First Full Semester of Online Learning

Yesterday was the final day of class for my first semester of online classes this school year. There were both some good and bad things about the online experience, so this week I’ll be writing about what it’s been like for me.

First, I’d definitely say that at least for me, the enjoyablility of each class depended on what the teacher was like. Some of my classes were really boring because all of the material was taught through slideshows and worksheets with practically no real engaging content. However, one of my teachers was able to create more of a natural classroom environment by spending a few minutes at the start of each class to just talk about anything with the class. He made projects interesting and encouraged us to get in contact with our classmates outside of the class which made it a lot more enjoyable.

Comparing this semester to last year’s system, it was a lot better with the synchronous system learning because teachers were able to answer any questions in real time with the class. Live presentations were also possible which made things more engaging as well, and teachers could help out students by sharing their screens.

Despite all the advantages there are with the online learning platform there were also a lot of technical problems that a lot of my teachers faced. Some of them were plain connection issues, but others had problems opening certain files, using new programs, or causing audio feedback while joining with two devices. One of my teachers started using Zoom instead of Google Meets halfway through the semester which was kind of annoying to switch to every single day. Especially since, I didn’t see that big of a difference using either of the two since the pros and cons of each were similar enough to basically be the same.

There was only one class where I got to know some of my classmates because of the teacher I mentioned before. I feel like that’s a big part of the school experience, but it’s still not really the same as in person. Everyone sort of did their own thing, and group projects were usually uncommon. It also didn’t really help that almost everyone in all of my classes came from different schools, so it was kind of like starting grade 9 all over again except you don’t even know a single person.

Overall, it was really comfortable being able to attend school at home, but at the same time most of the classes were pretty boring. Synchronous learning helped solved a lot of problems I had with the previous one we were using in March last year, but now you don’t really know any of your classmates. Still, I think things are going in a good direction, and it might just take time for teachers to figure out the best way to teach their courses.

osu! Performance Points Updates

Last week, the osu! team released a blog post detailing the various changes they were going to start implementing to the way performance points were calculated. Most scores have already been updated by now, and lots of people’s ranks have been affected. This week, I’ll go over some of the main changes made and what I think about them as a casual player.

The first change that was made was a buff to maps that used an AR (Approach Rate) 11. The AR of a map determines how much time you have between seeing an object appear on your screen before you have to hit it. Normally, all maps that used AR 11 had the same scaling in terms of pp which meant that shorter maps would get the same AR 11 benefit that longer maps were. In this update, the new mulitplier for AR 11 maps scale so that shorter maps have a lower multiplier and longer maps that are more difficult have a greater multiplier. Personally, I don’t and can’t play that high of an AR in the first place, so this doesn’t really affect me. However, a lot of top players that played really short intense jump maps had a lot of their scores nerfed.

Another change that was made was towards the penalties for Miss Counts and how they were also adjusted depending on map length. Previously, missing three times on a 1000 combo map would have the same reduction as missing three times on a 100 combo map. In this update, there is a set reduction for the first miss, but they’ve created a new curve that reduces the impact of less misses on longer maps. This is another adjustment that makes misses on shorter maps more significant while making misses on longer maps more forgiving. For me, I personally like this change since I’m usually play longer maps now. However, this still makes all of the scores with only one miss a bit disappointing.

The last main changes that I’ll mention are the Speed and Accuracy adjustments. Previously, there have been some really fast maps that players could just mash their keyboard for combo over accuracy. Using the old pp system, the speed of the map would be worth more than the accuracy and players could get set scores above their actual skill level. The new update makes it so that while the speed of a map is still relevant, accuracy now scales exponentially with low accuracy scores being significantly nerfed. This change actually benefits me quite a lot since most of my plays usually have quite accuracy. In the first place, the way the new curve is calculated is based on the number of 50’s you get, which I usually don’t get too many of in my scoress anyways.

Overall, these new changes generally buff long accuracy scores and nerf short and low accuracy ones. After updating my profile, I gained around 1,000 rank after this update and ended up gaining a bit of pp. It wasn’t that much, but I think most of the rank came from a combination of other players losing pp and inactive accounts being removed from the leaderboards. In terms of the top players, a lot of the high pp scores were nerfed, but generally most of the leaderboard is relatively the same with only a few exceptions.

