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Gear

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gear Nerd Post: New Amps Vs Old

Posted by on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 3:12 PM

I swear I'm not trolling, but I am hoping for some solid gear chatter in the comments on this old c|net post: How can 30-year-old receivers sound better than new ones? Mostly 'cause I haven't bought a new receiver or amp in a million years, and nothing new since the mid '80s, so I can't actually comment on what contemporary gear is like.

...when brick-and-mortar stores ruled the retail market, audio companies took pride in their engineering skills and designed entire receivers in-house. Right up through the 1980s most of what was "under the hood" was designed and built by the company selling the receiver. That's no longer true; the majority of today's gotta-have features—auto-setup, GUI menus, AirPlay, iPod/iPhone/iPad compatibility, home networking, HD Radio, Bluetooth, HDMI switching, digital-to-analog converters, Dolby and DTS surround processors—are sourced and manufactured by other companies. Industry insiders refer to the practice of cramming as many features as possible into the box as "checklist design."

It doesn't matter if those features are useful to the majority of buyers, or if they're easy to use; no, the features are included to make the product more attractive to potential buyers. It's a numbers game, pure and simple. The receiver with the right combination of features is judged to be the best receiver.

It's a bummer it's now all about sell-abilty. For a while I looked for a new home system, for watching movies in surround or whatever, but there was NEVER A PHONO INPUT included, so I abandoned the need. I currently have a way-too-powerful amp for my needs, well...for the size of my living space, but it drives my speakers like nothing else.

Squarepusher Jams With Robots—Prog Fusion Ensues

Posted by on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Highly evolved British electronic-music producer/bassist extraordinaire Squarepusher's latest project is a collaboration with Japanese robots known as Z-Machines (the Zima alcohol company is involved in this somehow; who knew it still existed?). Squarepusher (Tom Jenkinson) wrote a track titled "Sad Robots Go Funny" for an automated 78-fingered guitarist and a 22-armed drummer. The result sounds like an elegantly fiery prog-fusion summit meeting between Larry Coryell and Jack DeJohnette—something ECM Records might've released in 1979. I mean, it's cool, but it doesn't sound like THE FUTURE, which is what I was expecting/demanding.

Squarepusher elaborates on the project:

“In this project the main question I’ve tried to answer is ‘can these robots play music that is emotionally engaging?’
I have long admired the player piano works of Conlon Nancarrow and Gyorgy Ligeti. Part of the appeal of that music has to do with hearing a familiar instrument being 'played' in an unfamiliar fashion. For me there has always been something fascinating about the encounter of the unfamiliar with the familiar. I have long been an advocate of taking fresh approaches to existing instrumentation as much as I am an advocate of trying to develop new instruments, and being able to rethink the way in which, for example, an electric guitar can be used is very exciting.

“Each of the robotic devices involved in the performance of this music has its own specification which permits certain possibilities and excludes others - the robot guitar player for example can play much faster than a human ever could, but there is no amplitude control. In the same way that you do when you write music for a human performer, these attributes have to be borne in mind - and a particular range of musical possibilities corresponds to those attributes. Consequently, in this project familiar instruments are used in ways which till now have been impossible.”

For more enlightenment, read the press release after the jump.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This Underwater Turntable Will Make Your Head Spin

Posted by on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Via thisiscolossal.com

Evan Holm's Submerged Turntable installation has to be seen to be believed. The video below reveals how it was constructed and demonstrates its audio capabilities. Amazing. But those poor records...

Friday, January 31, 2014

I Played with Dolls (For an Entire Day), and Almost All Music Was Wrong

Posted by on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 11:36 AM

When they say Deluxe, they mean Deluxe.
  • When they say Deluxe, they mean Deluxe.

My six-year-old niece recently acquired a Barbie Sisters’ Deluxe Camper set. I was visiting, and got to help her put it together and apply all the decals, which took seven hours. The Barbie Sisters’ Deluxe Camper has lots going on with it. There’s a shower, a stove, a telescope, a toilet, and a hot-cocoa maker. And a barn. With a horse. Pretty sure there’s also a tanning bed. Or maybe it was a large waffle-iron. The top accessories, however, are the miniature fake tree limbs for roasting miniature fake marshmallows.

I was playing music off my phone as we assembled the camper. The International Space Station has less accessories happening on it than the Barbie Deluxe Camper. I told my niece, she was in charge of what music we listened to. When she didn’t like something, I asked her to give it the thumbs-down, and I would fast forward to something else.

Barbie sticks for Barbie marshmallows.
  • Barbie sticks for Barbie marshmallows.

