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Tma-1 Headphones


I first read about these through a Ghostly International email newsletter and was immediately intrigued as my second pair of my favorite headphones, the Sennehiser HD 25-1, started to give way to a distorted driver and a short in a cable and rather pay to replace the parts and prolong their inevitable replacement I decided to buy into a new pair. I spent a good year or so searching and listening to every pair of headphones I could get around my head. I remember a visit to NAMM out in California one year and spending half my time there wandering every audio company making a pair of headphones.

As a frame of reference, I consider myself a little to picky for my own good when it comes to headphones. For me they are the gateway into the music I love. My personal listening space. On the other hand, however, they also need to be constructed well enough to hold up to heavy use and being thrown in and out of bags and work in all sorts of different environments. I work in live audio production and events and their locations vary greatly. Not to mention they should be able survive being turned up unnecessarily loud without blowing out the drivers.

When it comes to the audio fidelity I don’t like headphones or speakers that have a lot of color to them, I really would much rather have a nice solid performance throughout the lows, mids, and highs. I really have never liked headphones with huge dips in the highs and big boosts in the low end. I like them to have a nice solid punch in the lows but not to the point where it drowns out the rest of the sound and I prefer a closed back as opposed to many “high fidelity” audiophile style pairs. The closed design also allows for much greater reduction of outside noise/sound which is also a must for me.


So that out of the way I can move into the headphones themselves. It was a tough call whether or not to get this pair as the previous pair I bought from AiAiAi (the company making them) was an overly styled pair of in ear phones that were greatly underwhelming to me. To be honest, this time around I bought into their marketing hype and the simple fact that they were road tested by DJ’s and producers around the world, many of which I have a lot of respect for. It seems the first and foremost these headphones were made to stand up the the daunting needs of a DJ in a dirty loud club. I will say that the first thing you clearly notice is that their construction is nothing short of perfect really. The minimal design they chose keeps things to a minimum and the lack of rotating points and fragile cable elements is really perfect for a pair of headphones like these. The semi-flexable headband is perfect for quick monitoring with one ear while they lay around my neck. The lack of marketing and flashy logos is a really nice touch and good to see a company can release something like this with enough confidence not to need logos plastered all over them. It adds a lot to their first impression appeal.

One of my favorite aspects of the design is the fact that a simple 1/8″ plug fits into the left side of them which is great for two reasons.  First, should you step on the cable it will just pull out of the headphones, not jerk them apart or rip off one of the drivers, they just come unplugged. Second, the simple fact that, if you chose to do so you can easily replace the cable with a shorter one or in the future, a new one should the supplied one give out eventually. with the quality and weight of the cable supplied I could not imagine that ever happening really. They also ship with a screw in 1/4″ adaptor and a nice simple zippered pouch to transport them in.


Now, for the sound of them. Coming straight off a pair of Sennheisers with a nice solid high and mid range I was caught off guard by the weird frequency curve/tuning/color of the Tma-1’s. Way heavy in low mids and deep low end with huge dips in odd places in the high end. Clearly these were designed to punch in the common places club music hits and leave the highs behind in compromise or in an effort to not seem to harsh on your ears when you listen at higher volumes. The reason I like a nice well rounded sound personally is because I like to use one pair of headphones for my personal listening as well as at work and these are defiantly more suited for work than leisure, at least for my ears. After having them for a couple of weeks now I feel I have gotten used to the sound of them and Im sure we will get along just fine in the long run.


Remember what I was talking about function versus form? These were a compromise based on my needs rather than my desires for the perfect sounding pair of headphones and I am more than happy with that compromise. I have a feeling these will last me for a long time to come and I could easily recommend these to someone who enjoys a nice big punch in the low end really solid construction that will no doubt hold up in even the most demanding of circumstances. Not to mention they are gorgeous with their minimalist, non branded design and matte silicon type finnish.

One last note about the design, the padding is removable which makes for easy replacement if they wear out (although they don’t seem to have replacement parts available yet) but also allow for you to use an alternative padded pair of covers which are made of that light porous foam not unlike your standard old pair of headphones. I can honestly say that they totally ruin the sound of the headphones. The high end does come through higher with them on and they have more of an open sound but makes the overall  sound absolutely horrible to me. These drivers were clearly designed for the padding it ships with as it allows for the sound to resonate within the space of each capsule and really, the alternate covers are useless to me and will live in the box they shipped with.

