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AirPods Max: It's complicated

A lot has been said about the AirPods Max. Especially about the price. Can 600€ for a pair of headphones ever be justified? I don't know. Two months in, and I still don't have an answer. So I won't even try to reply to that question. Let me talk about my experience instead.

The AirPods Max are a gorgeous piece of hardware. From the moment you open up the box, you are in awe at what Apple has done here. The materials of the ear cups, the headband, the telescope arms — this is "Designed in California "at its finest. If you care about design, you care about the AirPods Max.

But these choices come at a cost. No, still not talking about the price. The weight. These things are heavy. You have read and heard this before. But you have to hold them to understand how heavy they are. Comparing them to my Bose QC35, I feel like I could train my biceps by lifting them. This has the unfortunate side-effect that my QC35 now feel cheap.

Are they uncomfortable, though? Does the weight bother me? No, not really. Bear in mind that I mostly wear them sitting or standing at my desk. I don't go walking around with these, as I generally don't walk around wearing headphones at all. And if I want to, I tend to default to my AirPods Pro due to their size. Not everyone has to see that I'm wearing headphones.

Since I don't move that much, the weight doesn't bother me. The telescoping arms and the headbands do a fantastic job at mitigating the 380 grams. The mesh-headbands wraps around my head nicely, and it doesn't matter if I'm wearing my hair open or tied up in a bun. Due to the way the QC35 are built, I continuously get hair stuck in the joints. It's not a pleasant experience yanking out hair every time you take your headphones off.

And a little side-note on that headband. According to iFixit, and I have tested it, you can easily disconnect them using nothing but a sim-tray tool. Does that mean we'll ever get replacement headbands? Maybe different looking ones? Probably not.

If you own an Apple Watch, the controls on the Max will feel very familiar. These are the same buttons: Turn the digital crown to change volume and press to pause and play music. The button toggles between noise-cancelling-mode and transparency-mode. The crown is a joy to use and such a better experience than having to click up and down buttons to change the volume.

Talking about the two "noise-modes ": They are fantastic. These are the best noise-cancelling headphones I've used so far. A company is currently tearing up the street outside of my apartment, and while wearing these, I can't hear any noise. It's deafening without. This doesn't mean the QC35 struggle, but they are objectively worse.

Transparency-mode has me surprised every single time. I go hours without taking them off, and if my girlfriend, whose desk in our office is right next to mine, talks to me, I only have to pause music and toggle the modes. Do I hear better with transparency-mode than without wearing headphones at all? What?!

It's a clear advantage for a company if you control the whole stack, from hardware to software. Connecting the AirPods Max to any Apple-device is a great experience. If you own any Apple-wearable, be it headphones or an Apple Watch, you know what I am talking about. All you need to do is to hold them close to a device, and iOS or macOS does its magic. This never gets old.

Now, not everything is great in connection-land. With iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur Apple introduced the handoff-feature. Meaning, when you listen to music on a Mac and someone calls you on your iPhone, they automatically connect to the phone. And this works flawlessly for Facetime- or audio-calls.

But don't ever use another device if you are connected to a call on Microsoft Teams for Mac. An iPhone or iPad will always have priority. It'll randomly connect to whatever other device it can find as soon as there's an audio-source, and Teams will switch to the built-in microphone and speakers.

I have yet to figure out if this is on Microsoft or Apple. But since Teams is a piece of shit-software, I have my theories.

The Max are, well, AirPods. They have all the features people love about AirPods: Hold the crown and talk to Siri. Take them off, and the music stops. Put them back on, and the music starts. They have nine microphones for that fantastic noise-cancelling I mentioned before. They pair to all your Apple-devices instantly the moment you put them into use the first time. They have Spatial Audio, still a gimmick, sure, but a damn impressive one.

If you know AirPods, you know these.

Now to the big one: the audio-quality. I am in no place to talk about this. I have no idea about music, I am not an audiophile, and I honestly don't care. I listen to music on Spotify — and while I recently did a test, to see if I can hear a difference between lossy quality and lossless music —, I don't give a shit about high-fidelity.

Do the AirPods Max sound great? Do they sound 600€-good? I don't know what 600€ sound like. Maybe something else sounds better at 500€.

Look, these live in the same category as Bose's QC35, Sony's MDR-1000X, or Microsoft's Surface headphones, as they are wireless ANC-headphones. And yet the Max cost twice the price.

For one, this is probably due to the used materials and all the typical AirPods-shenanigans I have mentioned before. And, come on, it's Apple. We all pay a premium.

