Psalm 119:153-160

Psalm 119:153-160 all begin with resh (ר).

Look at my afflictions and rescue me
for I do not forget your laws.

Plead my legal cause and redeem me
let me live in your word.

Salvation is far from the wicked
for they do not seek your statutes.

Your mercy is great, oh Lord
let me live according to your justice.

Many are my persecutors and my adversaries
I have not stretched from your decrees.

I saw the treacherous ones and felt disgust
because they do not keep your word.

See that I love your precepts
Lord, let me live according to your steadfast love.

The sum of your word is truth
and every one of your righteous judgments is forever.

All About That Treble, No Bass: Upgrading Computer Audio to get that boom, boom, boom

Have you ever noticed that your personal computer’s audio lacks the bass necessary to round out the music you love? I have, and painfully so. In my quest to achieve a balanced audio spectrum from my computer, I have resorted to some affordable solutions, but the results have not always been the same. I want to help others learn about their options, so that they can upgrade their computer’s audio to get both crystal clear highs and deep booming lows. I myself have an Apple iMac computer. I have used one General Electric (GE) 5.1 system, one Klipsch THX-certified Promedia 2.1 system, and a custom 2.1 system using parts from AudioEngine and Pioneer. I will break down each system, so that you might learn what will work for you.

The GE 5.1 system was good for creating greater volume but was still all about that treble, no bass. Even though it had a subwoofer, it lacked any sort of power, and it’s undertones were really subverted. However, this system was only $50, which was perfect for a broke college student. If you are looking to simply add some volume with a little bit of bass, a system like this one might be just for you. However, if you are looking for some real power out of your subwoofer, you’ll need to get something more expensive, such as the Klipsch Promedia 2.1 system.

The Promedia 2.1 system is about $190. Like the GE system, it is an analog unit. It’s satellites deliver the crystal clear highs one would expect from a THX-certified system. It also delivers deep booming lows, after all it has 200W of power—35W to each satellite and 130W to the 6-inch subwoofer. It provides well rounded bass and treble. Personally, I found the best performance from this system when turning off my iTunes equalizer. If you want a moderately cost-effective 2.1 system that gives you great treble and decent bass, this system works well, especially for music and movies that do not include big sonic boom lows. However, for me, it was not enough, because I was used to hearing those lows from some of my favorite songs, such as, but not limited to, Hybrid Earth by ERRA (the boom occurs at 1:46), Lonely Giant by Elitist (the booms occur at 0:43 and 2:32), and A New Beginning by Threat Signal (the booms occur at 1:34; 2:44; 3:35; 3:42; 3:50; 3:58; 4:06; 4:14; and 4:18). I tried using the iTunes equalizer to no avail to compensate for the missing bass. I knew it was missing something by comparing it to the audio experience I have in my car, which has an 8-inch subwoofer. The lows are all there in these songs when in the car, so I expect it to be present when listening from my computer. So, I turned to a custom system featuring AudioEngine A2+ speakers and a Pioneer SW8 100W subwoofer.

The custom system with AudioEngine and Pioneer speakers provides crystal clear treble with deep booming bass. It came at a price, though still affordable. The AudioEngine A2+ speakers were $250 for the pair and the Pioneer SW8 was $160. Purchasing cables to connect the A2+ speakers to the subwoofer added an additional $20. In all, this setup cost $430. While the Klipsch was analog, the AudioEngine is both digital and analog. It came with the appropriate USB cable for a digital connection and a 3.5mm cable for an analog one. I am using the digital connection. The AudioEngine produces equal treble to that of the Promedia. However, where the Promedia 2.1 lacked in bass, this system more than makes up for it due to the Pioneer subwoofer. All the booms that I could not hear in my favorite songs with the GE and Klipsch speakers are now present. What is odd is that both the Promedia and the Pioneer subwoofers are both rated down to 38Hz. In theory, they both should be able to create the same deep booming lows. Yet, they do not. I believe it has to do with at least one of three factors. First, the Promedia featured a side-firing 6-inch cone while the Pioneer features a down-firing 8-inch cone. Second, the Promedia was a 6-inch cone while the Pioneer is a 8-inch cone. Either the down-firing subwoofer is superior or the 8-inch cone is superior. Finally, it could be the bigger enclosure in the Pioneer subwoofer. Maybe it is a combination of the three differences? All of these theories are merely conjectures, because I really do not know as I am not an audio engineer. However, in praxis, this system works. It costs more than twice that of the Klipsch, but the audio experience is perfect. If you are looking for a system that is affordable and hits both the highs and the lows regardless of a movie or a music file, this is the best system in my experience.