For some reason, I thought Rush’s “Fly By Night” would work, but it got the thumbs-down after Geddy Lee started singing. Rush, as it turns out, is not the best Barbie building music. The next 20 minutes was spent shuffling through the beginnings of songs only to have them get the near immediate thumbs-down. Nothing worked. Not Bieber, not the Bee Gees, not Blondie, not Otis Redding, not the Bangles. I tried Macklemore, Muppet Movie soundtracks, Dora the Explorer, James Brown. Nothing was right. I didn’t think the camper was going to get off the ground.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It Looks Like Roland's Upgrading the TR-808 Drum Machine

Posted by on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Via Resident Advisor

The video below on the evolution of Roland's revolutionary TR-808 drum machine suggests that the Japanese company is primed to introduce a new version of this staple of electronic dance music production.

"By now, musicians want new and exciting things, so the time has come to take the next step," says inventor Atsushi Hoshiai. Many musicians—though probably not many drummers—are undoubtedly tingly with anticipation.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sphere of Music: Meet the AudioOrb

Posted by on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 9:59 AM

AudioOrb: Clearly a next-level listening experience.
  • AudioOrb: Clearly a next-level listening experience.

Via discovery.com

Scandinavian lab ST has created a Plexiglass bubble called AudioOrb that's equipped with 18 internal speakers into which users enter to listen to music. Seems like it would be an awesome experience, especially to those who go through life hearing tunes through earbuds attached to mobile devices and computers. AudioOrbs run $15,000 and there are only two for sale at the moment. (My birthday's in April, so there's time for you to save your money.)

You can purchase an AudioOrb here. This could be the ultimate consumer status product of 2014.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bertha, If You're Stuck, Hold On. We'll Be There In a Sec

Posted by on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 2:46 PM

So Bertha the tunnel digging machine might be stuck. The thing that’s digging a highway under our city, right next to the Puget Sound. Or maybe it’s not stuck. Seattle Times' Mike Lindblom and Dominic Holden have thoughts and words. It might be stuck, it might not be stuck. They “don’t know" what they’ve struck, according to Lindblom. Maybe they struck something manmade, like an ancient underground burial vault, or an old underground video game arcade featuring sit down versions of Donkey Kong and Centipede. Maybe Mike McGinn is in there playing Dig Dug. Whatever it is, I’m scared. I don’t like when gigantic machines that are digging holes under the city get stuck.

So I’m heading down there with a shovel, and my Sony Discman strapped onto my belt to help out. Who’s with me?? We'll do "The Unstuck." We'll have Bertha moving in no time. I'm also bringing an almost brand-new Phillips head screwdriver, and some doube-stick tape in case that will help.

Oh. and Bertha, whatever you do, don’t accidentally poke a hole in Puget Sound. That could potentially suck really bad. Thanks.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Crucial Gear Stolen From MTNS Member

Posted by on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Daniel Enders, drummer/vocalist for Seattle power-spazz duo MTNS, suffered the theft of an important piece of gear last night. He says that the Boss MICRO BR digital recorder "has all of my teenage recordings, samples from Spain, and many field recordings. If anyone sees this in a pawn shop, used gear store, Craigslist, or even a Guitar Center, please let me know. Since I do not have the serial number, I'd rather buy it back then have it gone forever. It's beat up around the edges with paint a little worn off."

Please let us know if you see this unit, which was last seen at Montana Bar on Capitol Hill.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beamz by Flo: Is This a New "Low"?

Posted by on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Sponsored by the rapper Flo Rida, Beamz is a new piece of technology that enables users to play music by moving their hands through laser beams with pre-recorded songs. You hook up the unit—which is loaded with new and old hits—to an iPad, iPhone, or MAC computer, and then... well, let's go to the manual. "Each interactive song has a background rhythm track which you start by pressing the play button on the Beamz controller; then each laser beam is setup to be a different instrument or sound effect. As you move your hand through a laser beam, you're adding that instrument into the playback of the song."

In the instructional/promotional video below, the announcer asks, "Why spend thousands of dollars on musical equipment or frustrating music lessons when you can get Flo's Beamz and perform your favorite music instantly?" I dunno—maybe because it cheapens the experience of performing music? Because it's like playing tennis without a net? Because the people in the ad look like utterly shallow idiots? Whatever the case, you can learn more about how Beamz works here.

This exciting new product calls for a poll. Surely you have feelings about it.

