Goodnight, My Old Friend

Another year, another disappointing Google phone release. In 2015 the 5X and 6P came and went, and weren’t enough of an upgrade for me to consider a switch. The OnePlus Two and the Moto X Pure arrived, and I sighed. The OnePlus X was tempting, but not enough. My Nexus 5 was still plenty for what I needed. 2016 came and went, and we saw a departure of what Google used to stand for. The Nexus brand was retired in favor of the premium Pixel devices, and I was unenthusiastic about dropping $900+ on a phone, no matter how attractive the device. I knew, however, that it was getting to the point of taking the Nexus 5 out behind the barn.

A brief history first. The Nexus 5 was initially purchased by me about a year after release to replace my aging, but reliable Galaxy Nexus. I’ve been madly in love with the Nexus 5 since I’ve owned it. For all intents and purposes, it has been my perfect device, with a few reservations. Like any piece of hardware, it ages overtime. The screen size and resolution are practically perfect. The build and design, although not perfect, are practical and durable. The cameras are serviceable, and even the aging internals are still relatively quick.

Now, as you’ve probably determined from reading this blog, I tend to lean more toward being a geek – A power user and an enthusiast. Though the aging hardware is still relatively quick, I’ve been craving something that stands up to current day multitasking. I would be wrong to say the Nexus 5 can keep up with my day to day heavy demands. To top it off, the battery life has been suffering more and more. I don’t believe it’s a fault of the device or the aging battery by any means, but instead just what I use for applications. Sitting at 25% currently remaining at the end of a slow day, I’ve had just over an hour screen on time. I haven’t been on anything but WiFi, and most of that access has been various social media platforms, snapchat, web browsing, etc. On a work day, I’ve been needing to top up mid day, with less usage.

My frustration with the Nexus 5 lead me on a bit of a search. I really, really liked the Pixel devices, but the price tag left a sour taste in my mouth. For the past many years, Google has offered affordable and impressive hardware in the form of the Nexus lineup, but felt the need to shift into a new brand to better align themselves against the market. Don’t get me wrong, these units are premium, and have just about everything I want for features – Pure Android released really quick, super fast hardware, premium build quality, and even the perfect size with the regular Pixel. But the price tag just feels like too much after spending so little on such a nice device as the Nexus 5.

Other options explored included various other manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, etc. Unfortunately, they all had some form of problem. No stock android, poor speed to update, middling build quality, poor battery, too large, too expensive, etc… After crossing everything off the list, I returned to my previous runner up when deciding on my Nexus 5 – The upstart OnePlus.

OnePlus formed in 2013 as a subsidiary of Oppo, a large Chinese based smartphone brand. OnePlus wanted to build devices that balanced a high quality, flagship level phone, with a low and affordable price. Their slogan? Never Settle. At the time of purchasing my Nexus 5, the OnePlus One was my runner up. My major concerns were screen size and availability – It was very hard to get a OnePlus off the invite system they had in place, which ultimately led me to buying the Nexus 5. OnePlus has however dismissed their invite system and made device availability much better. The November released OnePlus 3T ended up being the best phone for the price point as of the beginning of March which matched up well with my planned retirement of the Nexus 5.

The OnePlus 3T is above and beyond an upgrade from my 3 year old Nexus 5, and I can happily say I’m pleased with my purchase. Before getting into it’s improvements, a quick spec rundown.

• Snapdragon 821 CPU (2×2.35GHz, 2×1.6GHz) w/ Adreno 530 GPU
• 64GB Storage
• 5.5” Optic AMOLED display (1920×1080)
• 16MP OIS f/2.0 rear camera, 16MP f/2.0 front camera
• 3400mAh battery
• 158g weight

