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I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)
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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!
A PC-User's Purchase "Guide" (it's not...just the ramblings of an idiot) to High Quality Audio on your system.
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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
, 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
. 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:
- active speakers,
- passive speakers,
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.
- SVS SB-1000 $500: Bassssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.
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)
- HiFiMAN HE4XX $160: Simply amazing. Open back planar headphones.
- 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.
- Fiio E5/6 $15/25- portable, tiny, budget headphone amp.
- Fiio E10 $55- bang for buck
- 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.
You're converting your CS:GO sensitivity wrong, here is why.
| || |UPDATED: This new FOV method is the ONLY way to achieve a near-perfect 1:1 conversion between both games, providing you are willing to loose (or gain in some situations) a little bit of screen real-estate. This will match your games' FOVs in terms of screen distances by taking advantage of Valorant's locked FOV. This is now my preferred method, and I'll leave it at the top. I've left the old post below if anyone can't handle loosing some screen real-estate. In the following few paragraphs, most use-cases are covered. submitted by binkaaa to VALORANT [link] [comments]
I will create a set of custom resolutions to run Valorant at below. These should all be scaled 1:1 by your video card on your monitor (No Scaling, aka, no pixel stretching). If you have stretched CSGO, you are screwed, see the next paragraph. 4:3 non-streched users can rejoice, as can 16:9 users. 16:10 users can't use the FOV method, but get a reasonable multiplier, and aren't entirely screwed, but its not as good news as the 16:9 and 4:3 non-stretched users who get heaps of options.
For non-streched users, these will all use the standard 3.18 divider for your CSGO sensitivity, as we have matched FOV, and we can happily match 360 rotations AND achieve perfect on-screen distance for aim. If you don't want to have any black bars on the horizontal, just match the vertical resolution to the same as CSGO. I believe this will give you some vertical sensitivity error though (eg: instead of using 3622x2038 in Valorant in the first example in the resolution list below, I could just use 3622x2160 and accept some vertical error, but only take on side black bars, with no top and bottom black bars. Valorant will look a little more distorted though too). If you can't figure it out with other weirder CSGO configs, feel free to request, and I can give it a go, but I have already spent a lot of time on this and would rather let people start reporting them in. If you really can't figure it out, ask and let me know. STRETCH USER:
Note to users who take a CSGO 4:3 native ratio/resolution and stretch it out to fill a 16:9 or 16:10 monitor: TLDR: Stretched CSGO users are screwed. Nothing can be done, and as I said near the bottom of my original post, this is your punishment for sweating over fat terrorists your whole life.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to salvage the same FOV in valorant. You have an hFOV of 90 in CS, stretched out to take up your whole screen real-estate. You need to somehow get Valorant's hFOV from 103 down to 90. You can't. You would have to somehow superscale the game past the edge of your monitor, and clip its wings, loosing much of your HUD, and I also have no idea how you could even render it like that. For these users, either use the original 3.18 value, or 2.53 if you want your horizontal distance to match.
See my footnote for stretched users way below (2.53 will FUBAR your vertical sens for Valorant, and give you radically wrong 360 motion.). There is no ideal solution for stretch CS users. For most stretch users, I would recommend the 3.18 value as a starting point and learning the new sensitivity. Any data I presented was based on Non stretch conversions. Stretch conversions has the same kind of error gradient that emerges, but radically worse.
CUSTOM RESOLUTIONS FOR VALORANT TO MAINTAIN A 1:1 FOV CONVERSION WITH CSGO: CSGO NOT STRETCHED, 1:1 implies pixel perfect scaling. Pixel doubling would also be ok (using resolutions half the amount of your monitors native). If you are not 1:1, or 2:1 with pixels, it might still work as long as the ratios are the same, depending on how your graphics card behaves. Not listed below? If your CSGO VERTICAL resolution is listed below, then pick any one that has the same vertical res as you, regardless of horizontal, and find the valorant conversion. They all become the same, because csgo just clips your horizontal anyway.
Take your csgo vertical resolution (the 1080
in 1920x1080 for example):
Times by 0.9428793 = new Valorant horizontal res Times by 1.67622932 = new Valorant vertical res
Thank you to x_Delirium in this following post for the math (I adapted his math to figure out the vertical constant without needing to use mouse-sensitivity.com
Common list already done for you, rounded to nearest whole and even numbers:
CSGO: 3840×2160 1:1 16:9 -> Valorant: 3620x2036 1:1
CSGO: 2880x2160 1:1 4:3 -> Valorant: 3620x2036 1:1
CSGO: 2560x1440 1:1 16:9 -> Valorant: 2414x1358 1:1
CSGO: 1920x1440 1:1 4:3 -> Valorant: 2414x1358 1:1
1:1 16:9 -> Valorant: 1810x1018
1:1 4:3 -> Valorant: 1810x1018
1:1 ??? -> Valorant: 1810x1018
* CSGO: 1280x960 1:1 4:3 -> Valorant: 1610x906 1:1
CSGO: 1024x768 1:1 4:3 -> Valorant: 1288x724 1:1
CSGO: 1280x720 1:1 16:9 -> Valorant 1206x678 1:1
CSGO: 960x720 1:1 4:3 -> Valorant 1206x678 1:1
CSGO: 640x480 1:1 4:3 -> Valorant 804x452 1:1
* See how if you use a blackbar res that isn't 4:3, you can get 1:1 with valorant by finding a res above that matches your csgo
VERTICAL res, here, that res is 1080.
A decent guide for custom rez creation: https://appuals.com/how-to-create-custom-resolutions-on-windows-7-8-or-10/
16:10 Native USERS
CSGO: Any 1:1 16:10 NATIVE Resolution -> Valorant IMPOSSIBLE. You only have 100.39 degrees of FOV in CSGO, and you have no more monitor horizontal space to work with to give Valorant room to breathe. It is the same fundamental problem the stretch users are facing. If you use 16:10 on a monitor natively, but somehow have horizontal black bars (this would be weird and unlikely) then it might be possible to do something. For 16:10 users
, your best bet is to just use 3.18 or 3.037
(based on my original post's logic) as your sens divider, and see what you prefer, or use something in between. Fortunately for you, 3.037 is a decent multiplier that won't fuck your vertical sense, or 360 too badly. It is pretty much as good as the 3.370 multiplier that 16:9 users who don't want to match FOV can use.
16:9 USERS NOT WILLING TO CHANGE THEIR SCREEN REAL-ESTATE TO MATCH FOV
The divider value I originally posed as being better than 3.18: 3.370
Not everyone will agree, no problem. Consider 3.18 to 3.37 as the sensitivity region you may like. If you pick one, and something feels wrong, try the other. Yes, my original claim about 3.18 being the downright wrong choice is alarmist. Some people will reasonably prefer one or the other, and there are merits to both choices, as I pointed out all along.
Now back to the ideal FOV changing method, and how this ideal FOV matching method works:
CSGO maintains a variable horizontal FOV depending on resolution ratio width, and at 16:9, it is 106.260205, and maintains 73.739795 vertical FOV, LOCKED. At more boxed resolutions/ratios, the sides get sliced off, and you loose hFOV. You never lose vFOV
Valorant maintains a tight 103 horizontal FOV, and ~ 70.5328 vertical FOV. BOTH locked. I've tested this in game by wildly changing ratios and custom resolutions. The game image will always distort to maintain the H and V FOV. We can use this to our advantage to distort Valorant into a screen space that matches what those angles and distances would be in CSGO. Valorant is basically just a slightly zoomed in image compared to CSGO, so now we are going to zoom it out on our monitor a bit to match it.
I originally did some incorrect math to convert this (didn't use trig...). There is a simpler way using the mouse-sensitivity website. I'll run through what I did for my screen (2560x1440). This should be correct providing the mouse-sensitivity equations are correct behind the scene, and I do trust that they are. (This is redundant now. I used the trig to get the constants. See near the res list to the easiest method possible).
Select CSGO as your game. Set sens and DPI. Set res to 2560x1440 (or your native res of CSGO). Start to adjust the 2560 number until it closes in on 103 degrees actual hFOV at the data readout. 2414 pixels is the spot... We just found out what our horizontal res needs to be for valorant (with some small black bars) to match perfectly to csgo, seeming valorant will lock at 103 hFOV no matter what.