They are for sale in the US at the Ghostly International shop and a great boutique shop in NYC called Dijital Fix.

As an added bonus to the review I have put together a pack of wallpaper images of all but one of the review photos seen above in desktop, iPad, and iPhone resolutions. To grab the zip simply click or right click here and enjoy!

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Function Vs. Form

aiaiai tma-1

Function versus form and thoughts on living a life one step forward and two steps back.

When it comes to buying into new products, software, or services I take my time in picking out the best of what there is to offer within my price range and often just out of my price range because I have a knack for being overly demanding when it comes to tools that I use every day. While constantly on the move I need things that will hold up to the general abuse of being in a lot of different environments. Its something people often tease me about, “there goes john on another endless quest for another gadget.” I feel I do it out of necessity. I don’t have a ton of money to throw away on mistakes or maybes, I like to get it right the first time and that takes time and research.

I often find myself pooling together reviews and technical information on products in my mind as I research things before buying into something. Lately, the more I think about it, the more I have seen patterns in my research habits. As with many things in human nature I tend to be drawn to objects or products that are aesthetically striking in some way. While my life may not be surrounded with perfect minimal yet functional environments I do have a great appreciation for solid, logical, thoughtful design and this is where things get interesting. While the form of a product may be the first factor which draws my attention there is also the ever present need to keep an eye on the objects functionality as well. It’s rare that the two come together to live happily ever after.

The most obvious example of these sorts of arguments is Apple computer, often touted as being a company that has a brilliant form with an equally strong presence in its functionality as a consumer product. This could be argued endlessly as many people believe that Apple has a tendency to leave out certain function in order to simplify the physical form. Such as the lack of ports on the iPad or Macbook Air yet these simple, elegant forms are lusted after by thousands and thousands of adoring fans often because of the underlying simplicity of the products.

The minimal movement that has been slowly creeping into more of the publics mental space I feel is being fueled by a backlash from the past century of a rapidly growing dependency on consumption as a form of entertainment. In a world where hoarding objects is such a serious issue among many, there are people such as myself that want to distance themselves from the hysteria and in turn look to a minimal style of living to accommodate that desire.

I find that I sit somewhere between the ultra minimal lifestyle that many tout on their blogs and social networks and those attached to older, kitschy nostalgia. I like having old books on my bookshelf and small trinkets from my travels scattered around my living space. I like both the minimal forms of modern trends in product design and the warm feeling an old wooden bookshelf can bring. Its a position that has left me in a place where making observations on function and form lay in a strange place.

In many ways I can admit to being a true sucker for a nicely designed product, Apples new iPad sucked me right on in with its slick vision of what computing may turn into as years creep by. The form of the iPad is simply perfect, nothing distracting it from its refined modern beauty. No ugly ports getting in the way, no un-needed functionality, just the essence of their vision. Along with creating a product like the creator must knowingly make sacrifices and compromises while designing it. All of you know that people complain often about Apples overly simplified approach. The bulk of the consumers on the market often don’t share the utopian vision of computing Apple has created and wonder where the USB ports and camera are.

In the world we live in we  have been trained to expect our purchases to do more and cost less. This takes me back to what I was saying about a backlash from those of us who are getting overwhelmed by the increasing piles of previous generations possessions and the current generations rapidly growing heaps of slightly dated tech and ideas discarded oh so quickly in the name of progress. This applies to many things in life whether it be the newest gadget or something as simple as the image you choose as your desktop wallpaper. It seems we need more and more to be satisfied in today’s world.

I am no stranger of such accumulation. In the past few years I have bought into three models of iPhones. Did I need to? Not particularly, a phone is just a phone after all. In my case I let the iPhone be my outlet for having something new and interesting where I left my sturdy old macbook continue to hum along happily moving a tiny bit slower and slower as I push it with newer, more demanding software. There is an precarious balance to be found among the overwhelming amount of tech news leading to lust for new products as if what we have SURELY cant be enough… The grass is always greener mentality.

