SFFaudio Review

SONY DR-BT160AS

Sony DR-BT160AS (Bluetooth Stereo Headset)
Model: DR-BT160AS
Manufacturer: Sony
Manufactured: 2008 [DISCONTINUED]
UPC: 027242734661

Product manual: |PDF|

I think of myself as a careful shopper. One who would rather research a product than let a salesperson explain its virtues to me. But one day, probably in Summer 2009, I made a relatively impulsive decision. I bought a pair of wireless headphones based on the maufactuer’s reputation, the specifications on the packaging, and the price. It is one of the best purchase decisions I’ve ever made.

Back in 2008 I had seen someone wearing a pair of Bluetooth enabled headphones at the gym, and was entranced by the idea. For decades I had used wired headphones, most often the low end models, like the Sony MDR-101. The earbuds that I’d tried over the years never properly fit my ears. And so I was always looking for a better listening device. For at least 5 years this turned out to be a then discontinued model of over-the-ear and behind-the-head earbuds that I picked up at NCIX on impulse. After wearing them for a day I went back and bought another pair (they were about $80) thinking these would be a backup for the day when the ones I’d bought the day before died. Sadly, that day has finally come. And though my backup pair have been sitting in their box since 2008, I’ve just now opened them up. Sadly, it was this very morning that was the day one my long-durable earbuds suddenly died. At this very moment I am charging up, for the very first time, my backup DR-BT160AS headset. And, looking at them charge, my only regret is that I didn’t buy more backup pairs – for I fear that, one day, the greatness that is the DR-BT160AS will no longer be available to me. And at the moment I have no expectation of a suitable replacement.

Trying to figure out why I’m so attached to the broken first pair of Sony DR-BT160AS earbuds sitting before me I think I can explain why I’m upset. This pair of bluetooth wireless earbuds have been more comfortable than any headphones I’ve ever owned. They are light and durable. The earbuds themselves can be pushed in and out easily due to thick metal pillar from which they project. The form fitting design of the behind the ear nacelles feel less ungainly that they look. Usable in the sun and rain, at the gym, while driving, walking, or working, the DR-BT160AS have dutifully delivered countless thousands of hours of podcasts and audiobooks, for several hours each day, seven days a week, to my ears without fail.

Wired headphones always always always get in the way, always get tangled, always get caught on things, and their foamy coverings always soak up sweat and become ripped. When I switched iPhones, from the 3GS to my first 5, the DR-BT160AS kept working, no problem. When my first iPhone 5 died, I walked out of the Apple Store with a new iPhone 5 and my trusty old DR-BT160AS headset. When I got my first iPad they worked with that. When sold that iPad I kept the Sony earbuds, and bought an iPad Mini and they worked with that. Suffice it to say my DR-BT160AS headphones are with me more than any other personal electronic device I’ve ever owned. Since 2009 I’ve probably owned about four or five pairs of sunglasses. None of them have lasted half as long as the DR-BT160AS. And the DR-BT160AS earbuds allow room enough for simultaneous use of sunglasses, something no previous pair of headphones I’ve owned ever could. There’s a little joystick control at the back of the right nacelle. I generally don’t use it. Pressing on it makes the track stop or play. Left and right move tracks back or ahead. Up and down increase and decrease volume. There’s also an answer phone button on the bottom of the right nacelle. I don’t think I’ve used it more than twice. The power on bottom is intuitive, and take a moment to engage so you don’t accidentally turn it on or off. The indicator lights, on the right nacelle’s top tell you its status, connected (flashing blue), charging (solid red). When it boots up, it makes a little “on” sound and when it runs out of power (typically only if I’ve forgotten to charge it overnight) it makes a little “off” sound.

Sony DR-BT160AS Right Nacelle

That isn’t to say the DR-BT160AS is perfect. It isn’t. The built in microphone picks up a lot of ambient noise, I know this because callers continually complain, but on the other hand the fact that they have a built in microphone is a step up from every pair of headphones I’d previously owned. In winter, the connecting neck band, an arc of plastic that gives the headset its semi-rigid shape, will push against a high collared jacket. This can sometimes make wearing them uncomfortable. But on the other hand, it is really only a problem in the coldest part of winter. Similarly having been too long without a haircut can make the headset more likely to not fit. But, again, I think it speaks volumes about my satisfaction with the earbuds that getting a haircut is a better solution than looking for another pair of headphones.

