Category Archives: World News

Otterbox’s Gaming Ecosystem Provides Protection and Peace of Mind

Whether you’re a serious gamer or someone who dabbles, there’s no denying it’s important to keep your gaming equipment safe and protected. Otterbox’s new Gaming line features products that are designed to keep your gear out of harm’s way while not affecting gameplay.

The OtterBox Mobile Gaming Clip is designed to securely attach the user’s smartphone with an Xbox Wireless Controller and features adjustable angle and balance. Compatible with both Xbox Wireless Controllers and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, the new Mobile Gaming Clip is designed to be paired with almost any smartphone, with or without an Otterbox case.

The OtterBox Easy Grip Controller Shell protects your Xbox Wireless Controller while also allowing for great hand-feel and control, as well as customizable options via multiple different colorways. Additionally, the new shell is built with antimicrobial protection.

The new OtterBox Gaming Carry Case is designed to carry Xbox Wireless Controllers and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, as well as the other products in the Otterbox Gaming line. With a rugged build that supports the controller and other equipment, the new carrying case additionally converts into a gaming stand.

For your console, the new Easy Grip Gaming Case features an ergonomic design that features cool-to-the-touch materials for convenient gameplay. Although the case is only available for the latest iPhone model, additional designs are on their way.

The new OtterBox Gaming Glass Privacy Guard provides peace of mind with scratch-resistant glass that provides screen tinting for privacy when in landscape mode. Like the Easy Grip Controller Shell, the new screen protection option is built with antimicrobial protection. The Gaming Glass Privacy Guard is available for the latest iPhone devices.

The entire Otterbox Gaming line will be available on January 25 via otterbox.com, the Microsoft StoreGameStop.com, and Verizon.com.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Otterbox website for more info and product specs
• Make sure to check out our Video Gaming System News page for additional gaming products and more info on the newest consoles and games

Keep reading for more info about the new line from Otterbox:

OtterBox unveiled a full portfolio of gaming products that will bridge the gap between console and mobile gaming experiences. Designed for Xbox, OtterBox is bringing to market new accessories to complement controller + smartphone gaming in addition to gaming-specific smartphone accessories.

With the advent of 5G and innovative new cloud-based platforms such as cloud gaming (beta) with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, gaming is changing in unprecedented ways. Smartphone gaming is evolving to merge mobility with the elegance of a console experience. The OtterBox Gaming portfolio enables you to enjoy your favorite titles around the house or anywhere on the go without compromising your competitive advantage.

"Gaming is one of the unique spaces where everyone has the opportunity to compete and connect, especially as we are physically distanced. This connection is enhanced with advances in cloud gaming and fast 5G networks," said OtterBox CEO Jim Parke. "OtterBox is the best in the world at providing trusted mobile accessories, and we're better positioned than anyone to deliver a premium gaming experience. This portfolio and our accessories designed for Xbox marks a major entry into the gaming market for us."

The OtterBox gaming portfolio, unveiled at CES, leverages decades of design expertise in mobile accessories. From protection to portability, OtterBox is offering an end-to-end gaming ecosystem that allows gaming to happen anytime, anywhere.

    • Mobile Gaming Clip:An ergonomic answer to seamless mobile gaming, the OtterBox Mobile Gaming Clip is great for at home or on-the-go. This adaptable clip attaches your smartphone to your Xbox Wireless Controller and boasts trusted OtterBox quality. The Mobile Gaming Clip adapts to your environment with adjustable angle and balance based on your preferences and lighting. This versatile clip can also be used as a table-top stand and folds down for compact travel. The Mobile Gaming Clip is compatible with Xbox Wireless Controllers and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, as well as the OtterBox Easy Grip Controller Shell. The Mobile Gaming Clip will work with virtually all smartphones, with or without an OtterBox protective case.
    • Easy Grip Controller Shell:Take your Xbox Wireless Controller on the go and protect it at home with the OtterBox Easy Grip Controller Shell. This compact gaming controller shell lets you personalize the look and feel of your controller while maintaining hand-feel and access to buttons and triggers. Get a pro-level experience with swappable grips with lasting antimicrobial protection.The OtterBox Easy Grip Controller Shell is available for Xbox Wireless Controllers.
    • Gaming Carry Case:Get your gaming up and out in no time with the OtterBox Gaming Carry Case. As the first gaming controller case designed for mobile use, this compact carryall guards joysticks and triggers from damage during transport. When it's 'game on,' the case converts to a gaming stand to create the ultimate mobile command center. The case is compatible with Xbox Wireless Controllers and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and designed to house all of the elements in the OtterBox gaming ecosystem.
    • Easy Grip Gaming Case:OtterBox is taking protective phone cases to the next level. The Easy Grip Gaming Case is made to game on the go. Ergonomically designed for entertainment-mode, the Easy Grip Gaming Case integrates cool-to-touch materials to keep the console protected and feeling great in your hand level after level. The Easy Grip Gaming Case will be available for the latest iPhone devices with more designs coming soon.
    • Gaming Glass Privacy Guard:Screen protection is now a staple for mobile devices. These increasingly expansive and high-resolution displays are perfect for gaming, but also prone to scratches and breakage. OtterBox Gaming Glass Privacy Guard is the first screen protector in the world to be optimized for mobile gaming. This scratch-resistant glass provides industry-first screen privacy in entertainment (landscape) orientation to prevent visual hacking while you game wherever you are. Gaming Glass Privacy Guard also boasts an antimicrobial agent that blocks microbial growth and will be available for the latest iPhone devices. 2

