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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

Here’s what I was up to this past weekend in surprisingly sunny Amsterdam. Apparently a lot of gadget shopping now that I look at the list. Enjoy!

1) Samsung Galaxy Active Unboxing:

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Friday afternoon I got busy unboxing the Samsung Galaxy Active GPS watch that finally came in. I ordered it back in February from Samsung, who had stated at March 15th arrival date. That came and went without any shipment info, and then on Wednesday it shipped out quietly, arriving the next evening.

I will note that I felt like I was unpacking a special edition box of bath soaps with all the fancy wrapping paper it came in.

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I’m actually fairly interested in this one. I’ve bought/tried most of Samsung’s fitness-focused watches over the last few years, and have found them dismal when it comes to HR and GPS accuracy. Like, horribly bad. Best of breed bad.

But early signs are pointing to improvements with the Samsung Galaxy Active.

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Before we get there though, know that this has some incredible specs for the price point:

– $200 price point
– Onboard music storage and playback, including Spotify
– GPS onboard
– Optical HR sensor on the back of it
– Apps via Samsung’s app store (many are blah fitness-wise, but some goodies in there)
– Roughly 36-hour battery life (smartwatch mode)

My plan here is simple. The last few watches I got so caught up in trying to make the darn thing work that I’d wait for new firmware updates and go back and forth and eventually just get so sick of the thing I’d give up on a review.  This time though I’m setting a 14-day timeline. That is to say, that 14 days from last Friday I will publish my review. Hell or high water. So by Friday, April 5th. Hang tight, gonna be a wild ride!

Still, if Samsung can pull this off – then the folks at Garmin and Fitbit will definitely need to re-address either their pricing or feature sets, since their on-board music+GPS offerings are far higher in price point. Albeit with far lower battery life – but that’ll also give the Apple Watch’s lower price points a run too.

2) More audio gear came in

Last week at about midnight Tuesday night (going into Wednesday), I pulled up the audio files for my Polar OH1 Plus review video. It was a super easy video, so would probably only take me 45 minutes to edit. Except, when I played back the audio file I had a variation of static. 18 minutes of static.

@#$@#4 me again

Of course, this is hardly the first time this happened. I seem to have unusually horrible luck with audio files. Which is different than just acoustics issues in general. That’s an entirely different challenge I’m slowly chipping away with at the DCR Cave (since it’s basically a concrete box). Shotgun mics just pick up too much ambient echo to be useful in my experience.

For the most part with the lav mics I use and some audio echo reduction plug-in software I use, I can make the sound pretty decent. Mostly.

Except, when it’s static, or if a file corrupts, or whatever, then there’s not much you can do with it.

So in that midnight moment of @#$#@ I went on a self-medicating shopping spree.

I bought new mics, new audio recorders, boatloads of cables and a connector…and a plan.  In a nutshell that plan is:

A) Anytime I’m not at a table indoors, I’ll be recording lav mics (these ones) to a Zoom H1N audio recorder. While there are obviously more expensive options, this one met my needs since I’m almost exclusively solo-recording for my own videos.

B) When I’m at tables I’ll be using the Rodecaster Pro. Yes, it’s overkill. But, it’ll also allow me to use it for livestreams and occasionally not just podcasting recording but also multi-person audio setups. Additionally, I like that I can monitor everything in real-time and also pipe it all into a computer in multichannel live too. Plus, as a certified gadget geek I’m allowed to splurge on non-sports tech things occasionally. It’s part of the deal.

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Atop that, I’ve been scouting acoustic foam options for the DCR Cave, mostly via Amazon Germany (since that’s the cheapest I’m finding it). If anyone knows of any other EU sources that are inexpensive and still good, let me know down below. Note that I need a crapton of it. My current plan is to do most of the ceiling in the main shooting area, plus portions of the walls where I can. Then add bass traps in the corners, primarily up above.  Additionally, looking to add bits of carpet where it makes sense to reduce that too. That’s trickier due to sweat/bike gunk/etc… but most of the floor is just general space that’s easy to do that to.

