Sonos Launches New Controller

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Had a great time tonight mingling with like-minded music geeks at the launch party for the new Sonos Controller 200.  What is Sonos, you ask?  Simply it’s the best digital music management system out there.  It gives you the power to access all of your music in your house anywhere, anytime. And I’m not just talking about your digital music library.  The system comes with a host of embedded services like Rhapsody, Last.fm, Pandora, Internet Radio, Sirius/XM…it’s the perfect music tool for those afflicted with OCMD.

The original Sonos Controller was a bit of a beast.  So the Sonos Controller 200 (CR200) is a definite form factor improvement, and who doesn’t like that?  It’s palm sized and touch screen operated, just like an iPhone or iTouch. The company also has a free app for those devices that gives you essentially the same functionality, but that’s a little personal for everyday public consumption.  So the controller still serves as a necessary component to the system and I will be happily swapping out the 100 for the 200 in my home.

My Top 10 Music Discovery Tools

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1. Sonos 

This powerful digital music management system is nirvana.  I simply cannot live without it. Not only does it enable me to have music in virtually every room in my house (through zone controllers), I can listen to and discover a limitless variety of music.  Sonos manages your own music collection and gives you access to Rhapsody, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, Internet Radio, Pandora, Last.fm, and good ‘ol terrestrial radio.  And you can control it all from the palm of your hand.

On any given day, you will find me jumping from my ‘new music’ playlist in Rhapsody, to Sirius/XM Channel 26 for a little Blog Radio, then WOXY for some FutureSounds and occasionally, if I’m feeling uninspired and lucky, I’ll plug in a random band in Pandora or Last.fm.  I can’t think of any other tool that can allow you to do that in a quality listening situation (i.e. real speakers).

2. Rhapsody

I’ve long been a fan of the subscription-based music model and, therefore, have been an advocate of services like Rhapsody for quite some time.  The fact that, for $15 a month, I can play ANY artist or album I want, anywhere, anytime is priceless to me.  The integration of the service into Sonos is just the icing on the cake.  Whenever I read an album review or hear a new artist on the Internet, I just go to Rhapsody and queue up their album for a listen.  Granted, there are times they don’t have what I’m looking for but 80-90% of the time they do.  And that’s impressive!

3. Mojo

Another favorite music discovery tool of mine is Mojo, a free music sharing application that makes it ridiculously easy to share music online with your music buddies. With just a couple of clicks, you can browse, select and download music from any Mojo user directly into your iTunes library.  It’s a fabulous tool I use to troll my inner music circle’s music libraries on a regular basis.  I frequently hit their iTunes/Recently Added folder to see what new music they’ve uncovered and what they’re listening to on a regular basis. Music voyeurism at it’s finest!

4Songbird

Good bye iTunes, helllloooo Songbird! Developed by a group calling themselves ‘Pioneers of the Inevitable’ (love it),Songbird is a free open source media player and web browser rolled into one.  It’s like the power of iTunes and Firefox combined.  Not only can you manage and play your own music, now you can play the web too.  

For example, any media files stored on a website will show up as a playable file in the Songbird application that you can download or save to your library.  Even better, it has a built-in RSS subscription and MP3 file download so now you can subscribe to your favorite MP3 blogs as playlists!  Plus, it’s already integrated with HypeMachine, eMusic and InSound.  To get a better sense of all the features, watch their online demo here. The potential of this application is mind-boggling!

5. Internet/Satellite Radio

As unsophisticated as it sounds, I use both Internet and satellite radio on a daily basis to discover new music.  Mostly by listening to my favorite stations and programs, a few of which include:

6Blogs

More than anything, I rely on my trusted music blogs to keep me on the pulse. There’s no better source for cutting edge music information. Of course, there’s the tried and true, Pitchfork and Stereogum.  I follow all the blogs listed in my blogroll, but my personal favorites include: My Old Kentucky Blog, MBV and Aquarium Drunkard, See What You Hear, Hear Ya and The 405.  The MOG network is a good blog aggregator as well.

7Twitter

But why blog when you can micro blog with Twitter!  And I do so more and more these days.  It’s quite addicting and a great way to stay on top of music releases, events and news.  Hell, I even read the NY Times via Twitter these days.  I’m so ADD.  To efficiently use Twitter, you need to install an application like TweetDeck. Otherwise, it’s completely unruly. Get started by following me @indierockgirl, then check out this great Wired blog post on tips for discovering music through Twitter.  It’s a good tutorial!

8MP3 Services

I subscribe to both eMusic and Amie Street and find they have great music recommendations.  Particularly Amie Street. Their community-driven site has become a bit of an obsession and enables you to get music for cheap or for free depending on how much you participate with reviews, recommendations and such.  eMusic’s 17 Dots blog gives me the insider scoop as to what’s hot and what’s coming on the site.  Their subscription based music download model keeps me regimented in my music acquisition!