The OtterBox gaming portfolio addresses both convenience and performance with trusted products that meet you where you are and takes you where you want to go.

The OtterBox mobile gaming products will be available for pre-order starting Jan. 25 on otterbox.com, the Microsoft Store, GameStop.com, and Verizon.com. Get connected with OtterBox and get in the game.

Original Resource is HomeTheaterReview

Hulu Now $1.99 a Month for Students

If you are a student or have one in your life, you’ll want to take advantage of Hulu’s latest subscription deal. The ad-supported version of the popular streaming service is now $1.99 per month for students. Visit the Hulu website for more details and how to create a student account, and make sure to consider your streaming device options for the perfect fit.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Hulu website for more info
• If you already have Hulu or are inspired to sign up, make sure to check out the Watch Party feature

• Be sure to visit our Streaming Media Player/App Reviews page for more info on streaming devices

Original Resource is HomeTheaterReview

REDI Acoustics to Debut NIRO Room Design Tool at NAMM Show

NIRO, a new wave-based, small room design tool
NIRO, a new wave-based, small room design tool.

Anaheim, CA (January 13, 2021)—John Storyk, founding partner of architectural/acoustic design firm WSDG (Walters-Storyk Design Group), and Dr. Peter D’Antonio, creator of RPG Diffusor Systems, will present a new wave-based, small room design tool on Jan. 21 during the NAMM Show.

NIRO (Non-Cuboid Iterative Room Optimizer) is a SaaS (software as a service) developed over the past two years by REDI Acoustics. The wave-based, computer-modeling tool is reportedly capable of facilitating predictive, iterative analysis necessary to optimize small room design — for studios, home theaters, audiophile rooms, and the like.

D’Antonio and Storyk are part of the founding team of REDI Acoustics, a recently formed research company dedicated to high-performance audio and acoustic analysis.

WSDG Pitches In for Drive-In

NIRO’s developmental software platform consists of three modules, which automatically and iteratively optimize any size or shape critical listening room, both below and above the transition frequency from wave to geometrical acoustics. One or all of the modules may be engaged to address specific acoustic requirements for the high-performance listening environment.

The Geometry Module optimizes the room’s dimensions and the positions of all loudspeakers and listeners, by searching for the flattest modal response.

The Damper Module designs and optimally locates all low frequency corrective treatments now referred to as Acoustical Parametric Equalizers (APEQs.)

The Specular Reflection Module optimizes the room’s reflection free zone; identifies disturbing mid and high frequency response anomalies; and addresses specific degrees of acoustic envelopment.

The NIRO presentation is set to premiere at 3:25 EST on Thursday, Jan. 21 on NAMM’s Believe In Music virtual event platform (registration necessary). It will then be available on-demand for five weeks following that date.

REDI Acoustics • www.rediacoustics.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Yamaha Unveils MSP3A Studio Monitor

Yamaha MSP3A Studio Monitor
Yamaha MSP3A Studio Monitors

Buena Park, CA (January 13, 2021)—Yamaha has updated its MSP3 studio monitor with the introduction of the new MSP3A powered monitor speaker. Cosmetically, the new offering has a similar use of multiple input connectors, controls and compatibility with optional brackets, but Yamaha states the new monitor provides higher SPLs, lighter cabinet design and reportedly better audio quality—move intended to improve its appropriateness for users whose workflows include content from digital instruments and portable devices.