The phone is currently running OxygenOS 4.1.0 at the time of writing (Android 7.1.1) and has so far met all of my wants and needs in a smartphone for 2017. Where the Nexus 5 was starting to struggle with maintaining a silky smooth 60 FPS in day to day operation, the 3T seems to always have more power to spare. The radios, much like with the transition from Galaxy Nexus to Nexus 5, are improved. The cameras are absolutely fantastic, even if they aren’t the absolute best on the market. Low light and selfie performance are in a completely different league than the Nexus 5. If anything though, the biggest improvement is the battery. I have yet to have to charge in the middle of a day, and even on the heaviest use days I’m still making it to the end with juice to spare. For comparison, a heavy use day on the Nexus 5 might have netted me 1.5 hours screen on time before crawling to a charger or my powerbank. The 3T can eek 4 hours or more on the same workload. With lighter tasks, I’m guessing it would be pretty capable of hitting 6 hours of screen time without breaking a sweat. Did I mention that a fingerprint reader is probably one of the biggest game changers too? More apps adopting it means less PINs or passwords on the phone. I’m in love.

If I was to give any negative marks to the 3T, it’d come in the form of screen size. This is more personal than anything, and the 5.5” screen size is now the most common on the market, however 5.5” is bordering on almost too large for my hands. I will in time get used to it, however it won’t ever really rest in my hands like the 5 did. On top of that, the alert slider is usable, but I would like a bit more customization in regards to what each position does, and the ability to completely adjust the rules for each position would be fantastic.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I’m going to miss the Nexus 5. It was the perfect, size, the perfect weight, and the perfect price at the time, and it continues to kick ass, even in 2016. For a regular user, it’s an absolutely killer phone. For power users who yearn for the return of the affordable, powerful, and minimalistic Nexus line, you can find a great home with OnePlus.

Spirit Review: Glenmorangie 10 – ” The Original”


2016 didn’t start great, but it sure ended awesome on a personal level. I ended up starting a new role at work, being one of 3 successful candidates out of numerous applicants. This has been my first major move in roles within the company since I started, and I’m really pleased that I could take the position and move away from a customer facing role and into internal support in a technology focused role! My team and my manager are fantastic, the job has been great so far, and I’m really hoping I can make an impact on what is a brand new role within the company.

To celebrate my new role, I decided to delve into the world of whisky. I’ve always been interested in the spirit, and considering my love for good coffee, tea, and food, it only comes naturally that I’d want to explore even MORE expensive hobbies. Whisky is all encompassing term for fermented grain alcohol aged in oak casks. Things can get very specific, and I’ll likely discuss those as they come up, but I started with single malt Scotch whiskies, based on malted barley and distilled/aged at a single distillery in Scotland. There’s Irish Whiskeys, American Whiskeys, and other worldly options, but those will come up in due time.

Being a beginner to to Scotch world, I looked long and hard into a first bottle. My research guided me to a highland malt, generally considered a gentle and inoffensive introduction to the Scotch world. Compared to the likes of most Islay whiskies, highlands generally aren’t peated, and Glenmorangie is no exception. To note as well, it also tends to be one of the most accessible Scotch whiskies available, considering it’s one of the most well known brands on the market. How about a dram?


Distillery: Glenmorangie
Age: 10 Years
Cask: First/second fill American white oak ex-bourbon
ABV: 40% (80 Proof)


Nose: Banana, green apple, peaches, lemon zest. Almond, honey, light caramel. Floral notes, rose perhaps?

Palate: Medium body, peaches, grapes, apple. Heavy caramel – butterscotch. Simple. Some antiseptic notes.

Finish: Medium to long. Floral, very faint hints of anise, some soft vanilla. Alcohol burn sticks around. Bitterness the longer it sits, along with more peach.

With water: Caramel more prominent on the nose. Palate sees the younger fruit notes taking more of a back seat, and all the other notes mellowing out. Antiseptic fades. Finish still sees the alcohol burn and the eventual bitterness, but overall improves.

Overall: This was my first single malt, and still something I can happily revisit, even after moving onto other preferred malts. I would say this ranks above Glenlivet and Glenfiddich’s entry level offerings, but there are likely better in the same price bracket in Canada. It’s an easy drinking malt without a lot of complexity, and a good representation of highland distilleries at the entry level. Would likely try the wine cask finishes, and the older expression if I get the chance eventually.

Expect more Scotch reviews in the future, along with any other spirit that might catch my interest. There’s a lot on the market, and I quite like the majority I’ve tried.

