Walknote Review

Walknote 1There are thousands of ways to discover a new music, and the most popular services are already embedded into your most popular player. We all benefit from these discovery services, since you get the chance to find more songs from your favorite artist, or perhaps you can find your new favorite band this way. On the other hand, iTunes (for example, since we are Apple-themed website) benefits in terms of profit, and not to mention those large record labels.

Perhaps you’re not aware of this, but millions of dollars are being invested in music discovery databases which are becoming increasingly popular over time, since most of these now come with advanced algorithms which scan the music you already own as well as your listening and buying preferences.

Even though you find most of these discovery services embedded into music players, there are also some standalone applications which act as a tool to find new music. One of these applications is Walknote, and we’re going to review it in this article. Walknote is completely free to download and use.

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What’s interesting about Walknote is that it’s able to scan your entire iTunes library, and in case you’ve got more than one music library you’ll be able to choose the one you’d like to use. Besides this, Walknote can receive user input in terms of favorite or preferred music, so you can manually enter which artists you like listening to. Now this application will take all of this data into a calculation, and present you with hundreds of new choices.

Once you open Walknote (after you’ve properly set it up) you’ll get to an interface which somewhat resembles iTunes’ Music Store. There are going to be three most prominent suggestions on top of the page, and below that you’ll see two rows of artwork. The middle-positioned row presents you with recommended mix, and you’ll be able to choose a mix according to a music genre. You’ll see artwork area which is consists of four smaller artwork of the artists which are the most prominent in that group. The bottom-positioned row lists only new releases, so you can always keep up to date with your favorite artists.

If you decide to go into one of those Walknote’s suggestions, you’ll be greeted with a screen which shows a very large thumbnail of a suggested artists/songs, and you’ll be able to view YouTube clips, or iTunes snippets. As you can imagine, you can also use iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and LastFM to listen to that particular song, or to purchase it.

This application is all about music discovery. It takes some time until it learns to show more accurate and reliable results, which is very hard to get if your library is filled with only a hundred songs. In case you’ve got a massive iTunes library, than you’ll surely benefit more from this app.

Walknote can be very helpful, but only in some cases. If you’ve got a massive iTunes library and if you’re willing to fine-tune manual entry, than this app is for you. If you’re not so serious about your music, Walknote can be a waste of time.

Libratone Live Review

Libratone Live 2Wireless speakers are great addition to any smartphone since these days phones are capable of reproducing almost any kind of file, so you can get computer-like experience. By having a wireless speaker you can fully enjoy in your music, movies, games, and web-browsing as well.

In order to get the most out of your iOS device you’ll need to use AirPlay-equipped speaker which is Apple-made technology used to wirelessly stream lossless audio format to a speaker. This is not the same as a Bluetooth-equipped speaker which is able to work with almost any phone, and which can’t bring the same high quality streaming like AirPlay is able of.

In this article we’ll review a very interestingly looking AirPlay-ready speaker, named Libratone Live. This is a premium priced product (currently $550), so we were expecting amazing sound quality and modern unit design. Continue reading to see what we think about this product.

Libratone Live 1

Most premium priced wireless speakers tend to offer some kind of unusual and unique design, which clearly sets them apart from the rest of speakers in this category. With Libratone Live this is not an exception since this speaker brings very strong lines, fabric/wool skin, and very quality materials. Perhaps you can’t notice this from pictures, but this this speaker is quite large. Its dimensions are 18.5 x 5.9 x 6.0 (height x width x length), and weighs 14.3lbs – so it’s not only large, but heavy as well. Still, it manages to leave a very small footprint because of its rectangular base, and it’s also quite portable since it comes with a nicely designed metal handle. Also, Libratone Live comes wrapped in fabrics or wool, which are variations you can choose from, and this outer layer hides quality made wooden box which holds its internals.

Speaking of its internals, Libratone Live is equipped with 5in bass unit, two symmetrically placed 3in midrange drivers, and there’s also a pair of 1in tweeters. All of these units are positioned according to Libratone FullRoom technology, so sound waves are being sent in multiple directions so they can reflect off surfaces and amplify the sound. As you can expect from Libratone, sound quality is amazing, very clean and bass-heavy.