Yamaha MSP3A Studio Monitor
Yamaha MSP3A Studio Monitor

The MSP3A is the first Yamaha reference monitor to include the company’s Twisted Flare Port technology, intended to provide clearer and tighter low-end frequencies. The sound control technology applies aerodynamic sound analysis and flow visualization measurement to pinpoint and control noise-generating issues. Noise-generating air flow turbulence at both ends of the speaker port is reduced by changing how the port widens from input to output, adding a twist to it. According to Yamaha, suppressing turbulence reduces muddiness, lowering distortion in the low bass region, in turn aiding transition to the full range drivers.

Companies to Watch 2021

A built-in 22 W power amplifier is optimized for the speaker unit, comprising a 10 cm (4″) woofer and a 2.2 cm (0.8″) tweeter. The cabinet weighs just under 8 lbs., improving portability and making it easier to reposition the unit in different room configurations.

“Clear and natural sound are the keys to creating immersive and memorable experiences when creating music or video content,” said Preston Gray, marketing director – Pro Audio at Yamaha. “The expanded capabilities of this new reference monitor give audio engineers the right tool for accurately matching audio with video in a range of production applications.”

With an MSRP of $250, the MSP3A is currently street-priced at $199 per monitor.

Yamaha Corporation of America • https://usa.yamaha.com/products/proaudio

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Evertz Acquires Studer from Harman

Evertz acquires StuderBurlington, Ontario, Canada (January 13, 2021)—Canadian broadcast equipment company Evertz Technologies Limited is purchasing the legacy recording/broadcast studio gear brand Studer from Harman Professional Solutions. The deal, arranged for an undisclosed amount, sees the brand and all related assets and technology move to Evertz.

Studer has played a vital role in the development of recording technology over the years. First formed in Zürich, Switzerland by namesake Willi Studer in 1948, the company quickly gained notoriety for its tape machines, which went on to be used around the world in countless recording studios during the analog tape era.

Studer sold his company in 1990 to Motor-Columbus AG, which in turn sold the various Studer brands to Harman International in 1994. In the years that followed, Studer began producing broadcast consoles, including the long-running Vista line, and Harman eventually merged many of Studer’s operations with its other console brand, Soundcraft. While the heart of the Studer brand remained in Switzerland for decades, Harman ultimately shuttered the brand’s Swiss-based R&D and management offices in 2018 as part of the global restructuring of Harman Pro brands around international centers of excellence. That move came after Harman itself was acquired by Samsung in 2016.

Evertz says it plans to invest in Studer, aiding the brand’s development of “next-generation products” with an eye towards building synergies between its current product suite and the Studer product line.

In a statement, Brian Campbell, EVP Business Development at Evertz, noted, “We’re pleased to welcome this iconic audio brand to our Evertz family of products and solutions that has been serving the broadcast market for more than 50 years. We also welcome the many valued Studer customers who depend on Studer technology and reliability to deliver the best audio to their audience.”

Evertz • www.evertz.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Austrian Audio Hi-X50 and Hi-X55 Headphones – A Real-World Review

Austrian Audio’s Hi-X50 and Hi-X55 headphones at Catalyst Recording.
Austrian Audio’s Hi-X50 and Hi-X55 headphones at Catalyst Recording.

Microphones and headphones are both transducers, doing basically the same thing in reverse, so it should come as no surprise that Austrian Audio has brought its considerable expertise to the headphone market. The closed-back Hi-X55 and Hi-X50 (as in high excursion) share the same drivers, the same overall design and also a unique frequency translation that stands apart in the marketplace.

Out of the Box

Unlike many headphones today, the 50 and 55 have an understated, classy look based on dark greys, satin blacks and sleek lines. The padded aluminum headband is thick enough for rigidity, but vented down the middle (laterally across your head), allowing air circulation, more comfort and less weight. The ear cup adjustment sliders are firm, with only slight indentations that hold in-place. The oval ear cups swivel on strong pivots with metal hinges, and fold inward for compact storage. When in-place on your ears, the headband is positioned slightly forward on your head—an unusual feature that feels nicely balanced and encourages long-term comfort.

