June 18, 2012

How to auto-sync an MP3 player from an Android device using Tasker

So the Samsung Galaxy S III has an MP3 player as an accessory to let you take a smaller music player than your huge phone with you when you work out and things like that. Big whoop. In this article I’m going to show you how you can get any MSC enabled player to sync to practically any USB-host enabled Android device in a way that makes the S Pebble look like it’s not just the name that’s related to the stone age. With devices such as a the Sansa Clip series out there that are still amazing music players, this new role as an accessory to a smartphone/tablet might help the MP3 player market stay alive.

Continue reading…

June 8, 2012

JetAudio for Android is not what it used to be

jetaudio android no bbe JetAudio for Android is not what it used to be

There was some back and forth with the initial free version 1.0.1 of JetAudio on the Play Store – some people saw it in the store, others didn’t (not depending on hardware compatibility). We suspected it was some region-specific restriction Google or Cowon was pulling there.

It turns out, it might very well have been some legal issue between Cowon and BBE Sound Inc. instead. The updated free version 1.0.2 and the now available paid version of JetAudio do not feature BBE and BBE ViVA sound enhancements (read the article below for my gushing about how nice they sound). Being basically the main selling point of the application, this does come as a bit of a shock. There is no explanation about the removal on the Play Store, on Cowon’s JetAudio website, or anywhere else – BBE simply disappeared from the screenshots, and it isn’t mentioned in the changelogs either.

This is not the way to communicate, Cowon – we could really do with an explanation as to what is going on. As it is now, I would not be willing to pay EUR 1.50 for the player when it lacks its main feature over competing audio players. You should really fix your licensing issues (or whatever it is) with BBE and explain to your customers what is going on there.

[JetAudio Plus and JetAudio Basic on Google Play Store]

June 2, 2012

JetAudio Player rocks Android

jetaudio android JetAudio Player rocks Android

Good news for people who feel Cowon’s D3 and Z2 Android players being a bit overpriced and/or underpowered – now you can have their trademark BBE/Jetaudio sound enhancements on any old Android device.

JetAudio has been Cowon’s bundled Windows audio player/manager app for almost a decade now, and BBE recently released an audio player app for Apple’s iOS (which isn’t overly mature software yet). Fandroids, put on your smug faces – now you get the best of both worlds.

JetAudio for Android provides BBE and BBE ViVA sound tweaks to beef up any audio signal – some people (like me) tend to say they’re the best sounding ones of the bunch, surpassing competitors like DNSE, SRS, or X-Fi enhancements in audio quality. For bass boost there’s a button called ‘X-Bass’ on the player – not the usual BBE Mach3Bass, but it sounds basically the same. Furthermore there’s a 10-band EQ, a (nice sounding) stereo-enhancer/spatializer, a (crappy bathroom) reverb effect, and (horrible) automatic gain control, which messes up too quiet and too loud parts in audio tracks, as usual with these algorithms. Unfortunately JetAudio doesn’t seem to support Replaygain so far, which would be a much more sensible choice than AGC.

Besides the trademark sound enhancements, JetAudio is a quite extensive piece of software for an initial release. Next to tag browsing it features good old file/folder browsing, album art display works fine, the interface is intuitive enough, and people with swollen egos can post their bad taste in music directly to Facebook or Twitter from within the player (not sure if Last.fm scrobbling is supported as well). Of course JetAudio claims to support gapless playback, like most other Android players – but same as all other players (except Rockbox and GoneMAD), it’s not really gapless and clicks between tracks. Its crossfade functionality works fine, though. For people with lopsided ears, there’s also audio pan/balance – I just wish that would be a global feature in the operating system, not app-dependent.

So far only a free version of JetAudio is available on the Market Play Store, with time-limited previews of some BBE sound enhancements. A full, paid version, should follow shortly.

[Google Play Store - thanks to NBT's Pocketables' Andreas for the tip!]

May 31, 2012

Artist creates in-mouth MP3 player

mouth mp3 player Artist creates in mouth MP3 player

We don’t see a lot of innovation in the MP3 player world these days, and I’m quite frankly not sure if this really is innovation or if “insanity” is a better word for it. Aisen Chacin from Parsons The New School for Design in New York made a mold of her own mouth, integrated a small MP3 player (a generic one from the looks of it), connected a small vibrating motor to the headphone port, and topped it off with a mouth jewelry piece called a “grill”. The resulting contraption is tongue-controlled, inserts into the mouth, and plays music through vibrations in the skull. The name of the contraption? Play-A-Grill.

