Music and such

Music that I am listening to now, have discovered, or am into at the moment.

Behold The Shape of Sound.

Right now the only stereo system I have in my house is a Polk Audio Woodbourne system and it does a great job filling my smallish house with music streamed from my phone or tablet. I like it because it looks amazing, has a small footprint, good quality audio output, and only one cord. I hate wires. The thing is, I think I’m going to have to start saving for an upgrade because I just saw B&O’s BeoSound Shape, and I’m in love with the design of it. I haven’t heard it, I haven’t seen it in person, but the photos and the video look pretty slick.

 

 

BeoSound Shape is the design-driven solution to the prevailing issue of poor room acoustics in open multifunctional spaces. The damper tiles absorb sound waves rather than reflecting them, which not only improves your music experience but also actively improves the entire acoustic atmosphere in the room even when the system is switched off.

At the heart of the system are BeoSound Core, a connectivity hub hidden in one of the tiles that have the hardware for AirPlay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth 4.1, and support for Bang & Olufsen’s very own BeoLink system. The BeoSound Core also has wired inputs for Ethernet or line-in functionality, although the primary focus is on wireless streaming. A base kit starts at roughly $4,266 and includes eight tiles which include four speakers, two sound-absorbing acoustic dampeners, one amplifier, and one housing for the Core. The system is expandable up to 11 amplifier units each of which can support four speaker tiles, for a total of 44 if you need to fill a larger space.

Is it a good value for the money? Probably not. I know for a fact that for 4500 bucks you could pit together a sound system that blows this away, but that isn’t why I am interested. I want this because it doesn’t look like a stereo. Because there are endless custom configurations. And because my old broken down ears aren’t going to be able to hear that much of a perceivable difference. I really love the concept, and execution of this.

 

 

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The Minimalist Design of the Beoplay M5

I have to admit I have always loved the look of B&O design work. Their products really do look and feel quite amazing, and yes the sound isn’t too shabby either. Is it worth the premium price you pay? Maybe. It depends on what you value, and what you think is affordable. It’s kind of like buying a Rolex or Tag vs a Timex or a Swatch. Both tell time, some just do it with more swagger, flair and a refined set of materials and craftsmanship. I say this because Bang and Olufsen have launched yet another wireless speaker that really does look stunning. It will set you back about 600 bucks plus tax, and if you are thinking about outfitting a number of rooms in your humble abode you’ll be rolling north of 2 grand by the time it is all said and done.

Designed by leading Danish industrial designer Cecilie Manz, the Beoplay M5 speaker is a small minimalist piece of audio gear pumping out 100 watts of power from its diminutive case. Housed inside the 7-inch tall speaker are 1 x 5′ woofer, 1 x 1.5′ midrange, and 3 x ¾’ tweeters with a frequency response of 37 – 22.000 Hz. Is it the biggest badest speaker on the block? No, but it is quite lovely to look at and jam-packed with all of the latest technology allowing you to stream music to any room in your house, or to every room at the same time.

Like all of the BeoPlay line up the M5 offers you the option to change out covers, and I’m sure they will be offering some bright bold color choices in the future. Frankly I’m really loving the monochrome versions that they are showing off across the entire line these days. The top is a machined aluminum disc that functions as the main physical control unit for each speaker. You adjust the volume by running your finger across the edge. Tapping the aluminum disc will activate Beoplay M5 to join other music experiences going on in your home or sync up with other units.

Beoplay M5 uses Bang & Olufsen’s “True360” to create spatial balance no matter where you are placed relative to the speaker. Three evenly distributed tweeters, a front facing mid-range driver and a powerful woofer that fires its energy down towards a carefully designed disperser, provide a uniform dispersion of well-balanced Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound all around the room.

Is it worth 600 bucks? I have no idea, I haven’t actually heard it or played around with it. I do know that if I had a few grand burning a hole in my pocket I’d be tempted to pick up a few of them for various rooms in my house.

Caruso is Not Just an Opera Singer.

Caruso-64Leave it to the Italians to come up with a Bluetooth speaker named after a famous opera star that looks like a piece of art. Caruso designed by New Black is a Bluetooth 4.0 enabled speaker that just screams “Look at me”. Clean, contemporary, fun, and unfortunately pricey. For your money though, you get a hand made wood cabinet and ceramic horn. Each piece is made to orderby Italian masters in Meolo (Venice) which also helps to explain the $2700.00 price tag. As Bluetooth speakers go the specs are pretty solid. Caruso has a frequency response rate of 50-19 khz, and pushes out 75 watts of blazing power to help make all the digital files stored on your phone or computer sound amazing. The cabinet comes in lacquered wood finishes in 6 different shades. The ceramic horn in 6 contrasting shades that you can mix and match with the wood to your hearts content. I simply love the look of it. Finally someone is making a speaker that doesn’t look like the cheap plastic crap you see everywhere these days. Plus it has enough power to fill your space and then some.