3) I won a table

Less you think I’m only capable of buying sports tech, see, I can buy home furnishings as well.

Except, it’s more like DCR Cave Furnishings.

See, I’ve been having this minor problem that my Ikea tables wobble a bit. All of them. Mostly because they’re just too light and the legs are kinda cheap (look, I think the tables were less than $30 each or something). And while that’s fine for many things – like my desk, it’s not at all ideal when trying to shoot video, especially top-down video.

For that, I need a big beefy table that just stays @#$# put.

So I turned to an auction site to get a beast of a table – some 2.4 meters long (~8ft). I don’t actually know how heavy it is, but frankly it looks beefy enough that it won’t be going anywhere.

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Anyway, this is a Dutch auction site where you can get amazing deals on all sorts of things – if you’re willing to pick it up, or pay a delivery fee. The fee this time was quite reasonable – 25EUR – so I just did that. I’ve picked up other things. For example – Shane, Des, and I squished into a car sharing car back in December to pick up a pallet mover that I won. Actually, technically I won two of them. But that’s another story for another time.

Also, we almost ran out of juice in our electric car after we couldn’t figure out how to get it charging properly. You can read through that tweet string for more hilarity.

In any case, soon I’ll have my beastly table. This one will largely be used for mounting an overhead camera to/above it, as well as other shots. It won’t actually be the one you see in front of my tool bench I currently use. I’m scouting the auction site for a smaller table for that. I’m specifically looking for lighter color woods, since they tend to shoot better than darker woods.

4) A Sunny Sunday Ride

I headed out just prior to noon for a nice loop around the Ringvaart. This 60KM ride follows a canal on one side virtually the entire time, which means there’s only a handful of stop signs/lights. It’s near perfect uninterrupted quiet roads, albeit packed full of cyclists.

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For the first while I was solo-cup, but then I joined up with a few guys for a short while into some headwinds. That worked well enough, until I realized my pulls on the front were 400w+, and the drafting sections were still coming in at 300w. I had planned an easy ride.

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So I went back to just riding along and looking at windmills:

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I was mostly collecting data on a crapton of devices for this ride, including that Samsung Galaxy Active watch.  Overall, the ride was quite nice though, zero complaints!

5) Hardware store and waffles

Finally, on the agenda I had to pick up a lightbulb at the hardware store for the studio/cave. The downstairs bathroom in the main warehouse space has a funky one, and died…well…a few months ago. We just almost never use that bathroom, so it’s not been high on my list.  But I grabbed the kiddos for an adventure to the hardware store. First, we went to the studio to take pictures of the lightbulb, then over to the hardware store to pick it up.

Of course, P1 had other shopping ideas:

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Yes, that’s a cargo bike full of waffles. It’s always there…and she knows it.

We got the lightbulb. And the waffles:

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And life was good again.

Thanks for reading – and have a great week ahead! I’ll be down in Mallorca the majority of the week testing out all sorts of upcoming goodness. April and May should be fun!

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43 Comments

  1. Black

    Ray, any chance you’ll take a look at the Sony Wena Pro? i like wearing a mechanical watch. Just wondering what the gps performance is like bearing in mind the brains of it are typically the wrong side of the wrist compared to a typical watch. Can’t see it being better than what Polar and Suunto currently offer.

    • Interesting. I hadn’t caught that one earlier, I kinda like the display where it is for quick glances of notifications.

      But man, that name?!? When you say it, it sounds like your saying Wiener.

  2. Fran

    Funny you mention Mallorca here. I had a short trip to Paris last week, and hated the traffic. I was there stuck in a traffic jam, and don’t ask me why but I started wondering why you have moved to NL instead of choosing a place like Mallorca… well connected, cheaper (if you stay there year-round) and much more outdoors friendly than Amsterdam IMHO…

    Yes, Paris traffic jams can be THAT bad:)

    • We had considered Barcelona or Mallorca actually.

      One of the draws of Amsterdam is the bike scene. While the weather isn’t as nice as Mallorca, the bike scene here and not needing a car is awesome. We’d realistically need a car in Mallorca.

