mitchellvii: President Trump is an expert at recognizing and betting on the trend. When looking back, history remembers only the trend and those who rode it, not the political noise. In 2016, Trump won because after 4 years of Obama's #AmericaLast agenda, #MAGA was the trend.
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The Markets have an interesting behavior: they don’t care about something, until all at once they care, and they’ll care a great deal. At the beginning of May, states like Texas began to re-open. And for awhile, it seemed that it was the correct move. Cases weren’t going down but they weren’t going up either. Throughout most of may we even saw a slight though not significant decline. Governors and citizens became encouraged and started lifting restrictions and abandoning social distancing rules. History I promise you will rudely stamp these moves into textbooks as a lesson for people to learn from in responding to future epidemics and pandemics. We are in the middle of the next COVID crisis. Anyone who is telling you otherwise is frankly lying, or ignorant. Case counts have soared back to March and April levels, and it seems all but foretold that we will see the US break its record for coronavirus cases in a day by the end of next week. But this time, it’s worse: we have people ignoring social distancing rules across the country, believing the rhetoric of a deranged carrot saying the coronavirus is ‘fading away.’ The fear that helped save lives before has dissipated as the storm of warnings aren’t hitting people living under the umbrella of misinformation. Dr. Fauci and Dr. Gotlieb, two doctors for whatever the world thinks of them are some of the better experts on Coronavirus, have been messaging you for weeks warning things are getting out of control. Dr. Gotlieb mentioned this recent friday that the likelihood schools are going to be able to open nationally is in serious doubt. Dr. Fauci mentioned that the NFL may have serious trouble playing in the fall. These doctors, who understand way more about the virus than we do, are saying ‘We are going to have serious alterations to our lifestyles through the end of this year.’ Governor Greg ‘I guess I rushed into reopening’ Abbot just made a plea to Texans to not go anywhere unless they need to. Texas is the number two GDP state in the country. Basically giving a casual stay at home order does not bode well for the productivity of Texas, nor the outlook of its ability to fight the virus. California is really getting out of control. It’s the number one GDP producing state. Florida doesn’t give a fuck and man does the virus not give a fuck about their not giving a fuck. It’s the number four GDP producing state. This is getting so bad that the EU is considering a ban on travel from the US. You thought airlines had it rough with no flights to China and Europe for the last couple months? If they can’t get in a decent travel summer season on international flights, good luck to your calls. Hopefully JPow creates a credit facility to give loans to fucked airline call buyers since the government is willing to collateralize just about every other part of the airlines for their loans. We are simply doomed at this point to repeat our recent history. There will be a lot of denial, shouting, the carrot will turn red with anger, and there may even be violence, but eventually we will see some parts of the country forced to shut back down in the coming weeks and months. It’ll become a matter of hospital capacity becoming so overloaded that the state simply cannot manage the crisis. Bulls will say what they’ve said since the bottom: the fed will print the road out of this. Yeah, that was going to work for round one. Round two? Not so much. And the fed will have to start getting religious if inflation gets out of control. You can look at the inflation rate released every month and say ‘well the rate looks very disinflationary.’ Yeah, that’s not really how its playing out. Groceries are becoming more expensive, a tell-tale sign that inflation is kicking in hard. Commodity prices are generally rising (Even for oil, as oil inventories destroy expectations every time.) Meanwhile the DXY index is shedding value like its on a weight loss program. All of this to say: The fed can bridge a gap, it cannot replace the economy. And while their next moves will become increasingly exotic and aggressive, it will without a doubt at least come with long term scarring on the economy, if not outright damage upon implementation. Liquidity cannot replace solvency, and that’s something we’re starting to notice in such places as delinquency rates across CMBS’s. And wall street will finally have ‘fundamentals reassert’ as second quarter results come in with expectations grim as the hospitals overwhelmed with foolish policies playing out in real time. But let’s make one thing clear: New York proved that if we had simply waited an extra few weeks, been diligent with social distancing, and bothered to wear a mask we would be in a true recovery summer where businesses would have an opportunity to take in enough money to make through a long winter. That’s not going to be the case anymore through the summer. Long dated puts are all but guaranteed at this point. So, what are the moves?? First, get the FUCK out of cruise lines and airlines if you’re still in. You made a lot of money defying everyone with the stock going up, congratulations. Take profits. Don’t be an idiot. Tourism and travel will come back, but not before summer ’21 at the earliest, and many of the companies we know today won’t be around to take reservations. Border closings will be up for quarters at this point, let’s just be realistic about that. Second, Vix calls are the way. They are a cheap hedge that pay out huge and can pay for many bullish bets gone wrong in a portfolio. Full blown WSB should consider buying UVXY calls. Third: Realize that there’s so much credit and debt issued out to risky companies that we may have a serious problem in the coming months with defaults. At the same time this debt has been issued, debt downgrades are soaring. You wanna see the stock market tank? Two sizable S and P companies file for bankruptcy and the market wakes up from its wet dream to realize that stocks, are in fact, the riskiest asset to buy. I understand that bearish sentiment is usually great for being a contrarian indicator to buy. This is the exception to that rule, as we are not in a financial crisis, we are in a pandemic where half the populous won’t accept facts. This time, the bears will be right. If remember one thing from this post in the proceeding months, remember this: just because a phenomena isn’t happening to you, doesn’t mean the phenomena isn’t severely effecting others. Positions: Vix calls 9/18-12/15, XLF Puts dated longer than six months, GE puts, APT shares, hedges in renewable sectors, cash, long dated GLD calendars
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Let's talk about the mind tricks and psychological warfare being waged by cheaters, hackers, and RMT vendors in Tarkov, and what we can do about it. This is a long post, but Tarkov is worth it, and a TL;DR is provided at the top.
Edit: There's obviously big money at stake as I started receiving death threats the moment this post hit the front page on hot. Be careful with your personal info and probably best to avoid commenting here if you have doxxable details on your reddit account. Stay safe, it's just a game and not worth it. TL;DR:
Tarkov is a crazy wild game with a bunch of people running around trying to do weird things. Remember that bizarre outcomes are just as likely (if not more) to be happenstance than suspicious behavior. Don't let others gaslight you into thinking every encounter is a hacker or cheater.
Cheat sellers, RMT vendors, and their customers, all want to push the narrative that rule-breaking is far more common than it actually is, and that the game developers are ruining the game so you may as well just hack/cheat yourself to level the playing field. It's great for business as a seller, and it helps rationalize malicious actions as a customer. Spreading paranoia, mass outrage, and undermining the developers are CIA-level tactics to sow chaos and anarchy that benefits bad actors at the cost of everyone else.
The best thing we can do is silence attempts by bad actors and focus on productive, positive discussions in Tarkov and let BSG (who are the only people who can do anything) do their jobs. They spend 65% of their resources on crushing bad actors and their profit margins, so this isn't an issue that's flying under their radar. As a community, the best voice we have against malicious behavior is deafening silence to starve it of attention and free publicity, minimizing the chances that they can sow enough fear and angst to radicalize players to get more customers.
--- First off, the point of this discussion is not to debate how prevalent cheating in Tarkov is. This sub already has more than enough speculation on that topic and as you read further along you'll see that letting fear and paranoia fester is exactly what bad faith agents in Tarkov want. Wherever you have competition, you're going to have cheating. Whether it's Tarkov, Olympic sports, or the stock market. As long as there is competition, there will always be someone who looks to gain an unfair edge, and it doesn't even matter if it's something as mundane and trivial as online chess, there's always going to be that guy who runs their opponents moves into a grandmaster-level AI because their enjoyment comes from that win at any cost. However, despite the fact that bad faith competition exists in nearly every facet of life, it seems like the Tarkov community is far more paralyzed by fear, anger, and suspicion than any other competitive forum. Why is this?
The game design makes it exceedingly difficult to discern bad faith actions from legitimate play. A naked level 1 with a TT pistol can accidentally get a lucky hipfire shot that instantly kills a fully kitted veteran who is highly skilled in the game. The incredibly punishing nature of the game also makes it so that deaths are highly impactful, which makes it difficult to "let go" of trying to figure out what went wrong. All put together, it means that players are forced to simply accept highly punishing deaths without being given any insight or explanation on how they were killed. 20 headshots with an R99 SMG in Apex Legends is incredibly obvious aimbotting. But in Tarkov, the fight is over with just 1, which leaves a lot of unanswered questions with no satisfying answers.
Because the shared raid map system that Tarkov uses, players have a wide variety of objectives that lead to very differing goals, resulting in bizarre interactions where the original intentions of other other players is unclear. Someone who's hiding in a raid to wait for the violence to die down could be stumbled upon by some other person who is completely lost trying to find a quest objective, or wandering around exploring an obscure area trying to find easter eggs. From the vantage point of the hider, it seems suspicious they were hunted down by someone who had no reason to legitimately to hunt in the location that they were. In other words, players will frequently run into other players acting in inexplicable ways that can be easily misattributed to malice when it was just as likely to be happenstance.
