After looking like they were going the way of the audio cassette tape, vinyl records are on a bounce back. Just this week, Nielsen reported that sales of 12-inch discs in the US rose for the tenth consecutive year, accounting for 9 percent of total physical album sales. Though there are portable turntables like those from Pyle Audio and Crossleys, enjoying vinyl on the move isn't exactly pocket-friendly. But converting records to run on an MP3 player means an inevitable loss of precious fidelity. Fortunately, Sony's new HX500 turntable boasts a built-in 24-bit analog-to-digital converter that allows audiophiles to transfer their beloved vinyl collections to high quality digital formats.
Twenty fifteen has been a helluva year for instrument creation, bringing a torrent of new ways to make sweet, sweet music with a bang, pluck, tap or scrape. Choosing a handful of tasty tone-tastic highlights from the last 12 months has been tough, really tough. But after much ruminating, we've managed to stealthily avoid picking from a hat and have come up with a select bunch of monstrous melody-making favorites.
Almost 6 years ago, a video showing a new guitar-shaped digital instrument went viral and plans were hatched to bring the Misa Digital Guitar to market. The instrument was further developed, renamed the Kitara and unveiled at CES 2011. We got to spend some quality time with the futuristic axe later that year, and were suitably impressed. Production ended in 2013, however, with the introduction of the Misa Tri-bass. The latest project from the embedded systems engineer behind all of those creations, Michael Zarimis, offers an alternative take on the step sequencer.
It wasn't too long ago that DJs would need a good-sized van to haul around the equipment needed to get a party moving. Digital mixing stations like the DDJ-WeGO, and even all-in-one powerhouses like the Urban 500, helped lighten the load. But, with everyone carrying around music libraries in their pockets, portable DJ tools like the iRig MIX made anyone with an iPhone or iPad wired for sound. Rugged speaker maker Braven brings mixing on the move to the wireless generation with the release of the Fuse.
Whatever your mobile music poison, there's a good chance that your earphones or headphones are plugged into the tune-playing source hardware via the 3.5 mm audio jack. Earlier this year we reviewed some earphones from Hong Kong-based Zorloo that took a wholly different route, and one that served up a good slice of high resolution goodness in the process. The new EL-8 Titanium headphones come shipped with an audio cable which, like the Z:ero earphones, sports a built-in headphone amp and high resolution DAC in the cable. But this one ends in a Lightning connector.
Last June, a team led by mechanical and design engineer Olle Lindén embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to bring some new Bluetooth earphones into production. There are a good many wireless earphones already available of course, but what made the Earins stand out from the crowd was a world's smallest claim, and that they really were wireless. Where other BT plugs, like the NuForce earphones we reviewed a couple of months back, have a cable running between each earpiece, the Earins have none. Project backers started to receive their Earin earphones in early October, and they've just recently been made available for non-backers to buy, too. Gizmag was sent some to try out.
Not so long ago, musicians wanting to record and release an album would need to head to a brick and mortar studio, gather together all manner of technical specialists and disappear for a few months. And probably have a major label bankrole the operation. But powerful and affordable personal computer systems and the general release of pro-level music creation software have put high quality music production within reach of the average working band. However, the learning curve for getting the most out of feature rich suites like Ableton Live, Cubase or Pro Tools can be very steep indeed. For his latest album release, veteran French musician, remixer and producer Joachim Garraud has decided to share some of the secrets of his trade, and provide a limited number of bedroom producers with all the tools needed to lay down some top notch tracks.
Just a few short months after the first ever Russian was crowned Air Guitar World Champion, a new wireless system has launched on Kickstarter that's aimed at giving virtual musicians the chance to play music of their own creation. The patent-pending Kurv Guitar system is made up of a large pick-shaped air strummer and a handheld virtual fingerboard, and combines touch, motion and gestures to generate tunes based on player actions.
At first glance, the Explorer X1 has the look of a hip flask. But rather than offer a wee nip to help take the edge off a chilly autumn stroll, the X1 is aimed at satisfying a very different thirst. Echobox is taking aim at the modern audiophile's pocket with a high resolution media player housed in a curvy wooden jacket.
With a few notable exceptions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that laptop audio circuitry is something of a manufacturing afterthought, with decisions on such things made at the very end of the design process when there's very little money left in the pot. Plugging a pair of top drawer headphones into a notebook's (often cheap and cheerful) audio out jack can therefore be a little disappointing, leading many music lovers to look to the USB ports for help. Though some USB digital-to-analog converters and headphone amps can be a good deal bigger than the laptop they're connected to, and have a suitably large price tag to match, smaller options are available. The successfully-crowdfunded ZuperDAC from Zorloo, for example, is about the size of a USB thumb drive and supports audio file resolutions right up to 24-bit/192 kHz. We've spent the last few weeks diving into our hi-res FLAC and WAV vault for some lossless easy listening.