There we have it. For $50, the consumer can add more volume but not greater audio clarity, for less than $200, the consumer can get clearer treble and deeper bass, but, for less than $450, the consumer can get the full listening spectrum. My recommendation is to choose the system that best fits your price range and your listening needs. If you listen to jazz for example, you may not need the ability to hit those deep sonic booms. If all you do is watch YouTube clips on your computer, you might not even need a THX-certified system. Purchase according to your needs as well as your means, and you will be satisfied, but, if you want that boom, boom, boom, I would recommend the AudioEngine A2+ speakers along with the Pioneer SW8. It is a powerful yet still affordable combination that gives you balanced bass and treble through the full listening spectrum.

How to control iTunes volume completely independently from the system’s volume

Like me, do you ever want to control iTunes audio independently from than the maximum audio of your system? I love audio. I love music. However, I also want balance between my system volume and my iTunes listening experience. I am happy to report that I have found the solution—AirPlay!

AirPlay is a media protocol over WiFi that Apple developed specifically to allow wireless streaming of music through iTunes. As a result, it will allow you to drive iTunes audio independently from your system’s volume.

Now, what will work with AirPlay? What are inexpensive as well as expensive means for using it? 

I’ve been researching this stuff for a couple of months. This blog post documents my current findings. Maybe it will help you out, oh random reader. 

Before I get into all of the details about the desired rigs and setups, my current conditions ought to be noted. First, I’m using an iMac that only has a 3.5mm output port—no TOSLINK. Second, by extension, I’m using OS X with iTunes. Third, I have Klipsch 2.1 Computer Speakers connected to my 3.5mm output. It has a 6″ driver for the subwoofer. For future reference, note that I have an AirPort Extreme router. Now, I have the Klipsch main volume set to about 33% (an approximation) with OS X set to 50%; the subwoofer volume on the Klipsch controls is also set to the recommended 33% (an approximation). Meanwhile, I typically have iTunes at 33%. The problem I experience is that my iTunes is dialed in where I want, but system sounds and other applications, such as Safari with YouTube, can be overpowering until I adjust that application’s or media’s volume. I would prefer that the system be at 10% while iTunes ranged from 33%-100%. Unfortunately, I cannot do that with this setup. In my research for finding a solution, AirPlay is just what I need to free iTunes from the system’s volume limits.

I should also mention that there are AirPlay speaker solutions. However, they typically do not have the latest Wireless N or Wireless AC technology. The moment you connect up a Wireless A, B, or G device to a Wireless N or Wireless AC network, it will reduce the quality of the network itself, which would be an undesired effect. Furthermore, these speakers and docks are typically expensive for what you get. Besides, said speakers and docks do not have good bass range, and neither do they have subwoofer outputs. If you want quality bass, you will want a different option, such as the ones below. 

If you want AirPlay on the cheap, there is at least one solution. Get an AirPort Express and a 3.5mm mini to RCA cable. These will cost you about $120 total. Then, connect them up to your existing stereo as follows:

  • AirPort Express 3.5mm Output > 3.5mm mini to RCA cable > Existing stereo RCA input

iTunes will allow you to stream your music wirelessly to this Express. The volume is totally independent of your system, so it can be as loud as the stereo is set to, but iTunes can control the volume from within the application. You could set the stereo hardware to half volume and then adjust the software volume in iTunes or from the Remote app for iOS. 

If you want a good AirPlay setup, which I would assume is a 2.1 speaker system, you might want to consider purchasing an AirPort Express, 3.5mm mini to RCA cable, a powered subwoofer, such as the Pioneer 8″ subwoofer, a subwoofer mono cable, and the iLive ITP180B soundbar (it happens to be an iPhone/iPod docking tower). The soundbar is cheap, but it has one rare feature: a subwoofer output. For the cost, you cannot go wrong. For the subwoofer, I would recommend an 8″ driver. Anything less is not going to get you the full range you would want (my Klipsch system has a 6″ driver, and I can attest that it does not give me all of the super low booms that my 8″ Pioneer subwoofer gives over AirPlay in a different room); anything more will be overkill. This setup would cost no more than $350, depending on the subwoofer you get and where you buy the gear (Amazon seems to have some great deals). The setup would be as follows:

  • AirPort Express 3.5mm Output > 3.5mm mini to RCA cable > iLive RCA Input; Subwoofer Output > Subwoofer cable > Subwoofer Left or Mono Input

The above setup is probably what I will be doing. I’m not made of money, so it is an appealing solution. However, I did figure out a premium solution that would replace my Klipsch setup and add AirPlay.