The lack of SBMM (skills-based matchmaking) means that all players are drawn from the same pool when forming raids. This means a complete new player to FPS genre entirely could be running face first into the most skilled players in the entire game. When the competition spans the entirety of the skill curve, it's incredibly difficult to know what is going on because player actions are often contrary to expectations of others. Chaos makes it easy to be suspicious about bad faith play because nobody is acting "logically" from each perspective. Naive players may charge in aggressively in silly ways that end up working by sheer luck that more experienced players will assume would only be as a result of unfair information. A very high skill player can take fights that they win with superior mechanics that most would assume you would only engage because of unfair aim.
The point is, this game is designed to breed suspicion, paranoia, and fear. Which is great in one way, because it's what makes it so exciting and fun to play. However, when channeled in the wrong way, is a serious problem because it's exactly what bad faith actors want. Let's think about various actors in Tarkov, and ask the question, "do they want people to believe that rule breaking is more or less prevalent than it actually is?"
CHEAT SELLERS: MORE
Because the narrative is, everyone is cheating, the game is unfair no matter what, every raid you load into has someone that is map-hacking, every fight you take is against someone who is aim-botting. Therefore, you should consider picking up some little helpers yourself to make it fair again, or be a naive idiot that willingly plays at a disadvantage while everyone else is using hacks. The idea that literally cheaters and hackers are infesting every single raid is probably the best possible sales pitch a cheat seller could have. The few instances of cheating leads to fear and paranoia festering, prompting more people on the fringe to consider cheating themselves, leading to more cheating, more fear, more paranoia, more business.
RMT VENDORS: MORE
Because the narrative is, this game is filled with cheaters anyway, half the lobby is people who bought stuff with mom's credit card, and Nikita is setting out to personally reduce your happiness in life and the game is unrewarding and unplayable for a normal legitimate player that doesn't hack or make a full-time job out of Tarkov. Why bother doing all the pointless stupid grinds while you're dying 50 raids in a row to hackers or someone who bought all their gear with their credit card, when you can just buy a few little cheeki Roubles from the side and get to having fun in the game? Negativity and toxicity toward both the existence of other bad faith players, as well as toward the game design itself, is inherently the best possible environment for a thriving RMT system. This is especially perfect for Tarkov because unlike other MMORPGs, it's much more likely that incremental changes will be more brutal rather than having power creep / loot creep / money creep, which fuels despair and more interest in RMT.
CHEAT/RMT USERS: MORE
This one is simple. If they can convince everyone that it's more common than it actually is, the more they can rationalize their own behavior. It's not that bad, everyone else is doing it anyway! Besides, it's not even that big of an advantage, some other cheaters cheat even harder! Some of you may have seen a recent thread where one individual texted "lmao I'm gonna turn off cheats for this group though, cuz these guys play legit." As if playing legit was actually the minority situation for a massively mainstream FPS game. Zzz.
THE AVERAGE PLAYER LIKE YOU AND ME: ?
It is human nature to rationalize defeat. When you face down failure with no explanation on why like in Tarkov, it's tempting to blame cheaters, hackers, etc. Different games often have different ways of rationalizing defeat. In team games like Overwatch or League of Legends, teammate-blaming is common to offload the burden onto random strangers. In solo matchup games like Starcraft II, race balance is often used by players who are frustrated that they lost. What's even more, these other games do an excellent job of explaining where you could have done better, but players will still look for ways to blame someone other than themselves. It's no surprise that in Tarkov, fear and suspicion of bad faith gameplay exists. The problem is, if we allow ourselves to be tempted to err toward the side of suspicion, to blame negative outcomes on the belief in rampant cheaters, hackers, etc., then we are aligning ourselves to the same narrative that bad faith actors like cheat sellers and RMT vendors want to push. We allow ourselves to be corrupted with the idea of "this game is bullshit, everyone else in the game is not playing fairly, why do I even bother trying?" This is a dangerous mindset because it fuels a toxic narrative that "this game is never going to be fair to me, the devs don't care, the game is becoming less and less fun for me, I should just quit if I'm not going to cheat myself." Let me be clear, I'm not saying that toxicity itself will convert an entire playerbase into cheaters. In fact, I think it has a minimal impact at a high level perspective because there just aren't that many people that are willing to traverse to the disreputable ends of the internet and take risks just to gain some internet points. However, even a 1% cheating rate to 3% cheating rate is a 300% proportional magnitude in the profitability of selling cheats or RMT vending. And more importantly, it significantly damages the enjoyment and integrity of the community at large. You can see clear evidence of bad faith actors in this subreddit. There have been several threads in this subreddit just in the past few days that have reached the front page claiming 1) false bans are rampant, Nikita should just let RMT be 2) hello I am bob, I am hacker all day, you should hack too because literally it's everywhere you don't even KNOW, btw PM me for cheap hacks 3) xyz devs are ruining the game, why stop RMT/hacks, just let it go, you're DESTROYING THE GAME, STOP DOING THAT BSG!. I'm not going to say any individual thread (even though many examples have been debunked) are complete bullshit. I'm just going to say that the narrative of these threads is completely aligned with individuals who are lobbying to protect their interests in making a profit out of bad faith play.
What can you do to stop this?
It starts with the self.
When you get an incredibly lucky clutch/kill, remember it for yourself, and use it as a reminder as to how fickle this game can be. Think about how your opponent must be so confused/suspicious about what you got away with.
When you yourself are on the receiving end of that ridiculous death, remind yourself of all the times where you were on the other side. Make your default reaction be "damn, Tarkov is crazy" rather than "I bet that was hacking 100%." Remember how easily flukes can occur, and how easily luck could be conflated with cheating.
Focus on learning and improving in a game where there is endless room to get better, something that is irrelevant to whether some minority of players chooses to play unfairly.
Encourage productive discussions, positive mentalities, and discourageDESTRUCTIVE SPECULATIONand toxic attitudes.
Upvote threads that discuss legitimate aspects of the game, whether it's discussions on strategies, advice on how to get better, or general productive discussions that are within our control as regular players.
Downvote threads that revolve around discussing cheating, hacking, or a bullshit "Reddit expert panel" of trying to speculate whether gameplay footage was legitimate or not, especially when there is a lack of context on user lag/latency, frames, system specs, server issues, date stamps, etc.
Upvote threads that explain technical nuances known to impact Tarkov gameplay, e.g. desync bullets resulting in apparently unkillable players, etc.
Downvote threads that attempt to sow paranoia in masses of players that have nothing to do with anti-cheating efforts. At best, they are attention-seeking threads made by users to profit infamy at the cost of community integrity. At worst, they are propagandized pieces designed to undermine faith in the developers and increase the temptation to use black market cheats/services and perpetuate a death spiral.
Downvote threads that attempt to induct mass outrage against developers. When someone says "they nerfed X, this is bullshit, we should all just RMT now," it could be from legitimate upset players, but keep in mind that it's also perfectly aligned with exactly the type of agenda that bad faith actors have. Remember that the best thing that malicious actors can do is to pit the player base against the developers so they can create a lawless wasteland to do business undisturbed.
BSG has shown an exemplary degree of interaction with this community. Always wait for an official response before jumping to conclusions.
Go try making a thread about cheating/hacking/boosting in Overwatch or Apex Legends and see how much official response you ever get from developers. This subreddit has been gifted with probably one of the best levels of community engagement from devs you could ask for.
When someone tries to hit the front page with a thread like "I've been falsely banned," track that thread carefully and wait 3-4 days for the official response. If it's anything like 90% of the threads we've seen in the past few days, you're going to see the truth hammer get dropped, providing the poster doesn't delete their own threads/accounts when they're exposed to be full of lies.
Upvote threads that make grandiose claims that are worthwhile for an official response. Then mercilessly scrutinize how events unfold, because 99% of the time, it's always liars that are hoping they can incite a riot as "punishment" for the developers interfering with them than anything else. This is a common occurrence in other communities that have high developer interaction like Old School Runescape, where banned players are known to make top-page threads about being falsely banned, before evidence is provided showing that they are completely full of shit and memes ensue when the truth hammer is dropped.
-- BSG spends 65% of its resources fighting cheaters and RMT and is a developer that has shown endless passion and commitment to its install base. As beta players that are trying to help them develop the best possible game, the best voice we have against bad faith actors in the Tarkov community is deafening silence. Starve them of attention, free marketing, free publicity. Demonstrate that just because they can infect one player, that will not tilt the hundreds of legitimate players into letting themselves surrender and be infected themselves.
A PC-User's Purchase "Guide" (it's not...just the ramblings of an idiot) to High Quality Audio on your system.
Hello friends, today I'd like to talk about an aspect of our glorious systems that get overlooked a lot: our audio experience on our battlestations. Thanks to paoper for formatting. Again disclaimer that I am an idiot, so take this post with a grain of salt. Better info and more accurate info from people way more knowledgeable than I am is readily available from /audiophile/budgetaudiophile and /headphones, this is just a start-up guide for the beginner. NOTE: The monster I gave birth to has become too long. I felt that instead of a short list of things to order, I needed to give context as high fidelity is really all about what sound is like in your experience. Also a fun read if you are interested. Feel free to skip to the actual list (ctrl+f active speakers, passive speakers, headphones, subwoofer, amplifier)! I have limited the price range of the products, because this is after all just food for thought and not even a proper guide; real audio purchases will require elbow-grease and research from your end to see if the product's sound signature will match your preferences in music and sound. If your product is not here, do not worry. I have put in products that I have had experience with and those that were recommended by multiple reviewers I hold in high regard (with the exception of a 2.1 system you will see later), and I had to consider the endless number of headphones/speakers vs the ones that are worth your hard-earned cash (and products vs how they compare to my current setup which includes both "high-end" and budget options).
