Sure, the quality is awful and all that, but who here doesn’t ever go to YouTube to find music? I find myself doing it quite a bit, sometimes just to listen to some old pop songs for the laughs, but most often to listen to artists you don’t find anywhere else. Be it true cover songs or someone playing the Game of Thrones theme on a violin, YouTube is full of music you don’t get elsewhere, and I frankly prefer a lot of it to what comes out of the studios these days. Justin Bieber may have been discovered on YouTube, but I won’t hold that against it.
A very neat app for these situations is PVSTAR+ for Android. It allows you to create playlists of YouTube videos, and then play them using many of the same controls you get in a normal media player. It even supports background play, so you don’t have to keep the screen on. Using the app fully requires an internet connection, however there is a caching system in place for offline use. It’s not all there, unfortunately, as you have to play the videos for them to be cached, and even then I’ve had mixed results. The app also has a few quirks, like some videos simply failing to play without a good explanation, and the need to “catch up” when just switching back into the app from using background play/the screen being off (due to it switching video back on – there should be a delay on this in my opinion).
Despite a few issues, it does what it claims, and it does it pretty well. I’ve found myself using it more and more simply because of the convenience factor, as it’s much easier than downloading videos using video downloaders (which isn’t complicated, but takes time). The app is available in both a free ad-supported version and a $4.40 ad-free version.
A rather neat feature of iTunes is the role that music videos have. Instead of being separate entities hidden away in the video player, they’re listed with their respective audio counterparts in the music library, basically working like audio files with video album art. I’ve had people ask for an Android alternative, which I haven’t really been able to find. One app that comes close though is MX Player.
I say “comes close” because MX Player is a video play at its core, rather than an audio player with video capability. One of the features of MX Player however is Background Play, which allows you to put a video in the background without pausing it. That means that turning off the screen or hitting the home button doesn’t pause the video like it does on most players, it simply switches it to audio only mode. That way, you can be on the train watching music videos, and just hit the screen lock button when you get off and continue listening to only the audio.
It’s hardly an ideal solution, but it’s one I’ve actually used quite a bit. There are other uses for only listening to a video file as well, like having a video lecture you only really need to listen to, or perhaps you simply want to use a movie as a kind of audio book while doing something that keeps your attention elsewhere.
If you know of any similar apps for Android, especially one that’s an audio player with a music video feature similar to iTunes, let me know.
Microsoft has officially launched Xbox Music, the successor to Zune. Xbox Music combines the best features of each music service, allowing you to stream or download unlimited amounts of music, listen to personalized internet radio stations with Smart DJ, and buy music a la carte from the Xbox Music Store. Best of all, it’s fully compatible with your existing Zune devices and Windows Phone handsets.
Designed for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox 360, Xbox Music offers a number of features including free ad-supported music streaming on Windows 8, a premium Xbox Music Pass subscription, Smart DJ, and more. The best features, however, will be added in the coming months, including a cloud-based music locker complete with scan-and-match functionality, new ways to share music, a web-based player, and support for Android and iOS.
Samsung is apparently trying to get an Android device on the market for every screen size ever theorized, and the just announced (but long since leaked) Galaxy player 5.8 fits into that plan very well. The name comes from the 5.8-inch screen that the device features, which has a rather low (comparatively speaking) resolution of 960 x 540. Android 4.0 is onboard, and you have Bluetooth 4, a VGA front camera, 16 or 32GB of internal memory, and a microSDHC expansion slot. A dual core 1GHz chip and 1GB of RAM was rumored, but the official information doesn’t mention that part of the hardware.
This player is hard to place in today’s market. The argument for existing Galaxy Players has been that they’re portable than tablets, and cheaper than phones. 5.8 inches is closer than before to the 7-inch tablet market, which consists of budget devices like the Galaxy Nexus and the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. With the Nexus you get a much higher resolution screen and much better performance, but it seriously lacks in the storage department. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 doesn’t have as impressive a screen or chipset, but has more bells and whistles like a microSDHC slot and camera.
Even so, a 5.8-inch device is still more pocketable than a 7-inch tablet, so the new Galaxy Player isn’t necessarily doomed right away. I guess it will all depend on the price, which isn’t yet known.
