Last year, I wrote about EMI's new Web portal, and speculated that the record company might use it as an aggregator site for EMI artists. Indeed, that's one feature of the site, but there's actually some other interesting stuff on there as well, including a discovery engine that lets you enter a popular artist and then finds EMI artists that sound similar. But my favorite aspect of the site is the "feedback community"--let's call it an online market research group--called SoundCheck.
I signed up a couple weeks ago, and about once a week … Read more
Iffy sound quality isn't a new problem. Bad sound can't directly be blamed on digital, analog, vinyl, CD, or even MP3. Those are release formats; the quality of the recording itself is what I'm talking about.
Granted, personal taste plays a big part in defining good or bad sound. For every person who says the sound is clear and detailed, there's another who thinks it's ragged and harsh.
That said, the trend of late is toward spitty distortion, the kind that obscures the sound of the vocals and instruments, and buries them in grunge. I'm not opposed to grit that adds an edge to music, but I can't stand recordings made by people who either don't know what they're doing or are too deaf to notice the error of their ways.
Bob Dylan, of all people, agrees with me.
"You listen to these modern records--they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like--static," Dylan said in a Rolling Stone interview with Jonathan Lethem in September 2006.
He's not just referring to other people's records; he included his own record, "Modern Times," in his rant: "Even these songs probably sounded 10 times better in the studio when we recorded 'em." I believe Dylan. That album was a blurry wall of sound. You can hardly hear individual instruments.
The worst recording of 2009 so far--it's still early--is the Heartless Bastards' "The Mountain" CD. It's too bad because I really like the music. It rocks hard, and I love Erika Wennerstrom's strange voice, but there's severe distortion whenever she sings loud.
The distortion was so incredibly annoying that my speakers' tweeters sounded broken. If the distortion just appeared on the hard-edged, bluesier numbers, I might have thought that it was intentional, but the sound was just as ragged on "So Quiet," in which Wennerstrom is accompanied by violin. … Read more
Sound ID has just announced two new Bluetooth headsets at CTIA 2009, the Sound ID 300 and the Sound ID 200. We've been quite impressed by Sound ID Bluetooth headsets in the past, especially since they're apparently made with the science of hearing in mind (Sound ID's founder is an otologist at Stanford University). The last Sound ID headset we reviewed was the SM100, which was released almost two years ago, so we're glad to see these new headsets.
Both headsets have Noise Navigation technology that optimizes speech intelligibility and automatically reduces wind and background noise, … Read more
Considering its full plate of goodies--built-in Blu-ray player, iPod dock, and the capability to stream Netflix movies and Pandora's online music service--the $800 price tag on Samsung's HT-BD8200 sound bar is quite reasonable. But that's not to say it won't be a tough sell in these economically anxious times. And that's where the new HT-WS1 comes in. The smaller sound bar is strictly audio-only--no Blu-ray, no DVD, no video connectivity whatsoever. It's more of a glorified TV speaker, accepting either an analog stereo or digital-optical input (it can decode standard Dolby Digital and DTS … Read more