Sunday, March 27, 2011

ipad 2 review from the Apple Store Chadstone (From a predominant Pro Audio and audiophile perspective)

It has been available in the US for two weeks and Australia since Friday but that didn't stop the store being packed full of people. It was an interesting crowd at the apple store.  Certainly not like the stores of 5+ years ago which were only Apple resellers. I secretly recorded video from my spy camera on my watch phone.

The apple store was crowded with Harvey Norman and Fad types of people.  Some of the questions people were asking the Apple Guru's were some of the most basic & rudimentary questions, with customers grappling to understand the difference between the wifi models & 3G. I can certainly understand the stories that ipad owners dont know how to transfer their cd's onto their device and just buy them again through the apple store (at higher prices than the CD). The Apple store is certainly a money making machine.

The ipad has been a tremendous success story and has been reviewed highly, but I am one of the rare reviewers who does not certainly give it a high rating.  I believe that Apple is cashing in on its infamous "mindshare" to hype a product that is not really necessary. I think a lot of people will get disappointed with the walled garden feel of the device when wanting to do more with it.I feel that the ipad2 exploits "dummy" computer users and dumbs them down even more for $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

I will be purchasing the Apple AV adapter with HDMI for my ipod touch 4G which is very expensive for $45.  HDMI should come with the ipad2, who wants to carry bags of adapters for sd cards & HDMI adapters (and pay around $80 for adapters).

The only thing that interested me about the ipad2 was GarageBand.  This was hyped big time during the keynote presentation. Being a musician and producer I could imagine situations where you could use some musical artistic creativity with an ipad2.  Wearing my Sennheiser mm100 bluetooth headphones connected to my Espow watch phone  (my headphones have 2 bluetooth channels) , I decided to see what sort of latency I could get with drum kits on garageband. I was able to connect my headphones to the ipad2 after searching through around 40 discovered devices, but alas there was no sound coming out of them from garageband.  I guess garage band doesn't work with bluetooth headphones, which is a disappointment because not having cables gives a lot more freedom with the device. I guess I could use headphones with a cable but I get sick of having cables...

Disappointed I left the store and thought about what else I could use the device for.  I can't really use the device to record a band in garageband because their are no studio quality inputs for a mixer.  For only a little extra from the 64g device I could get a Macbook Air which could record a band with its firewire or usb inputs.  Hell I could even get a netbook for $400 that could record a band at studio quality.

Yes I like to sit outside at the beach or park and read, but you cant do that with an ipad.  Using the ipod touch today at the track to use the Nike software was a pain in the sunlight.  I would therefore purchase an ereader with e-ink for that activity.

Finally you could use the ipad 2 as an audiophile device with its digital HDMI output, but that is a hell of an expense. I can use an ipod touch for that and use homesharing to share my 400g music collection.  I can even purchase a logitech pure-fi speaker system and an ipod touch for cheaper than an ipad 2. Here I can transport these speakers (which sound fantastic) to any room in the house and listen to 400gigs of music through the base ipod touch 8Gig (really handy in the shower). The cost is $250 for an 8G ipod touch 4g and $130 for the speakers.

I am not going to watch video on an ipad2.  That is what TV's and monitors are for, plus it is too heavy to hold.  I cant use flash on the ipad2 (yes you can use sklylight but I dont want to open an app) so am pretty restricted with general web viewing.  For quick checks of email and casual surfing an ipod will suffice.

Finally i understand that ipod/iphone gamers are enticed by the ipad 2, for a new experience of gaming.  Once again I would rather use a PS3 or PC for this activity.  Buying a steering wheel controller is more fun than using an ipad2 for steering (where you have to rotate the screen!!!!!)

So all'n'all I give it a 6 out of 10.  For the money of an ipad 2, a pair of headphones and an headphone amp will give more entertainment, or a set of good speakers. You could even get an apple TV and a monitor to play video from your iphone or ipod touch.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Xanadu and Duran Duran Review

`Lately I have been interested in music from 1979,1980 & 1981.  I even recently saw Xanada the musical because I like the music so much from the movie (Awesome musical by the way it is still on in Australia so see it). ELO have some great albums during the late 1970s and early 80s, where analog synths are in their mightiest glory with analogue-chorusey-phasey-vocals!!!!!!!!

