Klipsch Image X10i Headphone Review

If you read my wordy review of the Klipsch S4i headphones back in July, you already know how impressed I’ve been with Klipsch’s headphones.   Sadly, after around 800 hours of use, I managed to short out the left channel.  Legendary for their customer service, Klipsch of course was ready to send me out a replacement pair.  However, I had another idea.  Instead of replacing my Image S4i headphones with another pair, I decided to upgrade to the Klipsch Image X10i, the S4i’s big brother only, some how, much MUCH smaller.

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Klipsch Image X10i

In a few weeks, these headphones will be mine!  They are the Klipsch Image X10i headphones with inline microphone and iPhone/iPod controller.  Did I mention they are also the world’s smallest headphones?!

Be sure to check back here for an in-depth review.  Though, since I have tested out a similar model, the Klipsch Image X10, I can already say it will be mostly a love fest.  Taking into consideration their size, comfort, price, features and performance, these are perhaps the best in-ear headphones ever made.

Meanwhile, I will continue to love my Koss PortaPros.  I must say, I have never gotten so many compliments on the looks of my headphones and there hasn’t been a day of wearing the Koss’s out that I didn’t get a compliment.  Today I was told at Starbucks, while paying my rent, at Kaldi’s Coffee and at an art gallery that my headphones were cool looking, awesome, really interesting etc.

I’d recommend these headphones to anyone who needs a great set of headphones for an unbelievable price.  Only $35 on Amazon and they out perform several $100+ headphones out there.  Only two warnings.  They are open headphones so you won’t block out any outside noises and people can hear what you’re listening to.  Second, their headband catches on your hair if it’s long, and even mine sometimes.  Other than that, amazing.

Ok, enough nerding out over headphones.  Time to get ready for work!

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Comply Foam Headphone Tips

It’s been nearly five years since I had my first set of Comply headphone tips. They came with my UltimateEars SuperFi 5 Pro dual-driver, in-ear headphones. My first impressions were nothing too spectacular.

The UltimateEars headphones are large and never really felt secure. The noise isolation was great but only if they were in just right. Since the diameter of the ear tip was so wide, getting a deep placement was difficult and I soon found the headphones falling out or losing their proper seal.

I switched to the rubber or silicon ear tips that came with the headphones and found that while the seal wasn’t necessarily that much better, if the seal broke, I could easily remedy the situation. Eventually I got so good at putting on the headphones that losing a seal was no longer a problem.

Now to the present. The inevitable finally happened with me UltimateEars SuperFI 5 Pro headphones, they became tip-less (really surprised I didn’t lose them faster). Meanwhile my new favorite in-ear headphones, the Klipsch Image S4i have proven their ability to kick ass, take names and leave all my other headphones getting dusty. I went to the Klipsch Bulletin Board to do a bit of tech help for my fellow audiophiles and saw a few people discussing ways to further improve their Klipsch investment.

One thing that popped up a few too many times to be ignored was the inclusion of Comply foam ear tips. I bit the bullet and, with the generosity of Comply giving me a review discount (full disclosure for all those Federal Trade Commission agents reading my blog…), I bought two sets (6 pair) for my two favorite in-ear-monitors.

For those who don’t know, Comply makes memory-foam ear tips for many popular in-ear headphones, as well as their own line of sound isolating headphones.  They the brand of ear tips to buy, period. Here is why…

My Comply headphone tips came in the other day, a set for my UltimateEars and another for the Klipsch headphones.

So what are my thoughts?

Well, first off, it’s a definite upgrade to the UltimateEars branded options and seem to be an improvement on the Comply models I had several years ago.

As I wrote above, the UltimateEars have a really wide sound channel that is probably too wide for most people’s ears. That being said, the Comply tips make a significantly better seal than the rubber ones from UltimateEars, despite the physical obstacles of the sound port of the headphones.

The fit on the Klipsch S4i is just perfect, they seemed to just disappear once in my ears.  Klipsch made noise when they released their first headsets and a good deal was written regarding their unprecedented comfort for in-ear-monitors.  Klipsch’s oval tips (instead of round) fit the ear more naturally.  I would love to see Comply incorporate this design element with a future model of their ear tips for even an even better fit.