But do they sound better compared to the rest? To my untrained ears, they do. These are the best sounding headphones I own, no questions asked. But I can't say if it's worth double the price. Bluetooth only gets you so far. But I like them.

By the way, the Max are not the only expensive wireless ANC-headphones out there. Maybe these are a better direct comparison. But I don't own them.

Unfortunately, no device is ever perfect, no matter how great it might be. This also counts for the AirPods Max, despite their high price.

During my two-months usage, I've encountered a few irks and quirks that bothered me:

The battery life is all over the place. I don't know if I have a faulty unit or some software-issue, but my Max can't hold a charge overnight. And from other reviews, I know this to be a non-issue.

I charge them in the mornings and use them throughout the day. In the evening, they are around 70%. And yet, when I wake up, they are at approximately 20% in the mornings. It's only recently that I did a factory-reset which seems to have fixed the issue? I still have to dig deeper. Fortunately, these have fast charging.

The AirPods Max have no headphone-jack of any sort or size. But you can still run them wired. That is if you own the correct cable. And if you want to get it from Apple, it'll cost you a whooping 40€. How they still get away with this is beyond me. And how I still keep buying the stuff is beyond me, too. There probably is a less expensive alternative on Amazon.

What is annoying, however, is that you can't use the headphones wired while charging. It uses the same Lightning-port. And you want to use the headphones wired if you work with an audio- or video-editing tool. A wireless connection will always have a delay, which will make professional work impossible.

And yes, I have to mention the case. It's ridiculous. You saw the memes. It looks like a bra. Or a purse. It shouldn't exist. There are no excuses. Get something else if you want to protect your pair. And burn this one in some ritualistic ceremony.


So many words to finally get to this conclusion. Do I recommend them? Well… it's complicated.

These are the best headphones I've ever owned, and I absolutely love them. I don't regret getting them, it's a joy to wear them, and they were well worth the wait, which up to this day can be several weeks long depending on the colour you get.

And yet I don't know if I can recommend them. They are incredibly expensive. For that price, you can get your whole family AirPods.

But if you have the budget, you are in the Apple ecosystem, and you are the type of person who'd get the Stainless Steel Apple Watch over the aluminium one, these are for you.

For everyone else? Eeeh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

A Story about Gaming

I got into gaming at an incredibly young age. I remember my father sitting in the living room in front of the TV with me. He was hooking up our first console, a Sega Genesis. I don't know if this memory is accurate. In it, I was three years old.

For a time, it was mostly him playing and me watching. I sometimes tried, too, games a three-year-old child would probably not be allowed to play today (Streets of Rage, Shinobi). The game I played the most was Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, however. I was eternally stuck in the first two levels.

It wasn't until years later that I finished my first game all on my own, sitting in my grandmother's small apartment. By then, my parents had divorced, the Sega Genesis became a Nintendo 64, and I knew how to read. It was Zelda: Ocarina of Time, still my favourite game to this date. I have a triforce tattooed on my arm, hidden in a larger design, for that reason.

I also owned a Gameboy, on which I played the first Pokémon. It was then that I decided to play all the Pokémon-generations, something I haven't stopped doing. Why I owned every Gameboy-generation ever since.

I loved this period of my life. I might not have realized it back then, but video games are how I processed my parents' divorce. The N64 was my escape. Playing Mario Kart and Goldeneye 007 with my friends was how I spend most of my days after school.

I owned my fair share of platforms since then. During my edgy teen-years, I became an Xbox-guy and owned the first one, the 360 and the One. My father was into Tomb Raider, so at his place, I had a first-gen PlayStation, hacked with a chip to play copied games. I skipped the other Sony-consoles until the PS4 Slim was a thing. As mentioned, I owned every Gameboy-generation, but I also got the Sony PSP and the PS Vita. The next Nintendo-console after the N64 was the Wii. It was then that I replayed Ocarina of Time after a long hiatus. I got into PC-gaming, too. But despite my "blessed upbringing", I longed for the simpler days of my N64-youth — that magical feeling of booting up Star Fox 64, Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie or Ocarina of Time.

It took years for it to reappear. I came close with the PS Vita, especially as I got heavily into indie-games and the Vita was the defacto-platform for a lot of them. But it was the Nintendo Switch, a device I was standing in line for on March 3, 2017, that brought back this nostalgia.

Today the Switch is the only console hooked up to my TV. The other two, the Xbox One and the PS4, are resting in their respective boxes in the attic. The PC is the only other platform I play on.

