Brits’ love of music adds £11 billion to tech sales

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Brits have a reputation for being music lovers and the latest study carried out by BPI shows just how much people are prepared to spend on their passion.

The way the music business operates these days is a lot different to how it used to. Technology plays a large role not only in the production and marketing of new music, but also in the way consumers listen to it.

Smartphones and tablets have seen a significant increase in sales thanks to their connection to music. And it is said that music has helped earn £11 billion in tech sales.

The best form of medication

Music plays such a big part in our everyday lives that it is often said that it is the best form of medication. It has the power to completely change our moods and this makes it a powerful tool.

This is why when buying a home – whether it be your first step onto the ladder or a retirement property from McCarthy and Stone – two of the first things you are likely to consider are where you’ll connect your music and place your speakers.

While years ago you had to rely upon a radio or large stereo, these days most people listen to music via their smartphones, tablets or laptops.

The study carried out by BPI, a top music industry body, shows that every time there is a 1% increase in music demand there is a 2.2% increase in tablet demand. Music demand rises also increase demand for smartphones by 1.4%.

Big spenders

UK consumers spend more on music than consumers in any other developed country and spend an average of 25% more than any other nation. However, the USA has also seen an increase in demand for British music.

British music accounted for just 7% of records sold in the USA in 2007. However, a few years on and that figure has doubled. As more British artists burst onto the scene, the demand is only set to increase.

As technology has become the main way to listen and share music, it is no surprise that sales have seen a significant rise. Music has really boosted the UK’s economy and now record labels are working alongside technology companies to create digital musical experiences.

The bond between music and technology is unlikely to disintegrate anytime soon. Advances in technology are constantly being made and more effort is likely going to be placed upon improving the digital musical experience over time.

The smartphone and tablet sector is currently one of the fastest growing, and British musicians are going to benefit the industry with their continued creativity.

 

Image courtesy of emmolos/flickr. The words and opinions above were provided by a third-party, and as such this should be considered a ‘sponsored post’.

SoundBlaster Roar: Redefining “all-in-one”

roar-lake

The Creative Sound Blaster was the soundcard of choice, back in the day when people still bought soundcards. However, as the previous sentence indicates, times have changed quite significantly, and Creative have found a way to innovate themselves out of obsolescence. The Sound Blaster Roar is a new kitchen sink approach to the Bluetooth speaker, with feature-packed functionality and great quality sound pouring out of almost literally everywhere. But is it as Creative claim, “the pinnacle of portable wireless audio”?  The Roar is packed with 5 drivers and powered by 2 high-performance amplifiers and a built-in subwoofer. But the Roar is also brimming with all sorts of technology – a built in battery, NFC, integrated voice recorder, microSD card recorder and a host of weird features like the ability to randomly blurt out noises to keep you from drifting off.

You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. According to Will Greenwald at PC Mag;

“The Sound Blaster Roar defines overkill in terms of features. Creative seems to have thrown in every function I can think of for a wireless speaker short of AirPlay, and adding a few I hadn’t even considered.”

However, rather than over-egging the pudding, this works in the Roar’s favour.

“The Roar is the most audacious Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen, pulling tricks out of its hat I wouldn’t have imagined for a product this type, size, and price. It’s really quite impressive. The tricks are of varying usefulness, but there are so many of them you can find at least two or three you’ll appreciate.”

Over at Tech Radar, Nick Pino was enamoured with the Roar’s sleek design.

“Where the Pulse seemed to pander to a younger crowd with its lava lamp-style lights, the SR20 looks more like a hefty novel with chrome accents and a jet-black trim. It may not make for a great conversation piece like JBL’s Pulse, but the SR20 is refined, elegant, and would look sharp almost anywhere in the home. This Sound Blaster is compact, too. Measuring 2.24 x7.95 x 4.52 inches (W x D x H), the device should be easy to bring around town or, thanks to included international adapters, on a trip overseas. It’s a bit hefty, though, at 2.5 pounds, which may make you think twice.”

However, Micky Campell over at Apple Insider provides a small caveat.

“Given that the device’s guts are jammed into one side of the cabinet, while the grille-covered area houses three drivers and air, it should come as no surprise that balance is a bit off. This has no effect on sound reproduction, however, and is only mentioned out of consideration for those thinking about hand-carrying the speaker.”

roar-silver

However, the key focus of any speaker review should be the device’s sound and reviewers agree that the Roar was no slouch.

