Category Archives: Hardware Reviews

We are constantly getting a wide variety of hardware and software to test and exercise under a range of conditions. As you might expect, some work better than others, some play nicely with others (or not), and a few are genuinely pleasant surprises. Here you’ll find a collection of reviews on a range of products. We’ll be updating this section frequently as we run across new stuff, so come back soon and often!

Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved

When something appears to be good to be true, watch out! I keep poking around on my new Dell 7080 Micro and learned something interesting, but also mildly distressing, about the configuration I ordered. The essentials show up as the DRAM frequency in the lead-in graphic for this story. The rated speed for that module is 2933 MHz, the reported rate is 1463.2 (doubled = ~2926 MHz). Something is amiss, eh? A quick trip to the manual’s memory section means makes this Dell 7080 Micro RAM puzzler solved.

RTFM = Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved

When I did the math, I saw the reported memory clock rate was half the SODIMM module’s rated speed. Immediately I suspected something might be up with dual-channel vs. single-channel memory performance. Ack! I was right: the very first entry in the memory section of the 7080 Micro manual reads as follows:

Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved.manual-noteI’m now aware that doubling up on memory is the right way to go on this machine. Sigh.

Turns out that the clock rate information is what it should be, though. DDR memory like this fetches two chunks of data with each cycle cycle. Hence the term “double data rate,” or DDR.

Doubling Up Is Good, So That’s What I’m Doing

I just ordered a pair of 16 GB G.Skill RipJaws modules for the machine. They’re rated for DDR4 3200, which means they’ll loaf along at the 7080 Micro’s default clock rate of 2933 with ease. I’m guessing further that the winsat mem command will show an improvement from its current level of 15954 MB/sec (the P-5550 reports 32945 by comparison, and I’m expecting something more along those lines). We’ll see.

But wait! I still have Dell’s Review Unit of the 7080 Micro, so I just booted it up to run the winsat mem command there. It has two 16 GB memory modules. And sure enough, the results are significantly higher than those for the single module unit: 26323 MB/sec hits more than halfway between the single-module value of 15954 and the P-5550 value of 32945. That’s an improvement of just over 31 percent. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll see on my unit once it’s upgraded, too. (Same CPU, same motherboard, so why not?)

I’ll know for sure sometime later today, because Amazon says my order will arrive no later than 10 PM tonight. While I was at it, I also purchased a Samsung EVO 860 1 TB SATA SSD to park in the 7080 Micro’s currently vacant SATA slot. The RAM set me back about $115, and the drive $100, both of which I consider excellent prices.

Given that the 7080 Micro was already pretty fast, I’m guessing this will make it just a tad faster. I’ll report the results of my checks after upgrading the RAM and installing the new SSD later today. Stay tuned!

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Interesting Single-Builder SSD Benefits

Just read an absolutely fascinating story at Tom’s Hardware by Sean Webster. Entitled Not-So-Solid State: SSD Makers Swap Parts Without Telling Us, it’s worth a read. The main point it makes is that many builders of SSDs — most notably Adata and its XPG brand — build SSDs using parts from multiple makers. Their products do change over time because of availability of component parts such as controllers and flash memory chips. In the case the story lays out, a highly recommended drive suffered performance losses owing to replacement of better faster parts with newer slower ones. This leads me to understand there can be interesting single-builder SSD benefits .

Where Interesting Single-Builder SSD Benefits Come From

Samsung, chief among SSD makers, builds all of the parts that go onto its SSDs. Thus, it controls the mix of elements on those devices completely. When constituent parts change, the company always changes its model numbers so that buyers know there’s “something different” on board. Tom’s points to practices from WD, Kingston, Crucial and other makers to indicate that the majority do indeed change model numbers as constituent parts change, too. Thus, the most interesting single-builder SSD benefits clearly come from end-to-end supply chain control. Third-party builders don’t have that luxury, because they buy parts from multiple suppliers.

Where does all this leave me? In fact, I bought an Adata/XPG SSD for my Ventoy “Big Drive.” It’s a 256 GB SX8200 Pro model, the very item that Tom’s Hardware finds fault with in the afore-linked story. Good thing I only use this device for storing and occasionally loading Windows ISOs. It’s new enough that I’m sure it’s subject to the flaws that Tom’s uncovered. If I were using it as a boot or internal SSD I’d be irate. As it is, running it over USB 3.1 means I’d never come close to the theoretical maximum read/write rates anyway.