AKG K701s – Seven Months Later


Few weeks, seven months, what’s the difference, really?

Lots of time to burn these in and get familiar with them, so let’s start. These things are outright fantastic. Coming from my HD555s, these are more spacious, more neutral, and have a much wider range. Well produced tracks tend to be surgically picked apart, each instrument being easily identifiable. Poor tracks, on the other hand, are punished. Every single flaw in a poor rip, or a bad recording/master are noticeable. There’s been some tracks I can’t stand to listen to any longer because they’re just poorly produced and full of flaws.

For those looking for a bass heavy headphone, these aren’t it. Though I don’t find them bass anemic – In fact I find them perfectly balanced – They’re not what you’d get from a Sennheiser 5 series, but instead closer in clarity and sound signature to an Etymotic IEM. The big difference between these and the Etymtoics is the sound stage, along with the even more enhanced detail. Some will consider them sterile, but I would just say they’re flat and analytical. If that’s the sound signature you want, these are perfect.

Negative points? Well, the padding on the headphones isn’t great. It’s a bit on the hard side, even after seven months of use. It’s fine, but you tend to notice it after an extended period of use. The cable is plenty long, but with the K701s, it’s non-removable. So when it does get twisted, it’s a bit more annoying to untangle. This could have been solved by grabbing the K702s, but the 701s were practically identical and cheaper. Otherwise, my only complaint would be that they ruin a lot of older tracks for me… Oh well, there’s no time for bad tracks.

New Headphones Monday!


In a couple of weeks after burning them in, I should have a review! So far impressions are they’re very similar to the Ety HF2s with a much wider and deeper sound stage. I’ll be spending a lot of time comparing them to my HD555s and my HD25-iis. Had to post a picture though!

Coffee: The Next Chapter

2016-04-28 20.42.30

Still a very hard coffee nerd, and after a few years of brewing with everything from a V60 to a siphon, it’s time to try espresso. Due to my lack of counter space and limited budget for something I’m still entirely unsure on, I decided to grab a Breville Barista Express. Blah blah blah integrated grinder, Breville is the suck, etc. Yes, this isn’t a pro level machine. Yes, this isn’t a stepless ultra-accurate grinder. Yes, it’s a single boiler. But guess what? It was less than 600 bucks, and it has a really small footprint, the integrated grinder means I don’t have to dick with my current SmartGrinder when doing drip, and will wholly satisfy my needs to explore espresso and decide if I want to put more money into a prosumer machine and a separate grinder.

More pictures to come, but the above is my first attempt at a milk drink, and I was quite surprised at how well it turned out. I’m rolling with Smile Tiger natural process Ethiopian Kaffa, grind setting 8, 16 grams in, ~28 second extraction. Good crema, good flavor, but the milk could have gone a lot hotter. Was surprisingly pleased with the foam I was able to create on my first try! Will be looking forward to more tests over the coming days! Lots to learn!



Okay, the 144hz idea was good for a bit, then I played BF4 on a TN panel and wasn’t overly happy. So, I ordered 2 Acer G257HUs! 2560×1440, 25″ S-IPS LCDs with DVI, HDMI, and Displayport inputs. I really did not expect the resolution bump to be this awe inspiring, but wow, am I ever shocked. I’m very much wishing I did WQHD a long time ago, even if hardware wasn’t quite up to snuff.

The ultrawide is now mounted to the right on a monitor arm, and wow does it ever look foolish in portrait! There’s 0 contest, the Acers are the better screens too. I really feel I’ll be eventually getting another one of these to replace the Ultrawide, but until then, it’ll be nice for chats and reading long forum threads.


Other new things include a plethora of Aukey branded stuff from Amazon – A 5 port charger for the bedroom, a 3 port charger for the backpack, and half a dozen 4 foot USB cables which seem to be of very good quality. An Aukey mouse mat was also purchased, and man, it’s huge! See the Amazon link here. I’m actually really pleased with the quality, it’s very thick, it has a nice rubber non-slip bottom, and all the stitching is very well done. It also covers that nasty missing finish on my desk. You’ll see some of it in the image above.

