Stuff that has been interesting

So this happened- the MDR-Z1R with the balanced 4.4mm Kimber Kable arrived from Japan last week- the replacement for the MDR-R10 legendary biocellulose headphone from the 80/90s headphone line in Sony, it has been met with a lot of polarizing views- some as far as saying its not worth listening compared to the lowly M50 Audio Technica headphone which is more than 20x cheaper. Others though have lots of praise for it- it seems to pair very well with the other Sony Signature Series items like their amps. Certainly it has not been as universally praised as the R10. And in a see of multi kilo buck headphones available (seemingly arbitrarily multi kilo buck priced aside from the fact that people are willing to pay that for headphones now in the audiophile world including me after delaying it for years) its hard to stand out- the HD800s and Focal Utopia and Meze Empyrean probably stand out to me as more accepted headphones with critics to a minor degree. For me, the heritage of Sony headphones and my fanboyism of course won out- I bought these and the IER-Z1R blind. I’ve been immensely pleased with both of them.
They both had quite the amazing unboxing experience- I was quite familiar with the changes in Sony house sound over the years from the leaner SA5000/LA500ED tuning to the more Beats by Dre thicker sound that divided HeadFi up. Fortunately I am one who likes both types of tuning so it worked out well for me. I like having different cans for different listening experiences and the idea this was to replace the legendary R10 was just too much to ignore. So far, listening impressions have been really favorable- I use them primarily on my UDA-1 amp/DAP- I’m hoping to get the TA-ZH1ES amp at some point – the UDA-1 will be delegated to the LA500ED speakers and the TA-ZH1ES for my cans.
I love reading the history of classic tech – esp tech I grew up reading about but never imagined owning because they were priced beyond my means- esp the VAIO computers and Mac line; the R10 is one of those cans- I am quite thankful that I managed to snag a pair of SA5000s for a reasonable price which was the pair I wanted the absolute most; the R10 is a can I’m not sure about – at this points its so rare the price is absurdly high. And the diaphragms are a bio cellulose matter which I’m not sure how well it holds up- I’ve read reports of drivers dying in the R10 and Qualia 010 headphones which would be so killer for me at the rarity and price to pay for these. So its not a R10 but the MDR-Z1r is a nice heritage item for me.
The IER-Z1R is more interesting- I really was not thinking of picking this up- I’m still a headphone over earphone guy and for a long time I thought spending this kind of dough on earphones seemed less enticing vs headphones. This was available to me almost immediately after I defended my PhD and ….I went for it. I do love the styling in particular on these- the silver color and zirconium finish really does remind me of jewelry they were trying to imitate. Its also a lot more portable for me using my rig set up when I don’t want to be tied down with headphones. I’m likely to not upgrade the cable on this ear phone- I love the styling of the silver cables and the feel is very flexible and premium feeling unlike the wire on the XBA-H3. The MDR-Z1R stock cable is a bit bland though so the Kimber Kable is a nice upgrade in styling- I’m not sure if there is a noticeable difference for the cable change sound wise- I have seen so many ideas on cable and sound – it feels more like marketing to me, but there are some sworn audiophiles regarding cable differences in sound. I just like the styling a lot of the Kimber Kable.
I got pair of dedicated weight lifting shoes after years (like two decades!) of lifting. I managed to find a nice pair in the Reebok outlet – surprise for sure, I was looked for the Nike or Adidas lifting shoes- there were no Nikes available and the Adidas lifting shoes were….really bland. Like I know they are aiming for flat and stable but there did not seem much to differentiate them from a pair of converse shoes (which I know lifters do enjoy); the Reebok on the other hand have a nice extended platform that gives a nice stable area to help esp. with squats and deadlifts; a nice strap feels like my wrist wrap and tightens the shoe to my liking. I also like the styling- I am used to gaudy colors on my shoes, so this nice white/tan/black combo is a nice change.