JBL 305p MkII Monitors

In addition to the new microphones and audio interface I received over the winter break, I also got a pair of the JBL 305p MkII studio monitors. Previously, I just did all of my mixing on either my laptop’s speakers or my Sony WX-1000XM3s which are both not really ideal. Although I still don’t have a lot of mixing experience, I will be writing about what it’s been like using the JBLs.

First, pretty much all audio that comes through is really crisp and doesn’t have any noticable muffling or distortion. I guess this is something standard with any decent pair of monitors, but compared to laptop speakers it is a huge change. Especially on the lower end of the frequency spectrum, things are actually audible instead of either being really quiet or distorted.

Another nice thing about having the JBLs is that the stereo imaging is wider compared to just using headphones. Even though my desk isn’t that big, I have the monitors spaced out so that as long as I’m sitting in the right spot, I’ll be able to have more detail in terms of where sounds are coming from. I usually have a hard time noticing how I’m panning things using the laptop speakers. Even if I have two tracks panned hard left and right. With the Sonys, there’s a lot more separation, but not as much compared to the monitors.

Of course, the main reason why I got the monitors was to be able to hear all frequencies at the same volume as they’re meant to be. Often times when using the laptop speakers the low end never really came through, and with the Sonys, the low end was often boosted and probably some other specific frequencies as well. However, the monitors play things back really accurately, and it’s much easier to tell when certain things are too quiet or too loud.

One thing that bothers me a bit about the monitors though is the hissing that they produce whenever they’re on. If you start playing something you can’t hear it, but it always comes back once there’s nothing going on. It’s not too noticeable at first, but once you hear it, it’s hard to tune it out. So usually, I’ll just reach over the back and turn them off when I’m done using them for the day.

Overall, the JBL monitors are a lot better to mix on compared to the laptop speakers and headphones that I was using before. Even just using them to listen to music sounds really good. The only thing that I’d really complain about is the hissing, but even then, I still really like them.

Rode M5 & Scarlett 2i2

Over the winter break, I got a pair of Rode M5 microphones and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. I was able to record some things with them, and the Scarlett even came with some extra plug-ins. So this week, I’ll be writing about my experience using the microphones and audio interface.

The Rode M5s came as a pair of pencil condensers which means they have a smaller diaphragm making them more responsive and detailed. The cylindrical shape also makes them easy to position. They also came with microphone clips and pop filters for each microphone which was really useful. However, I feel like the clips were a bit too tight. While they are supposed to be tight enough to make sure your microphones don’t fall out, these ones made getting the microphones in really difficult.

I’ve only used one other microphone to record with before, and although I don’t know the name of it, that’s what I’ll compare the Rode M5s to. Using a spaced pair setup towards the fretboard and bridge to record guitar I would say that the M5s definitely pick up a lot less room noise. I also think that they picked up some more of the high frequencies compared to my previous microphone, but that could’ve just been from positioning. Having two microphones also helps create a much wider stereo image compared to using one microphone.

Moving on to the Scarlett 2i2, it has four different inputs, two XLR and two 1/4″ however only two can be used simultaneously. The main reason why I ended up getting a new audio interface is because I needed to be able to have two XLR inputs available at the same time to record using the M5s in stereo. All the knobs for things like gain and volume feel really smooth and the two line outputs at the back were needed to connect the monitor speakers that I got soon after.

Comparing the Scarlett 2i2 with the previous Apogee One I was using, it sits a lot easier on the desk and has much more input options. The noise between both of them is quite minimal so there’s not much of a difference there. However, the software on the Scarlett is much easier to navigate and change settings. The different plug-ins that came with the Scarlett are also really useful as well. Some of the VSTs sound really cool, so I want to try using those soon.

Overall, the Rode M5s and Scarlett 2i2 are big upgrades to my recording setup. The M5s allow me to record in stereo while reducing room noise and getting more detail. The Scarlett makes it possible to use the microphones and also allowed me to have outputs to connect to my future monitors. Next week, I’ll write about the new JBL 305p MKIIs I got over the break as well.