I've been building systems for myself and others since I randomly took a buildapc course in middle school (currently 28) and enjoy music very much (I grew up on linkin park, dre, biggie smalls, 3 6 mafia, tupac, ac/dc, red hot chilli peppers am fond of electro and dubstep and various genres of music). I have 2 decades of experience playing saxophone, clarinet, and the electric guitar, and have performed in jazz bands, rock bands, and an orchestra. My ear is highly trained from raw musical performance and not just listening to speakers from home, as well as having the nuance to differentiate between good speakers. I have owned many many forms of audio gear (instruments, speakers, headphones, studio monitors).
So wtf is this?
So occasionally while answering questions on this subreddit (mainly on why new builder's systems aren't posting, or what components they should get, or just mourning with fellow builders for systems that have passed on as well as celebrating the birth of new systems and fellow pc builders who take their rite of passage of building their own system with their own two hands) I would come across the occasional "what speakers/headphones are best under $xx" and with the state of pc products being "gaming rgb ultimate series XLR" or w/e, it's hard to discern what audio products are actually worth your money. Note that if you are using just "good enough" cheap speakers, any of the speakers/headphones on this list will blow your mind away. Get ready to enter a new world of audio.
Why should I bother getting better speakers/headphones?
I have owned $20 logitech speakers, I currently own $1500 speakers. I have owned varying levels of headphones. The first half-decent (to my standards) speakers I had was a hand me down stereo set from an uncle. This thing was massive, but this thing was good. It's difficult to explain to you the sensation of music enveloping you with great speakers. Speakers are meant to reproduce sound, as in the sound of the instruments in the song. So great speakers and headphones can literally make you FEEL the music like at a rave or a concert or performance in the comfort of your home. This is why Home Theaters were so popular in the 80s/90s. Upgrading will GREATLY enhance your music, netflix and gaming experience. In fact with passive bookshelf speakers, you can not only use them for your desktop setup, but also chuck them together with a tv and you've got a fine starter home theater system in your hands. You can even upgrade down the line incrementally, one speaker at a time, to a 2.1, 3.1, 5.1, 5.2, 7.2 Dolby Atmos Home Theater Setup where your movies make you feel like your in SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. I currently live in a small apartment with my TV right next to my battlestation, and when i want to sit down on my couch and watch TV, I simply move 1 speaker from my desk to next to my TV, turn my AVR on and I have an easy 5.1 home theater in my tiny apartment. Move the speaker, revert back to 2.1 (or 5.1 if i choose to but i dont because of badspeaker placement when I'm sitting at my desk) amazingness at my battlestation. Consider this an investment into massively improving your experience of playing video games, watching netflix, or listening to music. You think those 4k graphics and ULTRAWIDE monitor is giving you more immersion in your game? Shit...having great speakers or headphones can make you feel like you're IN NORMANDY BEACH DURING THE FUCKING LANDINGS
General considerations (or feel free to just skip ahead to the list)
Now, I totally understand using simple logitech speakers due to budget/space/easy-access from best buy or not knowing about the wider audio world. So I am here today to give you a perspective on what audio components are TRULY worth your hard-earned cash. I have owned $20 logitech speakers in college, I have owned guitar amps as well as studio monitors/other speakers ranging from $100-$1500. Do know that all of this information is readily available in /BudgetAudiophile/audiophile and /headphones . I am merely condensing all of it into a single list, and attempt to sort of explain it to the pc builders, or just an idiot rambling. If you would like more information on specific speakers, I would check out reviewers on youtube like zerofidelity, steve guttenberg, nextbigthing (nbt) studios, and thomas and stereo. For headphones, metal751, innerfidelity, Ishca's written reviews, DMS. Z reviews is okay and he reviews everything from amps and dacs to speakers and headphones, but he gives 90% of his products good reviews, and has affiliate links to every single product he reviews....so you see where my dislike of him as a reviewer comes from. He is still an expert audiophile , he just chooses to not use his knowledge and ramble on in his videos, plus the shilling. Great place to start for audiophiles, as he is still a professional. I just think many move on to other reviewers. Also with speakers, speaker placement is extremely important. Get those speakers off your desk and the woofers/tweeters to your ear level NO MATTER THE COST. Stack boxes/books, buy speaker stands/isolation pads from amazon, at worst buy yoga blocks from amazon. Put your speakers on them, get ready for even better audio. General rule of thumb: dont buy HiFi at msrp. There are ALWAYS deals on speakers/headphones to take advantage of at any given time (massdrop for headphones, parts-express, accessories4less, crutchfield, adorama, Sweetwater, guitar center, etc). Speakers will get cheaper over time as manufacturers have to make room for new products/refreshes of the same models just as with headphones. If theres a particular headphone model you want, check to see if massdrop has it (website where users of the website decide what niche products the website will mass order, and both the website and you the users get reduced pricing). Now this list is just simple guide. Obviously for $150 budget, theres probably like 10 different speakers to choose from. You will catch me repeat this many many times but sound is subjective, I don't know what genres of music you enjoy and what sound signatures in headphones/speakers you would prefer (warm sounds? bright? aggressively forward? laid back sound signature? importance of clarity vs bass?) So consider this list with a grain of salt, as this is after all, the ramblings of an idiot on reddit.
So I will be splitting this list into 4 categories:
And before I start, bass depth and low end does not fucking equal bad boomy bass. I absolutely detest low quality boomy bass like in Beats headphones and general "gaming speakers" or w/e. Also the budetaudiophile starter package is the dayton audio b652 + mini amp combo from parts-express. All the speakers that were considered were basically compared to the b652 before making it on here (and whether they justified the price bump over the b652)
Active vs. Passive (crude explanation)
So when a speaker plays music from your pc, the audio is processed by the audio card on your motherboard, which is then sent to the amplifier where the signal is amplified, and then finally is sent to be played on your speakers. Active speakers like logitech speakers that have a power cable running from the speakers directly to the wall socket have built-in amplifiers to power the speakers, whereas passive speakers require a separate amplifier to amplify the audio signal and feed the speakers power. Active vs passive, no real difference as both types of speakers will have good audio quality depending on how they are made and which ones you buy, but in the ultra budget section of speakers (under $300) actives tend to be cheaper than their passive counter parts. This is due to the manufacturer cutting corners elsewhere. Take for instance the Micca MB42X passive speakers($90) which also have a brother, the Micca PB42X ($120) powered speakers. Same exact speaker, but built in amp vs the amp you buy. Obviously the mb42x will sound marginally better purely from the virtue that the amplifier is not inside the goddamn box. But the mb42x + amp + speaker wire will probably cost you anywhere from basic $130 to $200 with difference in amplifier and whether you use bare speaker wire or banana plugs/cables. Cabling aesthetics and management will be greatly affected, with sound quality affected to a lesser degree, or more (but at what cost?). Amp choice to be explained later. Now generally speakers should be recommended based on your music/audio preferences and tastes as speakers and in a larger part, speaker brands will have their own unique sound signatures that some will love and others will hate as sound is such a subjective experience. But since this is meant to cater to a wide audience, note that my list is not the ALL inclusive, and again is only the ramblings of an idiot.
If you want to add bluetooth capabilities to your wires active or passive speakers, simply buy the esinkin W29 wireless bluetooth module, plug your speakers in, connect to your bluetooth on pc/phone/w/e, enjoy.
Simply connect to your PC or TV via 3.5mm (or the occasional usb). Note: you may experience a hissing with active speakers that may annoy you to no end even up to the $400 mark. This is a result of the amplifier being built in to the speaker in close proximity, as well as sometimes the manufacturer cutting corners elsewhere. Passive speakers do not have this unless you buy a really shitty amp. Note that while bigger woofer size does not necessarily indicate better quality/bass, this does more often than not seem to be the case as manufacturers put bigger woofers on the higher stepup model. Note that while I have included 2.1 systems here, I would always recommend you get good bookshelves first, save up money and buy a subwoofer separate.
Cyber Acoustics CA-3602FFP 2.1 $40. This is the I'm broke af but I need speakers route. 2.1 setup for 40 bucks. We do not have the luxury of options here. Enough said. Amazon
Okay, for under $100 for good quality active speakers, there really is no other choice here besides Edifier speakers on amazon. In fact, their entire lineup is pretty solid all around ranging from the 980T for $70 to the S350DB which is a 2.1 system with 2 bookshelves and a sub for $300. Differences in the models are basically bigger woofers/tweeters as you go up in price, resulting in better bass performance and clarity (again crude explanation). If you don't want to research much and want simplicity, any of the edifiers are the way to go, with the 1700BT being the goto 2.0, or the 1850db which as a sub-out so you can add in a subwoofer into your setup later.