The sound isolation is dangerously good. I missed several phone calls and a couple knocks on my door! They completely silenced my local Starbucks.  On the flight from St. Louis to Austin, not even the roar of the jets next to my window interfered with my music listening.  Eyes closed, you’re in a different world.

When you get these tips you’re doing so for really three reasons. Replacement for lost tips, sound isolation and comfort. UltimateEars SuperFi 5 Pro owners will enjoy a significant increase in comfort and sound isolation with the Comply ear tips. However, if you have the Klipsch S4i, you probably already enjoy amazing comfort and decent sound isolation so if sound isolation is your need, the Comply headphone tips will fill any gaps left by your current tips. However, if comfort is your biggest concern, the double-flange tips from Klipsch are just as comfortable and perhaps better, to me.

In regards to any improvement in audio performance… You will certainly notice an increase in bass response which decreases your desire to turn up the volume. The sound isolation coupled with a nearly airtight seal in your ear really makes the bass lines in songs like Muse’s Undisclosed Desires perform at its best.  Lower volumes means less stress on your ears which allows a longer listening with less fatigue and hearing damage.

There are really only three downsides I see to the Comply ear tips.

  1. Price – At $5-7 a pair, it’s not overwhelmingly expensive but an extra cost not associated with most headphones.
  2. Ease of Use – Putting the headphones on and off becomes a hassle. Definitely not something you want to keep doing. I got so frustrated with people coming up to me to talk causing me to redo my headphones every few minutes that I went back to the regular tips at one point. Definitely not as easy to take in and out than the original ear tips.
  3. Sanitation – you have to replace the ear tips at least once every three months. Though to me, there is something kinda gross about putting these in your ears even after a couple of weeks use. You can wipe them down with a moist rag after use to keep them clean. Make sure they are dry before you use them again, and of course, clean ears means cleaner tips.

Let’s break it down.

  • Isolation – 9.5/10
  • Comfort – 9/10
  • Performance – 9/10
  • Value – 9/10
  • Overall – 9.1/10

Will this improvement in audio quality, comfort and sound isolation have you taking a second listen to your music catalogue? No. But it might be that small difference that takes a 9 out of 10 headphone closer to a 10.

One a lesser set of headphones, such as the Griffin TuneBuds you will notice a significant improvement in audio quality, isolation and comfort with the Comply headphone tips.

Klipsch S4i headphone Review

This was posted back on the Klipsch Bulletin Board, reposting my initial thoughts of the Klipsch S4i headphones.  These headphones are specially made for the iPhone 3GS and the latest iPod Shuffle with voice control.  Unlike most iPhone/iPod headsets out there, this one features a remote control and microphone that not only pauses/plays music and answers calls, it adds the ability to change the volume of your music.  This feature works on iPhone 3Gs, the latest iPod Shuffle and the Unibody MacBook/MacBook Pro (volume/microphone).

What follows is my initial review.

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IMMEDIATE USE AND OPERATION

I’ve only had a limited period of time listening to them so far but it’s pretty obvious, to me, that these headphones are killer.

By far, the most comfortable in-ear headphones (IEMs) that I’ve ever worn (of course not exclusive to the rest of the Klipsch headphone line which are all best in class for comfort). The stock contour gel tips that ship on the S4i fit my ears perfectly. I did the 180 degree twist method with the wires up and if it wasn’t the best headphone seal I’ve ever had! The sound isolation reminded me of the isolation provided by the triple flanged ear-tips in my Shure headphones.

I haven’t tried many of the other tips but plan to try the double flanged tips and perhaps will order the Comply memory foam tips to see how they compare. As it is, these tips not only isolate an impressive amount of noise, they also create the seal required for heavy bass.

Removing the headphones from my ears illustrated just how strong the hold was. I halfway worried the tips would be left behind in my ears! But, as with all the other Klipsch headsets, the patent pending tip design worked flawlessly and stayed in place. Phew!

Klipsch Image S4i Headphones

I placed a call using my iPhone to test the microphone. I worried the headphone’s position below my neck would be problematic. To my happy surprise this wasn’t the case at all. As an added bonus, I didn’t feel the need to remove a headphone from one of my ears during the call. Many IEMs create a bizarre effect when you talk while wearing them. Talking with the Griffin TuneBuds mobile ($20-40) or the UltimateEars 4vi ($79-100) in both ears made your voice sound as if you ear were clogged with water.