My dad tells me growing up he was promised flying cars and yet he still drives around on rubber tires. In my youth I daydreamed of a music player that could hold a dozen albums no bigger than a postage stamp and I would take it to a music store to fill it with music and here I am, iPod shuffle in hand and I don’t even have to leave my house to get the latest and greatest music loaded up. Expectation is such a delicate, interesting beast of a concept. I feel my expectations of the future differ from my dads for an interesting reason. As we quickly spiral to a finer point as far as the speed of consumer evolution and innovation goes, I feel our collective imaginations shift greatly from decade to decade. Its fascinating to consider how these ideas and our expectations of the outcome can vary so greatly.

So in this light, what we expect of our day to day lives is constantly being altered and the tools we use day to day shift greatly as we progress forward. It really was not that long ago we were debating the validity of the floppy disc and here we are doing the same thing over and over with the continuing push toward minimalism in our everyday working life. For the longest time we were convinced faster, bigger, stronger, more was what we needed but things have taken a turn in a different direction. New products being designed are getting smaller and theoretically more efficient as we continue to examine and explore our needs versus our desires, expectations, and fantasy.

With social networking at an impossible high its no wonder many of us are looking to simplify our lives. Our expectations are now instant and as soon as one new thing is available to us it is often immediately outdated or passed off as not good enough. Our desires are now seemingly impossible to meet. Our fantasies are now far less focused or simple than they once were, we just want everything and we expect everything and we want it now.

Wears me out.

So when it comes to buying into new products I feel its good to look at things in a really obvious way, why do I think I need this and what do I need it for, which leads me to also picture what I DON’T need within the product as well. All too often a product will stretch itself way to thin by trying to accomplish too much. When you boil down a need to its essence you will more often than not discover you can usually do more, and be happier with less. When you simplify your desires it leaves room for you to actually enjoy the results of your labors.

Breaking all of these elements down I am left with these simple comparisons, necessity versus desire. Compromise versus great expectations. Honesty versus fantasy. Function versus form.

I am all too curious to see where this all takes us. I can only hope that more people continue to realize the benefits of simplifying our lives and understanding the true power of the old phrase, less is more. So before you run and dive into that next random app purchase you may or may not really need or buy that new computer that has one more bell or whistle give yourself a chance to catch up with your own honest needs rather than stumbling blindly into the next best thing. A battle I guarantee you will never win. (spoken from experience ;) )

Happiness is easier to find when you don’t fill your life with all that clutter and that is the reason I have been thinking about all of this lately. It feels all too daunting to live a life so crammed full with information and constantly changing standards to keep track of. I search for ways to find a balancing point, a calm among the madness of life spinning around me. Its strange to think that the products we create and consume are becoming as much a part of us as the real world experiences they were built to aid us in. I am not saying you should never buy anything or have fun with new toys, I just feel it’s important to be self aware.

So before I get carried off into another vein of thought within these ideas I will leave it at that. Feel free to chime into the discussion in the comments below.

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Of Clouds




Funny thing about these images, I was driving while I took them. I don’t recommend any one attempt it, especially not on curvy little mountain roads in fog so dense you can only see oncoming cars about 100 feet in front of you. I couldn’t help myself though! I would have stopped but I was on my way to a work/concert gig and was on a schedule that the fog was not helping me meet. My suggestion if under the same scenario? Manual focus set near infinity and know your camera well enough to just aim out the window and click. Keep things off your dashboard so you don’t get reflections and shoot between the wipers. heh, ok, obvious advice today. The reason the bottom two are black and white it simply because balancing color in fog is strange to me and nothing in these other than the green one up there really stood out as needing color. Certainly nothing wrong with a classic black and white from time to time.