Barry Brenasal over at Computer Shopper praised the Roar’s detailed sound.

“The sound wasn’t spacious, by any means, and the velvet was missing from the strings, but for a portable system in its price range, we were impressed. This naturally led us to test further in the same direction, and see just how deep that bass response could get in an album designed to spotlight this. That meant, first, one of our favorite test records, Ikon II (Hyperion 67756), with Stephen Layton leading the Holst Singers. Here it was possible to tell that the upper bass was fine, but that the really chthonic, deep bass response—the kind that seems to reach up from the deep in the earth below and grab you by the feet, before moving up your legs and spine—was completely missing. Even with the Roar button engaged, that sound wasn’t there in Balakirev’s Let all mortal flesh keep silence, nor Chesnokov’s jubilant Let thy good spirit. Nor, for that matter, to change gears in a big way, could it be found in Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle. What we did get in the Aerosmith, at louder volume levels, was a slight amount of bass breakup.”

However, Tyll Hertsens over at Inner Fidelity uncovered an mild annoyance – one endemic to most speakers competing for attention in the crowded marketplace.

“On two occasions in the last month I’ve run across smart streaming speakers that have their internal equalizer set to something other than flat out of the box—the Sound Blaster Roar SR20 and the Philips Fidelio Sound Spheres. It seems to me that what’s going on here is that speakers are shipped with the EQ set to be attention grabbing and exciting on the display room floor or for unsophisticated users. The bass was set too high on the Sound Spheres, and the sound from the SR20 was overly punchy and slightly strident out of the box.”

“In both cases, in the normal flow of doing the review I found companion apps on-line that allow more comprehensive control of the device. Once I opened these apps I stumbled upon the fact that the equalizers were set to something other than flat. I’m going to make an assumption here that engineers in the company who designed the product calibrated it to be as flat as possible with the settings flat, and that subsequently folks in Sales and Marketing decided that punching up the sound of the product away from flat would improve sales. Sadly, they’re likely correct, and I can’t be too hard on the practice. What I can do though is warn you when purchasing products like this that it’s well worth the effort to find companion apps and to check the EQ settings.”

The Roar doesn’t quite live up to its name – but is a far cry from a miaow. Tech Radar summarised it well, pointing out that,

“While it won’t replace your soundbar or high-end speaker, the feature-rich SR20 is a cut above its compact competitors at the $200 price range.”

While at Inner Fidelity sum up the device’s potential best.

“Having now lived with this little gem for a month or so, I can say that while other Bluetooth speakers will likely get my ears for music playing, I have no doubt the Roar SR20 will always be within arm’s reach both at home and on the road. It’s just too good an audio tool to be without.” 

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The Roar is available now with an RRP of £129.99.

For more information visit Creative.

Native Instruments Kontrol Z1: Unbeatable Precision

Native-Instruments-Kontrol-Z1

Having caught our attention with its recently released Traktor DJ app (free for a limited time), Native Instruments today released the world’s smallest professional mixer and audio interface, the Kontrol Z1.

The new controller takes the company’s new app and transforms it into a professional DJ system combining the best of a touchscreen with the unbeatable precision of a physical tactile controller.

Combined the recently released app (which is currently free on the App Store) and the Z1 controller you get a fully-fledged DJ system with headphone cueing, dedicated faders, filters, effects controls and crucially a 3-band EQ for each of the 2 channels.

Where the Z1 begins to make even more sense is the inclusion of an integrated 24-bit audio interface that dramatically improves the output sound quality to club-ready levels – all without interfering with Traktor DJs engineered touch interface.

The beauty of the Z1 is it gives users physical controls that complement the touchscreen controls on the app, all faders, filter, effects controls, and 3-band EQ are automatically mapped and synced to Traktor, giving aspiring DJs hands-on, physical control over their iPad or iPhone setups.

Kontrol-Hardware-and-Software

With the Kontrol Z1 added, Traktor DJ becomes a compelling tool for crafting credible live mixes, utilising the app’s looping, cueing and effects functionality to create professional mixes than can even be recorded within the app to be then shared with your fans and friends.