Somehow this doesn’t happen with the Klipsch buds. That’s a welcome revelation.

Looking at the product photos I admit I was a bit skeptical of the control module. I felt it was too long, too low and too awkward for accurate use. Wrong. It picked up my voice perfectly, won’t get caught on your collar like may mics/buttons do from competing headphones as they sit on one side or the other near your chin/cheek, and the buttons are much easier to push than the UltimateEars 4vi ($79-100) or Triple.fi 10vi ($400).

The cable is the perfect length, even if it does seem a bit fragile. Walking with the headphones presents limited to no extra noise. Perhaps it’s softness of the rubber on the cables paired with the gel ear-tips are the reason for this. The old Shure and Etymotic headphones were pretty awful in this regard.

Wrapping up the cable is a little difficult, due to the long control module. I haven’t figured out the best method just yet. The Klipsch bag to hold the headphones when not in use is just short of perfect. Metal bands wrapped in fabric hold the bag closed, a one handed squeeze opens it back up again. This is a big improvement, IMHO, to the tin can case of the S4 which was far too large.

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SOUND QUALITY

Right off the bat, with the factory installed ear-tips on the Klipsch Image S4i’s, the sound was great. However, switching to the double-flanged ear tips brought a noticeable increase in isolation and bass reproduction. If these are comfortable to you, use them. If not, I hear the Comply Memory Foam ear-tips bring similar, if not better isolation/bass with remarkable comfort.

The sound wasn’t as bright as my Klipsch Heritage speakers and the bass not as punchy as competing headphones like the UltimateEars Super.fi 5 Pro’s, though it’s pretty darn close. The sound is more natural, a flatter response than many headphones in this class (most push for exaggerated bass and volume before quality of audio reproduction.)

At times it seemed the highs simply rolled off, a bit too early if you ask me. Symbols, trumpets and crackling glass weren’t nearly as prominent as they were with my Klipsch Heresy speakers ($1,600 pair), Sennheiser HD600’s ($300-400) or the Koss PortaPro headsets. One of the things I’ve always loved about Klipsch was the bright sound. These headphones don’t illustrate the brightness found in their speakers or Custom series headphones.

That isn’t to say the bass is lacking, just that if you’re a basshead, you might want to look at something like the old UltimateEars Super.fi 5 EB ($140-200), the Beats by Dre ($300-350), or Future Sonics’ Atrio M5 earphones ($180-200). A proper seal makes a world of a difference when it comes to bass response. Listening to TheEars favorite bass testing cd, Pomps and Pipes, presented powerful, albeit restrained bass.

If you’ve heard the S4 you’ve likely already got an idea of the S4i. As I said in the beginning of this review, I don’t have the two headphones to do an A/B test but as I remember the S4 sound, it’s very similar if not identical.

I compared the Klipsch Image S4i, A/B style, with the Sennheiser PX100 and UltimateEars Super.fi 5 Pro headsets.

The Klipsch headset was a clear winner compared to the PX100. Famous for it’s comfort and sound quality, when compared directly to the Klipsch, the Sennheiser showed its weaknesses. While the Sennheiser is incredibly comfortable, the extra long cable gets in the way quite a bit, the headset falls off your head if you lean down and you are forced to punch up the volume quite a bit to get anywhere near the bass and volume the Klipsch provide. Comparing an IEM to an open-air headphone isn’t really fair, some might say, but if you want to compare the S4i to a very popular, and venerable headset, there are few better than this one.

However, when compared to the UltimateEars Super.fi 5 Pro, the sound reproduction, sensitivity, soundstage, bass response… it’s all just a little better on the UltimateEars. Again, perhaps an unfair comparision. The UltimateEars cost upwards of twice the price, have two separate drivers and are significantly larger. The Klipsch did cream this competition, however, when it came to comfort and features.

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OPENING THE BOX

The packaging is pretty, rigid and interesting to open. I’m one of those people that like to save every box in like-new condition. With the S4i box you actually have to rip open the box! All my previous Klipsch headphones came to me in plastic boxes, but then again, those were mostly beta models!

Once I get them unpacked the first thing that came to mind was fear. There are three, in my opinion, design flaws in the headphones, which many other headphones feature.