Enough rambling for now. To download the wallpaper pack of these three images in high res desktop, iPad, and iPhone croppings simply CLICK OR RIGHT CLICK HERE to download the zip which also contains a handy terms of use which reminds you that there is no commercial use of these images allowed and please don’t redistribute the full resolution wallpapers on your site, thanks!  In the new version of 50ft, when its here, I have a nice new way of making download links. I cant wait to stop writing in all caps to make it clear where to download the zip.

iPad direct download: ONE TWO THREE

iPhone direct download: ONE TWO THREE

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My Mac Setup


Fellow blogger Shawn Blanc asked me to participate in his ongoing series of Sweet Mac Setups where he asks fellow mac users in the mac/design community to talk some about their mac setups and take a few photos of their workspace. The series does not focus only on people with fancy, perfect, expensive setups. It seems to be more about the relationship between the user and how they use their setups to work creatively with what they have. Its a fun series to look through if you want find interesting ways other creatives use their computer setups, both hardware and software, to work creatively. Its a great idea for a series of article/interviews and I was happy to take part in them.

You can see my entry in the series over on shawnblanc.net by clicking here.

Update: Some readers have been asking for a wallpaper of the above image so I cropped it down into wallpaper resolutions for everyone interested. Download the zip here.

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The iPhone As A Camera



This morning, bright and early, I drove north to an audio production job in the Blue Ridge Mountains and was greeted not with a sunny cool morning on a mountain side but a landscape covered in a thick wet fog. On the way down to the stage I could not help but want to snap a couple of photos of the beautiful landscape in front of me but I didn’t have enough time to get out my 5D or Hasselblad so I quickly reached into my pocket while walking down the slippery grass hillside and pulled out my iphone for a couple of snapshots. The Second photo above, the reddish one, was the first shot that I framed using that big tree on the hill as a nice weight to hold the image together. Then, as I was walking down the hill, I noticed a couple of flowers just begging to be photographed so I kneeled down and sort of awkwardly stuck my phone down into the wet grass and did my best to tap the screen just below the flowers and snap before jogging on down the hill. These types of moments are what having a small simple method for shooting quick snapshots comes in pretty handy. Just moments that would otherwise go by forgotten.

One of the bigger reasons for upgrading to the new iPhone was to take advantage of its new camera which is more than capable of snapping off a nice photo here or there when using my other cameras is not as much of an option or when the image is just some simple random detail of everyday life that I may not have shot otherwise.

While I usually am not one of those photographers totally in love with this new “the best camera you have is the one you have with you” movement of cellphone photographers looking to make artistic statements with this approach, I find there is no good reason to be against it or anything of the sort. I suppose I am just aware that these images are not too useful to me outside of their snapshot appeal.

I “won” some sort of little contest a few months back when I entered a few photos in a iphone photography contest just for kicks and the runner up prize I got was a little book full of iPhone photos from one photographer and the whole statement was look how great these are and they were just taken with a cell phone! It was pretty uninspiring to flip through and it started me thinking about this approach and how it had been picking up so much traction lately.

Which brings me to the iPhone side of this breed of photography and the dozens of apps dedicated to post processing your otherwise pretty boring cell phone photo into something that is at least masquerading as a fancy photo, often ironically modeled after now iconic film style photographs. I think its pretty fascinating how far people have taken it after seeing many cell phone photographers run their images through two, three, or even up to something like five different apps to manipulate the poor image to a compressed nightmare of a jpg image and it seemed like people took it too far. I just couldn’t figure out the attraction in wrestling with a silly little photo like that. With this new iPhone I see a little glimpse into the future of casual on the go photos in that it is actually a fairly capable little camera capable of taking nice, sharp, decently sized images and more importantly its lower light images have less noise in them than a number of really fancy digital cameras I have used in the last few years.

So I usually am not one to over manipulate photos like this but in the case of these newer iphone snapshots I find it its pretty fun to mess around with them in these ways. I don’t mean to make it sound like I am against any of these things, I simply had trouble finding the worth in images like this and thats exactly where I was leading myself astray. Why do I need to find a deep worth in every photo I am responsible for taking. Part of why we all take photos is because its fun to do and these new casual tools can be seen as an entertaining way to capture moments in our lives like any other camera.

I do my best these days not to let myself get hung up so much on film vs. digital, or lomo toy cameras versus “real” film cameras such as a Leica or hasselblad, and in this case high end fully capable DSLR’s to cell phones. To each his or her own I figure, as long as we love what we are doing and have a respect for ourselves and each other in the process. (but please, don’t stop shooting film guys… we need to keep those photo plants in business! ;) )

In the read more link below I have included the original, direct-from-iPhone images before tossing them round the post apps on my phone, just so those interested can see a before and after of the images above.

