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Health Media Music Technology

Ear mutations, why it hurts when I Wii, a completely unbiased review of the new Eels album, and a quick thing about iPhone 3G coverage

Hello there. Sorry for the lack of blogging recently, I’ve been taking a break from the computer. Here are a few things that have been occupying me lately.

First up, headphones and mutating ears. I’ve been reviewing some high-end headphones – in-ear ones – and while I can’t put any details up here until the reviews hit print, I can say that once you start spending £80-plus on headphones you end up with something pretty amazing. Such phones deliver so much bass that even the nicest, prettiest acoustic number feels like somebody driving an 18-wheel truck into the side of your head.

My existing headphones weren’t quite as dramatic as that, but they were pretty good – until recently, when they stopped delivering any bass at all. The problem is the seal. With in-ear headphones, once you get a good seal you get bass; if the seal isn’t perfect, you don’t get bass at all. If you ever see user reviews of £150 headphones where an outraged punter accuses the cans of being a bass-free zone, you can be sure the problem was that either the phones didn’t fit properly or the punter didn’t put them in properly.

The problem with my ones, however, is a bit different. I can’t get a seal any more. I’m not putting them in any differently, there’s no damage to the headphone covers. They just don’t fit any more, and because I’ve thrown out all the other spare covers, there’s not much I can do about it. I think the problem may be that I’ve been using earplugs quite a lot recently – our neighbours have a new dog, which can be noisy, and I often need to nap during the day – and the earplugs have widened my ear canals slightly. Not hugely – I’m not able to put, say, a large carrot into my lugs – but enough that the headphones that did fit, don’t. Very annoying.

Next up, the Wii. If you played Dead Space on Xbox, you’ll love Dead Space Extraction on the Wii – especially if you can get it for £15, as I did in ASDA. Unfortunately while it’s a brilliant game and superb fun, it’s absolutely hellish to play if you’re using the Wiimote. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome the other week, and playing with the Wiimote makes the symptoms appear pretty much instantly. I don’t know if things are any better if you use the Wii Zapper, the gun-shaped holder for the Wiimote, but it’s probably not a good idea for me to try.

On to phones. If you’re getting crappy 3G coverage from your current provider you might find that switching makes a huge difference. According to their online coverage maps both O2 and Orange deliver great 3G coverage to my bit of the world, but in reality I can’t get an O2 signal in much of my house, anywhere near the gym or in either pub I frequent. I switched to Orange this week and I get full-strength signals everywhere.

It’s worth thinking about if you’re switching and taking a number with you: to do that you need to hand over a code called a PAC code, which your new provider uses to transfer the number. If I were moving from Orange to O2 I’d be bloody furious at the coverage in my neck of the woods, but having transferred the number over there would be a lot of hassle if I wanted to go “your coverage is crap! Shove your contract!”. The moral? Make sure the coverage is good enough and *then* hand over the PAC code.

The new Eels album, End Times, is very good. If you like music made by people with beards, you should buy it.

Last but not least, I had a complete mental blackout today on the radio and couldn’t remember which key press gets a right-click on a Mac when you don’t have a two button mouse. The correct answer is, of course, the Windows key.

A-ha-ha-ha.