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Music

The Award for Best Comeback Goes to Vinyl

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The Award for Best Comeback Goes to Vinyl

This weekend the music world will honor those who made strides in their community throughout the year.  With superstars from various genres in attendance one thing is certain, the biggest comeback of 2014 goes to vinyl records.  In a technology age where new formats are outdated before they even catch on, Vinyl which debuted in 1945, might have seemed end of life with introduction of 8-track and compact cassettes. It wasn’t long ago that records appeared on pop culture “Kids these day will never know…” lists with typewriters and rotary phones.  Yet in a surprising twist, with music sales dropping and paid downloads declining, music lovers are buying vinyl in mass numbers.   

According to Nielson Sound Scan Data, 9.2 million records were sold in 2014 alone, a 52% increase in vinyl sales since 2012.  This is even more impressive when you take into consideration that music sales are on a steady decline, dropping 6% this year alone. Wall Street Journal, contributing editor, Ethan Smith, reports the general public is changing their listening habits.  Streaming services have grown in popularity (up 54%) a figure negatively correlated with the dip in music sales. With 9% fewer paid album downloads and purchased song downloads dropping 12%, it is easy to attribute these figures to the streaming trend.  But if that is the case and everybody is streaming their music instead of buying it, then why are vinyl sales through the roof?

In an attempt to answer this question HTE (home technology experts) looks at the science, psychology, and investment value of choosing vinyl.

The Science: Analog vs Digital

Ask an audiophile what’s the difference between LPs and iTunes lossless files you have been downloading since 2001 and they’ll surely scoff.  For those of you new to the revival of vinyl, it has to do with vinyl being an analog medium.  The term “analog” might seem outdated, bringing back images of brick sized cell phones and heavy square televisions, but when it comes to audio, analog has its advantages.

An analog recording reproduces a continuous wave, the way sound occurs naturally.  When you hear the word digital, think binary, where 0 is “off” and 1 is “on”. Digital recordings sample audio, using values to record data (music). Because of this, some people argue that digital recordings can miss subtle nuances, specifically with regards to lower frequencies (deeper sound).  

When comparing the two technologies it is important to consider how the music was originally recorded and the medium’s quality.  After the 1970’s, a significant amount of music was recorded using digital technology, negating any benefit of an analog medium. However, in 2011, Variety magazine reported that vinyl’s popularity encouraged new and seasoned artists alike, to create analog recordings of their work.

It is also important to look at the quality of the digital file.  Early digital downloads focused on reliability and smaller file size, sacrificing the music’s fidelity (quality), but with significant improvements in codecs (the coding and de-coding of digital data) that’s no longer the case.  Similarly, a record in poor condition (dirty or scratched) will produce subpar sound.

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So when comparing a high fidelity digital recording, such as MQA, with a mint condition vinyl, which sounds better? According to a study by NHK Laborites, the majority of untrained listeners could not tell the difference.  Most experts, agree that the quality of audio equipment (as opposed to the medium) is the most important factor when playing Hi-Fi music.  As with all entertainment, enjoying music isn't a science, it is an experience; one that differs greatly between the two technologies.

Psychology of Vinyl

The psychology of vinyl is about creating a listening experience, as reported by David C. Giles in peer-reviewed article, The psychology meaning of personal record collections and the impact of changing technological forms.

There is no question that carrying hundreds or even thousands of songs on your phone is convenient.  Let’s be honest, nobody is going to bring a turn table with them to the fitness center to pump them up while they run.  For this reason, digital downloads and streaming service play a vital role, but it is a very different experience.  Digital music focuses on convince and saving physical space, while records are about physically connecting to a tangible object associated with music. Taking the LP out, and playing it on the turn table mentally prepares you for the listening experience.

Additionally, vinyl have the visual appeal files do not.  Stating, listeners “very much associate certain LPs with the sleeves– the accompanying imagery is all part of the music, not just the front cover but the inside sleeve, the pictures surrounding the lyrics, and other images”.

While music has been known to be very personal, it is also extremely social.  Listening to your favorite artist with others, reinforces your appreciation of the music, “there is nothing that galvanizes people’s commitment…like seeing and meeting like-minded others”. Gathering around the turntable, or meeting in a record stores is a social activity. A download is not.  

Finally, LPs are a visual representation of taste and preference.  Like books on a shelf, vinyl records provide insight into who you are and where you’ve been (mentally and emotionally) at different points of your life. As Giles put it, “If we choose to show off our musical collection then it becomes part of us, or at least it’s a visible part of us that we are revealing to the people who we welcome into our home.”

Investment Value

Nobody is suggesting you dessert your hedge fund and stock up on records, but vinyls do have both a monetary and emotional investment value.  Much like art, sports memorabilia, or even comic books, the sacredness of an item is highly impacted by its rarity. 

Like chasing a white whale, obtaining or searching for an obscure record is significantly more emotional than simply buying a song with a click. Not only does obtaining such a gem feel more valuable, financially speaking it has an exponentially higher worth.  For example, according to NME, the holy grail of records, the 1958 original recording of the The Quarrymen (McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, with Colin Hanton, and John Duff Lowe), “That’ll Be The Day/In Spite Of All The Danger” is estimated at over $113,000.

What to Do?

Enjoy your music!  If you are interested in collecting then obviously go for the vinyl, but make sure you store them vertically, in a climate controlled environment.  Remember, you don’t have to choose between the two.  You can have a digital play list you rock out to in the car and a physical collection you enjoy at home.   

