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Tech News

Roland's latest smartphone mixer can record your entire band

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Roland

Your phone’s mic is fine for quick audio memos and the like, but if you want to record music on it, you need something a little more robust. Roland revealed a palm-sized audio mixer at CES in 2017, a little device called Go:Mixer that could record up to five audio sources to your phone. Now the company has a new version, the Go:Mixer Pro, a similarly small sound mixer that can handle up to nine instruments at one time, including powered mics, guitars, basses and other line-level instruments.

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The Go:Mixer Pro has a handy little dock to place your smartphone in while recording audio and/or video of your jam session. It works with Roland’s video apps, 4XCamera or Virtual Stage Camera, to create split screen and replace the background of your video, respectively. You power the mini mixer with your smartphone or a AAA battery, and it has a headphone output so you can monitor your performance. You can bring in backing tracks from your smartphone to sing over, and a Center Cancel function that will try and erase vocals for your very own karaoke experience. Unfortunately, there’s no mention of price or release date for this tiny mixer just yet, though you can probably safely assume it will run more than the original Go:Mixer’s $99.

Gaming News

You Can Now Use Wireless Headphones With Your Nintendo Switch Thanks to This Dongle

July 13, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Photo: Human Things

If your smartphone of choice has forced you to upgrade to wireless headphones, you probably hate having to swap them out for a corded pair when you want to play your Nintendo Switch with a little privacy. The portable console doesn’t come with Bluetooth, but a tiny dongle called the Genki does, theoretically making it easy to upgrade your Switch so it plays nice with your wireless headphones.

Photo: Human Things

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The Genki plugs directly into the Switch’s USB-C port, where it should have direct access to a digital stream of your game’s audio. As a result, there should be less lag than when using a Bluetooth adapter plugged into the Switch’s headphone jack, which requires digital-to-analog and then analog-to-digital conversions as extra intermediate steps. The Genki also draws all the power it needs while connected, so you’d never need to charge it separately.

Photo: Human Things

The makers of the Genki claim it actually allows two sets of wireless headphones to be connected at the same time, so you can head-to-head game with your seat mate on your next flight without disturbing other passengers. And because the USB-C port is used when the Switch is docked, the company also claims the Genki works with a USB adapter so it can be plugged in to the old-school USB port on the back of the Switch’s dock.

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The creators of the Genki have gone the crowdfunding route to help put the dongle into production, with a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign that’s already raised over $300,000. But that is in no way a guarantee that the Genki will make it into backer’s hands without any hiccups or delays once it moves towards manufacturing. If you’re willing to take the risk, a pledge of $39 gets you just the Genki dongle, or for $10 more you can get it with a USB-C adapter so that it works while the Switch is docked. It’s certainly not the cheapest Switch accessory out there, but if you spend all day long with AirPods jammed in your ears, the cost of upgrade might be well worth it.

[Kickstarter – Genki via Mobile Syrup]

Gaming News

Anker Upgraded Our Readers' Favorite Bluetooth Earbuds, and They're Just $20 Today

July 13, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Our readers voted Anker’s SoundBuds Slims as their favorite affordable Bluetooth headphones, but we may need a recount, as Anker recently released the upgraded SoundBuds Slim+, on sale for just $20 today, for Prime members only.

The biggest change from the original model is the inclusion of AptX encoding, which should improve sound quality with compatible devices. Anker also claims that waterproofing has been improved, though they’re both still rated as IPX5, so any change on that front is likely modest. One thing that hasn’t changed: the seven hour battery, which is excellent for earbuds of this size.


Tech News

Apple Music reportedly has more US subscribers than Spotify

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Apple

Thanks to a Wall Street Journal report in February, we knew Apple Music was poised to overtake Spotify in terms of US subscribers this summer. Well, it reportedly has happened. According to sources from Digital Music News, Apple’s streaming service now has more than 20 million paying users in the States. The report claims that Spotify also has in excess of 20 million paying customers in the US, but Apple is now in the lead. DBN didn’t mention specific numbers, but says its source is a “US-based, major [music] distributor.”

Spotify still leads outside of the US, tallying 75 million subscribers as part of its first earnings report in May. However, considering the company filed to go public in the US in April, reports that its primary competition there has made up what was once a massive lead won’t be welcome news, especially to investors. But subscriber numbers may not be the only place Spotify is lagging behind Apple.

A recent report from Music Business Worldwide offered a deep dive on the early stats both service released on Drake’s Scorpion. In the first day, Spotify notched 132.4 million streams globally while Apple Music counted 170 million. As MBW notes, there are a number of factors that could’ve contributed to this, including the fact the album appeared on Apple Music right at midnight while it wasn’t available on Spotify until a couple hours later. However, this comparison also indicates Apple Music is more popular in the US than Spotify. And when it comes to one of biggest — if not the biggest — release of the year, that’s a problem for a company trying to prove its profitability.