9. Music Recommendation Sites

Everyone loves Pandora, Last.fm, LaLa.  I personally find limitations with these algorithm-based recommendation engines. They are all fundamentally flawed to me.  I always find the same artists coming up over and over again.  I have been turned on recently to tools that take a more interesting approach to music recommendation.  One is We Are Hunted, the first online music chart.  It aggregates social networks, music blogs, torrents to chart what people are listening to on the web.  A true indie music chart!  

The other I’ve been playing with is The Filter,  the brainchild of rocker Peter Gabriel and uses a model based on Bayesian mathematics to predict the similarity of bands. It logs what you play, runs it through the maths-grinder, and pops out a list of what you’ll like.

10. Music Mapping Tools

Music mapping tools are a bit of a novelty for me.  I don’t reference them all the time but do play around with them occasionally, out of skepticism mostly.  I want to see if they can stump me. Try  TuneGlue, StumbleAudio, and Music Map for shits and grins.  After typing in your favorite artist name, you’ll be served up a visual array of related bands to explore.  Here’s a link to a whole review of music visualization tools if you’re into that sort of thing.

Happy hunting!

Music Lovers Gift Guide

T-9 days and counting.  Have you done all your holiday shopping yet?  If not, here’s some gift ideas for that music lover in your life (perhaps yourself) that might inspire.  I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing some of this booty in my stocking.  

 

Ticket Stub Diary , $12.oo

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This journal created by Eric Epstein has special sleeves to protect ticket stubs and pages to write down every detail from that epic Springsteen show back in ’84. Plus, it clears up drawer space.  

 


 

iDrops , $14.95

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iDrops restore the health of your iPod (all models), iPhone, iBook, MacBook (white), eMac, and iMac G5 by bringing back the plastic, polycarbonate, or acrylic’s original factory finish and shine. This two ounce bottle of liquid health will last you many and multiple applications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FM3 Buddha Machine, $25.00


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This ‘Soundbox’ from China is causing a senstation worldwide. The Buddha Machine is a hardware loop player, built kind of like a little AM radio (available in 6 different colors, shipped randomly), but without all the nonsense . It produces nine different looped ambient tones with a pitch control switch (kinda like a whammy bar), volume knob, and 1/8” audio output. Based on handheld soundboxes used for worship all over Asia. Great for music geeks and musician friends—the possibilities are endless.Brian Eno bought eight of them!

 

 

 

Mixa 1GB USB Mixtape,  $33

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Now you can give the gift of music in style! So novel but oh so fun, I wish I found this site earlier in my holiday shopping adventure.  Mixa is 1GB USB cassette tape (with a cool inny outie action), that comes with your own personally designed sleeve.  Make a party mixa, holiday mixa, thank you mixa, or a just because I love you mixa for that someone special in your life. They even have a money-back guarantee if the recipient of your love mixa doesn’t fall head over heels with you . (Though they say any love mixa holding a Lionel Richie song will be exempt.) What have you got to lose?

 

 

Griffin IKARAOKE V.2-U, $49.95

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Just plug iKaraoke into your iPod, cue up your favorite tunes, and you’re on. iKaraoke’s all-in-one microphone/processor isolates the lead vocal track and fades it, giving your voice room to make that favorite tune your own.


 

 

Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, $79.00


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Oh please, please Santa I’ve been really good this year.  Can I get this in my stocking please?! These nifty new earbuds from Apple offer pro audio performance, impressive sound isolation and a mic and remote, making it an essential accessory for iPod or iPhone users.

 

 

 

 

InSound’s Indie-Rock-in-a-Box, ~$100 and up (prices vary)

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Buy 10 or more CDs from InSounds Top 100 Seller List of 2008 and get 25% off and Free Shipping! A very cool way to give the best in indie music this year.  Plus they’ll even package them in a special box and tie it with an Insound ribbon!

 

 

 

Sonos Player, $999 and up

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The mac-daddy of all music gifts, this fellatio-worthy piece of music equipment gives you instant acsess to all from your music from any room in your house. Plus it comes integrated with Rhaspody, Sirius XM Satellite, Last.fm and Internet radio. What else could you possibly ask for?  I can’t live without it.

 

 

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Anatomy of a Remodel – Part Deux

Quite a while back, I posted some photos documenting the beginning phase of our living room update that included rewiring the room for distributed in wall sound with Paradigm SA-15R speakers and a complete overhaul design-wise by friend, colleague and renowned SF designer, Ken Fulk.  Well, I’m happy to unveil the result of our extreme living room makeover. 

I don’t know if there are enough adjectives to describe how awesome it is.  Suffice it to say, everytime I come home I still pause to make sure I’m in the right house.  It’s so sexy, hip and downright functional I don’t quite know what to do with myself.  Do I really live here? It is now my favorite music listening room too – as I sit in front of the fire and control my Sonos playlists with my iPhone Sonos Controller.  (Oh just stop me already!) Technology can be so good.

Speaking of music, I was going through my inbox today listening to some new tunes sent my way and uncovered this nice French electronica album from ElodieO that sounded perfect in my sexy new digs. She sounds like a trip hop version of Nico at times and a French version of Bjork at others.  I was intrigued to learn as well that Serge Gainsbourg and The Cure arranged some of the songs.