Micca PB42X: $120- The active version of the popular MB42X passive speakers. Very good performance for price.
Mackie CR3/4 $90/$140- Now normally I don't recommend these, but they are okay/meh speakers and have that razer aesthetic going on, and aesthetics are big part of speaker choice, so if you like the black/green color scheme, I guess these are passable.
Klipsch Pro Media 2.1: $150- the only 2.1 system I'd recommend under $200. The thing about adding in a subwoofer to a 2.1 system under $200 means they have to cut corners elsewhere. This is the main difference of 2.1 systems vs bookshelves. While the subwoofer will allow your music to hit the lower notes in frequency resulting in deeper and more bass, this will usually come at a cost of audio quality in the mid and upper ranges in the music. If you are a BASSHEAD then yeah you probably want a subwoofer, though bookshelves under $200 also have decent bass. Note, ALWAYS BETTER TO BUY BOOKSHELVES AND SUBWOOFER SEPARATELY, but this will be pricier. Klipsch Website Direct or amazon.
Fluance ai40/ai60: $200/$300- nice looking speakers that come in white and walnut and black that also have good clarity and quality. Their bass is surprisingly okay as they are rated to go a little bit below in the lower frequencies than speakers in similar price. I have listened to these before shortly for 2 hours, and would recommend. IIRC the ai60 has a subwoofer out. Mind the size of the 60s, quite big. Fluance direct or amazon.
Kanto YU4: $270 Direct competitor to fluance ai series. Comes in white as well.
Audioengine A2+/A5+ :$270/$400. I have no experience with this lineup, but lots of love/hate dynamic with this brand over on budgetaudiophile. Good and bad thing.
JBL 305P: $300 - maybe the endgame speakers of this list. These are very famous and respected studio monitors that music artists and producers use often. They are sold $150 per speaker, and you will need to get 2. Hooking them up requires separate cables, as these are standalone speakers with it's own volume control on each speaker. Simplest way is to buy a 3.5mm to dual TS Cable. Set both speakers to same physical volume level via knob, and adjust volume using windows settings (having a volume knob on your keyboard helps immensely here). Or buy a separate in line volume control from amazon ($20 bucks or under) and connect via 3.5mm to rca. Being studio monitors, these are meant to reproduce sound neutrally (they will have no external flavoring like how Beats adds muddy boomy bass to its headphones to use as a bad example) and may not sound alive or bright or to your tastes. They can be demo-ed/tested out at guitar center if you have access to one in this pandemic.
Logitech G560 RGB Gaming Speakers: $200 (yes, you read that right): Okay, now normally I'd be crucified for recommending a logitech speaker in the other audio forums. But I have used these speakers briefly for about 3 months when I got them cheap from a friend. The sound quality of these satellite speakers are....surprisingly not bad? Might I dare to say that these are even....decent for it's price? Now these are $200 speakers for a 2.1 system. This means that it's either this or Klipsch 2.1. Honestly my vote here goes to the logitechs. I owned the Klipsch promedia 2.1 for about half a year. I can definitely say I prefer the clarity of the logitechs vs the boomy bass of the Klipsch. The subwoofer on the 560 does NOT have its own control knob, so you would need to adjust bass settings through logitech eq. Note, these speakers will not sound good out of the box. You will need to go into the eq settings via logitech software, and change the settings to match your tastes. Honestly the fact that you have to tweak the eq through shitty logitech software to make these sound good is pretty bullshit. Note that I am not recommending the z623/625. Don't get those. I used these in college in my apt in brooklyn, and while boomy bass, I'd definitely go with the B652 + mini amp, klipsch 2.1, or the g560 over the z623/625 FOR SURE.
Second-hand market: okay, let's say you are determined to get quality speakers but you do not have the budget. Look around on the second hand market for stuff from KRK, Emotiva, Ascend, HSU. Make sure to demo them out for as long as you can until the seller gets pissed (please don't), so that you can test to see if you like the sound.
These speakers will require you to buy a separate amplifier, as well as separate cables. But the passive route allows you to have a modular audio system that allows you to upgrade parts as you go along in your life (yes I said life for once you dip your toes into high fidelity, you will get hooked onto a great lifelong journey searching for the perfect setup), or even just add parts in altogether (like having a miniamp on your desk for your passive speakers, having a separate dac or bluetooth module for your speakers so you can connect the passive speakers via USB or bluetooth wirelessly, stacked on top of a headphone dac/amp combo, stacked on top of a preamp, etc). Amplifier list to follow later. Passive speaker specs to pay attention to will be their impedance (measured in ohms) and their sensitivity (measured in xx db/1w/1m). Speaker ratings in wattage are measurements of how much power can be driven to them (higher watts, higher volume...once again crude explanation). A 20 watt x 2 channel amp (measured in 4 ohms) is enough to power 4 and 6 ohm speakers rated at 100 watts to moderate/decently loud listening levels on your desktop. Now the sensitivity thing. A speaker with a rating of 85db/1m/1w means it will produce 85 decibels of noise at 1 meter with 1 watt of power. Now this not linear....to make the same speaker go up to 90 decibels may require 10 or 15 watts of power depending on other variables. Depending on how loudly you play your music and what impedance/sensitivity your speakers have will result in your choice of amplifiers. More on this later. The thing about passive bookshelf speakers are that you can use them in your desktop setup, AND with your TV as a legitimate starter 2.1 home theater setup (which you can upgrade to 3.1, and then 5.1/5.2, just buy a used receiver from craigslist for 50 bucks, ez)
What you will need for passive setup:
Note that passive speakers and amp require you to purchase speaker wire separately (fairly cheap) and strip them (youtube video will guide you, very easy). Or if you like clean cable management and easy setups, banana plug cables from amazon will set you straight, and while these banana plugs and cable are nice and PURELY OPTIONAL, they will add up in cost as your buy more of them for frankenstein 2.1 cabling. Also a 3.5mm to rca cable will be required. The connection will be your pc -> 3.5mm->rca->amp->speaker wire-> speaker wire->speaker. (replace speaker wire with banana plug if going that route). Subwoofer connection will be explained in subwoofer section.
Dayton audio b652+ mini amp combo on parts-express for $60/70. Two combos, two separate mini amps, one from lepai (china) and one from dayton. Same shit. It LITERALLY does not get better than this for under $100, maybe even $150. CHIEF THIS IS IT, i cannot stress this enough. This is the budgetaudiophile 101 starter pack. I'd recommend these over the active Mackies, Edifiers (up to the 1700), and any and all logitech/creative pebble/cyber w/e EVERYTHING systems (except for the g560). These are very BIG speakers and hence will deliver good sound and good bass due to its big woofers. If you have less than $100 to spend on the ENTIRE audio setup, go get these and speaker wire/banana plugs no questions asked. gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
Dayton Audio B652 AIR $70- The difference between the AIR and the normal 652 is in the tweeter. The AIR tweeter on this speaker costs as much as the entire b652 speaker. This tweeter upgrade gives even more clarity and quality in the treble range (middle upper sound frequency). The next best thing for under $100, though doesn't come with the mini amp combo.
Sony SSCS5 Bookshelf Speakers. $150 msrp, $120 on amazon/bestbuy until recently, and sometimes goes on sale for $75. These are 3 way speakers with woofer, tweeter and supertweeter. The strength of these speakers lie in its unmatched clarity in the highs and upper mids. I still have these in my collection, and VERY WORTH though my opinion of these is skewed as I got them for $75/pair. If you appreciate bass, you will need to add a subwoofer with these (or generally any speaker below $500....some people would say you cant listen to music on bookshelves without subwoofer) as they sound a bit thin compare to the b652s (a bit less bass because smaller woofer) but better sound quality (though this is just my SUBJECTIVE thought after listening to the cs5s and b652s). These have 5 in woofers and have okayish small form factor.
Micca MB42X $90- the passive version of the powered PB42X in the active list. The difference is between the amplifier built into the PB42X vs the one you're going to buy separately to power the MB42X. Obv the MB42X route is going to be better because the amplifier in the PB42X will be shit compared to the one you're going to buy ($30/50/75/150 options to follow later)
Micca RB42X $150 - Amazing small size speakers. For under $200, either this or the cs5s. The rb42s have a bit more bass.
Elac Debut 5.2/6.2 ON SALE NOW FOR $230/250. GET EM WHILE IT LASTS. Normally $280/350. These are speakers highly acclaimed by many of the speaker reviewers I consider the best (imo zerofidelity, steve guttenberg, nextbigthing (nbt) studio, thomas and stereo). Great bass, warm sound signature. Just go, what are you waiting for. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Q Acoustics 3020/3030i $230/400. Highly acclaimed by reviewers, look VERY NICE in white, and have a warm sound signature with lots of bass clarity and bass depth. These speakers are big, which is why they have great bass. Check the dimensions. Their size is the only downside to these fantastic speakers.
PSB Alpha P5 $400: Great speakers for nearfield listening, aka at your desk, excels in this department more so than the other speakers (better at low volume, etc). Just all around amazing. Get these if the Q Acoustics ones are too big.
