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Tag: Music

BTR006 Bluetooth Audio Receiver Review

Posted by Andrew at 1:28 PM on August 6, 2012

BTR006 Bluetooth ReceiverA2DP Bluetooth rarely comes as standard in cars except on prestige marques, but most new vehicles at least come with a 3.5 mm audio socket on the audio system for plugging-in mp3 players. If you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade the car’s audio to Bluetooth, take a look at he BTR006 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver.

The BTR006 is a small plastic rectangle just a few millimetres deep (45 x 33 x 8 mm). It has only one button for on/off, an activity LED, a DC power socket and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the end of short lead. It’s a doddle to use: charge up, connect the jack into the 3.5 mm audio socket, pair with smartphone and starting playing music from your smartphone through the audio system. Simples!

Audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that it’s Bluetooth anyway and the receiver successfully paired with every device I tried it with. The receiver supports both Bluetooth 2.1 with both A2DP and AVRCP.

There’s an internal battery that’s good for 12 hours according to the spec, which is probably about right based on my experience. I get a whole week of podcast listening which means somewhere over ten hours based on weekly commute and other travel. Contrary to some reviews, it is possible to charge and use the device at the same time. The confusion arises as connecting the charger does turn off the BTR006, but turning it back on again lets the receiver charge and play at the same time.

One of the best features is that it automatically powers off when the Bluetooth connection is lost for a few minutes so the battery doesn’t run down when the car is parked and not in use. Obviously the receiver has to be turned back on, but that takes seconds to do.

BTR006 Installed in Car with Velcro

Unless there’s a convenient nook or cranny in your vehicle, the BTR006 will hang down from the audio socket, especially as the lead isn’t very long. Of course, the easy solution is to use Velcro, with a small strip on the back of the BTR006 with a matching strip on the dashboard. The BTR006 can be easily detached for charging at home or in the office via the supplied USB charging cable. Here’s what it looks like installed in my car….yes, I probably should have cleaned the dash before taking the picture.

Note that the BTR006 does not have a microphone so it’s not possible to use it for hands-free calls but regardless this is an excellent buy to play music through your car’s audio system via Bluetooth.

Available from Amazon for around £15 or $28 – just search for BTR006. Disclaimer – I bought this device personally.

FiiO E6 Headphone Amplifier Review

Posted by Andrew at 9:36 PM on June 24, 2012

The FiiO E6 is small headphone amplifier designed to improve the listening experience from personal music players and smartphones. With a couple of equalisation settings, the E6 can enhance the bass range to counteract the high-frequency tendencies of digital compression.

FiiO E6 in Retail Packaging

In the box, there’s the E6 itself, two clips for attaching the E6 to clothing, a USB charging cable and two stereo 3.5 mm cables, 12 cm and 75 cm. For hooking up iDevices, an Apple connector-to-3.5 mm jack is available to buy. There’s also a small instruction manual.

FiiO E6 Contents

The E6 is 40 x 40 x 9 mm, approximately the size of an Apple Nano. The main features are a mini-USB port for charging, two 3.5 mm stereo sockets (one in, one out), a volume rocker and an on/off slider. There’s a small LED on one side, but until the E6 is powered up, you might mistake it for a reset hole.

The E6 is quite light as the case is plastic. Coincidentally, the finish was a good match for from my Sansa  player and could easily be mistaken as a complementary accessory, but clearly that feature depends on your particular mp3 player!

Sliding up the on/off switch turns the E6 on, with a blue LED illuminating the silver corner. The volume rocker switch turns the volume up and down and as this is an amplifier, it’s possible to exceed the volume of the original device, so mind your ears. The battery life is given as around 10 hours which would be in line with my experience of the E6.

On the back, there’s a small pinhole LED showing the equalisation – off, red, blue and lilac. Each further upwards push of the on/off switch steps through to next setting. According to the manual, the four settings are equalisation off, 3 dB boost, 6 dB boost and -3 dB boost, i.e. reduction, but the effects are more subtle than simply amping up or amping down.

Generally, the equalisation boosted the bass while reducing the treble and while my personal preference was for the first setting, both were very acceptable. The equalisation was done well, in that while the balance of frequencies was being adjusted, the clarity was still there. Although reduced in significance, the higher frequencies weren’t muddied and the overall impression was of greater warmth.

A small amount of background hiss was only noticeable between tracks when using the earbuds in quiet surroundings. When using over-the-ear headphones, it couldn’t be detected.

