It's officially the end of an era, folks, one that quite frankly we're surprised lasted as long as it did. In any event, Sony announced it has stopped the Japanese production of its once popular Walkman portable cassette players.
This marks the end of a 31-year run from when the Walkman first went on sale in Japan back on July 1, 1979. At the time, the design was a near-instant hit and served as the forefather to today's spate of portable music players, including Apple's uber popular iPod and Microsoft's me-too Zune.
According to Sony, more than 400 million Walkmans have been sold worldwide until March 2010, a little over half of which were cassette-based models. Going forward, the Walkman brand will live on through CD, MD, and flash memory-based models.
TPS-L2, which would later carry the Walkman branding, was the first commercially sold personal stereo cassette player.
Alright, cheap geeks. It’s tough to want to put out even $0.99 for the latest single on iTunes (or wherever), and don’t even get me started about the annoyance that occurs when you find some slammin’ new track on Youtube, only to realize that you can’t rock out to it in your car because… it’s… on… Youtube.
Youtube is like the poor man’s free music library – just go scan for any music video and voila! It’s an instant way to dial up your favorite songs without having to pay for the track. However, this isn’t really the kind of solution that you can take with you.
For starters, pulling up Youtube video after Youtube video on your phone in a vain attempt to rock out sans cash investment will make you look like the biggest cheapskate alive. It’ll also drain your battery. And, here’s the kicker, it won’t work anywhere that’s lacking in wireless coverage. Or, to put it another way, there’s no reason why you should be trying to transform Youtube videos into your song library.
Just like Apple's iPhone doubles as a glorified iPod touch, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 devices include tight integration with Redmond's Zune platform. Every WP7 handset will come with Zune built directly into the Music+Video hub and will serve as the Windows-based PC sync client so users can transfer songs back and forth with ease.
In anticipated of the spate of WP7 devices coming out, Microsoft has begun rolling out an updated version of Zune, v4.7. New enhancements include:
First Connect: WP7 devices will auto update the Zune software upon first boot
HD Streaming Video
Photo Sync between WP7 handsets and PCs
Sync Media: lets users purchase music and videos through WP7 devices and sync content to their PC
Parental Controls & Rating on Videos
Get more info and the latest version of the Zune software here.
Hercules wants you to tap into your inner DJ Jazzy Jeff with its new DJ Console line, the DJ Console 4-Mx. Only this one's far more high-tech than anything the old-school rapper might have used.
The DJ Console 4-Mx sports a pair of large jog wheels, both of which come equipped with a touch sensor. There's also a built-in audio interface that purportedly makes it a breeze hook up your existing audio gear, as well as the ability to control two or four virtual decks.
Other features include a backlit indicator on each jog wheel, sturdy design, customizable controls, four RCA connectors, four mono jack connectors, and one stero jack connector.
You'll want to line up some paying gigs before picking this up -- it will sell for $450 starting November 22, 2010.
According to numbers compiled by the blokes over at the Official Charts Company (OCC), Britain went and passed the 500 millionth digital download mark, and these are of the legal variety.
"There are nearly 70 legal music services, more than any other country, and consumers continue to embrace the choice, value, and innovation on offer," said Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music industry body BPI.
"Five hundred million downloads is an astonishing achievement especially given the ongoing backdrop of widespread illegal downloading the music industry still faces."
By the end of August, the OCC had recorded 102 million legal downloads, and is on pace to record 170 million by the end of 2010. That would surpass 2009's 150 million downloads and 2008's 110 million.
Professional musicians are already familiar with Avid's Pro Tools hardware and software bundles, and starting today, hobbyists and audio enthusiasts whose pockets don't run quite as deep can join in the fun with Avid's new Pro Tools SE line, essentially simplified versions of the beefier bundles.
Avid promises users will have access to the same front-end used in more powerful members of the Pro Tools family, while including all the necessary features for casual music creation. Some of the key features of the Pro Tools SE software include a simplified user interface, improved project browser, and a Quick Start option for projects with Music Selector.
There are a few different hardware/software bundles to choose from, including Avid KeyStudio ($130) with a 49-key keyboard, M-Audio Micro USB audio interface, and USB connector cable; Avid Recording Studio ($120) with M-Audio Fast Track audio interface and USB connector cable; and Avid Vocal Studio ($100) with an M-Audio Producer USB microphone, desktop mic stand, carrying pouch, and USB connector cable. Each package also comes with Avid's Pro Tools SE recording software.
Things have been pretty quiet over a Microsoft regarding any upcoming Zune refreshes, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from bustling with activity. And why not, given that Apple just recently launched its newest iPod touch with a built-in camera and FaceTime support.
Rumors of an upcoming Zune player began earlier this month when ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley said that one of her sources "who has been a solid tipster on Microsoft-consumerish things in the past" told her that the Redmond giant plans to release at least one more Zune HD media player. The tipster claimed it would probably debut in 2011 and might come equipped with an ARM processor, along with a bunch of UI changes from the Windows Phone 7 team.
More recently, Microsoft put up a job posting looking for a Hardware Engineer to help with "next generation of portable entertainment and communication devices." The job is for a senior mechanical engineer in Microsoft's Portable Entertainment Group, the same team that designed last year's Zune HD.
Whether or not there's anything to these rumors, or whether Microsoft simply plans to let the Zune line fade away and instead focus on porting Zune features into its Windows Phone 7 devices remains to be seen.
The column before last, I wrote about vinyl records and how amazing the technology for analog sound really is—because you’re fighting the obstinacy of the physical universe throughout the whole signal path.
During the seventies and well into the eighties, I invested quite a bit of time and money into my own sound system and I remember fondly playing with all kinds of electronic devices designed to remove clicks and pops, minimize tape hiss, expand musical peaks for more dynamic impact, and even add an extra octave of bass at the bottom. I also added an equalizer to compensate for sonic peaks and valleys in my living room.
Bob Carver’s Sonic Hologram did a kind of electronic signal-cancelling, so you wouldn’t hear the left speaker at your right ear, nor the right speaker at your left ear. That was a pretty astonishing effect, which has since evolved into all kinds of digital ‘spatializer’ enhancements. You could also add two speakers at the back of your listening room to extract out-of-phase information from the stereo signal and give yourself a quadraphonic experience.
A lot of the various equalizers and signal-processors were extraordinary devices for the time, genuinely pushing the envelope of sonic manipulation and enhancement. And remember, all of this was done in the analog domain. Occasionally, I still see some of these devices showing up as techno-props on crime-investigation TV episodes where some nerdy-genius forensic expert is magically extracting a remarkably clear audio signal from an overwhelming hash of noise. (If only….)