Tag Archives for " Apple "

December 28, 2016

2016 Music Tech Report Card

Music Tech Report CardTechnology moves ahead, sometimes quickly and sometimes more slowly than we would like. That said, we’re all beholden to it more than ever, and that trend shows no letting up. Because tech is such a big part of our lives, here’s a report card on some of the tech products, companies and issues from 2016.

Apple

Another year has gone by and our favorite company has again failed to deliver on a new Mac Pro. The company seems to be fixated on iPhones these days, which brings in way more revenue, but Apple’s resurgence was on the backs of the creatives, and it would be a shame if we were ultimately abandoned. That said, there’s a lot of DAWs out there still running on iMacs and older towers, so that says a lot about Apple’s product lifespan.

GRADE: D+

 

Avid

Depending upon which end of the market you’re in, Avid is either the devil or the savior. If you’re in post-production, the new hardware and Pro Tools features are just what you need. If you’re in music, you’re probably hating the yearly subscription that you have to pay just for the privilege of using your DAW. And then there’s the company, which seems to be more aware of its stockholders than customers, but at least the new hardware products are pretty slick.

GRADE: C-

 

DAWs

Digital Audio Workstations are getting more and more sophisticated, and the differences between them are beginning to blur. That said, most concentrate on music creation, and few look at postproduction, which means that Pro Tools is still king of the hill in that realm. I can’t help but feel that PT’s lead is tenuous though, and its users would jump to another DAW in a flash if and when a suitable alternative finally appears. This might have graded higher on this report card if the next great DAW was clearly on the horizon

GRADE: B

 

Plugins

The next generation of plugins are upon us, and this time a lot of the thinking is being done for us with automatic adjustments. Plugs like iZotope Neutron and Soundways Reveal and Low Leveler are a big step in the right direction when put in capable hands (and that’s the caveat).

GRADE: A

 

Microphone Modelers

Once looked upon as a marketing gimmick, mic modelers like the Slate VMS and Townsend Labs Sphere are proving that they’re a real alternative to the classic mics that most of us can’t afford. These are real tools, not toys.

GRADE: A

 

Amp Emulators

The guitar amp’s days are numbered as amplifier emulators are now so good that even seasoned pros with huge amp collections use them instead of the real thing. And with in-ear monitors so prevalent on stage, there’s no need to move air any more. A decade from now, a generation of guitar players and engineers may not like the sounds they hear coming from a real amplifier compared to a hardware or software emulator. Line 6 Matrix and BluGuitar Amp 1 may be the final pieces to this major transition.

Grade: A

 

Tablets

There was a lot of high hopes for the tablet to replace the laptop, but in most cases, it’s just not possible. The iPad especially is a great output device, but not so great for input. Microsoft’s Surface fares a little better, but the possibilities originally envisioned just haven’t materialized. That said, Avid’s Dock does a good job making it do what it does best.

GRADE: C

 

Smart Phones

While a good portion of the world relies on their smart phone for much more than communication, it still remains a flawed device. It’s a lot slower than a laptop (drives me crazy), and like the tablet, it’s a much better output device than input. While there are a few pro applications where it shines (tuner, bpm calculations, remote control of cue mix), it still hasn’t lived up to its potential in the professional realm.

GRADE: B

 

Virtual Reality

Everyone thought that this would be the year, and especially the Holiday, where VR took off. Too bad that’s not been the case. VR has a lot of potential, and from an audio standpoint, there are a lot of great tools being developed, so there’s hope. My feeling is that Augmented Reality (AR) will end up being the killer app though. The good news is that there should be a lot more interesting work for audio professionals based around this technology.

GRADE: B

Undoubtedly there are some things I missed in this year’s report card, and remember that the grades are strictly how I see it, but I come away generally optimistic on the direction that music tech is going. I’d say the future is bright indeed for tech in 2017.

Any additions?

The iPhone Headphone Jack Sails Into The Sunset, And We Should All Be Happy

headphone jack plugAs usual, rumors abound about Apple’s upcoming iPhone 7 release, but what seems to be getting the most attention is a piece of ancient tech history that the company appears to be leaving behind – the standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack. While there’s a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the media over this issue, I say, good riddance to this vile piece of primitive technology, and thank you Apple, for being rid of it.

Apple, of course, has a history for leaving pieces of tech behind before the competition, and we’re all better because of it. Remember the Sony floppy disc? How about the CD/DVD drive? How about VGA ports (among many other communication ports that no longer appear on Apple gear)? Everyone complained about these being left off the then latest unit, only to forget they even existed about a half-second after they got used to whatever new alternative was introduced. So it will be with headphone jack on the iPhone as well.

Yet I can hear your screams already. “What will I do with my expensive headphones/earbuds that have the standard connector?” Just like in all connector transitions before, there will be 3.5mm to Lightning port adapters that will nicely take care of that. You think Apple didn’t consider this, especially when it owns a headphone company?

The truth of the matter is that the headphone jack has long been the weak link of the chain in what was otherwise a beautifully designed piece of technology. It doesn’t take much to break it, and even if it’s not broken, a little dirt can make it unusable as well. It’s a wonder such a fragile piece of mechanics works as well as it does in the first place anyway. Time for something new.

There’s actually a lot to like about Apple’s headphone transition to the digital Lightning connector. First is the fact that it promises to be more robust since there are fewer moving mechanical parts involved. Second is that it will now allow an almost end to end digital signal to be available, moving the digital to analog convertor into the headphones, which has the benefits of a potentially better convertor, and eliminating any cable loss or interference in the analog domain. Seems like a win to me.

Sure, this means that soon we’ll be buying new headphones with either Bluetooth or built-in digital to analog convertors to accommodate our new phones, but is that such a bad thing if the quality is better? Basic headphone design hasn’t changed all that much over the years (although that’s changing), and this might give it the kick in the pants to do so in a bigger way. [Read more on Forbes]

July 5, 2016

The Apple I/O Death Chart

old iMac portsMany of us rely on Apple computers as our workstations, which means that we have to upgrade every few years to keep up with the technology and horsepower available (same on the PC side actually). Apple has always led the way with new technology, but it’s also in the forefront of booting old tech to the curb before the rest of the industry as well. Here’s a great chart courtesy of The Verge that illustrates this perfectly. The Apple I/O Death Chart shows an impressive array of ports that have fallen by the wayside.

apple-death-chart

As you can see, the floppy disc drive, VGA port, CD/DVD drive and SCSI were just some of the ports that Apple killed off before anyone else. Now it’s been rumored that Apple will soon do away with the 1/8th inch headphone jack in favor of using the Lightning port on the upcoming iPhone 7. Of course, the USB-C port on the latest Macbook laptops have replaced the power, Display Port, Firewire and HDMI jacks on previous models.

While this is supposed to make it more convenient for most users, pro users suffer as we have lots of peripherals and interfaces using the old technology that a new computer might not support. That means it’s off to buying either a host of unexpected new gear with compatible ports or some expensive adapters.

That said, I don’t know anyone who’d trade in their Thunderbolt interface for SCSI, or HDMI for VGA, or go back to floppy or Jazz drives for storage.

Thunderbolt may be an exception. It’s fast and in theory more practical to implement, but the cables are expensive (mostly because there’s intelligence built in) and you never seem to have enough ports.

So check out the Apple I/O Death Chart with a nostalgic eye and know that we’re part of an industry where things constantly change, evolve, morph, transform and hopefully, improve. One last thing to keep in mind, Apple’s I/O standards last about 15 years, so the 1/8th inch headphone jack is way beyond it’s lifespan.