Music and such

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

The Harman Kardon Esquire is a Travel Speaker Done Right.

Harman Kardon has been on a tear lately with a slew of killer products featuring clean functional design. From headphones to speaker systems, they have been setting the high bar in terms of visual design aesthetic and materials used.

The new Esquire speaker is a great example of the new Harman Kardon product line up. This little, portable speaker not only features Bluetooth, it has NFC for all those Android devices that are packing that technology. At $250.00 it isn’t cheap, but if it’s anything like the Aura speaker system I own, it’s worth the money.

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Esquire is a wireless audio system with designed with travel in mind. The speaker has dual drivers, a built-in bass port, and can be used for music listening around the house, office, or on-the-go. In addition, Esquire can be used with Bluetooth-enabled smartphones to make clear, no-fuss conference calls. Esquire uses custom-tuned microphones and noise cancellation technology to improve call quality even in noisy environments.

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Prepare totravel in a completely different way. The Harman Kardon Esquire is your new, on-the-road, wireless audio system. Esquire is a Bluetooth®-enabled speaker with a built- in conference phone system that redefines how you take your music with you. This durable, portable speaker is crafted out of fine materials with a leather panel and metal finish on the outside. On this inside, it’s pure Harman Kardon engineering, with dual drivers and a built-in bass port for clear sound, as well as custom-tuned microphones and noise cancellation technology for clear conference calls from your Bluetooth®-enabled smart phone. Top performance and outstanding design, this exquisite, portable speaker from Harman Kardon is substance and style. It looks as good as it sounds.

Aether, “Cone”.

I originally went to the Aether website to check out the new microsite for their “Cone” speaker. The site takes full advantage of HTML5, CSS, Full screen video, and other modern web browsing experiences. The look and feel is simple, clean and refined with limited copy allowing the images, video and audio to effectively sell the product. While checking out the look of the new site, I kind of fell in love with the “Cone” speaker itself.

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Cone is a portable speaker with a minimalist design aesthetic, and ease of use in mind. The intelligent electronics inside Cone collect an ongoing record of the users music history remembering when, where and what was played, creating smart playlists for the right time and place. Cone draws from your personal music collection as well as from an online library packed with more than 20 million tracks available to you. The online catalog also features internet radio services and pod casts extending your listening experience.

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The controls are simple. Touch the center button for play pause and power, rotate the outer ring for track selection and volume. If you click through to the nicely designed website there is a section of videos that show Cone in action. right now Cone is available for pre-order and it comes in either black and copper, or white and silver color combinations. Cone is powered by a Lithium Ion battery that delivers up to 8 hours of playback on a single charge. To get Cone up and running you will need an iPhone,iPad or Mac, but Android is in the works.

Aura.

The Harman Kardon Aura is a sleek, modern, wireless speaker system, that is in my opinion a show stopping design. The small footprint and lack of wires allow it to be placed anywhere in your home as long as you have a power outlet close by. Distinctive design, and robust audio make this little speaker a winner. I’ve been using the Aura for a couple of weeks, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s a serious contender in the wireless speaker game.

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The image of modern design.

In a crowded market it is imperative that your product stand out from the crowd. Over the years speaker designs have come and gone, but for the most part, speakers are, or look like a wooden box with a grill. In short, they aren’t that interesting to look at. The Aura with its dome shape, and transparent sound chamber, is a piece of industrial design that says “look at me”.

The Aura is built on a circular footprint with a diameter approximately 10 inches, and a height of about 12. The physical size makes it perfect for desktops, shells, or on the floor. One thing is certain, you won’t want to hide this fantastic piece of visual design.

Inside the clear plastic dome is a single ring of light that illuminates the center of the speaker. The light functions as a visual indicator for the volume level allowing the listener to a get a quick visual read on how loud things are going to get. Buttons are kept to a minimum, and like the original Soundsticks, volume control is a touch sensitive slider on the base of the speaker housing. Aside from that, the only other indicators, are power, WiFi, and Bluetooth lights discretely hidden on the base.

My one gripe is that these buttons give no real feedback when pressed. Just a few audio chimes to indicate the speaker is doing something. The only clue as to what is going on is, the connection button is green for WiFi, and blue for Bluetooth. The QuickStart guide tells you this, but not much else. For the most part the speaker is pretty straight forward.

