Tag Archives: audio

PTJ 243: Sound and Fury

After a discussion about the stirring audio mix used to back the film Dunkirk,  El Kaiser and J.D. make a lot of noise about this week’s technology news — including new government regulation around the world. However, if it all gets to be too much, perhaps a nice friendly drone will deliver a tureen of soup right to your door. Settle in and listen away to Episode 243!

Links to Stories Mentioned on This Week’s Show

Film Audio Discussion

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

Car entertainment systems have been around since at least 1930, when a brand new company called Motorola designed one of the first successful AM radio systems for an automobile. 87 years later, even base-model cars are on the dealer’s lot with streaming stations right in the console, USB ports for connecting music players and Bluetooth chips for wirelessly linking smartphones.

Tech companies are also getting their software directly into the dashboard to integrate smartphones and cloud services. Platforms include Google’s Android Auto, Apple’s CarPlay and Microsoft Connected Vehicle.  And Amazon’s Alexa assistant will be showing up soon in some Ford and Volkswagen models.

As they did with 8-track and cassette tape decks, though, carmakers are slowly phasing out compact disc players as installed features in favor of digital audio files and streaming connections. But if you have CDs you want to play — say, educational lectures you don’t feel like ripping to MP3 — and your car dealer has no aftermarket solutions to suggest, it is possible to hack together a system for $50 or less.

Most dashboard entertainment systems still have an auxiliary audio port available; check your car’s manual for the location on the dashboard if you don’t see the port. In most cases, you can use this port and a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary audio cable to connect the headphone jack on an inexpensive battery-powered portable CD player. Set the audio input on the dashboard to AUX and push the play button on the CD player.

Check your car’s manual (yes, it has one) to find out about the types of audio devices you can connect to your dashboard entertainment system. If you do not have an old portable CD player on hand, you can still find options at stores like Amazon, Best Buy and Target. Prices generally start around $20, but get a shock-resistant player because American infrastructure has seen better days.

An auxiliary audio cable costs $5 and up. If you don’t want to keep feeding the player batteries, an electrical adapter for the car’s 12-volt power port takes care of the juice.

Most new cars support Bluetooth wireless connections, so if you hate cables, swap in a Bluetooth adapter with its own 3.5-millimeter plug that connects to the CD player. Once you pair the adapter to the car’s Bluetooth system, you can stream the audio from the CD player to the sound system. Taotronics and Mpow are among the companies that make Bluetooth adapters for less than $35 and there are plenty more online.

No matter what you’re using to boom your tunes in the cabin, though, drive safely.

PTJ 144: Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!!!!

The focus of this super-sized episode of your favorite tech-themed, snark-infested web-radio extravaganza is one of El Kaiser’s absolute favorite topics in the world: audio. This week he reviews the rBlink Bluetooth DAC from Arcam and J.D. fills us in on how to use Siri, Cortana, and Google Now to help name that tune. In the news, Time Warner Cable finds a new dance partner now that Comcast is out of the picture; bacon, Batman and a teen, tiny Tony Manero get the emoji treatment; and NASA retires it’s railroad system.

REVIEW: Bowers & Wilkins C5 and RBH Sound EP1 earphones

RBH_EP1_02This week I took a critical listen to two relatively high-end in ear monitors from Utah-based RBH Sound and England’s Bowers & Wilkins, both well known residential and commercial speaker manufacturers.

RBH Sound claims the EP1 earphones deliver “a wide sound stage free from outside noise and interruptions”. While I found the passive noise cancellation especially good once the earphones were properly inserted, the soundstage was far from expansive. The EP1s sport aluminum housings, a gold connector jack, and a not so tangle-free cloth cord. A sturdy protective carrying pouch with a cord clip, a set of Comply foam tips, and silicone cushions complete the package.  The $149 dollar EP1s don’t feature a microphone or function controls but RBH Sound’s EP2 will offer those options — for $30 dollars more.

bowers-wilkins-c5_4fbae937842a4Just like their over-the-ear headphone cousins P3, P5 and P7, the C5 earphones from Bowers & Wilkins are sleek and stylish with a unique and modern design. They feature a proprietary cushioned loop that is designed to rest securely in the inner ridge of your ear instead of wrapping around the ear but I could never get a proper fit.