I’ve been making great gains in the half cage so far- having an actual cage to do squats has been incredible comapred to the machine squats and dumbbell squats I was accustomed to before- my deadlift feels much much more comfortable with the two inch barbell bar compared to the one inch barbell, and the squat is slowly getting up there. But more bigger for me was being able to crack three plates on the bench press for a PR – I managed to get a 310 lb lift after 24 sets of 8 reps at two plates. I remember the journey to two plates in undergrad being a huge deal- this is another level that I didn’t imagine going. I did consider whether I would want to crack 4 plates bench at some point but the immense number of pec tear injuries that came up when I googled it sort of made me happy to stay here. I’m hoping to get a three plate squat by the end of a year from now- I think thats doable. I’d love to get 500lbs in deadlift- 390 including bar is relatively easy for me – I know 407 on the one inch bar was more of a challenge before. I think if I focus on training in earnest its doable. I just don’t want to get any injuries and those numbers might be within my safe ranges. I also had a brief existential crisis where I was worrying I was not doing deadlifts right seeing my buddy do a full ground stop on his lifts between reps while i held it above ground- but realized he was doing standard deadlifts and I was doing Romanian deadlifts. So I’m fine now. My squat needs deeper movement though. And I think my chest is not clean.
Picked up a bike! Really excited to grab a refurbed Rocky Mountain Solo 10 bike – I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on the bike but I also didn’t want a generic department store bike- W got a CCM one that works for her but was not exciting to me (to her credit, after riding the Solo 10 for some time, the CCM’s shocks are actually really comfy). The selling point for me was the lightness of the bike- the Solo 10 is an aluminum/carbon fiber build and it is freaking light- I know there is a lot more in the upper echelon of bikes but this is a really nice addition for me. Plus, made in Canada! (even some of the fancy bikes from Cervelo are not made in Canada). And supporting local bike community too is nice.
immediately the bike underwent repairs- the chain snapped and the derailleur just fell off. Really frustrating start. I learned about cross chaining and how that creates stress on the bike. So far two repairs in, and the bike seems to be ok now. Really loving it so far. and the local bike community was pretty incredible to meet as well, a welcome addition to contrast the isolation of COVID 19 shut downs and the community news that seemed to indicate society was full of horrible awful things. Really wish I had gotten into cycling earlier- the idea was to give me a low impact exercise to help with the high number of injuries I was getting in running (which might actually be a result of running with vapormax shoes but that’s another story- well maybe a short story- they look really cool but the cushioning is making me run weird and damaging my big toe joint in both feet). But just riding in a bike has been great in general. I’ve just zipped away on my breaks to do some reading far off and thats been really refreshing.
All the incoming new weights- two inch weights replacing all the one inch stuff I personally had brought in years ago (like a decade almost). The new stuff has been awesome to use.
I had picked up an FE lens – I wasn’t planning on doing too many FE lenses and certainly another 70-XXX lens didn’t seem necessary since I had the 70-300 G SSM II and 135mm f1.8 CZ; but this popped up for a decent price and I had always been kicking myself for not grabbing it when the Sony Store shut down at the enormous discount of 50% off. This was a decent deal used for near mint. So far the 70-200 f4 has been a really nice addition and it seems that the 70-XXX range is my favorite range to shoot with – esp when out and about for portraits. Its very versatile – and I often don’t need the high aperture advantage of my faster primes with the limited range of primes. The 70-200 f4 G balances well on the original a7 with a vertical battery pack; its a little weird without the bat pack. I love shooting it as much as I do with the a99 ii and the 70-300 G SSM II
I did end up finding my holy grail a99 ii body- it just made sense for an a-mount shooter like me to have the peak a mount body. While the high ISO performance of the a99 never bothered me tremendously, the AF speed certainly did- especially with its limited number of AF points and continuous tracking. The a850 body I could forgive- that was first generation full frame body and old AF. The completely horrible hybrid performance of the a7 mark I was kind of a huge let down – I expected more being mirrorless even if first gen. The a99 ii provides both excellent AF ability and high ISO performance- obvs not as good as modern mirrorless but good enough that I don’t care. Its really solid- the beefy DSLR styling but EVF benefit of mirrorless gives a nice balance of handling and shooting experience. And the battery life of the M batteries is great- much better than the W battery in the a7. Its definitely the body that finally made me feel content and no longer in need of missing out feelings. For now, I think a wide angle lens might be in order but my a-mount shooting range is solid. I am delegating the FE mount shooting to light weight zooms- likely thef4 options- I don’t see a need to have primes or fast lenses when I already have a good range in a-mount. I also don’t like how heavy fast zooms balance on mirrorless bodies, so again I don’t have a need to replicate my a-mount lenses in FE mount.

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