Triangle BR02/03 $450/550. Coming from across the atlantic, these french speakers made a splash last year destroying its competition in the below $1000 range. Highly acclaimed to the point where some see them as overrated (too much hype out of nowhere in such little time). If you have the space in your setup as well as in your wallet for these, they are the way to go. Comes in black, walnut, white.
Obligatory Klipsch R15/R51/RP600 post: you've heard of klipsch. They're widely available audiophile speakers, and so sometimes get the "overrated" hyped up treatment. They are good speakers but their have their own unique aggressively forward sound signature with the horn style tweeter. These were designed to make you feel like you're at the rock concert direct, may not be for everyone (much so not for me).
Okay here is where we need to get into specific numbers. Active speakers have built-in amplifiers so they are exempt. But passive speakers will require separate amps and so you will need to pay attention to certain specs. In speakers you will need to pay attention to their impedance (measured in ohms) and their sensitivity (measured in xx db/1m/1w). The typical mini amplifier will be class D (small form factor amps for desktop use) and their wattage per channel will be usually expressed in 4ohms. Take for instance the popular SMSL SA50. This is an amp that delivers 50 watts to its 2 channels, rated at 4 ohms. Speakers will have impedance of 4, 6, or 8 ohms usually. 50 watts at 4 ohms can be 25 watts at 8 ohms, but is probably more like 20 watts at 8 ohms, refer to product specs for specific wattage ratings at specific ohms. Speakers with high sensitivity (85-95 db/1w/1m) that have 6 ohm impedance are easier to drive with lower wattage. But here's the thing, an the smsl sa50 will not deliver 50 CLEAN watts. Somewhere in the 30-40w range distortion will start to appear. But for reference, 30 clean watts is enough to drive sony cs5s to uncomfortably loud levels in an apartment (the whole apt, not just your room) so listening on your desktop, you only really need 10-15 clean watts (only after turning up your preamp input to maximum volume, which in this case is your youtube/windows10 volume level). Do note that if you have the space, a used $60 AV Receiver that will just shit out watts and have 5.1 surround will be the best, but these things are massive.
Lepai 2020ti (LEPAI and not Lepy be wary) $25. 20 watts in 2 channels. Budget
SMSL SA36 $62: SMSL's 2x20w.
SMSL SA50 $72: The most bang for buck amp that's also decent. 2x50watts.
Topping MX3 $130: Speaker amp, headphone amp, dac rolled into one. Allows for your speakers and headphones to be connected via USB and Bluetooth.
SMSL AD18 $150: SMSL's answer to the MX3. This one is probably the goto. It's got 2x80w at 4ohms, has USB connection, has subwoofer out, has bluetooth connection, headphone amp, coaxial and optical connection.
If you need more watts than the AD18, you're gonna need to get a class a/b amp that just shits out watts for cheap, or get a used av receiver. If you want a new one, the best budget option is the DENON AVR-S540BT 5.2 channel AVR from accessories4less.
Good subwoofers are expensive, and cheap subwoofers will hurt your listening experience rather than improve it (muddy boomy shitty bass). Your best bet may be to simply find a used subwoofer from craigslist or offerup, just dont get the polk audio PSW10, this is a very common sub you see on the 2nd hand market, because it is a shitty sub and so people get rid of it. Now as to whether you need a subwoofer. If you are in a dorm, don't get a subwoofer. Because.... if you live in a dorm, do not get a fucking subwoofer. Now if you live in a small apartment, fear not, proper subwoofer management will save you noise complaints. A good subwoofer will produce good quality low end you can hear and feel without having to turn up the volume. You want to look at the subwoofer's lowest frequency it can go to. That will show you how "tight" the bass will be. Now, low volume levels on a good sub will produce that bass for you without vibrating your walls (though subwoofer and speaker isolation as well as PLACEMENT (refer to the sub-crawl) will do more for getting the most sound out of your speakers without having to turn up the volume....and just turn off the sub after a reasonable time) Now as to how to add a subwoofer to your system will depend on what setup you have and the available connections. If your speakers or amplifier has a subwoofer output, simply connect that to your subwoofer, set the crossover freuency (the frequency at which the subwoofer will start making sound) to 80hz, or lower depending on how low of a frequency our bookshelves can go down to. If your speakers/amp do not have a subwoofer out, you will need to find a subwoofer that has high level speaker inputs. You will need to connect your bookshelves to the speaker outputs on the subwoofer via speaker wire/banana plugs, and then run speaker wire/banana plugs from the subwoofer input to your amplifier, ending with rca to 3.5mm connection to your pc.
Dayton Audio SUB-800 $100: The cheapest one, don't go any cheaper. Enough said. Get from parts-express. If you need cheaper, 2nd hand market.
Dayton Sub-1000 $120: The bigger brother. This thing is 10 inches, be prepared for a BIG box sitting in your room.
Bic Acoustech PL-200 $300: Has good bass, goes down to 22hz. Very good bang for buck "good" subwoofer. A BIG step up from the daytons.
Okay, I keep saying headphones and not headsets right. But you ask, Kilroy, you're an idiot. You're posting on buildapc for PC gamers and builders but you're talking headphones and not headsets. How idiotic are you? Pretty big, but friends hear me out. Now I used to live in South Korea, where PC Bangs (internet cafes) set the nation's standards for computers. All the places had to get the best bang for the buck pc gear to stay in business and remain competitive (all 100 computers at these places had like i5-6600k and gtx 1080 in 2015 or something I don't remember, along with mechanical BLUE SWITCH FUCCCCCCKKKKKKKK (imagine 100 blue switch keyboards being smashed on in a small underground area in Seoul) keyboards and decent headsets. So I have tried MANY MANY different headsets, here is my conclusion. Just get proper headphones and get either get an antlion modmic, or V-MODA Boompro mic both available on amazon. (short list of mics later) or get proper headphones and usb mic. Okay, I have seen the headphone recommendation list, and the only one I would give any (if at all) weight to in the usual pc websites that our subreddit goes to, is the list from rtings. These guys mainly measure monitors and tvs (very well might i add) but the writer for their audio section is lacking it seems. Please dont get Astro AXX headphones or corsair rgb xxxxxx w/e. Please for the love of god, take your good hard earned cash and get yourself a NICE pair of cans my fellow PC users. The mic part is secondary as GOOD headphones will forever change your PC using and music listening experience FOREVER The TWO EXCEPTIONS that I have observed to this rule are the Hyperx Clouds and Cooler Master mh751/752.
Hyperx Cloud CORE/1/2/ALPHA (please find prices on amazon). So these headphones are a rare instance of when a gaming branded pair of headphones was actually a good no bullshit product. These are hyperx reskins of OEM Takstar Pro 80, a pretty damn good pair of cans from china for under $50 (no longer available on aliexpress but Seoul had a SHIT load of these) with a mic attached to it. Chief, this is it. Reasonably good audio quality from headphone drivers for their price, and you get a mic for discord needs.
Coolermaster MH751/752 $90/110. Now beware, on amazon there are the mh630/650/670 series headphones that are in the same...product "selection" styling part of the product page. Do NOT GET THESE, these are the typical bullshit gaming branding and are pretty bad. Now, the mh751 and 752s are coolermaster's copycat of the hyperx clouds. They are coolermaster reskins of the Takstar pro 82, another good pair of headphones. I cannot comment on this one, as I have not used either the takstar variant nor the cm variant. But the pro 82s are just as good as the 80s. If i had to guess, different styling (headband) and maybe slightly different sound signature. Difference between the 2 is the dac (the block thing in between your headphones and the wires to your pc). The dac the mh752 is most likely inferior to the dac on your mobo's build-in soundcard. Get the 751, unless you have a laptop, then the 752's dac may be better.
Audio-Technica ath-m40x $80: You may have heard of the ath-m50/x. Now these headphones are looked down on, on the headphone forums or reddit. The m40/x is the bass reduced, aka the neutral version of the m50x for cheaper too. Great headphones for under $100. Now, I have owned the m50 waay back, and I think if you enjoy bass, then go for it. After all, they are YOUR fuckin pair of headphones and ears, who are others to say shit?
Sony MDR7506 $100: I remember these were $75, but I guess everything changed when the coronavirus attacked. Anyway, these are the venerated mdr7506, the industry standard for headphones in the professional audio/music industry. Great quality, cheap price. They just, dont have anything going on in the looks department. These are it for pure price/performance.
BeyerDynamic DT770 (32, 90, 250 ohms) $150: Amazing pair of cans, very comfortable. 32 ohm version if simply plugging into your motherboard. The higher ohm versions may require separate headphone amp. Generally more amps=better audio quality, but differences are NEGLIGIBLE to nonexistent with low output amps (this is like the difference in sound of the same 100w speaker powered by a $30 smsl amp vs a $5000 Mcintosh amp at the same volume levels, very subtle and small but it's there)
Sennheiser 650/6xx from massdrop/660 $220-$400. The legendary series of headphones from sennheiser. Highly venerated.
HifiMAN DEVA with Bluemini Receiver $300: Interesting set of open-back planar headphones that came out recently that also allow for usb connection, as well as 3.5mm, but the bluetooth function is a separate module (with a built-in mic) that you connect to the side of the headphones. So it's actually a wired set of planar headphones, but the separate bluetooth module also allows for wireless connection. The module only has enough battery for 5ish hours, so while that is charging you will have to use the wired connection. This is a usb dac/amp/bluetooth module rolled into one. Very stylish and interesting design.