Tip: JM

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spinning a History of the Technics SL-1200 MK2

Posted by on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 3:12 PM

is-technics-offical.jpg

Jordan Rothlein has written an extensive history of the Technics SL-1200 MK2 turntable, aka the industry standard for decades, over at Resident Advisor. You can read the first of the six-part series here. Rothlein recounts how, since 1979, DJs have loved Technics decks for their ease of use, ability to start and stop quickly, direct-drive platters that make it ideal for scratching and other manipulations, and phenomenal durability. Here's a key passage about that latter quality:

DJs make much of the 1200's tough-to-replicate tactility, but anyone who's owned a pair and really put them to work can attest to their near-indestructibility. Stories abound of the early days of hip-hop in the Bronx, where DJs would throw their decks in car trunks and plunk them down in whatever courtyard or gymnasium was home to the party that day. They can be covered in gashes, dents and cigarette burns and play just as well as one right out of the box. "I've heard of them getting run over by cars and still holding up," says Justin Carter of Brooklyn's Mister Saturday Night party, whose mobile soundsystem still uses half of his first pair, procured as an undergraduate at NYU from a scratch DJ in the South Bronx.

As someone who's owned a Technics turntable for 18 years, during which it's endured countless moves and spins, I can attest to the product's resilience.

Panasonic discontinued manufacturing the SL-1200 in 2010, but it seems inevitable that it or some other company will bring it back in some form in the future. There's just too much love and demand for this world-historical piece of gear for it to head to eternity's scrap heap.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Budget Record Label K-tel's Space Aged Organizational Genius

Posted by on Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 1:16 PM

"Are you fed up with constantly searching for the reh-chords you want?" If so,
K-tel has employed space age design to help you end this annoying issue of messy LP storage. Their "Record Selector" system's "Finger tip control regulates the speed of reh-chord selector." Which means as you scroll through your reh-chord collection your reh-chords won't flip too fast OR too slow; JUST LIKE IN SPACE!! All for the low cost of $3.99.

"Record Selector" certainly ended my awkward LP storage and selection problems! THANKS, K-TEL! And for those damned 8-tracks which seem to always end up in a pile on the floor of your car... well, K-tel AGAIN has your solution: "Tape Selector."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Electronic-Music Nomad Filastine's Unloading Some Gear After His Thursday Show at Barboza

Posted by on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Cyclotronic world-beat subverter Filastine is playing his last Seattle date of the year Thurs. Aug. 15 at Barboza (see tomorrow’s Data Breaker for more details). After the ex-Seattleite's performance, he says he’ll be jettisoning some of his belongings. Take it away, Filastine.

On this visit I'm also trying to get rid of ballast. After the gig (around midnight) I'll be giving away a pickup truck load of strange objects that can't cross the water: giant saw blades, gas cans, cables, SPD riot helmets, and a heap of drums.

SPD riot helmets! Drums! Go start your own Infernal Noise Brigade, people.

More info about the show here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dreamsalon Member Min Yee's Bass Stolen

Posted by on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 9:21 AM

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  • Min Yee's Facebook page

Some lousy scumbag has stolen the bass guitar of Seattle underground-rock fixture Min Yee, who currently plays with garage-rock dynamos Dreamsalon; he also held down the low end for years in the legendary A Frames/AFCGT.

Yee wrote on his Facebook:

My bass was stolen from my car last night [July 30] between 8-10pm downtown on 2nd ave at university st. Please keep your eyes open for it if you are near pawn shops or music shops. It's a brown 1974 fender precision bass with worn off finish around where my right forearm rests on it. It's the only bass I've played for 17 years. Please spread the word.

If you see this bass, let us know at music@thestranger.com and we'll get in touch with Min.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Record Nerd Post: I Need Software Suggestions

Posted by on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 at 3:18 PM

Last week I was gifted an old laptop and have decided to make the jump from using a component burner to using a USB deck, a NuMark TTXUSB, to digitize my records and so I'm wondering what is the BEST software to employ for analog USB to hardrive recording? I'm not sure if I'll be happy with the software buddled with my NuMark™ deck; it's called EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter™, and it won't make WAV files, only MP3s! Big, FAT ASS WAV files is the chosen format for my component burner and they sound GREAT through a good system and I DON'T WANNA LOSE QUALITY, but... I have ZERO experience with this fancy technological shit. So, anyone have a better suggestion for software? ANY tips or TRICKS?!?

Also: Anyone have any tips on a solid (and FREE, cause I'm poor) click and pop reducer thing-a-mah-bob program? I have no problem with surface noise, but if I can reduce a loud pop or click, I'd like too. Way back in the early oughties there was some chatter about how shitty those de-noising programs were, but ten years later some nerd has gotta have sorted out a better way... right?!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ivan & Alyosha's Gear Gets Stolen, Rhapsody Gives 'Em $10,000, but They Still Want Your Cash

Posted by on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Ivan & Alyosha had their van, trailer, and gear stolen while on tour. THAT SUCKS. Man, does that suck. I hate hearing stories of bands being ripped off like this, even when they're boring folk bands with ties to Mars Hill. And while I certainly understand asking fans to help cover the costs of the stolen gear, I also hope that every band everywhere has their shit insured. Here's a place to start, if you don't.

