Friday, May 9, 2008

KC the electrochemical cell

I got new earphones. The legendary Audio Technica CK7. They're my 3rd pair of canalphones, i.e. earphones that don't just sit on your external ear, but are jammed right into the ear canal. Sorta like earplugs. This makes them extremely good at isolating external noises, like that irritating old lady in the bus gossiping in some strange Chinese dialect so loudly that you wanna make her taste your bare knuckles.

But shoving objects into the earhole. Sounds painful? Yeah it takes some getting used to, but it's worth the hassle - I've been using canalphones for 4 years or so and apart from having to make sure that your ears are bone dry whenever you use them. (It's a REAL infection risk - and I've gone through that route before.)

OK here's the prerequisite introduction yada yada etc. These are high-end canalphones with titanium housings and huge 11mm drivers (i.e. the coil-diaphragm assembly one often inaccurately calls a 'speaker'). They come with 3 different sizes of rubber flanges so you can get a good fit.

So how does those Audio Technica CK7 fare?

Sound quality:
Excellent. They're easily the best in its class in rendering accurate vocals. Leona Lewis sounds like Leona Lewis, unlike for the Crossroad Mylarone where Leona Lewis prolly sounds more like a Leona Lo (a well-known Singaporean male-to-female transsexual). What is equally impressive is that you can make out every peculiarity of each Boyzone member's voice. And if you're going to ridicule me for liking Boyzone, you suck. They're one of the best boybands. Ever.

Treble extension is good, with a gentle taper-off towards the highs. Bass is deep but rather underwhelming. These are no earphones for dance and other bass-heavy music.

The soundstage is particularly sweet a canalphone. In other words, the band sounds like its playing in front of you, with the guitarist on your left, keyboardist on your right and the drummer's numerous cymbals and toms sprawled halfway across the stage. And oh, these earphones are very unforgiving of poor-quality recordings. Never. Ever. Attempt to listen to low bitrate (128kbps and below - gasp!) audio files on them.

Feels pretty solid. Has a Y-cord which is a little more obtrusive than a behind-the-neck J-cord. However, J-cords have asymmetrical wire lengths for the sides, and that's audiophile anathema.

Microphonics, which is the irritating phenomenon where the sounds of wire sliding against clothing is very uncomfortably conducted through the wires and into your ears, is reasonable for the CK7s, unlike the Creative EP630 I had which had me enduring puke-inducing thumps and grinds whenever I walked down the stairs.

The included flanges felt quite soft and comfortable. However, the S-sized flanges are tiny, the M-sized flanges are a little too large for me and the L-sized flanges would probably be most suited for a reasonably-sized teenage Asian elephant.

Good thing is, the flanges are interchangeable between Panasonic's and Creatives. The Panasonic flanges that I had been using on both my Panasonic HJE50 and Creative EP630 are going to see even more use on my CK7. 4 years and they're far from melting into a rubbery goo. Ain't too shabby eh?

The crunch:
At $119, they're embarrassingly expensive for earphones. ("Don't you have better things to buy?" "I'm happy with my $10 earphones") But they work great for me. And they just might for you too.

My mom refuses to admit that Michael Jackson's Billie Jean sounded great on them - she's particularly impressed by the wide soundstage, or 'stereo effect' as she calls it.


But sometimes, I fear for any adverse electrogalvanic reaction that might happen between my titanium earphones, my aluminium-clad iPod nano and me.

After all, with the copper wires they form a closed circuit. And considering that human beings are essentially bags of saltwater, you can easily see how the KC-iPod-CK7 system is a classical electrogalvanic cell, complete with anode, cathode and salt bridge(KC).

Will my iPod corrode, will my earphones fuse to my iPod via electrogalvanic welding, or will I turn mutant? Only time will tell.


I presented a case for the grand rounds in Nearly Unaccessible (sic) Hospital on Wednesday! Woke up extra early, only to reach there almost-late due to the perennial traffic jams around the area.

Scrambled to get everything ready, loaded the slides into the computer and it was showtime.

It seems like only yesterday when I used to be all panicky whenever I had to present to a crowd. I guess, I gotta attribute my confidence to medical school and to my experiences when I was relief teaching in a school. At that time, that 'yay-I-can-really-teach!' was absolutely confidence boosting.

Rambled on about the case, to all the VERY senior doctors, the doctors training to be specialists, the nurses and psychologists in the department, and the year 3 juniors who were doing a posting in the department.

I wonder if the attentive looks on the sweet boys and girls in year 3 were directed towards the topic I was speaking on or towards my suave body and cute demeanour... Oh dream on, KC.

Presentation more or less went well. Except the painful realisation that I had presented it thinking that the last episode of the patient wasn't really a relapse of Tourette Syndrome, but an anxiety disorder that had brought upon the worsening of symptoms. Argh. I'm noob.

It was a short 10 minute presentation, followed by the patient interview and the doc elaborating on Tourette syndrome.

I dunno if the year 3 juniors were impressed, but one of them asked me questions about the case after that! So I didn't sound that noob I guess. Chatted with a couple of them about their posting, then updated another classmate on a project, then I left for home.

Great success!


Oh no. I'm getting fat and unfit. My BMI is 22.6 which is 0.1 too high by new local standards. Oh no. And that's some pretty nasty irony when I'm currently doing a sports medicine posting...

So I went for an evening run, activating the running muscles I had not used in 2 weeks or so. Cross-training is important, as cycling uses very different muscle groups from running.

Needless to say, I had totally de-conditioned and the short run was slow and painful.

Emo cat agrees.

Think I had better ramp up my training!

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