As with many older manufacturing companies Sony has a terribly obtuse naming system for their many products. I’m not wholly sure but I figure the DR-BT160AS means something like this: “DR” seems to be associated with other Bluetooth (or at least wireless) Sony headphones. “BT” likely stands for “Bluetooth” and “AS” for “Active Series” – the name for the sports line.

I’ve looked again and again over the years, Sony doesn’t seem to have any similar products still available. But if they do make something similar, I’ll be sure to check it out, as I’m probably more satisfied with the build quality, comfort, and durability of the Sony DR-BT160AS than I am with with any other electronic device I’ve ever purchased.

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Online Audio

Carmilla - illustration by Dean Kotz

Vincent Price hosts this adaptation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic vampire story. The setting is changed, moving the events up to 1922, and placing the action in Vienna. Price begins the program quoting these lines from Lord Byron’s 1813 poem, The Giaour:

Bur first, on earth as Vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;

Sears Radio TheaterSears Radio Theater – Carmilla
Adapted from the novella by Sheridan Le Fanu; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 47 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS
Broadcast: March 7, 1979
Source: Archive.org

Cast:
Antoinette Bower
Ann Givin

[image by Dean Kotz]

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Online Audio

Carmilla adapted for Creepy Magazine #19 (1967)

Told as if from 70 years after the events, this adaptation of the classic of Gothic Fiction, is very very good. For more opinions check out the comments over on the CBSRMT.com page for this episode.

CBS Radio Mystery TheaterCBSRMT #0318 – Carmilla
Adapted by Ian Martin from the novellette by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 44 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS
Broadcast: July 31, 1975
Source: CBSRMT.com
In 20th century Austria, a young woman and her widower father are charged with the welfare of a female ward. The two girls grow up like sisters but a terrible secret in the orphan’s past threatens to tear their lives asunder.

Cast:
Court Benson
Staats Cotsworth
Martha Greenhouse
Mercedes McCambridge
Marian Seldes

And here the |PDF| of the original story.

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Review

Star Wars New DawnA New Dawn (Star Wars)
By John Jackson Miller; Narrated by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 43 minutes

Themes: / Star Wars / Dark Times / rebels / Jedi / Empire /

Publisher summary:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

“The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning.” (Emperor Palpatine)

For a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights brought peace and order to the Galactic Republic, aided by their connection to the mystical energy field known as the Force. But they were betrayed – and the entire galaxy has paid the price. It is the Age of the Empire.

Now Emperor Palpatine, once Chancellor of the Republic and secretly a Sith follower of the dark side of the Force, has brought his own peace and order to the galaxy. Peace through brutal repression, and order through increasing control of his subjects’ lives.

But even as the Emperor tightens his iron grip, others have begun to question his means and motives. And still others, whose lives were destroyed by Palpatine’s machinations, lay scattered about the galaxy like unexploded bombs, waiting to go off….

The first Star Wars novel created in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, Star Wars: A New Dawn is set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV and tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths. Featuring a foreword by Dave Filoni.

This is it: The beginning of the new Star Wars content after the entire expanded universe became “legends” and it is….decent. Not awesome but also not bad. It’s hard to be objective because John Jackson Miller is charged with kicking off all new characters with all new adventures, and that feels much different from previous stories with established characters. I was kind of disappointed with the characters because this was an opportunity to be unique and they chose to make recycled versions of previous Star Wars characters. That said, the book was the normal action packed Star Wars adventure you’d expect and didn’t actually end the way I assumed it would – which I liked. I’d recommend this book to Star Wars fans or those interested in the new Rebels show (since this precedes it in the timeline) but would still point to Timothy Zahn’s work as a real gateway drug into Star Wars books.

