Category Archives: Released in 2010

a-JAYS Four

Swedish headphone company a-JAYS have long been the producer of some very nice earplugs. With the a-JAYS Four they ad a microphone and inline remote control for use with Apple iPod/iPhone. And now it comes in white.

Well, all is not iPods. The a-JAYS are formidable earplugs in their own right. They sound incredibly good and are very nicely built. With the Four model they add a microphone and a miniscule remote control with multi-click features placed inline on a no-twist ribbon cable. The mic/remote combo is built specifically for the Apple iPhone but also works with other telephones, such as my [company issued] Blackberry Curve.

There are no downside to speak of. The connector is a 90° mini jack which is not exactly a super intelligent solution. Accidentally pulling the cable will damage either the cable or plug, or worse, the connector on the phone.  The earphones come in a nice little box that doubles as storage for the assorted earpieces. The problem is, however, that if you switch for smaller plugs, the originals don’t fit in the box. It would have been nice to have room for the default plugs. These are very small issues, though. The plusses are a perfect fit [in my ears, anyway] and really, really good sound quality. Binaural recordings from B&W Society of Sound’s Accidental Power Cut Sessions sound like nothing you have ever heard before. Frequency response is relatively neutral, favouring acoustic music without sacrificing bottom.

Marantz NA7004

NA7004Marantz for me always stood for good old conservative ways and champagne colored aluminium bezels. Never as a technology frontloader. Perhaps that is the reason why they had me on this one. I didn’t see it coming.

Last year Marantz released the NA7004, which by a quick glance looks like any other Marantz component. But it ain’t! Under the hood lurks a three piece DAC, audio streaming and that all too rare Flac support. The NA7004 will discover DLNA compatible servers and play your music as the audio gods intended. It interconnects with other Marantz components and boasts a well laid out front. And HD? Well, it goes aaaalll the way pal.

Qriocity gets music service

qriosity-logo-v6Sony’s content-on-demand cloud service Qriocity will be offering music in addition to the existing video-on-demand that debuted in USA earlier this year. Qriocity will be running on a multitude of devices, particularly and hardly surprisingly Sony devices. The service includes some novel features such as synchronising with iTunes and other media players – upstream that is. The press release does not disclose file formats so let us just assume that like all the other music services, Qriocity will be spewing out MP3s for indiscriminate masses.

Captain Beefheart dies at 69

troutFrank Zappa peer and master of all things unusual Don Van Vliet has died at 69 after suffering from multiple sclerosis for many years. Following a career of musical greatness mixed with equal measures of not-so-greatness, he dropped music for his painting and sculpting, and pretty much disappeared from public view. Do go and get your copy of Trout Mask Replica if you haven’t got it already. It is a master piece if there ever was one and a milestone at the least.

24-bit Christmas present from Bravura Records

bravurarecordsStudio owner and audiophile Bill Schnee has issued 5 tasters from his record company Bravura Records, showcasing 5 artists and their caroling aptitudes in each their recording. But these tasters definitely aren’t tasters as tasters come most. They are full length 24-bit/44.1KHz audiophile candy floss pointing at what to expect from the 24-bit/192KHz records that are scheduled to come. Oh, what joy!

The 5 artists are singer/songwriter and pianist Bill Cantos, guitar player George Krikes, pianist Jamieson Trotter (right) with dad Terry, jazz quartet Open Hands and master of intricate timing, drummer Simon Phillips with friends wrapping Carol of The Bells in ultra cool. Yup; this is real nice. Real nice, indeed.

Aethyr to the rescue

itunes_bubblesKeeping iTunes libraries in sync across computers is a daunting task at the least and often marred by errors. A couple of acronymic dogooders have gone and perpetrated a small application that can copy music from an iTunes share to a local iTunes library – throouugh theee aeeeth[y]eer… Well, it ain’t exactly syncing but it does solve a problem or two with iTunes as it looks today. If only Apple would fix their software – Shhz!