1. The cord is, as all Klipsch headphones have been, super thin. I’m not worried about sound fidelity, so little power is moving through these headphones, that won’t be an issue. I’m just worried about durability. I will say the cables are pretty darn quiet, very little cable movement noise, of course it’s not winter yet, no jacket zippers rubbing the cables just yet!

2. The headphone jack sticks straight out, it isn’t an L-shaped jack. This is my biggest pet peeve in headphones. An L-shaped jack prevents damage to the jack by creating a better stress-relief point and reducing the chance the jack will break off or short out from getting pushed against in a pocket, etc. It also prevents shorts occurring from pulling the headphone jack out of the iPod/iPhone/etc repeatedly. With an L-shaped bracket, the user is forced to grasp the jack itself to remove from the device. In the case of many headsets, including the S4i, you end up pulling on the cable. The jack is tapered off beautifully into the cable but is so slick that I’ve found my fingers slipping off the jack and onto the cable as I unplug the cables.

This jack design has killed two UltimateEars 4vi headphones, three Griffin TuneBuds Mobile and a handful of others. It’s such a simple issue, one that the other Klipsch headphones do not suffer from, including the Klipsch Image S4.

3. The headphones are all plastic. They look great and feel light as a feather but they just don’t FEEL high quality. The lightness is much appreciated, you forget they are in your ears in no time, and I’m sure the build quality of the headphones themselves isn’t truly questionable, it’s just a perception of cheap.

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CONCLUSIONS

When it’s all said and done, these are great headphones. They aren’t perfect but they are of course being compared to much more expensive speakers and headphones, which must be taken into consideration.

Physical –
Comfort: 9.5/10
Build: 7/10
Remote: 9/10
Mic: 10/10
Overall 8.75

Sound –
Bass: 9/10
Mids: 9/10
Treble: 8/10
Soundstage: 8.5/10
Overall: 8.625/10

Value – When you compare the headphone audio to competing models (read, any and all headphones on the market), it’s not a great value. There are other, better, cheaper headphones out there. The Koss PortaPro ($35-50), the UltimateEars Super.fi 5 Pro ($180-300), Etymotic ER6i ($70-110), etc, are all better sounding headphones (to a varying and small degree.) Other headphones provide a more dynamic sound with greater presence and soundstage along with a more exciting experience. But none of these headphones, and no other headphone in the class of the Klipsch Image S4i, provides all of the features of the Klipsch at this price point.

Flat out, there isn’t a better headphone for the iPhone 3GS than the Klipsch Image S4i. Its remote control and microphone put this headset above all others. You’ll have to spend a lot more to get an iPhone headset better than this, such as the Etymotic hf2 or UltimateEars Triple.fi 10vi and still sacrifice on features.

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BONUS FEATURE!

Plus, an added bonus to Apple users, if you have a unibody MacBook or MacBook Pro, the volume keys on the remote control of the Klipsch S4i will also change the volume of your laptop! This is a welcome bonus for sure! Oh and the microphone? It also works, turning off the microphone in the computer as soon as you plug in the headset! No more clicking of the keys as you type away during a Skype call or iChat session. The microphone performed as well or better than my Blue Microphone for vocals, if you choose to use this headset as the perfect, portable podcasting set.

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As I continue to use these headphones, as they continue to burn in, I will adapt, update and revise my review. These headphones have been used all of 5 hours. If you subscribe to the philosophy of “burning in” your equipment before REALLY taking its performance seriously, as I do, you already understand the importance of this period of time.

This initial review is simply a jumping off point. You likely noted how little time I spent on sound quality and performance, focusing instead on build, ergonomics and initial thoughts. I will elaborate on all of these sections, but especially sound quality, as I continue to enjoy these headphones.

If you’re on the fence, and they come in stock, my advice? Buy these headphones. Absolutely buy them. Your ears will thank you, the guy sitting next to you, no longer listening to your music will thank you, and gosh darnit, you’re worth it!

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THE NEXT MORNING

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RIGID113:
Hellovadeal!!!!!

Yeah, I’d have to agree. If you look at them as simply replacement headphones for your iPod/iPhone, at $100 they provide a pretty good value/performance ratio. When you add the, so far perfect, microphone and remote control with pause/play/answer and volume controls, the value/performance shoots through the roof.