To use the Z1 with Traktor DJ does, however, require an AC adapter for power, meaning the possibility of using it anywhere are off the cards, but it has the added advantage of supplying power to your iPad or iPhone. So at least you know you won’t run out of juice mid-set.

If you want to use the Z1 as a MIDI controller and/or audio interface for other software, you can just open up Ableton Live or whatever you have, and the Z1 should be recognizable and configurable from the jump. We were able to map it to Live 8 using the software’s MIDI map function with no problem at.

The Z1’s cue section introduces channel headphone monitoring to iOS setups, allowing for track pre-listening – a first for any app-based mixing software. The inclusion of a professional 24-bit integrated soundcard delivers quality club-level sound without the need for an additional audio interface.

Traktor Kontrol Z1 is the world’s smallest professional mixer for Traktor Pro 2 too – perfect for intimate after-party gigs or any situation that requires both compact size and professional performance features.

Traktor Kontrol Z1 also comes with a license for Traktor LE 2 and connects to iPad and iPhone with the included 30-pin connectors. For those of you who have the Lightning connector devices you’ll need to pick up the Lightning adaptor which is sold separately unfortunately.

Traktor Kontrol Z1 is available at retailers worldwide and at the NI Online Shop for $199 / 199 € / 20,800 ¥. ??All Z1 customers receive a personal $50 / 50 € e-voucher, which is? delivered by email upon registration of the Z1 hardware.

The Exciting World Of No Cost Electronica

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These days, if you’ve got a PC or a Mac, a little hard disk space and an internet connection you’ve already got everything you need to produce music. No, you don’t need to buy any more hardware and you don’t need to spend any money on software. None at all!

So, getting started is simple. But, as any dedicated producer will tell you, simple doesn’t always equate to easy. After all, the best tools are wasted on the inexperienced craftsman, right?

So, no, we can’t help you become a production wizard in one article, be we can help you down that path, and honour our promise that you can start without a single penny’s outlay.

And who knows, maybe a fruitful career in the music industry awaits, a little later down the line?

Too Much Choice And Too Much Information

But there’s the all pervasive software problem. Of all the masses of freely available software, where to begin?

Well, take it from me, as a composer/producer since about 2006, I’ve tried a lot of stuff, both on Windows and OSX. I’ve wasted many hundreds of hours testing glitchy software, suffering crashes, hard drive failures and pretty much all that bad stuff technology throws at you.

But I’ve also found some real diamonds in the rough too.

So, the purpose of this article is to cut through all the noise and give you a list of things that have stood the test of time and just worked. I intend to spare you many hours of frustration.

Let’s see how we do.

Thus Simple: Good

And, obviously, with so many styles of music to produce, so many types of plugins and so many individual ways of working – we’re simplifying a little here for the sake of your convenience (though it sure beats information overload).

So, let the simplifications begin!

Introducing The DAWs

A ‘DAW’ (Digital Audio Workstation) is essentially the tool that you use to take your musical ideas into musical reality. Everything from recording, to synthesis, to sampling to eventually mixing and mastering, is handled by your DAW.

(Insert Light My Fire joke here as/if appropriate…)

Commercial DAWs start at around £30 and go all the way into the four figure range. True, you aren’t going to get  £1000s worth of functionality with a piece of freeware – but you don’t necessarily need all of those features if you are. In fact it might be better not to get stuck on detail and face the all to prevalent overwhelm which can get in the way of your actually making music…

Reaper

COCKOS – Reaper  Windows/OSX

First up is COCKOS’ Reaper. Reaper comes up as #1 because in terms of speed and flexibility, I’ve found nothing to beat it. REAPER isn’t actually free, but COCKOS as super cool guys have made the trial effectively endless, and priced it quite reasonably for personal use. They probably find that those who stick with it eventually buy, and for $60 it’s a steal. Try it and see.

MU.LABWindows/OSX

I don’t have quite so much experience with MU.LAB, spending most of my time in Reaper, but from what I’ve seen of it I don’t know why it isn’t more popular. Unlike many other freeware DAWs the UI is sophisticated and the featureset is quite extensive. Considering you pay nothing, it’s a sweet deal.

