After a long wait, Apple Music is finally here (as soon as you download the new iOS 8.4 update for your iDevice). The new service comes with new apps (for mobile and desktop) and a stack of improved features, so it's not immediately obvious what's what – let us guide you through the Apple Music maze and help you get the most out of the service.
It's a growing problem: a dizzying number of songs get released to online music stores and streaming services or uploaded to archives around the world each day, and those songs need to be categorized. But how? Play the same song to 10 people and they might each put it into a different genre or subgenre. An automated genre identification system developed by researchers in India, which they claim is the best yet, could be the answer.
Thanks to a combination of vision, savvy deal-making and the dawn of music piracy, Apple changed the music industry with iPod and the iTunes Store. Can it follow its own footsteps with a new service that, with a few exceptions, looks a lot like many that already exist?
A company based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, has spent the last 3 years designing, developing, tweaking and building what's described as a new breed of musical instruments. Just when the sonic scientists at Omnipresent World of Wizkids (OWOW) had reached a point where the five "smartly built, but stupidly simple to use" MIDI devices were ready for the production line, they ran out of money. So they've turned to Kickstarter to get the wob, wiggle, drum, pads and scan into the hands of players.
Is it a UFO? Is it some kind of butt-massaging meditation stool? Is it a wok with a damaged lid? No, it's the Oval digital handpan. The light, portable and durable instrument has been designed to have the ergonomics and playability of a hang drum, but with access to a world of almost limitless sonic possibilities.
Hong Kong-based Zorloo headed to Indiegogo earlier this year to crowdfund some next generation earphones that integrated a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amp into the inline controller. By the time the campaign closed on February 22, the campaign had attracted over US$85,000, nearly four times the funding goal. Now, after a slight production delay, backers are starting to receive their Z:ero in-ear headphones and the company's Andy Ho sent Gizmag some to try out.
For its first foray into a crowded earphone space, PSB Speakers is aiming straight for the audiophile jugular with a combination of hybrid dual-drivers and its own Roomfeel technology. When the source audio signal reaches each M4U 4 in-ear monitor, the lower frequencies are directed to a dynamic driver while the higher end head for a balanced armature driver. This hybrid system has allowed the company's designers to add back the acoustic signature of a typical listening room for greater space and true-to-life presentation of recorded music.
Spotify, one of the more popular ways to consume music, is undergoing a huge update that adds plenty of new features and functionality. Existing parts of the service like the start page are getting an overhaul, and new features are being added including video, original shows, and news and clips from popular networks like BBC, ESPN, and more.
Many of us enjoy listening to a good tune or two when out and about, and a goodly proportion of that mobile music will likely be sourced from a smartphone or tablet. For those who prefer high quality sounds though, dedicated players like Neil Young's Pono and those from iRiver's Astell&Kern are probably going to be on the menu. The latter has announced a new flagship portable audio player aimed squarely at audiophiles and sound professionals, which is capable of 32-bit/384 kHz bit-to-bit decoding without the need for conversion but comes at a rather high cost.
Music lovers can waste many hours and huge sums of money searching for a pair of headphones to match a certain style or preferred sonic signature, only to have to put them to one side and start again just to join the groovy wireless in-crowd. If those premium cans are the kind where the audio cable can be unplugged, however, then the Spiro X1 will allow them to be transformed into Bluetooth ear candy.