Olive O6HD

o6hd_silver_front_angleOlive has been on the media streamer market for the better part of the market’s existence, yet hasn’t made much noise. Their latest initiative could be here to change that: The world’s first HD Audiophile Server. That is what they call it and looking at the specs, it’s definitely the world’s first something, even if others have touched on this before. The Linn DS is definitely up there (with a slightly more rabid price tag) and so is the NaimUniti Serve. The latter being a really attractive setup in its family configuration of server, players and mini players.

The device itself is cool if not exactly novel. The design is like other Olives, slightly unusual and definitely not very shelf-friendly.  The slanted cabinet has a touch screen on top and a handful of heavy duty connectors on the back. The front has a slot for ripping CDs. To get you going, the O6HD comes pre-installed with 12 HD tracks from Chesky records. Hand-built in America and all, it will look good on a serving table or something.

The power supply is split into two, to feed analog and digital circuits with each their own chill filtered juice. The DACs are 24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1792 supporting high resolution conversion of 24-bit/192KHz. It comes with 2TB of storage, letting you rip quite a bit of CDs, at least in 16-bit resolution. At full resolution it is not one byte too much. Unfortunately the CD transport is just that. A CD drive. It doesn’t support DVD or SACD so the only option for actually getting any HD content is to rip it elsewhere or download HD tracks.

A rather cool feature is genre specific tags. Only information pertaining to the specific type of music is shown in the genre navigation. That is really good news for classical music connoisseurs. Add to that a bit of color coding and a bloody nice glass touch screen, and you have a pretty nifty dashboard. The ever present iPhone / iPod Touch remote isn’t missing either.

Linn DS does Apple

kinskydesktopThe latest upgrade for KinskyDesktop, the remote software for Linn DS, now works with Mac as well as Windows and additionally lets you play music from your iTunes libraries on your Linn DS. At the same time the Linn DS itself now supports Ogg Vorbis files in addition to the Flac support mandatory in these high-end circles. Where exactly iTunes fit in in these same circles, is an entirely different discussion: We have a music library consisting of thousands of Flac’ed CDs, a decent collection of native HD Flac files and a good handful of records bought through iTunes. As I see it, there are only two scenarios that warrant iTunes support in the Linn DS and that is if you rippped your entire collection with iTunes and don’t want to go through it again or if you bought the occasional CD in Apple’s music store. The first scenario is perfectly understandable. Re-ripping an entire collection is a daunting task and if the CDs are Red Book and saved as Apple Lossless, sound quality is unscathed anyway. It is merely a matter of convenience. Music bought through iTunes is DRM protected and will not play on the Linn anyway.

Now we really need Apple to get their fingers out and add support for 24-bit HD music so our Linns can have a something of proper nutritional value. It is, after all, at this elevation in the hifi-pyramid that Linn makes a difference.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound 8

bosound8Bang & Olufsen has joined the iPod dock wagon and done it in as much style as one has come to expect. Equally expectable is the lack of vision in as much as the Beosound 8 does not support wireless audio streaming. Instead Bang & Olufsen relies on external devices for streaming, such as the Apple Airport (which they explicitly mention) or presumably anything with a Toslink connector such as Logitech Squeezebox.

A bit more novel is that support for Apple’s iPad. Anything Apple will fit in the connector. Drop in an iPad and you have yourself a pretty nice transistor radio with room adapting sound processing. Nice. Less nice, of course, is the fact that anything not Apple, is pretty much left out to dry.

As iPod docks go, this one looks good. Incredibly good, in fact. But iPod docks are legion. Did someone say “been there – done that”?

Sonos releases controller for Apple iPad

sonosipadThe Sonos iPhone controller has received a bigger sibling for the Apple iPad. The iPhone / iPod Touch was a great remote control for the Sonos Multi-Room Music System in its own right but the bigger screen of the iPad is coolness apparent. Like its older, smaller brother the iPad controller is free to download from the Apple App Store.

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