Polycom VVX-1500 Keeps On Truckin

The other day I had to stage a little test that required a few SIP end points. For a lark, I powered up a Polycom VVX 1500 that has lived on my credenza for quite some time. It’s been idle for a long while, basically since the VVX 600 took the prime spot on my desk and became my daily driver.

vvx-1500 frontal

It happens that we don’t have POE everywhere I’d like, so the elder VVX had been powered off for a bit. Applying power, it began to boot, which is a process that can take some time. On this particular occasion, a considerable time, as it seems the device found a firmware update and automatically began to install it. I had forgotten that the VVX 1500 had been configured to use boot.onsip.com as its boot server.

While it fetched and loaded new firmware I had some time to lookup the current state of software offered for the VVX 1500. I was amazed to find that the old VVX 1500 is still actively supported! The latest firmware is 5.9.1.0615 released in January 2019. The OnSIP provisioning server offered 5.8.3.2414 which appears to be from Q4-2018.

that’s impressive for a device over ten years old. This one came my way when Small Net Builder asked me to review a pair. That review was published in September 2009. The folks at OnSIP did their own review in 2011.

While its video capabilities now seem dated (CIF resolution) the VVX 1500 remains the single best sounding phone I’ve ever used. It’s impressive that Polycom is still able to offer firmware updates for the mighty beast. Such longevity is testament to a very forward looking hardware design.

Other products I’ve used, Gigasets for example, are so hardware constrained that software support tends to be limited. The device has just enough memory to function. Over time, as the firmware invariably grows in size, it will be left behind.

I see that other iconic Polycom, the SoundStation IP7000, is currently sporting 4.0.14 firmware released in December 2018. It is also a remarkably long-lived product. We were still buying them for ZipDX projects in June 2017. In truth, it has well and truly been superseded by the Trio 8000 Series, which are dramatically more flexible.

My sit/stand desk has a little more space since I switched from a dual-monitor arrangement to a single 4K display. Maybe it’s time to take the burly VVX 1500 for a spin as my daily desktop phone once again. It sounds so great, and those metal buttons are just so…polished.

End of the Line For 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones

Back in June 2016 I took a chance and bought the 1MORE Triple Driver in-Ear Earphones. While they seemed well-regarded, and well priced, their performance proved to be disappointing. For listening to music I eventually switched to a new pair of Etymotic ER3XR ear buds.

I continued to use the 1More headset for listening to podcasts, most typically when I was walking the dogs. The means that I used them quite routinely. So, it’s worth noting that, after two-and-a-half years, they’ve reached a point where they are physically degraded to the point of not being usable. In essence, I’ve discovered their lifespan.

The insulation on the wires from the point of the Y to the individual ear buds is now seriously brittle and falling away. This happened more on the right-hand side, which has the volume control. That’s because I often listen using just that side while walking the dogs. This helps me maintain greater situational awareness, which is important when walking two large dogs on leash.

At this point, the wire from the 3.5mm plug to the Y-point is not similarly degraded. I expect this is because it has a protective covering of woven cloth.

I cannot recall another headset that was so short-lived.

Voicemeeter 8 (aka Potato) Released Today!

I don’t normally parrot press releases, but I have the highest regard for VB Audio, the Voicemeeter Series and his Virtual Audio Cables. These are profoundly useful pieces of software.

I’ve used Voicemeeter from VB Audio since it launched. It’s great, simple audio mixing software for Windows. In truth, I now routinely use Voicemeeter Banana, which the more capable version, supporting extra virtual inputs and outputs. This is how I bidirectionally connect ZipDX to a Hangout and my headset for VUC each week.

Today VB Audio extends the Voicemeeter series further with the first official release of Voicemeeter 8, which Vincent has nicknamed Potato. Here’s the formal announcement:

Voicemeeter Potato Press Release
VB-AUDIO SOFTWARE
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2019
  
Voicemeeter 8 (a.k.a. POTATO) is finalizing the Voicemeeter Series with an ultimate virtual mixing console application, offering 5 Physical I/O and 3 Virtual I/O to connect again more audio devices and more applications together and to provide more control on any kind of audio workflows (now from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz).

This Voicemeeter release (version 3.0.0.7 / 2.0.4.7 / 1.0.6.7) offers new virtual audio drivers for the entire series (also to Voicemeeter Standard and Voicemeeter Banana) made to be more reliable, with optimal CPU load, better audio quality and fully compatible with all Windows versions (XP, VISTA, WIN7, 8, 8.1, WIN10 32 or 64 bits and Windows Server 2003, 2008, 2012, 2016 32 or 64 bits). Voicemeeter also installs virtual ASIO drivers (4 clients per ASIO driver) to connect 32 and 64 bits DAW’s and a Virtual ASIO insert driver made to connect a VST HOST to process any pre-fader inputs with any VST Plug-ins.

voicemeeter8

Voicemeeter Potato brings again new features inspired by audio pro mixing console and provides a better Microsoft windows integration. With the 8 BUS multi layer mixer, it is now possible to define an independent mix for each BUS (SEL Button). The internal FX section offers a reverb and a Multitap delay FX to invite musician or small bands to use it as music production mixer. The external FX section provides regular AUX with SEND and RETURN path to connect external hardware FX.  Finally the Potato virtual input strips are showing the connected applications with a volume and mute control for each (as it is proposed by the Windows Volume Mixer).