Because I had a couple of slow moments at the job later in the day I did mess about in two different apps with these which is very rare for me to bother spending the time to do that. I used tilt shift-generator and camera+. I love tilt shift gen but camera+ is kind of too clunky for me to bother using too often. It takes the hipstamatic approach to being too flashy I feel and in turn loses some basic control functionality in place of attempts at being different although the one finger to focus and second finger to set where the light exposes is a killer feature that apple needs to put in their own camera app.

Anyways, feel free to comment with your thoughts on the whole iPhonography charade below.

UPDATE: I would defiantly read through the comments on this one if your interested in the topic and feel free to toss in your own opinion if you have one. This is the internet after all, surely you have an opinion and want to get it out into the world ;)


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Moving Up

Moving Up

I shot this at the same park as the bamboo, its a bog garden with a nice boardwalk and certainly does not feel like its in the middle of a city as you walk through its overgrown paths. I was excited to find such a perfect minimal subject for a wallpaper on the side of  path. This vine was crawling slowly up a tree, perfectly wound around it in such an innocent way.

To download the wallpaper in deskop, iPhone, and iPad versions simply CLICK OR RIGHT CLICK HERE to get the zip containing the images as well as the terms of use which basically state that you may not use these images for anything outside of your own personal wallpaper. No commercial use or hot linking and do NOT re host these images in their full resolutions, simply link back here if you would like to share, thanks for understanding! All the best, and enjoy!

iPad version direct access.
iPhone version direct access.

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iPhone4 Retina Wallpaper Pack


Well here it is! Took me a while to gather all of these up and cropped and I ended up making about 4 times more than I thought I would but the iPhone 4 Retina display wallpaper pack it here! I have been lucky enough to have one of these phones since the day after its release and the screen is certainly one of its strongest selling points. Every other screen I use seems low resolution now! Having images cropped at the proper resolution really makes the screen shine and hopefully everyone will find something they enjoy here in this collection. I did my best to include a little bit of everything in here. There are 33 images in all and I have decided to make them available as one zip file download or you can access them individually here so you are able to tap one with your iphone and save it to your phone for instant use. All wallpapers in the future will also contain images at this resolution.

I ask that you respect my terms of use which are included in the zip and for those of you grabbing these directly the terms are basically please do not use these images for any commercial gain and please please please don’t re-host the full resolution images on your personal or desktop blog, simply link back here if you would like to share them with others. It takes a lot of time to keep things moving forward around here and I can use all the support I can get.

I have had some requests recently for a donate button to be aded to the site and I have the intention of adding such a function to the upcoming site and design refresh that has been in the works for some time now. I will also have more prints for sale and some other surprises in store so stick around for great things to come here on 50ft! In the mean time for all you iPhone4 owners, enjoy the new icandy.

Download links after the break (or if your visiting via RSS then just below here)


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One Shot

While I work on getting a pack of iPhone4 size wallpapers available for everyone I wanted to share a photo with everyone. Some of you may have seen this come through on flickr already but I know many don’t follow me there so I thought I would spread the love. The image was taken while out camping a few weeks ago with my hasselblad and the photo processing place developed it wrong which was pretty upsetting but I was able to salvage a few shots at least. This log was amazing and covered with moss and tiny trees as a small stream/river ran underneath. So stay tuned for the iPhone retina pack that I know many people have been looking forward too for some time now. Ive even noticed some of you out there cropping your own versions out of ipad size wallpapers heh, just please keep them to yourself if you can, or at least show a little love and link back here if you are doing something like that, thanks and I will see you guys again soon!

To whom it may concern,



• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.


• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J


By downloading any content from fiftyfootshadows.net you agree to the following terms:

All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

I ask that you refrain from using any images found on fiftyfootshadows.net to create physically printed material of any kind. This includes posters, photographic prints, fliers, etc. Under no circumstances may you make a physical reproduction without written permission.

These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)