The Moral of the Story

Ironically, this XPG device is one of two non-Samsung NVMe devices I currently own. The other such device is a Toshiba that came pre-installed in a cheap-o purchase of a year-old Lenovo X380 Yoga laptop. I wasn’t expecting top-of-the-line components because I paid under 50% of the unit’s original MSRP. But from now on, I’m sticking with Samsung NVMe drives, so I can avoid performance dings from covert or undisclosed parts changes in the SSDs I buy and use.

Who knew this kind of thing might happen? I certainly didn’t and I’m grateful to Tom’s for calling it to the world’s attention. It will certainly guide my future NVMe SSD buying habits…

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

DIY Desktops vs Prefab Still Favor DIY

I got started building PCs back in the mid-1990s when I hired a talented young man who worked in the PC parts department at Fry’s to come work with me. He showed me the ins and outs of system construction. Along the way I learned that careful parts selection could indeed deliver a faster, more capable system for less than the price of an OEM pre-fab desktop. That’s why, IMO, DIY desktops vs prefab still favor DIY, 25 years on.

Why Assert: DIY Desktops vs Prefab Still Favor DIY

As I write this item, it’s Cyber Monday. We’re in the market for another desktop here at Chez Tittel. As my son’s PC is getting older — i7-6700 and Z170 vintage, now 5 years old — it’s time to start planning a replacement. My findings show DIY still gets more than prefab, as I will illustrate.

Doing the DIY Thing

Given that major deals are available today, I decided to see what I could get for around $2K either pre-fab or DIY. I’ve already got a case and plenty of HDD storage, so what I need is a PC with a capable CPU, 32 GB RAM, a 1 TB NVMe SSD for boot/system drive, and a next-to-top-rung AMD or Nvidia graphics card. I found some motherboard/CPU bundles for about $550, memory for about $115, Nvidia 2070 $600, Samsung 980 Pro 1 TB $230,  Seasonic 650 Platinum PSU $130 for a total of $1,625. Even if  I price in the case (Antec P8 for $90) and an 8TB drive ($165) total pricing comes in at $1,880.

Looking at Prefab options

Looking around online at Newegg or amazon, with a $1,900 budget (I used a number range of $1,850 to $2,000 for my searches). I mostly came up with 16 GB RAM configurations, 4 to 8 core CPUs,  lower-end GPUs (e.g. Nvidia 1060 or 1070X), 512GB – 1 TB NVMe SSDs (at least 1 generation back from the Samsung 980 Pro), and 1 TB HDD storage. That’s quite a bit less oomph than the same DIY budget, as you’d expect. I did see some pretty amazing refurbished deals on one or two generations back (most Intel) CPUs and kit. It still looks like refurb is the way to go if you want to buy an OEM desktop, especially if it comes straight from the OEM with a like-new warranty (no sytem warranties on DIY systems, only component-level warranties apply).

As an example of a killer refurb deal, here’s an HP Z840 workstation with two Xeon 8-core CPUs, 256 GB DDR4 RAM (!), 1TB SSD + 1 TB HDD, and a Quadro K4000 professional graphics card for $1,750. Now that’s pretty tempting…

This bad boy comes with 16 cores and 256GB RAM. Zounds!
This bad boy comes with 16 cores and 256GB RAM. Zounds!

I’m still sold on DIY

When it’s all said and done, I guess I’m OCD enough that I like picking all my own parts, and putting my own systems together. I do think you get more for your money, but you also have to have the time, the patience and the knowledge to put things together and to troubleshoot and support them for yourself. I realize that puts me in a minority, but I can live with that.

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Pluton Enacts Prego CPU Philosophy

Here’s a blast from the past. In 1984, jarred spaghetti sauce maker Prego immortalized the phrase “It’s in there!” for its products. (Note: the link is to a YouTube copy of that very same TV advertisement.) But the tag line lives on, and comes with occasionally interesting applications. It helped me understand that Microsoft’s introduction of Pluton enacts Prego CPU philosophy.

