Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones

During last year’s Cyber Monday sales after Black Friday, I decided to get Sony’s WH-1000XM3 ANC headphones. The XM3 headphones have been Sony’s flagship ANC headphones for over a year now. I’ve been using them for a little over a month now, so I’ll be writing about my experience with the headphones.

Initially, I was considering getting the Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones, but compared to the XM3s they were considerably more expensive. However, they did boast a better build and sound quality which I was certainly interested in. I couldn’t justify the price for it though, so I ended up opting for the XM3s.

The headphones have been really comfortable so far, but sometimes if you wear them for a long time your ears might get a bit uncomfortably warm. However, I think this is something that happens with most over the ear headphones anyways. Most of the headphones are made out of plastic which still kind of worries me; especially since the headphones I usually use for playing games feel higher quality while being cheaper. Fortunately, I haven’t had any issues concerning the durability of the headphones yet, but after all, it’s only been a month.

Sound-wise, the XM3s certainly perform much better than any other pair of headphones that I currently have, but I wouldn’t say that they would be better or as good as a pair of studio headphones. I don’t think that the sound quality of the headphones is the main selling point of the headphones although it is important. Most people would agree that the active noise cancellation feature of the headphones is the best part of the headphones. The XM3s have some of the best noise-canceling technology according to a lot of people, and I can say that it definitely works from my experience.

Unfortunately, I do have a few complaints about the headphones though. While they aren’t too big of an issue, I still think there could’ve been some areas of improvement. The first thing is that there isn’t any function for multi-point pairing with the headphones which means you have to repair the headphones if you want to use a different device. A lot of headphones already have this feature, and this was one of the biggest downsides of the headphones. The other issue that I personally don’t really like is the touch controls on the side of the earcup where you control your volume and tracks. Every time you want to change the volume or track without taking out your phone feels really awkward, and sometimes you even perform the wrong action by swiping in a weird direction. Some people have also experienced the touch controls activating without touching the headphones in cold weather, but I haven’t experienced that yet.

Overall, the WH-1000XM3 headphones have been really good in my experience. They’ve been doing everything I’ve expected them to be able to do, and since Sony hasn’t announced a new XM4 model the current XM3s should hold up for a while. The headphones were really easy to set up and get going, and figuring out how to use them was simple as well.

Winter Break

Yesterday was my last school day of the year, and our winter break has just started. School starts again in around two weeks, so I want to have as much fun as possible before our break ends. I’ll most likely be playing video games with friends, but I still have some work to do before we start school again.

For the past month or so I haven’t had much time to play a lot of video games, and since a few of my friends all got Rainbow Six Siege at the same time, we plan on playing together over the break. We have the right amount of people for all of us to play in a group together, so we’re all just waiting until we all have time to play. I also want to play some more Counter-Strike and osu! since I haven’t played either of them in a while.

Most of my courses this semester didn’t give much homework to do over the break, but my math class has an assignment for making notes for our exams that start a little bit after the break ends. I plan on working on it throughout the break, but it shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve kept all the course material in my math binder. I’ve been doing pretty well in the course so far though, and the teacher just wants to make sure that we’re reviewing all of our units before the exams.

If I feel like it, I might also try to play around more with writing for orchestra since my music teachers haven’t really assigned me with anything specific to do. The last time I tried writing for an orchestra turned out pretty badly so I’m trying to improve in that area. My school does an annual student composition showcase during springtime so I’ll see how well I can get with orchestral music by then.

Additionally, I haven’t really caught up with all of the currently airing anime shows this season because I’ve been focusing more on finishing schoolwork. Some shows have already finished airing for this season and the rest should end in the next few weeks. Before the next season starts, I want to finish the shows that I’ve already started especially since most of my friends are already caught up with them.

Overall, this winter break I’m going to try to have a lot of fun with my friends and catch up on some things I’ve missed during school. I hope I get to play a lot more games and talk with some friends. Some of us have already planned to meet up during the break as well.