Miller does a great job getting the feel of Star Wars in this book but the story also feels a bit like the characters from Star Wars have been recycled a bit:

Kanan Jarrus: A bit of a rogue with budding jedi powers kept hidden. He comes of like 30% Luke and 70% Han. Marc Thompson didn’t use either his Luke or Han voice for this character but I noticed him slipping somewhat into a Han voice on some of the more roguish moments.
Hera: Leia meets Mara Jade. She’s all about investigating wrong doing by the Empire, runs around with a hood up, and does some spy-type stuff.
Count Vidian: Evil cyborg guy that works for the Empire. I guess you always need an evil guy that is mostly machine (Vader/Grievous) to show how much they’re lost their humanity.
Skelly: This guy’s hi-jinks just make me think of Jar Jar Binks. No weird accent at least.

The main plot of the story revolves around the Empire wanting to increase efficiency of their mining of a mineral they need for expanding the fleet. The Empire shows up with the ruthless efficiency expert Count Vidian to make the miners be more efficient or else. Action and drama ensue from there and I always find it amazing how many times an author can get all the good and bad guys together only to have people escape / not get hurt and continue on with their plans. I thought the story was pretty well thought out and there were interesting revelations about characters and their motivations throughout the story so it wasn’t just straightforward action.

One thing that kind of annoyed me was a fairly major thread that seems to serve as an allegory to all the leaks in the media lately. There are contractors that monitor citizens (a la 1984) via hidden cameras and microphones but that monitoring has gotten out of hand since the emperor came to power. There is even a “military contractor” that is a whistle blower….. All of this may not have been intentional but it sure felt like it.

As for the audio side of things, Marc Thompson did a great job as usual. If you’ve listened to a Star Wars book narrated by him before, you’ve heard his different voices and know what to expect. All the great Star Wars sound effects, atmospheric sounds, and music are there too. I may be less critical now, but I thought all of that was better done, less distracting, and contributed a bit better to this story than in some others I’ve listened to in the past.

And just a fun treat, this isn’t from this particular Star Wars novel but the same narrator:

 

Posted by Tom Schreck

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #287 – Jesse, Seth, Mr Jim Moon, and John Feaster talk about The Keep by F. Paul Wilson.

Talked about on today’s show:
1981, to a professor of Slavic languages, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, the “First Age”, Hyperborea, At The Mountains Of Madness, The Mound, high fantasy, monstrous survivals, “two-fisted mighty thewed”, meeting the monster, this is not Lovecraft anymore, “big speeches very evil”, the movie, HBO, the sword is a laser beam?, that thing from Krull?, like Skeletor but less impressive, D’Spayre (Marvel Comics), “I expected you to come in evening-wear”, “He’s not Hitler”, WWII, can you use evil to fight evil, Cuza, shades of grey, chancellorship, “are you with the forces of good?”, a pretty amazing book, the Adversary Cycle, The Tomb, the “Repairman Jack” cycle, Equalizer-style, ancient Hindu mythology, deeply interested in its subject, re-reads, “written with the energy and verve and economy of a pulp novel all the themes, and character and depth of a literary novel”, Protecting Project Pulp, yellow peril, “I’ve heard Lovecraft was good for sales”, Conan The Barbarian (1982), Thulsa Doom, red hair and olive skin, a mystery novel, making assumptions, is Glen a Templar?, “What’s in the box?”, Portugal, Spain, Wales, a little map, not a castle, not a keep, built backwards, go kill Hitler, The Salem’s Lot route, a mute Nosferatu, the seduction of Cuza, Glen is a morally ambiguous character, Magda is the main character, the resonance of the title, Rasalom, Hitler, Molosar, the SS dude (Kaempffer), Woermann, moving the date 1941 to 1942, in 1941 there really is no hope (as opposed to 1942), Twitter, which evil is worse?, Gabriel Byrne, Sir Ian McKellen, WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Condor Legion, the German anti-fascist legion, “you collaborate with anti Wallachians?”, punch-ups, Germany back on its feet, dissension in the ranks, The Psychology Of Power, George W. Bush, Obama was reading Team Of Rivals, torturing folks but not prosecuting folks, John’s second book, The Beast Within by Edward Levy, The Shining by Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Cuza uses the manuscripts as a red herring, you can’t destroy knowledge, when Jesse was less sophisticated, somebody’s got to be the publisher that published Mein Kampff, Dianetics, maybe you’re not as committed to the cause?, letting the adults slide, the Hitler Youth was mandatory, excuses might have been deadly, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, school children were terrifying, Nineteen-Eighty Four, informing on mommy and daddy, The Cultural Revolution, Die Brucke (aka The Bridge), Volkssturm, MG-42, April 27th, 1945, Doctor Who, Beau Geste, Magneto (Marvel Comics), J. Michael Straczynski, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Vorlons and the Shadows, Chaos and Order, put these old gods to bed, maybe I can finally die, appeasement, Glaeken returns, The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is a retelling of Dracula and Salem’s Lot, more gloopy gloppy blood, John Carpenter’s The Thing, this book has zombies, traditional zombies, the rats, the muddy boots, the fingers, the reversal, Molosar sounds like a mid-dark age wizard or Romanian lord, Rasalom sounds like a Doctor Who character or Absalom, Mordred, Woermann -> War Man, Kempffer -> fighter, Magda -> Mary Magdalene, Cuza -> count, Glen -> valley, Glaeken -> Glaaki (Ramsey Campbell), the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, The Courtyard, Neonomicon by Allan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Aklo,