About the only difference between the 50 and 55 is the ear cups; the smaller 50 sits directly on top of the ears, while the larger 55 completely surrounds the ears. This difference accounts for not only the slightly heavier weight of the 55 (still a reasonable 305 grams, only 20 more than the 50s), but also the different frequency response between the two models (both rated from 5 Hz to 28 kHz). With a low impedance of 25 ohms, the resulting efficiency is a loud 118 dB spl/V.

The 44 mm drivers use a ring magnet system moving a copper-clad aluminum voice coil with a reportedly strongest-in-class magnetic field. The combination of power, stiffness and light weight makes for fast and accurate voice coil movements with very little “wobbling,” according to Austrian Audio, resulting in more punch and detail, and less coloration and distortion (less than .1% at 1 kHz). The ear pads are a soft, leather-like material over slow-retention foam with a large L and R inside the cups, clearly marking each at a glance.

The 50 and 55 each ship with a three-meter straight cable, terminated with a proprietary twist-lock mini-plug on the ear cup-side and an 1/8” mini-plug (with a 1/4” screw-on adaptor) on the other end. A storage bag is also included.

In our tests, guitar-playing and vocalist clients mostly preferred the Hi-X55 headphones.
In our tests, guitar-playing and vocalist clients mostly preferred the Hi-X55 headphones. PeterDraxl

In Session

There’s a certain solid-feel and balance to both headphones that impresses right off the bat. When mounted on my head, the weight distribution had no particular pressure points; they’re reasonably snug and don’t feel like they’re going to fall off of your head should you lean forward. Despite these similarities, these headphones create very different listening experiences.

The 50’s ear pads are not much bigger than your ear and exert a good bit of pressure on them, but they weren’t uncomfortable. I found I could wear them for fairly long periods of time for mixing, but for a long day of tracking or overdubbing, the pressure was a little fatiguing.

For such longer sessions—or people who don’t like on-ear designs (of which there are many)—the 55 shares the same comfortable balance but with absolutely no weight or pressure on the ears. These feel spacious, but offer a sonic presence that seems a bit further away and feels like “listening in a small room” compared to the 50. Despite these significant differences, there isn’t a right or a wrong headphone here; it’s purely a matter of personal taste and preference. I found most clients preferred the 55 for fit, like I do, but some preferred the smaller size of the 50 (especially my clients who like to use headphones on-the-go as compared to earbuds).

After a lengthy break-in period, I found the 50 and 55 to sound quite similar, different only in mid-range frequency reproduction. Both share a tight, focused and accurate sound that is quick, punchy and tightly damped, not at all loose or flabby. Dynamics are nuanced and imaging is clearly defined, with the phantom center sounding truly centered. The tonal balance is not at all warm here; it is more clinical and exacting, more flat than sculpted. The bottom is strong when the source material is strong, but there is seemingly no hype; if the source is at all lacking in low-end fullness, then the headphones scream “thin.” Likewise, if the source is brittle or thin up-top, the Hi-Xs will starkly relay that; there is no smoothing or sculpting to mitigate the problem.

Mackie MP-360 & MP-460 In-Ear Monitors — A Real-World Review

Dirac Live Room Calibration/Correction – A Real-World Review

It is in the mid-ranges that I find the Hi-Xs to be so different from either of the prevailing market trends (a scooped out at 400-ish “smiley face” curve with considerable hype on both ends, or monster bass boosts). In general, the mids sound flat on the 50 and 55, and it takes some getting used to; you’ll reconsider some of your mix moves for sure. Not only are mids abundant here, but the 50 seems to have a response bump around 700 Hz that I wish wasn’t there, although with a little subtractive EQ, I was able to get superb results. The 55, in my estimation, had two response bumps—one at 500 Hz and another at 1.2 kHz—that got in the way of making accurate EQ decisions, although in all fairness, with a little subtractive EQ, it sounded quite good too.

The Final Mix

I found myself loving almost everything about the Hi-Xs with time and extended use—the fit (even though I wear glasses), the soft ear pads, the long straight cable, the well-marked L/R designations (for the talent’s sake), the excellent punch, the note differentiation among very low notes, the precise transients. Over time, I did not get used that stark and unforgiving midrange (and the accompanying mid-bumps) and could not mix solely on the 50 or 55, although they sure could inform decisions with other monitoring. For tracking and overdubs, my guitar-playing and vocalist clients mostly preferred the 55 over the 50, while the drummers and bassists preferred cans with a more boomy bottom and less midrange response.