Other than that, all that was ordered was a 64GB Lexar P20 flash drive, which is surprisingly spry for a flash drive, and carries a limited lifetime warranty. It’s very well built, and very recommended so far. Time will tell if it holds up! Hopefully I don’t have to use that warranty.

Upgrade Plans: 2016 – Final Build Complete!



It’s done! Well, at least as done as I want it right now, there’s a few more tweaks that could be done, but in the end, this is pretty representative of the final configuration. Onto component choices! First up is the EVGA SuperNOVA 650W P2. It’s platinum rated, fully modular, with a fanless eco mode. It’s also based off the Superflower Leadex platform, which is known for it’s rock solid stability and high performance. This model is great! In testing by reviewers, the fan wasn’t even spinning up until it hits ~500w load, something I don’t think this system could achieve currently. The 90% efficiency is great, and topping that off, with the current power consumption for Nvidia GPUs, should give me plenty of headroom for SLI if I feel it’s necessary.


The video card I chose was of course the GTX 970 STRIX as outlined in the previous post. It matches the motherboard, and has some really impressive build quality and cooling capabilities. The huge heatpipe and low power consumption of Nvidia GPUs lets the thing run without fans until it hits about 67 degrees load, in which it starts ramping up.


It’s not longer than the GTX 670, but it is wider to accommodate Asus’ design changes with the heatsink and their custom power delivery system. Overall, in doing some playtesting on Battlefield 4, Planetside 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, I can say I’m very happy with the performance jump. 2560×1080 seems like it still might be a bit much for the card to drive at full ultra settings for some games, but I can assume that’ll be solved with a bit of overclocking.


Of course, here’s the Mushkin Reactor 1TB mounted to the rear of the motherboard tray, with the 850 Evo. It’s taken the place of my games drive. I’ve decided I’ll be doing VMs exclusively on the virtual server, and large format media/game recordings will go to the file server. Cloning my 640GB Western Digital Black was simple, as I still had a copy of Acronis True Image HD kicking around from Karyn’s SSD upgrade. The whole process took a few reboots and about half an hour, from installing the new drive to removing the old one. I’m very pleased with the speed differences between old and new too! Games take 0 time to load now, especially long loading titles like Battlefield 4 and Planetside 2. To top it off, no more hard drive noise! I feel I could have done better with the cable management in the back, but there’s still lots of room.


And the finished build shot. It’s extremely clean with the hard drive cages removed, and only having 4 of the included cables plugged into the power supply makes cable management a breeze. I’m also very pleased with the even further improvement in acoustics. I actually have to have my ear on the case to hear anything at idle, and even then it’s just a mild vibration. Under full gaming load (~1 hour or so of BF4) temperatures on the GPU hit a maximum of 67 degrees, which cased the video card fans to ramp up to 35% or so, and the CPU hit a maximum of 59 degrees on the package. (~59-61 on the cores). All the while the case and processor heatsink fans continued spinning at ~500RPM. Of course, the problem now is the loudest things in the room are my servers, but I’ll be outlining plans on what I want to do with those in another post.

So, in the end, I’ve achieved my silent build. Ultimately this is hitting the performance targets I want currently while being practically inaudible. But, what’s next for upgrades? Being a hardware enthusiast, there’s always an upgrade path. My immediate thoughts go to moving from 16GB to 32GB of RAM, which can easily be done for under 200 dollars. Of course with offloading all of my virtualization and RAM heavy tasks to a virtual host, I don’t think it’s necessary. The other thoughts would be getting an NH-D15 with 2 NF-A15s to replace the NH-U12P. This I think would only be necessary if I’m going to be pushing the processor pretty hard in the future. I guess if I was to do anything right away, it’d be to install the Intel gigabit NIC I have sitting on my shelf for a direct link to the file server to allow for better latency when doing Shadowplay.

