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Jaybird Releases the SB2

July 15th, 2010 1 comment

IMG_0019[1]Jaybird is one of my favorite companies and not just because they send me free stuff to try out.  If you recall, I had written a review of the Jaybird SB1 Bluetooth headphones a while ago.  The SB1’s had been purchased with my own funds so I felt free to be as critical as I wanted to be.  However, I found few flaws with the SB1’s and they have been my day-to-day headphones ever since.  I use them on average at least 2 hours a day Monday thru Friday during my commute, so I think I can say fairly that I’d have had a chance to find any flaws in them by now, and I really haven’t.

Well Jaybird recently released the SB2’s, the next generation of the SB1’s and they were kind enough to send me a pair to review.  I want to make clear that these phones were provided gratis, so keep that in mind while you read my review.  I like to believe that I’m objective enough to say a product sucks even if they send me a free evaluation unit, but I haven’t really faced that situation yet.  (I have been given free iPhone/iPad apps for review and I’ve passed up writing reviews in some cases where I thought the app was just bad, but even those cases are few and far between).

I received the headphones on a Friday (delivered in person by the lovely young lady in the packaging, naturally) and I’ve been using them ever since to really try them out in comparison to the SB1’s.  The headphones come in (relatively speaking) minimal packaging and the box it was shipped in was big enough to hold the headphones but not a lot bigger.  I’ve gotten a bit sensitive to companies that ship their products in way oversized boxes and/or packaging (Amazon, I’m looking at YOU), so it was nice to see some attention paid to minimizing waste.  In fact, one of my complaints about the SB1’s was the large amount of packaging that surrounded the headphones themselves.  Jaybird addressed this nicely in the SB2.

IMG_0022[1]The headphones come with a minimum amount of accessories – a set of very simple instructions, the USB-based charging plug, and two pairs of replacement foam pads arrived along with the bright red (and I mean BRIGHT) SB2’s.  It was really nice to see the extra foam pads included – one of my dings on the SB1’s was the fact that those foam pads looked like they could wear with time, and without them, the headphones are kind of painful to wear.  I haven’t had any issues with them in all my wearings, but I tend to be very gentle on my equipment.  They’ve fallen off a couple times but I just re-seated them and they were fine.  Still, it’s good to see companies thinking about the long term use of their products.

I did a quick size comparison between the SB1’s and the SB2’s as well.  They are identically sized, in both thickness and shape.  In fact you really can’t tell them apart.  The big improvements come on the inside in the Bluetooth firmware, specifically the addition of apt-X.  apt-X, when paired with a compatible transmitter, provides CD-quality audio via the Bluetooth stream.  Since I am not an audiophile and since the iPhone 4 does not have apt-X built in (heck, we can’t even get Apple to give us skip forward/back controls via Bluetooth), I wasn’t able to test this part of the SB2’s.  Jaybird does sell a slim dongle that plugs into the dock port of the iPhone that will provide the transmission portion of the apt-X signal, but I don’t like adding dongles to the iPhone.  They almost always don’t work well with the wide variety of cases and protective gear, and the new iPhone is not a device I want to leave naked.

IMG_0032[1]IMG_0033[1]In terms of sound, the SB2’s sound just as good as the SB1’s.  I did notice that Jaybird made a slight tweak to the volume controls, because I was able to drop the volume down to a level lower than I had experienced on the SB1’s.  This was the other minor ding I had for Jaybird concerning the SB1’s – they didn’t seem to have a low volume that was really low.

I wasn’t able to test the microphone capabilities of the SB2 vs. the SB1.  I know with the SB1 I had some slight issues with pickup under windy conditions, but I have yet to use a set of Bluetooth headphones that didn’t have this problem, so that’s not something I would necessarily ding Jaybird for anyways.

