/ Stack

Music & Podcasts


The first decade of my life, I had limited interactions with music. Instead of playing the radio, my parents would play NPR. The only song I distinctly remember is "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5 - I missed a lot of songs that have been ingrained into an American childhood circa 1990-2000s, and still struggle with that.

I still distinctly remember the first time I listened to music through headphones. One summer during middle school, I used an early Sony Walkman that with the headphones it came with to play some classical piano music. It was impossible to listen to and still concentrate on doing homework.

Perhaps as a means to overcompesate, I developed an odd obsession with audio equipment in high school. After school, I was constantly browsing Head-Fi (funny story: I experienced my first scam during this time, when I sent my Microsoft Zune to London in exchange for some headphones that never came).

In any case - music is a very near and dear part of my daily routine. I listen to podcasts during my commute and to music during work. More recently, I've been trying to consolidate and simplify my hardware and software into simple, habitual decisions.

Currently Using


Apple AirPods
AirPods are my favorite pair of headphones I've ever had. I'm on my third pair.

Now, I know they're not the best sounding, most affordable, or best looking headphones - there are many cheaper, much better sounding alternatives - but nobody buys them for those reasons. At $150-160, it's one of my favorite purchases I've ever made.

The reasons why people buy them are below:

  • They are supremely comfortable, resting easily in your earlobes (they are not the same size as the EarPods).
  • They are fully integrated into the Apple ecosystem and makes using them very, very easy (see below).
  • They connect using Apple W1 Bluetooth, which makes connecting and switching between Apple devices easier than ever before.
  • The sound quality is good enough for 95% of use cases. Sure, they're a bit tinny and cold - but for normal listening, nobody will truly complain.
  • They charge using Lightning cables, and hold their charge for enough time to get through a work day.

Amazon Echo
I've been using an Amazon Echo since the exclusive beta days. It's not the best speaker and it's not the smartest assistant, but it's the best combination of both, enough for me to warrant tossing out my dedicated audio system and just using Echos.

Music Streaming

Have had an on-and-off relationship with the world's largest music streaming service, but have finally given other services (i.e. Apple Music, Google Play) a rest and committed to using Spotify. It's just the best product and experience in the market, hands down.

Hype Machine
Hype Machine consistently is the best place for electronic music discovery. Despite their recent financial woes and the pushback from the community for the ability for new artists to "game" the ranking systems, I still visit often.

Not streaming, but works brilliantly. Have used for over a decade, and the sync-to-Spotify feature is seamless.


First tried Breaker to support a YC company, later switched from Overcast to Breaker due to ease of use and velocity of updates. Still very buggy, but it's getting better.



Apple HomePod
Been eyeing this for awhile. As soon as (if) the HomePod can support Spotify, I'm going to give it a go.



Sonos One
Awesome speakers, great audio quality. Downside is the Sonos software (terrible to use) and mediocre integration with Spotify. Stopped using after I set up system of Echos.

Beats X
Bought the X originally instead of the AirPods. Great audio quality, weird look; I replaced them a month after I bought the AirPods.

Sennheiser HD 700
Wonderful soundscape, incredible experience. Will blow your mind, if you're new to high-end equipment. Largely stopped using when iPhones removed the audio jack.

Klipsch Custom 3
Great in-ear buds, fantastic like most Klipsch products with jazz and acoustic. Very "warm" sound. Also like many Klipsch products, the wires frayed.

Kanto YU5
Good value, middle-ground standalone speaker system. Replaced w/ network of Echos.

Audio Technica ATH-M50X
In the past, audiophiles would scoff at the Beats or Bose headphones and offer up the ATH-M50 series as a replacement. I've realized over the years that I often just prefer more "fun" sound (thank you Jimmy Iovine), despite its inaccuracies and downsides.

Monster Miles Davis Tribute
So much fun - most expensive buds I ever purchased. Great, super warm sound. Cables broke.

Bower Wilkins P5
IMO, not worth the price. You're paying for a BW premium here, and you're not getting the difference in value (unlike BW's speaker systems).

Music Streaming

Apple Music
Gave it an earnest try for a year, and switched back to Spotify. The user experience wasn't great, and using iTunes is always a dread.

Used to have great music discovery on SoundCloud, as Hype Machine often only linked to this service. However, found that Spotify largely covers the same ground now.

Noon Pacific
I used to love Noon Pacific; every week I'd check and listen to their playlist. Beautifully crafted site and UI. In the past year, the service has broken and doesn't let me play on anything outside of my Echo system.

Google Play Music
I used Play all throughout high school, as it was the only service that I could upload my massive library (of 75K+ songs) to and stream from anywhere. Alas, as I wound down my practice of downloading music to upload, I also left the Play ecosystem.


Beautifully made product that I happily paid for. Switched to Breaker to support a YC company.

Subscribe to Jeremy Cai

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox