audio music technology

Radio reborn!

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I had heard about the Squeezebox from Logitec for years, but I never paid any attention. My loss… Listening to the radio was always fun in the past. Part of it was the thrill of the hunt, cycling through different stations in order to find something that fit my mood was a common pastime. The problem is that FM is a total wasteland now. Even the satellite stations don’t do much for me.

Here’s where the squeezebox comes into play. It is a device that allows you to stream your music collection to a sound system. No big deal, right? An airport express will do the same thing. Ah, but the squeezebox allows you to stream internet radio, even if your computer is off. In addition, it is easy to move it around or add more devices in your house. These can be linked together or operated separately. Logitec makes devices that you would hook to an existing system or stand alone devices much like a table radio.

There are over 20,000 stations by my quick count that you can get on there. In addition, there are services like the BBC, classical music organization, and the live performance archive that you can play on there. Then there are the customizable stations like Pandora, Last, and Slacker. You pick a song or group and they will play songs similar to them.

I love the music on my computer and listen to it all the time but it is nice to be able to get exposed to new music too. I think the squeezebox touch (as well as an app for my iPod touch) will be my next audio purchase. I’ll hook it up to a table radio I own right now and in the future I’ll hook it up to a pair of active speakers via its digital output. Stay tuned, don’t touch that dial! I’ll be back soon with more exciting audio news from Isaac!:-)


The genius of genius

I know, I’m late to the party, especially considering that I work at the Apple store, but I have just discovered genius playlists on iTunes. They’re pretty amazing, I’ve been really impressed with how they work. I kept putting off activating the genius feature because my music library is so huge these days (170.5 gigs and growing). It took forever for it to go through everything, I eventually let it run when I went to bed and it was ready in the morning.

It came up with 12 different mixes from my library, punk, indie rock, alternative pop/rock, new wave, classic rock, alt singer/songwriter, classic R&B, mainstream rock, jazz, folk, and classical. I have serious issues with the names of a couple of the mixes. I loathe the moniker “alternative” when applied to rock music but I understand that it is a commonly used category. They have a much different definition of “New Wave” than I do and Blink 182 and Pearl Jam are poor choices for “punk” music IMO especially considering how much actual punk music I have.

If I ignore the naming conventions I really enjoy the mixes themselves. I think that this works better with really large collections, I probably could have put together mixes just as good but it would have taken me forever. As it is, I can start any of these mixes and really enjoy it.

It also does a good job of making a mix based off of a single song. I’ve saved a jazz mix on my itunes library and I fooled around with it on my iPod to good effect.

Of course whenever you have an automated system to pick out music there will be errors. I’ve had a couple of howlers so far. No, I really did burst out in laughter when these things came up. That jazz mix I mentioned is a great collection of mostly hard bop and scat singing. Inexplicably, it also put in “I will Follow Him” by little Peggy March. A quality pop tune, but it has no relation to jazz at all. The best one so far made my roommate knock on my door to see if I was alright. I was listening to the “punk” mix when a Celia Cruz song came on. My reaction was so loud that he worried about me.

Anyway, I’m having a blast and I highly recommend giving genius a try in iTunes.

audio music

Itching for a stereo system

Being cooped up in the house for so many days in a row has made me start missing my stereo system. I still own a really nice one. The trouble is that I don’t have the space for it, so it has been at a friend’s for the last three years or so. One day I’ll have space again, and then I’ll be able to listen to it again.

But in the meantime, I need something to listen to. And I want it to be a real system, one that this audiofool can appreciate. It needs to be small, inexpensive (in audiophile terms), and suited for my cramped living space. Here’s what I’ve come up with…

My music source will be my computer. I will simply play the music I have on it. Over time, I will get access to my CDs again and do proper, lossless copies for the best sound quality. For an amp, I will get one of those cheapie, but decent tripath amps that put out around 15 watts a side. For the time being, I will just use the analog out from either my computer or an airport express. Eventually I will add a digital to analog convertor in the chain to improve things more.

I think I’ve settled on the speakers. They are going to be a bit of a departure from my usual type of speaker, but that has a lot to do with my current situation. I’m going with some full range, single driver speakers from Tekton. I’ve been talking to the builder and he thinks his 4.1 speakers will be the best fit for me.

Here’s what I like about them:

1) The price. These will be new speakers, and they will be built for me. I’m still trying to decide on the finish, I’m leaning towards either cherry or walnut.

2) It is easy to drive which means I can get decent sound from a 40 dollar amp.

3) This type of speaker is supposed to excel in low volume listening.

4) They are small enough to work well in my room.

5) And finally, they are a type of speaker that I want to own at least once.

I have a few things to take care of before I do this, but I will at some point in the near future have a working system again!