Again, I’m not sure what to think of this. On the one hand, it’s certainly innovative, and you gotta love the DIY nature of it. On the other hand…it’s an MP3 player for your mouth. I know I’ve been into wireless headphones in the past, but somehow this idea never struck me. I’m certain that it would have its uses, and if ever made into a commercial product it could maybe even be shrunk down enough to where it’s less of a lump in your mouth, but I have to wonder about the sound quality coming out of this. Either way though, it’s cool, in its own quirky way.

[Aisencaro.com via Popsci]

May 18, 2012

MEElectronics A161P IEM

IMG 4049 MEElectronics A161P IEMI have been enjoying the MEElectronics (MEE) A151 IEMs now for around a year and they are still in great condition, performing as good as the day I received them. Recently Mr. Joe Daileda (VP of Sales & Marketing) from MEElectronics contacted me again, but now about testing their new balanced armature A161P in-ear monitor (IEM), which I quickly welcomed the opportunity. By the time of this writing I have been using the A161P IEMs for around 3 weeks and I’m ready to discuss them …

On first read I thought that the A161P would replace the A151 but according to Mr. Daileda, MEE has no plans to discontinue the A151. On another note, MEE has or is planning to discontinue the CC51 without current plans to replace it with another dynamic driver IEM. That said the A161P now becomes their flagship IEM.

Usually balanced armatures have better speed, accuracy, precision and detail versus dynamic drivers that are supposed to provide a fuller bodied sound signature. The A161P is MEE’s newest 2012 IEM release and their second introduction of a balanced armature driven IEM. In my opinion these should create quite a hullabaloo because the single balanced armature market keeps improving and the A161Ps do not disappoint.

With that thought in mind, read on to take a closer look at the A161P. Continue reading…

May 18, 2012

Sansa Clip+ modded with line-in connector

clip plus line in Sansa Clip+ modded with line in connector

The Sansa Clip+ is a great player, and is probably one of the best value/money deals the MP3 player world has ever seen. Its ability to record audio both with the stock firmware and Rockbox is a feature that perhaps not everyone cares too much about, as it’s only usable for recording via the built in microphone or the radio. Simon Frank wanted to extend this functionality and decided to add a proper 3.5mm line-in connector on his Clip+. He accomplished this by hooking into the radio chip, essentially making it so that the audio coming from the line-in connector is recorded using the radio recording feature. This makes the radio unusable, he says, though that’s possible to fix by adding a switch.

Adding a 3.5mm connector to the Clip+ does make it a bit bigger, though the one he used for his project is also more than a little bit bigger than it has to be. With this mod the Clip+ is able to record up to 16 bit, 48kHz .wav audio straight from another source, which is perhaps not as useful as it was a few years ago, but still has plenty of uses. It’s great to see the Clip series is still going strong, and it”s no more than a couple of weeks since I posted about it last, that time using it to show how the Galaxy S III’s S Pebble MP3 player accessory isn’t very impressive.

[o--o.se via Hackaday]

May 13, 2012

Hifiman HM-901 makes your wallet and ears bleed (with joy, presumably)

hm 901 Hifiman HM 901 makes your wallet and ears bleed (with joy, presumably)

In our forums we had some heated discussions about Hifiman’s prior ‘flagship’ portable audio player, the HM-801. For around $800 you got a gigantic brick with less than 8 hours battery life, based on a Chinese Rockchip SOC and an ancient PCM1704 DAC that was implemented with improper filtering, resulting in rolled off treble response. Besides inverting the signal phase it had very high output impedance and couldn’t drive multi-armature IEMs properly.

Now that the HM-801 is discontinued, Hifiman announced its successor, the HM-901. This new one sports a new user interface and revamped controls, which can be tried here, in an online Flash demo: http://www.hifiman.com/uidemo/

The HM-801 was a case study of how not to design an interface, time will tell if the new one is easier to operate. In my opinion, Hifiman should just have done the smart thing and put Rockbox on their players – a port for the HM-801 is already available, so I’m a bit bewildered why they didn’t take advantage of that and still cooked their own UI/firmware from scratch. With Rockbox the player would even play gapless audio, among other things – ‘as the artist intended’.

