Archives For Audio

logitech-airplay

Within the next few weeks, Logitech intends to join the AirPlay fray with their aerodynamic Air Speaker.

At its most basic, when talking audio, Apple’s wireless streaming protocol is conceptually similar conceptually to Bluetooth — beam your music from one device to another. However, as AirPlay rides ones wireless network, it’s not limited to the same short distances as Bluetooth (~30 feet) and more complex interactions are supported. From Apple:

AirPlay does more than just stream your music to external speakers. It streams information about your music, too. Song titles, artists, album names, elapsed and remaining time, and album artwork all appear on AirPlay-enabled speakers with graphical displays. For the ultimate sonic panorama, you can stream your tunes to more than one room simultaneously, so you’ll never lose the beat, no matter where you are in the house.

We anticipate the Logitech Air Speaker will land at a similar price point as the recently released iHome iW1 ($300, reviewed here). Unfortunately, Logitech’s solution requires the speaker to be tethered to power at all times with no indication of a rechargeable battery. On the other hand, for those streaming and/or controlling AirPlay audio via an iPhone or iPad, Logitech kindly provides a “hideaway” dock for Speaker configuration… and iOS device charging.

Logitech has yet to release pricing or itemize the Speaker’s sonic capabilities, but their Amazon listing provides a few more nuggets of info: Continue Reading…

Slacker’s got a channel strategy. Yesterday, the streaming music company announced it’s made good on a deal with AOL to replace CBS Radio as the engine behind AOL Radio. On the face of it, the deal may not sound like much, but according to VP Jonathan Sasse, the new agreement could double the amount of content Slacker serves to its listeners. In addition, AOL is not likely to be a “one-off” deal. Sasse hints that we’ll probably see other, similar agreements in the coming months.

The partnership program is an interesting one because of how Slacker structures its relationships. Slacker technology is the engine behind all of its partners’ apps (the company struck a deal with AARP this summer too), but partners can bring their own targeted content with curated stations produced by their own DJs. In the case of AOL, there’s a mix of Slacker stations and AOL ones. Partners can also bundle the service in different ways. AOL is sticking with the Slacker model of offering one free version and two premium tiers (coming in November), but other partners may package their services differently.

I had a brief moment of panic thinking Slacker might be ending its own, beloved, direct-to-consumer business in favor of partner distribution, but Sasse assures me that’s not the case. The channel program is a complement to Slacker’s direct retail business, not a replacement. (Phew.)  Continue Reading…

Slacker’s got a new gig going with Aha Radio, and it’s taking the music streaming service somewhere it’s never gone before… into the car. According to the official press release, Slacker is partnering with Aha to get Slacker embedded in after-market car radios manufactured by Pioneer. Slacker execs have been hinting at a partnership like this for some time, and it’s a logical next step for the streaming service. In addition to Slacker’s curated and customizable radio stations, the Slacker Premium on-demand service makes a convenient car companion. Why jack in your iPod when your car stereo already has access to a much larger music library? Unless your tastes are exceedingly eclectic, chances are Slacker can cover you between its on-demand and streaming station options.

Since I upgraded this summer to a phone capable of supporting the Slacker service, I find I’m pretty well set for my mobile listening needs. But, if I were commuting the way I used to, a new car radio with Slacker would be tops on my wish list. Aha says it’s working with automotive and CE manufacturers toward product launches later this year and throughout 2012.

Bringing tech to the corn fields of the Midwest, gadgeteer and cat lover Adam Miarka contributes to Zatz Not Funny when the overlord allows. When not on ZNF, Adam posts pictures to http://www.adammiarka.com and harasses the public from @adammiarka on Twitter.

Background and Initial Impressions

My new iHome iW1 AirPlay speaker system has arrived. And it’s probably one of the more anticipated AirPlay speakers to hit the market due to its portability. In fact, demand was so strong, the device was sold out within a half hour of going live on iHome’s site when it debuted August 31st. iHome took to Twitter and Facebook to calm those who didn’t get in on the initial launch, indicating a broader iW1 release on September 26th. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones.