What in Heck Does “Pluton Enacts Prego CPU Philosophy” Mean?

It means that functions currently associated with a separate chip called the “Trusted Platform Module” (aka TPM) move onboard the CPU die. That’s why I’m stuck on the Prego tag line “It’s in there!” It succinctly sums up what Pluton is and does.

On November 17, MS Director of Enterprise and OS Security David Weston wrote a post to the Microsoft Security blog. It explains Pluton nicely. The post is entitled “Meet the Microsoft Pluton processor — the security chip designed for the future of Windows PCs.” Therein, Weston reveals the notion of a ‘Pluton Processor’ as something of a misnomer — but a useful one.  Here’s what he says to help explain Pluton, already “pioneered in Xbox and Azure Sphere.” (Note: I added the emphasis in blue bolded text):

Our vision for the future of Windows PCs is security at the very core, built into the CPU, where hardware and software are tightly integrated in a unified approach designed to eliminate entire vectors of attack. This revolutionary security processor design will make it significantly more difficult for attackers to hide beneath the operating system, and improve our ability to guard against physical attacks, prevent the theft of credential and encryption keys, and provide the ability to recover from software bugs.

Thus, Pluton is not really a processor per se. It’s a set of circuitry included on the die and tightly integrated into the CPU itself. This prevents attacks on communications lanes between a physically disjoint TPM chip and the CPU.

There’s a Scare Factor There

Apparently, recent research shows that the bus interface between TPM and CPU “provides the ability to share information between the main CPU and security processor…” At the same time, “…it also provides an opportunity for attackers to steal or modify information in-transit using a physical attack.” (Note: the preceding link takes readers to a Pulse Security research paper. It explains how sniffing attacks against a TPM permit BitLocker key extraction, used to read an encrypted drive.)

The Pulse Security paper describes ways to boost security to foil such an attack. But MS apparently took the work very seriously. In fact, it introduced Pluton to make communications lanes between CPU and a security processor  impervious to attack.

Can Pluton Boost Windows PC Security?

Sure it can. It will indeed make sniffing attacks like those Pulse Security describes nearly impossible. And it should usher in a new, more secure approach to computing. This applies directly to handling “credentials, user identities, encryption keys, and personal data” (Weston’s words).

The real key, however, is that MS has all of Windows CPU makers on board with Pluton. That means AMD, Intel and Qualcomm . It will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to incorporate Pluton into their CPUs. We’ll wait awhile before the first Pluton-bearing chips hit the marketplace. I’m betting that Pluton will show up for both Windows Server and client OS chips as well (that’s not explicit in Weston’s post).

My best guess is that we’re probably two generations out. For all three makers of CPUs mentioned, it’s likely that their next-gen designs are too far along to incorporate the redesign and layout rework that incorporating a security facility on the die will require. That’s why it’s more likely two (or more) generations out, IMO. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Dell 7080 Micro Performance Amazes

Well, shut the front door, please! Just for grins I started running some of my desultory benchmarks and speed tests on the Dell Micro 7080 I just bought to replace the old mini-ITX box. When you see the numbers and screencaps I’ll be sharing in the following ‘graphs, you’ll understand why my title for this item is “Dell 7080 Micro Performance Amazes.”

Why say: Dell 7080 Micro Performance Amazes?

The numbers do not lie. They’re all pretty incredible, too. Here are some start/boot numbers, with the 7080 left and the (much more expensive) P-5550 numbers right:

Table 1: Shutdown, cold Boot, Restart Times
Description Action 7080 Micro P-5550
 Desktop to machine off  Shutdown  7.92 sec  13.02 sec
 Turned off to desktop  Cold boot  10.46 sec  16.01 sec
Desktop to desktop   Restart 21.26 sec  30.01 sec 

Across the board, then, the $1,200 7080 Micro is significantly faster than the $4K-plus Precision 5550 Workstation. Of course, this takes no account of the more expensive unit’s Radeon Pro GPU. The 7080 Micro simply relies on its built-in Intel UHD Graphics 630 circuitry to render bits on its Dell 2717D UltraSharp monitor, and does so reasonably well. But this comparison is unfair to the P-5550 because UHD 630 is not like a dedicated GPU, especially a professional-grade one like the P-5550’s Nvidia Quadro T2000.