You could stop there, and it would be pretty good. Horizontal aim and 360 degree matching is now near pixel perfect. I haven't proven this, but I believe your vertical aim will still be off though. So let's do the same for vertical matching:
Now, convert to Valorant as the output. Set the above horizontal res number just found (2416) as your Valorant res. Now adjust the Valorant vertical res number, until Actual vFOV output closes in on 70.5328. This is taking advantage of what I believe is actually a bug on the Valorant data on the website: it thinks valorant's vFOV can change, even though it can't, so we can use it to figure out what pixel count will salvage our smaller vFOV with black bars. I believe for me, 1358 is that number. If they fix this, we will loose the ability to easily match this using the website (redundant now, we can just use the trig derived constants instead of the website. See above the Res list). Redundant: However, it will still be possible to do by matching it until the vertical distance based sensitivities are the same as the 360 degree rotation sensitivities, but it won't be quite as precise or easy, and will require payment on the site. It is plausible that the vertical component of this is slightly off, but I can't see how or why, and if it is, it would be a tiny deviation. If anyone wants to do the math manually to check, please do.
We now have a new resolution 2414x1358. Set this with NVIDIA control panel, (or AMD, not familiar with it though) as a custom res, and use it in valorant.
Divide your csgo sens by 3.18, or use the default (and free) 360 match on the website (it is doing the same division, just more decimals), and use that.
Set scope multiplier to 0.747, or set/leave to preference (see closer to bottom of my original post far below). I still use 0.747.
A near perfect 1:1 experience between both games is now achieved within a tiny and imperceptible margin of error. All we have done is matched Valorant to fill 103 degrees of CSGO's 106.26xxx screen real-estate on the horizontal (talking from a 16:9 perspective), and 70.5328 degrees of CSGOs 73.73xxx on the vertical.
You may have lost about 11% of your screen real-estate. Effectively, it is like playing CSGO with a little bit of the top, bottom and sides of your screen sheered off. The benefit is a near perfect match in horizontal and vertical behaviour at both the aimer, all the way through to 360 degree movement, a 1:1 match. If you just do the black bars at the sides, your vertical sensitivity will be the same as when using the 360 method, so slightly off, but you've salvaged your horizontal sens completely. Add the vertical black bars, and it should be perfect all-round. If you use a 4:3 CSGO native resolution, you will GAIN screen real-estate in order to match FOV.
A few notes. This does NOT significantly distort Valorant from a native 16:9 (providing you are coming from 16:9 CSGO). Things look absolutely fine. You will almost certainly need to run on Fullscreen mode for it to function well. Windowed mode would work too, but leave your desktop in the wings. Fullscreen Windowed doesn't work for me, it just stretches it back out to full screen.
Are there any negatives to the FOV method in terms of perception and aim? Well, your perception may hinge somewhat on the moving region of the screen being identical in both games. However, I think it most likely that matching FOV, and distances on your monitor, sitting roughly equidistant at all times, and having everything else perfect, will be by far the most successful method for the vast majority of users transitioning between games. I personally have also clipped CSGO now to give it 103 FOV on the horizontal instead of 106.26 (giving me the same vertical black bars between both games) for the utmost consistency. So the only difference between the two games is Valorant has some horizontal black bars. Doing this of course didn't impact my sensitivity in CSGO at all, it just clips the image at the sides a little, giving me some black bars. Remember, CSGO's horizontal FOV is variable based on resolution.
My CSGO res: 2416x1440 native black bar ~ 103x73
FOV blackbars on sides
My valorant res: 2416x1358 ~ 103x70 FOV blackbars on sides, top and bottom.
Hopefully that makes sense.
If you refuse to loose a bit of screen real estate, this is my original post below which uses a different divider that prioritises screen distance instead of 360 degree rotation as the method of matching sensitivities between both games. Both my number below, and the original 3.18 number (without doing what I propose above) will have significant errors, in different parts of your aiming. I argue that my number is better if you want to match your aim. It won't feel right for everyone, and some still preferred 3.18, which is perfectly reasonable. I personally now will be using my above method of matching FOV for a 1:1 match, making this entire section obsolete.
THE ORIGINAL POST WITH THE ORIGINAL VALUES THAT CAN RECOVER SOME OF YOUR AIM IF IT WAS FEELING OFF, FOR THOSE NOT WILLING TO LOOSE SOME SCREEN REAL-ESTATE:
IMPORTANT EDIT: This new number can change depending on your game window ratio. If you are not using the simple 16:9 to 16:9 conversion, proceed with caution. This is largely, although not just, due to how valorant distorts to maintain its 103 hFOV. However, it should be ok if neither game is distorted. So black bars 4:3 CS is ok
, as long as valorant is 16:9
. I encourage you to head to mouse-sensitivity.com to get a more reliable value using 0% horizontal distance as your match if there is any deviation from these norms. It will cost $3. To anyone I recommended a value to NOT using 16:9, it may be wrong. Apologies. I have a caveat about stretch to non-stretch conversions in a footnote you need to be aware of if deploying this.
The normal method is to divide your CSGO sens by 3.18. This doesn't actually give you correct aim, only a correct abstract sense of movement in the world. Divide by the below instead: 16:9 CSGO to 16:9 Valorant (Native to native): 3.370 4:3 CSGO blackbar non-streched to 16:9 Valorant: 3.370 4:3 CSGO STRETCHED to 16:9 Valorant (Don't fuck with valorant here, it won't behave how you hope): 2.53
PEOPLE USING STRETCHED CONVERSIONS, SEE THE FOOTNOTE BEFORE ASKING QUESTIONS PLEASE :) TLDR IS THAT ALL OPTIONS SUCK AND YOU REALLY MAY WANT TO JUST STICK WITH 3.18.
Ideal, and common scope multipliers are given at the bottom in the scope footnote. For any other weird options, again, pay and go do the work at mouse-sensitivity.com
Yes, using 3.370 will 'feel' a little slower to get around in Valorant now compared to 3.18, at worst about 6% slower in fact, but your aim is more likely to be left in tact. Use whatever you prefer though. Just giving people another option and some stats to what the difference is.
Keep reading if you want to know why these proposed conversions (really just the 3.370 one) are technically "better" than 3.18: This is the bulk of my original post:
ORIGINAL POST AND PROOFING:
People are under the impression that they should be converting their sensitivity from CS:GO by dividing their CS:GO sensitivity by 3.18...
People think this will give them the same sensitivity, thus muscle memory, between the games.
They are (kind of) wrong.
This will only give you the same sense of traversing the game world, as it matches the amount of distance required to move your mouse for a 360 degree rotation. BUT, due to the FOV difference between the two games of 3.26 degrees, you will not have the same feeling of SENSITIVITY.
Here is the result of some math as to why.
How far do I have to move my mouse, in order to get from where my crosshair is, to where that enemies head is on my screen?
You can only achieve a perfect conversion between the two games at ONE point on your monitor. ONE distance. And I can tell you, the 360 degree rotation conversion is wildly off, unless you intend to do a few rotations first in order to hit someone in the head.
I ran the math, and the correct point to calibrate to on your screen is almost certainly 0%, right at the crosshair, making subtle movements at the crosshair (in order to target enemies near your crosshair) perfect between both games. Many may already be aware of this, but it is interesting to understand why.
Ok, if we use the 0% conversion, we end up with a 1:1 SENSITIVITY match between CS:GO and Valorant AT THE CROSSHAIR. Great, but what about points AWAY from the middle of my screen? Well, things gradually get worse the further the distance, and I will provide the percentage of deviation from a perfect match between the special 0% mark, and the very edge of your monitor, if you set at this 0% mark, and I include the error in doing a 360 too.
%distance from edge of screen to crosshair with 0% reference: % error in ideal conversion from CSGO at 0% reference
What do we notice? Perfect conversion (within a few units of error not shown) within a full 15% distance from crosshair to edge of your screen. And very low error, less than 1%, all the way up to 50% distance to edge of screen. This is the hot spot region of aiming. If you are flicking to the VERY edge of your screen, 100% of the way, you have a 2.89% error. Achieving a 360 degree rotation has a 6.02% error, so moving around the game world will feel a bit slower compared to CS:GO, but your aim is comparatively left in tact. A 180 will have about a 5.78% error according to my best calculations.
To compare, lets check the error at each aiming location using the 360 degree as our baseline, the common method where one divides their CS:GO sens by 3.18...