It’s been about a month since the Cowon X9 was announced, and if anyone has actually been holding out for one since then, then today is their lucky day. For $230 the 32GB model can be yours, while the 8GB and 16GB models are notably absent.
To recap, the X9 is a player that’s something along the lines of the old O2 and the hard drive based X7. The 4.3-inch touchscreen dominates the front, but with a resolution of a ridiculously low (these days) 480 x 272 pixels, it would be an insult to other players to call this a video-centric device. That of course begs the question of why someone would use a 4.3-inch device for music, but the X9 does have some neat features in that regard. Tactile buttons, 110 hours of (manufacturer rated) battery life, and microSD support are all nice features to have on an audio player. There’s also the usual “Cowon package” of format support and sound enhancement features, the latter of which is suddenly harder to come by again after it was removed from the JetAudio Android software.
iriver is currently running a contest on its US Facebook page. Until August 22nd, liking the page on Facebook will allow you to enter the contest, where the prize is a iriver Blank BTS-SD1 Bluetooth speaker. You can also refer friends in order to gain more than one entry.
If the speaker isn’t enough incentive to pop by Facebook, people who enter the contest will also get a 15% coupon to use in the iriver US online store.
Sony has just unveiled its new lineup of Walkman players, which consists of four players. Three are variations of a more traditional style MP3 player, while the fourth is a new top model Android based media player.
Starting at the top, the F800 is the Android based player in the bunch. It features a 3.5-inch screen with an unknown resolution, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, WiFi, Bluetooth, and Google Play access. Powering the device is a Tegra 2 chip, which while dual core and all that, is still a 1.5 year old chip at this point. With a price of up to $300 for the 32GB model, you basically have to want the small size of the device in order to pick it over the $200-$250 tablets that are popping up all over the place.
If size is an issue, you might even want to drop Android powered devices altogether, and instead look at the three non-Android devices in Sony’s new lineup. Called the E470, E570, and S770BT series, the only thing that seems to separate the three is how they handle the headphones. The E470 is the most traditional, supporting just normal headphones. The E570 supports – and comes with - noise cancelling headphones, similar to many Sony players in the past. The S770BT is the Bluetooth model, and actually comes bundled with a Bluetooth receiver. They all share the same 2-inch QVGA screen and up to 36 hours of audio playback.
Mind you though that the information of these players, in true Sony tradition, varies depending on location. The US press release doesn’t mention the E570 and S770BT, while the EU press page doesn’t mention any other capacity than 8GB for the E470. I guess we’ll see what comes out where in the beginning of August.
Cowon announced the X9 – nicknamed “Super Player” – which would make sense as a logical upgrade/sidestep to last year’s X7. But actually it’s more of a rehash of the ancient O2 PMP, released four years ago, in 2008 (ignoring the newer V5′s existence in several aspects).
The X7 is a 80-160GB HDD player with Bluetooth capabilites, the new X9 is a flash memory player without Bluetooth, but a MicroSD slot instead. Internal capacities of the X9 go up to 32GB – same as the ancient O2. Both the X7 and X9 have embarrassingly bad screen resolutions of 480×272 at 4.3″ – same as the ancient O2. Seems Cowon had a few old resistive touch screens left over to recycle (the slightly less ancient V5 HD in comparison had a much more reasonable 800×480 resolution at 4.7″, but by today’s standards that is the extreme lower limit for comparable screen sizes as well).
Additional tactile buttons for FFWD/REW/skip might make the X9 a more desirable player for on the go than the X7, which only had a unified menu/play/pause and two volume buttons. Cowon claims a battery life of up to 110 hours for audio and 13 hours for video on the X9. If real-life usage comes close to these synthetic benchmarks, it would be quite amazing for nomads and globetrotters. Cowon’s usual plethora of supported file formats and BBE sound enhancements are of course not missing from the X9. An additional annoyance is Cowon’s use of a proprietary USB connector instead of a standard mini/microUSB port.
iAudiophile moderator Kizune posted a comparison chart of the X7′s and X9′s differences, for your perusal.
Sony is one of the few companies still in the MP3 player game, and it’s trying its best to keep that part of the business afloat. With smartphones and tablets becoming more and more popular, making MP3 players into mobile device accessories might be the only way to save the product category in the years to come. That’s the idea behind the Smart Wireless Headset pro as well, and it bridges the two categories in a new and at least somewhat interesting way.