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Connectivity

Harman Kardon sells the Aura as a wireless home speaker, but in addition to wireless connectivity, there are USB, Optical, and a Mini Stereo input ports. All of these are good, because if you wanted you could hard wire the speaker to your TV or another device and take full advantage of improved audio quality. Aura’s wireless connectivity is its main selling point though, and the primary reason I picked one up. Aura provides Wi-Fi connectivity through DLNA, AirPlay, and Bluetooth.

Pairing via Bluetooth was a snap. It took less than 10 seconds on both my iPhone and iPad. WiFi was another story all together. Using the Mac Mini, Bluetooth will often grab the signal before WiFi can establish a connection. iTunes has a tendency to fire up and attempt to connect and play even though it’s been set not to. And sometimes the WiFi and Bluetooth signals get confused and simply cut all audio feed to the speaker system. The frustrating part of this is, you want to stream via WiFi if you can. It’s a lossless way of sending the audio signal

Sound quality

Aside form the connectivity glitches, the audio quality is absolutely top notch, as it should be for a $400.00 speaker system. Once again Harman Kardon’s renowned excellence in producing high quality products shows. The sound that is delivered from such a small compact system is really pretty impressive. Because of the design, audio is rendered in an omni directional pattern, filling the space with an overall balance of audio.

This omni directional audio wave is achieved through six one and a half inch drivers that have been tuned to handle different frequency ranges for mid and high audio. In the base is a down facing 4.5 inch subwoofer that produces a deep warm bass tone that really fills out the sound quality. Audio levels are crisp, well separated, and full with no distortion even when the volume is cranked. What is really interesting is because of the design, the system sounds great no matter where it is. I have had it placed on the floor all the way up to an almost ceiling level height, and Aura just sounds great no matter where it is in the room.

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Bottom line, I simply can’t find fault the Aura’s sound output. It’s loud without being overbearing, it sounds good at all locations, the audio quality is rich and full, and it fills the space with rich high-fidelity sound.

So Harman Kardon has produced a pretty sweet little speaker system. Stunning looks and impressive audio quality make the device a winner in my book. If Apple can work out the connectivity issues with Harman Kardon, and if Harman puts together a more comprehensive product manual, Aura would be hard to beat.

Sound Design by Steve Boeddeker for Dolby Labs.

The art and craft of creating a short film for the big screen or the small one is for the most part a collaborative process. There are some people that create great works on their own, but in most cases it involves a crew that brings it all together. In the animated short film “Silent” for , I guarantee there was an fairly extensive crew of animators, storyboard artists, screenwriters, 3D modelers, riggers, lighting, and most importantly for Dolby sound designers.

Dolby leveraged Oscar® nominated sound designer Steve Boeddeker to create the sound design for this piece. It is after all titled “Silent”, and it is showcasing Dolby Laboratories newest cinema technology, Dolby Atmos. If you have headphones, or a surround sound system hooked up to what ever you watch this on use it. The sound is fantastic. Turn down the lights, turn up the volume, and allow this animated short to envelop you.

The Bushmills x Grado Labs Headphones. Cans Made From Whiskey Barrels.

I like whiskey, music, and design. When you combine all three, it’s love. Grado is producing a line of headphones made from Bushmills whiskey barrels. The limited edition headphones are hand crafted, feature vented backs, leather headbands and ear cups.

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Designed by Elijah Wood & Zach Cowie, these aren’t light on tech specs. They feature dynamic operating transducers with a frequency response of 16hz to 26kHz spl at 1mW – 98dB nominal impedance – 32 ohms driver match – .05dB.

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Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” Goes Interactive.

How do you take a song that is almost 50 years old and breath new life into it? You create a compelling interactive experience that creates an entirely new way to experience it. Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is just that. The interactive video can be found here, and if you install the dedicated app, you can get the full experience.

Produced by New York based VFX studio The Artery in conjunction with Israeli director Vania Heymann, the interactive video comprises the look of 16 interactive TV channels. It’s absolutely brilliant, and about a million times better than Dylan’s latest album release. This is actually quite addictive once you get into it.

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Just In Time For Your Weekend, BlinkDrink.

It’s Friday, your weekend is about to begin, and for many people that means bars, nightclubs, and possibly drinking. To improve your overall bar/drinking experience Brad Simpson has created BlinkDrink. This iPhone app does one thing, it lights up your drink to the beat of the music you are listening to. You know you want it. So go get it here.