%distance from edge of screen to crosshair at 360 rotation reference: % error in ideal conversion from CSGO 360 rotation reference
We can see, our 0% distance from edge of screen naturally carries the most error with this method. The aiming hotspot is the WORST translated region. Only a 360 spin is well conserved, NOT your aim. Even aiming to the edge of the screen at 100% carries a (slightly) higher error of 2.95 compared to matching your aim to the 0% mark (2.89% error). At 120% distance from your crosshair (heading offscreen by 20%) the methods switch place, and the 360 degree method becomes less error prone compared to 0% matching.
So, unless you intend your muscle memory to be all about matching for flicking to targets OFFSCREEN, you should absolutely NOT be using the default division by 3.181818....
Match instead to 0%, and divide your CS:GO sensitivity by 3.370 (This is accurate to +- 0.001 units of Valorant sensitivity). This will give you a cleaner conversion in the region of your monitor from 0% to about 115% off your screen, with the MOST conserved sensitivity region being closest to your crosshair.
What is better... for your near-crosshair aiming to carry a 5.68% error? Or a 180 spin to carry about the same amount of error while your key crosshair region carries between none to 1% error. You get the latter with the division I provided above. It seems to me a no-brainer as the better option.
As for your scope multiplier? Unfortunately, at this time you can only correct for one zoom level. I use the 2.5x zoom, to correct the scopes to the same 0% level of my valorant sensitivity, and if you correct as I have said, using the superior 0% CSGO conversion, you will also end up with your scopes behaving the same between CS:GO and valorant. Otherwise, they too will carry the error over from the 360 degree conversion. These values are below (assuming you use 3.370 as your division initially, things get wonky if you want to keep to your 360 degree rotation conservation, yet want your scopes to somehow match). These are independent of your sens.
I think the default of 1.0 in Valorant is equivalent to calibrating all of them to the edge of your screen, 100% by distance. This is, at least, a consistent behaviour. I personally still change it to 0.747.
To correct the 2.5x valorant scope: 0.747 This = ~ 0.82 from CSGO. Specifically 0.818933
A note about scope multipliers: The ideal provided above is for matching your scope movement to distance via the exact same logic as presented for matching the two games, at 0% distance.
A few other common scope mulits that people like:
CSGO 1.2 = 1.142 Valorant
CSGO 1.0 = 0.927 Valorant
ALL these values are dependent on using 3.370 as your primary sensitivity divider, and not 3.18. Otherwise, your scopes will carry the error of the primary sens. If using different stretched values, these scoped values should still work ON THE HORIZON. Remember, stretched conversions cook your vertical sensitivity, and you can't do anything about it.
Hopefully Valorant releases the ability to tune every scope/ADS level individually, because right now, every other ADS will be a bit off compared to the ideal 2.5x scope. But still closer than the default 1.0 value. For example, the 1.25x ADS of the vandal etc should be set to 0.870, and will be a bit slow with the 0.747 setting.
Yes, scope values can, although not always, change if you deviate from the default 16:9 to 16:9.
STRETCHED GO TO VALORANT FOOTNOTE (or vice versa, non-stretched to stretched):
Converting from stretched to any Valorant can COOK your vertical sens. Nothing can be done, this is your punishment for sweating over fat terrorists your whole life. The divider for 4:3 stretched to Valorant is generically 2.53. Any divider that deviates from 3.18 will increasingly add error to your 360 degree movement. This means that the with a stretch value you end up with a much greater error ramp through the distances, even though your 0% and nearby is correct. I don't have the percentages of error, and I can't be bothered running them, but expect it to be awful. Not to mention, you can't salvage horizontal AND vertical sens anyway with thiscombination, so it still won't feel right. My recommendation for these users is to match to the 360 or nearby (divide by 3.18), tune to personal preference, and learn the new sensitivity, sorry.
If you are doing more bizarre conversions, go pay $3 and figure it out at mouse-sensitivity.com using 0% horizontal monitor distance as your hipfire conversion method. Or tune to 3.18 manually, because just like the above, you can't salvage your old sensitivity with varying stretch conversions to any point that won't feel awful on the vertical and 360 movements. BETTER DATA:
For the data folk, this much more complete and accurate set of data will give you the error to each point of the screen given a calibration at a specific point. You'll notice at the bottom, all multipliers to use said distance is provided. You'll notice I've used actually the 15% distance as the default, this is because it is a simpler number (3.37) and it actually will give you, almost 100% of the time, the exact same sensitivity as 0% anyway (3.374). However, if you want to have minimum error across the whole visible space, then you actually want to use 50% as your target point (3.334) BUT the error around the crosshair, at 0-15%, is no longer negligible, even though, in reality, across the whole screen, you could consider this the best choice. Sum of the error is of course absolute values. 360 Rot is provided for comparison of error in these regions against the default 3.18(2) method.
I made extensive use of the mouse-sensitivity.com
website for gathering all data points involved in these calculations. I did not do any of the math to generate those data points myself, just the analysis. Check them out, and consider giving them some cash if any of this ended up making things better for you. It's a great site.
General Election Polling Discussion Thread (June 2020)
submitted by Isentrope to politics [link] [comments]
Welcome to the /politics
polling discussion thread for the general election. As the election nears, polling of both the national presidential popular vote and important swing states is ramping up, and with both parties effectively deciding on nominees, pollsters can get in the field to start assessing the state of the presidential race.
Please use this thread to discuss polling and the general state of the presidential or congressional election. Below, you'll find some of the most recent polls, but this is by no means exhaustive, as well as some links to prognosticators sharing election models.
As always though, polls don't vote, people do. Regardless of whether your candidate is doing well or poorly, democracy only works when people vote, and there are always at least a couple polling misses every cycle, some of which are pretty high profile. If you haven't yet done so, please take some time to register to vote or check your registration status
Below is a collection of recent polling of the US Presidential election. This is likely incomplete and also omits the generic congressional ballot as well as Senate/House/Gubernatorial numbers that may accompany these polls. Please use the discussion space below to discuss any additional polls not covered. Additionally, not all polls are created equal. If this is your first time looking at polls, the FiveThirtyEight pollster ratings
page is a helpful tool to assess historic partisan lean in certain pollsters, as well as their past performance.
Prognosticators are folks who make projected electoral maps, often on the strength of educated guesses as well as inside information in some cases from campaigns sharing internals with the teams involved. Below are a few of these prognosticators and their assessment of the state of the race:
- Cook Political Reports - Charlie Cook's race ratings are well regarded in the political field, and he's been in the business for a while. Cook is known to incorporate both public and nonpublic (ie. internal polling) information in his projections. Also covers (and is perhaps better known for) Senate and House races.
- Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball - Larry Sabato has also been in the political prediction business for a while now, and the team at the UVA Center for Politics has been fairly successful in past cycles. Towards the end of the election cycle, Sabato has a policy of making a call in each state, refusing to leave any race in the tossup category. Also covers Senate and House races.
- Inside Elections - Inside Elections, run by Nathan Gonzales, is the successor to Stu Rothenberg's Rothenberg Political Reports, which used to be a part of Roll Call. This prognosticator did fairly well in 2018, though Rothenberg himself boldly (along with some other pundits) predicted in 2016 that Donald Trump's path to the presidency was nonexistent. Also covers Senate, House and Gubernatorial races.
- Daily Kos Elections - Daily Kos Elections is the direct successor to the Swing State Project website, which merged with Daily Kos in 2010. Despite the liberal lean of the site as a whole, the Daily Kos Elections predictions tend to be fairly even-handed, if not even slightly bearish for Democrats. Presidential numbers aren't up yet but they have Senate, House and Gubernatorial races.
- RRH Elections - Red Racing Horses Elections is a site founded by former conservative-leaning members of the Swing State Project community. Despite the conservative nature of the commentary, like DKE, the race predictions tend to be fairly neutral, if slightly bearish for Republicans. Like the Crystal Ball, RRH will call all races before the election so that none are left in the tossup category. The presidential rankings have not been published but they do cover Senate, House, Gubernatorial and Row Officer (statewide elected officials, such as state Attorney General, Secretary of State etc.) races.
- Media predictions - CNN | U.S. News | NPR | POLITICO
Polling models are similar to prognosticators (and often the model authors will act like pundits as well), but tend to be about making "educated guesses" on the state of the election. Generally, the models are structured to take in data such as polls and electoral fundamentals, and make a guess based on research on prior elections as to the state of the race in each state. Below are a few of the more prominent models that are online or expected to be online soon:
- FiveThirtyEight - this model isn't active yet, but it's the original model from Nate Silver that debuted in 2008 and really kicked off this genre of race prognostication. For now, here's the polling aggregates that they've set up in lieu of a now-cast (which is likely not returning to the model this year). Will likely also include Senate and House projections like in past years.
