I recently did a screen recording to show some friends my desktop customizations I did using Rainmeter and Wallpaper Engine (perhaps I will create a post about that on this blog later). The background music that was playing in the video was Color Source’s remix of The Girl (featuring Cozi Zuehlsdorff) by Hellberg. A friend sent me a text message asking what the song was because it was so good–I agree!
Color Source takes a decent song and makes it absolutely fantastic. The Girl starts off with slow, calm ocean waves crawling up and down the shore. Soft synth and clean vocals enter about twenty seconds in, with a simple rhythm following shortly after. Over the course of the next minute, the song builds elements by layering percussion and additional sound samples until the verse transitions to the drop–which is…hard to describe, but great.
The song slows back down for another verse round before building again. All 4:09 of this song is great and it remains among one of my favorites in my library.
Color Source is the stage name of Daniel Kim–dance, electronic, and future bass remix master–who is signed to Monstercat and Simplify and is most well-known for this track and his Terms and Conditions track featuring Ashely Apollodor.
If you’re looking for an electronic track to groove to featuring a great vocalism, nice rhythm, and a pretty good drop, this might just be the track for you. Give the snippet a listen above or find it on Spotify.
“Almost Like Being In Love” is the fourth track on the album Red Garland’s Piano. This 4m 50s track has a bit of a lower-fidelity feel with the record white noise in the background, the that does not detract from this gem of a song.
Red Garland’s Bio from Spotify:
Red Garland mixed together the usual influences of his generation (Nat Cole, Bud Powell, and Ahmad Jamal) into his own distinctive approach; Garland’s block chords themselves became influential on the players of the 1960s. He started out playing clarinet and alto, switching to piano when he was 18. During 1946-1955, he worked steadily in New York and Philadelphia, backing such major players as Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Roy Eldridge, but still remaining fairly obscure.
That changed when he became a member of the classic Miles Davis Quintent (1955-1958), heading a rhythm section that also included Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.
After leaving Miles, Garland had his own popular trio and recorded very frequently for Prestige, Jazzland, and Moddsville during 1956-1962.
The pianist eventually returned to Texas and was in semi-retirement, but came back gradually in the 1970s, recording for MPS (1971) and Galaxy (1977-1979) before retiring again.
~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
Upbeat piano, laid-back percussion, and moseying bass keep your attention in what has become one of my favorite songs to enjoy while writing or studying. It is a very playful song that will lift your spirits and put you in a good mood. Its…almost like being in love!
I picked up the Sabaj PHA2 headphone amplifier a week or two ago and figured now would be a good time to do some first impressions of the device. This little guy can be picked up on Amazon for about $50-60 and provides some powerful, smooth audio for no too much coin…
I picked up the Sabaj PHA2 headphone amplifier a week or two ago and figured now would be a good time to do some first impressions of the device. This little guy can be picked up on Amazon for about $50-60 and provides some powerful, smooth audio for not too much coin.
The front of the device features a standard 3.5 mm low-impedance stereo audio-out jack for your headphones, in-ear monitors, or earbuds; a neighboring 1/4″ high-impedance stereo audio-out jack complements the aforementioned by providing an outlet for nearly all audio listening devices. Audio output from the quarter-inch jack is much, much louder and cleaner than the eighth-inch jack; after a little research and talkin to some folks on Reddit, I found that the jack in use in the photo has a large resistor on the board behind its function, thus degrading the sound a bit–whereas the larger output does not have the same issue. Moving on. The adjustment knob is at the right, and is pretty smooth-turning. Coming from the NTK059, the the knob adjusts more slowly than the NTK (you can turn both 3 degrees, and the NTK will get much louder as opposed to the amplification provided by the same 3 degrees turned on the PHA2). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the NTK’s knob feels overly-sensitive after much use. Finally, the power button is located at the left of the device. It clicks when you push it; a red LED indicates the device is powered, but not turned on, while a blue LED indicates the device is powered on.
The footprint of this device is roughly 4 inches by 4 inches, so it doesn’t take up much desktop space, which is quite nice. The body is metal and feels well-constructed, but is not disproportionately heavy, which is nice.
At the rear of the device, we have two sets of stereo RCA connections–one input set and one output set. I ordered a nice, braided RCA to 3.5mm cable, as no such cables are included. The connections are approrpiately snug and have no play (no wiggle). The output jacks also allow for audio to be passed through the amplifier out to an external speaker or sound system. To the right of the input and output, there is a micro-USB port which accepts 5V DC input; you’ll have to use your own cable, as no USB cable is included. This port does not allow for data transfer, so you won’t be able to interface it with your computer over USB. At the far right is the regular power port which is also 5V DC. (Important note: Do NOT attempt to power the device from both the USB port and regular power port at the same time; it will fry your amp!).
After some usage, I am fairly impressed with the PHA2. While my KZ ZST Pro’s don’t require amplification, the use of the amp definitely smoothed out the sound, added some body to the bass region, and cleaned up the silence. My only issue with the Sabaj PHA2 is that at $50-60, there are options which offer more bang-for-buck value at only marginally more expense (such as the FiiO Q1 Mark II, which combines DSD, DAC, and amplification in a $75 portable device) . That said, if you don’t want to spend more than $50-60 on an amplifier, then the the PHA2 is probably for you, and I do recommend it.
Sabaj is a Chinese audio manufacturer based out of Shenzhen. Founded in 2016, their team of experienced audio engineers is committed to building favorable and quality audio products at low prices using internet-direct sales strategies.