The inevitable question beyond “do you recommend them?” (I do) is “which model is better?” and that can’t be answered. For people who “don’t like things on their ears,” they’re going to get a better user experience with the 55, which feels really roomy and open, if a bit less intense. For those who want a little more bottom end, more immediacy and a bit less bulk, the 50 will fit the bill nicely.

Austrian Audio • www.austrian.audio

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

KONKA’s New Smart Home Options Provide User-Friendly, Reliable Smart Home Solutions

KONKA North America’s new Smart lineup includes smart cameras, video doorbells, smart plugs, and smart lighting options—all of which will be linked to the company’s KONKA OneApp for seamless integration and control. In addition, the new products work with IFTTT and are WiFi-enabled.

KONKA’s new smart video doorbells and cameras are equipped with 1080p Full HD picture, night vision, motion detection, live view, two-way communication, 128-bit AES Encryption, in addition to different video playback options and water resistance. The KONKA Video Doorbell has a 140-degree field of view, and camera-based motion detection. The KONKA Anywhere Video Doorbell is KONKA’s wireless option, and 130-degree diagonal field of view, and PIR motion detection. The KONKA Anywhere Cam is equipped with a 130-degree diagonal field of view, PIR motion detection with adjustable sensitivity, and the KONKA LED Floodlight Cam is built with dual LED 2,200-Lumen floodlights with an additional 90db siren.

In terms of KONKA’s new smart plugs, the Single Outlet Smart Plug, Two-Outlet Smart Plug Duo, and Four Outlet Smart Power Strip can all be paired with other KONKA Smart Home products, and can paired with Google Assistant, Alexa and IFTTT. Additionally, the new plugs are equipped with surge protection, the ability to set timers, and individual outlet control.

Finally, KONKA’s new smart lighting options include three new models—the Smart Light Bulb, the Directional Smart Light Bulb, and the Smart Light Strip that can be paired with Google Assistant, Alexa and IFTTT.

Additional Resources
• Visit the KONKA website for more info and product specs
• Read more about KONKA’s debut into the smart home market

Here’s some more info from KONKA:

Digital CES 2021 marks the entry of a new player to the Smart Home arena. KONKA North America, LLC, a subsidiary of the KONKA Group, a leading digital home entertainment manufacturer in China, joins the smart home market with the debut of its new KONKA Smart line-up.  As with KONKA televisions, the new KONKA Smart products combine Quality, Technology and Value to bring new options with high value to retailers and consumers.

At Digital CES 2021, January 11-14, 2021 (https://digital.ces.tech/sessions), KONKA North America is introducing a line of Smart Cameras - including Video Doorbells, as well as Smart Plugs, and Smart Lighting products. Other sub-categories, such as Smart Switches, will follow.

KONKA debuted in the U.S. market a year ago with three Series of Android TVs that underscored the company’s mission of offering consumers high quality products that utilize the latest innovative technologies while still providing amazing consumer value.  KONKA Smart is an extension of that mission and notably, KONKA has integrated features to tie these great products together.

“KONKA has developed a Smart Home line-up that includes the most important products in each sub-category and all of them are controlled by our OneApp with IFTTT.” said Scott Ramirez, KONKA North America’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing.  “We have created a One-Stop Shop opportunity that provides both ease of use and ease of mind.  Plus, our new CameraView App creates a unique synergy between KONKASmart Cameras and Android TVs, making the TV the Hub of the KONKA Smart Home.  This creates a great experience for consumers and new merchandising opportunities for retailers.”

The 2021 KONKA Smart Home
When developing the KONKA Smart Home, the company prioritized simplicity of installation, ease-of-use, and effortless interoperability.  Consumers entering the Smart Home category will find KONKA Smart simple, and those who already have Smart Home products will be able to integrate them seamlessly.  All KONKA Smart products utilize KONKA’s OneApp, eliminating any switching between Apps.  Plus, KONKA Smart products are Wi-Fi enabled, so No Hub is needed.  To ensure interoperability, all models work with IFTTT, allowing the user to create “recipes” and scenes with other products.  And, for convenient hands-free operation they all work with Google Assistant and Alexa.