Purchase a 7.2 receiver with multi-zone capability and built-in AirPlay. You can connect your computer’s speakers through this setup as well as the AirPlay speakers in a separate—independent—zone. If money were no obstacle, here’s what I would do:

This gear would cost around $1200 depending on where it was purchased. Here’s how it would be set up:

  • Zone 1 (Computer speakers)
    • Input
      • Computer 3.5mm Output > 3.5mm mini to RCA cable > Pioneer Receiver RCA Input
    • Output
      • Pioneer Receiver Left, Right Speaker Outputs > 14-guage speaker wire > Pioneer Bookshelf Pair #1
      • Pioneer Receiver Subwoofer 1 Output > Subwoofer Cable > Pioneer Subwoofer #1 Left Input
  • Zone 2 (AirPlay speakers)
    • Input
      • AirPort Extreme LAN > Ethernet cable > Pioneer Receiver LAN
    • Output
      • Pioneer Satellite Left, Right > 14-guage speaker wire > Pioneer Bookshelf Pair #2
      • Pioneer Subwoofer 2 Output > Subwoofer Cable > Pioneer Subwoofer #2 Left Input

This setup is appealing to me, because I would be able to have control over the computer speakers as well as the AirPlay speakers from the same receiver, and then I would have a consistent aesthetic throughout. However, this setup comes at a cost as it is expensive!

No matter how you do it, you can control iTunes volume independently via AirPlay. There are lots of options out there, but it depends on how much you want to spend. You can do it on the cheap, or you can do it for an arm and a leg. In the end, you can be the master of your system’s and your iTunes’ volumes.

The Day I X’d Comcast: Hopping on over to Dish Network

Comcast, namely Xfinity and its Xfinity TV, sucks. It is expensive, and I don’t even get what I want out of my entertainment through its services.

Today, I have ended my consumer relationship with Comcast for it’s TV services and started a new one with Dish Network.

Here’s why:

The Hopper with Sling is an awesome experience. It boasts 2TB storage space, contra. the Xfinity X1 with a maximum 500GB. It also boasts the automatic commercial skipper (for select shows, and only after 11pm the day the show airs), also contra. the X1, whichhas nothing like it. The Hopper can record 6 shows simultaneously whilst the X1 can only record up to 4. Plus, the Hopper can sling contents to an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone to watch recordings on the go. The X1 doesn’t exactly have that ability.

But the Hopper with Sling is not the only reason to leave Comcast. I have bemoaned on multiple occasions how unsatisfied I am with Xfinity Sports’ HD coverage for soccer, namely with beINSport. Furthermore, for whatever reason, Comcast cannot come to an agreement with beINSport to permit their customers to participate in beINSport Play, which adds the ability to watch more soccer games online than are aired on their channel. Dish not only offers beINSport in HD, but it also offers Play.

And for close to the same cost as my Xfinity Triple Play that merely provides a TV digital starter bundle with additional sports package, which does not include Fox Sports 2, I will get all of the sports channels that I desire plus a ton of channels for my wife and son that we don’t already have through Comcast. That’s right: for our tastes, Dish provides more channels for less money.

To make it work, I am canceling my Triple Play and retaining only the broadband Internet connection. I will no longer have a home phone. I do have a cell phone, so I have given up a home phone number. But this is an AT&T cell phone, and as I do have a MyCell, I can add on unlimited MyCell minutes for less than the cost of my home phone. Not only will I have the same end goal–a working phone number with unlimited minutes at home–but I will cut out all of the pesky, irritating telemarketers.

All things considered, it’s a no-brainer: Dish is superior. Good luck, Comcast!

[EDIT] So, I see that Dish doesn’t show “HD” for beINSport. However, the feed is definitely HD; I wonder if Dish doesn’t mark it as HD because they aren’t using an SD broadcast at all. Either way, the video quality of the broadcast of beINSport on Dish is superior to Comcast’s. [/EDIT]

2 Tim 4:19-22

We need to be people who are welcoming. It’s a simple thing, really. Outsiders do not want to be part of a clique. We need to build the kingdom by welcoming others. In other words, we need to be friendly and personable. We may be set apart, but we do not stand apart. We are to be in this world but not of it. We need to build networks of people to help encourage each other.

Let’s build friendly, welcoming networks in order to build up the church.