- Princeton Election Consortium - this is the model run by Dr. Sam Wang, a neuroscience professor at Princeton University. This model has run in the past two cycles as well, though Sam Wang famously said he'd eat a bug if Donald Trump won the election because his model predicted no path to victory for the eventual winner of the 2016 election. Also includes projections for Senate and House.
- JHK Forecasts - the earliest model on the scene this cycle. Jack Kersting's model is one of the newer ones this year and also includes projections for Senate and House.
- The Economist - this is the model run by G. Elliott Morris, who previously had a midterm election model under The Crosstab.
- Niskanen Center - Rachel Bitecofer's projection, which only seems to update a couple times a cycle. Part of this has to do with Bitecofer's central argument that there are generally no swing voters, and electoral fundamentals drive the outcome of the election. This was put to the test in the 2018 midterms, where Bitecofer very early on predicted a Democratic pickup of 40-45 seats in the House, which fell about where the election ended up.
- Lean Tossup - a foreign model from Canada. This model did relatively well in the 2019 Canadian election, but this appears to be the first time they've tried forecasting the US Presidential election. Also includes Senate and House projections.
Prediction markets are betting markets where people put money on the line to estimate the likelihood of one party winning a seat or state. Most of these markets will also tend to move depending on polling and other socioeconomic factors in the same way that prognosticators and models will work. Predictit
and Election Betting Odds
are prominent in this space, although RealClearPolitics
has an aggregate of other betting sites as well.
How to Survive Camping: Senior Camp Rule #8 - don't make us throw you down the hill
submitted by fainting--goat to nosleep [link] [comments]
I run a private campground. While I’m not safe
, life has at least been better now that Jessie is dead
. Again. The horse-eater has been quiet so I’m not too worried about its presence on my land yet. I mean, it’s a problem, but it’s not an urgent
problem. I’ve been able to relax a little and enjoy the holiday weekend. The old sheriff even invited me out to his place to shoot off some confiscated fireworks and if you're like wow, dick move there, yes, that's the sort of company I keep.
Anyway, if you’re new here, you should really start at the beginning
, and if you’re totally lost, this might help
We have people that have been camping here for a long time, especially for our big events. I’m not sure where the senior camp stands in relation to the entire campsite during these events, but I believe they are one of the oldest in their area. Their seniority isn’t just age, however. Some of our problematic camps have been here for a while, after all, and that’s resulted in an unfortunate tendency to think they’re above the rules.
rules. The other rules, like digging a proper fire pit or what time we close check-in for the evening. You know, the ones that just annoy me
instead of anything supernatural.
The senior camp may argue with me every year about the incline at the front of their camp, but for a long time that was about it. Not causing trouble and following the rules is not enough to warrant being placed next to the thing in the dark, however. That sort of proximity to something so dangerous requires an understanding of the unnatural, a sense of the larger patterns, more than what I lay out in my rules.
I moved them to their current location shortly after I took over as the manager. Their area was growing crowded as camp sizes grew and I needed to either move someone out (which would make people unhappy) or move a camp into the area next to the thing in the dark’s lair. It’s a nice spot. There’s shade from the trees for most of the day, but it’s still open enough for a breeze and close enough to the road for easy unloading. We’ve had people try to move into that space without permission in the past, with predictable results. Most of the nearby camps were content to stay in their assigned land as a result, but I knew it would be an issue if I started moving people around without utilizing that land at all. We get enough new campers in a season that someone
would cause trouble.
I contacted the senior camp’s land representative and asked if they’d be interested in moving to a better location. Still in the same area, I said, just a bit over. Next to where rule #10 lived.
Their representative was quiet for a bit and then said they’d talk it over. A few days later they got back to me and said they’d agreed. It’d keep other people out of that space and besides, it was
a really nice spot.
And it wasn’t like they had no experience with unnatural things.
For a long time, they were unremarkable from any other returning camp. Then, during my freshman year of college, something happened to change that.
We have transient things pass through our land. The ancient creatures come and go as they please, of course. There are lesser creatures that are able to leave, however. I think there is something about their nature that allows this. Perhaps they roam as a rule and thus cannot be bound to one location. Or perhaps their hunting grounds are larger than my campsite and they can pass through boundaries easier. The one in particular that came to the campground that year was the sort that attached itself to one person in particular, until they were dead, and then moved on to another.
I think that is why it could come and go. It didn’t hunt in a particular area. It hunted people with no regard to where they were located.
To merely call it an incubus would be inaccurate, but that is a good starting place. It is called a lidérc. It is drawn to those who have recently lost their spouse or lover, a devil taking on the form of the lost beloved. It sneaks into the victim’s room while they sleep, removes the one boot that it wears on its human foot and sets it by the door, and then sits on the person’s chest and drinks their life away.
They do this until their victim is wasted away to death and then find another.
Similar to an incubus then, in that it causes nightmares and the feeling of suffocation at night. Different in its powers, in the victims it seeks, and its appearance. Keen readers may notice that I specified singular when I said it removed its boot from its human foot. What, then, is the other?
Lidérc are shapeshifters. They have association with one animal in particular.
Their other foot is a chicken foot.
The inhuman world has always been a little weird.
This is only one form of the lidérc. The other can be created. Don’t try this. It is a useful thing but… it will destroy you unless you are clever enough to escape doom, and in my experience, none of us are nearly as clever as we believe we are.
The summer of my freshman year was when the lidérc came to our land. Someone in the senior camp broke up with her boyfriend within the first two days of their two-week trip. Bad timing, I know, but I guess when you’re done, you’re done. Now, at the time the senior camp was up against the hill. They’re still close to the hill, but it wasn’t as handy as it was at their old spot. My campground isn’t in a mountainous location, but we’ve got some variable terrain and there’s a few areas where the hills are especially steep.
The children with ice wagons will rope themselves to the wagon like oxen with two pulling in front, two pushing from the back, and two stabilizing on either side to get up this hill. Seriously, tip them, they work hard.
One of my parent’s staff at the time responded to reports of a commotion in the area one night. They took a golf cart (we only had a handful of four-wheelers at the time and the family used them) down that way to see what the problem was. They arrived just in time to find the boyfriend being forcibly ejected from the campsite. Her campmates were carrying his stuff out of the camp and dumping it on the road.
When he tried to re-enter their area despite this subtle clue that he wasn’t welcome, they threw his belongings down the hill.
The camp employee decided not to intervene in what was clearly a properly handled domestic dispute and left.
Near the end of their trip, the camp representative stopped in to drop off their “yes we cleaned up after ourselves and filled the fire pit back in” paperwork. (I only require it for the big events where we have a lot
of people) They told us about what had happened after that break-up, thinking it was best if my parents knew about it in case the thing came back. They didn’t know what it was, but my father was able to identify it later once he had his books and notes.
The senior camp has perfected this particular story. I do not think they’ve embellished
it as much as my uncle did to his stories. I think they just have a flair for telling it that they’ve honed through repetition. It’s a useful story, after all. It teaches camp newcomers one of their own, internal, rules.
I don’t remember the full text of the rule. Some stuff about trying to get along and resolving arguments, getting an intermediary if you have to, and not being a “flaming asshole”. I know how it ends, however.
Senior camp rule #8: Don’t make us throw you down the hill.
I’ll tell the story as I heard it when I was a freshman.
The boyfriend didn’t try to come back after spending most of the night picking his socks and underwear off of tree branches. Some other camp was dumb enough to take him in and the senior camp lost track of him after that, because who really cared? But a few days later, the lidérc showed up. No one realized anything was amiss, as it came late at night after everyone was asleep. The young lady was exhausted during the day and attributed it to not sleeping well at night. She had nightmares, she said, and it felt like she was suffocating. She hadn’t suffered from sleep paralysis in the past, so while this was worrisome, she wrote it off as being a result of a nasty break-up.
As the days passed, she grew steadily weaker. Her campmates noticed and began to theorize what the problem could be. Stress, perhaps, and suggested she take more naps. Maybe she was having a bout of anemia and someone drove into town to buy red meat and vitamins. Finally, near the end of the trip, she was so lethargic she could barely rouse herself during the day and fell asleep in the middle of dinner.
Her campmates decided she should go home early and contact her doctor. They’d break down her tent and pack up for her in the morning. She’d go to bed early that night and get enough sleep to make the long drive home. Then, once she was out of earshot, the camp agreed to take turns periodically checking in on her through the night.