KONKA Smart – Video Doorbells and Smart Cameras
KONKA’s initial smart camera offering includes two Video Doorbells and two Smart Cameras.  Together, these four models will meet the needs of most homes.  Key Standard features found in all four models are 1080p Full HD, Night Vision, Motion Detection, Live View, 2-Way Communication (with Mic, Speaker and Audio Noise Cancelation), 128-bit AES Encryption, multiple Video Playback Options including an SD Card Slot, KONKA’s elegant white with rounded edges Family Design, and they are all Water Resistant.  In addition, with the new CameraView App, you can view the feed from your KONKA video doorbell or smart camera on your KONKA Android TV.

The KONKA Video Doorbell is wired and replaces an existing traditional doorbell.  In addition to all the standard KONKA Smart camera features, this model includes a 140-degree Diagonal Field of View, and Camera Based Motion Detection with Motion Zones and Human Detection

The KONKA Anywhere Video Doorbell is a battery powered video doorbell, so it can be mounted almost anywhere, including by a side door or back door where there had been no standard doorbell before. In addition to all the standard KONKA Smart camera features, the Anywhere Video Doorbell includes a 130-degree Diagonal Field of View, and true PIR Motion Detection with adjustable sensitivity.

The KONKA Anywhere Cam is a battery powered smart camera with Quick Release Batteries for easy access.  By combining water resistance with rechargeable battery power, this camera can be used virtually anywhere, inside, or outside.  In addition to the standard KONKA Smart camera features, the Anywhere Cam includes a 130-degree Diagonal Field of View, true PIR Motion Detection with adjustable sensitivity, and includes a wall mounting bracket.

The KONKA LED Floodlight Cam combines the key features of the Anywhere Cam with Dual LED Floodlights that provide 2,200 Lumens. The floodlights are adjustable to match the light coverage to the specific need and are dimmable.  In addition to the mic and speaker for 2-way communication, this model features a built-in 90db Siren for added security.

KONKA Smart – Smart Plugs 
KONKA Smart Plug models include the Single Outlet Smart Plug, the Two-Outlet Smart Plug Duo, and the Four Outlet Smart Power Strip.  These three models can be used on their own, or in conjunction with other Smart Home products.  In addition to working with Google Assistant, Alexa and IFTTT, key features include Surge Protection, the ability to Set Timers, and Individual Outlet Control.

KONKA Smart – Smart Lighting
KONKA is also introducing three Smart Lighting models.  The focused offering starts with the highly popular 60-watt equivalent A19 and also includes a directional BR30 for use in high hats and a Light Strip for a wide variety of creative applications.  In addition to working with Google Assistant, Alexa and IFTTT, key features of these LED Lighting models include Dimming, Tunable White (from Warm 2,800 to Cool 6.500 Kelvin), and Multi-Color RGB capability.

KONKA Smart Lighting models include:

    • The Smart Light Bulb is a Color A19 LED Light Bulb with 25,000 Hour Life (or 22.8 years at 3 hours per day). At 9 Watts and 750 Lumens, it is a 60-Watt Equivalent Bulb.  This model will be sold as a 2-Pack.
    • The Directional Smart Light Bulb is a Color BR30 LED Light Bulb with 30,000 Hour Life (or 27.4 years at 3 hours per day).  At 13 Watts and 1,300 Lumens, it is a 90-Watt Equivalent Bulb.
    • The Smart Light Strip is a Color LED Light Strip.  It is 5 Meters long with 7.5 Watts, 700 Lumens, and can create 16 Million Colors.

Original Resource is HomeTheaterReview

John Redmon, Honoring Louis Armstrong | The Vinyl Anachronist

I review a lot of contemporary jazz albums that are tributes to jazz legends. A big chunk of the jazz canon is about honoring traditions and keeping those musical pioneers at the forefront of the genre. But have I ever reviewed an album from a jazz impressionist, someone who wants to do more than just remind me of a towering star? I’m asking because John Redmon, a Colorado Springs-based singer, pianist and composer/arranger, is a Louis Armstrong impressionist. On Honoring Louis Armstrong, it’s clear that this is a role he takes seriously. Founder, president and CEO of Reaching Records–a position achieved when he was just 16 years old–John Redmon has recorded an album that emulates a big show at Satchmo’s peak. He teams with the Thomas J. Dawson, Jr. iOrchestra, a smooth and opulent ensemble that can handle both big band jazz and modern R&B, to perform some of Armstrong’s signature tunes such as “What a Wonderful World, “Smile,” and the obligatory “When the Saints Come Marching In” medley. Does John Redmon sound exactly like Louis Armstrong? He’s an impressionist and not an impersonator, so Redmon succeeds at letting everyone know he’s “doing Louis” while still bringing something deep inside [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

