Fans of Midomi, the song-identifying app for iPhone, will still recognize the app when the iPhone prompts an update to version 3.0, even if they don't recognize the new name: SoundHound. The app's core remains the same with its outsize orange button you tap to sing, hum, or record a song you want to ID, buttressed by another button for shier folk to speak the artist or song name, and a text field for old-fashioned typing. What's new is big, and it centers on two additional tabs below, one that lets you browse music trends and … Read more
The best of today's home theater in a box systems are excellent, but how do you find the one that's right for you?
First, read my CNET reviews; they're loaded with information about how easy the HTIB is to use and how well it performs. It may be a dubious honor, but I probably hold the record for testing more HTIBs for magazines and Web sites than any other reviewer.
Most HTIBs come with Blu-ray or DVD players, receivers, and five or more speakers and a subwoofer. Right, HTIBs also come with lots of wires and setup chores, so they're almost as complex to install as separate receiver, player, and speaker-based home theater systems.
If that's more than you bargained for, maybe you should be looking for something simpler: a single-speaker surround system? That would eliminate most of the wiring and setup hassles. Check my CNET reviews to see if one is right for you.
For small bedrooms or dorm rooms, a budget HTIB or single-speaker surround system may be ideal. Family-size home theaters may require larger systems with larger speakers and powered subwoofers.
Connectivity varies a lot in this category, so don't assume all HTIBs have what you need. If you don't want to switch inputs on your TV every time you select a different video source, say from a game system to a Blu-ray player, make sure the HTIB has enough HDMI and other video inputs. Some HTIBs don't switch video at all. Some have USB inputs and iPod-docking capabilities.
HTIBs tend to sound best with movies; music comes in a distant second place. I always refer to HTIBs' performance with movies and music, so if you plan on listening to a lot of music over your new system, definitely look for that in the reviews. Don't assume the sound will be equally good for music and movies; it rarely is. … Read more
Some users are experiencing an issue after upgrading to iTunes 9 where purchased content from the iTunes Music Store contains static during playback in 5.1 surround sound. The issue does not appear to affect Apple's movie trailers or DVD playback in 5.1 surround sound, though all purchased TV shows and movies from the iTunes Music Store appear to suffer the problem.… Read more
UHear is a free, self-administered hearing test, along with tips and resources for preventing hearing loss. The app includes a multiple-choice questionnaire (your "Performance Profile"), a rigorous "Hearing Sensitivity" test for both ears, and a short "Speech in Noise" test.
The app's simple touch interface guides you through each step. For example, in the 6-minute Hearing Sensitivity test, you tap a large button every time you hear a tone, while a progress bar on the bottom tracks your progress. After each test, you get your results along with helpful context and recommendations--and for … Read more
Surround sound and its accouterments tend to dominate a living room, requiring an AV receiver, several speakers, stands, and wires to make the whole thing work. That's why many people choose to skip surround sound, opting instead for the tinny acoustics of their TV speakers.
Single-speaker solutions like the Zvox Z-Base 525 represent a middle ground approach, promising much better audio than your TV without all the fuss. The Z-Base 525 is particularly fuss-free; its unique design makes it look like nothing more than a pedestal for your HDTV. Even better, the Z-Base sounds better than most sound bars … Read more
Sound bar speakers vastly simplify home theater setup and installation, but their sound quality always falls short of bona fide 5.1-channel speaker-subwoofer-based systems. The single-box Zvox Z-Base575 get closer to that ideal than most.
The problem with sound bars is they're too small. Even pricey bars like Yamaha's YSP-3050 ($1,199 MSRP) can't generate full-blown home theater impact. And it's a bit bigger than average (31.5 inches wide by 6.1 inches high by 6 inches deep), but films like "Mission: Impossible III" sound tepid over the YSP-3050. The film's explosive effects lack the excitement you'd get from a 5.1 system. Yamaha's technology is amazing, but it can't produce high-impact sound from skinny cabinets. I'm not singling out Yamaha here; Denon, Marantz, Polk, Samsung, and Sony sound bars all--to varying degrees--squash dynamic range of movies.
Stepping up to the YSP-4000 ($1,600 MSRP) won't make that big a difference; in my CNET review I noted that it stumbled with big special effect-driven flicks like "Mission: Impossible III." The explosions fell flat, the bass was rumbly, and the Yamaha couldn't play loud at all. Hooking up an Acoustic Research HT60 subwoofer to add extra muscle helped a little, but the YSP-4000 still lacked punch.
Part of the problem is that almost all sound bar speakers are too small. Zvox's Z-Base575 is big and very, very deep. How deep is it? Sixteen inches! So unlike other surround bar speaker systems that can either be wall-mounted or set on a shelf, the Z-Base575 was designed to be used as a base under your TV. Don't worry, the sturdy medium-density fiberboard cabinet can support heavyweight displays. … Read more
For a stereo, the Wall of Sound isn't massive. But for an iPod dock, it's gargantuan.
Pitched as "the world's most powerful iPod speaker," the Wall of Sound is a $4,500, handcrafted iPod dock with a stocky 3x4-foot frame that weighs in at 225 pounds.
As for the sound itself, the 125W system promises a frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz that will provide "graceful mids and crystal clear highs," according to the product's Web site. It's also purportedly "for people who believe that music should be listened to … Read more
PPT to Video Scout provides a simple tool for quickly converting slideshows into video files. With quite a basic layout, it's easy to use. It does a fine job of producing high-quality video that can add visual appeal and a professional touch to your presentations and projects.
The interface is a breeze to navigate, thanks to a Wizard-like layout and simple commands. We were never confused, nor did we feel the need to visit the Help file for further instructions. We were able to choose one PowerPoint file at a time to convert, which kept us focused on the … Read more
When you set the volume of your system to a certain level, this setting should be preserved when you reboot your system or log out and back in. Despite this, some people have reported a problem where the computer will not save these settings, and will either revert back to another volume level or be set to mute.… Read more
Harry Pearson, who coined the term "high end," spoke at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2009, held last week in Denver. "High end" has long since spread to cars, cameras, jewelry, real estate, boats, and a gazillion other categories, but audio is where it all started.
Starting in 1973, Pearson's flamboyant writing style and deep love of gear and music helped prod the state of the art forward through the 1980s. The Absolute Sound's tiny circulation and sporadic publishing schedule didn't hurt its prestige and importance in the industry. A rave review, especially by Pearson, could put a start-up company on the map.
Pearson made people curious about, well, the absolute sound. That is, the sound of musicians and vocalists, recorded in an appropriate acoustic space. We all wanted a hi-fi system good enough to put us in that space. That's impossible, but the goal, reproducing the absolute sound, still drives at least some audiophiles.… Read more