Ardour

ArdourOSX/Linux

Again, I don’t have all that much experience with Ardour either, but it’s got a clean & intuitive interface, excellent plugin compatibility and awesome functions, such as matrix style plugin patching. Again, sweet deal for nothing…

The Plugin Suites

An audio plugin, as it’s name may suggest, is a piece of software that ‘plugs in’ to your DAW, expanding your sonic possibilities. For our intents and purposes they come in two main formats; VST, and AU (OSX only).

Plugins can do pretty much anything, but simplifying again, we’ll divide them into 3 types…

Synthesisers: Generate (synthesise) a unique sound, which ranges from obviously digital in nature, to more ‘natural’ sounding, and everything in between!

Samplers: Are used like ‘loaders/players’ for existing sounds (often banks made up of pre recorded sounds – ‘samples’, such as a drum kit, or a brass instrument)

FX/Processing: Are used to take an existing sound and make it sound different. An example of an FX is reverb, which creates the psychoacoustic impression of space and can make things sound ‘big’.

There are many hundreds, possibly thousands of these plugins available. To save you time I’ve grouped them into ‘suites’, by developer.

Here goes:

NI-Kontakt

Native Instruments – Komplete Players Windows/OSX

Native Instruments are one of the biggest players in the music production industry. Their Komplete range is an amazing (and expensive) set of plugins that pretty much covers the bases in synthesis and sampling . But they also do a little free giveaway in the form of their Komplete Players, which though just a fraction of the paid offering, are still incredible.

u-He’s free giveaways Windows/OSX

Triple Cheese, Zoyd, TyrellN6, Zebralette 

u-HE are one of my favourite developers, and they make some seriously incredible and versatile synths. All of their free synths are worth trying out too, being just as quirky as powerful as their paid offerings (albeit with a little less functionality)

Blue Cat’s Freeware Plugins Pack Windows/OSX

A very non gimmicky and useful set of FX plugins from Blue Cat that includes most of the studio essential, equalisation, flangers, spectral analysis, and so on…

TAL – Effects Suite  Windows/OSX

TAL’s free FX are very handy, and include some more unusual offerings – such as a bitcrusher and a tube saturator, both of which can make your mixes much harder and edgy.

DSK – Synths Windows

DSK are beyond ridiculously generous in their (pretty awesome) free plugin offerings. There’s way too many to list here, but it runs from traditional Indian instruments to synths that specialise in making spacey pads. Shame there’s no OSX offerings…

Illformed – ‘Old VST Plugins Pack’

Which contains a bunch of plugins under the FSU category (I’ll let you guess what the acronym stands for) Glitch 1.3, Crusher, Stretch & TapeStop. As of this date the plugins were no longer supported, but they still work, and for adding carnage to your mixes, it’s hard to beat them.

Soundhack – Freesound Bundle Windows/OSX

Soundhack (who teaches computer science) has some FX offerings that are slightly more…esoteric than some of the other free FX you might find. They’re presented in that wonderful minimalist UI that you might come to love and treasure.

The Single Plugins

These are same as the above ‘bundles’ but are individual plugins. Though not grouped in any convenient collection, these ones were too good to miss…

Applied Acoustics Systems – Swatches Windows/OSX

AAS are perhaps best known as masters of creating realistic (and far out) sounding string synths. Think note for note reproductions of Eddie Van Halen’s lead guitar tone or crazy alien violins. Swatches is preset player that lets you try out the best sounds from all of AAS’s synths.

FXPansion – ORCA Windows/OSX

FXPansion’s ORCA is a somewhat stripped down, yet pretty powerful subtractive synth that was released as a showcase for new & experimental audio technology. One worth collecting.

Magical 8bit Plug Windows/OSX

This is, IMHO, the best plugin to create the 8bit/’chip tunes’ sound in the style of the Nintendo gameboy. I use it regularly and love it.

Sam – CHIP32 Windows/OSX

Sam’s CHIP shows it’s age a bit now, but is capable of creating similar kinds of lo-fi sound to the 8 bit plug we mentioned above.

alphakanal – Automat

Automat is a pretty straightforward and useful synth. It’s workhorse capable of all kinds of sounds, from spacious pads to punchy leads.  It’s a pretty good ‘all rounder’.

Linplug –  Free Alpha 3 Windows/OSX

Linplug’s Free Alpha is a stripped down version of the Alpha synth. It also shows its age a little now, but is still capable of some cool noises, especially with pads.