School Music Concert

Earlier this week I participated in my school’s annual winter music concert. The music department of the school puts on a concert each year with all of the students participating. In the past, I’ve had the opportunity to watch their previous concerts, but since I now attend the school myself I had the opportunity to perform in it myself.

I would say that the preparation for the concert starts as soon as the school year starts because all of the new students in each of the music classes learn how to play their instruments first. The pieces that we performed at the concert were pieces that we learned within the first three months of us picking up our instruments for the first time. In my opinion, I don’t think it really makes sense for the beginner students to perform though. Most of us haven’t played our instruments before until the start of the school year, but the school still makes us perform in a group of just the beginners. For a concert that some people are paying to see I don’t think we had enough experience or practice to perform.

However, while our beginners’ performance wasn’t great, I wouldn’t say that it was terrible. I still wouldn’t have paid to listen to it though. Fortunately, the senior students were able to put on a better performance than we did. Additionally, we had students from another high school come in to perform a few pieces for our concert. You could tell that their students were much better than our music department when you listen to them play.

During the concert, I also had the chance to perform a solo guitar performance, but I wasn’t originally planning to until around two weeks prior. I didn’t end up practicing too much for it, so I made quite a lot of mistakes during the concert. Some people said I did pretty good, but I think it could’ve been much better.

In terms of the rehearsal that went into the concert, we only had one practice run-through of the whole show. It was quite unorganized and there were a lot of times when we didn’t know where to go between performances. I think it would’ve been better to hold at least one more run-through of the show like we did for the school’s musical, but I guess the teachers couldn’t figure out a schedule.

Overall, I would say the concert went alright, but there are a lot of things that can still be changed to improve it. A few last-minute changes were made, rehearsals weren’t organized, and the overall playing could’ve been better. I felt underprepared when we performed, but it could’ve been worse.

School Musical

For the past two weeks, I’ve been helping out at my school for the musical that they do each year. Every year at the high school the drama department comes up with a new story to perform for the community before the winter break. I was helping out with sound and lights for the show this year, so I got to see a lot of what goes on behind the production.

From what I could tell, the actual scriptwriting, dance choreography, and acting practice were done over the course of a few months before the actual rehearsals. Before our first rehearsal, we had to set up the stage and some stationary props. Since the acting was scripted for a stage that was larger than normal, we had to bring out some risers and wooden platforms to clamp and drill to the school’s original stage. We also brought in some rental equipment from the music store down the street because we needed a lot of microphones for the actors.

After setting up all of the equipment we had our first rehearsal over the weekend, and the main thing that we did was deciding who was going to be in charge of what during the show. We also discussed with the drama teacher about what kind of lighting and backdrops she wanted for each scene. I was eventually put in charge of changing the backdrops for each scene. The job itself isn’t too hard since all I do is press button to change a slide on the projector. However, I was told that is was important and I had to remember the cues to for when to switch the backdrop. New students like me weren’t put in charge of anything too difficult or important such as working the sound or light boards because that was left for the senior students.

The next few days were spent actually going through the entire show in order to make sure that everyone knew what was going to happen for the day of performances. This gave us time to make notes on our own individual scripts for whatever we needed to do at specific times. Additionally, we were informed that we needed to make the show shorter for the elementary schools that would be coming in to watch during school hours. This caused a bit of trouble because we had to make sure we knew which part of the script to change to in order to cut certain parts out.

Fortunately, we didn’t have too many problems during our actual performances except for a few things that went wrong such as microphone feedback, actors missing them cues, and curtains not closing on time. I’d say the worst part about being part of the tech crew was that we had to come in pretty early in order to set everything up and we also had to sit through the show over five times. Apparently, it’s been a running joke that the tech crew memorizes some of the lines and choreography by the end of all the shows. You also end up getting all the musical numbers stuck in your head for a while.