      Additionally, from a business standpoint, Amsterdam is a boatload easier to work within than Spain – mainly because everyone here speaks English. That then gets into things like schooling for the kids and such.

      To me, Mallorca is more of an idea location to have a small cottage or apartment or such to escape to. Though, at present there’s no non-stop flights from Amsterdam to Mallorca for this time of year on a daily basis. So that’s a bit of a bummer (Paris had non-stops virtually all year round daily). It’d be awesome to be there in 2ish hours non-stop and have your own little spot tucked away to go to.

      As for Paris traffic jams – yup, they suck. That’s why we didn’t have a car there. 😉

  3. Adam Dennis

    Hi Ray,

    You could check out Thomann.de for acoustic tiles. I’ve bought these from them with success.

    link to m.thomann.de

    Best,
    Adam

  4. Lab mic, not lav mic, right?

  5. Robert

    That last pic is just a winner. Life is a pair of red rain boots and a waffle.

  6. For a wired lav pocket recorder, my vote would be for the Tascam DR-10L. Mainly for its locking mic connector. One less thing to go wrong and cause more midnight headaches.

    For your videos shot at tables, I would probably just use a mini-to-mini extension cable, like the Rode VC1, and plug your lav directly into the camera. Plug headphones into the camera, watch and listen to a little playback each time to make sure it sounds good and go with that.

    Ideally you would always have a redundant setup going. Use a recorder like the Tascam DR-70D, plug your mic into it (wireless in the field, wired in studio), make a high-res recording on the DR-70D, then run an audio cable from the DR-70D into the mic input on your camera and make a second copy of the audio in your camera. Two is one, one is none kinda thing.

    The Rodecaster for video? 🤔Hmmm…

    • Yeah, Des recommended poking at the DR-10L as well (he’s also curious about it) – and honestly, it’s pretty sweet looking. But it’s almost 3x the cost of the H1N here in Europe where somehow it’s a fair bit cheaper than in the US.

      For lav straight to camera, there’s two issues there:
      A) The preamp on the Nikon D500 I use is crap. Really crap. I’ve done the direct route before and it just sounds horrible. I even picked up a Saramonic SmartRig+ at one point to sit in between, and that kinda helped. But ultimately was a super clunky setup.
      B) Additionally, a lot of times I’m recording audio seperately with an action camera – like a GoPro while riding. So lav’ing into that isn’t super viable.
      C) And third (bonus), I like a backup audio source, so if I screw up the mic I still might have usable audio. Might.

      As for the Rodecaster – I’m just using it for the audio side – it doesn’t handle video in any way, and since I always handle audio OOB of video, it doesn’t bother me too much there. Also, it has pretty lights. Interestingly, the BT pairing this morning to a phone was more useful than I expected to be honest – since I can now pull in the Zwift mobile app that way and get some of the sounds there and then balance those separately. 🙂

    • That’s cool. The phone integration stuff is definitely the most compelling thing about that product.

  7. Nemo

    I simply want to know if those caps on P1 and P2 were hand knit (and if so, who knit them) or store bought? I’m pulling for hand knit.

  8. Frank

    Did you check out the (Dutch) shops http://www.bax-shop.nl and http://www.keymusic.com for audio related equipment ?

  9. Neil Jones

    I don’t know the first thing about acoustics, but I did come across a studio once where the inside was sprayed with some sort of acoustic foam (I guess a bit like DIY expanding foam). No idea of price or effectiveness, but might be worth looking into if you’ve got a large area to cover?

  10. Brad Gillie

    Looking forward to your Samsung review. I have a Samsung Gear S3 Frontier. I always thought my issues were from something I was doing wrong.

  11. leon wylie

    The freedom of a wireless lav is excellent (having ruined many recordings both audio and video tripping over wires). Spend a bit more and you get an AKG, or spend a fair bit and get a sennheiser (but sound is best on that). Some of those cheaper mics have lots of inherent noise.

    For your panels as you seem to like DIY………. where IS that pizza oven btw……….. sound on sound is a good info resource if you want to use some pallets up or other acoustic ideas eg link to soundonsound.com. The magazine also does an SOS Studio rescue feature where they help out recording artists with their studios. Maybe you don’t have enough audio but it might be an interesting crossover for both audiences.