But Wait, There’s More…

The CrystalDiskMark results are also mostly faster than those from the P-5550. The lead-in screenshot shows the 7080 Micro’s CDM results. Compare those for the P-5550 and you get the following, where I’ve bolded the best times in each category so you can see that the 7080 Micro beats the P-5550 in 6 out of 8 categories.

Table 2: CrystalDiskMark Comparisons
CDM Label Action 7080 Micro P-5550
 SEQ1M/Q8T1 Read 3364.8 3373.64
   Write  2790.49 2334.67 
 SEQ1M/Q1T1  Read  2147.04 1716.39 
   Write 2800.90   2056.88
 RND4K/Q32T16  Read  1972.38  630.64
   Write  2152.12  358.26
 RND4K/Q1T1  Read  60.54  41.21
   Write  108.21  119.34

I’m particularly impressed with the 4K Random write numbers with queue depth of 32 and thread count of 16, at which the 7080 Micro kills the P-5550 (read is more than 3 times faster; write is more than 6 times faster). With a queue depth and thread counts of 1 each, it’s a split decision: the 7080 Micro is almost 50% faster at reads, and the P-5550 is about 10% faster at writes. Even when the P-5550 comes out ahead it’s by less than 10% in both cases. To me, that puts the 7080 Micro way, way ahead of the P-5550, especially considering the price differential.

Am I happy with my 7080 Micro purchase? So far, heck yes! More to come as I have more time to do benchmarking. This week is jammed up, but maybe Thanksgiving week I’ll find more time. Stay tuned.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Astonishing Dell Precision 5550 Workstation Encounter

OK, then. Just yesterday, I noticed that Windows Update offered the Dell review unit I’ve got the 20H2 upgrade/enablement package. What happened next surely qualifies as an astonishing Dell Precision 5550 Workstation encounter. Bottom line: it took less than TWO MINUTES to download, install and process the enablement package for 20H2. This is easily 3 times faster than on any other machine on which I’ve run that package, including my brand-new Dell 7080 Micro PC. I knew this machine was fast and capable, but this takes the cake. Really.

It’s odd to see 16 hyperthreads/8 cores show up on a laptop. Apparently, they’re all ready (if not actually thirsty) for work.
[Image is shown 2x actual size for readability. CPU Meter Gadget.]

After Astonishing Dell Precision 5550 Workstation Encounter, Then What?

Good question! I need to run a bunch of benchmarks on this system, then gather up those results for publication here. But in the meantime, this system has taken everything I’ve thrown at it, and simply KILLED it. As you can see from the preceding CPU Meter gadget screencap, this machine comes equipped with an i7-10875H CPU and 32 GB of RAM. So far, I haven’t been able to slow it down much, if at all, by throwing work at it. Desultory benchmarks, like CrystalDiskMark, are frankly breathtaking (this is far and away the fastest system in my house right now). Even CrystalDiskMark turns in some pretty impressive read/write numbers:

By comparison, CrystalDiskMark results from my production desktop with its i7-6700, Asrock Z170 Extreme7+, and a Samsung 950 Pro 512GB SSD, are mostly lower. The top line reads: 1954 (read) and 1459 (write): 58% and 62%, respectively. The second line reads 1550 (read) and 855 (write): 90% and 41%, respectively. This changes in line 3 which reads: 1230 (read) and 391 (write): 194% and 109%, respectively. The two bottom lines are nearly identical, with a 42.49 (read) and 98.99 (write): 103% and 83%, respectively. There’s no question that newer-generation M.2 PCIe technology is faster on bulk reads and writes. And as you’d expect, random reads and writes being shorter and scattered about, those metrics don’t vary overmuch.

Performance Theory, As Usual, Beats Practice

According to its specifications, The P-5550’s SSD is an SK Hynix PC601A 1TB SSD. It’s a PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe device with theoretical maximum of 958 MB/sec per lane, or 3,832 MB/sec for all four lanes. The actual performance is always slower, as the top-line numbers from the preceding CrystalDiskMark output show. But it’s not half-bad and is, in fact, the best-performing NVMe SSD currently at my disposal. At over US$4K for this laptop as configured, it’s pretty pricey: but you do get a lot for the money.