Audeze Mobius $400: "Gaming" wireless headphones from Audeze, a high end audiophile grade planar magnetic headphone manufacturer. If those words don't mean anything to you, these are wireless headphones with a detachable mic made by an extremely respected audiophile headphone manufacturer. If you want wireless headphones, I would also suggest these or the hifiman deva. These are closed-back headphones vs Hifiman's open back. These headphones also have an onboard dac for usb/3.5mm/bluetooth connection.
Now obviously, there's other choices. A metric fuck load of them. But I had to account for how much you should be paying (price range) for upgrades in sound quality and performance.
Example options (Wireless headsets)
Okay. Wireless headsets, now let's think why do you need a wireless headset? Do you want to walk around your house while on discord? Maybe you want to keep the headset on while having to afk real quick for a smoke break or whatnot.
TaoTronics 5.0 Bluetooth transmitter+receiver unit $30. It's a small device that can either A: give your non-bt PC bluetooth capabilities by acting as a receiver, or give your wired headphones wireless connectivity to your pc by acting as a transmitter. This thing is battery powered (like a wireless gaming headset) up to 10 hours. You just plug your wired headphones in, put the thing in your pocket and leave your pc.
See Hifiman Deva above.
Still here? Fine then. Steelseries artis 7. I put this....thing on this list mainly for true wireless headset inclusion. Still would recommend other headphones.
Other wireless recommendations: Sennheiser pxc 550 and Sony wh1000xm2 and Bose QC35.
HEADPHONE AMP/DAC (digital to analogue converter)
My knowledge/experience with headphone amps and dacs are...extremely lacking, I'm more of a speaker guy. But, here is a list for you guys.
SMSL M3 $85 - has usb and spdif connections and line out rca. good starter dac/amp combo.
Schiit Magni $99- probably the most popular one here. This will drive anything but the most power hungry of headphones. The Schiit stack with the Magni and the Modi is the goto stack for small form factor amp+dac.
Micca Origen G2 $110 - DAC/amp combo that has usb and fibre, and has a switchable pre-out for powered speakers. Accepts 3.5mm and 1/4''
V-MODA BoomPRO $30: this is a mic with a 3.5mm that plugs in to your headphones that have a removable cable, simple.
Antlion modmic $50: yes the modmic. You've probably heard of this.
Fifine K669B condensor mic $46: simple mic on a stand that plugs in via usb. Imo has better recording quality than Blue snowball.
Blue Snowball $57: Yes, you've most definitely heard of this.
Other mics? Yes, but are they worth the extra $$ for marginally better audio recording? You decide.
Cool. Stay safe in these dark times brothers. Have a glorious day.
I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)
Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to my previous 'book report' on Ramona Singer's Life on the Ramona Coaster (seriously, thank you all -- truly supporting other women 🙏🙏), I decided to try my hand at writing up yet another of the embarrassing number of Housewives books in my personal collection: Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen's Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City with Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle. After reading just the title of this book, I'm already exhausted. It's pretentiously long and awkwardly phrased while somehow still managing to be entirely devoid of meaning. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of Simon and Alex. The summary on the back cover describes the pair as the "breakout stars" of RHONY, an assessment that I would charitably call 'debatable,' before going on to inform me that I can look forward to "informative and often hair-raising stories of life in the urban jungle," and that "Alex and Simon use their own hard-won experience as a springboard to discuss a host of parenting topics." I anticipate that this content will be quite useful to me, the guardian of four cats that I spoil endlessly and treat like my actual children. One of the pull-quotes on the back cover allegedly comes from our very own Bethenny Frankel. I say 'allegedly' because I refuse to believe that the following passage would ever come out of Bethenny's mouth (or keyboard or whatever):
Alex and Simon don't take themselves too seriously, which seems to be essential to parenting. Their fresh 'he said, she said' perspective on parenting is both humorous and insightful!
Please, take a moment and do your very best to picture mention-it-all, betting-on-horse-races-at-age-five Bethenny unironically using the phrase "fresh 'he said, she said' perspective." To describe Simon van Kempen and Alex McCord. Right, didn't think so. My experience reading Little Kids, Big City started on an unexpected high note when I opened the front cover to find that my copy (purchased used through Better World Books for the low, low price of $5.31 with shipping) had been signed by Ms. you-are-in-high-school-while-I-am-in-Brooklyn herself, Alex McCord! Truly a gift I do not deserve. Samantha and Debbie (whoever and wherever you may be), thank you for your service. I am forever in your debt. Unfortunately, as would soon become painfully clear to me, after starting off on such a promising note, I would have nowhere to go but down. The book, which is written in alternating passages from Alex and Simon, begins its introduction with a chronicle of Alex's "fashionably nomadic" early adulthood. Ever the proto-edgelord, she recalls, "I did all those things our mothers warned us about and had fun doing them." We switch to Simon's perspective to hear the deeply embarrassing story of the couple meeting through a dating app while Simon was on a business trip in New York City. No, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about meeting someone on a dating app. But there absolutely is something embarrassing about using the profile name "Yetisrule" to meet someone on a dating app. To clarify, this was apparently Alex's username, and I remain hopeful that we will get a more thorough explanation of her connection to the elusive Yeti as this book continues. Alex tells us that, while she and Simon hadn't initially planned to have children, they eventually started to have "clucky feelings." I have never heard this phrase in my entire twenty-five years of life, but based on context clues and also a Google search, I learned that it means they wanted to have a baby. Don't worry, though! As Alex tells us, "You can be eight months pregnant and wear a leather miniskirt." Personally, this is life-changing news -- I had always believed that I couldn't have kids unless I was willing to compromise my 90s goth aesthetic! Maybe I'll rethink this child-free thing after all. The next bit of advice seems like it actually could potentially be sort of helpful. "No one is a good parent all the time -- nor is anyone a bad parent all the time," they reassure the reader. "You can become a parent without losing yourself." Unfortunately, as soon as I catch myself nodding along, the modicum of goodwill I'd built up is promptly trashed by a gag-worthy line from Simon: "If you take nothing away but a wry smile after reading our little tome, then we've done our job." I immediately vow not to smile until I'm finished reading this book. Excuse me, this little tome. The book starts in earnest with Chapter 1: "Does a German Shepherd Need a Birth Plan?" To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting a riddle at this juncture, but I am nevertheless excited to hear Simon and Alex tell us "why childbirth is not an intellectual activity." First, however, we get a passing reference to "Park Slope, home of the ParkSlopeParents.com message board made famous in 2007 with a so-ridiculous-it-got-headlines discussion on gender-specific baby hats and where feminism can be taken to extremes." And despite the lame alarmist allusion to ~*XTREME feminism*~, this line did manage to lead me down an interesting Internet rabbit hole, so thanks for that, I guess? Jesus Christ, I am on PAGE 4 and I am already so done with Simon. Presented without comment:
With the Park Slope OB-GYN, we had the first sonogram and saw the little blip on the screen -- our child-to-be. They say seeing is believing and as nothing was happening inside me, seeing confirmation on the video monitor that indeed my spermatozoa had penetrated and infiltrated one of Alex's ova made me aware that my days as a footloose and fancy-free guy might be coming to an end.
Y'all, I am currently working on my PhD in Molecular Biology. Which, if you were not previously aware, gives me the authority to decree that Simon is never allowed to use the word "spermatozoa" ever again. And so it is. I was about to say that Alex's passages are at least more tolerable, but it appears I spoke too soon.
The stats they quoted referenced a 40 percent cesarean section rate in the city, and I wonder how that can be acceptable? Are we heading toward Brave New World, where babies are scientifically created in petri dishes and gestated in artificial wombs? Oh wait, we're already there. Are we heading towards a Wall-E existence, where we ride around in carts everywhere and do nothing for ourselves so that our bodies break down and we're all fat, oozy blobs drinking protein from a straw? Somebody slap me, please!!
Truly, Alex, it would be my pleasure. As a Type-A person, just reading the story of Alex's first pregnancy and delivery gave me anxiety. She says that she just never really "felt the need to establish a birth plan" and that she "gave in to any craving [she] felt." Don’t worry, though -- "If I had suddenly craved chalk, ecstasy or Elmer's Glue, I'd have thought twice." I feel like there is some symbolism here to unpack (Could the Elmer's Glue be a metaphor for the childlike spirit of connection and unity???). Simon describes himself as "a learn-on-the-job guy" and tells us that he and Alex "failed to attend the last couple of [birthing] classes as by then we both just wanted to let instinct take over when the time came." As someone who has never trusted my instincts even once in my entire life, I cannot relate. Twelve days after his due date, baby François is born. Except it turns out that he actually was born right on time, but Alex "didn't keep regimented track of [her] periods" and miscalculated. What a bummer that modern medicine hasn't advanced to the point where doctors can guide you about that sort of thing. I don't even know what to say about this next bit, but God help me, I still have 215 more pages of this book to go.
