Head-Fi.org founder Jude Mansilla on the Sennheiser Orpheus, Sony MDR-V6 and nondescript product monikers (2024)

Every week, a new and interesting human being tackles our decidedly geeky take on the Proustian Q&A. This is the Engadget Questionnaire.

In a brand new installment of our regular session of queries, Head-Fi.org founder Jude Mansilla discusses the abuse of anonymity and the apotheosis of audio gear. Meet us just past the jump where the full lot of answers awaits.

What gadget do you depend on most?
Currently, it would have to be my iPhone. Of course, it's communications and data central. But it's also a portable media-playing and streaming rig that I can plug my second-most depended-on gadgets into -- my headphones.

Which do you look back upon most fondly?
This one's a tie. My Apple Newton MessagePad 2100 was the most personal computer I've ever owned -- which is easy for former Newton die-hards to understand, but almost impossible to explain to others.

My first good audio rig in the mid-'80s -- a Sony D7 portable CD player and Sony MDR-V6 headphones -- started me on the journey that turned into Head-Fi.org, so that system has to rank at or near the top for me, too.

Which company does the most to push the industry?
I'd have to say Apple. It popularized the personal computer and then they helped reinvent the category with the Lisa / Mac's GUI. Apple didn't invent the MP3 player or the smartphone, but their iPod and iPhone made everyone want an MP3 player and then a smartphone. It's transformed much of the business of music and entertainment, too. So while it may not always invent categories, it pushes the categories it enters like few (if any) others can.

What is your operating system of choice?
Mac OS X on the desktop. iOS and Android on the go.

What are your favorite gadget names?
Any products by Schiit Audio. I've gotten to the point where I can say "Schiit Audio" and not snicker. But I haven't yet gotten to the point where I can keep from giggling a bit as others chortle when I say "Schiit Audio." Schiit Audio.

What are your least favorite?
Letter-number or number-letter combos that I can't remember. Onkyo makes a new headphone (that's quite good, by the way) called the ES-HF300. I mean, really? It seems to me more companies are starting to name some of their products. Sennheiser's Momentum is a very good headphone with a name I can remember. (Sennheiser's still got a ways to go on names, though, as they still make another excellent headphone called the HD 25-1 II.)

"I haven't yet gotten to the point where I can keep from giggling a bit as others chortle when I say 'Schiit Audio.'"

Oh that brings me to another naming pet peeve: dangling a single letter or number out there. AKG K 550. Hyphen it up. Or just throw caution to the wind and unite that outcast letter with the numbers that follow: K550.

Which app do you depend on most?
DEVONthink Pro Office. I have a couple of Fujitsu document scanners, and I scan as much stuff as I can. And all of my scans go to DEVONthink as searchable PDF files, where I can search them, annotate them, look for related documents, etc. I also print directly to DEVONthink anything important or interesting I come across. Here's what's also cool about it: I keep my DEVONthink database on Dropbox, so my huge personal storehouse of info is accessible from all my computers. There's a lot more I do with it, too, so, yeah, DEVONthink Pro Office would have to be No. 1 for me.

What traits do you most deplore in a smartphone?
A small screen, laggy user interface and small or nonexistent app marketplace.

Which do you most admire?
Intuitive, lag-free user interface, an app marketplace vast enough to address just about every need and whim I might have and a big, bright, sharp screen.

What is your idea of the perfect device?
My idea of the perfect device would be wildly far-fetched, with too many wish list features to get into here. For now, I'd settle for something like an iPhone 5s with a much larger screen.

What is your earliest gadget memory?
I remember when my parents brought home the Apple //e, and the excitement I felt, and the fantasies of WarGames-type mischief that filled my head. Though there were no hacking-into-government shenanigans, the desire to connect with others via the 300-baud modem was immediate and it wasn't long before we were dialing into bulletin board systems. I just remember the feeling of endless possibilities that came with that beige box of magic and its monochrome green screen monitor.

What technological advancement do you most admire?
Not including the obvious ones like electricity, telephone, automobiles, airplanes, the internet in general, etc., I'd have to say the first thing that comes to mind is the way geo-targeting has made apps and data far more useful, personal and in-the-moment.

"I know people who are anonymous raging maniacs and abusive trolls online, but shy and polite in person."

I'm also amazed by how the standards that developed over time have resulted in us having information available that was far more proprietary in the past. If you wanted to track a package in the past, you could call the courier and they'd share, over the telephone, the tracking info they pulled up on their terminals -- now that same information is directly accessible to us. The same goes for account and transaction info of all types, being able to check store inventory, etc.

Which do you most despise?
The ability to interact with countless others -- and to be able to do so anonymously -- is something that has come with advances in networking and social networking. One thing about that I despise is the abuse of anonymity. I value my privacy a great deal, but I don't abuse my ability to be anonymous. In other words, my online personality is similar -- perhaps identical -- to my in-person personality. I know people who are anonymous raging maniacs and abusive trolls online, but shy and polite in person.

What fault are you most tolerant of in a gadget?
As much as I appreciate long battery life, I carry enough portable charging devices when I'm out and about to forgive a device's mediocre battery life.

Which are you most intolerant of?
Updates that make products worse. For example, I have a Plantronics Bluetooth headset that has a MagSafe-type connector for charging, which means I have to carry this little magnetic dongle with me if I want to charge my headset on the go (and I'm on the phone a lot). If I forget that dongle, I can't charge my headset. Was tripping over one's Bluetooth headset-charging cable a big problem that needed solving? Or did the designers just include it because it seemed hip? MagSafe makes sense to me for a laptop computer, but on a Bluetooth earpiece, it's just a nuisance. (The previous version of this headset allowed you to plug a micro-USB plug directly into it for charging, no additional dongle needed.)

When has your smartphone been of the most help?
Whenever I'm somewhere new to me. I don't know how I ever got to where I was going without phone navigation. (I've never owned a dedicated GPS device.) And speaking of new places, I use my phone (with the Urbanspoon app) to find good places to eat, looking for places with high ratings by a lot of people.

Also, in Tokyo with a bunch of friends with a tendency to wander, iPhone's Find My Friends app was very helpful for bringing us back together without a fusillade of texts or calls between a half-dozen of us.

"Being connected means freedom to work from almost anywhere, to collaborate with almost anyone..."

What device do you covet most?
The Sennheiser Orpheus. It was a very limited edition, electrostatic headphone system that originally sold for around $13,000 in 1991, but can only be found used nowadays for around $30,000 or more. The Sennheiser Orpheus system sounds glorious. At meets and events, I still get to hear the mighty Orpheus from time to time and it never fails to amaze me.

If you could change one thing about your phone what would it be?
I carry both an iPhone 4s and a Samsung Galaxy S 4. For the iPhone 4s, I'd want a screen more like the Galaxy S 4's. And for the S4, I'd swap Android for iOS.

What does being connected mean to you?
Being connected means freedom to work from almost anywhere, to collaborate with almost anyone and has helped me develop and nurture many close friendships I wouldn't otherwise have.

When are you least likely to reply to an email?
When I'm asleep, on international flights or when my son asks me to put my phone away during dinner.

When did you last disconnect?
My most truly disconnected moment in the last 10 or so years was during the big Northeast blackout of 2003. The fact that the whole world was aware of the huge blackout made it the perfect excuse to be unreachable, off the grid. Being completely offline, I slept like a baby during the blackout. I haven't felt such a complete sense of disconnectedness since.

Head-Fi.org founder Jude Mansilla on the Sennheiser Orpheus, Sony MDR-V6 and nondescript product monikers (2024)


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