They didn’t know what was happening. They just felt that something was amiss. Some of the people in the nearby tents were having nightmares too, after all, of a dark presence that settled over them and made it feel like they were being crushed under the weight of their own blankets. They didn’t have the sort of knowledge my family does, but we have all heard stories, and the sense of being prey for something dark and terrible is etched into the human subconscious. None of them wanted to admit it out-loud, but they felt the unease of being hunted.
The lidérc didn’t come until the 2 AM shift. The person that took that shift usually got back to camp around that time, so it was no issue for her to check in on their campmate before going to bed herself. She arrived back to their camp just in time to see a large black chicken approaching the tent. She paused where she was, bemused by the absurdity of the situation. A chicken. There was
farmland nearby, so perhaps it’d wandered off and made its way here. Should she catch it? Try to get it home in the morning?
Then the chicken stopped at the front of her campmates tent and its body began to grow. Its torso swelled, its head inflated like a balloon, and the feathers rippled and melted together and became clothing. Its skin grew pale and smooth and its comb deepened to crimson-black and became hair. It was a man, dressed in plain clothing and wearing a single cowboy boot on one foot.
Its other foot was still that of a chicken. The claws gleamed in the moonlight.
The camper crouched down between the tents. She was well hidden from view, but still she trembled in fear, for even where she stood she could feel the malice coming off this creature. An aura that gripped at her throat and made her blood run cold, nearly paralyzing her in fear. She felt her heart would simply stop if it turned its gaze on her, so she could only watch helplessly as it quietly unzipped the tent and crawled inside, pausing only to remove its one human boot and set it just outside the tent.
The camper had read the rules. This was not on them. She didn’t know what it was, other than it was something unnatural, and surely to blame for her friend’s growing weakness.
This was before smartphones. There was no way for her to quickly google “chicken footed monster” and hope the search results provided a solution for her predicament. She didn’t dare wait until morning to go searching for answers, either, as her campmate’s growing weakness suddenly had an explanation and she wasn’t sure if the young woman would survive
until the dawn.
She decided to create a distraction and then hopefully wake her friend up and get her out of there before the lidérc came back. Carefully, she stole over to the tent. The tent flap had been only half-zipped back up, leaving a slit barely wide enough for her to see the lidérc kneeling on the young woman’s chest. His hands were around her neck and her skin was pale and sweat beaded on her forehead as she tossed and turned weakly, struggling to breathe.
The sight of her friend’s suffering strengthened her resolve. She crept close, trembling with fear. It felt like she was pushing through a cold fog, one that repulsed her and crawled along her skin, making her nerves scream that she should run, she should flee, she should abandon her friend to her fate and save herself.
Then, she stretched out one hand, and carefully grabbed hold of the cowboy boot and dragged it towards her.
If an unnatural thing leaves behind anything
, assume it’s important to them. That’s just how these things work.
She retreated as quickly as she dared and hurried over to the edge of the hill. The road was close by and to either side were trees, the underbrush rife with thickets and poison ivy.
“Hey asshole!” she yelled at the top of her lungs, waking up most of her nearby campmates. “I got your fucking boot!”
Then she yeeted the boot down the hill.
God I love that word.
The lidérc burst out of the tent and his eyes blazed like fire in the darkness. His hands were curled like claws and he dug his chicken foot into the earth, scoring it deep. Then his gaze fixed first on the hill where his boot had been thrown and then snapped to the camper.
She realized she’d miscalculated. As her fellow campers stirred, sleepy and confused, she realized that the creature wasn’t going to go after his boot first.
It was going to go after her.
She turned and ran. Down the road, veering off at the bottom and into the woods, aiming for some thick trees that grew in a cluster. She dove behind them as the lidérc came stalking down the hill, walking with a limp as it dragged its human foot behind it. The gravel cracked under its claws as it clutched at the dirt and stones.
you?” it hissed. “Come out and help me find my boot. And then once it is found, I’ll tear your heart out and eat it.”
Its words were spoken in a low voice, beguiling. The camper’s legs stirred before her mind could realize what was happening, stretching to rise, to bring her out of her hiding spot. Entranced by the lidérc’s request. She clasped her hands onto the tree she hid behind, digging her fingers into the rough bark, the muscles in her arms straining to hold the rest of her body still.
The lidérc paused. Only a few feet away now, his back half-turned towards her. There was a soft sound, the inhalation of air. He was trying to catch her scent. Hunting her out. She remained where she was, heart pounding so loudly she felt he’d be able to hear it soon enough.
Then the sound of a vehicle’s engine hummed from the top of the hill. Headlights flooded the road, painfully bright in the darkness, and one of the camp staff golf carts turned down the nearby road.
The lidérc let out a soft cry of surprise - and anger - and his body collapsed in on itself in an instant. Gone was the human frame, gone was the clothing, and gone was the bare human foot. In its place stood a small black chicken that quickly trotted away through the underbrush, flapping its wings and squawking with dismay.
The golf cart drew to a stop.
“Did I hear… a chicken?” the driver said to himself in confusion.
Only then did the camper rise from her camping spot. She waved to get his attention.
“Sure was,” she said. “It went that way. I was trying to catch it as I thought it belonged to a local farm.”
“Well damn. Probably does. I’ll see if I can round it up.”
The camper didn’t know what became of the lidérc after the camp employee left, but they like to tell the story that it spent the entire night being chased by people on golf carts, intent on corralling and dragging it back to some random farm, until they finally cornered it near dawn and carry it off by its legs to dump in a random chicken coop. The truth is that the employee radioed in to keep an eye out for a chicken and no one saw it and assumed it eventually found its way home on its own. Or was eaten by something unnatural.
It’s awfully hard to see a black chicken in the dark.
The camp stayed up the rest of the night, after their campmate told them what had happened. A handful took flashlights and went searching along the hill until they found the boot. The lidérc thankfully wasn’t willing to confront a group of people. The young lady was able to get a full night’s rest and went home the next morning. When she came back the next year, they set watch for the first few nights until they were convinced that the lidérc wasn’t coming back. My father stopped by as well, to tell them what he’d found out from his research and assure them that the theft of its boot was enough to keep it from ever returning.
Then, after my parents died and I took over, I realized that they had the instincts, the cooperation, and the willingness to deal with these unnatural things. I offered them the campsite closest to the thing in the dark and they accepted.
I wouldn’t say I’m friends with them. I check in periodically to make sure everything is okay and then I have to hear about how the incline at the front of their camp isn’t actually
campable (it is) or complaints about their neighbors, but honestly, that’s a small price to pay for having someone competent taking up that plot of land and keeping people out of it.
As for the lidérc… I think it’s still out there. It’s never been seen again on our land. There were a few sightings from the locals after it vanished, but it didn’t seem to be hunting
anyone. It was searching.
Trying to find its boot, limping through the fields, leaving behind a trail of footprints with one bare foot and one foot being the imprint of a chicken.
I know where the boot is hidden. One of the senior campers took the boot home with them and buried it in the backyard. My campground is an eight hour drive for him. I don’t think the lidérc is going to be finding his boot anytime soon.
I’m a campground manager. I feel it’s important to elaborate on the senior campers this time because I’ve asked for their help. You see, if I’m going to rescue and/or stop the lady in chains, I need to know how. Cutting off the chains is a risky endeavor and I’d like to know it’ll even work before I try. For a while I’ve been at a loss, but then I thought back on my previous rescue attempts and realized there was a source of help I haven’t consulted yet.
The senior camp is going to help secure their aid. It’s not without a price, however. They demanded that I mark that damn incline at the front of their camp as ‘uncampable land’ and I grudgingly had to agree. I’m sure it’ll cause problems when I tell their neighboring camp that they’re getting shifted a handful of yards, but the senior camp really is my best bet for this. They’ve got a great cook who also brews and she’s “got 10 kegs and can run 4 taps” and they’ve got enough manpower to man the bar and then some.
That’s right. I’ve asked the senior camp to throw the dancers a party
. [x] Read the full list of rules. Visit the campground’s website.
My adventure to a 525/advice/knowledge/life tips
submitted by Spartan10142 to Mcat [link] [comments]
Howdy y’all, this was an email that I sent to all my friends that are studying right now/beginning to prepare, so please excuse the language and how personal it is. Some of my friends thought it would be helpful to post on here, and I'm all about sharing the love, so I thought why not. I'm swamped with secondaries right now (I waited until I got my score yesterday to submit them), but I will try to reply to anyones comments ASAP as possible.