In terms of the actual show’s quality, I’d say it was alright, but it definitely could’ve been better. I personally think that the show was a bit too long, and we should’ve had more time to work with the drama department before the actual showings. Additionally, the drama teacher wanted to make a speech at the end of the last show which she didn’t mention anything about until 15 minutes before the end. It ended up with a lot of microphone feedback and she ended up using one the actor’s microphones, so it could’ve been avoided in the first place anyways.

Overall, working on the show was pretty fun since I got to learn a bunch of new things and talk to some new people. The show was actually a slightly altered version of The Greatest Showman, but what I found interesting was that the actors in the drama department were singing the songs differently from the originals. In the end, it turned out okay and the school definitely put in a lot of time, effort, and expensive equipment for the show’s production.

TSO Rehearsal Field Trip

Yesterday, my school’s music department took a field trip to downtown Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall in order to listen to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra rehearse for one of their upcoming shows later in the evening. We also got a chance to ask a few questions for their bass clarinet specialist Miles Jaques and walk around downtown on our own for about an hour or so.

In order to make it on time for the rehearsal, we had to get to school early in order for the bus to get us there on time. The bus ride was around an hour-long, and I think being on a bus with the music department kids is different from other bus rides I’ve been on. Specifically, the band kids because on the way to and back from downtown all you could hear throughout the ride was them singing from the back.

Once we made it to the Roy Thompson Hall we took a group picture and then immediately went inside to get a rundown on the rehearsal schedule and what we’d be listening to. I didn’t get a look at the actual physical program for that night’s show, but all the four pieces they performed were composed within the 20th to 21st century if I remember correctly.

When listening to the rehearse we got the chance to see how the conductor gives notes to certain sections and how the whole orchestra works. Additionally, we moved around the auditorium between pieces in order to get a better look at the different sections of the orchestra. In terms of their playing, you can definitely that they are all professional musicians that have been playing for a long time.

Between the second and third performances was when we got a chance to ask questions for Miles Jaques. He has been playing for the TSO for around two years and has been playing the clarinet since he was twelve years old. We learned a bit about his background, how he got into professional music, what he does in his spare time, and what type of music he listens to outside of classical music.

After all the performances were finished we had a little over an hour to go wherever we wanted around downtown in order to eat lunch, so my friend and I went on Yelp to find places nearby to eat. We found a ramen place called Hakata Ikkousha Ramen which was pretty close by so we went there to eat. I think that compared to the ramen places in Richmond Hill it was a lot better. Once we finished, we had some extra time so we walked around the Metro Centre area before going back to our meeting place.

Overall, I had a lot of fun yesterday especially since I didn’t even have to do any work once I got back to my last period class because we were pretty much at the end of our unit. The rehearsal, question and answer session, and food was a fun way for me to end my week.

Nature Music Update

It’s been a while since I’ve started working on the music for some nature videos that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Last time was when it was about halfway done, but now it’s almost finished and there’s a few more things that I added.

Since the main ideas for the first two sections which are the fall leaves and raindrops are done, I had to figure out what I wanted to do for the last two sections which are a short timelapse of a town in winter and another timelapse of a flower blooming. Our entire project is only around a minute long so each section is around 15 seconds long which means I didn’t really have too much time to work with.

For the town timelapse I ended up writing out a mellow strings section for double bass, cello, and viola since that’s what I was kind of feeling at the moment. It went pretty well, but there were a few harmonies that my teacher pointed out that I fixed later. I also carried over the arpeggiated piano from the previous raindrops section and I think it went well with changing the texture between sections. Right now the section is pretty much considered finished, but I’m thinking about adding a high melody part later if it fits in.

After working on the town timelapse, we realized that our video for the blooming flower was actually really short. Since we liked the strings section from earlier, we decided to carry it over instead of writing something completely new. I think this was a good choice because it wouldn’t really make sense to add an entirely new element in the last 5-10 seconds of the project. We still haven’t really finished it though because although we’re using the same instruments, we felt like the feeling of the music had to change. The idea was decided just yesterday so I’m still trying to figure that part out within the following week.

