Monday, April 23, 2018

Thonet & Vander Frei - Portable Bluetooth Speakers

I do travel rather frequently for work, as well as back to my hometown Kuching from Kuala Lumpur and I absolutely cannot survive anywhere without good audio. I have had some good headphones with me, but the experience of listening to music over the air in the openness is a joy that I must have. However, having spent quite a fair bit on headphones, I thought I should look at budget-friendly portable speakers that can still pack a punch and deliver powerful sound that I desperately need. After much Google-ing around, I found Thonet & Vander, a German brand that specializes in consumer audio equipment. The particular speakers I was looking at was Thonet & Vander Frei.

While I am not a fashion-obsessed person, looks do matter and I must admit that the minimalist and polished-modern look of Frei drew my attention instantaneously. The metal grill finish was a nice touch, and as I held the speakers up it felt solid and well constructed. The Frei was not splash-proof, but it was designed to be drop/shock proof, which was a plus for someone as clumsy as I am.

The ultimate decision making came to the sound output from the speakers: packing full 16 Watts RMS (8 Watts x 2 drivers) these tiny little speakers can be really powerful.  The internal speakers feature two full range drivers supported by a passive radiator (non-powered woofer). Sound came out full bodied with good clarity and details, and the speakers can get very loud without much distortion. I am not expecting boomy bass or crystal clear hi-fi quality, but for what I have paid for, a sub-RM200 budget speakers, I don't think there is any other better options out there at this moment at this price point. I am making this conclusion based on someone who truly cares about audio.

Of course, when it comes to small speakers, do not expect miracles when it comes to soundstage or "stereo" effect, pretty much everything came from one source of sound. Also, placement of the speakers does make a huge difference, having it close to a wall at the back can produce better bass "kick". I acknowledge that compared to some of the best bluetooth portable speakers that I have heard (such as Bowers & Wilkins T7), the Thonet & Vander Frei is nowhere near the competition. However, all those top portable bluetooth speakers costs significantly more, we are talking about 5 to 10 times more.

I appreciate the inclusion of the protective jacket that came along with the speakers, and it is reversible for two color options, black or red. Since the speakers do look appealing, I took some casual snapshots of the speakers, you know, my itchy fingers that always want to have the camera clicking away.

I need music with me everywhere I go to, especially when I am writing articles or post-processing my images. Good quality audio makes challenging, time-consuming and energy-draining tasks so much bearable, and many research conclusions have proven that music does improve productivity generally.

Strangely, a lot of photography-obsessed people I know (including Ming Thein) are also equally obsessed with audio. I guess, there are many similarities between audio and photography after all. This can be another topic of discussion for another day.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hameer Zawawi Performing in Kuching This Saturday (14 April 2018)

Hey beautiful Kuching people!

My friend Hameer Zawawi, a local singer-songwriter is currently in the midst of his "Plug Out The Machines Tour" around Malaysia and guess what, the next stop will be in Kuching! He will be performing at the ground floor of Haus Kuching alongside some awesome local bands such as Nading Rhapsody. Event starts at 730pm till late. 

I have known Hameer for several years now, following his gigs around KL before he made it to the US and disappeared for a year. I fell in love with his non-mainstream yet still totally relate-able music, featuring his hauntingly powerful and soulful vocals. He has songs about TV shows, zombies and video games! Honestly, I have missed Hameer's live performance so much because he went on tour to the US for a year and was just back to KL very recently. It was indeed so refreshing to hear Hameer perform on stage again, and wow, now in a full band!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Carmen's Farewell

You may have seen Carmen on my review entries before, especially when I was testing new lenses or cameras. Carmen has always been generous to volunteer as my test subject for the new equipment that I was reviewing, and put up with my noobness in portrait photography. She always did her best and eventually has helped many of my reviews significantly over the years. When we (her friends) heard of the news that she is leaving Malaysia soon, we decided to do a surprise farewell dinner for her.

Carmen in my recent Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III review. Image shot with the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens. 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Black And White, Maybe?

I have been playing with colors all the time recently in all my images that somehow it felt that I have neglected black and white photography. I do love shooting black and white, just that I seem to appreciate colors more these days. However, when I saw the opportunity to create a black and white portrait of a friend yesterday while encountering dramatic lighting by the window, how could I resist? Sometimes, all you have to do to find inspiration is to observe how the light falls in place.

Portrait of a friend. 
Robert Evangelista (he is also an avid Olympus enthusiast)

This portrait shot was taken with the Motorola G5S Plus. There was not much post-processing done, except to boost contrast and deepen the shadows. The available light was working great to create a dramatic effect on Robert, highlighting the side profile of his face. 

Now I know what my mission is for my next shutter therapy session. To see everything in black and white. I shall even set the EVF/Live View monitor to fully black and white view (switching the picture mode to black and white) and compose my images without the presence of colors. Some images, especially the one portrait of Robert shown above, just stood out particularly well in black and white.