The only other headphone out there that does all of this (as far as I know it) is the Apple dual-driver, in ear headphones. But the bass in those headphones doesn’t come near the bass in the Klipsch S4i. Which is amazing considering the Klipsch S4i has a single driver, compared with Apple’s dual drivers.

UltimateEars/AltecLansing/Logitech (that’s a confusing situation…) say they have a headset coming out that will carry a similar feature set, but that remains to be seen. What it breaks down to is, if you’ve got the iPhone 3GS, when it comes to headphones, there’s no better set out there for you.

Some reviews have criticized the size of these headphones as if they were large. I’m not sure from where this is coming. Yes, they are larger than the world’s smallest in-ear-monitor headphones (also made by Klipsch) but they are, by no means, large headphones. In fact, they are so small, they aren’t immediately noticeable in you ears, not like UltimateEars Super.fi headphones or Shure’s line of IEMs. I even had a bit of trouble a couple of times removing them from my ears, the seal was so tight (a VERY good thing) and the headphones were so small.

So far, listening to them more last night and then again this morning, I’m noticing an overall better sound. Probably the result of a better seal and some time for my ears to rest. Their comfortable enough that you are tempted to wear them longer than you probably should… like when your boss comes into your office to ask you a question about a marketing proposal… oops! They also totally drown out the ringing of phone, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your job 😛

Klipsch Image S4i

Image S4i In-Ear Headset With Mic And 3-Button Remote Headphones.  These headphones will be replacing my Griffin Tunebuds Mobile which were great cheap headphones but really started to show their weaknesses after extensive use.  I still highly recommend them for people in need of significantly improved headphones to those that came with their iPhone/iPod but there are a few serious design flaws.

A major flaw, which I hope the Klipsch likely won’t suffer, came with the headphone plug itself.  It sticks straight up about 1 inch from the headphone jack when plugged in.  The problem? With the iPhone in your pocket, you bend down to say tie your shoes, or in my case, bend down to take a picture, and you break the jack!

UPDATE: Turns out the Klipsch S4i uses the same unfortunate headphone jack. Just waiting to break it. :-\

This has happened to me with three pairs of the Griffin TuneBuds and 2 pairs of UltimateEars 4vi headphones.  If the S4i from Klipsch are anything like the S4, the headphone jack will be a shorter, L-shaped jack.

I will definitely be posting a review of these headphones as soon as they come in.  I got to beta test all of Klipsch’s headphones at the factory and then at home a couple of year ago.  These headphones are the most comfortable in-ear headphones I’ve ever used and the sound quality is top-notch, just like any other Klipsch product.

Oh, and on a really cool note, Klipsch wrote a little ditty about me today on one of their blogs.  Check out the post by Amy Unger (who is probably the best CS person in existence).

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Jonny Lang

So I was doing my usual afternoon bike ride. Goal is to get my average speed to 25mph…

Anyways, I go to Starbucks to cool off, get a drink etc. I’m sitting down at the bar sipping on my Iced Grande Double Shot when this incredibly sexy guy orders his drink.

At the hand-off plane I start to thinking… Who is this guy? He is so hot, I feel like I know him. And then it hits me.

It’s mother fucking Jonny Lang. The hottest, nicest, blues singer of my, or really any generation.

I kept my cool, introduced myself; told him I used to do work for Klipsch whom he acted as a spokesperson. Once when I was hospitalized for a while in high school, Klipsch got him to sign a few CD‘s and magazine covers for me, he remembered that and asked how I was.

It was great. He was just as nice as you would expect, made small talk and me feel totally comfortable, even though I was freaking out on the inside.

Can’t wait for the concert tonight. Going to bring the camera and try and get some pics of him in action. If you haven’t heard of Jonny Lang, you are missing out. By far just one of the greatest song writers, composers and blues singers out there and just a stand up guy.

Plus he’s not hard to look at, not at all.

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What a Week…

The last several days have been full of ups and downs.  So much stress, I think I aged a few years in just these days!

It all started when the Budget moving truck we rented didn’t work out.  The office was supposed to close at 6:00 but when we called at 4:45, they had already left the office.  We had a $150 deposit on the truck and didn’t want to lose it but if we waited until the next day to pick it up, we would be one day behind schedule.