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Tips and Tech to Help You Keep Your Resolution

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Tips and Tech to Help You Keep Your Resolution

Keeping a resolution can be hard, and while we like cool apps, sometimes it takes a little more to make a positive lifestyle change. Here are our tips and tech suggestions (yes, we did include an app or two) to help keep you on track while partaking in the most common resolutions such as eating healthy, working out, and getting organized.  

Let’s get it out of the way now… Calorie Counters, Activity Trackers, and Weight Loss Apps are great teach you already know about that will help you stay on track.

 

Eating Healthy

  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach
  • Make a list with apps such as Out of Milk to prevent impulse junk food purchases
  • Using an app such as AnyList, allows everybody in the family to share their requests with the person who does the grocery shopping
  • You could skip the store all together and order your groceries online
  •  Preparing food on a Smart Scale that ties into a tracking app keeps you from underestimating the amount you’re consuming daily
  • Use your tablet to look up healthy recipes or cooking videos, so you don’t get bored with your food
  • When eating out use apps like Food Tripping, InBloom, Clean Plates, or HealthyOut to find a restaurant that aligns with your dietary needs

 

Working Out

  • Your headphones should be like your sneakers: comfortable, reliable, and  fit your workout needs
  • If you don’t like exercising, make it fun by trying a dance class, playing a sport, or using technology such  as Xbox Kinect and an ultra-short throw projector to turn your workout into a game
  • If you are a serious exercise buff, Athos workout apparel uses electromyography (EMG) technology to record muscle and breathing activity to ensure you are preforming movements correctly
  • If you have an indoor pool, marine speakers and waterproof televisions can help make your time more entertaining
  • If a full pool isn’t in your budget, but you’re limited due to joint impact, you might want to look into an endless pool

 

Getting Organized

  • Pick one of these 100 apps to help with lists and reminders
  • If you get hundreds of emails a day, try an app such as Acompli, to get your inbox under control
  • Try reviewing your emails once a night to keep them from piling up
  • Commit to a cloud and stick with it so there is no question as to where that document is stored
  • If you’re always losing or forgetting items try using Tile or Trackr
  • Use sensors and home automation to take care of smaller tasks such as making sure the lights are off and doors are locked while you focus on more important tasks

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The Ultimate Audiophile Sonos Room Solution

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The Ultimate Audiophile Sonos Room Solution

Dynaudio Focus XD - a completely new generation of high-end digital active, wireless loudspeakers.

The Dynaudio Focus XD series is a completely new generation of high-end digital loudspeaker systems, offering both no-compromise sound quality and the optional convenience of wireless audio transmission. Comprised of three models, the compact Focus 200 XD, and the floorstanding Focus 400 XD and Focus 600 XD, the XD loudspeakers are actively powered and can accept high-res digital sources up to 24/192 resolution.

The Focus XD models utilize proprietary Dynaudio drivers that are individually powered by an amplifier rated at 150W that is specifically optimized via DSP for each driver and loudspeaker model. Thus the Focus 200 XD features 300 WPC total output power, the Focus 400 XD features 450 WPC total output power, and the Focus 600 XD features 600 WPC total output power. The amplification is fully digital, and thus remains extremely power-efficient, while also offering a remote-controllable digital volume control.

Each Focus XD model includes a direct, high-resolution compatible (75 ohm coax) digital input and well as an analog RCA input to offer flexibility without sonic compromise: You can play straight from any source connected to the analog or digital inputs, or via the optional Dynaudio wireless Hub, which allows the convenience of wireless playback and making it simple to set up multi-room distributed audio systems. There is no need for loudspeaker cables or external amplifiers, while a far better audio quality will also result. 

The latest True Digital Audio Amplifier technology makes the Focus XD an ideal choice for digital audio systems: Dynaudio's newly developed XD-technology sends out a purely digital signal from the instant you press “play” – whether on a smartphone, computer, streaming player, music server, disc player or any audio source with digital output. A DAC will not be necessary as the amp will amplify and convert a pure digital signal (at 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 or 192 kHz sampling rates) to music at the last moment possible - right at the drivers (which are directly connected to the amplifiers). High resolution digital files are transmitted from any digital source considetently and completely without any loss.

The Speaker Position EQ control allows the Focus XD loudspeakers to be optimized via DSP equalization for neutral, wall or corner placement in any room. Input Sensitivity is adjustable for analog sources.

The Focus XD offers hand-built quality and state-of-the-art performance crafted by Dynaudio in-house in Skanderborg, Denmark. Each model features magnetically attached grilles while the floorstanding models feature aluminum outrigger feet with retractable spike assemblies. By innovatively merging design and technology, Dynaudio has created a unique loudspeaker where both sound quality and aesthetics meet in perfect harmony. 

Focus XD-series Specifications

Inputs:                         1 Digital input (75 ohm coax) + 1 Analogue input (RCA)

Integrated amplifier:    

  • 2 x 150W per loudspeaker (Focus 200 XD)
  • 3 x 150W per loudspeaker (Focus 400 XD)
  •  4 x 150W per loudspeaker (Focus 600 XD)

Max resolution:              24 bit / 192 Khz

Wireless sound transfer:  Optional via Dynaudio Xeo Hub (max. resolution: 24/96)

Crossover:                     Digital with DSP

Remote:                        Included Remote with on-speaker display

Further specifications to be published at:  http://focusxd.dynaudio.com

Focus XD Retail Pricing (in USD):

  • Focus 200 XD:            $7,000 per pair
  • Focus 400 XD:            $11,000 per pair
  • Focus 600 XD:            $13,500 per pair

* Article content by Dynaudio via dealer newsletter.

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