Although the final stages of labor were very, very painful, I [Alex] never used our code word (tin can) for "game over, give me drugs." I definitely recommend using a code word, because it was kind of fun to scream, "I want drugs, give me drugs" through a contraction and have the midwife, nurse and Simon all know I wasn't serious. Once he [François] was finally out of my body, I experienced a tsunami of endorphins that was almost orgasmic, and I understand completely the stories other women have written about ecstatic birth. Simon was sitting behind me at the point of birth, and later when we untangled ourselves he discovered he'd actually ejaculated though hadn't felt any of the normal lead-up to that. It may seem distasteful to some, and definitely neither of us was thinking of sex at the time, but with the rush of emotion and my lower nerve endings going crazy, it's not too far a stretch to say that it's a profound experience.
Johan is born two years later, although it's unclear from the text whether either parent reached orgasm during the event. The chapter ends with a top-ten list entitled "10 Things We'll Remember That Happened During Pregnancy." These include useful tidbits like
Best advice I heard: men's genitals grow and change shape regularly, then go back to the way they were before. Don't worry about your female delicate bits being able to retract.
Which is…a lovely sentiment. But one that is slightly undermined by phrasing the first part in the grossest way possible, as well as by the use of the phrase "female delicate bits." I do like the idea that they "retract," however, because I think it's very cool to imagine the vagina as an SUV sunroof. By the grace of God, Chapter 1 comes to a close. In Chapter 2 (titled "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, What's My Name Again? and Who is This Alien?" -- seriously, were they padding their word count with chapter titles?), we get more questionable parenting advice from the McCord-van Kempens. They glibly dismiss concerns about co-sleeping ("Simon and I both slept with cats and dogs our whole lives without squishing them"), which I honestly would be more annoyed about if I hadn't immediately gone on to read Simon's account of "the midnight race to the 24-hour pharmacy to buy a breast pump as Alex's breasts were seemingly engorged with too much milk and she thought they were about to explode and fly off her chest." As it stands, I'm truly too defeated to care. Again, just to be perfectly clear: no shade to having issues breastfeeding, all shade to using the word 'engorged.’ And also for giving me the mental image of Alex's breasts desperately struggling to flee from her body (though to be fair, who could blame them?). Proving that she does not inhabit the same world as the rest of us mortals, Alex tells us that she expected that her state of sleep-deprivation as she raised two young children would "spur [her] creativity with graphic design." For some reason, this does not seem to be the case. Alex is puzzled. Finally, we've come to this chapter's top ten list ("Top 10 Memories of Random Things We Did While in the Post-Birth Haze"). While these lists have so far been utterly irredeemable, they also mean the chapter is coming to a close, so I can at least take some solace in that. This particular list ranges from the irritating…
We subversively took sleeping babies to as many non-child-friendly places as possible to prove the point that children can be seen, not heard and not bothersome, such as dinner at the Ritz in London, the Sahara Desert, shopping on Madison Avenue, Underbar in Union Square and film festivals.
…to the truly unnecessary.
While changing François' diaper on day one or two, we both stood mesmerized by the changing pad as meconium oozed out of him. It was really the most bizarre and fascinating thing I'd seen to date.
With the couple's general backstory and credentials now under our belts, Chapter 3 ("The Screaming Kid on the Plane is NOT Mine! (This Time)") focuses on advice for traveling with children, which Alex admits "can be a complete pain in the you-know-what." I cannot describe the rage I feel at the fact that she has -- in no fewer than 50 pages -- forced me to read about both her newborn son's excrement and her husband's ejaculate, but cannot bring herself to use the word "ass." Alex, we're really far beyond that at this point, don't you think? Not to be outdone, Simon shares a conversation he had with François that is remarkable not for its content, but for the fact that one of Simon's nicknames for his son is apparently "F-Boy." Thanks, I hate it. This chapter's list ("Alex's Top 10 Travel Memories") includes the entry:
Both boys charging down Saline Beach in St. Barths like something out of Lord of the Flies.
So, like a horde of primal sadists? I'm wondering if Alex and Simon have inadvertently confused Lord of the Flies with the hit 2007 reality show Kid Nation. I really hope that's what's going on here. Chapter 4 ("'Mommy, Johan is Gone!'") promises to teach us how to handle accidents. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel taking emergency advice from the authors of this particular book, but (in large part due to the fact that I have slept since reading the previous chapter, giving the pain a chance to dull somewhat), I am willing to at least hear them out. After relaying a story of François needing emergency surgery after a foot injury, Alex tells us that at one point, she and Simon realized they had spent "nearly $5000 on Indian takeout" in the past year. For the mathematically averse, this works out to a monthly budget of roughly $100 worth of Indian food per week, making my quarantine Uber Eats habit seem downright quaint by comparison. The chapter-ending list walks us through the "Top 10 Things We Do in a Crisis," and fortunately, the tips seem pretty benign.
Knowing what calms the children down, such as making silly faces or reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards.
Wait, hang on. What?
reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards
I'm sorry, please forgive me if I have missed some recent, paradigm-shifting development in the field of early childhood education, but what?? As in, "ends sidewalk the where?" "Sdne klawedis eht erehw?" I am truly befuddled. Maybe the next chapter ("'Is Today a Work Day or a Home Day, Mommy?'") will have some applicable wisdom for me, as I will, in fact, be working from home every other week for the foreseeable future. And, I cannot stress this enough, I am a psychotically overinvested cat mom. Alas, we are instead treated to an unnecessarily detailed breakdown of how important it is to delegate, and specifically that Simon cleans up vomit and Alex cleans up "feces in the various forms that come out of children's bottoms at appropriate and sometimes inappropriate times such as the middle of Thanksgiving festivities." As if we needed another reason to consider Thanksgiving problematic. The chapter takes a brief commercial break…
When an everyday product can do double duty such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, a dish soap that seals in moisture while I'm tackling cleanup, sure, I'll buy it.
…before closing out with a list of the "Top 10 Things We Do Because We Were Here First." I am happy to confirm your worst suspicions and tell you that item number one is indeed "Have passionate sex." In Chapter 6 ("I Saw Your Nanny…Being Normal?"), I find myself actually sympathizing with Alex for the first time in this book. Which is mostly just because the chapter starts by talking about all of the awful, catty parental competitions that seem endemic to a certain crew of white Manhattan moms, and it makes Alex come off at least slightly less irritating in comparison. That is, at least until a few pages later, when she starts to complain about a previous au pair:
She was sullen, melodramatic and kept a blog about how she hated Americans, hated France, hated us and the children but loved New York. I think she must have thought we were idiots, and when she asked us to leave early we were only too happy to get her out of our home.
I would love to meet this woman. I think we could be great friends. This chapter's list is even more difficult to parse than previous ones, because while it's titled "Top 10 Things Caregivers Have Inadvertently Done to Amuse, Annoy or Thrill Us," it's not at all clear which descriptors apply to which points. When a babysitter "accidentally used a household cleaning wipe when changing a diaper," were the McCord-Van Kempens amused? Annoyed? Thrilled? The world may never know. In Chapter 7 ("'Putting To Death Is Not Nice,' a Duet for Two Boys and A Guitar"), Alex and Simon share some of their hard-earned childrearing wisdom with us. Which basically amounts to Alex telling us that, while normally misbehavior from the kids incurs a warning followed by a time-out, she has also developed an ingenious new strategy where she actually steps in to intervene when the stakes are higher. Let's listen in:
A third permutation is when there's a behavior that has to stop immediately, say if Johan has a big blue indelible marker and is running through a white hotel suite. I swoop in and grab the marker as to risk a three count [warning] would be to risk decoration of the sofa.
Take the marker from the toddler immediately instead of trying to reason with him? Groundbreaking. Side Note: At this point in my reading, I am incredibly satisfied to report that I have discovered my first typo in the book, and in one of Simon's sections no less! ("These toads secret [sic] a poison…"). This is wildly pedantic of me and proof that I am a deeply sick person. We run though a list of "Top 10 Things We Never Thought We Would Have To Explain" ("10. Why hot pizza stones do not like Legos.") before moving right along into Chapter 8, "Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons." Strangely, I have a very vivid memory of Alex saying "I have a chapter in my book called, 'Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons" in some distant RHONY episode or reunion. I guess she was telling the truth. The chapter opens with a series of passages in which Alex and Simon respond to various comments that have been made about their parenting over the years. I think this device is supposed to be a bit of lighthearted snark on overbearing strangers, but instead just comes off as weirdly defensive and passive-aggressive. A few examples:
"My daughter is perfect. Her table manners are excellent, she never speaks unless spoken to and we've always had white sofas at home since she was a child, with no staining." -A woman with one preteen daughter, no sons Your daughter sounds boring. I wouldn't want my sons to date her..
"Why are you outside?" - A bagel seller in Montreal, in February I'm hungry and the stroller is well protected under the plastic cover. Johan is warm and cozy, the others are asleep in the hotel and I'm going stir-crazy. Is that enough, or should I buy my bagel from someone else?
"Excuse me, your baby is crying." -- Someone said to Simon as they peered into the stroller to try and determine the cause of said noise. You don't say! Do you think, you stupid idiot, that I don't hear that? Do you think I think it's just loud music? Do you think I don't want him to stop and that I like it???