Sabaj also manufactures the PHA3, which is a vacuum tube amplifier. There are some differences to consider here, which I will review if I pick up the PHA3 in the future.
In recent years, statistics and reports have shown that music downloads are on the decline (down more than 20%) as streaming services explode to provide music for many listeners (up more than 40%). While many people know of Spotify and Pandora–the two household names for streaming music–fewer know of the other array of services which are available to various niches. One such provider is Tidal. This platform is a “hi-fidelity streaming service” that offers lossless format streaming to its users for $19.99 per month. Given my love for music and recent discovery of quality audio, I thought I would give it a go. Here are my impressions.
Let me start by saying that I work in IT for a living, and that I consider myself extremely competent at opened online accounts. But boy howdy, was creating an account with Tidal difficult. Let me preface this part by clarifying that some of my issues getting set up were because was trying to get the Student plan (which is $9.99 instead of $19.99); this process uses SheerID to verify your student status. I’ve not had any issues with SheerID before, but however they tried to embed the service in their signup process does not work. I got an error code every time on multiple attempts, so I emailed their support. Props to their support for a rapid response and for their customer service. They offered to do the verification manually and apply it so I could get started. Once that was verified, the Tidal app said I needed to log in. I had signed up using my Facebook credentials (which I do not generally do), so I clicked the “Continue with Facebook” login button. The browser said I could close the window and return to the Tidal application, so I did as such. Hmmmm, no dice! I made several attempts at this, but no luck logging in, so I contacted support again. Apparently that function doesn’t work as she directed me to manually log in using my email address and click “reset password.” This sent me an email where I could click a link to set a password. Not a very secure service, especially for one that uses your credit/debit card… Regardless, I did get logged in–finally.
Browsing & Streaming
Again, let’s remember that I do know how to operate a computer and use basic applications such as this. Okay, back the my impressions. The design of the application looks familiar, due to using the same GUI (graphical user interface) layout as Spotify. A sidebar at the left houses your different modules of the application such as Home, Explore, Artists, Songs, Playlists, etc. The right 4/5 of the screen is the reading pane which displays whichever module you have selected. Search functionality is available. I went ahead and looked up a few artists–a couple of which I found–and listed to the tracks. Audio quality was definitely good, but nowhere near as good as I expected for lossless recordings played back on my KZ ZST Pros while using the Sabaj PHA2 amplifier (review coming soon)–both of which provided incredible audio while listening to other lossless sources. Still, it seemed a bit better than Spotify in terms of quality, but not by much. The real issue came when I clicked next to skip the rest of the current song and move on to the next song. The application did not like that. I got suck in a buffer. After 50-60 seconds, the new song’s album artwork showed up, but the name/artist never changed, and the old song continued playing. I ended up having to completely exit the application and re-open it each time I wanted to change songs outside of the automatic streaming. I struggled with the application for another hour and then called it quits.
After lots of trouble getting an account set up, trouble streaming, lackluster streaming quality, and multiple contacts with support, I can’t say this streaming service is worth $19.99. After much frustration over an hour and a half, I cancelled my subscription and contacted their support asking them to delete my account–as you cannot do it yourself. What a shame. I was quite excited to experience Tidal, but it ended up just a wave of misery.
What is your streaming platform of choice, and how have your experiences been? Let’s chat in the comments below.
We’ve all been there. You get a new set of earbuds or headphones, plug them in and pump up your jam just to be met with pretty flat sound. The bass is kind of dirty and the trebles are nearly indiscernible from the mids. Sometimes its even worse when you don’t have earbuds or headphones and are stuck with your laptop’s speakers. As much as we all love that old AM radio/old telephone sound, it’s not how music was meant to be heard. The good news is that there is something free that you can do to improve your audio to some degree without spending money.
We’ve probably all seen a physical equalizer before. Here’s an example of one:
Equalizers can be quite expensive, often require additional cables and hardware, and aren’t exactly portable. So what can we do? The answer is equalizer software. These programs and extension work with your operating system and audio driver to tweak how different frequencies in your music are presented through your audio hardware (speakers).
I primarily use two laptops as my daily drivers for music, and I use a different EQ program on each. They are both free and suit my needs.
Windows: PC Equalizer + Equalizer APO
“PC Equalizer” by Bilal Salem is a great and easy-to-use piece of software that allows you a wide range of customization. I am currently using version 220.127.116.11 which can be found at https://sourceforge.net/projects/pc-equalizer. It requires the Equalizer APO, which can also be found at https://equalizerapo.sourceforge.net/. $0 gets you 10 or 20 bars of customization depending on what you select. There are tons of presets as well as user-definable presets you can customize and save. This is a great piece of software that has worked great for me as I’ve created presets for each listening device I have
“eqMac2” by nodeful on bitgapp is the best free EQ software I have found for Macs. It only gives you 10 bars of customization in the status bar, but is free and extremely easy to use. You can also expand out to 31 bars of customization if you pop it out into an application window. I do like that it runs in your status bar at the top of your screen and is easily accessible/configurable on-the-fly without opening an application window (unless you want further customization). I am currently using version 2.2 which can be found at https://bitgapp.com/eqmac/.
If you’re into music and how it actually sounds, I highly recommend looking for a solution such as these to tweak your sound exactly how you want it. Do you have a piece of software that you really like? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you and look forward to seeing you next time.
Disclaimer: Use caution when downloading files from the Internet. Use common sense, ensure you have up-to-date antivirus software installed, and do not execute files you don’t trust.