The music at Xanadu was awesome, they played chic and other early 80s music in the beginning before the show.  I spoke to a few ppl about the music, but no one seemed to understand!!!! Would have liked some analogue chorus & phase FX on the vocals during the performance for the ultimate early 80s experience. The aftershow 80s band was good but they only played the most commerical 80s songs so was a little disappointing.

********Videos Recorded with my watch phones spy camera**********

I don't like early 80s music because of the generation or history, I actually like it because the synths are non-digital & analogue, there are generally no drum machines or they are used sparsley, and the vocals are generally recorded in a few takes.  The music sounds live & fresh unlike todays music that is mostly samples, autotune & digital drum beats. Music styles moved quickly in the 80s and by the mid 80s, a synthesized, sampled drum machine sound became prominent and music became very commercial sounding and awful. Analogue synths were forgotten about as they were rare, expensive and got out of tune until they returned with the trance/techno movement in the 90s (heavy metal also abandoned the synth). I remember listening to Standing On A Beach by The Cure as a teenager and was really impressed with A Forest 1980, Primary 1981, Charlotte Sometimes 1981 compared with their later stuff on the album.  Little did I know at that time, the reason why I liked those tracks,was because of the analogue synths in a Forest (perhaps their most famous song) and analogue processing. It was The Walk in 1983 that produced The Cure's first big hit, by utlising the trendy drum machine sound at the time.  A controversial video for The Walk that was banned (Cos Robert Smith & Lol Tolhurst looked extremely gay --catching on to the Culture Club craze perhaps???) also helped.  From their they abandoned their synth sound and became poppy goth.

The New Romantic Sound & Film Clip of The Cure 1981 (wasn't a hit so they abandonded the style :-( and sacked the producer) Click below the first clip for the official vid as I couldnt post the youtube clip on my blog!

So i digress, now I continue with the most famous New Romantic Band

I purchased Duran Duran eponymous CD from JB Hifi online because it was only $8 and the quality is so much better than AAC on itunes.  I will probably trade it in for $2, so in the end it is much cheaper than itunes.  I wish itunes would have lossless copies and also be a little cheaper.  I only purchase from itunes if I am desperate and old stuff is hard to get on torrents to (only 1 or 2 people seed LOL)!!! I prefer albums to greatest hits. I have owned RIO 1982, Decade Greatest Hits and Seven and the Ragged Tiger 1983, so was glad to finally get their eponymous debut Album.

****¼ 1981: Duran Duranaudio
"Duran Duran's self-titled debut effectively established their slick, catchy synth-pop sound. Featuring the decadent 'Girls on Film' and 'Planet Earth,' the album set the pace for scores of new wave bands in the early '80s, which were subsequently dubbed the new romantics. "
-- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

I avoided getting the remaster as I read their were some problems with the original master tapes that affected the sound quality. Plus when you have a really good pair of headphones you want the full dynamic range, remasters can be compressed quite heavily.

The sound is very fresh & transient and sounds like anything from 2011. The first 2 tracks I have heard before on their greatest hits (Girls on Film & Planet Eath) but sound much better. It must have been recorded using better ADC than on their greatest hits album. Girls on Film is one of my all time fav songs so there isnt to much I can say but....

....the  funky disco-new wave bass guitar pumps through my Sennhiser HD650s (I believe it is a Japanese Aria Pro II SB1000), gotta luv the rhythmic drums which have an awesome early 80s phase effect during the tom-tom interludes, funky guitars jangle through and  has some artistic technicality. But then the awesome Analogue synth lines come through which are from a Roland JuPiTer 4 running through an analogue MXR phase unit

One of my fav things about DuranDuran are their music interludes, and Girls On Film doesn't disappoint, their Punchy music interludes are enticing and girls on Film has an excellent analogue synth & tom tom drums bit..