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This speaker comes with its own iOS app called Libratone which can used to adjust the FullRoom settings. This way you can precisely specify distance between this speaker and surrounding walls, as well as height from floor, so you can enjoy in the best possible audio quality. You will get to use several preloaded equalizers which are able to change output mode, and this actually produces noticeable results.

If you’re interested in purchasing a premium priced AirPlay-ready speaker, you won’t make a mistake if you buy Libratone Live. As we said earlier, sound quality is simply amazing, and the only thing you need to like is its unusual yet modern design.

 

Minx Air 100 Review

airmax 3If you’ve got a large iTunes library, you are probably keeping it in sync with your iOS devices. In order to fully enjoy all this music, videos, movies, and TV shows, you will need a quality pair of headphones, or even better – a quality wireless speaker.

During the last couple of years, a very wide range of wireless speakers appeared, which now come in various price ranges. These prices depend on product’s design and included streaming technologies. Most wireless speakers use Bluetooth connectivity, which is made to work with any Bluetooth-equipped device, meaning that you can use it not only with your iOS device, but also with any Android, Windows Phone or any other platform. In case you’re searching for a dedicated iOS-compatible speaker, you should be looking for an AirPlay product, which supports only Apple-made devices and premium streaming technology. This also means that AirPlay-ready speaker costs a bit more, so this could be a very serious investment.

We already reviewed a lot of interesting AirPlay-ready speakers right here on MacReview.com, and I warmly recommend reading some of those articles in case you’re looking for a quality product. In this article you will be able to read about Minx Air 100, which is a wireless speaker made by Cambridge Audio.

Minx Air 100 1

The Minx Air 100 comes with AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, which is a nice addition. For its price of $500, I guess that most people will buy it mostly because of its AirPlay support.

The first thing I noticed about the Minx Air 100 is its plain design. Premium priced speakers tend to have very original and sometimes lavish designs, which simply captures viewers’ attention. This is a classically design speaker which comes with cheap-looking remote, so design is certainly not its most prominent selling point.

Also, the initial AirPlay setup is somewhat unnecessarily complicated. Most premium priced speakers come with their own setup apps, which are used to simplify this whole process. You won’t find such an app with the Minx Air 100, and you’ll need to use its web-based management pages to achieve connection.

Minx Air 100 2

On the other hand, there’s an iOS app for this speaker, and it’s called Minx Air for iPhone. This app can be used to stream preloaded internet radio stations, and you can also add your own. As you can imagine, you can also use it to adjust the volume and equalizer settings, and that’s just about it. Once again, this app is very confusing and comes with lots of unneeded graphic elements, and simply said – it looks outdated. This is something that should not be associated with a premium product.

At the end, a few words on Minx’s sound performance, which turns out to be its best side. Just like you can expect from AirPlay, sound quality is really good and sound can be very loud for a speaker of this compact size. It is also able to produce very noticeable bass, which was a nice surprise.

With all this said, even with its excellent performance, this speaker is quite overpriced. Its design is plain and overly simplified, and comes with amateurishly designed iOS app.

 

JBL Charge Review


JBL Charge 2During all those years, one of the companies which kept quality of its products is JBL. In case you ever searched for a quality speaker system, you’ve mush came across a product line of this company, which is now trying to open up to new technologies and all possibilities which iOS devices bring.

We have recently reviewed one wireless JBL speakers, named JBL Micro Wireless which is now being sold at only $60. We also made an interesting review of its older product, JBL Radial, which is a few years old but is still highly competitive in today’s market. Today we are bringing you the newest addition of JBL’s family of wireless speakers, called JBL Charge.

JBL Charge is a portable speaker which could be also used as an external battery, which is unique for this product category. This product was presented a few months ago, and the press was very interested in all the features it has to offer, and it is time to put an actual device to a test.

JBL Charge 1

JBL Charge is barrel-shaped speaker, which combines traditional JBL elements with some modern curvature and lines. Wireless speakers come in all shapes and sizes, so it is important to design a speaker which will attract potential customers. Charge will surely catch you attention, and it will make you want to touch it. Its barrel shape make it highly portable and easy to carry around. Depending on a surface, you can place it horizontally or vertically. Its body is made of hard plastics with aluminum speaker grill, and rubber end ring, so it built for durability. And finally, it comes in three colors at the moment: grey, green, and blue.