Currently priced at £18.99 from Advanced MP3 Players, the E6 is an inexpensive personal amplifier. It might have a budget price but the E6 punches above its weight, counteracting the tinniness of digitally compressed sound with depth and feeling.

Most of testing was carried out with Sennheiser CX-300 earbuds, Sennheiser eH1430 headphones and a Sansa e250 mp3 player.

Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players for the loan of the E6.

Music Service MOG Moves Down Under

Posted by Alan at 10:30 AM on June 21, 2012

Music service MOG, which is quickly becoming a real competitor for Rdio, Spotify, Last.FM and others, has finally launched their service in the land down under.  Australian music fans will now have access to all of the MOG library and, if they have Telstra, they get a nice bonus thrown in.

This is MOG’s first move outside of the U.S. and they have partnered with Telstra for the occasion.  That’s important because Australia has some pretty serious bandwidth caps in place.  The partnership allows them to become the “exclusive provider of on-demand subscription music”.  More important was this little tidbit included in the announcement – “Though we’re available to all Australian listeners, Telstra customers enjoy unmetered streaming and downloading, meaning music played from mobile devices will not affect user data plans.”

MOG will offer all Ausies a free two week trial.  After that, users can enjoy unlimited ad-free service for $6.99 per month for basic service and $11.99 for the premium plan which adds mobile support for iOS, Android and Sonos.

Amazon Cloud Player App Finally Available for iOS

Posted by Alan at 9:10 AM on June 12, 2012

Amazon Cloud Player has been available for Android devices since it launched, but today Amazon announced that the music app is now available for iPad and iPhone.  That’s great news for iOS owners, especially given that the other big player in this field, Google Music, is also not available for Apple’s mobile platform.

Amazon Cloud Player offers 5 GB of free storage for your MP3′s.  Customers can not only store the music they purchase through the Amazon MP3 Store, but also upload their existing music to the service.  Additional storage is available at tiered rates, which are pretty reasonably priced.  New users can sign up for the service over at Amazon.  The app is available now through the iTunes Store.  The app is free for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and requires iOS 4.3 or higher.  Amazon Cloud Player is also available for Android and on the web.

iPhone and iPod touch

TEDxBelfast 2012

Posted by Andrew at 11:48 PM on June 7, 2012

TEDxBelfastAt TEDxBelfast last night I was inspired by the stories of individuals who passionately believed in an idea and then made that idea a reality. From working with autistic children to building a new arts centre, these people all made a difference. Presented in Titanic Belfast in front of the replica of the famous staircase, it was an unforgettable evening.

Titanic Staircase

As with all TED conferences, the presentations will be posted on-line but that will take a week or two before they are ready. In  the meantime, these are the speakers, their stories and how they made a difference.

David Maxwell of Tyrone Timberframes presented his work with Habitat for Humanity in building highly energy-efficient homes that have no central heating. The significant cost of fossil fuel-based energy can be a big factor in poverty and these homes can save the inhabitants over £1000 per year.

Maureen Murphy, Director of Aurion Learning, grabbed attention with the headline that 70% of training was wasted and proposed an innovative way of providing effective training using the acronym ASSAULT. One of the best bits was that of story-based approach that hooked the learner and got them more emotionally involved.

Fransuer Makula grew up in the slums of Kenya but is now a teacher in a prestigious school in Northern Ireland. Describing the harsh reality of existence as a street child, where death is commonplace, he related how the children dared to dream big. In the midst of utter poverty, these children wanted to grow up as doctors, nurses and lawyers. Fransuer established “Jengana” to help orphans, street children and schools in West Kenya.

Colleen Hardwick, billed as an urban geographer and serial entrepreneur from Vancouver, laid out the loss of personal engagement in democracy. The statistics she presented on the fall of voter turnout over the past few decades were shocking. To counteract the anonymous global nature of the web, she’s developed PlaceSpeak, a community-based website that lets local people be authenticated as stakeholders in local issues without necessarily giving up that anonymity.

Next was an absolute gem…acoustic guitar duo Declan McKerr and Andy Toman, aka Gypsy’s Wish, serenaded TEDxBelfast, equipped with a brand-new George Lowden guitar. His guitars are world-famous with owners such as Eric Clapton and Mike Oldfield. Sublime.

Following a musical theme, Chris Blake, Principal Horn with the Ulster Orchestra, talked about the work he’d done with autistic children and the therapeutic value of music. The results were truly ground-breaking, increasing the evidence between autism and musicality.