Greetings friends. After a tumultuous summer I finally got my MCAT score back, and I did well enough that I feel comfortable sharing my MCAT journey and all the resources I used. I got a 525, so I like to think I might have an idea of what I’m talking about and am not full of shit. If you have any questions just let me know, we’re all in this together. I’m gonna try to break this email up by sections, but there’s a chance I might ramble so just deal with it. A couple things to start off with:
No one really talks about this but I thought the most important thing is to have a GROWTH MINDSET 😤. No but really, if you wanna do well you need to have confidence in yourself. If you don’t believe that you can get a good score then you probably won’t. Obviously you should set realistic goals and don’t become depressed when you don’t get a 528, but I’ve always thought it was best to aim high.
Another thing is that the MCAT isn’t really a test of intelligence, it’s just a test of your work ethic. Before I did any studying I thought I’d be fine since I’ve done well in all my undergraduate classes. NOPE. Even if you have a 4.0, there will be so, so many things you haven’t seen before that you need to learn. I’ve seen a lot of people consign themselves to lower score because they think they’re not as smart as other people. Even if it doesn’t come as easily to you, if you work at it you can do better than you think.
On that note, you need to cut the bullshit out of your life and make the MCAT a priority. One thing that really helped free up my time was when I stopped going out 3 days a week. We all love the Wednesday night harp show but know what I love more? Having a stable future. It is sucky, and you won’t have as much time for your friends or relationships. This means you can’t be hanging out with the broskis every other day, you can’t be fucking your ex at 1am, and as mentioned you won’t going to the bars or parties. Yeah it is AIDS, and I’m still salty that I barely hit the bars last semester especially when they are closed for the foreseeable future. However, if you want to do the best you can then need to eliminate distractions. I was lucky enough that I have a great support system, friends, and family to help me through this process. They understood when I couldn’t hang or didn’t text back for a week, and they didn’t get pissed because they knew I had to grind. I have stories of people with friends or significant others that can’t take the lack of contact and it causes problems - I can’t tell you what to do but if that happens to you I would suggest reevaluating who you hang out with and if they have your best goals in mind. Things that are helpful before you even start studying
Depending on who you are, there is a chance you are getting this email ahead of time before you even need to worry about the MCAT. In that case congrats on being responsible, but please enjoy your life before this consumes it. Anyway, there are a couple things that I think would be helpful that nobody ever talks about. First and foremost, being able to read quickly is a huge blessing. I have always been a nerd and used to get in trouble for reading during class, so I am lucky in that this wasn’t a huge issue for me. The MCAT is timed and presents a lot of information to process, and if you can read fast that means you can get through the material much quicker, allowing you more time to check on questions that you have flagged. Since you will be making hella flashcards (read below), it will be really helpful if you can type fast. I type all my notes for school so I am fairly proficient (lucky for y’all or there would be no way in hell I would type this novel), however if you are not the best then there are several online typing websites you can use to improve your speed. Since the MCAT is all multiple choice there will be no things that you need to type, but it will save you a tone of time during your review. Finally, this makes sense but try to do your best in your undergrad classes and learn to retain information, not just get the day. If you barely passed orgo the first time you took it then it will take even longer to relearn it for the MCAT. Likewise, even though I got a 4.0 in biochem I didn’t memorize all the pathways, and it was annoying to have to relearn it. If you are in the position, keep these tips in mind and it will save you some time. How I studied (chronologically in general):
Tbh I kinda bullshitted my way into MCAT studying for a while, as I didn’t really know anyone else who was studying at the same time. This is one of the things I highly regret, as I feel like I wasted too much time by not having a solid plan. There are services online that will build you a study plan for like $150. I never used them because I can usually self motivate, but if you are one of those people that cannot focus then you might wanna look into it. The first couple months I spent doing content review, which basically means I went through every page of the Kaplan books and took detailed notes. In the end, this was a COLOSSAL waste of time and I highly regret it. Hundreds of hours were put into making notes that I never used again, and those hours would be much better spent doing practice questions or something else. I would still recommend looking over the books because they provide a good basis. However, if I could go back I would probably just skim through them and maybe take light notes. Another thing I will discuss more - you need to be studying using active recall, which for most people means doing practice questions or flashcards. Don’t fall into the trap of reading over notes, thinking “that makes sense,” and then moving on with your life. Studies have shown repeatedly that is simply not the move, it does not work, and it is fake news. No, you’re not better than everyone else and learn better from reading your notes. If you still wanna disagree on this, just delete the email right now and continue to delude yourself.
After I did a content review, I couldn’t really tell you what I got done. I have about a 2 to 3 month gap in my memory on how I studied, which is why I suggest using a schedule. I assume I spent most of this time doing practice questions, and I also know that I got through all of UEarth Right around this time is when COVID hit, which really threw a wrench in my plans. I was originally supposed to test on 4/25, but miss rona pushed my test back 2 months to 6/27. I knew that I needed to really get my ass in gear in the last 2 months to get up to my goal (at that time my goal was a 520), so this is when I really started to put the work in.
Since my semester had ended, I basically studied everyday, full time. I struggle with waking up in the morning, and although on average I wanted to wake up at 7 everyday I usually got up at 9. I would workout (except when I got lazy which was more often than I’d like to admit), and then make a smoothie and study. My routine usually consisted of doing my Anki review cards in the morning, doing some practice questions, then doing new Anki cards in the afternoon. Something that I struggled with was working at home, and honestly if at all possible do not study in your own house if you can avoid it. I would usually go to the student union or find a nice spot outside, and I was lucky because my roommate moved out and I was able to use his room as an office with my phone in a different room. I would usually try to do a practice test every Wednesday and Sunday, spend the following Thursday and Monday reviewing it, and then spend the other days doing any practice I had left. As I got closer and closer to the test date I was eventually running out of practice questions and had more and more Anki cards, so I would end up just doing hella Anki cards a day. Per Section Tips
First off for every section I was kinda surprised with how well I did, a whole lotta luck and everyone’s prayers went into it so excuseeee me if I can’t back up my score.
Chemistry/Physics (C/P): This section was a pain in my ass. I had done well in chemistry and physics in class, but at least at MSU you get a cheat sheet for PHY 231/2. The MCAT has no such luxuries, and you will be forced to memorize everything. Everyone stresses on orgo, but if you look at the content breakdown orgo is only 5% of the total content, and if you didn’t feel the need to do that good you could ignore orgo and probably do fine. I noticed that after doing a lot of practices, a lot of the stuff is very repetitive and testing the same things. You need to know your distillations and kinematic equations and how to find the resistance in parallel vs series, but honestly the stuff the section covers isn’t as hard as it seems once you get used to it
Critical Analysis of Bullshit aka Reading aka CARS: If C/P is a pain in the ass CARS has been the bane of my existence. “But Paul, how hard can reading be you illiterate fuck? The answer is just there you gotta read it!” Alas, this is not the case. I’ve read all my life, I got perfect scores in ACT and SAT reading, but CARS doesn’t really test your reading ability, it just tests if you can figure out the AAMC’s bullshit logic they use when writing questions. I ended up doing well in this section on the real thing, but honestly it has been one of the hardest things to improve and I can’t really give any huge game changers I used to boost my score. One thing that did help was after each paragraph, I would take a couple seconds to mentally summarize what I just read. Some of the material is insanely boring, and unless you stay engaged it will be hard to retain it and then answer the questions. In addition, you can’t spend time trying to find every answer in the text, as sometimes it will be vaguely implied and you have to ~feel~ it. The official AAMC section banks (discussed below) offer some good practice for this, and I would also recommend signing up for Jack Westin reading passages and doing those. I honestly think CARS is just something you have to practice over time and cross your fingers, do a rain dance, and pray that it will come to you. There is no quick fix and it’s impossible to cram for, so try to just start ASAP
Biology/Biochem (B/B): So tbh I have been an intro biology TA for 4 semesters now, meaning I have technically taken the class 5 times and a lot of the basic material is child's play (why you gotta fight with me at cheesecake). First off for the love of god memorize all the amino acids, glycolysis, and the Krebs cycle. You can’t get around it, they will ask questions about it, and it is easy points. Something else that’s important (really applies for the whole exam but) is that learning how everything is interconnected and applying concepts. You can’t really use sheer memorization for this, and a lot of questions I would get right because I was like oh shit this is just like a different concept I learned that I can apply to this. There are many many topics covered in this, so like everything else I would suggest just trying to absorb as much material as you can.