Earnings season is coming again soon, so we’ll probably get some exact numbers to compare then — if not before.

Nathan Ingraham contributed to this report.

Tech News

Research shows Facebook (probably) isn’t listening through your phone

July 3, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Some people still believe that their phones are listening in to gather data that will inform targeted advertising or compromise their privacy. Facebook has directly denied that its apps are listening in Congressional hearings, but there hasn’t been a rigorous scientific study of the issue. Academics at Northeastern University, however, have finally done just that (though only on Android devices).

As reported by Gizmodo, researchers Elleen Pan, Jingjing Ren, Martina Lindorfer, Christo Wilson, and David Choffnes studied more than 17,000 apps, including ones from Facebook and those that send information to Facebook, to see if any of them were capturing audio via Android phone microphones. As you might have guessed, the researchers found no evidence of apps activating the microphone or sending audio on the sly.

They did, however, discover something disturbing: some apps were sending phone screen recordings out to third parties. In one case, they found that GoPuff, a junk food delivery app, was sending screen shots and video recordings of user screens to analytics company, AppSee. That might make sense in our highly connected world, but this behavior was not disclosed in GoPuff’s privacy policy (the company has since added a line to cover the usage).

Tech News

Qualcomm's latest chip will power affordable wireless earbuds

June 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Oppo

At CES this January, Qualcomm introduced the QCC5100 chipset built to improve battery life, reception and processing power of wireless earbuds. Now the company has announced a cheaper version, the QCC3026, intended to make it easier for device companies to make their own entry-level and mid-tier Bluetooth-connected audio devices — especially as proprietary buds bundled with phones.

Per Qualcomm’s press release, its new chip offers improved connectivity between each earbud and to their paired smartphone, as well as good audio quality. It also better balances power distribution of the two buds, which should lower consumption for longer battery life. The company intends to make the chip’s designs available to device manufacturers in the second half of 2018 so they can make their own earbuds, but one has already put it to work. Oppo is using the QCC3026 in its O-Free, and as The Verge reports, those wireless earbuds will be bundled with the Lamborghini edition of the company’s flagship Find X smartphone. The O-Free will be available on its own in August for 699 Yuan (about $106).

Tech News

Facebook patent turns phone mics on to record reactions to ads

June 28, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Facebook has repeatedly denied tapping into phones microphones for targeted advertising, but just because it isn’t doesn’t mean it can’t. According to Metro, Facebook has applied for a controversial patent for software that will allow smartphones to begin recording when they hear secret messages hidden in TV ads.

As reported by Mashable, Facebook could embed high-pitched audio signals in broadcast content that — while inaudible to humans — could be deciphered by smartphones, triggering them into recording “ambient audio” and sending it back to Facebook. So you’re watching TV, an advert comes on, then Facebook gets a recording of your response to that advert — assuming you respond at all and aren’t just sitting there with the glazed expression prompted by most TV ads.

Unsurprisingly, people are concerned about the patent, which essentially details invasive tech not unlike that used by Spanish soccer league La Liga to spy on sports fans earlier this month. However, Facebook says it has no intention of every implementing the technology described in the patent. In a statement, Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Allen Lo told us that the patent had been filed “to prevent aggression from other companies,” and noted that “patents tend to focus on future-looking technology that is often speculative in nature and could be commercialized by other companies.”

Lo went on to say that the technology in this patent has not been included in any of Facebook’s products, “and never will be.” So that’s okay then. Facebook is simply trying to protect us from other companies. Of course, when Zuckerberg himself is known to cover up his equipment’s webcams and mics, it’s not hard to see why some people might have trouble believing this.

Tech News

The BBC has a new app to counter Spotify and Apple Music

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The BBC has a problem. For almost a century, the British broadcaster has run a variety of national and regional radio stations to great effect in the UK. Their influence, though, has waned in recent years as podcasts and music-streaming services have exploded in popularity. In response, the Beeb has embraced the podcast medium, packaging up new and long-time shows including The Archers, Desert Island Discs and The Infinite Monkey Cage. But the threat of Spotify, Apple Music and now YouTube Music still looms. What, if anything, should the BBC be doing to counter these apps? With BBC Sounds, the organization may have finally found its answer.

The new iOS and Android app, available today, will eventually replace iPlayer Radio. At its core, the service is still a hybrid radio and podcast player. The broadcaster, however, is changing the way it surfaces content to better match the experience found on major streaming services such as Spotify. There are Collections, for instance, with labels like Funny Chat, Upgrade Your Life, Live Sessions and Dance Mixes. The app has categories, too, including hip hop, classical, crime and science and technology. All of these contain a mixture of hand-picked podcast and on-demand radio.

