Paying for recorded music is a voluntary act -- you can get almost any tune you want on demand from streaming music services or YouTube. Of course, musicians wind up making little or no money from this arrangement, but thanks to crowd-funding, bands can get paid in advance of making a record. At least initially there are no freeloaders, so the band really has an incentive to record! The same Internet that made it harder than ever to make a living from recorded music has made it possible for bands to directly connect to their fans.
Regular readers of this blog know we're living in the golden age of desktop audio. The speakers just keep getting better and better, and digital converters from the likes of Schiit Audio, AudioQuest, Hifiman, FiiO, and HRT have all made computers sound better than ever.
Now along comes the Meridian Explorer, a sleek, extruded aluminum converter with line- and headphone-level 3.5mm output jacks and a USB input. The line-level output internally bypasses the headphone amp and volume control. Meridian is best known for its ultra-high-end digital converters that sell for thousands of dollars -- the Explorer is their … Read more
High Resolution Technologies makes some of the very best and most affordable digital-to-analog converters on the market. The company's newest model, the MicroStreamer, is a tiny thing, just 2.5 inches by 1.2 inches by 0.4 inch, and since it's USB-powered it doesn't have a power supply or require batteries. It works as an external sound card for computers, tablets, and some smartphones. It's also a high-quality headphone amplifier. It was designed in the U.S., and the little guy's circuitboard's components are mounted in Southern California. The aluminum case is made … Read more
Years ago, long before the dawn of the DVD or Blu-ray formats, consumer video was strictly all-analog, from the very first broadcasts right up to the introduction of the LaserDisc. The 12-inch, double-sided LaserDisc looked like a giant CD, but the video was analog encoded on two single-sided aluminum discs layered in plastic. The discs that debuted in 1978 had analog audio soundtracks, but later discs featured stereo digital sound. Millions of players were sold in the U.S., but LaserDisc was, even during the height of its popularity, a niche format that appealed mostly to videophiles. It had much … Read more
I can't bear to part with my record collection. It's got gems like Steely Dan's "The Royal Scam" that sound better on a turntable and amplifier than on MP3.
Maybe analog sound can feel better because we're analog creatures. Whatever the reason, vinyl's recent popularity has led to events like Record Store Day and DIY projects like Amanda Ghassaei's 3D-printed records.
An editorial staffer at Instructables.com, Ghassaei managed to lay down digital audio files on 3D-printed 33 rpm records that she played on a standard turntable.
The results, as heard in the video below, sound about as clear as phonograph cylinders from the 1880s. The audio output has a sampling rate of 11kHz and 5- to 6-bit resolution, but tunes like Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are easily recognizable. … Read more
As timepieces become more of a fashion accessory than a necessity, established watchmakers such as Citizen find themselves in a bit of an evolutionary pickle: "How do we remain relevant?"
Perhaps the answer to that question falls upon the company's new line of watches called Proximity. The watches offer low-power Bluetooth 4.0 functionality and a partner app (inconspicuously named Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity) that only works with the iPhone 4S or iPhone 5. Sorry about that Android and Windows Phone. … Read more
I remember just before the CD was introduced 30 years ago thinking that digital audio would be a giant leap forward in fidelity, but as soon as I heard a few CDs I knew digital wouldn't do a thing to make music sound more realistic. The CD was vastly better than LPs and cassettes in terms of noise and distortion, but voices still didn't sound like they do in real life, and pianos didn't sound as big and powerful as they do in Carnegie Hall. That mystified me; those early digital recordings were compression-free, and I was … Read more
How many times have you played a really sweet game on an Android or iOS device, but found yourself wishing for better controls?
Because, let's face it, some games really suffer when your thumbs block the screen, or when you don't get any tactile feedback. Tapping glass is a far cry from mashing buttons.
The retro-styled 8-Bitty pays homage to the original Nintendo NES D-pad controller, but tethers to your smartphone … Read more
Records, aka LPs, have been around since the 1950s, so there are lots of them out there. I've bought great records for a buck or two at thrift shops and yard sales, and found them on the street for free, but records aren't yesterday's news; lots of young bands are releasing LPs. The way things are going, the LP will probably outlast the CD as a mainstream format.
Speaking of yard sales and thrift shops, you can probably find dirt cheap turntables in those places, but the chances of finding a turntable in good working condition there … Read more
The CD player's days may be numbered, but we're seeing more and more turntables. They all share the common design features of a base, platter, and tonearm, but the Townshend Audio Rock 7 turntable is decidedly less common.
In addition to those three components I just mentioned, the Rock 7 employs proprietary features, mounted on the front of the tonearm, ahead of the phono cartridge. The cartridge and its needle are designed to convert the record groove's tiniest wiggles into electrical signals, but on other turntables the tonearm is unsupported and free to vibrate at the cartridge … Read more