  12. Regarding the problems with your room’s acoustics, check out this video (link to youtube.com) by Fstoppers about how they non-destructively modded a concrete box of a room for use as a video recording studio.

    Good luck!

  13. Chris

    My favourite soundproofing for concrete/glass boxes at present are the suspended wool clouds, the last lot I bought I got from link to woollyshepherd.co.uk who were super-helpful.

    More expensive than eggcrate foam but all natural, amazing looking and way more effective than you’d believe. I’ve found that just a few of those hung from the ceiling is enough to transform a space from “Can’t hear myself think” to “I wonder what people were complaining about”

  14. Neo.e92

    During my younger days post-highschool, I worked for a record-n-gig company catering to up and coming bands and artists. After spending enough days in there (six years actually) allowing me to save enough to start college, there’s one thing i’ve learned: it’s never fun to stumble into the rabbit of hole of sound space acoustics + the hardware involved. It’s just a room-within-a-room-within-a-room.

    Good luck, Ray. Thanks for today’s post.

  15. Benedikt

    Shopping Lightbulbs? Are you proceeding on the pizza oven front?

    • Haha…unfortunately nothing at the Cave/Studio is considered on the Pizza Oven list. I might make progress on said list soon though, the weather is getting nice again.

  16. Running Otaku

    Save your money- instead of buying acoustic foam, just use a bunch of folded old bath towels. It turns out that they dampen sound better than acoustic foam. Watch this for the details and how to DIY your own panels cheap and easily: link to youtu.be

    • Haha…I use some old shipping/packing blankets right now.

      Added to my Watch List for the airplane here in an hour. Though to be honest, the cost of panels here in Europe is surprisingly cheap compared to my US friends that have bought them.

  17. Simon

    Ray, in the unboxing section ” Like, horribly bad. Best of bread bad.” Should be best of breed bad?

  18. gingerneil

    The watch looks very interesting.. you say it can do music, *including* spotify. Can it do anything else ??? I am holding out for google play music – and even at $200 I’d buy this just for that, and use it solely for music alongside my 935 at the GPS daily driver. Take the straps off, fit an elastic arm band or clip, and boom – ipod shuffle replacement. But…only if it does Google Play Music (and podcasts!!)

    • gingerneil

      Googling has pointed me at thed Music Mate android app – anyone tried that with a Samsung watch and Google play music?

    • John Aubrey

      I want a smartwatch, like the Samsung one, or wear OS, that can track as well as garmin. I’m asking a lot, but I think we can get there….

    • I’ll try resetting the watch tomorrow sometime and see what options I have from the Android phone instead to install.

      Its super finicky when it comes to apps.

  19. Dennis Van Eeuwijk

    Hallo ray any news about the release of the new stages computers or any rumors about a new garmin gps bike computer….

  20. Tom

    What Garmin watches would you compare to the Galaxy Active?

    Vivoactive 3 music: $259 (clever training), 5 day battery life (or 10 hrs. gps mode)
    Galaxy Active: $ 200, 36 hour battery life in smart watch mode

    For person who wants everyday watch, not too concerned about apps or having a (very) smart watch, works out 5-7 hours per week (including gps use) various sports, I would think extra $ 60 is worth it to avoid hassle of charging every day.

    My guess this is more of an Apple watch competitor.

    • That’s where Samsung has the edge right now. It makes Garmin’s watches in particular look overpriced (Fitbit fares better though, albeit sans-GPS).

      Right now I’m finding even the 36hrs optimistic. It’s basically a daily charge for me. I’m also finding it charges crazy slow for some reason (even with high end fast chargers).

      The dark horse here is when Apple devices to make the $199 Apple Watch more widely known/available. It comes and goes, but I don’t think it’s stable on the shelf at that price. Once they do that it’s very tough for Fitbit (and Garmin) to compete mass-market with it. Especially if they put marketing power behind it.

  21. Gareth

    That is a “busted” expression on her face.