Voicemeeter Series is also providing extra services through VBAN protocol to transport Real Time audio, Real time MIDI and Real Time Remote Control over network. Voicemeeter package also installs additional applications like MacroButtons, VBAN2MIDI and 2 examples of a BUS A.P.A. (Audio Processing as Application) a 15 Bands Graphic EQ and a 8×8 Gain Matrix. Finally with Voicemeeter comes a complete API to control any parameters or to process audio stream inside Voicemeeter in a client application programmed in any language supporting standard DLL. SDK Download and Voicemeeter Remote API information are on our forums.

Fair trade, affordable for everyone!

While Voicemeeter Standard and Voicemeeter Banana are distributed as Donationware without constraint, Voicemeeter Potato is distributed as donationware with an activation code, free to download and free to use! It will invite you to activate your license after 30 days. Thanks for your participation and support! Contact us for volume licensing or special deals.

Windows XP, VISTA, WIN7, WIN8, WIN8.1, WIN10 32/64 bits (MME, DirectX, WDM/WASAPI, KS, ASIO). www.voicemeeter.com / www.vb-cable.com /www.vb-audio.com

Deal Alert: Etymotic ER3XR or ER3SE In-Ear-Monitors for $149

er3xr_box_mo_1As was mentioned a short while back, our young Dogo mix Julio ate my headphones. Of course, that’s not entirely true. He didn’t actually ingest them. He simply chewed them up. In that simple act, he rendered them useless.

In my attempt to pay more attention to this site I detailed his misadventure here. I asked for opinions on a replacement, but you were no help at all! I suppose that’s my fault since I’ve been ignoring this project for quiet a while.

Lacking for direct input, I set about researching replacements. I’ve had a couple different models of Etymotic products over the years. I began with a couple of pairs of ER6i, then the now-destroyed HF5s. The HF5s are still offered. They sound good, and at $100, they’re attractively priced.

Over the years, I’ve recommended Etymotic headphones to various friends and associates. The balanced armature design sounds crystal clear, which I admire. Some people have justifiably commented that they lack truly deep bass. I thought it worth finding a product that could do a little better in that arena.

To bring this ramble to a conclusion, after much research I came more-or-less full-circle, settling upon the Etymotic ER3XR. These are a good step up from the HF5s, and have the bass extension that I was seeking.

Since they’re a brand new model there was no deal to be found. I paid $179 for the pair that I’ve been using the past few weeks. However, this week I see that Massdrop is offering the ER3s for just $149.

I’m quite pleased with these so far. They don’t have a microphone, so they’re for listening only. However, they do have a removable cable using the standard MMCX connector. That presents the opportunity to replace the cable with a third-party replacement that includes a microphone.

Koss Presents Two Issues: Gaming & Wireless Headphones

The past week or two I’ve been revisiting Koss, the legendary makers of headphones. Koss invented stereo headphones (they called the “Stereophones”) in 1958. They’ve mostly be known for headphones, although they have made a few communications headsets over the years.

Koss GMR-540 Series Gaming Headphones

It had been a while since I reviewed a headset suitable for use by interpreters using ZipDX multilingual. Then I stumbled upon the Koss GMR-540 Series. Introduces in the summer of 2017, these are relatively inexpensive headphones targeting gamers. As such, they have a microphone.

KOSS-GMR-545-vs-GMR-540

More interestingly, the microphone is part of the cable, which can be completely removed from the headphones. The maker provides each headset with two cables;

  • A short (4 foot) cable with an inline microphone, suitable for use with a mobile phone, tablet or laptop.
  • A long (8 foot) cable with a boom-mounted microphone, suitable for use with a desktop computer or gaming console.

Depending upon which model you choose, the long cable will terminate in dual 3.5mm mini-plugs for mic & headphones, or a USB connector.

Continue reading “Koss Presents Two Issues: Gaming & Wireless Headphones”

My dog ate my headphones

ER-ER5HF5BLACK_2Seriously, it happened last week. One evening I fell asleep listening to a podcast. My phone fell to the floor along with my trusty of Etymotic HF5 headphones. Julio, our 18 month-old Dogo-mix, who very much likes to chew on soft plastic toys, found the earbuds to tempting to pass up. Happily, he did not ingest them. He simply rendered them useless.

You may recall that I bought a pair of OneMore Triple-Driver Earphones back in 2016. These ultimately proved disappointing. Performance-wise, they deliver exaggerated bass. They’re supposedly tuned by Luca Bignardi, a professional musician and recording engineer working in Italy. To my ears, they’re seriously imbalanced.

Further, they don’t fit as well as the ETY’s. The tips come loose, and annoyingly tend to remain in my ears when I take the buds off. When I reported this to the company they reacted with surprise, and sent me another set of tips. however, those tips didn’t change a thing. I’m done with 1More.

There are about a zillion companies now offering earphones, or the more uppity “in-ear monitors.” Most of them complete unknowns.

I’m tempted by the new Etymotic ER4XR. According to InnerFidelity they offer improved bass response over the older models. Sadly, priced around $350, they are beyond my budget.

All this begs the question, what are your favorite headphones?