As for an unboxing, the iW1 consists of the speaker, AC adapter, charging “dock”, remote control, and a set of instruction manuals. Upon first picking up the speaker, there is definitely some heft to the device – it doesn’t feel cheaply made at all and features a nice clean design. The instruction manuals are straight forward and easy to follow.

Click to enlarge:

Charging / Power

After I removed everything from the box, it was time to charge it. iHome has taken a unique approach to charging the iW1. Instead of having a plug and unplug the device, you simply remove it from the charging dock. Around the back of the speaker is a hidden handle to allow you to move the speaker easily from the dock.

Also around the back is a battery indicator button on the back which lights up the top panel of the device and shows the amount of battery left. Lastly, there is a power switch which can toggle the speaker’s power on and off. Continue Reading…

Announced last September and expected to launch in time for the 2010 holidays, iHome’s iW1 AirPlay speaker system will finally begin shipping in a a few days with orders starting August 31st at 2PM EST.

The iW1 weighs in at $300, the same price point as the highly regarded Sonos Play:3 connected speaker system. But there are some significant differences in how these two products move music around your home. The iHome speaker receives audio wirelessly directly from Apple products, such as an iPhone or computer running iTunes, via AirPlay technology – which hasn’t yet lived up to its potential. On one hand, you should be able to stream just music from just about any iPhone app to the iW1. Yet, you’re obviously restricted to the Apple ecosystem.

By comparison, Sonos streams audio from the Internet or home computer and you’d use your smartphone as a remote (if you so choose) – including Android-based handsets. In my household, this means that my wife and I can both control the Sonos experience from any phone or computer while the AirPlay experience is more a 1:1 relationship. Of course Sonos also provides a whole-home solution as you add more wirelessly connected speakers. But, as compelling as Sonos is, the charging dock of the iW1 appeals (see here).

Video of both premium wireless sound systems follow… Continue Reading…

rhapsody-tivo-error

About a month ago, Rhapsody updated their music streaming service technology in such a way (certs) that respective changes were required from home audio vessels. From Rhapsody’s forum representative:

we contacted all our device partners several months before this necessary change to our service, providing them all the info necessary to make a successful change. The vast majority of these partners made the change on time and successfully tested their devices (as did Rhapsody) and signed-off.

Thus far, TiVo is not one of “the vast majority” and remains non-compliant – resulting in the error message you see above. Rhapsody indicates support will be restored to TiVo Premiere hardware in the near future, which may have been corroborated by TiVo. But, unfortunately, Rhapsody’s rep indicates Series 2 and TiVo HD/S3 units are out of luck:

As far as the series 2 and 3 devices, Tivo has chosen not to update the firmware for those devices, meaning Rhapsody will no longer be accessible on them. This was a call that Tivo made, not us, and yeah, it sucks. Some manufacturers have run into speed bumps getting their updates out, and some devices have been end-of-life’d by the manufacturers. We didn’t know that the Tivo 2 and 3 series would be dropped for support until Tivo responded saying so.

So there you have it. However, given the relatively little forum chatter, I’d say there aren’t very many Rhapsody customers streaming music via TiVo anyhow and we know the Premiere is TiVo’s actively developed platform. Although this isn’t the first time apps have vanished… Yahoo retired their APIFrameChannel folded, CBS didn’t renew their Fantasy Football dealio, Disney movies and Jaman are no more, etc. Which sort of suggests folks stick with the cableco DVR and pick up a fee-free $60 Roku for continued app availability, development, and variety – if that’s a priority.

While it’s usually TiVo pitching the convergence of premium cable programming and over-the-top Internet content, Verizon delivers big today by bringing Pandora to FiOS TV. Motorola set-top boxes in California, Texas, and Virginia are the first to receive access to the free app… with other markets to follow. As you might expect, you can create or access your Pandora account, create or access stations, rate songs, etc. What you might not expect is that you can also launch and control the app from Verizon’s iPhone or Android apps. Yeah, maybe it’s not Netflix or Hulu Plus. But this is a positive trend and proves once again Verizon is the best “cable” company in my estimation.