Overall the project is almost done, but I’m still thinking of adding a few more layers in certain areas. I think that most of the sections sound pretty good individually. I’m mostly worried about how the transitions seem to flow since a lot of the transitions I’ve had in the past have been pretty bad. Other than that, I think the project has been going really smoothly.

Bring Your Kids To Work Day

Last Wednesday was Bring Your Kids to Work Day in Ontario and I got to visit one of my Uncle’s workplaces for a tour. The main point of BYKW day was so that grade 9 students would be able to experience working. It also allows high schools to have the opportunity to open up the grade 9 classes for tours for elementary schools.

Since my dad started working from home, I ended up going to one of my uncle’s workplace. He works at one of Mondelez’s Cadbury plants where they mainly produce chocolate. The people at Mondelez managed to set up a kind of schedule so that the whole day would be organized for us. I actually ended up arriving there early so I spent around an hour going around with my uncle until the other kids arrived.

There ended up only being around a dozen kids altogether and so we all watched the same safety instruction video that showed us all the rules and instructions to follow within the facility. After the video, we did an activity where we had to find some defects with certain candies, and then they explained to us why it’s important that all of their products have to follow certain guidelines. We spent a lot of time in a conference room where different departments of the plant came in to explain what they do and how they got to their current position. There was also a university student doing a coop program that told us a bit about coop programs in general and how beneficial they can be.

After a few presentations from different departments, we got to eat lunch which was some pizza, and then once we finished, they took us down to take a look at the machines that actually make the chocolate. It was pretty loud inside, but I was surprised that you can’t really hear much of it from the office floors. The amount of money that Mondelez invests in their plants was also quite interesting because it seems like they are trying to have a lot of up to date equipment even if it costs a lot to install.

We also took a visit to the president’s office where the original plant president used to work, and we also learned about the history of the plant facility itself. Additionally, they taught us how their marketing strategies have changed in the past and which ones worked and which ones didn’t. The last part of the day was a few more presentations from some other departments and then we were finished.

Once we left Mondelez gave us a lot of their different products from different brands that they own like Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Triscuits, and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. There were all kinds of different flavours of cookies and chocolates. What surprised me was that a lot of gum was included which I didn’t know they produced.

Overall, I think that the Mondelez plant tour was quite interesting. It was fun to see all of their machines and the history, but the presentations were kind of boring. Some of the presenters didn’t know how to use the programs they were presenting on which was kind of funny since I think most of the kids including myself knew what they were doing wrong, but nobody really said anything. I ended up leaving with a bunch of snacks though so it was like trick or treating for me without actually having to go trick or treating.

CS:GO Restriction On Keys

A few days ago Valve announced on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive blog that any new keys bought after this recent update will no longer have the ability to be traded or sold. This new change has sparked a lot of controversy about the game and its future.

The keys that Valve talks about, are apart of the game’s weapon skin system. In CS:GO there are cosmetic skins that you can get when they randomly drop throughout games, or you can buy a key for around two to three dollars and open a case that will give you a random skin. These skins are then tradable or sellable for different things depending on their value. Keys were one of the few items that had a relatively stable price between players, so oftentimes, when trades were made, keys were used to measure an item’s value.

However, a few weeks ago there was a crash in the value of the Argentina peso and people were able to buy keys for a much lower price than usual. A majority of people think that this is the reason why the change was made because Valve lost a lot of money during the time of the crash.

Fortunately, any keys that people have that were before the update will still be able to be traded and sold. However, this also means that tradable and sellable keys have risen in value and are now limited. Some people have been talking about how the game’s popularity will die out since skin trading has been such a large part of the game, and keys were an important asset to the trading community.

After a few days, some alternatives that have come up are using other items that are tradable through Steam. However, I don’t think trading will be the same, and with rumors of Riot Game releasing their new game Project A; it might be possible that CS:GO will lose a portion of its player base.

