I regret returning my M-Audio Studio Pro 3 Desktop monitors now.

This anonymous coward said:

I have Klipsch desktop speakers within 6" of my docked iPhone. Never a pop, click, hum, or buzz. (They sound great, too.)

This just goes to prove my theory that positive user reviews are always skewed. It’s natural that people want to give a favorable impression of the product they bought because they don’t want to feel like the fool who got taken in. I’m sorry, A.C., but the Klipsch have nothing on the M-Audio monitors. I’m listening to them as I write this, and later today, I’ll be boxing them up and returning them to Amazon too.

The high end is tinny and sharp and the bass is overwhelming, and unlike the M-Audios, there is no midrange. Those nuances that I heard for the first time with the M-Audios all disappeared in the Klipsch pair. I’m glad I tried the M-Audios first because I never would have known what I was missing.

And the Klipsch pair are not very loud at the limit. While the sound quality isn’t great on my cheapo pair of Logitech speakers, at least you can hear them clearly in the next room–they were even louder than the M-Audios, but the M-Audios made up for lower volume with better detail.

Another beef–the Klipsch pair have a large brick that is hardwired to the power cord. I really don’t like extra clutter under my desk…

But the worst thing about the Klipsch Groove PM20 2.0 Speaker System is the GSM buzz. I had my iPhone docked when I installed the speakers. I plugged the speaker cable into my sound card and then plugged the speakers into my surge protector. I immediately got the dreaded "bup, bup ba dup, bup ba dup, bup ba dup, bzzzzzzzzzzz" that I have heard in every 2.0 speaker set I’ve tried so far. And the buzz was louder, shriller, more constant, and way more annoying than with the M-Audio monitors.

2.0 Speaker Logitech R-10 M-Audio Studio Pro 3 Klipsch Groove PM 20
cost $17.02 $89.28 $96.06
GSM Buzz bad moderate bad
Sound quality (out of 10) 5 8.5 6
Diminishing returns, anyone?

As an aside, I want to point out that I often charge my iPhone with my old iPod firewire cable on the interim computer I’m using at work, which is an Intel iMac. The built-in iMac speakers have never had interference of any kind, and I’m pretty sure that’s because of the lack of external cables. I mentioned in the comments of the other piece that I did, in fact, purchase ferrite cores at Radioshack for the speaker cables, and they failed to prevent GSM buzz at all. I tried the two kinds of cores available at RS in multiple configurations, and nothing worked, so I returned them too.

Will I be repurchasing the M-Audio pair? No. As good as the sound was, they still didn’t live up to the reason I was shopping for new computer speakers in the first place: to overcome the GSM buzz from my docked iPhone. Anonymous Jim claims he has no GSM buzz with his USB connected speakers, and I’m interested to hear other people’s impressions of that interface.

I’m not sure a lot of speaker manufacturers are going to scramble to fix this issue because the inevitable solution is the ascendancy of UMTS and the death of GSM. Perhaps we should focus our disappointment on Apple, for rushing this phone to market on an inferior network. I personally doubt there will be any UMTS/3G iPhone for another four and a half years, until the initial contract with the Death Star is over, but I’ve been wrong before. Discuss amongst yourselves.