Dr Nigel Hart took us all on a trip to the peaks and Mt Everest in particular in his talk on Mountains, Medicine and Mantras. Clearly a keen mountaineer, he combined his medical training with his passion to investigate the effects of hypoxia on humans at altitude. During his climb to the top of the world, he had to rescue another climber who had collapsed. Apt for many shared endeavours, his response to the famous climbing question was not, “Because it’s there” but rather, “It’s not the height or the distance, it’s the people you travel with.”

Anne McReynolds, CEO of the Belfast Metropolitan Arts Centre, had TEDxBelfast captivated by her struggle to get a world-class arts centre built in Belfast. Starting in 1996 and finally opening in 2012, it’s an amazing story of architects and artists (“good clients get good buildings”), buildings and space. If you want to build an arts centre, Anne should be the first person you talk to.

Colin Williams of Sixteen South tackled the “Can’t Do” attitude that has often afflicted Northern Ireland with a great story of “Can Do” success. It’s likely that you’ll never have heard of Sixteen South, a children’s TV production company but if you have kids under five you’ll have heard of Sesame Tree, Big City Park, Pajanimals, and Big & Small. Working with the BBC and The Jim Henson Company, Sixteen South produces these great TV programmes here in Northern Ireland. Fantastic.
Colin’s business plan was pretty clever too. “Do some good, make some money, have some fun.” Good advice for anyone.

Chris Horn completed the speaker line-up with his inspiration for Dublin’s Science Gallery, an exhibition space that takes a creative and artistic approach to the presentation of science and related issues. By taking the traditional remit of a science museum and combining it with the changing presentation of an art gallery, the Science Gallery is an innovation in itself that has proved tremendously successful. So much so that Google recently awarded the Science Gallery $1m to setup other Galleries around the world.

Overall, it was a great evening, with inspirational speakers in a fantastic setting. Thanks also to Davy Sims and Gary Burnett and Mark Finlay for organising #TEDxBelfast.

The Counting Crows Bring Their Music to BitTorrent

Posted by Alan at 4:31 PM on May 14, 2012

Underwater Sunshine (or what we did on our summer vacation)

The popular rock band Counting Crows are going BitTorrent.  The band has made four songs off of their latest release available for free download in an effort to attract new fans.  The album, titled Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation), was released last month and features15 tracks.  In a departure from their past, the Crows have made this CD a collection of all cover songs.

The BitTorrent release features not only the audio files, but also liner notes, and artwork from the album.  Frontman Adam Duritz, during an interview with Mashable,  said “I don’t know how I didn’t think of this earlier — it’s the most obvious thing in the world since BitTorrent has such a huge global reach.  It’s not just about getting music to the people who would buy it anyway — even though that is, of course, very good — the hardest thing to do is make new fans.”

Kudos to the Counting Crows for taking this route and seeing the benefits that many, or most, artists and labels seem to be clueless about.  Getting their music out there for people to hear is the first step towards gaining new avenues of revenue.  Some fans may elect to buy the CD’s, but even those who don’t will perhaps spend money on a concert ticket or, at the least, promote the band to other listeners.

This approach may seem like a no-brainer for established stars who already have fans looking for their material, but it is a bit tougher for the unknown artists who want to get noticed.  However, this may generate the publicity to get more bands to take this approach, and there are some great success stories from those who have taken the free approach early – just ask Jonathan Coulton or the guys from OK Go.

Party With My Friends

Posted by Andrew at 12:33 PM on May 4, 2012

As it’s the weekend, and a long one at that in many countries round the world, perhaps Todd will forgive this piece of total brilliance. DJ Duo Hot Problems have taken lip-syncing to a whole new level with the video from “Party With My Friends” in a Star Wars sing-along. Of course, it’s also Star Wars-day today!

Sheer genius, even if you don’t like Star Wars that much.

Songza: Playlist Maker for Every Mood or Activity

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 4:24 PM on April 6, 2012

I don’t know about you, but I am really bad at making playlist. First I usually think about making a playlist about the time I need one and don’t have time to make it. Second I am really bad at naming playlist, so I have playlist that have names like my favorite songs, or something obscure like Fun Time or Son of Cash. When I created those playlist I am sure the titles had meaning, but after a while I forget what they were, so I tend to create multiple playlist with a lot of the same artists. I am sure I am not the only one that either hates making playlist or is bad at it and that is where Songza comes in.