Overall, I myself am not really affected by this new update since I’ve never really been too involved with trading, but a lot of other people have been. Even if CS:GO loses some of its player base, the skill group I’m in has the majority of players in it, so I don’t think new queue times will be an issue.

Attempting To Write Heist Music

Last weekend, my mom asked me to write some background music for a video that she made that starred our family’s cat Darci. The video showed Darci stealing something off of a dresser and playing with it after, and she specifically wanted a suspenseful feeling during the heist and happy music when she was playing with whatever Darci stole.

I first looked at some references for heist music from movie soundtracks and tried to find some similarities that I could use. After I kind of got the general idea of what I wanted it to sound like, I put some things together in Logic using the software instruments that were already there. I used a piano, strings, guitar, trumpet, drums, and synth for the entire thing. A low droning synth or ambient sound was something that most of the movie soundtracks had in them, so I went through some of the things that Logic had in its sound library until I found something that sounded similar.

Another thing that was quite common was a piano intro playing a bassline over some quick hi-hats which wasn’t too hard to put together. Later when things started to buildup I added a heavier drum beat with Logic’s “drummer” feature and the rest of the instruments. Since it was something I wanted to finish pretty fast, I didn’t really focus on the chords and what harmonies worked well together. I kind of ended up just putting in a bunch of random notes until they sounded okay.

The one thing that I had a lot of trouble with was the transition from suspense to cheerful since transitions have always been something that I’m really bad at writing. In my opinion, the transition sounded like it was from a video game where you beat the boss and a short victory jingle played. I used the exact same instruments from the previous part because I wasn’t trying to make it any more complicated than it was.

I also ended up using the feature that my theory teacher showed me and put the video inside Logic as I was working on the music. It helped with knowing when the transition should start, but because I had the video inside along with the music, I had some trouble figuring out how to export the whole thing.

Overall, it was a fun little thing that I threw together in around two hours, but it was interesting to try and write something in a specific theme that I’ve never tried before. In the future, I might try and do something else in a different style but spend a bit more time working on it.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive Update

Yesterday, Valve released a new update that quite a few people have been talking about. It includes the release of a new Cache remake that has been highly anticipated in the past month. Additionally, there was the release of the new CS20 weapon case and sticker capsules to celebrate Counter Strike’s twenty-year anniversary.

At first, it was speculated that these two additions were going to take place along with a new operation. Operations are pretty big events in Counter Strike where there are all sorts of missions to complete in order to get certain rewards. The last operation was Operation Wildfire which was over three years ago. A lot of people were hopeful for a new operation since the past few updates have been improving the CPU bot intelligence. Rumors started spreading about how it was to help plan for the future operation which never came.

Nonetheless, we still got a somewhat new map depending on how you look at it and a new case as well. The new Cache is almost identical to the old version. The main differences are the new striking visuals and a new window that was added to the Counter-Terrorists’ Z or “connector”. It allows the Counter-Terrorists to have an additional way to contest the middle area of the map which was previously a little bit easier for the Terrorists to control. Another change that is most likely going to influence gameplay is the reduced height of the wall between the truck and quad positions. It makes it possible now to throw grenades from truck towards the A site giving the Counter-Terrorists an easier time on a post plant retake.

The new CS20 weapon case has introduced a new knife except it’s not exactly new. In the 1.6 version of Counter Strike there was only one knife known as the “classic knife” and it had a very unique liquid looking pattern on the edge of the blade. Not only has the classic knife been added to Global Offensive, but there are also the Global Offensive variants that the classic knife can also come in such as Case Hardened, Fade, and etc. Some current listings for the classic knife go up to over a thousand dollars.

Overall I think a lot of people are excited about this new update, and I’ve already seen several videos on YouTube of people opening up the new cases. Additionally, I think the community will be working hard on finding new grenade line ups and tricks on the new Cache which will be interesting to learn.