The Cold Boot/Restart Numbers

Here’s a set of average times, taken across three sets of measurements for typical PC on/off maneuvers:

+ From desktop to machine turned off (shutdown): 13.02 sec
+ From turned off to desktop prompt (cold boot): 16.01 sec
+ From desktop to desktop (restart): 30.01 sec

Across the rest of my stable of PCs, these times are at least 50% faster than anything else I’ve got. I still have don’t these measurements for the Dell 7080 Micro PCs, though. Given that they’re also brand-new and have similar CPUs and NVMe drives, i’m expecting numbers more like than unlike the preceding ones. Stay tuned! I’ll report that soon in another post.

For the moment, suffice it to say that the “Workstation” in the Precision 5550 product name is not just wishful thinking. This system delivers speed, graphics and compute power, in a beautiful, compact package.Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

{WED} SP3 Dock USB Weirdness Well-Documented

I’ve still got a Surface Pro 3 kicking around. It includes an i7-4650U CPU, which the Intel Ark tells me was introduced in Q3’2013. When I bought that machine, I also bought the Surface Pro Dock, which granted me a hardwired Ethernet port, 2 each USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, and a charging cradle. But it hasn’t been problem free. In fact, it’s kinda flaky. I keep a USB 3 drive plugged into the dock for backups and extra storage. But sometimes, the drive “goes away.” It simply drops off the PC. If I unplug the device, then plug it back in, or cycle the power, sometimes the device will reappear, and sometimes it won’t. This works on my external 2TB HDD, but not on my mSATA drives in their Sabrent enclosure. Researching things just now, I see SP3 Dock USB weirdness well-documented at Microsoft Answers and elsewhere. Sigh.

SP3 Dock USB Weirdness Well-Documented
Surface Pro 3 dock

The SP3 Dock has GbE, 2x USB3.0 & USB2.0 ports, plus Mini DisplayPort & audio in/out minijacks.

If SP3 Dock USB Weirdness Well-Documented, Then What?

Alas, when you’ve got known problems with hardware that’s this old there’s not much you can do about it. Checked to make sure I’ve got all the latest/current drivers and firmware (I do). Looked to third-party sources to see if any might address such issues (can’t find anything). Worked through the Dock Troubleshooting advice from MS Support, and there’s no relief there, either. Sigh again.

Now, I have to decide if I want to live with this or get rid of the device. I’m torn. I’d like to fix it, but I’m unable to work my way to a solution. I’ve been thinking about buying a Surface Book 3 when they come out, later this year (or perhaps next year). So there’s no need to be hasty. But it really bugs me when things don’t work like they should.

I’m open to suggestions. Anybody got any? If so, please comment here, or send me an email at ed at edtittel dot com (be sure to put Surface Pro 3 Dock in your subject line too, please).Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

{WED} Diagnosing Dead Windows 10 USB Flash Drives

I’ve probably owned 100+ USB Flash Drives (UFDs) over the years. In that entire time, I’ve had exactly three of them fail. My most recent failure occurred on Monday (March 16). This happened as I tried to build a 1909 bootable installer using the Media Creation Tool. The OS  downloaded successfully. But before the UFD finished building, MCT errored out (“There was a problem running this tool” as shown below). After a second failed try, I found myself diagnosing dead Windows 10 USB flash drives. This time around, the death was irreversible and indisputable. I’ll explain what I found so others can benefit from this experience.

Diagnosing Dead Windows 10 USB Flash Drives.wct-error

The error message doesn’t identify media as the problem explicitly, but it clearly identifies a problem and it fails to complete.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Error Message Helps Diagnosing Dead Windows 10 USB Flash Drives

The error code is 0x80042405, so I turned to the Microsoft Error Lookup Tool for more information. The following PowerShell session screencap shows what it told me, which was both interesting and mysterious.

Diagnosing Dead Windows 10 USB Flash Drives.melt-output

Error message lookup reports a problem with the target disk, with key term “unsupported configuration.”
[Click image for full-sized view.]

I got my next real clue when I tried to find the UFD in Disk Management. It failed to finish loading until I removed the UFD. Obviously, it was having issues recognizing the drive. Then I loaded up MiniTool Partition Wizard (MTPW) and got the following information: “Bad disk.”