 

 

Songza is available on iOS, Android and through their Web site. The company Songza is made up of music experts, software engineers and “absurdly talented dancer” They have gather together over 1,880 playlist created both internally but also by artist, producers, DJs and other people involved with the music industry. You can either sign in through Facebook or you can create an account for Songza. Once you have sign in on an iOS device the first page you see is divided into three sections. The bottom section has five tabs, Concierge, My Playlists, People, Explore and Settings. With Concierge highlighted the middle section will show six blocks with activities based on day and time. The top section is where you can adjust the day and time, so for example if it’s Friday afternoon and you are driving home early you could set it for Friday evening and you will get playlist like Cure for Road Rage or Post-work Celebration. If you tap on My Playlist at the bottom you will see the most recent playlist you have listen to, any that you tagged as favorites and if you follow someone on Songza you will also see their play list. Under the Popular tab you have the featured playlist, what’s trending and all-time popular. Although the Concierge is great when you want to be really lazy. For the me the real power of Songza comes out when you hit the Explore button (aka as Discovery on Android). From there you can find playlist based on Activities, Moods, Decades, Culture and Record Clerk. There are probably more than 50 activities listed everything including coding, reading in a coffee shop, road trip, house party and between the sheets just to name a few. Under moods you will find aggressive, earth, gloomy, seductive, trippy and many more. What ever mood you are in Songza will have a playlist for you. Under culture you will find playlist with songs that are being blogged about and are trending on sites like Beatport.  Gorilla vs Bear and Pitchfork. If you are looking for best of lists this is where you will find them. Finally under explore there is Record-store Clerk, where you will find list that were created by artist, record labels, legendary producers, great composers and yes some of the list were created by actual record store clerks. There is an option to contribute your own playlist however because of licensing restriction you can’t listen to your own playlist.

 

 

You can share a song to Facebook or Twitter or by email. There is no ability to share to Google Plus on iOs devices.  If the song is available you can purchase it through the iTunes store on any iOS device. I couldn’t find a buying option on my Android device or the web site. I have only been playing around with Songza for a little over a day, but so far I love it. I did run into a couple of problems though. The first is Songza is different on Android then it is on iOs. iOs is on app version 5.10 while Android is only at 3,0,10, so iOs seems a little more polished. On Android, Concierge is missing and instead of Explore they use Discovery. When you save a playlist on iOS it automatically goes into your favorites list. On Android you can put it in your favorites list or you can create collections. However when I did try to create a new collection on Android Songza would crash and I would have to log back in. Also there does seem to be more buffering on Android then iOs. Despite these problems I do recommend trying Songza out. It is free so there is nothing to lose. Robert Scoble (aka the Scobleizer) interviewed the founders and the video is available on YouTube

Stanton SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation

Posted by Andrew at 12:13 PM on February 26, 2012

SCS.4DJ MixstationIf you’re a DJ, you probably know the name Stanton, purveyors of DJ hardware. If you’re not a DJ, you probably still know the parent company, Gibson, of the guitar fame. Either way, we’re in good company here. Todd and Steve mix it up with Darrin “B-Side” Young from Stanton.

On show is Stanton’s SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation, a self-contained digital controller that has its own built-in computer and mixing software. The Mixstation is Linux-based with proprietary software that takes advantage of the unit’s features.

The music itself is all digital (.mp3, .wav, .aac) and USB storage can either be plugged in temporarily or else more permanently fitted on the underside in media bays.

Some of the cool toys include a 4″ hi-res colour LCD screen, display of the current track’s beat and wave form, media browser and automatic synchronisation between tracks (beat match). There’s also an auto DJ feature that takes a playlist and beat matches between the tracks. Nice.

Available now for $499 from over 500 retailers nationwide.

Interview by Todd “TC” Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network, and Steve “Surfer” Lee of Waves of Tech.

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ComplyFoam Replacement Earphone Tips

Posted by Andrew at 9:09 AM on February 23, 2012

ComplyFoam Replacement Earphone TipsIf you’ve got a pair of earphones or earbuds that just don’t quite fit your ears properly, then you’ll want to take a look at this interview with Nate from ComplyFoam.

ComplyFoam produce replacement tips for earphones and earbuds from a huge range of manufacturers – SkullCandy, Monster, Shure, Sony to name but a few. The difference between the OEM tips and the ComplyFoam ones is that the latter are made from memory foam which responds to body heat, expanding and fitting better. As a result, more exterior sound is blocked, giving a better listening experience.

The replacement tips are available in a range of colours and sizes, with prices around from $10-$20 for a set of three depending on model.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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