iPod Sound Quality August 27, 2007Posted by Fadil in : Technology, Music , 6 comments
During the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to have a 5.5G 30GB iPod around to fiddle with (thanks Baim). The fact that I can only borrow an iPod may surprise some, but I live in Mauritius and the 30GB model, which costs around $400 here, is not quite affordable.
The thing I’d like to point out is the rather poor quality of the sound output from the device. It surprised me that the world’s most popular portable music player does not deliver better in this respect. I was utterly disappointed by how grainy the sound can get even with the equalizer turned off. Listening to electronic music such as trance or house on the iPod was not enjoyable at times. The bass from the original iPod earphones is not deep enough, and setting the equalizer to “Bass Booster” mode does nothing but accentuate the graininess. I’ve been used to Sony products for many years, namely cassette, CD and MiniDisc Walkmans. I currently have a Sony Ericsson W810i Walkman phone as portable music player. I have to say the sound from Sony branded products is of much superior quality than from the iPod.
The Apple Store does sell earphones/headphones from other manufacturers. According to the reviews, the sound from some of these (Sony & Bose ones notably) is much better than from the original ones. I tried the in-ear earphones supplied with my Walkman handset on the iPod, and I did notice an improvement in the sound quality. It was, however, not as good as the sound you get from Sony players. Another way of supposedly improving the sound quality is to have all your tracks in AAC format, which is the format used by the iTunes music store incidentally. From what I’ve read, the AAC decoder of the device is better that the MP3 one. I’ve unfortunately not been able to try this.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think highly of the iPod. Watching movies on the device is a great experience. The file management capabilities of the iPod+iTunes combination is impressive as well; transferring files, building playlists and selecting tracks to play were never easier. A couple of third-party applications did come in handy to load the music player with files from different libraries though. The best part of it is that, of course, you get to have the whole of your music collection on the move.
The quality of the output sound was, nonetheless, a real letdown for me. There are a few questions I’d like to ask iPod owners:
- Is your opinion about the device’s sound quality the same as mine?
- If you had actually been aware of this before, would you have bought a different portable music player?
Word on the street (web) is that the new iPod, which should be out later this year, will be remastered at various levels. It is being said that it will have an interface similar to that of the iPhone, described by Steve Jobs as “the best iPod ever made”. My wish is that the new line of music players from Apple Inc. also bears an improved audio output.3336
Binaural audio July 22, 2007Posted by Fadil in : Technology, Music , 6 comments
I have just found out about a very interesting audio recording technique called binaural recording. The name itself is sort of revealing. According to Wikipedia, two microphones placed a certain distance apart and facing away from each other are used during the recording process in studio. This is done to emulate the the receptive capabilities of a person’s ears. For more realistic effects, the mics are placed into ear-shaped moulds found on each side of a dummy head.
This technique can reproduce 360 degrees surround sound effects with only two output sources. It is simply amazing. A number of artists in the music industry have released commercial tracks recorded this way. The most notable of these is Pink Floyd’s 1982 album entitled The Final Cut. I have listened to a sample from the album, and I have to say it’s breathtaking, and a little creepy as well.
Here is a really great binaural audio clip called “A Virtual Haicut”. It demonstates what can be achieved using holophonics while detailing the experiment at the same time.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The clip should be listened to using stereo headphones/earphones. The intended effects are NOT achieved with regular loudspeakers.
UPDATE: There seems to be a problem on the ODEO server. Here is a direct link to the file.
The new last.fm widgets are hot and sexy May 25, 2007Posted by Fadil in : Technology, Music, Web , add a comment
The brand new flash-based widgets created by last.fm to allow its users to share their music taste with the world are so cool… and hot! They’re an upgrade to the old school image charts which have been around for a while now.
Multiple types of these widgets are available:
- A Radio player to play tracks of specified artists, genres or based on the playlist of any registered user.
- A Playlist player to stream tracks you select from your “scrobbles”.
- A “quilt” widget displaying a sort of dynamic collage of your favourite artists or albums.
- Charts listing your favourite tracks, favourite artists, or recently played tracks with some nice “onHover” effects and with the ability to preview the songs.
I have replaced the image chart I used to have in the sidebar with the new fancy one. I have also added a “quilt” widget showing the artists I listen to the most, a real piece of eye-candy! Here’s a selection of my most-played songs, they can be streamed full-length from the embedded player.
The Red Devils go marching on! May 6, 2007Posted by Fadil in : Man Utd , 7 comments
We’ve got our trophy back! Yes, Manchester United are the 2006-2007 English Premier League Champions! It follows from the 1-1 draw at the Emirates stadium between Arsenal and Chelsea, leaving Man Utd with a 7-point advantage over runner-up Chelsea with two games remaining. United put the pressure on Jose Mourinho’s side by winning the Manchester derby 1-0 yesterday!
It was an outstanding campaign for the Red Devils. Plagued all along by injury to various key players, the team found the resources to fight back when it mattered. With already eight Premiership crowns in the bag, Sir Alex Ferguson’s desire to win is still second to none! He has showed it once again this season by leading his team to the top of the Premier League, the FA Cup final and the Champions League semi final. Praise should be given to every member of this formidable team, with special mention to Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic who have been remarkable throughout the season! Inevitably, the loudest of acclaims goes to double award winner Christiano Ronaldo for his mesmerizing skills and invaluable contribution to the team’s success.
After two years, the Premiership trophy is back where it belongs: The Theatre of Dreams! Jose Jose, what’s the score?!
Premier League trophy image courtesy of www.manutd.com
Windows Live Writer April 8, 2007Posted by Fadil in : Technology , 8 comments
I have recently discovered Windows Live Writer, a WYSIWYG blog authoring tool created by Microsoft (ahem, some people are going to hate me) as part of its “Live”-branded services. It basically allows you to write and save your posts offline before publishing, and takes care of uploading images to your blog as well. The application is primarily meant for Windows Live Spaces bloggers, but it is compatible with a bunch of other blog services.
The application allows post editing in four view modes: Normal, Web Layout, Web Preview and HTML Code. When you first add your current weblog account in the program, it downloads the stylesheets and some content from the website. When you edit a post in “Web Layout” mode, it actually applies your current blog styling (typeface, size, colour,etc.) to your writings. This can give you a good feel about the layout of the post.
The “Web Preview” view mode is an HTML viewer which displays the post being written on the homepage of your blog with all the styling and content, just as it would look like when published. This can be really handy, and I think it’s one of the top reasons to be using this piece of software.
The in place image manipulation options are equally useful. In fact, when adding an image to your post, you can easily scale, rotate or change the brightness of the image. Better still, effects such as sepia filtering, sharpening and blurring can be applied to the image with a few clicks!
On the whole, Windows Live Writer is packed with a list of decent features. And this list can be extended, as an SDK allows developers to write plugins (many are already available) for the application. In my opinion, a couple of features which would really improve the experience are HTML syntax highlighting in the “HTML code” view and a real-time spell checking engine (spell checking is available only on demand at present).
Do give it a try, and do share your thoughts about it!
P.S. Yeah I know, I’m blogging after nearly three months! Studies have made recent times very hectic! Oh, I got rid of the shoutbox cuz of the uncontrollable amount of spam it was attracting!