Diagnosing Dead Windows 10 USB Flash Drives.bad-ufd

MiniTool Partition Wizard calls out the UFD’s condition as a “bad disk.” That can’t be good!
[Click image for full-sized view.]

None of MTPW’s built-in facilitiees — partition recovery and data recovery, to be more specific — could find any files on the device. There was no path to recovery or reformatting at all. As a last ditch effort, I tried HDD Guru’s HDD LLF Lower Level Format tool (aka HDDLLF.4.40.exe). It couldn’t do anything with the UFD, either. To me that proves conclusively that this UFD is dead, dead, dead. End of story, except to observe that I paid less than US$10 for this 16GB Mushkin ATOM device, so it’s a tolerable loss. Next!Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

{WED} Older Lenovos Need Utility Clean-up

Poking around on my two old Lenovo laptops today, I noticed several of their vendor-supplied utilities are passe. Indeed, now that Lenovo offers its Vantage UWP caretaker app, many older ThinkVantage tools are obsolete. That’s why I assert that older Lenovos need utility clean-up. Lenovo itself will happily let you download and install Vantage on any of its PCs. But it doesn’t automatically remove the older stuff when you do. In fact, if you check information pages at Lenovo (URLs below) for the following items, you’ll see what I mean:

+ (HT501246) Lenovo Quick Optimizer

+ (PD022501) Lenovo Solution Center

+ (DS105970) Lenovo System Interface Foundation

+ (DS012808) Lenovo System Update

+ Thinkpad Settings Dependency

+ ThinkVantage Fingerprint Software*

Note: all of the preceding items, except for the last one, can be safely uninstalled. Happily, the Lenovo Vantage UWP app supersedes all of them (except for the Fingerprint software, which must be at version 6.0 or higher for Windows 10 users). Likewise, do NOT uninstall Lenovo Service Bridge: it remains necessary to report your Lenovo PC’s serial and model number info back to the Lenovo servers.

Older Lenovos Need Utility Clean-up.SolutionCenter

The old-fangled Solution Center and its various brethren are all now longer under developer support. Most of them can go.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Why Do Older Lenovos Need Utility Clean-up?

Good question! Apparently, Lenovo left it to device owners to root out these older items (except for the Fingerprint Software, which you must keep if you have an older fingerprint reader and want to keep using it). Methinks they should’ve offered a clean-up utility. Better yet, the Lenovo Vantage installer should look for these passe items and offer to uninstall them as part of its install process. I’ll be communicating this back to Lenovo, in hope that they might listen to — and possibly even heed — this plea. We’ll see.

What About Newer Lenovos? Do They Need Clean-up, too?

I checked my newer Lenovos, of which I have four: two 2018-vintage X380 Yogas, 1 2018 vintage X1 Extreme, and 1 2019 vintage X390 Yoga. All had the older System Update utility installed, except for the 2019 X390 Yoga. Consequently, I did a bit of clean-up on those newer laptops, too. All’s well now, though.

 Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Mixcder E10 ANC Bluetooth Headphones Are a Real Bargain

From time to time, people contact me to ask me to review their products. That’s how I’m trying out a pair of Mixcder E10 Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth headphones. So far, they’re a great set of low-to-modestly-priced headphones with excellent product build and sonic characteristics. Here’s what comes with the Mixcder E10 ANC Bluetooth Headphones, from one of their publicity stills:

E10 entire kits

Clockwise from top left: E10 headphones, old-fashioned dual jack airplane audio adapter, genuine leather zip case, dual mail mini-RCA cable, mini-USB to USB-A cable.
[Click image for full-sized view. Source: Mixcder.com.]

Where Does Ed Get Off, Writing About Audio/Headphones?

I’ve been an audiophile since high school. As soon as I got to college and made some money, I built a HeathKit pre-amp. It went with a Dynaco Tube amp to drive a pair of Arena speakers. My first job after undergrad was as an audio engineer at the Library of Congress (LC). I upgraded to a pair of JBL 4331 Studio monitors. I still used the same pre-amp, with a BGW 250-B solid state amplifier (it still drives my right and left front speakers today).