Psych/Soc (P/S): Honestly it is a beauty that this section is last because it is the “easiest.” I think that if you are struggling to get your score up, this is probably the easiest section to do it in because it is just memorizing a bunch of terms. Sure you need to rote memorize a lot of stuff, but many questions are just definitions and don’t really test your problem solving that much. I also found that I always finished psych with ample time left, so it gave me time to check on your answers. One thing I’ll warn you about is on the actual test, psych was hard as hell and I felt like it was my worst section by far, while it ended up being my best one. Keep in mind that even though this section is more straightforward than other ones, there will still be some curveballs. Also, process of elimination is essential in this section, as you will often get questions that require you to know 4 different theories - even if one is something you have no clue about, you may be able to eliminate the other options. Actual Test Day and Trusting the Process:
Alright first when you take the test (applies to full lengths and every test in general) there are a couple strategies I used that I think helped get my score. First off, when actually taking the test I would usually try to make a quick first pass on it. The MCAT setup lets you flag questions, and if there was a question I had no clue on or one that I guessed on and went back, I would flag it by clicking the flag in the upper right hand corner. This not only allowed me to get through the whole test, but meant that I wouldn’t waste time on hard questions when there were easy questions further in the test. After making my first pass I would then review all the incomplete questions and flagged ones, and if I still had time I would go through the whole test again. More than once I caught a question I hadn’t flagged that I got wrong, so this was helpful.
Something else that was helpful was meditating. I don’t think I ever truly meditated, but between sections I would close my eyes and try to focus on my breathing. I know it sounds like some hippie bullshit but it actually works, I think it kinda helps calm you down and stay focused. It is easy to feel like you bombed one section and then let it affect your other sections, but I would try to push this out of my head and think along the lines of “okay even if chemistry sucked you can still do perfect on every other section and kill it.”
Something else I wanna discuss is scoring and low yield vs high yield concepts. Low yield and high yield is something that you will hear a lot, and basically refers to content that should be expected to be seen a lot (high yield) and content you may not ever see (low yield). An example of something high yield would be the structure of amnio acids, while something low yield is something like Kuber-Ross end of life stages. Some people only focus on the high yield stuff and ignore the low yield stuff, but personally I think that is a mistake. My philosophy is that you should go into the MCAT feeling like you know everything and are prepared for anything they might throw at you. Obviously you won’t and you will still be confused on some topics, but at least you are more likely to do better. Now if you have limited time that is a different story, but if you are able I would suggest treating everything as high yield.
In regards to scoring, something to keep in mind is that it is much much easier to improve at a lower level than at a higher one. The difference between the 515 I scored in March and the 525 I got in June was only a difference of ~15 questions right, and represented hundreds of hours of studying. Tbh, I theoretically could’ve gotten a 528 if I had gotten only 3 more questions right. For that reason (at least in my opinion), it is kind of hard to study for a score past 525, and that entire range (98-100th percentile) is based on your content knowledge and luck. If you are already scoring high you will probably notice the lack of advice and guides online to scoring in that range, as most things are focused on getting you to a 515 (generally most people’s target). Similarly, if you start out at a 490 it is going to be much easier to get to a 500 then from a 500->510, and a 510->520. Just something to keep in mind as you format your plan of attack.
As you approach your test day, most advice says to just relax and not do any material, but since I’m the kid that will still be looking at his notes while the test is being passed out in the front of class, I found this hard to do. At the end of the day however, the studying you do the last day and honestly in the last week won’t make that much of a difference. If you have been scoring in the 510 range on all your official FL’s, do not expect that you will suddenly get a 520 on test day. When you take the test, you will go to the Pearson Vue testing center (leave your phone in the car), sign in, get your palm scanned and photo taken, and then be led to the testing room. You will be asked to flip out your pockets, and the proctor (in my case a student) will lead you to the room. Keep in mind that if you want, you can ask the proctor for some disposable earplugs, in addition to the over the ear headphones that are next to your computer. Miraculously, I found that my room was actually pretty quiet, and I had no trouble concentrating. I took the test in the middle of COVID, which means they shortened the test to allow for 3 tests a day in order to fit everybody in. Because of this, the test was a little under 6 hours long instead of the 7+ hours it normally is. I had a smoothie for breakfast and went to the bathroom before, and I chose not to take any of the breaks. If you feel like you need a drink of water or to take a piss, keep in mind that it takes some time to get checked in and out, so really your 10 min break turns into 5. Now after you took the test, do your best not to freak out. Personally I got jimmy johns, then sat in my car and called my dad. I felt confident on FL4 but felt like I bombed the actual test, and all I could focus on were the questions I had likely gotten wrong. This is normal, everyone feels that way, and odds are you didn’t fail. I then spent the next 2 weeks tweaking and reading horror stories of people who did good in practice and then bombed their actual test - for the love of god don’t do this, try not to do something school related, and just relax. It is out of your hands and there is nothing you can do, so don’t worry about it because I bet you did great. How to take a full length (FL):
If you do any research online, you will likely see people refer to something called FL’s. These stand for full length tests, and they are released by AMCAS, the company that makes the MCAT. These tests are the best gauge of how well you will do on the MCAT, as I’m pretty sure they are just old MCATS. You should pretend that each FL is the real thing - that means taking it in a quiet environment, no notes, phone away, etc. There are currently 4 AAMC FL’s, which means 4 practice test (representing more than 1000 practice questions)
Now, here’s where I go against the thread. The conventional wisdom is to take your full lengths within a month of your actual test, and your test will be ±2 points of the average of your FL’s. However, I was originally supposed to test April 25th, and when it got pushed back to June 27th I had already taken FL1-3. This means I couldn’t take the average, since there were 300+ hours of studying done between FL3 and FL4. Personally, I find I learn a lot from reviewing practice questions, and as such it’s going to be natural to improve on subsequent ones. A lot of people only focus on actually taking the test, but actually reviewing the test is essential, and probably one of the most important things to do when studying for the MCAT. Every question is multiple choice, and therefore has 1 right answer and 3 wrong answers (except the questions like I, I & II, II & III but fuck those questions). This means that when doing any sort of practice, you should not only know why the right answer is right but why the other 3 are wrong.
If you can do this for every question, you know your stuff. To test if you’re doing it right, if you were to look through old practices you should be getting almost every question right. If not, you probably need to focus on how you review information. My scores on the full lengths were 514, 515, 513 (rip CARS) and 524.
A note on third party practice tests - do NOT trust scores from third party tests, at least not at face value. First of all, the companies have a financial incentive to make them harder. You might notice that companies like Kaplan have a money back guarantee if you don’t do better on the actual test than their practices. To make sure you never claim it, they make their tests way harder than the real thing. For reference, I got 510 on a Kaplan FL and scored 524 on FL4 the next week. Furthermore, the AAMC has a very specific format that you need to get used to, a format not used by other test making companies. This holds especially true in CARS - basically disregard any 3rd party cars test, as it is fake news. Anki
I was going to throw this in the section below but I realized that Anki was so instrumental in my success it deserves it’s own separate header. Anki is basically a flashcard app, but it has some features that make it amazing. When you use online flashcards like quizlet, it will basically have your cards in a pile and there is no way of ranking them. With Anki, whenever you look at a card you can rank it by difficulty, and then cards that are easy will go to the back of your pile while difficult ones will stay at the top. That way you can maximize your time. What you should be doing is basically making an Anki card on anything and everything. This includes right and wrong questions, things that you kinda know but not quite, things you see online that you aren’t 100% confident of. If there is a topic that you don’t know well enough to teach to another person, you should make a card for it.
This is mentioned below, but in addition to making your own cards I would use a master deck. That is basically a compendium of all the knowledge that will be on the test. They are usually not super in depth, but offer a great way to get a general understanding of stuff.
The important thing after making the cards is actually using them, and this is where I dropped the ball. I didn’t really start going through my Anki decks until a little over a month before the MCAT, and since I had accumulated over 6000 cards including the master deck it meant I was doing more than a thousand reviews a day. Anki is made for long term learning not cramming, and I would recommend working on cards simultaneously as you make them.
I am not an expert on Anki, but there are a lot of YouTube videos and resources out there that can explain it better than I. I would also recommend downloading the Heatmap add-on to track your progress and to motivate you to keep up with it, as well as the image resizer add on to make it easier to add screenshots.
Also something that made studying easier for me was that I would often do my Anki cards while hammocking. Obviously it would be difficult depending on your location/the season, but I love outdoors and it was much better for me to work on a deck outside rather than cramped inside an office.