It doesn't matter how often I pick this thing up, turning it on again and again, seeing the home screen with all my games. It never gets boring.

It reminds me of back then, 27 years ago, when I watched in awe how my father was playing through Shinobi or Streets of Rage 3.

Today, it's me playing through Streets of Rage 4 and finishing it on my own. No help needed.

Select | April 2021

This is the first post in a series I plan to do on a semi-regular basis. In it, I'll write a few words on things I want to share my opinion on. These may be products that I like but are not worth an entire article, or I plan to write a review at a later date.

I've stolen the idea from Andrew Kim's Minimally Minimal. But as he hasn't been blogging in years now, I doubt he will mind.

Kissa by Kissa Coffeetable Book

A gorgeous book by a gorgeous man. I'm a Craig Mod fanboy and fascinated by Japan and its culture. And since I've recently picked up hiking as a hobby and plan to walk in Japan myself, I had to pick this up.

Craig knows his shit. This book is incredible. The pictures don't do it justice. You have to see it in person to understand it — the typography, the photography, how it's made, how it smells, how it feels. I aspire to one day create something physical as pretty as this.

I regretted not getting Koya Bound when it was still available.

Zee.dog Leash and Harness

During the mentioned hikes, I've realized that my current leash solution was sub-par.

While walking, I attached my dog's old leash to a carabiner on my backpack. But this little dog is an energy ball, and she pulls as soon as she sees something of interest. And she constantly sees something of interest. A fucking flower is something of interest. This hurt my back pretty bad after a while, as most of the pull mainly was on one shoulder.

So I got this Zee.dog-leash as recommended by Bruce. When going for everyday walks, I have it across my body, but if I go for big hikes with a backpack, I have the leash around my waist. Way better.

I also got a harness, as this one is of higher quality than what I used before and a little coat. Overall, I'm happy with the quality, and so is my dog.

Autonomous.ai Kinn chair

Thanks to that little pandemic of ours, I have been working from home for over a year. And if it's up to me, I will stay here for long after we all got vaccinated.

But this meant I had to invest in some quality of life upgrades for my office situation. This is why I got Autonomous Kinn chair.

This thing is weird. It's entirely made out of plastic and steel but still feels comfortable despite the lack of padding. But it does look uncomfortable as shit.

Due to its fishbone design, it'll remind you of some more expensive alternatives from brands like Herman Miller. And it's that fishbone spine that has fantastic lumbar support.

I had issues with it at first. In the beginning, the chair pressed the waistband of my pants into my back. Yeah, I know how weird that sounds, but it got uncomfortable pretty quick.

This is not an issue anymore, though. Maybe the plastic of that fishbone was too stiff. No clue. I'm not a product designer.

In the end, a worthy upgrade to my no-name-brand chair from before.

Standing Desk

Another home-office upgrade I got is this standing desk I am standing in front of. And yeah, I get the irony. I bought a new chair to use it way less than the previous one.

To be precise, what I copped, are the automated legs. You can attach these to any surface you own. In my case, I was rocking the Ikea Gerton tabletop from my previous desk.

Installing the legs took around 30 minutes without any help. You should use an electric screwdriver, though.

The legs come equipped with a small motor and a remote you attach to your desk with profiles for up to four different heights. I use two, sitting and standing.

I try to start my days standing for 3ish hours before sitting, and after my lunch break, I stand again, for at least two. My back hurts way less nowadays, but this might also be due to me exercising now.

Great investment, but now I need to fix my cable management. Oh, and you should get a mat or anything to protect your feet. I don't wear slippers, so I'm standing on a yoga mat.

Leica Q2

Before I start: I will write a full review in the future. I also shared some of my thoughts on my podcast. Go listen!

The Leica Q2 is a great camera. I get why people love this brand so much. It's a joy to use, the pictures out of the camera look fantastic (I started shooting JPEG+RAW, something I have never done before), and even the app is fun compared to what I was used to from Sony.

The Q2 is my everyday camera, and on me everywhere I go. I use it primarily to document my life and do some occasional street- and portrait photography. It fits my needs perfectly.

I need more time with it, though, before I feel comfortable enough to write a review. Read Craig's on the predecessor.

Hobonichi Techo

I used to have a Techo a while back. It was the international version, and I loved this little planner. Due to unfortunate circumstances, it got destroyed, and I never picked up a new one until recently.

This time I went with the Japanese version as it goes from April '21 to April '22, and I got mine in March.

If you write with a fountain pen — I do, this is my journal, and I want to feel fancy — you'll love writing in this. The Tomoe paper is famous for being incredibly thin but soaking up ink like a champ. I'm writing a more comprehensive review, in which I'll share more details about the paper.