Caruso 3

Caruso 4

Caruso 5

Caruso 6

Caruso 7

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Small Dog, Big Bark.

Unlike all the hipsters out there that are discovering vinyl and record players for the first time, I’ve been there and done that. I grew up on vinyl, and spent years working in record stores. As a DJ on the radio, I’ve spent countless hours spinning records and have a massive record collection that stopped growing and converted to high quality digital a decade ago. Yes I stopped buying vinyl and CD’s and started buying hard drives. It doesn’t mean I don’t buy music, it means vinyl and CD’s take up way to much space. Seriously, thousands of records and CD’s take up a lot of room, as does the equipment to play them back.

Then there is the convenience of having tens of thousands of tracks at my disposal in digital format that I can call up and playback from multiple devices in any room in my house. (no I’m not streaming anything through Spotify or a like service.) With all that said, it doesn’t mean I don’t want quality sound, and playback. I don’t have any over compressed MP3’s in my collection, and everything is set up to playback with as much dynamic range as my “went to to many loud rock concerts in my youth, damaged hearing can make out” ears can handle. So I am always on the lookout for decent audio tech that is designed to maximize sound quality from digital music on my computer, phone, tablet, AppleTV etc.

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Jerry Cmehil is the founder of Well Rounded Sound, an audio company that has made it its mission to bring audiophiles the best quality equipment housed within beautiful, eco-friendly designs since 2011. Like most of us Cmehil was frustrated with finding an affordable, good sounding system so he set out to build high quality speakers that deliver a naturally crisp sound in a package around the size of an old school pencil sharpener. The speaker line up is named after compact and feisty small dog breeds, “Yorkie”, “Jack Russel”, “Corgi”, and the larger “Boxer”. Each set of speakers utilizes conical geometry which is paired with full range HD drivers that are housed in a cylindrical enclosure. The housing is finished in premium wood, that is helps play a key role in providing the best sound possible. Even the integrated solid wood stands help to reduce bass energy transfer and are designed to give you a perfect near-field listening angle. Each speaker features a patented cylinder sealed enclosure eliminates distortion from port noise.

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When paired with the WRS C5i amplifier you begin to have a solid foundation on which to build a solid and affordable audio set-up for your home. The C5i is a hybrid speaker and headphone amplifier with a blend of classic and modern features. Audiophiles will love the vacuum tube input stage combined with a solid state amplifier. People like myself, will love the integrated USB DAC, so you can connect it directly to your computer or other digital music device. I personally love the design that brings together retro vibes, modern accents and trending industrial chic in a balanced product that stands out from the crowd.

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The YouTube Music App. Its Going to be Bigger Than People Think.

If you are old enough, you might remember when MTV and VH1 actually played music videos. You might remember a time when all of the reality TV crap they show now didn’t exist. Some of us even remember seeing The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star” on MTV and realizing that MTV was going to change how we looked at music forever.

Fast forward 30 years, and MTV is nothing like it used to be. Neither is the way we all take in music. From satellite radio, to iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, eMusic, Vimeo, YouTube, on every device, anywhere we want to listen or watch. I watch a lot of music on YouTube. From vintage 1950’s TV programs on Jazz with live performances by people like John Coltrane, to new release music videos.

A few days ago, YouTube launched the YouTube Music app, and in many ways it felt like MTV during its golden era. The comments section for the video is filled with a boat load of people bashing it and not understanding the point. The way I see it, YouTube is trying to remain relevant at a point where Facebook is getting ready to launch it’s own dedicated video service. The advantage YouTube has is the vast size of it’s catalog, and the fact that it is tied to Google. Content is king in the streaming business, and YouTube has it in spades.

Predominant.ly Searching for Music.

I used to spend hours in record store sifting through stacks of new and used vinyl searching for something new and unique. Just like book stores, record stores were a place to discover old favorites and new gems. A place to find music that you could share with your friends and so much more. there was something about the experience that will never be captured by an online experience, no matter what your source is, be it iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, eMusic, etc.

Predominant.ly designed and built by Open Work wants to change that. They want to bring to the online world the spontaneity of stumbling across a new find or an old favorite while searching for music.  The concept is really pretty clever. Based on color choices Predominant.ly  serves up groups of albums where the covers match your color choices. The data is pulled from iTunes which makes the entire catalog available.  The experience definitely lends itself to the concept of exploration in the digital space.

Albums

I’ve Been Hypnotized.

Here is four minutes of fluid animation and a jaunty little soundtrack from Mirai_Mizue and Takashi Watanabe to start your week off right. It’s actully quite hypnotic and extremely fun.