In Ivan & Alyosha's case, though, I was sent a professional press release about their Pledge Music campaign, to help replace the stolen gear. If you give 'em $50, you get a phone call from the band. In that press release, it states that:

* Rhapsody has donated $10,000
* Amazon had donated $5,000
* Noisetrade is donating ad space and fans can tip/donate when downloading the band's album for free
* From June 24-July 1, Dualtone Music Group will give 100% of the net proceeds from digital and physical retail to the band

And you're still asking fans for money? STILL? That's what insurance is for, right? If I'm getting a pro press release about how you just got $15,000+, YOU BETTER HAVE BOUGHT FUCKING INSURANCE. Or, maybe Mark Driscoll has some money you can have.

Anyway. Whatever. See the list of stolen items after the jump. THEN, IF YOU'RE IN A BAND, BUY FUCKING INSURANCE.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beck's and Decks: Beer-Bottle Music

Posted by on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Thomas Edison's cylindrical phonograph has been reincarnated—in a Beck's beer bottle. Check out a song—Ghost Wave's "Here She Comes"—being played on said bottle and learn about the technology behind this old/new invention. Audio ingenuity by Auckland, New Zealand company Gyro Constructivists. Fascinating.

Tip: @TheDJGospel

Continue reading »

Friday, March 15, 2013

Local Man Writes Eloquent Paean to the Compact Disc

Posted by on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 3:11 PM

logo_compact_disc.gif

Peter Johansen (disclosure: I worked with him at Everyday Music about a decade ago) has launched his Numeral Nine Music Blog with a post dedicated to defending the rebuked and scorned audio format known as the compact disc. Johansen gives five reasons for his positions and gets deep into mathy rationales in his argument for CDs’ merits, and then couples this audio science with his own well-argued personal preferences for the shiny disc. The man makes some fine points.

Here's one of 'em:

While MP3s are fine for ear-buds, the CD produces an objectively better sound when experienced on any decent loudspeaker or headphone. Using algorithms to remove data that is (hopefully) unnecessary, 256 or 320-kbps MP3s might not be significantly inferior to 1,411 kbps CDs, but few argue against the basic premise that lossless CDs can offer a superior sonic experience over compressed MP3s. The best that computer audio can do is to match CDs in terms of quality. FLAC, AIFF, and other file formats do apparently get there, though they represent only a small fraction of the music downloaded.

I prefer vinyl, but I will never be one of those people who jettison their entire CD collection. I don’t trust the cloud as far as I can throw it. Artifacts! I wanna touch ’em and hear ’em!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SubPac Gives You Portable Low-End Sensations

Posted by on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 10:53 AM

"The SubPac is going to revolutionize how people experience music forever," says Todd Chernecki, co-founder of SubPac. According to SubPac's website, the product "is a high-fidelity portable tactile audio device that quietly and directly transfers low frequencies to your body," at a price similar to that of premium headphones. For people who think it's not enough to simply hear music but to feel it, SubPac could be a real game- internal-organ-changer.

SubPac has endorsements from such top-flight musicians, labels, and organizations as Adrian Sherwood, Kode9, Mala, Joker, Pinch, John Tejada, Hyperdub, and Decibel, so maybe there's validity to the grandiose claims. One wonders if it's going to come in various sizes, though. Seems like the larger one's back is, the less impact the SubPac will have.

Check out the Kickstarter video for SubPac below.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kurt Cobain's $3,000 Farfisa

Posted by on Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Looking to update your jams with Nirvana's patented sound? Need an organ for your organ? Beat your fingers on over to Craigslips and gaze upon an advert for Kurt Cobain's $3000 Farfisa organ. Do it! Click right here!

You're looking at a picture of a picture of the internet on the internet.
  • You're looking at a picture of a picture of the internet on the internet.

Now, it would be common for a person to be skeptical about the past ownership of this fa-fa-Farfisa, but don't fret. It comes with "an appraisal and authenticity document from a world renowned appraiser of fine and important antiques." So ease your mime, John Nash.

H/T: Dre Gordon (Grey Dragon)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

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The Ultimate Mobile DJ?

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The Ultimate Mobile DJ Setup?

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LOL @ Headphone Reviews

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