The other improvement that I was able to find, and one I’ll be keeping an eye on for the longer term, is that the earpads are much stiffer when extending or retracting.  This is good – in my SB1’s, the right earpad was starting to become very loose through the daily wear and tear of extending and retracting it to fit my head.  I am hoping the SB2’s will not suffer that issue.  The SB2’s seem to be a bit “stickier” to my head as well, though I’m not sure if that’s actual or if it’s just perception because they’re new.  I will have to see what happens when the SB2’s are on my head as I am on the weight bench.

Overall, I strongly recommend the Jaybird SB2.  They’ve addressed the few minor shortcomings I had with the SB1’s, and the inclusion of apt-X will mean better sound for apt-X equipped devices.  At $99, they are in the middle range for Bluetooth headphones, and I’m sure that you will be able to find them for less online.  I’m planning to switch to the SB2’s for my day-to-day use, and am looking forward to the many stares I’m going to get as I walk to work in my business suit sporting a set of cherry red headphones shining off the reflected light of my shaved head.

By the way, all these pics were taken using the iPhone 4’s camera.  Note the significant yellowing in the bottom two pictures?  That’s a beige surface I’m shooting down onto.  Part of the issue might be bounceback of light from that surface, since the yellowing isn’t apparent in the top two pictures.  Interesting…

Jaybird SB2 Bluetooth Headphones

BassJump adds dimension to MacBook speakers

February 8th, 2010 No comments

I’ve always thought the MacBook built in speakers were pretty good, considering. But as we all know they lack oomph. Those tiny speakers just can’t produce those long waveforms we like to call bass. So as I sit here and listen to the latest Marbert Rocel through my MacBook speakers (because AirTunes is a consistent disappointment and it saddens me to sit here at look at my lovely Klipsch speakers just sitting there, silent) I remember seeing a GadgetLab post that could solve my issue.
The BassJump Subwoofer.

bassjump_main_01-660x299

All it requires is access to a USB port and the installation of a preference pane and BAM! You have BASS!

So whether you are sitting around the apartment listening to the latest Massive Attack while writing macabre short stories (like me), or surfing the internet while taking a trip down memory lane with The Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II (also like me), you won’t be missing out on half of what makes both of those album’s great, i.e. the bass-line.

Via Wired’s GadgetLab

Death to USB Dongles

November 14th, 2009 No comments

It has been a few days since my last post. I’ve been really busy researching Grad School and curriculum. Anyway, some of you may know that I make music under the Delta Dreams project. It is sorta like Portishead meets The Killers. I switched to Logic Studio which is a great unified music sequencer over the summer.

Previously, I used ProTools LE. It has great workflow but wasn’t very reliable. I didn’t get the performance as I did with Logic Studio. Furthermore, I had to purchase a lot of 3rd party software synthesizers that required the despicable USB dongle. The USB dongle is essentially a hardware USB drive that has your authorization code in it to run the program. I received this email from KORG (music equipment supplier) a few days ago that tells me they no longer support USB dongles but now authorizes the key to your computer. It is very confusing and it just reinforces my hatred towards these things. Why am I as a legitimate buyer have to suffer while software pirates do not have to deal with this issue?

This is another reason I switched to Logic Studio. I don’t need USB dongles sticking taking up slots on my MacBook Pro. It comes with world class plugins that meets me musical creative needs.

Dear KORG Legacy Collection user,

We hope you are enjoying your KORG Legacy Collection software suite.

This email is to inform you that we have released the latest updater. Thank you for your patience.
Please be sure to read the following notice with regards to the changes in copy protection for Korg Legacy products.

******************************

************************************
Important notice regarding changes to the copy protection method for Korg Legacy software titles
******************************************************************

November 9, 2009

Korg announces that there is a change to the copy protection method for the KORG Legacy Collection series. Korg is switching from the USB Key Copy Protection to the Challenge/Response License Authorization where a unique license code is issued to your computer.