Charge has ability of Bluetooh connection, so you can use it with your iOS devices, as well as with wide range of other mobile devices and computers as well. Pairing it very simple and straightforward, and connection is standardly good.

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As we said earlier, JBL Charge can be also used as an external battery, which will surely attract a lot of customers. You charge it via USB port from a computer, or a wall socket, and you can charge your iOS device using that same USB port, and the cable which was provided with your iPhone’s original package. This is not some small battery, but instead a massive 6000mAh Li-ion battery which could completely recharge your iPhone 5 about four times, or you can double iPad mini’s battery life. This battery is also used to power up JBL Charge, so in case you don’t recharge your iPhone, you can get astonishing 12 hours of music playback.

Speaking of output quality, it is standardly good for JBL. Charge comes with two JBL drivers, and two 5-watt amplifiers. Volume can be really loud, and bass is exceptional. For this price you can hardly find equally good output quality.

JBL Charge could be purchased for $150, and it surely is worth the price.

JBL Radial Review

JBL Radial 1JBL is one the most respected manufacturers of audio equipment, which is known for unusually designed speakers and very quality output sound. This company was always trying to keep up with the latest generation of iPods, iPhones, and iPads in order to offer new lines of standard and wireless speakers.

In this article we will be talking about a product which is available for a good number of years now, but which has become one of the flagship products of JBL brand. It has gone through some changes from the time of its original design, has some limitations, but is still selling strong. We wanted to take it for a try, and see if JBL Radial can still offer its full power in today’s market.

JBL Radial is made to dock your iPod in order to play music. Looking at it from today’s perspective, you can’t use all iOS product natively, but you can still use iPods as well as a wide range of other devices which could be connected via AUX input. A word of advice would be not to use it with iPhone, since JBL Radial produces some interference, so your mobile phone will be taken offline. On the other hand, you can still use it with mp3 players, game consoles, as well as with desktop and laptop computers. So in terms of usability, JBL Radial is still going strong and is competitive against new speakers.

JBL Radial 3

In order to start playing, all you need to do is to place your iPod into JBL Radial’s dock, and music will instantly start playing. This is not a wireless speaker, but it’s got some perks. It is very easy to use, can be mobile in some ways, and produces incredibly rich sound, which is really competitive against the newest generation of wireless speakers. Plus, Radial comes with video output and could be paired with TVs so you can watch videos and photos, while listening to music coming from this speaker.

In order to control your music, you can directly use your iPod, or you can use supplied remote. Remote is nicely designed and features 6 buttons laid out in 2 columns.

JBL Radial 2

Speaking of its performance, you will be pleasantly surprised the first time you play a song. Radial is powered by 60 watts of strong bass, full mids, and high trebles which sound good no matter what genre you like to listen to. JBL uses its own audio technology like low-frequency neodymium and four Odyssey drivers, which all results in full and very loud sound.

A bottom line is that JBL Radial features amazing design and very powerful sound output which makes it really competitive against other speakers on the market. You can find it at affordable prices from $100 up to $150, and it’s worth the price. In case you’re interested in this product, I would only suggest to check if your iOS device is compatible, since it doesn’t support a number of those.

Clementine Review


Clementine 2When it comes to audio players, iTunes is the first choice for the most Mac users. iTunes is one of the best players out there, and the newest version received very positive critiques. Mac users are actually forced by Apple to use its own music player, especially if you’ve got an iOS device. You will need to use iTunes to sync your library and create back-ups, as well as to buy and update iOS apps. This goes hand-in-hand with other branches of iTunes Store, which is altogether one huge ecosystem. Actually, iTunes Store could be a company for itself, since its profits are now counted in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Trying to create and then offer your own music player to Mac users seems like impossible task. Even though iTunes could use some improvements in certain areas, it seems that Mac users are simply stuck with it, but they are also very happy with all the functions it provides. Some applications found success in video reproduction (like VLC player), which is one of iTunes’ weak spots. Today we are bringing you a music player which was available for a while now, but just lately began grabbing some attention.

Clementine is a big project of a music player development, and could be used not only with Mac OS X, but also with Windows, Fedora, and multiple Ubuntu systems. Development team is trying hard to bring the latest version to each of those platforms, and this is one of the reasons why development is still very slow.