It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.

The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead –
And not a corpse had either hands or head!

the headless corpse, “leave my house”, shaping Cuza, we get tricked, there’s something you’ve both overlooked, “Draculian harmonics”, old Slavonic, he can’t be both ignorant and knowledgeable, psychological warfare, Molasar is so much smarter, Cuza is super-manipulative, double bluff, the Dracula mystique, Molasar has to be telepathic, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Woermann mentions having seen a pirated version of Nosferatu, Molasar was aware of Cuza’s previous visits, he’s had a lot of time to think, bad dreams, he’s not interested in crumbs, the Popes forgot about it, the battery for the enchantment of the keep, the evil events begin on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), the birds as a barometer of evil, no sequel possible, a blue winged bid with a beak full of straw, Moroi, Highlander, Highlander II (the worst movie ever made), “that’s the quickening McLeod”, a Spanish Egyptian with a Scottish accent, where did Highlander come from?, magic swords drinking power, a katana for cutting wasabi, 1980s movies came out of nowhere (seemingly), Elric (Michael Moorcock), Highlander: The Series, The Red One by Jack London, collecting heads, headless soldiers are unthinking soldiers, puppets of dark sorcery, vampires have the power to heal?, True Blood, did Cuza get the illness as a part of Molasar’s long game?

The Keep

The Keep by F. Paul Wilson - Word Cloud

The Keep

IDW F. Paul Wilson's The Keep

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Review

A Good MarriageA Good Marriage
By Stephen King; Narrated by Jessica Hecht
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 30 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 33 minutes

Themes: / horror / numismatists / hidey-holes / secrets /

Publisher summary:

What happens when, on a perfectly ordinary evening, all the things you believed in and took for granted are turned upside down?

When her husband of more than 20 years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.

The audio version of this longish short story clocks in at three hours and thirty-three minutes. It harbors no SF, fantasy, or supernatural components, which frequently inhabit King’s works. This is a straightforward horror/suspense piece. But for a few slack portions of the narrative, the pacing is pleasing, the exposition is handled briskly and cleanly, and the characters feel genuine rather than clunky marionettes.

The murder details are gruesome and chilling, and at least one crime involves a child. What would we do if suddenly the person we thought we knew the most turned out to be a psychotic stranger? Well, some of us might fight for justice. Others may simply, and quietly, acquiesce, and hope that the bad things will blow away on a summer wind.

King’s knack for building tension through honest character behavior delivers a deep sense of atmosphere. The writing is typical King, and the absence of flowery adjectives combined with sturdy nouns and verbs only bolsters the work, cracking that bell of authenticity harder.

Jessica Hecht is the narrator. Initially I found her delivery over the top and forced. But as the reading progressed, and I felt my way into her rhythm and style of narration, I realized her interpretation really did feel true to the characters.

I think fans of King will find this appealing, and most likely will have already read this in the collection Full Dark, No Stars . But I doubt that newcomers to King will want to start with this piece.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

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