Sounds good

I hope that your current classroom has a nice breeze or you’ve given in and turned the air conditioning on. It’s been brutal here the past couple of days. For the record, no air conditioning yet but there was a discussion.

Regular readers know that I’m out pounding the pavement with my walking buddy at least three times a day. With little else to do, we’re up to about 17 000 steps a day.

With the changeover to the warm weather comes another change. All winter, I wear over-the-ear headphones to listen to tunes/podcasts while walking. They’re paired with the iPod that I got for Christmas and do a fabulous job. In the coldest of weather putting them over my toque, they also serve as ear muffs.

Once the heat and humidity comes along, it’s time to shift to ear buds. Like everyone, I’m sure, I have a big collection that comes from every new device that I’ve acquired plus swag from conference tables.

There was a time when I didn’t have any with me though.

It was on the return flight from Omaha and the CSTA Conference. I had put my headphones in my suitcase instead of my computer bag. As typical, I’m at the airport way early and so decided to sit down and listen to a session that I’d recorded. At that point, I realized I didn’t have anything to plug into my phone. I know how I feel when people play music without regard to anyone else.

Fortunately, I went to the variety shop in the airport and they did have some for sale. But, who wants another white set?

As I looked over their big collection and I noted that there must be a lot of people that find themselves in my position! I also found the there was a Bob Marley brand of headphones/ear buds. How cool is that? I treated myself to a set of Smile Jamaica Rasta buds. They’ve been with me ever since. I now know enough to make sure they’re in my computer bag while travelling.

So, yesterday, I made the switch to them. It didn’t go well.

Unlike my headphones, there wasn’t sound everywhere. There was mostly sound in my left ear and faint sounds in the right. So, I started to do some PWW. (Problem-solving while walking) I pulled out one and then pulled out the other. The right side was barely audible. Had I gotten old all of a sudden and lost my hearing?

It was with relief that I switched the left bud with the right one and the good audio followed it. Phew! It wasn’t my ears.

Continuing to walk, I pulled out each bud and looked to see if there was anything in them to block the audio. Nada.

Then, I thought, maybe there was a balance control on the iPod itself. Without missing a step, I located the balance control (it wasn’t where I thought it should be) but sure enough it was centred. So that wasn’t it.

I made a mental note to write a letter to Apple thanking them for the explanation of what “Mono Audio” meant. Since the balance didn’t work, maybe I could just switch to mono and enjoy things the same in both ears? A quick tap and nope.

I tried adjusting the audio jack to see if maybe it was a little out of alignment of something. No success there. I was determined that there had to be a solution because there’s no way that I’m going to pay anyone $250 or more for wireless ear buds.

I got home and swapped my Marleys for a pair of plain white ones and the problem persisted. I plugged them into my computer and played music locally and they worked beautifully. Both sets. By the process of dividing and conquering, I had isolated the problem to the iPod. Once again, I checked to see if the balance was centred and indeed it was.

Maybe Dr. Google has a fix.

audio is loud on one ear bud quiet in another ipod

Lots of words and hopefully I had covered all my bases.

The first hit actually looked interesting because it linked to an Apple discussion page. The generally means that I’m not the first one to have the problem. At times, I find the discussions pages far more interesting than support pages that have to give the party line.

The topic was specific to AirPods but might be helpful. The top suggestions blew me away. They recommended putting the AirPod into your mouth and then sucking it to get wax out. How stupid! But it appeared many times. Doesn’t Apple moderate this? Or maybe AirPod users have really bad hygiene? I will admit looking at my buds again but they’re clean (I bathe) and the problem was the same with two different sets so it’s not likely that’s the solution.

So, I scrolled through the recommendations from these Wax Suckers just to see if there was something else. There was person after person who reported that it worked. OK, maybe that’s why the thread remains…

At the bottom, there was an indication that there were more replies so off I went. Someone had taken their AirPods back to an Apple Store and got one replaced. Someone else recommended rubbing alcohol on a cue tip which generated a reply about voiding a warranty. A recommendation to check the balance again. Been there, done that. Then, a recommendation about the Audio Mono switch. Been there, done that but tried it again. No solution.

Folks, there are 37 pages of suggestions on this topic. Most with different variations and suggestions about sucking on your AirPods. Talk about low hanging fruit! I resist.

Anyway, after enjoying the comments too much, I moved on. It turns out, I had been so close. It surrounded the Mono Audio setting. I had switched it back and forth thinking it would do the trick with no success.

The second link in my search results took me to a Quora page which had my solution although it was for a different device!

It makes no sense. It’s for a different device; the navigation is similar but just a bit difference. The thing I didn’t do previously was leaving the iPod in Mono for 5 seconds. I must have been in too big a hurry?

And, guess what? My ear buds are equally as loud now and the music sounds great. Just to confirm success, I have my iPod set to randomize songs and it wanted to prove to me that it was well again! It played Reba McEntire’s duet with Linda Evans “Does he love you” where they sing on the separate channels. It was perfect.

It all sounds good and I have no unsightly wax issues!

2 thoughts on “Sounds good

  1. Good morning Doug!

    I’m glad you got back to equal sound in both ears!

    This story is a great example of the problem-solving process. I will confess I am new to your term PSWW, but I will keep it in mind! I may remix it as PSWC, but would probably be better to go with PSWSSWC — Problem Solving While Safely Stopped While Cycling.

    When the balance and mono button didn’t solve your problem the first time, then I was thinking it might be the physical mini-plug connection in the iPod? That could’ve explained why switching out the headphones didn’t solve the problem — corrosion or dirt on one of the internal contacts.

    It was my fencing coach, many many years ago, who shared his experience with us in troubleshooting the electrical scoring system used in competitive fencing. It’s important to note that even though the electronic system is used in the sport — and helps the audience to follow what’s going on — each bout is presided by a judge, and as a judge, you need to know how to troubleshoot the scoring system if it presents information contradictory to what you have observed. If a competitor claims that the machine is broken, then the judge needs to figure out where along the chain the problem exists.

    Our coach, Ken, told us from day one to start at the tip of the sword and work your way back to the machine.
    • the press-button tip of the sword
    • the thin wire glued into the groove running up the length of the blade
    • the connector at the hand-grip
    • the body wire running up the sleeve and to the back of the competitor’s jacket
    • the connection to the reel (it plays out the scoring cable when the competitor moves forward, and pulls it back in when they move backward)
    • the reel
    • the connection to the scoring machine
    • the scoring machine

    Each of these elements along the way had its own set of tests (the button tip on the sword has to support a given mass without triggering, for example — and if you are fencing foil or sabre , then either the competitor’s or opponent’s metallic jacket might also need to be checked) and very rarely would the problem exist with the machine. In the case of so many electrical connections chained together, you can see how important it would be to start at one end and work your way long until you found the problem.

    When you swapped earbuds and the problem persisted — and you had already checked the machine — it seemed like the physical connection was the only remaining thing.

    It’s interesting that there is some kind of a delay or switchover time when you toggle the mono button. I’ve seen physical mono/stereo buttons in days gone past, that would have originally worked based on physical contacts — but everything is solid state these days, so I guess it is a software thing? ??

    Again, I’m glad you got it sorted.


  2. Pingback: My Week Ending 2020-05-31 – doug — off the record

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