2 Tim 4:6-18

We need to be faithful people. We need to be faithful to God, and we need to be faithful to each other. We are not lone wolves. We are a wolf pack. When one of us is being persecuted, we should not abandon them. We should surround ourselves with good people, with people of the faith, to encourage each other through the persecution. We can help each other, even by providing jackets or books. And when we are going through persecution, we need to be faithful to the Lord to carry out the task set before us. We need to believe that God’s plan is good even when our circumstances are dire. We need to believe that God will save us, either in this life or in the afterlife, so that in all circumstances God will receive glory.

Let’s build up the church by being faithful to each other and to God, so that we do not go through persecution alone.

2 Tim 3:1-4:5

We need to be people who, to an extent, meet public expectations for the sake of the gospel. We cannot be selfish people who are in love with ourselves. We cannot be hypocrites who have the outward semblance of godliness but in actuality deny the power of God. No, we need to be people of love especially, because we will be people who must suffer for the gospel.

We need to be people who remain in Scripture. Whether the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament, Scripture is part of who we are as believers, and it teaches us and encourages in the faith. Scripture helps us learn. Scripture helps push us in the right direction. Scripture helps restore us with each other and also with God. Scripture helps train us for right living. Scripture helps us be mature, complete people–whole humans–who can do every good work. When we teach, we need to teach through Scripture, so that we can help push others in the right direction, restore others to each other and also with God, and encourage others to live rightly.

Let’s build up the church by living rightly in accordance with Scripture and taking into consideration public expectations for the sake of the gospel.

2 Tim 2:1-26

We need to be people who stand strong in the grace of God. Persecution will come in myriad forms. We need to remain strong, but not by our own power; rather, we need to stand strong by the power of God, which he has given to us by his grace in Christ Jesus. Whether we are persecuted at work for being a Christian by our peers, whether we are persecuted at home by the government for holding house-church meetings and taking benevolent offerings without a permit, or whether we are persecuted by imprisonment, torture, or death for being a Christian in this world by mobs or corrupt government, we need to stand strong. God has given us a spirit of power, not of cowardice. Because of this power, we can stand firm–and we can be strong.

We need to be people who teach others. We cannot build the kingdom of God all by our lonesome. We must invest in others, so that they might also invest in still more. Church leaders are to help especially train more leaders who can then teach others. Small group leaders are a great way for the contemporary American church to entrust the teaching task to faithful people. But it is not the only way. We can train through books. We can train through webisodes. We can train through DVDs. We can train through seminars and conventions. In the end, we need to train others for the task of teaching.

We need to be people who do not fight over words. We may teach others, but this might mean that some opposing views and opinions might come to the fore. When this happens, we cannot allow ourselves to wrangle over these words, lest our work at building the church be harmed. Arguments over words will harm those who hear, so we need to refrain from them. It’s not about debating the words, but, rather, it is about nearly coming to blows over them. We should keep our composure and seek to maintain peace. It is the mentality that we should agree to disagree on these minor matters, so that we do not cause harm on those who hear.

We need to be people who teach rightly. We can’t allow unorthodox topics to do harm and upset the faith of some people. Because we are to teach rightly, we are to avoid wrong teachings. We cannot afford to entertain wrong teachings when we are teaching others. We need to teach the major points of the faith, namely Christ–both his life and his death, and both his death and his resurrection. And we need to avoid ignorant matters. We need to be educated in the faith, so that we can avoid quarrels entirely. When we do encounter people who are ignorant and are spreading their unorthodox topics, we need to be graceful and patient in the way we go about correcting them. Our goal in that case would be to lead them by God’s guidance back to the truth.

We need to be people who do good deeds. God has saved us. God has empowered us. However, he has saved us for a purpose, and he has empowered us for action. We have been sanctified by grace, but this sanctification results in our readiness to do good work. We are not to pursue youthful desires, but we are to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Live right. Live in faith. Live in love. Live in peace. These are the good deeds for which we have been prepared and equipped. Rather than arguing and causing harm to those who hear, we need to pursue peace. We need to show love with those whom we disagree and also with those who hear our disagreement by not allowing our words to harm them. Sometimes, because of love for others and because we want to maintain peace, we need to hold our tongue. We do need to live in faith. We must embrace right teaching. We must embrace good works. Faith and works are not in opposition to each other. They are a twofold unit for the believer. Believers have faith, but they live to do good works.

Let’s build the church by standing strong in the face of persecution and by teaching others so they can teach more in kind, but as we teach others let’s be sure not to get into heated arguments that will cause harm to others who hear them, and let’s correct ignorance with gentleness and kindness, so that we can guide people back to the truth from their erroneous ideas. Let’s focus on the major teaching points and not get tangled up in minor things and opinions. Let’s enact our faith and do good works to further build up the church.