For now, my concentration is going to be on a new desk, and new monitors. I’m pretty much decided that 2560×1440 is a bit much for the GTX970, so I’ll be sticking to 1920×1080 for the immediate future. I’ve also decided i want to see what all the hype about 144hz monitors is, so I think I’ll be grabbing at least one LG 24GM77 to begin with, and possibly another to replace my 21.5. The unit seems to be the best of the bunch for accuracy when it comes to TN panels, and has the best motion blur reduction implementation. Top that off with an egronomic stand (Height adjustable, pivot, tilt, etc), a whole host of inputs, and even a USB3 hub. I’ll likely only need one 144hz display, but if push comes to shove, I may end up with three. The option is there! I’ll be outlining more in another post when I talk about desk ideas.

Upgrade Plans: 2016 – Initial Build Complete!


Everything was in on Wednesday! What really surprised me was how Canadapost managed to deliver my processor the day before the motherboard and SSD, even though it shipped a day later. Same shipping method, same place of departure. I don’t get it. Oh well, waiting the motherboard and SSD was a good thing, as I the case and fans arrived at the same time. Build went very smoothly, I wish I did get more pictures, but the ones I did pick out were the best lit.


Install was smooth, build was very reminiscent of socket 1156, which was to be expected. Lots of cleanup needed to be done. My NH-U12P needed the toothbrush treatment, and I burned through 2 cans of compressed air cleaning that, the video card, RAM, and hard drives. The power supply was actually fairly dust free, but it did have a mesh filter intake. I gotta say, I was super impressed with the build of the Asus board, but I did miss the lack of q connector for the front panel input. Lots of clearance around the socket for larger heatsinks too, which is great. IO is minimal (6 USB ports on the back panel total), but acceptable, as it’s what I had on my P55 FTW. I do get 4 USB3 ports however, so it’s definitely an improvement over old IO. The sound on board is top notch, everything isolated and the actual Realtek ALC1150 is EMI shielded. I don’t really take notice of the lights on the board, but they’re there. I guess it’d be nice if I had a case window. Slot selection is perfect, and definitely acceptable for what I need. I’m only using a single PCI-e x16 right now, but there’s slot availability for additional graphics cards, and more importantly, additional IO like USB3.1, or network adapters. Fan header layout is good, with 2 CPU fan headers (CPU and CPU_OPT), along with 3 chassis fan headers spread along the bottom, left, and right of the board. All headers are 4 pin PWM compatible.


I gotta say, I loved Noctua fans from when I was buying NF-P12s on the regular, but man, they’ve really stepped up their game. The NF-F12s and NF-A14s are engineering marvels. I thought the P12s were well built, but these are a step above. I won’t go over everything here, but you can see the features of the F12 here and the A14 here. The basics are that the F12 is designed to focus it’s airflow directly behind the fan, instead of letting it spill out everywhere. These are great for radiator and heatsink use due to higher static pressure too. The A14 is kind of a jack of all trades – It has some pretty good throw, but it also performs good in radiator tasks where it needs to push or pull in confined areas. In this case, I used the F12s mounted push/pull on the NH-U12P, and the A14s took up the front intakes and rear exhaust of the Define R5.


Noctua included a pretty killer accessory pack too. You get a PWM splitter, a 4 pin extension cable, a 4 pin low noise adapter, and their standard mounting gear. All very well sleeved and worth the extra premium paid per fan. I’ve used a few of these accessories to have the fans share some PWM headers for easier fan control.


Final build in the R5 was very clean considering the parts I was working with. I opted to remove the 2×5.25″ and 5×3.5″ drive cages in favor of additional airflow. The NF-A14s in the front are sharing a PWM header, as are the NF-F12s mounted to the heatsink. I mounted the SSD to one of the the removable trays behind the motherboard to keep things a bit cleaner. The Define R5 was a top notch case, and from a builder’s perspective, hit all of the major notes. If I had any real complaints, it’d be the front fan mounting was a bit difficult with the extended screws, but that may be in part due to the silicone vibration dampening on the Noctuas. If I was to list my favorite features, it’d be the center standoff for motherboard alignment, the fully removable drive bays, the latched side panel, and the easily removable dust filters.