Clementine 1

Once you open Clementine for the first time you’ll need to set up folders which already contain music files. By default, Clementine will use iTunes’ library, but you can also add any folders on your hard drive which is big advantage over iTunes. Another surprising feature is implementation of online services like Last.fm, Grooveshark, Spotify, and others. You can even add your Google Drive folders, which contain music, and Clementine will nicely implement all your tracks and make them accessible from one place.

After you’ve set up your library, you’ll be taken to Clemetine’s main window. After the first good impressions, you’ll be disappointed with its old fashioned interface. I actually thought at first that this was an abandoned project, but as it turns out, it is pretty much alive and that’s why I was surprised that developers didn’t try to make it more competitive. After all, they are fighting against iTunes which is a beautifully designed application.

On the other hand, Clementine is one of those applications which puts functions over design. Once you’ve got accustomed to its interface, you’ll be able to fully explore its features. You can easily reorganize your tracks, find very detailed song and artist info, and even keeps track of your podcasts (which will require gPodder.net account).

If we don’t compare it with iTunes, Clementine is feature-rich and very capable music player. It brings all your music to one place, no matter if those tracks are stored locally or in the cloud, which seems like its biggest selling point.

Bowers & Wilkins A7 Speaker Review

A7 3Bowers & Wilkins audio systems are known for their high price, beautiful design, and impressive audio technology. Even though you can find some really nice wireless speakers in a range of $100 to $200, a quality AirPlay system will usually costs more. As it usually goes, the more you’re willing to pay, the more impressive sound quality is going to be. With Bowers & Wilkins this is also the case.

During the last months, we reviewed a couple of Bower and Wilkins speakers, and these articles are still available for reading. In those cases, rating were very good, since after all these are premium products, with some luxurious features in design and hardware. Today we are excited to bring you a review of A7 speaker.

A7 2

A7 is a nicely designed AirPlay speaker, which combines classic design with modern shapes and lines. It’s cubic in shape, but with rounded edges, and features striking aluminum wraparound which holds many functions within. There are some brushed chrome on the top, while sides are covered with black cloth. As B&W stated, the enclose is made of glass-filled ABS. As you can see, these are all thoughtfully used materials, which all needed to justify its price of $800. You will also receive an odd looking remote, which I do like, but for this price I would expect some kind of more exotic and unique design.

Aluminum wraparound line is not just an aesthetic feature, since it holds many functions. On the side, you will find a power button, while on the opposite side there are two volume buttons. Besides these, power jack could be found in the bottom rear end, along with a standard auxiliary input, USB port, an Ethernet jack, and a Reset Button.

A7 1

On the front side there’s LED light which shines in many different colors, and each of those colors signify some function. Dim red will show when A7 is asleep, while bright red will shine when it’s on. Purple is for AirPlay, green is for USB, and orange is for auxiliary input use.

In order to connect A7 speakers with your iOS device or a Mac, you can use B&W made applications, which could be found in iTunes. These apps really streamline and simplify this process, and you will be up and running in no time. There’s also old-fashion Ethernet connectivity, if you want to connect to A7 via its IP address through a browser.

As we said earlier, A7 speaker uses Apple’s AirPlay technology in order to stream music. By combining it with its impressive internals, this created amazingly beautiful sound. A7 uses a pair of Nautilus tube aluminum tweeters, a pair of 3-inch midrange drivers, and a 6-inch Kevlar-reinforced subwoofer with 50W amplifier. All combined, this creates very rich sound, which is easily distinguishable from less expensive speakers. Sound is very clear, and can be very loud, while bass is more than noticeable but it doesn’t affect clarity of sound.

Logitech UE Smart Radio Review

UE Smart Radio 2Logitech’s newest effort into music streaming and wireless speakers market came through a new line of products branded as “Logitech UE”. Previous tries to produce a mainstream product of this kind didn’t go well for this company, which is a well-known manufacturer of 3rd party accessories for PCs and Macs. By implementing a new brand, along with interesting new set of products, Logitech got much needed attention which made its Boombox UE, a wireless speaker, very popular.

Today we are going to talk about another interesting product from the UE lineup, which is actually a next generation of another product from Logitech, which was called Squeezebox Radio. New generation product is called (Logitech UE) Smart Radio, and brings some subtle changes to its design, and other more noticeable changes throughout its hardware and software.