The Techo comes in several versions and languages. Every agenda has little poems and short stories at the bottom of the page and little checkboxes at the top that I use for some gratitude journaling.

At the end of each Techo, you'll find a whole bunch of interesting facts, as well as some unique pages like a personal Top 100 list, a little page to write short reviews, and guides on how to, well, live? As my Techo is in Japanese, and my Japanese still lacking, I can't tell you what it says. Working on it. But know that this thing is excellent.

I also got the day-free Cousin for my big thoughts that are not bound to any date. Equally great!

14 writing prompts for your daily journaling

I journal nearly daily using Day One on my iPad. From time to time, I go old school and write with a pen in a notebook. But mostly on my iPad. With a mechanical keyboard that goes clickity-clack when I type. Yes, all my colleagues love me. Why do you ask?

Day One has the advantage that you can create templates to reuse as you see fit. I have one asking if I have meditated, fasted, what I read, what was on my mood, and so on.

But I have a few more with a single question each. They help me reflect. To reflect is to know thyself. Probably Shakespeare.

I try to answer a different prompt every day; hence, why they are 14.

Kind as I am, I am sharing them with you:

  • What is the worst that could happen today? (Premeditatio Malorum, stolen from the Stoics)
  • What is the best that could happen today? (Premeditatio... Bonorum? My Latin is inexistent!)
  • How did past decisions evolve contrary to what I expected? Where can I adjust for the future? (Second-order thinking but reversed)
  • Do I enjoy what I am doing daily? If not, how long has the answer been no? (Stolen from Steve Jobs
  • What was my biggest win last week?
  • What am I grateful for? Name five things. (Stolen from gratitude meditation)
  • What are the three big things that I learned today? This week?
  • How could today have been better?
  • What did I say no to today? What should I have said no to?
  • What were my blind spots this week? My biases?
  • How can I slow down today?
  • Have I asked for help this week?
  • Have I done something that made me uncomfortable?
  • What do I spend a lot of money on? What are my money dials? (Stolen from Ramit Sethi)

There you go. You're welcome. If you have other questions, please share them with me.

When life gets tough

There‘s this weird belief I have. I am convinced that I am physically, mentally, genetically, whateverly unable to be depressed. At least, I hope I‘m right. I know I'm full of shit by the way.

Still, even I have shitty days from time to time. Ask anyone around me, and they will tell you that last December was especially tough.

What I can‘t stand when I‘m in this mood is that „be happy, just smile, everything will be fine“-crap. Most often, when I feel like shit, it's not because I am particularly sad but because I lost touch with what is essential. Life overwhelmed me with a shitload of petty things.

So don't give me that "just smile" bullshit. I need something different. That's why I wrote this blog post. What follows is a set of rules. Steps. Guidelines. Call them whatever you want. Their goal is to remind me what I think is important in life. You may not like them. You might think they are pretentious and overly narcissistic. They might make you angry. If you tend to be easily offended, you should close this tab.

Gone? Good. For the rest of you, I hope you can find some value out of what follows. But remember. I wrote this mainly for myself.

Live below your means

You don't need every shiny new object. Stop buying things hoping they'll bring you happiness. You don't need that shiny new iPad or camera. It won't make you a better human being.

„Love people, not things; use things, not people." Only Food and experiences (food is an experience) are worth your money. Be greedy.

So what should you do, when temptation is strong? You wait. Two weeks at least, though the more, the better. Still want that thing after a month? Good. Buy it. You can't remember what it was you wanted? Awesome. Invite someone to a restaurant. You saved a lot of money.

Oh, and if you decide to buy that fancy new gimmick, don't put it on your credit card, please. Or take a loan. If you don't have the money, don't borrow it. Especially not from credit card companies. Oh, and focus on paying off your credits before you buy expensive stuff.

Things you can't control are not worth it

According to the Stoics, you can divide life into three parts. There are:

  • Things you cannot control; They are out of your realm of influence. It isn't worth spending time and energy, as it will only lead to frustration.
  • Things you can control; They don't need too much effort. You should automate them whenever possible.
  • Things you can partially control; They should be what you focus on, as only these will be worth the effort. And focus on your reaction to what is happening around you. If you‘re not angry when someone attacks you, you won‘t feel any anger. It's as simple as that. (Simple, not easy.) Marcus Aurelius: „You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.“

Keep learning, as it is the only thing that matters

There are so many books you still need to read, so many languages you want to speak, things you want to learn and people you want to meet. Be a sponge, absorb everything and make it your own. Then you will be able to create new links and connections and create.