IK Multimedia – Sampletank FREE Windows/OSX

IK’s Sampletank is the smallest of IK’s sampler series. Packing 58 free instruments and half a gig of samples, all sampled in the high quality IK is known for, it’s worth getting your hands on this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vrs2OEq3InI#action=share

Camel Audio – Alchemy Player Windows/OSX

Camel Audio’s Alchemy is an extremely versatile sampler/synth hybrid. The full version is incredible, and the freeware ‘player’ still comes with over 200 instruments and a gig of samples – I think this one’s an essential!

Conclusion

This should be enough to get you started. Hopefully I’ve landed this article somewhere in that sweet spot between too little and too much information. What do you think?

Also, if you are looking for some audio hardware to get the most out aural pleasure and accuracy of your mixes (and yeah this’ll probably involve shelling out cash) – you may want to check out what’s big in our Audio Video category

Happy music making!

Top 5 Ingenious Bathroom Gadgets

We all spend a varying proportion of our time in the bathroom, be it for nature’s necessities, taking a long relaxing shower or pruning ourselves for a night out. If you are of the inclination to spend perhaps a little more time in the bathroom than really required, you’ll be pleased to be informed about five great bathroom-orientated devices on the market, designed to make restroom visit more interesting, pleasant and fun.

The Kohler Moxie Showerhead and Wireless Speaker

As you soap yourself up in your shower you can gyrate to your favourite music with the Kohler Moxie. An extremely civilised showerhead, which has a cordless magnetic easy fit speaker in its centre, the Kohler Moxie is the perfect way to listen to liven up your shower.

The cordless speaker picks up a signal from a Bluetooth device up to 30ft away. The internal battery is said to last for up to seven hours between charging, which should satisfy even the longest of the long-stay bathroom types. Whilst you can use the speaker anywhere, it is tailor made to fit magnetically like a hand in a glove within the showerhead.

Showerhead Speaker

Fitbit-Aria-Top-5

Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale

For the dieters and image-conscious amongst us, scales are an integral feature in the bathroom. If you are weary about owning scales that you suspect aren’t tracking your weight accurately, you may want to exchange your existing scales for the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale.

The Fitbit Aria loads data such as weight and height wirelessly to a private Fitbit account and then analyses the information, giving details about your BMI and body fat percentage. All manner of personal graphs and charts are available for you to study and muse over. What’s more, the Aria scale can deal with eight accounts at once so a whole family can spend additional minutes in the bathroom being monitored!

For £99, the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale could be a good investment for those striving to lose weight. Failing that, you could adopt rock star Ozzie Osborne’s approach, who once said of his successful plunge down the scales: “You just drop your ****** fat intake and do some ****** exercise!”

Fitbit Aria

Talking-Loo-Roll-Holder

Talking Toilet Roll Holder

Oh what fun for £12.99 – You can record a message on the Talking Toilet Roll Holder and it is replayed as the paper is unwound. Leave a message for your children, such as: “Now please wash your hands but don’t use too much of the very expensive hand wash.” Maybe you will leave a more deeply voiced and sinister message at a party: “I am the God of the Bog and I have been watching you” – A little bit sick but hey, we all like a laugh!

Talking Toilet Roll Holder

Toilet-Time

Toilet Time Pro

If you are of the tendency to spend too much more time on the toilet, whether it is due to reading a book or flipping through the social media channels on your iPhone, Toilet Time Pro could be an invaluable asset. Toilet Time Pro is basically an alarm clock app that tells you when your time is up on the loo! Presumably you can alter the time allowance if you are suffering from a complaint such as Delhi Belly?

You can download the first and only toilet time controller app for £0.69 at iTunes

Wine-Holder

Bath Wine Glass Holder

This delightfully civilised little gadget allows you to relax even more in the bath with a securely-positioned glass of your favourite wine next to you. If you know someone who likes to spend hours in the bath surrounded by candles and aromas and enjoys a drop of wine, for just £7.50 this ingenious bathroom gadget would surely make the perfect gift.

Bath Wine Glass Holder

Top 5 DJ Controllers

Hercules-DJ-Control-Air

With the proliferation of mp3s the world of DJing has seen a seismic shift away from traditional forms of mixing to digital systems and controllers that solely work with digital music files. So it’ll come as no surprised to you that there’s a burgeoning market for low-cost easy-to-use DJ controllers that range from simple midi controllers to all-in-one systems – here are our top 5.