TASCAM Launches TM-70 Dynamic Broadcast Mic

TASCAM TM-70 Dynamic Broadcast Microphone
TASCAM TM-70 Dynamic Broadcast Microphone

Santa Fe Springs, CA (January 13, 2021)—TASCAM  has unveiled its new TM-70 Dynamic Microphone. Designed as a hybrid of super-cardioid and dynamic elements, the TM-70 is intended to be resistant to ambient noise and used for applications such as live broadcasting, podcasting, film dialog and audio streaming.

The TASCAM TM-70 Dynamic Microphone is largely intended for use in vocal audio production, featuring a super cardioid polar pattern and a frequency response of 30 Hz-20 kHz to help isolate specific sound sources such as directional dialog. The mic’s super cardioid directivity makes it resistant to ambient noise.

TASCAM Launches US-HR USB Interface Series

Being specifically tuned and ready for professional podcasting, film dialog, broadcasting and live streaming applications, the TASCAM TM-70 is also intended to provide simplicity of use, allowing users to focus on performance as opposed to tweaking EQ settings or using isolation baffling.

The microphone package ships with a variety of accessories, including a shock mount to reduce low frequency rumble, a 6-foot mic cable and a table-top mic stand. The package is expected to be available Q1, 2021.

TASCAM • www.tascam.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

The Monkees, Marketing & The Instant Gratification Music Business

Last week my music buddy Frank pinged me about a special deal on Amazon for a live album by the remaining Monkees — Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz — for more than 50-percent off.  The album documents the so called “Mike & Mickey Tour” from a couple years back, a wonderful concert which I saw (many of the live images here are from that Mountain Winery show in Saratoga, California). 

When the live album came out early last year — called The Monkees Live: The Mike & Mickey Show — my only disappointment was that it seemed priced a little high at nearly $40.  So… I decided to wait a bit.  And then Covid happened, so my focus on buying the album fell from my immediate attention. 

Fast forward to last week and the texts from my friend Frank, and all those memories rushed back into my head. I realized Frank was right and that I needed to move on this quickly as a $15 price tag made it a “no brainer” purchase. 

Click “Buy.” Done.  And I figured I’d have to wait a couple weeks to get the album, all things considered.

Onward through the fog.

Much to my surprise, the next day I get another text message from Frank that his copy of The Monkees Live: The Mike & Mickey Show — which he had ordered the day before mine — had arrived already! And just about at that same moment I received a separate text from Amazon that my copy had been delivered as well!  I thought, this has to be a mistake.… But, sure enough I went downstairs and there was an album in a plastic baggie (no box) waiting for me.

Talk about instant gratification!  I texted back to Frank. We talked on the phone. We were both a bit gobsmacked by the whole purchase experience, which got me to thinking about some bigger ideas. More on that in a moment…

The performance on The Monkees Live: The Mike & Mickey Show is great and the two LP set sounds generally excellent, mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio. While I doubt this is an analog recording, Christian Nesmith — who did the mixing and who also played guitar on the tour — did a fine job sculpting a nice organic sound for the music which rings true. Kudos also to producer Andrew Sandoval who I’m sure had a hand in this authentic pop aesthetic.  

The point is, don’t go into this expect any sort of attempt at “current” production flavors on this album, an approach which marred some of the Monkees’ 1980s reunion albums. This is a very good thing, mind you.  The band is tight and the harmonies are spot on.  Ok, we’ll talk some more about the album a little later… Now I want to share those bigger ideas with you, Dear Readers and perhaps friends in the music industry.

Lets go back to that overnight delivery magic that happened for me and Frank. So… I paid $15 on Wednesday evening and received a physical album hand delivered to my door the next Thursday morning. That is a pretty remarkable feat when you stop to think about it. 

Now I don’t know if anyone has really tried to do this intentionally with a new release yet (if they have please let us know in the comments below) but it seems like there is a golden opportunity waiting here for the music industry to riff on.