Read many books. Fiction or non-fiction. Doesn't matter. And if you don't like a book, skip it. I wrote a blog post on how to read more.

Take notes. Don't believe you are capable of remembering every thought you will ever have. Write! It! Down! Notebook, apps, doesn't matter. Write it down for fuck's sake.

Listen to people. Really listen to them. Keep your smartphone in your pocket and fucking listen. Don't look for smart answers while they talk. Don't try to interpret everything through your lens. Just listen.

Watch closely. A lot of what happens is non-verbal. Look at the people you talk to, or to those around you. You will pick up a lot of cues you might have missed otherwise. People pretending they are happy though they are not. People pretending to admire you when in reality they envy you.

Stop giving fucks (and save them)

People are always offended. So are you. People always hype things, so do you. Stop that. Don't give all those fucks. Stop scratching every itch. You don‘t need to form an opinion on anything and everything. Don‘t waste your time trying to keep up. FOMO is real but only if you feel that you can miss out. There is nothing to miss out. Life can happen without you knowing.

Safe your fucks, harbour them. And when you need to, spend your fucks lavishly.

Time is the only currency you can't multiply

People always want more money, yet it is rather easily obtainable. After all, banks are printing that shit as we speak. Probably some crooks too.

And yet, people spend their time as if it were money. As if they could get it back.

Be the master of your own time, save it (like your fucks) and only open the account when it is worth it. You have to say no to a lot. If it doesn‘t add value to your life or helps somebody (which is valuable even to you) don‘t do it. Don‘t do it because „we do things this way“. Don‘t do it because „it helps the company“ (while hurting the customer). Say no to say yes.

But what if you have to do it? Try to delegate. If someone else can do it at least 80% as effective as you, let them do it. Your „good enough“ may be their perfect.

Meditate daily

Meditate:

  • Like a Buddhist, while following your breath and observing your thoughts. On your cushion, in silence.
  • Like a Stoic, while thinking about fame, success, death, happiness, etc. Slow down and analyze your thoughts.
  • Like a writer, while day-dreaming and writing your own story. Be bored again. Don‘t fill every free minute with distractions. Let your thoughts roam and wander.

Focus on quality-time with yourself

You can't be there for others when you're never there for yourself. You should spend quality time with yourself (alone!) and focus on your wellbeing. Only then, will you be able to be at your best for those who need you.

Fifteen minutes daily is the absolute minimum. Even the most extroverted person has to be alone with herself regularly. I am that extroverted person. I need it. Especially needed it in December.

Stop your Ego

Reflect before you speak and analyze your thought-patterns. There isn't such a thing as free-will. Everything happens in your subconsciousness. Your consciousness has no insight in these processes. Most of what we believe in has been set when we were children. Also, we're all biased to think we're different, better than the others. But we're not.

Don‘t give in to your emotions. If you are angry, sad, or even too happy, you shouldn‘t speak nor react. Wait until you calm down before you do anything.

And seriously, stop thinking you‘re any different. You‘re neither worse nor better. You are like everyone else. Success is a mix of hard work, time and a lot of luck.

So if you are successful, don't think you're better than everyone else. And if you envy successful people don't think they have some unfair advantages, some natural born talent. They just did the work. You can do so though.

„Mens Sana in Corpore Sano."

Stop poisoning your body and drugging it with opiates (too much coffee, alcohol, sugar, fat). Stop poisoning your mind (news, trolling, hatred, shit storms, toxic people).

Be better by 1% every day

1%. That's all you have to focus on — no excuses.

It is called marginal gains:

  • 1% better every day: 1,01^365= 37,78
  • 1% worse every day: 0,99^365 = 0,03

Don‘t focus on the result. Only try to keep doing better every single day. And never skip two days in a row. Sometimes life gets in your way. That's ok.

The first skipped day is an accident. The second skipped day is a habit.

Not more but better

Slow down and trim the waste out of your life. There is too much clutter in all of it; be it belongings, people, thoughts, fucks. Cut them and focus only on the top 20%. If it doesn't "spark joy" (yep, I stole that from Marie Kondo), cut it.

Draw your own lines in the sand

You live your life, you set the boundaries and decide what to do. Don't let others have a say. It's your fucking beach. Don't try to impress anyone and pick your adventure.

Focus on what you need. Not what you think others might find impressing. They don't care. They are too busy with their own lives. Why should they care about how you dress, when you don‘t care about how they dress?