These days, I run an Outlaw Audio 976 pre-amp/video processor. I also use that same BGW amp, plus 3 Rotel 100-watt solid state amps. They drive a 5.2 setup on Phase Technology speakers. Once upon a time, I attended a summer course on audio engineering at the Eastman School of Music (summer of 1974). This came courtesy of Head Engineer Bob Carneal and the LC.

As part of my job at the LC, I mixed up to 8 channels of audio into stereo. This happened on a Langevin mixing board in the LC’s Coolidge Auditorium. During the “cultural season,” we taped chamber music concerts for public radio distribution. That remote mixing board was backstage. Perforce I had to listen in on a set of “cans” (as we called headphones, back in that now-prehistoric time). My ears hosted Sennheiser headphones that cost over US$300. (The Inflation Calculator says that’s worth $1,737.89 in 2020 dollars.) Those concerts could run two hours, or just a bit over. That explains why I’m (painfully) familiar with extended headphone wear.

E10 Build Quality

As you can see from the preceding photo, $65 to $93 buys a fair bit of stuff. (List price on the website is $112.99; the other prices come from swadeal and Amazon, respectively.) The headphones themselves are substantial, and not overly heavy, at 304 grams (10.72 oz). They’re a closed-ear design. Firm memory foam cups are covered in light leather (or a reasonable fascimile thereof). The headrest is built likewise (memory foam underneath, leather wrapping outside). The cups are labeled “R” and “L” inside. This makes it easy to orient them properly when donning them. The materials are solid and the headset looks able to withstand normal wear-and-tear (and then some, perhaps).

E10 Accessories

I’d have liked it better if the ‘phones sported a USB-C port for charging rather than mini-USB. But the E10 is what it is. Charging is quick: the first full charge took about 94 minutes. A second full charge only took 60 minutes. The maker claims 60 hours of battery life with ANC turned off. ANC turned on cuts that in half (a still-respectable 30 hours). So far, I’ve not been inclined to push things. I’ve not exhausted the battery after more than 20 hours of active use (with ANC turned on, mostly).

A mini-RCA cable runs the ‘phones in wired mode. Another reviewer claims this produces slightly better audio quality than Bluetooth. Personally, I couldn’t hear any difference between the two forms of input myself. But at age 67 my ears probably don’t work as well as Jupit3r’s (the other reviewer) do, either. Take it under advisement, knowing that a wired connection is handy in signal-rich environments or when flying. I guess that’s when the mini-RCA to dual airplane jack might come in handy. But I haven’t flown on any planes that featured such jacks in quite some time. (I just got back from Washington, DC last Saturday, January 4: we flew a Boeing 737 with USB-A ports.)

E10 Listening Experience and Headphone Comfort

I’ve read numerous reviews (see links at the end of this story) that praise these ‘phones comfort and fit. I’m sorry to say I don’t agree. Though the sound quality is quite good,  the phones weren’t comfortable for extended wear. I found myself remembering the “headphone headache” I got in the Coolidge Auditorium after wearing the Sennheiser ‘phones. I couldn’t wear the E10 ‘phones for more than 90-120 minutes without taking a break from their firm grip.

That said, that’s my only gripe with the E10s. The sound quality is good enough that I heard some things amidst my recordings that I’d never heard before. (Not even on my mid-range semi-professional audio rig.) The price is especially attractive, given that you can buy the E10s for under US$100. (In fact, as much as $30 less than that from some sellers.) I have a nearly16-year-old son who’s lost one set of earbuds. He’s also worked his way through two different kinds of Bluetooth headphones over the past couple years. I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to buy him E10s. I’m enjoying them myself, too. I just can’t handle them for more than two hours at a time. YMMV when you put them on for yourself and see how they fit you. They’re definitely worth a listen, in any case.

Other E10 Reviews Worth Reading

Here is a trio of reviews (including the afore-linked one cited earlier in this story) of the E10 headphones. For more info and different perspectives, check one or more of them out!

KnowTechie: Review: Mixcder E10 — Impressive, lag-free noise canceling headphones
Engineering & Technology: Top-of-Mixcder’s-range noise-cancelling wireless headphones for a less-than-a-ton price.
Head-fi.org: Mixcder E10 Review – Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth V5.0 HeadphonesFacebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin