The New Macbook Pro 13″

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Opening the new MacBook Pro 13″ for the first time.

I’ve been waiting for this new Macbook Pro for a looooooooong time. I’ve owned or used every single Apple laptop since the Lombard… and I can say that this model is pretty amazing. I still need to run it through its paces, but it feels great. The most impressive thing about the new MacBook is the screen—finally… it’s bright, with beautiful colors, full of contrast.

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Refined on the inside and out.

This is the first time that I’m using a 13″ for design, photo, video etc. Typically, I opt for the 15″ because it usually offers more power (and a better graphics card), but this is the first time I’ve felt like I don’t need that extra juice. This package offers the right balance between portability and performance.

I wanted to thank my team and Expa for hooking me up with a new machine. I’m looking forward to building beautiful products with this new MacBook Pro.

Monday Music: Jazmin Solar

Once again, I’m late on my posting. I found these songs a while ago, but I’m loving them. I’m not sure what they’re saying, but it’s beautiful. I think I found her while stumbling around on Spotify about two years ago. Enjoy!

An Afternoon of Headphone and Amp Testing

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Testing over dozen headphones with different amps.

I spent the afternoon with Patrick and company testing out all of our headphones and amplifiers. For me, the takeaway was that a high quality pair of headphones make the biggest difference… and most of the amps sounded relatively close to each other. Here’s a list of all the gear we brought out (though I don’t think we tried ALL of them):

Headphones

Shure SRH-940
Shure SRH-840
Shure SE215
Sennheiser HD-558
Sennheiser HD-598
Sennheiser HD-600
Sennheiser Momentum 2s
Sennheiser HD-650
Etymotic ER4PT
Ultimate Ears UE 900s
Ultimate Ears UE 9000
Ultimate Ears Triple-fi 10
Ultimate Ears UE6000s
Logitech G633
Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro 80ohm
Fostex TH-X00 Ebony
HifiMan he-400
Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7
Audio-Technica ATH-AD990
Ultrasone HFI-700

DAC/AMP

Schiit Modi Multibit
Schiit Modi 2 Uber
Schiit Magni 2 Uber
Schiit Fulla 2
Schiit Vali 2 (stock tube)
Schiit Modi (gen 1)
Schiit Magni (gen 1)
iBasso d2+ Boa
FiiO e17 / Fiio e9
FiiO E17K
JDS Labs O2

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Raymond listing to my Sennheiser 650’s.

The popular choice for headphones were the Sennheiser 650’s for open cans. Everyone felt like they were neutral and provided fantastic quality.

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Blind testing DAC/AMPs.

The popular choice for closed headphones were the Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro. It was surprising how much quality they offered. Normally closed headphone quality starts falling apart when you play music loud, but the DT-770 were solid.

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Patrick comparing different DAC/AMPs with his Sennheiser 600’s.

For me, it was really hard to tell which amp was which. However, we discovered that if you listen to music loud enough, you could start to see a difference. In the case of Patrick, he listening things so loud that an AMP was absolutely required just to generated enough sound.

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Schiit AMPs stacked on top of each other.

After listening to the different amps, I’m not sure if you need more than something entry level. I’m sure that there’s a difference between the higher end hardware, but it wasn’t night and day. You’d literally have to listen to them back to back in order to hear a delta. The return on your investment will diminish so quickly if you go down this path. Nonetheless, the Schiit amps looked beautiful… and I’m sure that they probably offer better quality—the question is, how much more quality do you really get?

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Headphones everywhere.

If you’re in the market for buying headphones/amp, get together all your friends and test them out. I think I got lucky with my Sennheiser 650 purchase 3.5 years ago.

I’m hoping we can get the gang together again to test out other equipment. This was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Macro Photos of Jasmin Flower Buds

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Photo of Jasmin buds after an evening storm.

After a stormy evening, the morning sun punched through revealing gorgeous flowers in our back yard. After posting one of the photos on instagram, one of my coworkers identified it as jasmine. The smell of this particular flower is divine, reminiscent of an expensive yet subtle perfume.

Jasminum polyanthum, also known as pink jasmine or white jasmine, is an evergreen twining climber native to China and Burma (Myanmar).[1] It produces an abundance of reddish-pink flower buds in late winter and early spring, followed by fragrant five-petalled star-like white flowers which are about 2 cm in diameter. It has compound leaves with 5 to 7 leaflets which are dark green on the upper surface and a lighter green on the lower surface. The terminal leaflet is noticeably larger than the other leaflets. The plant is very vigorous and can grow up to 6 metres in height when supported. Depending on the climate, this vine has a semi-deciduous to evergreen foliage. –Wikipedia

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Close up of a jasmine flower.

I used my dad’s 55mm f3.5 with an extension tube to shoot these macro photos. It’s astonishing to think that this lens is probably over 30 years old and can still produce stunning images.

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Close up of tiny water droplets on a leaf.

As much as I like the 58mm f1.4, this old 55mm f3.5 is a ton of fun to use… and has the ability to create curious images like this. I’m thinking the next step is to try shooting more macro photos with a strobe and stopping down the lens to create even sharper images.

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Photo of the foliage growing out of control in our back yard.

I’m not sure what kinds of plants these are, but they’re growing like wild fire. I’d like to grow a garden, but these things have literally taken over.

Anyway, I’m hoping everyone is enjoying the weather. It finally feels like spring.

Aerial Photos of Cities at Night

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Photo from the window seat of my plane.

On my flight back from the east coast to SF, I took some photos of cities at night. Too bad I could see the stars—that would have been one heck of a photo.

These photos were shot with my 24mm and 58mm.

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Bokeh Comparison of a Full Frame 58mm DSLR vs iPhone 7 Plus 58mm in Portrait Mode

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Shot with a 58mm f1.4g at f5.0 on a Nikon D600.

The iPhone certainly can produce amazing images, but I wonder if it could be a replacement for a full frame camera. I think for certain photos it can produce identical results, but I was curious to see how well “portrait” mode would work. So I did a quick test shot with my DSLR versus my iPhone.

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Shot with an iPhone at 6.6mm (58mm equivalent) at f2.8.

So the answer is, it actually does a pretty good job blurring things, but it has trouble blending around sharp edges with high contrast. For whatever reason, this photo exposes the weakness of portrait mode.

The biggest difference to me is that my DSLR lens can shoot all the way down to f1.4, letting in more light and can potentially blur the entire background. The bokeh also has much more character versus the iPhone. The iPhone photo also feels like it was a still photo from a video, and the photo from my DSLR feels like it was shot on film. Keep in mind that both of these photos had little to no post processing.

Anyways, you can see the difference yourself. The iPhone portrait mode has a lot of potential, but still lacks a natural feel. I bet in the right environment with the right subject matter, it could actually work pretty well… but that’s an experiment for another day.