Hercules DJ Control AIR 2, price: £199

Hercules recently updated its popular DJ Control AIR range; the low-cost setup has been really popular for aspiring DJs who are on a tight budget of less than £200. The unique selling point of the DJ Control AIR + is it’s an all-in-one system – meaning you won’t need to fork out for a costly separate mixer.

The biggest change to the new AIR+ is it has increased size making a lot easier to use – crucial for any all-in-one DJ system. Other changes see both jog wheels increase in size to 5.9-inches, and they now both have 750 steps per turn – making scratching a lot more representative of a real vinyl player.

DJs are able to liven up their mixes with samples and hot cue points using the controller’s 8 touchpads, 4 per deck. Another clever touch is the harder you tap on each pad, the louder the playback volume. DJ Control AIR+ comes bundled with DJUCED, a new DJ mixing software that provides an adequate clone of Native Instruments’ Traktor.

XDJ-R1

Pioneer XDJ-R1, price: £859

Established hardware manufacturer Pioneer are also courting the all-in-one market with their newly announced XDJ-R1. This system is four times the price of the AIR+ – but for the money you get a system that wouldn’t look out of place in any of the world’s top clubs.

The controller features two decks (that work identically to the company’s much-love CDJs), there’s also: two CD slots, a full built-in mixer, two USB ports (allowing users to use the company’s Rekordbox software) – and a bulletproof set of ports and connections to supplement the system with extra CDJs and vinyl players.

Elsewhere you’ll find a bevy of beat effects, cross faders, EQs, filters and hot cues on the controller – just about everything you’d expect to see on professional club setup.
The XDJ-R1 can also be controlled wirelessly using Pioneer’s new Remotebox iOS app. The app allows users to browse music, mix tracks and even mash up tracks, all remotely using their favourite iDevice. The app can also be used to control an XY pad, crucial for professional sounding effects.

Ableton-Push

Push Controller – Akai, price: £429

While Ableton Live isn’t exclusively a performance tool, it does now have a brand-new performance controller called Push from Akai. The new controller doesn’t follow the design and look of a traditional DJ controller, instead Akai has taken it takes its design cues from its classic pad-based drums machines.

The Push controller essentially turns Ableton into a live instrument rather than being just another a generic midi controller – and, on the whole, it largely succeeds at this. Push immediately feels robust, mainly, due to Akai’s decision to give the controller a rubberised coating – making it perfect for DJs who do a lot travelling.

You can control almost any function of Live, so you can use the controller to navigate samples, launch tracks, play or step sequence drums, and you can even use it as a midi keyboard with fully pressure sensitive velocity pads.

Traktor-Kontrol-Z2

Native Instruments Traktor Z2, price: £500

Industry leaders in digital mixing, Native Instruments have also recently launched their latest all-in-one creation: the Z2. It’s another Traktor-centric MIDI controller that comes with a built-in audio interface, conventional analogue DJ mixer, a copy of Traktor Pro and Traktor Scratch Mk2 time encoded vinyl and CDs, for use with CDJs and vinyl players.

Like any good mixer, NI has kept the Z2’s hardware simple. It offers two channels, fed by either line or phono inputs, both with built-in Traktor Scratch decoders – so whether you use CDJs, turntables or even a laptop, the Z2 looks bring together the best of Traktor Pro and the tactile feel that only a phyiscal deck can provide.

The Z2 features two remix channels, meaning it fully supports Traktor’s recently released Remix Decks. Another great feature is the Allen and Heath-style filter knobs on each decks – making sweeping high and low-pass filters are incredibly smooth.

Pioneer-DDJ

Pioneer DDJ-WeGo, price: £249

Pioneer is also aiming to corner the budget DJ market, too, with its latest ultra compact DJ controller, the DDJ-WeGo. It enables DJs on a tight budget to get a professional DJ controller for under £300. Much like the Air+, the DDJ-WeGo is a two-channel all-in-one system.

Setting up WeGo is simple: just plug in a laptop and start up the software. The WeGO’s ergonomic controls and user-friendly interface make it easy for aspiring DJs to learn the ropes from the ground-up. But there’s also a range of advanced features from Pioneer’s professional products – such as Beat Sync, sound effects and loops, for DJs who want to get really creative. For the asking price you get a free copy of Virtual DJ that has the ability to perform music stored on a Windows PC or Mac.