The Smart Wireless Headset pro is essentially an advanced Bluetooth A2DP adapter merged with an MP3 player. On its own it’s an 18 gram MP3 player that plays music off a microSDHC card for about 12 hours before the black and white OLED display goes dark. When connected to a Bluetooth device it’s a wireless dongle that allows you to cut at least part of the cord between your device and headphones. When connected to an Android device, it also gains a nifty SMS/email notification system on the built-in display and via text-to-speech. Finally, there’s an FM radio.
This is definitely a hybrid device, and by that I mean that its selling point is its ability to do several things, rather than do one thing well. There’s no mention of aptX codec support for the Bluetooth stream, which means it falls short of some other Bluetooth adapters for that functionality. MP3 and Wav as the only supported music formats, along with a ton of other missing MP3 player features, also makes this a poor straight out substitute for something like the Sansa Clip line. Finally, SMS and email notifications in the age of smart watches like the Pebble is a novelty at best.
Perhaps the biggest nail in this device’s coffin however is the price. $129 for a hybrid device really stretches things when you can get a Clip Zip, Jabra Clipper, and $56 towards a Pebble for the price of this jack of all trades, master of none. I think $59 or $69 is the absolute max that Sony should charge for something like this, and instead it’s charging those two prices combined. That’s Sony for your though, constantly coming up with at least half decent ideas whose obvious shortcomings are less of an issue than the Apple-esque price.
It’s no secret that the VLC Media Player for Android has been in development for a long time, and now it seems official builds will finally be available to the public.
Same as VLC for Windows, OS X, and various Linux/Unix flavors, VLC for Android promises to play every audio and video format in every container… ever. For now hardware decoding is experimental, so one would need a fairly beefy device to do software decoding, especially for HD video formats. Contrary to its full-fledged-OS brethren, VLC for Android also features a media library and touch gesture controls, as expected from a portable application. Network video streaming is also supported, which comes in mighty handy when one wishes to have one’s whole movie collection in one’s hand.
My favorite Android video player, MX Player, just ditched DTS audio support due to licensing issues, and – to the best of my knowledge – no Android player so far supports newfangled Hi10P video. For these two issues alone I’m looking forward to VLC.
The Clip+ has a fantastic little form factor; somewhat cheap in build quality but very rugged. The interface is simple and relatively straightforward. The features on the Clip are more or less average, however it supports the alternative Rockbox firmware which provides tons of additional options (gapless playback, Replaygain, playlists, Last.fm scrobbling, etc). Read the full review or go ahead and buy it.
The J3 is a fantastic PMP with a very nice AMOLED screen and tons of features. It sports Cowon's trademark BBE sound enhancements, and offers a customizable user interface with strong support by our user community. You can usually find it at Amazon for the best price - and don't forget to check out our review.
Microsoft Zune HD
Sure, many of us are not big fans of the walled garden, but there are a lot of great things going on with the Zune: sturdy hardware, ultra easy to use user interface, and a media player that is worthy of Editor’s Choice. You can check out our Zune HD review or stop by our Zune forums for the latest info and gossip.
Phonak Audéo PFE
Phonak Audéo PFE offer outstanding clarity and precision; natural, dynamic mids and treble, and decent bass for a single armature in-ear phone. They handle dense, complex music very well. The PFE work well with most acoustic and some electronic music genres, but bassheads might have to look at other alternatives. They're great for sports as well, since they fit very securely. Check out our review.
The Hippo VB (Variable Bass) offers a serious subwoofer for on the go, right in your head. They don’t just deliver generous quantities of punchy, textured bass, but good audio quality over the whole frequency range with decent clarity and exceptional soundstage. Exchangeable bass ports let you customize their sound to your liking. Read our in-depth Hippo VB review.
Soundmagic E10 / E30
The Soundmagic E10 and E30 are basically right in the middle between the Phonak PFE and Hippo VB - not too analytical sounding, not too bass heavy. The E10 provide a bit more bass, the E30 a bit more clarity. Both come with a very fair price tag considering the sound quality they deliver - a great choice for the audio aficionado on a budget. Read our E10 and E30 reviews for more info.