Listen to ‘Crazy‘ – a track off ElodieO’s new album, Stubborn.  If you like what you hear, go see ElodieO at The Elbo Room in San Francisco December 15. 

Listen to ‘Crazy‘:


 

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Before

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After. See that beautiful orchid? I give it 2 months before I kill it.

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Another perspective.

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The piece de resistance - my $100 Craigslist vintage sofa, refurbished and fabulous in mohair. I never gave up on you, my sweet sofa!

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Here you see the ceiling mounted Paradigm speakers.

 

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Sonos Unveils Free Controller App for iPhone

I just downloaded the free iPhone App for the Sonos Digital Music Management system today.  I didn’t think Sonos could get any better, but it just did.  

For those of you who don’t know already, Sonos is my favorite digital music management system, hands down.   It allows you to play any music you want in any room of your house from the palm of your hand.  You can play your own music library, Internet Radio, Pandora, Last.fm, Sirius Satellite Radio, access millions of songs through Rhapsody, and more.  And now with the Sonos for iPhone application, you can control it all with your iPhone.  It’s even more fun and functional to use than the out of the box controller.  Beautiful.

Check out this demo to see for yourself. 

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Anatomy of a Remodel – Part 1

Our living room has sat unfinished since the day we moved in.  And it’s all because of that couch.  I love it; it’s got that classic, vintage modern, low slung, sexy vibe. Adam hates it.  So we sat at an impasse for the past three years until we decided to call in the professional, Ken Fulk, to mediate and take this project to the finish line. We both love and trust his style and taste – as a professional and a friend.  He’s the best in San Francisco and has an eclectic, rock star style that’s hard to replicate.  So we decided his call was the final call on the couch.  The verdict?  I win. YES! Justice prevails….and perseverance.  The couch is being refinish and reupholstered as I write this.

So what does this have to do with technology?  Well, part of the overhaul of this room is the sound system. We’re installing new reference series Paradigm SA-15R in ceiling speakers for our Sonos system.  And since I’ve preached so many times before on this blog how important it is to have in wall speakers in every room to truly leverage the capabilities of the Sonos system, I thought I would give you an inside look into the installation process. It does require professional installation, but the aesthetics and audio experience are totally worth it.

Stay tuned for more remodel updates…

Cutting speaker holes in ceiling.

Cutting speaker holes in ceiling.

 

Pulling wires through walls.

Pulling wires through walls.

Speaker wire pulled and ready to mount.

Speaker wire pulled and ready to mount.

 

Paradigm Speaker installed

Paradigm Speaker installed

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Pandora Ranks as Top iPhone App

Techcrunch reported that Pandora is currently the fourth most popular free app on iTunes (behind Apple’s Remote, AIM, and WeatherBug), and has reportedly been seeing a new listener every 2 seconds. Usage over the weekend hit an all-time high for the service, with 3.3 million tracks streamed to iPhone listeners alone. Perhaps more impressive is the retention rate of listeners, who are averaging over an hour of listening per day.

The Pandora music stream is great on the new iPhones with the 3G and Edge networks.  Between the iPhone and Sonos Digital Music System, music lovers are no longer tied to their computer to enjoy the benefits of Pandora’s personalized music recommendation service.  Rock on.

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Sirius Left of Center Blog Radio

Nothing makes me happier than to start my day with a cup of Peets and a session of Blog Radio on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Left of Center, channel 26.  Monday through Saturday at 9AM PT, Blog Radio is hosted by a different indie music blogger who gives their take on the music scene.  Here’s the current line up:

They rebroadcast it everyday at midnight as well.  It’s a great way to discover new music. And yet another good reason to get a Sonos player!

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Sonos Digital Music System

Probably the most common question my friends ask me is how I have so much time to listen to all the music that I do. Well, here’s the answer: Sonos. It’s simply the best digital music system – period. It allows you to play any music, in any room, from anywhere, all over your house. (And it’s an excellent way to drown out the incessant whining of a 3 year old.) I can choose to listen to my own music library, any Internet radio station, Pandora, Sirius Satellite Radio or Rhapsody. You virtually have millions of songs at your fingertips.

I have this set up at home and in the office, so I’m constantly listening to and exploring new music without having to carve out a chunk of my day to sit down on my computer and ‘research’ the subject. Whenever I read a new album review, I simply queue it up in my playlist through my Rhapsody account (which costs you about $10/month to access to all the music you could possibly imagine) and play it in the background as I go on about my day.

It’s like having my own virtual radio station. But the best part is, if I hear something I like, all I have to do is pick up my wireless handheld remote (that I carry around like a newborn baby), check out the artist, click a button and add it to my library.

Voila. My music secrets are now revealed.

To learn more about how Sonos works, watch this demo. Do keep in mind that to listen to music in every room of your house, you do have to have speakers in every room in your house. Which is why I also highly recommend an in-wall speaker distributed audio system, which requires professional installation. But we’ll talk more about that in another post. Just wrap your head around Sonos for today.

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