It is especially stunning when you consider that one of the factors which many fans of digital downloads and streaming relish is the ability to “get” the album almost instantly. Instant gratification. Its the essence of the impulse purchase psychology. You see a cool thing at the check out in a favorite store and you get it without any heavy mental considerations. 

Boom. Its done. For the purpose of this article, I’ll call it the “Instant Gratification Factor” or IGF.

In the recent past, physical media hadn’t really been able to “compete” with this IGF, save for buying an album at an artist’s concert before it hits the market. So called “pre-ordering” aimed to address it but even that has become an issue as pre-ordered titles don’t necessarily show up early or even near release date. Heck, even many of us writers who get advanced copies of albums for review purposes don’t get the physical versions until the brick and mortar stores have been serviced! 

That said, imagine if there was a different IGF model put in place leveraging the giant that is Amazon (and maybe some of its competitors… more on that in a moment)? Lets start with major artists who have achieved a certain level of success…. lets say… Justin Bieber or Black Pumas or Lady Gaga or Cardi B or even Madonna and Dolly Parton for that matter.  Lets say they want to put out a new album in a physical form first and make it available to those fans before the digital and streaming versions…  What is stopping them now? Nothing, it seems… 

They could ship off adequate quantity of the product to the key markets where these artists are popular. Then, announce the album’s availability — at a reasonable price akin to this Monkees album, a loss leader promotion effectively in a limited window of availability — via text, email and social media promotions. Then fans would log in to their Amazon accounts. Click “buy” and within 24 hours the artist would have in place a passionate instant “street team” of serious fans who will be telling the world about their great pre-ordered new physical vinyl record album.  

A day later traditional radio gets the release serviced to them at the same time as the streaming services. And of course key retailers get their stock to accommodate the general public who are starting to hear all the buzz about this new release and want to check it out. 

If the record industry doesn’t want to deal with Amazon, they could probably set up their own “instant drop” delivery service via an affiliation with Fed Ex, UPS or even the good ‘ol US Postal Service! 

All of these key mechanisms would (a) sell recordings, (b) make money for the artists and labels and (c) stimulate word of mouth street buzz, one of the most valuable forms of advertising which can’t really be purchased.  

For those of you who may still be questioning the viability of vinyl (and physical media in general) consider these details from a report in Billboard at the end of December:

“As predicted, U.S. vinyl album sales hit another historic high, as 1.842 million LPs were sold in the week ending Dec. 24, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. That’s the largest week for the format since Nielsen Music/MRC Data began electronically tracking music sales in 1991. The previous high was set only a week earlier, when 1.445 million were sold in the frame ending Dec. 17.”

Those are some significant number. And to recap, the appeal of the large scale physical vinyl format to many customers is generally better sound than the most popular streaming services such as Spotify and a more engaging listening experience — I suspect there is a tendency towards more focused whole album listening (vs. individual tracks on playlists running in the background while doing something else).  For the artist, they make more money selling physical products than they do on streams and there is a stronger opportunity for artistic expression with the large format media size (as opposed to a mere JPEG file on a stream or a CD sleeve).

Food for thought…

Anyhow, getting back to the review, The Monkees Live: The Mike & Mickey Show is a great way to catch up on how this influential group sounds in present times — great vocals, great band, great arrangements!  While the versions of classics like “Last Train To Clarksville” and “I’m A Believer” are fabulous, the real stand outs for me are previously rarely (if ever) performed tracks like Carole King’s “As We Go Along” from the movie Head and Mike Nesmith’s “Tapioca Tundra” (B-side to “Valleri,” also appearing on the 1968 album The Birds The Bees & The Monkees).  It is kind of amazing to hear obscurities like “St. Matthew” (from 1969’s Instant Replay) performed live.  

Also, hearing the newer Monkees songs in concert is a fantastic thing, so look forward to the epic “The Birth Of An Accidental Hipster” and the beautiful acoustic version of “Me & Magdalena.”  I only wish there were more of those new songs on this album.  

To that, if you haven’t heard The Monkees’ fantastic 2016 reunion album called Good Times, you owe it to yourself to listen. Click here for my review of the album and here for the companion 10-inch EP of bonus tracks. It is a superb collection with new songs written for The Monkees by Andy Partridge (XTC), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Paul Weller (The Jam) as well as new classics by Carole King and Neil Diamond!  The title track is even a duet with Harry Nilsson! 

Good Times, indeed!

Original Resource is Audiophile Review