To all KLC series customers, we apologize for any inconvenience associated with this change, and greatly appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

Today, we have released KLC updaters* where you can choose either copy protection method. Please note that we are going to stop providing user support services for the USB Key Copy Protection system effective from April 30, 2010. And from May 2010, any updates we issue will support only the Challenge/Response License Authorization system, not the USB Key Copy Protection system.

We appreciate your continuing support for Korg’s KLC series products.

KORG Legacy Collection team

*… KLC-1/Virtual MS-20/ANALOG EDITION/ANALOG EDITION 2007 v1.2.3, KLC-DIGITAL EDITION v1.3.2

For information on downloading/installation of the new license authorization based versions, please visit the following web page.
http://www.korguser.net/shop/software/support/copyProtection/

For Frequently Asked Question concerning the new copy protection method, please visit the following web page.
http://www.korguser.net/shop/software/support/copyProtection/faq.asp

******************************************************************
KORG Legacy Collection series update
******************************************************************

KLC-1/Virtual MS-20/ANALOG EDITION/ANALOG EDITION 2007 are updated to v1.2.3 respectively, and KLC-DIGITAL EDITION is updated to v1.3.2.

The stability has been improved (including bug fixes), and this version now supports Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (32-bit).
*Regarding Windows 7 support, we will check the compatibility after DAW applications support this OS.

You can download the updater freely from the “Download for registered users” section of KORG USER NET (http://www.korguser.net). Enter your registered e-mail address and password into the provided fields on the right side of login page, log into KORG USER NET and click [Download for registered users].

==================================================================
Please do not reply to this e-mail address. This is not an active reply desk. All queries should be directed to your local Korg distributor:
http://www.korguser.net/html/distributors_list.html
==================================================================

Sincerely yours,
KORG USER NET

Finger Drums

June 17th, 2009 No comments
Finger Drums

Finger Drums

Turn your drumming dreams into a reality with this touch sensitive Finger Drum Kit. Complete with a bass drum kick and cymbal, this desktop drum kit has both a record and a freestyle function.
The perfect gift for any drummer, talented or otherwise, the Finger Drum Kit is a must-have.
Not only does it provide a great way to exercise your fingers, you can turn yourself into a superstar drummer without leaving your desk. You could even play games with your work buds, friends and family by asking them to name the tune. Prepare to be swooned over by adoring fans, followed by groupies, and emails to flood in from world class booking agents… OK, a guy can dream, can’t he?

I just love playing the drums. Unfortunately, it is probably the least portable instrument out there. What if we can just miniaturize the drum set. Well, my wish has come true. the Finger Drum Kit lets you rock out with the touch of your fingers. It comes complete with a bass drum kick, cymbal, and toms. You can also record your finger beats and also features a freestyle function.

The Finger Drums also give your fingers excercise burning tons of calories (ok, maybe not that much). Become a rockstar at your office. Too bad it doesn’t come with Finger Groupies. Hmmm…

Via http://www.bluw.com/finger-drums.html

Multi-tune Vitamin

May 27th, 2009 No comments

I’ll be the first to admit that my love for my iPod is nearly boundless. And the new Shuffle design has me practically giddy. 1.8″ by .3″ and the new VoiceOver feature is going to be hard to beat.
However, there’s got to be room for more than just Apple style. A new MP3 player is about to come on to the market that while probably not giving the Shuffle a run for its money should at least make the playing field more interesting.
Introducing The Vitamin from iXing

ixing vitamin

Designed by Sangnam Park, this little pill is actually an MP3 player. It supports only MP3 and WMA files (which means I’m not getting it since my entire library is in AAC format, a far superior format to MP3 imo). It also has a 30 channel FM tuner, though seriously I don’t really know anyone that listens to the radio anymore. Even I get my NPR via the internet these days.
Other than the novelty of its looks I really don’t think it can outdo the Shuffle. But I do think style is a valid consideration when shopping for an MP3 player so I can’t count it out just yet. I honestly like the design. To change tracks you just twist the pill one way, or to go back a track, twist it the other way. I also like the display, which the Shuffle lacks.
I don’t know yet how they are going to manage volume control (possibly on the head phones themselves?).
Also there is no info on the capacity, at least none that I could find. But it should hold a minimum of 1000 songs (or appox. 4 GB) if it wants to be competitive.