Windows installed in about 10 minutes thanks to USB3 and the 850 EVO. I took the extra time after installing windows to format my old SSD (I created a VHD out of it late last week) and drive test a few other hard drives that are being sold. I also ended up setting up my fan control with Fan Xpert 3 from Asus. Though I’m not a huge fan of the interface, it worked well to identify the lowest RPMs the fans are capable of, along with letting me set up custom fan curves for each header. My current curves are set up to keep all the Noctuas at about 500RPM until the processor hits 50, then slowly ramp up to max speed at about 80. Fan Xpert can also control spin up and spin down times as well, making the sound curve a bit smoother. My GPU fan curve was set up once again with EVGA’s Precision X, and is pretty much identical to what it was before. At idle and medium loads, the computer is spooky silent. I opened up Planetside 2, and played for about half an hour, and didn’t hear any fans except the GPU. The processor hit a maximum of 60 degrees, and the GPU about 65. Borderlands The Pre-Sequel pushed things a bit further, and I ended up hearing the GPU spin up a lot more, but the rest of the case remained eerie. There will be more testing, but for right now I’m pretty satisfied.

Now that the initial build is complete, I can discuss my ideas for the rest of the upgrade path.

Asus GTX 970 Strix: The GTX670 is 2 generations removed at this point, and with plans for higher resolutions and newer games, a GTX 970 seems to hit the price to performance sweet spot for resolutions up to 2560×1440. The Asus Strix model works well in my build due to it’s fanless operation under no/light load, it’s quiet fans when under heavy load, and it’s matching of my board (What can I say, color/brand coordinating parts is nice). Once Pascal (Nvidia’s new architecture) releases, I’ll be prepared to evaluate and upgrade again at that time if necessary. If I do deem an upgrade is needed, the 970 should retain a lot of it’s value for resale.

Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 1TB SSD: I can hear the hard drives. Actually, they’re probably the only things I can hear in the computer now, until the video card spins up. I run a really old 640GB Western Digital Black as my games/larger programs drive, and 2TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12s striped with Windows built in RAID features, which I generally use for scratch files, and recording game footage. Replacing all of those drives with another back mounted SSD should give me loads of room for games, lots of speed, and virtually no noise. I can also remove the drive cage too, which should improve airflow even further. If I want to record game footage, I figured Shadowplay has some fairly low write speeds, and could probably be handled to the file server over the network, but I’ll need to test this. I’m choosing the Reactor because of it’s price point mainly – 1TB of flash memory for under 300 dollars is almost unheard of in Canada. Topping off the great price, it couples that with MLC NAND (Generally more durable and better performing than newer standard TLC NAND) and a proven, problem free Silicon Motion controller. If I do choose to record any footage to the Reactor, it shouldn’t be an issue. Doing the math, it’s good for about 131GB of writes a day, for 3 years. I don’t think I’d be worried about that kind of volume.

Modular/Semi Modular PSU: This one is a tough choice, but I’m pretty sure I have it narrowed down to a final few. The non modular TX650W I currently have is an absolute champ, and it’s actually pretty darn quiet, but it’s getting old, only bronze rated for efficency, and non-modular. There’s an absolute mess of cables behind the motherboard tray, and I’d love to cut down on that a lot. I’ve narrowed my choices down to a 650w-750w model from the Corsair RMi or RMx series, or a 650w-750w model from the EVGA GQ or G2 series. All power supplies considered contain a semi-fanless mode at low/medium power consumption, and are 80Plus gold rated. The current leader of the race is the FSP built EVGA GQ series, considering it’s a bit cheaper due to being semi-modular (Hard wired 24 pin ATX), but includes all ribbon style modular cables. The RMi/RMx/G2 series are all very nice as well, but only really have the advantage of being fully modular, with slightly better voltage regulation/ripple suppression. The RMi series also includes Corsair Link, which I don’t think would be overly useful.

