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Music and Media

If I were to pick my top app to receive Chromecast support as soon as possible, it would have been MX Player. Despite a seemingly simple UI that lacks a lot of bells and whistles, MX Player can handle multiple file formats and sizes thanks to hardware or software decoding and supports gesture controls during playback and pinch-to-zoom.

However, Google seems to have a different opinion, and the first media player that got welcomed on the Chromecast was the relatively obscure Avia. I decided to take it for a spin, as it’s the only option that is available worldwide — Real Player Cloud doesn’t work in my region — and sends local files directly from my devices to the Chromecast without having to host them on another device like Plex‘ requirement. Read on for my assessment of the app.

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Although I’d definitely take a paperback over my tablet as my medium of choice to read a novel, one can’t argue the convenience of a single device that can carry all the books you’d ever want to read. That’s why I’ve been steadily growing my ebook collection — being able to carry every tome I intend to digest this year in a jacket pocket, just makes sense. The ebook game is now in a hot innings, with new heavy hitters like Google Play and even India’s Flipkart taking to the field. So I thought it’d be interesting to see what Kobo had up its sleeve.

Known for manufacturing affordable dedicated ebook readers, and for going up against the likes of Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes’ and Nobles’ Nook devices, Kobo has now made its debut in the Play Store with a bookstore-and-reader combo app that promises to deliver a comprehensive reading experience on your smartphone or tablet. With a wide range of titles, cross-device content and bookmark sync, and a clean flat interface, Kobo sure looks like it’s up to bat — but can it score a home run? I spent a couple of weeks with the app to find out.

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Whether I’m working or relaxing, tuning in or tuning out, music is a constant in my daily routine. As is typical of a library-based listener, my soundtrack is a mix of old favourites and newer additions, but usually, nothing absolutely fresh flows through my speakers or earphones. Once in a while, though, I break this mould.

There are several routes which new music takes on its way to my eardrums. I listen to local commercial radio, for example. Radio stations will always provide a wider scope of tracks than my iTunes library, but the variety of broadcast playlists can be a little too random — which is why I’ve also long used Last.fm. As a taste-based recommendation engine, it is as close to human as an automated platform can currently be. However, this intelligence can actually hinder the finding of newness. Presenting me with clones of the music I already like isn’t going to improve the breadth of my listening experience.

A new app named MPme Radio wants to find a happy medium between these polar opposites, marrying the unexpectedness of radio with the predictability of an intelligent recommendation engine. Given that this app relies on the content provided by third-party broadcasters, though, is a middle-ground nirvana really possible?

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It’s not often that I use an app that makes me feel like I’ve been on a journey to another place or another planet. It’s even rarer that I use an app that subjugates my entire brain, seemingly grasping it within some sort of odd control that I don’t understand. As I write this, I’m having problems focusing. Oddly melodic strings of notes bounce and roll through my brain and flashes of lights and stars keep whirring by when I should be focused on my laptop monitor.

In other words, I just played Biophilia, the most wonderfully bizarre and inventively original app I think I’ve ever used. Set to Björk’s music and based upon her latest album release (also called Biophilia), the sort-of-but-not-quite-a-game actually brings you to a completely different place in your imagination. It’s one I can’t shake. Read on to find out what makes Biophilia the must-purchase, must-try, must-play app of the year.

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IK Multimedia wants to bring music creation into the mobile world, and its suite of apps and gear is a fine step in the right direction. I say step, it’s worth noting, because neither the apps nor the hardware I’ve been testing over the past few weeks manage to produce the full package.

But it’s a great start, and much of what we’re about to discuss would suit both professional musicians, journalists, podcasters, and DJs doing some light work on the road and hobbyists or amateurs on a budget or just dabbling in audio production.

I’ll be running through most of the IK Multimedia apps for Android and iPad, while touching on a few worthy competitors and alternatives, and weighing in on the hardware we were sent for review — the iRig Mic Cast, iRig Mix, iRig Pre, and iRig Mic. First, let’s look at the gear.
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We inhabit a digital world that is instant, on-demand, and unlimited. It seems strange, then, that a broadcaster-controlled form of media, once the only form of broadcasting available, should still be popular. I’m talking about radio, a method of transmission no longer restricted to airwaves, thanks to broadband and the ease of streaming it provides.

Whatever the reasoning, a large number of us still listen to radio, and we have a massive selection of stations to choose from, including many from across the globe. This is great, but there is one respect in which traditional radio still trumps its modern-day counterpart — convenience. The reality is that it’s easier to switch on a radio and flick through the auto-tuned channels than it is to navigate many internet radio apps.

Maybe RadiON can provide an exception to this rule. Though it packs just as many stations as other apps in this genre — “over 50,000″ is the claim — RadiON has a vintage-inspired style, as well as various alarm clocks and music collection features, all delivered for the modest price of $0.99. Is this enough to provide internet radio with analogue radio’s advantages, though?

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The internet was supposed to be a democratizing platform free from limitations and boundaries. But these days it seems that web users are happy to embrace services that impose certain restrictions. There are countless social networks and blogs out there, but Twitter, with its 140 character limit, is the most popular — just like there are numerous ISPs to choose from, but even those that impose download restrictions remain popular.

Similarly, there are numerous ways you could record video footage, but Vine only allows for the creation of clips up to six seconds long. Despite this, it is proving incredibly popular. I had to take a look to find out what all the fuss is about.

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If there’s one thing I love as much as listening to music, it’s discovering new music — I’m always on the lookout for new scenes, sub-genres, and artists to feed my craving for novel sounds. Unfortunately, that habit isn’t very easy to keep up where I live — Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and Google Play Music aren’t yet available in India, which means that I can’t check out recommendations, playlists and new tracks from popular content providers.

That’s why I was glad to have stumbled upon Earbits Radio, a new internet radio app that brings you tons of indie and mainstream artists no matter where you’re located. The app has scores of channels with something for everyone, and even learns your taste in music from locally stored tracks on your device. But is it enough to help you get your melody fix? Let’s tune in and find out.

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As far as I’m concerned, there are too many ways to listen to music these days. Part of the problem is that most of us have way too many devices, and they don’t all cooperate. My Apple devices have iTunes, and I love iTunes, but Android obviously doesn’t. So while my iTunes library sits at about 10,000 songs, I have zero access to it from my Android devices. [Ed note: unless you use iSyncr to sync files between iTunes and Android.]

My $10/month subscription to Rdio helps assuage some of those concerns. After matching my iTunes collection to what’s available on the popular streaming service, it’s easy for me to stream almost all of my music to my Nexus 4 or Nexus 7 whenever I need it. Not only that, but I can check out new music without paying extra fees and I can manage my playlists from my mobile devices with ease. Maybe you don’t already have an Rdio subscription but your Android phone is your main music device. Is the Android Rdio app worth the subscription fee?

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Music is a medium I really love. It provides a great way to relax and makes long revision sessions a bit more exciting. Over the years, I’ve built up quite a big collection of music, however, because of the quantity of files and their size, I’ve never been able to have every song in exactly the same place.

The majority of my music files reside in iTunes — and that should be the same for a lot of people. With well over 10,000 songs in my library, iTunes is obviously an invaluable database, but problems arise when I’m out and about. My library is too big to transfer over to my phone and that creates a limit on what I can listen to when I’m away from my computer — which isn’t ideal, to say the least.

Style Jukebox is an online service, and an Android app, that solves this problem by allowing me to move my music into the cloud. After uploading the files, I can instantly access them wherever I am. Read on to find out more.

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