via Gizmodo

Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ Tonium P666

May 7th, 2009 No comments

I love music and used to DJ at a local college radio station (WKDU) in Stockton, New Jersey. Unlike my fellow DJ’s I never liked carrying around luggage of records and CDs. I love the iPod and iPhone but even their interface is limited in how you interact with the music. When I went to CES 2009 I got to demo the Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ Tonium P666

Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ Tonium P666

Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ Tonium P666

It functions basically like 2 micro digital turn tables so you can mix and scratch your downloaded music (legally right?). The Pacemaker has two seperate audio channels so you can play two tracks by side.  I was never good at beatmatching. If you aren’t either, you’re in luck, the beatmatching is easily done by the click of a button. The Pocket DJ also comes with world class audio effects and crossfader to spice up your mixes.

Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ Software

Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ Software

You can even save your mixes and edit them with their free desktop software Pacemaker Editor. Once you’re done, you can upload them to their online community and share it with everyone. Doesn’t everyone have their own social network these days?

The price to DJ ultra-portability doesn’t come cheap though. I was a bit shocked of the price the $499.99 price. But if you are a professional DJ, the Pacemaker will pay for itself. No more bad beatmatching that breaks people’s legs while they dance on the floor unless you plan on playing NSYNC on a Goth/Industrial night.

Tonium P666 Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ System, 60 GB

FEATURES

  • Auto beatmatch – Instantly sync tempo and phase of two loaded tracks by the click of a button.
  • Timestretch – Alter and set the tempo of a track +/- 100% without affecting pitch/key.
  • Pitch speed – Alter and set track tempo +/- 100% and pitch/key +/- one octave in parallel.
  • Bend speed – Nudge a track into phase.
  • Beat graph – Visually monitor relative drifting in tempo and/or sync.
  • Loop – Create synchronized loops on the fly; set and adjust in-point and/or end-point, split from in-point or end-point, double from in-point or end-point, exit loop and re-loop. One loop per track will be permanently saved until altered.
  • Reverse – Flip playback direction
  • Cue play – Play track from cue point and revert to cue point when releasing cue button.
  • Cue control
  • Vinyl pause – Track is halted in a vinyl-like pause letting you scrub, search and define cue point.
  • Headphones crossfader – Dynamically adjust what channel blend to listen to in the headphones.
  • Effects control – Hi-cut/Lo-cut, Wah and Crush, to +/- 1.0.
  • Beat FX – Add and adjust two-parameter audio effects Echo, Delay, Trans and Roll to dry/wet + 0-100% and Time at 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, 1, 3/2, 2, 4, 8, and Reverb to dry/wet + 0-100% and size to + 0-100%.
  • Key – Temporarily adjust the two-parameter function Key; transpose a track key +/- one octave in increments of halftones, and/or tune a track pitch +/- 100% one halftone.
  • Kill-all – Instantly mute or re-engage activated audio effects.
  • Effects crossfader – Optionally incorporate +/- 100% Bass or +/- 1.0 Filter effects into the crossfader.

Universal Audio UAD-2

April 29th, 2009 No comments
The UAD-2 is the ultimate sonic upgrade for your DAW.  I added one of these cards to my DAW and coming from a UAD-1, I was truely amazed by the power.
UAD-2 PCIe DSP

UAD-2 PCIe DSP

I can run so many instances of the plug-ins that I don’ t even know how I ever coped with just a UAD-1.  Below are some of the specs for these new cards:

  • Auto-Delay Compensation for Pro Tools LE via Mellowmuse ATA
  • LiveTrack Low-latency live monitoring/tracking mode
  • Use up to 4 UAD-2’s and 4 UAD-1’s in one system
  • PCIe 1x format

Roberto

www.robertocerini.com