Sorry, did I say 'passive-aggressive'? Let's change that to just 'aggressive.' But despite bristling at being the recipient of unwanted advice, far be it from Alex to shy away from giving her opinions on the shortcomings of other parents.
There was a mom at another table who wore all black and told her hyperactive daughter that they had to have a family meeting to decide what to do next. The type of woman who might ask her daughter to "process her feelings" about which color to choose. The type of woman who wanted make [sic] a big huge hairy deal about including her daughter in the decision-making process and "negotiating" the next best step for the family to take in the pottery shop. Pardon me while I shoot myself.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot respect this take coming from a woman who calms her sons by reciting comedic children's poetry backwards. We next learn that there are "many websites out in cyberspace," some of which offer child-rearing advice. Simon summarizes their useless "vitriol" as such:
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whereas for the 21st century surely hell no longer hath fury, as it's all been hurled at the belittled and scorned Internet mom.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, and my confusion continues all the way through this chapter's "Top 10 Ways We Make Ourselves Feel Better When It's All Getting To Be Too Much." We begin reasonably enough…
Check to see whether the person offering advice has children. How old are they?
Do they have a point? Are they right? It is entirely possible.
…before quickly losing all sense of self-awareness and flying completely off the rails.
Will we ever see this person again? If not, can we get away with unleashing our fury on them? Note, if you're reading this and decide to try it for yourself, go big or go home.
The last few chapters have been a bit Alex-heavy, but never fear -- Simon pops back up in Chapter 9 ("If I Wouldn't Eat That, My Kid Won't Either") to tell us a charming story about how the family refers to his Bolognese sauce as "Dead Cow Sauce," and this is because his children are incredibly enlightened and understand the circle of life and where food comes from. Or something along those lines. This chapter also provides a lot of really incontrovertible proof that, even though you may swear that your kids say the most hilarious things all the time, you are wrong. I love kids. I can play cool aunt with the best of them. But this "recipe" for "Johan's Concoction" tries so hard to be cute and funny ("whisk violently -- making sure to spill a little out of the top") that I could barely stifle my groans. For anyone who happens to frequent RebornDollCringe, I am strongly and inexplicably reminded of Britton. A list of "Top 10 Things We Don't Like About Children's Restaurants" culminates with
Where would you rather be? A bistro devoted to race-car driving, with 1950s toy cars on the walls, or T.G.I. Friday's?
Excuse me, ma'am, you must be unfamiliar with the concept of Endless Apps®. The title of Chapter 10 is "You'll Give in Before I Do!" and although the subtitle lets me know this is referencing "the art and warfare of bedtime," it's hard not to take it as a personal taunt from the authors. Most of this chapter is just transcriptions of 'cute' things François and Johan have said to try to avoid going to bed, but we do get this gem:
Slaying the dragon is our family euphemism for using the toilet (drowning the dragons that live in the sewer) and is fun for the boys to talk about, though probably not forever.
Before giving us a chance to adequately process this revelation, Alex goes on to reflect:
Hmm, perhaps I should delete this -- I don’t want obnoxious classmates getting hold of this book in 10 years and asking the boys if they need to slay the dragon in the middle of geometry class.
Alex, I assure you, you truly have nothing to worry about. Any self-respecting bully will be far too focused on the fact that Simon ejaculated at the moment of his son's birth to pay this comparatively trivial factoid any attention. The authors shake things up and end this chapter with lists of both "Top 20 Bedtime Stories" and "Top 10 Lullabies," both of which are thankfully inoffensive. In Chapter 11 ("Children Like Shiny Objects"), we follow Alex and Simon as they purchase the townhouse we see them renovating on RHONY. Although other (read: lesser) parents might store breakables out of reach or limit children's toys to playrooms and bedrooms, Alex and Simon were blessed with two boys whose aesthetic sensibilities are already quite developed:
One kind of funny thing that I noticed recently is that the toys the boys tend to leave upstairs in our red and black living room often tend to be red and black as well. I'm not sure whether that's intentional, but it's funny that the room always seems to match regardless of its contents.
The list of "Top 10 Craziest Places We've Found Objects" is mercifully absent of any orifice-related discoveries. After reading just the title of Chapter 12 ("Raising Baby Einsteins"), I'm bracing myself for the self-satisfied smugness to come. This preparation turns out to be duly warranted. Baby sign language is dismissed as "a scheme dreamed up by ASL experts who wanted to sell classes to easily influenced new parents," Mommy and Me classes are "not really for teaching anything," and we learn that Alex and Simon have instituted a bizarre family rule that "if a talking toy came into our house, it had to speak a foreign language or speak English in an accent other than American." We learn that Simon apparently does not know what antonyms are (for the record, Simon, the word you're looking for is homophones) and that New York City is replete with "wailing, nocturnal, type-A obsessed harridans willing to sleep with persons not their spouse if they think it will help their child get into THE RIGHT SCHOOL." Uh, yikes. After a tediously long description of François' pre-school admissions process, Alex informs us:
As a former actor, I've always gotten into play-acting and dressing up with my children. Perhaps a little too much. But I've taken the opportunity to show off a few old monologues, complete with bounding around like a puppy. If you have knowledge, why not share it? If you happen to know Puck's speeches from a Midsummer Night's Dream by ear with tumbling and staged sword play, why the heck don’t you share that with your boisterous boys, who love it and run around shouting, "Thou speakest aright!"
I am suddenly compelled to call my mother and thank her profusely for never making me put up with anything like this. Maybe I'll also get her thoughts on one of the tips listed in "Top 10 Favorite 'Developmental' Things To Do": "if they want something that you want to delay giving them, make them ask in every language they can before giving in." To me, this seems like an effective way to encourage your children to learn how to say "Fuck you, mom" in French as early as possible. In Chapter 13 ("Urban Wonderland"), Alex and Simon promise to share their unique perspective on "taking advantage of raising a child in the urban jungle." But mostly, we just get a rant about how everyone thinks their kids have weird names, and that makes Simon mad. This chapter's "Top 10 Reasons New York is the Center of the Universe to a Kid" list reminds us what truly matters: "there are more songs with NYC in their titles than any other city." Immediately after telling us how great it is to live in a city (excuse me, urban jungle), Alex and Simon switch tack and spend Chapter 14 ("'Daddy, a Cow! And It's Not in a Zoo!") expounding on the importance of exposing kids to nature. Sounds great, I'm on board. Unfortunately, we almost immediately take a hard left turn into a story from Simon's childhood where he and his brother are "befriended by this old guy, Dick, who lived on the outskirts of town in a small tin shed." We hear that Dick "occasionally pulled out an early Playboy magazine back from the days when the lower regions were airbrushed out," and that "there had been pretty strong rumors of pedophilia," before promptly returning to the main narrative with no further explanation. I can only describe the transition as 'jarring.' I can tell how exhausted I am at this point in the book by how hurriedly I skimmed the list of "Top 10 Differences We've Noticed Between City Kids and Country Kids." To be honest, I'm almost annoyed when a particularly bizarre quote manages to catch my attention, because that means I have to think about it for the full amount of time it takes me to transcribe from the page. I'm beginning to think that my initial hope that I could glean some useful cat-rearing advice from this experience may have been overzealous. Chapter 15 ("You're Such a Great Parent, You Should Be on TV (LOL)") is the only chapter to directly address the family's time on RHONY. It starts with this (attempted) comedy bit in which Alex and Simon pretend to be hilariously self-aware and self-effacing (Alex: "Look up 'Mommylicious' in the dictionary and you will see a photo of me in a ball gown, breast-feeding an infant while making Osso Buco and directing carpenters to build a bookcase for my Dickens and Shakespeare."). This posture would be infinitely more believable if I hadn't spent the previous 205 pages watching these two take themselves deadly seriously. But rather than share any juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits (or, indeed, convey anything of substance at all), Alex and Simon spend exactly 3.5 pages blustering about how it wasn't harmful for their children to be on TV before giving us a list of "Top 10 Hilarious Things The Boys Have Done While Filming or at Photo Shoots." Spoiler alert: none of them are 'hilarious.' Chapter 16 is literally titled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," which makes me feel like this whole experience may have just been Alex and Simon playing some sort of twisted game with me. Alex tells us this is "the chapter of hope," but given that she then tells us about a time when she "spent one full hour discussing why magic markers cannot be carried around with the caps off, particularly in a hotel suite with white couches and walls," I'm not sure exactly where this hope is coming from. Also it seems like this markers-in-a-hotel-room thing happens weirdly frequently. We are then treated to Alex and Simon's "Top 10 Moments of Getting It,'" which includes
Apropos of nothing, Johan said, "You give us time-outs because you are teaching us to be good grown-ups."
This is a thing I'm sure Johan said completely organically and not in response to hearing his parents say "we're giving you a time-out so that you learn to be a good grown-up" approximately seven zillion times. This brings us to the book's Epilogue (a mercifully short two pages) featuring the line "If you made it to the end of this book, we salute you." Honored to accept this hard-earned accolade, I can finally close the book and start figuring out a way to erase the memory of Simon busting a mid-childbirth nut from my aching brain. Wish me luck!
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