Recommendations wanted: USB Audio & MIDI interface

I’m looking for a USB and MIDI interface, because M-Audio haven’t bothered to update the drivers for the one I have, so it doesn’t work with any current OSs. Requirements: At least 1 audio in and 1 audio out. At least 1 MIDI in and 1 MIDI out. Standard audio jacks (not just XLR). Must be compatible with USB Device Class Definition for MIDI Devices. Must be compatible with USB Device Class Definition for Audio Devices, specifically USB Audio Class 2 or higher.

Stereo is over (if you want it)

I recently gave in and bought a boxed set of albums by The Beatles. After much thought, I bought the mono boxed set. Although modern stereo had been invented by Alan Blumlein in 1931 — including stereo microphones and stereo microgroove vinyl records — in the 1960s it was still a novelty, particularly for pop music which was generally heard via mono AM radio. Until Abbey Road in 1969, all of The Beatles’ albums were recorded and mixed in mono.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik: a look back to the future

Robert Rankin sparked a discussion of Sigue Sigue Sputnik on Facebook last week: I am trying to remember the name of this really dreadful UK band in the nineteen eighties, they had a couple of minor hits with a sort of techno sound, the lead singer wore a fishnet stocking mask (they looked a bit like Slipknot looked later) and I recall Janet Street Porter was a big fan for some reason.

An embarrassment of musical riches

Back in the 1980s, technology triggered a tidal wave of experimentalism in popular music. Punk had established an “anything goes, anyone can do it” attitude, and punk bands like Tubeway Army, Wire and DEVO began to explore the possibilities of the cheap synthesizers being built by companies like Casio, Korg and Roland. This grew into the new wave movement, with groups like The Human League, Depeche Mode and OMD achieving chart success with stripped-down experimental sounds that would never chart today.

Where to buy music in lossless formats

The last CD has been ripped. I now face the problem of finding out where to buy lossless audio files. Criteria for stores: Must sell something I’m interested in listening to, i.e. not just folk and jazz. Must sell to the US. Must have more than a token number of releases available in lossless format. Must sell music by someone I’ve heard of already. I know there are lots of talented unsigned artists out there, but I’m viewing that as a separate problem.

CD bronzing

If you’ve never seen factory-pressed CDs decay, or think it’s a myth, well, I have some photos to show you. Here’s an overall view of the label side of the CD. Notice the strange swirly patterns. That’s not a camera artifact; the label part of the CD seems to have some separation from the metal layer, resulting in the interference patterns. Here’s another view, showing that part of the label embossing has caused brown patches.

Memo to music corporations

If you don’t offer lossless downloads, you’re leaving money on the table. Here’s why: People who are serious about music and buy a lot of it tend to be serious about sound quality. In my own tests, I’m able to distinguish lossless files from even 320kbps MP3s. Therefore, I’m very reluctant to buy anything but lossless music. Right now, the CD is dying. Amazon is full of people selling their old used CDs.

Ripping redux

A while back I wrote about double-blind testing various MP3 bitrates in order to decide what format to rip CDs to. The short summary of my testing was that I could easily hear the difference between 320kbps MP3 and lower bitrates, but that the difference between 320kbps and lossless was tougher to hear, at least under the circumstances of the test. However, as a result of what I learned, I decided to rip everything to lossless FLAC files.

MP3, AAC, ABCDE

The problem I love music, so I’ve got a lot of CDs. I don’t want to have a lot of CDs, though, because they take up space. While I appreciate cover art and read liner notes, I find that I don’t ever hunt down a CD to gaze at the artwork or read the notes — I’m more likely to look for information about it on the Internet. So, for a while now I’ve been considering ditching the CDs and going digital only.

Amazing Week, Day 2: Internet shopping

Part of Amazing Week 2012 During my teenage years I developed a taste for electronic music, of the kind that generally didn’t go anywhere near the charts — except for a few years in the early 80s. Several times a year I would travel up to London and trawl around all the big record stores. The Virgin Megastore, the HMV Store, Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus, sometimes more. I’d go through the racks from A to Z, looking for anything on my list of obscure wants.