These labels are similar to the genre tags in Apple Music and other music-streaming apps. Instead of a traditional playlist, though, the BBC is offering a selection of highly targeted shows. The broadcaster doesn’t have the licensing deals to offer true track-by-track control — so you can’t skip a song like you would in a Discover Weekly playlist — but it can aim for a similar level of curation and personalization. “Those editorial buckets,” Ben Chapman, Head of Digital for Radio at the BBC explains, “allow us to surface a lot more content than perhaps we would have done otherwise.”

The app will track your listening habits and suggest shows in a new Recommended for You section. “We want to provide lots of different routes in,” Dan Taylor-Watt, Head of BBC iPlayer said. “For some people, genre will be the thing they care about, and for other people, it will be the mood they happen to be in at the time. But also, a big focus is on how you then subsequently introduce them to something else. Which goes to the heart of what the BBC is about, and its 90-something years of curating audio.”

You can bookmark shows and clips for a Pocket-style inbox called My List, or subscribe so future episodes appear in a personalized feed called My Sounds. Of course, you’re only getting content produced by the BBC — so don’t expect 99% Invisible to appear anywhere — and you can’t save an album like you would on Spotify. These restrictions, though, line up with the BBC’s mission to promote and support UK talent. “We’re here to showcase the best that the UK’s got, creatively,” Chapman said. “The big global players don’t always do

Tech News

Anchor's iPad app is an all-in-one podcast studio

June 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Anchor

Back in February, the audio social network Anchor relaunched as a one-stop podcast-making shop. Now it’s introducing an iPad app that’s designed for the larger device’s touch interface. Best of all, it includes editing tools, enabling users to trim, cut and drop in segments and effects at their whim. Get it now for free in the App Store.

The app is intended to make full use of the iPad’s functionality, enabling users to record, produce and edit a podcast episode to completion with just the tablet alone, if need be: It works with microphones through the lightning port, or users can stick with the internal one in a pinch. It’s designed to take advantage of the iPad’s real estate, benefiting from its window-splitting Multitasking functionality along with the capability to drag and drop audio files back and forth between Anchor and other apps.

While there are audio-cutting iPad apps out there, including Apple’s own GarageBand, Anchor thinks there’s enough scrappy creators out there who would prefer one that was geared specifically toward podcasts. Carrying around an editing suite in a tablet could be attractive (and affordable) for those who don’t need a full sound studio and want to get their episodes chopped and published on the go.

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Tech News

Alienware's new gaming headset combines comfort with solid audio

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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If you’re going to be playing Fornite for hours at a time, you need a headset that not only sounds good, but is also super comfy. Alienware revealed its Wireless Gaming Headset last week ahead of E3, but today I got to briefly test its merits. I’ll admit when I first saw it last week, I wasn’t blown away with the overall design. But as I would find out on the show floor, the company built a solid and capable gaming accessory here.

Like a lot of gaming headsets, Alienware’s latest looks big and bulky. Despite that overall appearance, the Wireless Gaming Headset is actually quite lightweight. Indeed, there isn’t a lot of extra heft to it, a quality that will go a long way in keeping you comfortable during longer sessions. The soft cushy earpads are also wrapped in a moisture-wicking sports mesh material. The company combined all of that with a soft-touch headband that feels more like an airbag than a cushion. And that headband isn’t so tight that it feels like it’s pinching in on your head. In other words, comfort will be the least of your concerns here.

In terms of overall sound, Alienware’s use of virtual 7.1 surround sound is solid. During a video clip of Final Fantasy, the audio was crisp and clear, and I could really get a sense of what was happening where in the virtual world. I just had a demo of the Audeze Mobius a couple days ago, so my expectations for gaming headsets are super high now. It’s an unfair comparison, I know. Even with my lofty new standards, Alienware’s Wireless Gaming Headset performed admirably in the few minutes I used it.

With the Alienware headset app, a feature called audio recon will help you pinpoint enemies and other hazards based on the sounds they’re making. That same app will allow you to customize the AlienFX lighting on the outside of the earcups, tweak the audio EQ and more. There’s also in-game AlienFX lighting for over 160 titles, options that will change those hues based on your current surroundings or situation.

You never want to have to put a controller down or have to navigate away from a game to make audio tweaks, so like many other headsets, Alienware has included some handy on-board controls. There is a mixer wheel for finding the right blend of chat and game audio, a microphone mute button and a volume wheel on the back edge of the left earcup. Along the bottom on that side, there is a button for toggling through EQ/game audio presets, USB port for charging and a 3.5mm jack for wired use. The microphone is also on the left — a flexible feature that tucks back along the edge of the earcup when you don’t need it. It doesn’t detach, but hey,