The C5s feature a tungsten design and a Micro Porous Filter, essentially hundreds of microscopic steel balls that act as a sonic diffuser to open up the sound and improve the listening experience.  I found the tiny ball bearings did neither. The sound stage remained fairly closed but more open than that of the EP1s. The Bowers & Wilkins $179 dollar earphones have a microphone with basic function controls for music and calls, replacement silicone tips in various sizes (no foam cushions) and a small padded carrying case.

While both the RBH EP1 and the Bowers & Wilkins C5 earphones are well constructed, you can easily find better sounding (and cheaper) offerings from ThinkSound and Logitech UE.

Be sure to listen to episode 76 of Pop Tech Jam (‘The Desolation of El Kaiser’) for my full review.

Sound Decisions

In his eternal quest for the Perfect Pair of Headphones that sound great and keep the background noise out of the mix, Pedro Rafael Rosado takes a listen to two new models:

P3

The Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones ($199.99)

700M

The NuForce NE 700M titanium-coated in-ear headphones ($75)

How did the gear hold up against the cacophony of the New York City subway system?
El Kaiser tells all in Episode 41.

Some Tips For Improving the Audio Quality of Your Home Video

Do you want a surefire way alienate the audience for your film or video project? Show them your finished work with sub-par audio.  As a rule, audiences seem to be more annoyed by poor sound quality than by bad video. It isn’t just professional work I’m talking about, try sitting through a 2 hour family vacation extravaganza where the audio is too loud and distorts or is barely audible above the location noise. I guarantee you that most people watching will be taken right out of the story.

There is no arguing the point, sound is the most crucial component for producing excellent video. Yes, I’ve been a “sound guy” for decades but not many serious producers or directors would disagree with me. Ignore the quality of your sound at your own peril.

If you’ve listened to Episode 05 of our show you already know that I took the audio for granted on a video I shot of my kids making it virtually unusable. As a reminder to myself and others I offer some very basic tips that may help ensure better audio quality for your home video projects.

  1.  Make sure your video camera has a jack for an external microphone. You don’t need an pro XLR connection. A 3.5mm mini-jack connection will do just fine. Using an external microphone gives you more flexibility for controlling the sound environment.
  2. Use a quality microphone. These days you can get relatively inexpensive microphones that provide excellent quality. A built-in camera microphone will give you decent quality but no where near what you’d get with an external setup.
  3. Decide on the correct microphones for your shoot and position them carefully. Clip-on microphones (also known as a Lavalier microphone) should be placed as close to your subject’s mouth as possible. Most Lavalier mics are omnidirectional, which is to say they can pick up sound from virtually any direction, so the closer you get to the mouth the more prominent your subject’s voice will be in the video. A shotgun microphone is a highly directional microphone with a tube that resembles the barrel of a rifle and should be aimed at the source of whatever you intend to record. A hand-held mic is just that, a microphone you hold in your hand that should be tucked under your chin anywhere from a foot to 6 inches away from the mouth.
  4. Always monitor your sound as you record with full-sized headphones and not earbuds. Full-sized headphones help block out extraneous noise giving you a clearer sense of what you are committing to tape.
  5. When recording outdoors use a wind muff. A “dead cat” wind muff can be especially effective. This type of wind screen is usually an acoustically transparent, synthetic fur material with long, soft hairs. The hairs deaden the noise caused by the shock of wind.
  6. If you do end up with sub-par audio you can always try fixing it in post production. Re-recording some segments and syncing it to your video is an option. Recording a voiced over narration track or using music cues can also help cover up bad audio.