My dad and I found the last U-Haul in town large enough for my stuff but not too big, it was an additional $200 to the price of the Budget but it was available.  So we pick it up and drive to my grandmother’s rental property to pick up a dinning table, side tables and coffee table.  Off to my parents house to pick up a couch and chair for my uncle, then to my uncle’s for my couch, my bed, my night stand and to move a dresser to my brother’s new place.

When we got there in the early morning Saturday, we realized that the movers we had in place to move the furniture out of the second floor apartment of my uncle, were not showing.  So my dad and I moved it all.  Then we went to my brother’s to drop off the dresser and then to my parents new house.

We needed the furniture dolly that my dad loaned my brother… who loaned it out to a friend of his who loaned it out to his cousin.  Yikes.  So we have this 55″ HDTV that weighs 276lbs to carry now, instead of roll, onto the U-Haul.  We load the TV, some granite counter tops, some shelving, boxes of CD’s and DVD’s, my refrigerator, chairs, this that and the other, packed full and then start our drive.

Since we got such a late start with the rental truck fiasco, we were forced to drive from Houston to Columbia with no stops.  My dad and I split up the driving, he did the first half, i did the last half.  I had driven the last half a dozen or so times and he had driven the first half several times, so that worked out nicely.

We did get a nice stop for dinner but that was pretty much it!

We got to Columbia at around 6:30am and crashed at my old apartment.  I couldn’t sleep at that point so I watched some TV and relaxed a bit.  Met the movers at my new apartment and helped them unpack it.  They did a great job, but charged us for an extra 45 minutes!  That was upsetting, and expensive.  But everything fit.

We ran to my old apartment, loaded up a bunch of stuff into the U-Haul and drove it to the new place, started unpacking and wrote down things we needed to fix at the new place.  The bathroom needed new shower stuff, all the light fixtures needed to be replaced, new ceiling fan, new air conditioner, new power outlets, new kitchen countertop/cabinets…  We had a lot of work in store for us.

We worked through fathers’ day until 12:30 AM on monday, and four hours later I was driving my dad to MoExpress to go to the airport.

The next day I worked, unpacked boxes but had an OK day.  The DSL was installed and it didn’t work, my gas didn’t work and my car needed to be picked up.

Most of my “friends” wouldn’t lift a finger to help, though I have to give huge thanks to Dave, Brenden, Ryan, Brandon and Nicole.  Dave helped almost on accident and then was the hero who drove me to MoExpress today.  Brenden SAVED me by driving me around town  yesterday and Ryan took charge to help me put my apartment together.  Brandon took two car loads of stuff from my old place to my new one, thanks!

See, the day after I picked up my car from the autobody place, where they didn’t actually repair my car as quoted… it broke down.  Nicole, a friend from work gave me a ride to work, only two minutes late, and just the day before had driven me to the autobody place to pick up the car from the U-Haul place when I dropped off my truck.  She was an absolute gem.

So, the car breaks down, my gas is turned on in the wrong apartment, my DSL is broken, after paying $85 to get it installed, my drains aren’t working, my shower still isn’t fixed, the light in my kitchen shorted out my electrical in my apartment, my computer is running with only 1-2% of available processor (no idea why that as going on), my other apartment was supposed to be moved out by yesterday at 5:00 for my sublease, I fuck up my knee hard core… and it seems everything I touch gets cursed.  My computer at work overheats (104 degrees Celsius which is about 40 too high) and our hot water tap catches on fire.  But I have a good time at work, really enjoyed it.

This was such a stressful week, everything I tried to do, backfired at me, nothing went smoothly and so many of the people who I have called friends, boyfriends, etc, wouldn’t even attempt at helping me.  The help came from people who I am realizing are true friends.  I would have done any of these things for any of my friends yet, only a few came through for me.  Thanks so much guys, you really saved me.  Ryan, Nicole, Dave, Brandon and Brenden, thanks so much.

I made it to my flight and am writing this as we approach Indianapolis.  I hope to have a great time visiting Klipsch and hope some wonderful things might come from it.  After this it is back to Columbia for a few days, then to Washington DC and New York City.  Then back in town for a week and a half and then to California and then Chicago and then finally back to Columbia for good… unless I go to Nashville and South Carolina!

Maybe I can finally get some sleep once this is all over.  I love my new apartment, it’s going to be so awesome once I get it totally set up.

Ciao my loves.