Connected Car: Glympse Partners with BMW and Mini for Location Sharing

Glympse-BMW

BMW hasn’t pushed it smartphone app integration as much as its competitors like Ford or GM, but at last week’s New York motor show the German car manufacturer announced new partnerships with Glympse, Rhapsody, TuneIn and Audible.

Each app, as you’d expect shows up on the LCD in BMW models equipped with the app integration feature, in a style similar to other car applications, such as navigation or the hands-free phone system.

Owners of BMW Apps-ready cars just have to connect their smartphone to the car’s dashboard system to start using the new apps.

With Glympse integration, drivers of BMW’s and Mini’s will be able to broadcast their location to friends and family via Facebook and Twitter, along with their email and calendar contacts.

The system, which uses the drivers’ smartphone, is a great companion for first time drivers where love-ones might be worried about their safety and current location. The system will automatically track their position, when they’re expected to arrive and even whether they’re stuck in traffic.
Anyone receiving a Glympse update can view the sender’s location on a real-time map through a web browser, with no need to have the dedicated mobile app installed on their smartphone, tablet or computer, which makes the system really easy to use for the end user.

Gympse-interface

“With this partnership, we are excited to expand our roster of apps within the BMW Group Application Integration Program. Our drivers will be able to share where they are on the road safely, simply and with a touch of a button.”

Rhapsody, an Internet-based music service, has also announced a new partnership with BMW. Drivers will get a similar feature set to what shows up on the current smartphone app, including playlist access and the ability to download music. The app also shows album art for currently playing tracks, which is a nice touch.

BMW also announced integration of Audible, a leading provider of audio books, and will let drivers choose a recorded book and play it over the car’s stereo. The interface lets drivers change the playback speed and skip back 30 seconds at the push of a button. Because the car integrates with the app on a phone, it starts playing from the most recent stop point.

Audible book recordings integrate with Amazon’s Whispersync, so if a driver owns a book on Kindle and Audible, the last Audible book starts at the last stopping point of the Kindle version, and vice versa.

And finally TuneIn, a leading provider of internet radio, announced that BMW drivers will be able to listen to radio stations streaming over the Internet from anywhere in the world, using their phone’s mobile broadband connection.

The only problem we can see with any of these apps is: they’re only as good as the 3G networks they’re running on, which in the UK is flakey. But fast-forward 18 months, and once 4G has fully rolled out across the country, and these services will likely be competing with traditional radio for your attention for years to come.

Spotify Launches Web-Based Player for UK

Spotify-Web-Player

Spotify has made the online version of its music streaming software available to all UK users as it continues to extend the player’s public beta. The Web-based app has been online at https://play.spotify.com for several weeks, but has now been announced in an email sent out by the company, and is accessible for all Spotify users in the UK.

The online app brings with it many of the features and options available in the desktop client — you can manage your playlists, see new tracks, tune into Spotify radio and of course stream any of the millions of tracks on offer. Unlike the desktop client, there is currently no support for local files or third-party Spotify apps. Tracks cannot be cached for offline playback, as they can when using Spotify’s desktop and mobile tools.

The move is a bold step forward for Spotify in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Rival apps Rdio and Deezer work in Web browsers, as does Google Music, which is based around local files uploaded from your PC. Rumours persist that Google is about to add a streaming component to its Music service, with several analysts also claiming that Apple is about to join the streaming subscription service fray as well.

In the time we’ve spent testing Spotify’s new Web player, it seems to be a stable and responsive app with very few obvious bugs. As we’ve already mentioned, there are missing features — including Last.fm scrobbling support — but in today’s always-on computing world a Web player makes perfect sense. Spotify can now be used on Chromebooks, for example, and users can switch from one computer to another without having to install any additional software. Head round to your friend’s house for a party, and all you need is a Web browser to get at your disco-ready playlists.

Despite rumblings of discontent from artists receiving paltry royalty cheques from the streaming music services, it would seem they’re here to stay — their ease-of-use, huge catalogue selection and cross-platform compatibility make them a more flexible and streamlined option than, say, a 20GB iTunes library. It would be no surprise if Google and Apple soon dipped their toes into the water too.

Have a go! Spotify