In search of "A Map of the Floating City"

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I was very sorry when I heard that Microsoft were suspending their Groove music  service and migrating everyone to Spotify. The Groove player is a lovely piece of user interface design that makes everything else look a bit rubbish. And the Groove music catalogue seemed to include quite a few records that I really like. 

Take "A Map of the Floating City" from Thomas Dolby for example. Love it. Listened to it a lot on Groove. Not available on Apple Music. Or Spotify. I can't even find anywhere I can buy the digital download. Amazon have the CD. But it's 45 quid.....

It seems that there are a bunch of tracks and artists that I can't play any more because I'm just too far down "the long tail of musical taste". Perhaps I should get my record deck down from the loft......

Apple Airpods

Number one son told me not to buy them because I couldn't afford them. 

So I bought them. Go me.

I've got a book on the go, I'm working quite hard (for someone supposed to be retired), and there's a prospect of another book after this. And besides this was close to Fathers Day. Enough said. 

I wasn't expecting to be able to buy them in Hull, but KRCS in Hull had just received some stock and they did look very nice.  

I don't regret the purchase. The Apple Airpods are quite pricey (after all, they are Apple) but their integration with the iPhone and the Apple watch is very impressive. You don't "pair" them in any kind of Bluetooth sense. You just open the dental floss like box they come in and your iPhone asks if you want to use them. And then they just work. With all your other Apple stuff as well. You can also press a button on the case to activate pairing with other Bluetooth devices, but I've not done that yet. 

The earpieces look like slightly longer ordinary earphones, minus the wires. And that is very important. You don't realise how annoying headphone wires are until you get a wireless pair. There's no sudden jolts when the cable catches, or walking away from the desk and watching your phone being dragged off the desk onto the floor. 

They fit perfectly in my ears and I've never really worried about them falling out. Even when wearing them to mow the lawn. Your experience might be different, I'd advise you to try a pair if you're thinking about getting some. 

The headphones work well with the Apple Watch, although I have a bit of a fight making them work with the watch if the phone is nearby. 

The sound quality is good enough. More expensive headphones sound better, as do some cheaper ones. The earpieces don't block out all external sounds, but that's probably a good thing bearing in mind you're going to wear them out and about, and you probably want to hear warning shouts about oncoming busses. Apple happen to own a headphone company and so they're not going to make their headphones sound better then ones they want to sell you for twice the price.

The sound has an emphasis to mid and high frequencies, the bass is there but you won't hear it unless you're somewhere quiet. 

The earphones are powered by tiny rechargeable batteries which are charged from a slightly larger battery that lives in the little case they come with. The case has a lighting connector that you can use to charge it. The earphones will go for around three hours and the case can charge then a few times before you have to get a wire out and plug things in.

The earphones detect when you take them out of your ears, so the music stops when you stop listening. If you only take one earpiece out of the box you can listen in mono. Double tapping the earphone (which probably looks quite silly) triggers Siri. Each earpiece has a microphone in it and uses some fancy audio beam forming shenanigans to pick up quality sound. I used the setup in a conference call and everybody seemed to understand me. 

Of course they are expensive. But they do what they say on the tin. I've used them a lot because they just make using headphones easier. 

Make your sub-woofer sound better

A sub-woofer is a great way to give your sound system a bit more "oomph". I'm a great believer in having a sound like the house is falling down if the movie shows a house falling down. Ditto cars, rockets etc etc. 

Today I discovered something about sub-woofers which I thought I'd pass on. On the back of the sub-woofer you frequently find a tiny little switch labelled "phase". This is changes whether the speaker moves in or out when the sub-woofer makes a noise. It's important. If the sub-woofer is moving in when all the other speakers in the room are moving out the noise it makes will tend to subtract from the sound rather than add to it. 

So, you might think that you just leave the phase switch in the standard setting and never touch it. However, there's a bit more to it than just speaker cones pulling and pushing. Different positions of the sub-woofer will introduce different phase distortions as the various sounds all bounce around the room. So it might be that flicking the switch will make the bass sound better. It did when I flicked the switch on mine, and it's certainly worth a try. 

Buy The Disc

Sometimes the packaging is rather nice too.

Sometimes the packaging is rather nice too.

I may have mentioned earlier that I'm embarking on a love affair with higher quality audio. One symptom of this is the huge pile of music CDs that I've brought down from the loft to re-rip in a loss-less format. Another is that I'm trying to buy my new music in higher quality than the average digital download fare. 

I wanted a proper copy of Oooh La La by the Crash Test Dummies.  Turned out that there was pretty much no way to buy an uncompressed file. But I can get the actual physical disk, including rather nice packaging and a booklet from Amazon for just over a fiver. What's more, Amazon have this "auto-rip" feature where you automatically get a digital copy of any physical media that you purchase from them. So I get an mp3 file and a proper copy for less than the price of a digital download from iTunes. Delivered for free the next day. Which struck me as a really good deal. So I bought a copy.

And then I found out that Amazon have applied the auto-rip thing to all of my past purchases as well. I seem to have digital copies of disks that I've bought and given away as presents, which puts me in a rather strange place, copyright wise. 

Anyhoo, if you are buying music I can recommend taking a look at physical purchase of media. It is often cheaper and you have a route to higher quality sounds. Even if you end up ripping the disk and then putting it with the others in the loft....