Some questions remaining are:

  • Will the HM-901 cost less than a kilobuck? [UPDATE: price appears to be closer to $1250, according to some rumors.]
  • Will its battery life be measured in minutes, or hours?
  • Will it have low enough output impedance to drive multi-armature IEMs properly?
  • Will it sound ‘better’ than the next average quality player, or will it have rolled off treble, like the HM-801? Or rather, will anybody make out any audible difference at all, considering almost all digital sources available are transparent and linear to human ears?

[Thanks to 3602 for the tip]

May 4, 2012

Samsung brings back the Pebble, is now an MP3 player that syncs with a smartphone

s pebble Samsung brings back the Pebble, is now an MP3 player that syncs with a smartphone

Remember Samsung’s Pebble MP3 player? In what is a surprising move to say the least, Samsung brought back the design and the name yesterday during its Galaxy S III smartphone announcement. The new S Pebble is classified as an accessory to the S III, and is essentially a 4GB screenless MP3 player that has the ability to sync directly with the S III as well as a computer. The controls are a mix between switches to control power and shuffle, and touch buttons on the front of the player (yeah, touch buttons…ugh). The tiny player is said to do 17 hours on a single charge, and sync via the 3.5mm port.

You may be asking why on Earth anyone would want such a device, or perhaps you’re already angry because Samsung has essentially taken a feature that exists on devices with USB host (assuming the MSC-enabled player you plug into it doesn’t try to charge off it) and made it a proprietary accessory. The idea of this device is that people who do activities where a 4.8-inch smartphone is unsuited – like running – can leave their phone at home and bring the S Pebble instead. There aren’t any features like pedometers or other sports related sensors in the thing though, it’s just an music player. With Samsung releasing a new Music Hub service with cloud syncing and iTunes Match-like  functionality, it makes some sort of sense that they’re enabling the player to be synced directly from a phone that has all of this, instead of assuming that all music comes from a computer.

As long as they keep the price low I don’t see any problem with leaving this device unhated for now, but I fear that this is going to be another overpriced official accessory like all accessories Samsung and other first parties have ever released. If that’s the case, I have a feeling that I’m going to be struck with a sudden and uncontrollable need to bring my Galaxy  S II, USB host cable, and Sansa Clip+ around with me and politely inform people that Samsung didn’t just invent the wheel.


April 15, 2012

Cowon Z2 might finally reach Western shores

cowonz2 rel Cowon Z2 might finally reach Western shoresThere’s been quite some uncertainty and doubt regarding the international release date of the Plenue Z2, the successor to the D3, and Cowon’s second experiment with Google’s Android operating system. We’ve ranted about it as early as January.

This time it sure took Cowon a lot longer than usually to release a device outside of Korea, but it seems they’re almost there. According to Engadget, an “early May” release date should be possible. Apparently, the 16GB version of the Z2 will only come in white and will go for around $280, the 32GB version will only come in black and go for a slightly painful $320.

Those prices are quite a bit higher than, say, same-sized iPod Touch variants, and a lot more expensive than Samsung’s various Galaxy Players. But if you want BBE sound enhancements, many more tactile buttons than average Android devices offer, and a shnazzy S-AMOLED screen (hopefully a non-Pentile one), then you really don’t have a lot of alternatives. At least the Z2 should be snappy enough to be usable as an all-around Android device, contrary to its severely slow and laggy ancestor, the D3.

[via Engadget - thanks to Nathan for the tip]

April 11, 2012

Rockbox 3.11 is released

rockbox400 Rockbox 3.11 is releasedFour months after version 3.10 Rockbox released a new stable one, 3.11.

Highlights of this version are USB support for the Sansa Clip+, Clip v2, and Fuze v2, as well as ‘stable’ status for the Sansa c200 v2 and MPIO HD300.

Many interface- and theme-related features made it into this release as well. Customization of the main menu list items, editable shortcuts in the main menu, 32 bit alpha transparency for icons and theme/WPS images. On the audio side of things, downmixing multichannel FLAC files to stereo is now supported.

Read the full changelog here: Rockbox 3.11 release notes – or download it right away: Rockbox 3.11 download

Update: Rockbox 3.11.2 maintenance release is out – this fixes some bugs with Sansa radio tuner chips and a boot freeze issue with the M:Robe 100.