You’re doing your shoelaces wrong

In this world of Trump, Brexit and Fake News, you may well be wondering to yourself:

How can I trust anything I used to take for granted any more? I thought I generally had a grip on these things, but maybe not! What else am I taking for granted that’s completely wrong? Am I getting out of bed properly? Am I competent to make the journey from home to work? Are my shoes laced up properly? Am I even real? Why am I talking to myself?

Well, I can’t really help with all of it (you may wish to seek professional help…) – except for one. You’re probably not doing your shoelaces up properly.  

Chances are when you purchased your shoes, they had been mostly pre-laced from the factory.  Whilst these methods tend to vary (especially in trainers), they tend to have one thing in common: they’re designed to make the shoes look tidy without having feet in them.  

A Converse shoe which has been laced with "display lacing"
An example of a Converse shoe with “display lacing” (ugh)

Whilst this has some advantages, it tends not to be the method which will automatically be the best fit for you.  I would advise you to visit a treasure trove of shoelacing advice, Ian’s Shoelace Site, and browse the myriad of options you have available to you – from the highly practical to the entirely decorative.

In my case, I have standardised on the Double Helix Lacing (or “Spiralacing” ) technique, which as it happens is genuinely patented in the USA by Montgomery Kim Fisher. So, if anyone tries to sue me for lacing my shoes this way, I’ll let you know. 

A Converse shoe laced using the Double Helix Method
The Double Helix method

One of the advantages of this method is that it’s not only practical (it allows you to apply even pressure across the shoe, and minimise wear to the laces) but also decorative, and has reflection symmetry – you can lace the left and right shoes to be mirror images of each other using the same method!

Two Converse shoes next to each other, both laced using the Double Helix method with the helix running in the opposite direction
Mirror symmetry!

Just don’t mirror them the opposite way around, that just looks weird. 

Whilst this is my preferred method of lacing for standard shoes and trainers, boots I prefer to use something like Lightning lacing, which given the stiffer shoe seems to give me more flexibility, whilst still looking cool. 

So now you can leave the house in the morning safe in the knowledge that, at the very least, your shoes are done up properly.  Pretty much everything else, though, is up for grabs. 

My Headphones

As someone who works in audio, I appreciate a good quality set of headphones.  I am, by no means, an audiophile – I’m an engineer. I want my products to operate within tolerances that are suitable for their purpose – I’m not up for cryogenically freezing my cables or painting my CDs with green pen, or indeed any other magical tweaks to get marginal gains, at best.

Sennheiser HD-25, my old “daily driver”

For a long time, I used to rock a pair of Sennheiser HD-25: headphones designed to attenuate the sound of the sonic boom on Concord and were only released to the public after people kept stealing them and giving them to House DJs who, as it turned out, were quite into the high levels of isolation they had.  They were really handy for the kind of stuff I was doing back then – monitoring broadcast mixes in loud environments, sound checking bands, that kind of thing.

These days, I don’t have quite such stringent requirements – and as great as the HD-25’s are, on-ear cans tend to get a bit uncomfortable for me for long periods of time.  However, I have retained the penchant for full-bodied bass.

Thus, my audiophonic journey led me to Beyerdynamic. Their DT100 were almost ubiquitous in the UK’s radio industry at one point (and still have a pretty big presence today), and notable by the fact that every component of them can be replaced. Earlier in my career as a broadcast engineer, I spent a fair time doing just that.  From the drivers to the cable to the headband to the internal wiring, each piece will have a part number and you can replace it.  The problem, for me, is that they were uncomfortable and sounded … well, pretty rubbish if I’m honest! And I couldn’t help feeling like if I were to go out wearing them, I’d look like Alan Partridge

Steve Coogan as ‘Alan Partridge’ wearing DT100’s

But on the positive side, they company have a slightly sleeker brethren, the Beyerdynamic DT770 PRO, used by hundreds of musicians in recording studios, favoured by pop radio stations – and frankly, if they’re good enough for Trent Reznor, they’re good enough for me.  In all seriousness, they have a fairly flat frequency response 20Hz-20kHz with a bit of a bump at the top and bottom, and have excellent isolation properties.  And, importantly, I know how they sound, so can evaluate audio with them pretty well (distinguishing the sound of the cans from the source material).