Anyone out there---One of my fav tracks by Duran Duran now!!!!Rocky, Punchy, New Romantic and gotta love the puniky guitars mixed with fresh drums & awesome analogue synths!!!! Wish they kept more of this style

Careless Memories--- I like this Chris Isaak style (even though it was before) with a punky edge and new romantic synth.  Very Cool, once again a style I wish they had kept.

To The Shore--- Opens with a flangey synth, gotta luv that, quite a slow song -nice tune, reminds me a bit of their B side on Make Your Own Way..
Very mellow, another aspect I like about early Duran Duran

Night Boat---Ambient awesomeness, another style I wish they kept as it experimental and has some interesting synths sounds. A lot of music is played which I like, cos they dont always have to sing all the time.  It also has a grungy sound which is 10 years ahead of its time.  Drums sound awesome and punch through.

Sound of Thunder---Very New Romantic 1980-1981 sound, with a strong analogue synth sound and positive upbeat tempo.

Friends Of Mine-- reminds me of Flowers and other New Wave Aussie acts of the 80s.  Very cool.

Tel Aviv--- A filler instrumental track and probably the only let down of the album, but I like the fact that it is experimental and not trying to be commercial.  It doesnt quite work for some reason, maybe it is the strings that just sounds odd, but I like the idea of this track, the interesting synths make up for it. Perhaps if it had an edge like the famous award winning Earth Wind & Fire instrumentals such as runnin' which won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental in 1978'n_All it would have been cool.

All up I love this album and give it 9.5/10. Simon Le Bon's vocals arent whiny on the album & this seemed to happen from 1983 on their slide down from Mega-Awesomeness with their 3rd album 7 and the ragged tiger!!!! If you had to own an album by Duran it would be tough to choose between this Album & Rio.  I would go for this album just because it is more experimental and has an exciting newness about it. I wish Duran Duran kept the same styles of their first two albums and pushed into Progressive Rock, instead of abandoning the analogue synth and going samply,drum machine and poppy.  When The Reflex came out with its sampling that was the start of the end of Duran Duran and they had abandoned their "live professional band feel."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Been a While since last Post

Been a While since last Post

I have been very busy with my new IT job so I haven't had much time to blog.  I have made a few little purchases in the past 3 months to enhance my personal life.

My latest gadgets are a watch fone from ESPOW & mm100 Bluetooth Sennheiser head-phones. I really wanted a proper brand for a watch phone but there is nothing out there; apart from a discontinued model from LG a year ago, that sold for $2,000 AU.

My watch phone has been a little disappointing. It was only $140 including shipping but it can't always get good reception and the bluetooth doesn't work well with my mm100 Sennheiser headphones (but it does work well with the car stereo over b /t)  So the radio on the watch fone is a bit of a disappointment. I can see the ipod nano that are popular as watches become phones in the near future.  The great thing for a watch phone is when you are bike riding or doing some outdoor activity, and don't want to carry a bulky iphone around.

I am really impressed with my mm100 Sennhesier headphones.  There are no drop outs, and they have fantastic bass & imaging.  The sound is awesome and I have enjoyed bike riding with them with no messy cables getting in the way. I have gone through 2 corded PX200 headphones(cables have broken)  and they have sounded crappy too. The invisible mic is a great feature.

The other interesting thing I have been using is the latest Airplay with 4.3. Apple keeps on raising the bar. I can now share my music from my laptop which is around 400gigs to my ipod touch  4G 8gig.  The reason why I didn't purchase an ipod touch with more storage is I knew I couldn't fit 400 gigs of music on it!!!  I haven't regretted it as now I can walk around the house and have my 400 gig library go through the ipod touch 8 gig.  When I am mobile I don't need to have much of a music collection and generally listen to podcasts such as Tiesto or Engadget. I can also have videos stored on my laptop stream to my ipod touch to watch in bed and also stream the audio to my airport express for a premium listening environment. Really a lot of fun but I do recommend having a separate wifi n network to achieve excellent syncing which I have mentioned in previous posts.

So this is what I want in future:

An ipod touch or iphone with dual wifi cards

A watch fone ipod nano with Bluetooth and wifi n