UE Smart Radio is a music streamer, wired and wireless speaker, and alarm clock. It’s very light and quite small, and since this is also an alarm clock, it seems perfect for a nightstand.

UE Smart Radio 1

In comparison to a previous generation, UE Smart Radio bring subtle changes. Form factor is identical, along with materials, position of buttons, as well as its screen. Buttons are only slightly different and some typography has erased during the process. Inside, the main new addition is a rechargeable battery with a life of six hours on a single charge. This means that you use UE Smart Radio as wired as well as wireless speaker. This also means that it features 802.11g Wi-Fi connectivity.

In order to use this product, you will need to set up a server software, which needs to run on your computer so it can stream local music. This is also where some improvements happened over the previous generation, which is a bit more complicated to set up, and required a Logitech account. Still, initial set up is still unnecessarily complicated, and doesn’t work smoothly both for Mac and Windows users. There’s also Smart Radio Controller, which is an iOS application (there’s also Android and Kindle Fire versions) which controls this device. It’s nicely designed, and gives you quick access to all features.

UE Smart Radio 3

Just like Squeezebox, Smart Radio supports almost every popular music streaming service, amongst which are Pandora, Last.fm, Spotify, BBC Radio, Sirius XM, as well as your local streaming radio stations. It also plays several audio formats, so every music library should be completely compatible.

Just like the previous version, new UE Smart Radio continues bringing the same flaws. One of them is the initial set-up, which can cause a lot of trouble and stress for an experienced used. I would recommend reading tutorials and watching YouTube videos to see how to do this properly. Once you’ve set it up, it should work without any problem.

I also had another interesting problem, which I believe is a major design flaw. If you look at the pictures, you will see a large knob right below the screen. This surely looks like a volume button, and naturally it should be just that, but it’s not. This knob is used to move around the menu, while volume buttons are much smaller, and right next to it. I still haven’t got accustomed to it.

Jawbone Jambox Review

Jambox

JamboxIf you closely inspect Apple’s online store, you’ll see that one category stands out, in terms of popularity. This category belongs to those innovative 3rd party developers who are designing wireless speakers. On the first thought, you might be surprised since most of us believe that all we need to enjoy the music is our iPhone and a good pair of headphones. However, once you start using any of these beautiful speakers, you’ll soon realize what the real enjoyment in music actually is.

One of the companies who managed to design an interesting speaker, which also features some very innovative technologies and high audio quality, is Aliph. This company is already quite known in the music industry for their sound quality, beautifully designed devices, and expertise in Bluetooth technologies. One of their most representative products is a wireless speaker called “ Jawbone Jambox.”

This speaker comes in a very small size (6 inches wide/2.2 inches deep/1.6 inches tall – or 15.2cm wide, 5.5cm deep and 4cm tall) and it weighs only 1.5 pounds (approximately 680gr). This means that it’s very mobile and you can easily hold it in your hand, pocket or in your bag. Its rectangular shape and quality manufacturing makes it easy to transfer. Jawbone Jambox comes in many different colors and combinations, so if you order it via Aliph’s website you can match the colors any way you like. Also, you can choose from several textures which feature rectangular shapes, dotted or triangular patterns.

Jambox

The bottom and top of the speaker are covered in rubber, so the speaker will stay in place even if you like playing those high-bass tunes. On the top you can find three buttons: two of them are volume controls, while the third is called the Talk button and is used to answer and end speakerphone calls. This button is also used to trigger a voice command which will tell you how much time you have until the battery drains. It is also used to access DialApps which are actually specially designed audio apps. Some of these are Pandora (widely popular internet radio), ESPN Radio (which lets you stream live events), iHeartRadio (depository of online US music stations) and many more. This is a very nice and innovative addition which will entertain you for a long time.

Jambox is very easy to use. The first time you switch it on, it will automatically start Bluetooth pairing mode. This makes it easy to pair it with your iPhone, iPad or even with your Mac. You can also pair several devices, which means you can play a game on your iPad and listen to a gameplay sound which will stop when you receive a call on your iPhone, if you’re using Jambox as a speakerphone. You can charge Jambox via USB cable, directly from a computer or by using included AC adapter.