DT770’s, approved for use with beards.

So, good starting point. And, they also offer 80 ohm and 32 ohm versions which make them more suitable for use with mobile devices and consumer kit (which would struggle to drive the 250 ohm versions on their own which are the pro standard). Admitadley they’re not the same drivers any more, but they’re fairly close.  So, I go for a Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80 Ohm (yes, this is an affiliate link)

The stock cable is fine, but sometimes the minijack connector doesn’t fit into phones, the cable is too long, or is in some way inconvenient. So I decided to modify the headphones to make the cable detatchable.

This is a pretty simple modification, once you get the hang of dismantling and reassembling these (and, as I previously mentioned, I’ve dismantled quite a lot of headphones)

Jason from shows you how to fit a mini-XLR connector in this video

In my case, I instead went for a smaller 3.5mm minijack socket which required less intrusive modifications.

Clearly, I now need a cable for my headphones.  I could have bought one, but I decided what the heck, I’ll make that myself as well.

One of my favourite brands for flexible and rugged cable is Van Damme, and for headphones where you just need 3 conductors (ground, left and right), their Pro Grade Classic XKE 1 Pair Install Cable is thin and unobtrusive, but high quality. Although you shouldn’t really put left and right on a twisted pair, the distances I’m likely to be going with this (a meter or two, at most) means this is mostly a non-problem.

Historically, I’ve not been a fan of minijack connectors.  Give me an XLR or even a 1/4″ Jack to solder up, and I’m happy, but minijacks are just a bit fiddly for my liking.  Or that’s what I thought – until I discovered the Amphenol KS3PB-AU which is, frankly, a joyous thing to solder and assemble.  And, unlike crappy minijacks from Maplin (RIP), all of the terminals are actually connected when it comes out of the bag!

They look pretty swank as well.

To finish the cable off, partly because it looks nice but mostly because my cat would chew through it otherwise, some 6mm Flexo PET Expandable Braided Sleeving in Neon Blue, and some 4:1 7mm blue heat shrink to hold down the ends.  A benefit of applying techflex is it makes it a lot more difficult to tangle.  A downside is that it does cause some minor microphonics when it rubs against things, but that’s no worse than many other headphone cables.

My effort at a good looking headphone cable

This is what I use to connect my cans to a PC or laptop.  I’ve also got a similar but slightly longer cable with 6.25mm stereo jack at one end, sleeved in white techflex, just in case I find myself needing to hook into some slightly more pro kit and need a bit of space to move.

Finally – I have a problem that my Pixel 2 does not have a headphone port, and I’ve not had much luck with the Google USB-C to 3.5mm stereo adapters. So I decided to go Bluetooth, and got myself a SZMDLX Bluetooth reciever (yep, that’s certainly a jumble of letters right there!) which seems to do the job, and can be clipped to the headphones quite conveniently

I also made a shorter cable with a right angle Neutrik minijack (eugh) to hook this up, as the one which came with the item became faulty in a matter of days.


Finally, after sweating into the stock earpads for a fairly significant amount of time, I decided to get some Brainwavz Round Pads in a  black PU Leather finish.  And, for me, this is a significant upgrade as it provides a better seal around my head (and glasses!) and helps stop the bass from escaping.

Wireless DT770’s anyone?

So there you have it, a guide to my headphones that nobody asked for but I wrote anyway!

Why I don’t want a Yahoo ID any more

I was at one time, a BT customer.  They had the best deal for FTTC broadband in my area, so it made sense to go with them.  One of the things they offered at the time was a Yahoo account – which for some inexplicable reason you were forced to link to any previous account with the same email address.

I created one – with my usual online moniker of naxxfish.  What a mistake that turned out to be….

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Betheremin 0.1

My partner, Beth, asked me if I could make her a Theremin.  So I have.  It’s called the Betheremin.

A Theremin is a musical instrument, which changes pitch and/or volume as you bring your hand close to it’s antenna(e).  The way this works is by your hand influencing the capacitance of a resonator circuit, changing the frequency at which it oscillates.  This difference in frequency creates a “beat” frequency against a reference oscillator, which can then be used to create an audible frequency or control a Voltage Controlled Amplifier.

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