Some of you have requested I send my Anki decks, which I did because once again, we are all in this together. However, I would generally warn against using other peoples flashcards or Anki decks. If we both took the same test there would be questions I thought were easy that you thought were hard, and vice versa. It is gonna be a waste of time, since your study plan should be custom to
YOU, nobody else.
Seriously though, download Anki and use it. Without Anki I would not have done well. Plz. Other Resources I Used:
AAMC Official Material - This includes the full lengths I previously discussed, as well as other section banks with official practice questions. These are very helpful, as they are written by AMCAS and the MCAT is written in a specific way. You will notice as you study more that while questions test certain knowledge, but official questions are written differently than 3rd party ones. Among the AAMC resources are something called Section Banks. These are basically the hardest questions that are likely to show up on the test. Don’t fret when you get half of them wrong, because they’re designed to be hella hard. They are another great resource to study from, because if you can nail the hardest content then everything else will seem easy.
UEarth - UEarth can straight up have my children, it is probably one of if not the best resource you can use. Basically UEarth is a paid service that has 1900 practice questions, styled exactly like the MCAT. Questions are broken up by sections (Chem, Physics, Bio, Biochem, Psych, Soc, Reading), and furthermore by subsections (for example Chem could have circuits, magnets, thermo, mirrors, etc). UEarth allows you to make custom practice tests, and you can choose the type of questions you want. The real beauty of UEarth is that they give detailed explanations for every question, including why the wrong answer is wrong.
This allows you to figure out why you chose the wrong answer (which as mentioned, is important). I went through UEarth on my first pass over spring break (and made Anki cards for them), and then went back over a month or so later and redid all of the questions I had gotten wrong previously. This was important, because if I still got them wrong it meant that I didn’t learn the subject.
Kaplan - Most people purchase a set of books, and the 2 most common are the Princeton Review and Kaplan. They’re basically the same, so flip a coin or whatever. One thing that is nice with Kaplan is you have access to their online services. At the end of each chapter in the book there is a 15 question quiz, and they have all these online when you make an account. They also provide you with 3 free practice tests, which are nice.
NextStep Full Lengths - As I’ve mentioned, I learn best when doing practice questions. NextStep is a third party company that sells practice tests and section banks. Even though they are very deflated, they still are great for testing your content knowledge. I got the bundle of 6 tests, and was able to do so when they had a sale. Depending on how long you are studying for, I would definitely use NS tests if you can.
JackWestin CARS practice - JackWestin is apparently just a dude that is good at reading. CARS is one of the hardest sections on the MCAT, and he has a free email service where you sign up and they send you one passage a day. I would recommend doing that literally after you’re done reading the novel I’m writing right now, and then actually do it. I had like a 3 month period where I would just delete the emails every day, and that is stupid. If you do one passage a day you’ll spend only ~10 minutes, but you’ll be doing the equivalent of an entire CARS practice every week.
MileDown Anki Deck - Legend has it that Mr. Miledown was an extremely gracious person sho spent his gap year making a comprehensive review of all the MCAT material. The Miledown deck is an Anki deck of a few thousand flashcards that encompass all of the knowledge that should be on the MCAT. Theoretically, if you go through the entire deck and learn everything then you will know everything that will be on the MCAT. It can be downloaded from reddit if you google it. There are several other master decks (the other one I know of is Jack Sparrow), I only used the MileDown one and I was fine but do some digging.
Reddit - this was also instrumental for my MCAT success. I was never big into reddit, but I made an account specifically when preparing. There is an MCAT subreddit with an absolute wealth of knowledge. If you have a question, I can almost guarantee that someone has asked it before. There are tons of people that are apparently altruistic af, and will take time out of their day to give detailed answers. Reddit is also huge when reviewing your FL’s. If you have a tricky question google “reddit MCAT FL# C/P #” and there will probably be multiple threads with different explanations. Reddit also has some funny memes and people will post very helpful tips or study sheets. There’s also lots of posts like what I’m writing now, where people will outline their study strategy and give tips. I think one of the reasons people do so bad on the MCAT (after all 50% of people score below a 500) is simply because they are not aware of what is out there.
Stuff attached to this email - I attached some of my favorite resources that I used when preparing. Highlights include the Khan Academy document and The Miledown Overall Review pdf. Some of the website links are to very specific topics, but ones that I struggled with and found helpful. It’s helpful, and ctrl f is your friend. I also attached my Anki decks. What I Wish I Did Differently:
I obviously got a great score, however there were several things that I would have changed. As mentioned, I wasted a lot of time on my content review. Unless you are actively recalling the content, there is very little you will learn from reading and taking notes. I could have easily shaved a couple hundred hours off my study time if I kept this in mind. If I had an actual schedule to follow, I would definitely have been more efficient - some people find that it helps to have a study buddy to keep each other accountable. In addition, I should have been more diligent at following a routine and waking up early. Especially in summer with my test 2 months away, it was really easy to sleep in until 10. I would try to remind myself that if I woke up 3 hours earlier, that means I can finish 3 hours earlier. In the same vein, it is important to set boundaries while you study and try to enjoy your life. I would often try to “study” until 10 at night, which usually consisted of me going on my phone while my laptop was open with flashcards. This is just stupid, either you are studying or not; you can’t halfass it. Miscellaneous
You might have noticed that I didn’t do any sort of standardized program. It may work for some, but personally I find that when you’re being taught with everyone else, it is very easy to either get ahead and be wasting your time or fall behind and struggle. I am also poor. Many people like private tutoring, however that is also extremely expensive and many times it is easier to find the answer yourself.
In a similar thread, you need to keep in mind that MCAT companies are for profit companies. This is where my cynicism will show through - the primary goal of these companies is to maximize profit, not get you the best score. Of course they want you to do well so they will look good, and I’m sure individual teachers do care, however as a whole they are trying to sell you something. As part of my Kaplan book set I was able to have a 30min call to help plan for studying. When I asked her about other resources like UEarth and Nextstep, it was evident that she was basically told by her boss not to endorse anyone but Kaplan, so she steered me back towards their own products. They are not praying on your downfall, but just keep that in mind when you get advice from someone.
Also if you can’t tell already, the MCAT is hella expensive. Including the fee for taking the test, I spent around $1100 throughout the whole process. I was lucky to be in a position where I was able to work over the semester to save up, but it is something to think about.
Something that also really helped me was an app called Forest. It is an app that will grow mini virtual trees when you don’t use your phone for a given amount of time. Growing trees gets you coins, which you can use to unlock more trees and even use to get the company to plant real trees. It sounds cheesy, but it was really helpful for me and helped me stay off my phone. A note on mental health:
The MCAT is a real bitch, and I knew of lots of people that I either knew personally or saw online that had their mental health really affected. I am lucky enough to not suffer from high anxiety or other disorders, but given how stressful it was for me I can’t imagine dealing with it on top of other shit. At the end of the day, the MCAT is just another standardized test and the score doesn’t define who you are. At worst you would have to retake it, and even if you have to take a gap year it is not the end of the world. Ik you might think it is easy for me to say since I got a good score, but even after I got the score in the back of my mind I was like hmm well if I had gotten XYZ right maybe I would’ve done even better. Unless you’re a genius you probably won’t get a 528, and that is okay. Do the best you can, remind yourself that med school admissions are holistic, and at the end of the day remember to take time for self care.
Alright folks that’s a wrap. I think I included most of my thoughts, but I’m sure I forgot a few things. Let me know if you have any other questions, you can reply to this email or just text me. Feel free to send this to your friends, I really don’t care and I want everyone to do as best they can on the MCAT. We are all smart and capable and we will all get into medical school and be doctors someday. I believe in you.
Everything you need to know in science: https://jackwestin.com/resources/mcat-content/aamc-mcat-science-outline
Electrostatic Equations: https://www.reddit.com/Mcat/comments/ha9rff/tips_for_understanding_electrostatics_instead_of/
Understanding linear to chair conformations of sugars: https://www.organicchemistrytutor.com/converting-between-fischer-haworth-and-chair-forms-of-carbohydrates/
Converting 3rd party FL scores to actual ones: http://joel.vg/converting-3rd-party-mcat-scores-to-actual-scores/
Memorizing Erikson stages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BcwntGAB34
Link to MileDown MCAT Overall Review (too large to attach): https://www.reddit.com/MCAT2/comments/96hwed/umiledown_s_god_tier_review_sheets/
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