Matching QHD Monitors: This one is a pretty big maybe. The 970 seems to benchmark pretty well in QHD, so I was considering trying to find a good deal on a triplicate of QHD displays. The current front runner seems to be Acer 25″ H257HUs, offering QHD IPS matte panels, DVI, HDMI, and Displayport inputs, and really slim bezels. Only real downside is they’re pretty spartan – No VESA mounting and a pretty average stand. With 3 of those, I’d end up getting rid of my 19″ and my 21.5″, and I’d mount the ultrawide over the center monitor, likely with an arm. This setup will give me a lot more screen real estate, matching IPS LCDs, and the option to play in Nvidia surround if I wanted to.

Here’s hoping for another update soon!

EVGA ACX Cooling Fan Curve – How I Learned I’ve Been Punishing My Ears

I setup my fan curve initially to be extremely aggressive. The GTX670 was a pretty speedy card, and coming from watercooling, I knew that low temperatures meant a happy, and more importantly, non-throttled video card. I think I set the thing initially to start ramping up at 40 degrees, to hit around 100% fan speed at 65 degrees. Kepler needed to be kept under 70 degrees, or it started stepping down it’s boost clock to maintain thermals. Of course, this aggressive fan curve lead to an absolutely roaring fan, even under fairly light loads (2 EVE clients displayed on screen). In my quest for quiet computing, along with installing low noise adapters on the fans in the file sever, and some ghetto sound dampening in the ESXI box (Duct tape and corrugated cardboard for the win!) I decided to try a much less aggressive fan curve on the GTX670.


Reading further into ACX unit reviews, especially with newer cards, it’s not uncommon for cards to run with their fans off, even under light to medium load. Why not try to replicate that with what I have now? With the above fan curve, the thing pretty much constantly runs at 30% fans while on the desktop and doing regular stuff like watching videos, or browsing the web. Light gaming like Minecraft, AOEII HD, and EVE don’t really even cause the fans to spin up further. Loading Planetside 2 and playing for about an hour saw loads under 70 degrees, and a much quieter case. I think this, coupled with the Define R5’s noise dampening panels, should be perfect for a low noise solution while still maintaining awesome gaming performance. And who knows, maybe one of those fancy GTX970s with the “0 decibel” feature will make its way into my hands. GTX980 even? Asus Strix, I’m looking at you.

New Etymotic HF2s


After about 5 years of use, my old Etymotic HF2s kicked the bucket. The IEMs were stripped down to bare wire and still working! Of all the things to fail, the cable strain reducer at the 3.5mm connector was the failure point – arguably the best looking part of the old things. Anyway, once they died, I ended up rolling my Apple dual drivers (With foam supertips!) for a good couple months, the entire time wishing I had a new pair of Etys. Bonus time came around, and bonus was good! So the first thing I did was order some new Etys. I was very close to getting the ER4s, but I couldn’t stomach the price difference, considering my source (Google Play Music).

Upon receiving the new HF2s, I replaced the stock brain-ticklers with a pair of medium Shure olives (My new favorite tips for these), and I’ve been in audio nirvana ever since. A lot of people would be turned off by Etymotic’s sound signature – Most describe it as cold and lacking in low end resolution. I however find that it’s amazingly accurate! The highs are extended, but not harshly bright. The mids are very revealing – Lots of microdetail – with excellent separation even in the busiest of tracks, and the low end hits are very well represented, with a fantastically quick decay. While I can agree that the vibrating bass you’d expect from a dynamic driver isn’t there, the quality of the bass, along with the accuracy is unmatched. Listening to anything from dance pop to mellow indie acoustics is an absolute treat. To top it all off, the isolation, even with the Shure olives vs the brain tickler triple flanges is exceptional. Expect the world to melt away with a nice deep insertion.

As always with Etymotic, highly recommended if you’re looking for a fantastically analytical and clean sound. Bassheads beware – These will give you quality, but not ear shaking quantity. Etymotic products like the HF lineup will always be a top choice in my books! On a side note, shout out to the Apple IEMs for being what they are. If you’re strapped for cash, and can find a pair in the 30-50 dollar range, I found them very similar to the Etymotics, with less microdetail/clarity in the mids, and a bit more thump in the low end. On a tight budget, they’re probably the best analytical IEMs out there!