Tuesday, October 26, 2004

World's Smallest Wi-Fi Card

The US$100 Wi-Fi SD card is the smallest Wi-Fi card in the market. The card allows SDIO enabled devices to connect to HotSpots (802.11b Access Points) worldwide for fast wireless Internet connectivity. The card supports Pocket PC 2002, Pocket PC 2003, Pocket PC 2003 Mobile Edition and Palm Zire 71 devices that have the all important SDIO enabled slot.

To find Wi-fi spots in public, check out this site!
 Posted by Hello

Energy Saver for the Studio

Energykeeper Posted by Hello

It isn't out just yet. But when it is launched in a couple of months, this device will be useful in the studio. Basically it monitors the computer's standby mode and when it sees it kick it, it switches off the other accessories (like printers, scanners, etc). It also has the ability to take immediate action when a power surge occurs. The Dutch inventors think it will save around 40 Euro per year in energy costs, per workstation. Companies in Holland can also apply for a subsidy to have such devices installed. Watch this space, or check the website for more details.

Monday, October 25, 2004

HI-MD - Nice Idea But Too Late!

Although cheaper than Flash Memory, the new Sony HD Minidisc still costs around 9 Euro for a Gigabtye...that's 9 times the price of space on portable hard-drives like Archos AV400Posted by Hello

I have been watching, with some interest, the gradual roll out of the Hi-MD™ Walkman®. First announced at the Consumer Electronic Fair in Las Vegas, back in January 2004, I personally think it is MiniDisc's last gasp before it disappears. Remember, Sony tried this before, in the days when it was possible to record 8 hours of music onto video tape. People don't just want storage, they want to be able to FIND stuff easily - so the cataloging software has to be as simple as Apple's I-tunes.

On the plus side, the new Hi-MD technology enables users to record up to 45 hours of music at up to 100 times transfer speed on one disc, while still enjoying the extensive battery life, compact design and robustness for which MD players are recognized. Removable, re-recordable Hi-MD media provides music lovers with unlimited storage capacity to build an infinite library of their favorite songs. Each 1GB disc can hold up to 45 hours of music heavily compressed at 48 kilobits per second (kbps).

Knowing my personal experience with standard MiniDisc, I am not sure I trust the system to record my entire interview and music collection onto a set of these discs. Will it still be around in 10 years and will there be any players left in the market when mine has broken? I fear not. This is a case of Sony trying to introduce ANOTHER format and I think history will show this one is not going to work.

So, I do make use of Sony's excellent VideoFactory programme to edit both audio and video. But I can pick up a standard 250 Gig Hard Drive for less than 250 Euros. I don't need to store it all again on a more expensive and proprietary MiniDisc. Likewise, that ATRAC-3 (Acoustic TRansform Adaptive Coding) compression plays hell with broadcast playout systems using MPEG-2...both systems take depth out of your recordings, except their both take OTHER bits out - leading to a what is termed "cascading". According to Japanese newa agency reports this week, Sony has FINALLY decided to support MP3s in certain of its future digital music players.

It is amazing to know that, on average, Sony launches two new products EVERY HOUR. I'm sure each of them needs their own separate power supply! They also believe that because they are so big, they can steam ahead with their proprietary standards as opposed to using industry ones. Just recently they launched the first Walkman-branded hard drive player, the NW-HD1. Once again, Sony decided not to support MP3s on the player, opting instead for ATRAC3. Sony claims ATRAC3 offers superior sound at smaller file sizes than MP3s. Yes, but Sony's BETAMAX was better than VHS, but it didn't win the battle. Most digital music fans rip their CDs as MP3's, so it is a hopeless case to force customers to adopt ANOTHER "Only Sony" format. Even Apple's I-Pod supports MP3s in addition to the AAC compression that Apple has adopted in its I-Tunes Music Store.

But what do you think? Will you go the HD route and pioneer with Sony? Oh, and shall we give Sony the 2004 award for World's Most Confusing Family of Websites?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sony 7.2 Megapixels!

Just purchased a Sony Cybershot DSC-P150 for use in the field. It is one of the first pocket cameras with 7.2 Megapixels and I found it at Amsterdam Schiphol airport for 270 pounds sterling, 430 Euro. They wanted another 50 Euro for a leather case (no thanks. You must also purchase a 250 MB Sony Memory stick to make any serious use of it (the 32 MB stick that comes with it will hold just a few photos in the "fine" mode). Sony Memory Stick is a bit more expensive than compact flash - I paid 69 pounds for the faster Memory Stick Pro - you need the PRO version if you want to store short movies in MPEG-4. I tried the stills & movie functions on a trip to Chicago - fotos were BRILLIANT. The quality of the MPEG-4 video wasn't bad either - you can only record for a few minutes, but the built-in microphone is terrific. It can also be mounted on a (mini)-tripod for photos that need stability. Battery is an internal rechargable, which shows you to the minute how much "juice" is left. Went out snapping all day and the battery-life was fine - hardly below half way. Is the photo quality noticeably different from the other Sony 5 Megapixel cameras? - yes it is, and some of those cameras are more expensive than this one. I really like the pocket format and the 3X digital zoom. Flash is fine for most instances - and has a red-eye remover.

Now here is something for the journalist who wants good quality JPEGS but doesn't want to be noticed - Doing a photo shoot with a Sony DV-CAM and a tripod in Chicago was different - security guys came out of buildings and asked me to stop filming their private property!  Posted by Hello

I-River MP3 Recorder

The IFP-590T is an MP3 recorder from the Korean company Iriver. This model looks interesting because it can accept inputs from an external source - which could be a microphone provided it is boosted to line-level. I like the fact that you can vary the quality of the recording between 8 and 324 kb/sec, so from telephone quality right up to serious hi-fi. In the UK the model is listed at around 134 pounds sterling. See Maycom listing below for the Mic-tube which would also work with this recorder. The English language manual for this recorder is here. I am not so keen on the more expensive models because the cameras are poor, compared to separate camera/mp3 combinations - 0.3 Megapixels is worthless for the journalist.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Panasonic is starting to ship radios in the US with HD Radio, the US equivalent for DAB (not the same system, same concept though). Posted by Hello

Monday, October 04, 2004

Nagra Flash Recorder

Nagra Posted by Hello

Nagra Audio makes this flash audio recording device, the Ares-PII. You look like a doctor. But that mike at the tip is truly excellent. But then, at 1828 Euro, it should be for the price. I am annoyed that the extras make the price much higher - another 49 Euro for the power supply and charger, another 140 Euro for a leather case to keep it in, another 285 Euro for the electret microphone that fits in the top as shown....oh and 205 Euro for the PC software (there are much better editors like Cool EDit). That's 2507 Euro on the road!

Nagra Audio says the solid-sate ARES-PII is primarily designed for journalists. It uses PCMCIA memory cards, recording linear PCM Mono / Stereo audio. Optional MPEG compression allows for a long recording time on a reusable and reliable medium.

The machine works on 5 AA cells or rechargeable batteries, to provide you with more than 6 hours of operation. A 12 pin DIN connector serves as the microphone and stereo line input.

The recorders work with Nagra mono (NP-MICE Order # 70 19655 000) or stereo (NP-MICES Order # 70 19656 000) electret microphones as well as standard dynamic microphones. +48V Phantom powering can also be provided for standard condenser microphones.

The ARES-PII offers instant start-up, one button recording, take directory, large back-lighted LCD display, powerful Vortex filter, automatic level control, level indication with bar-graph and leds. It also incorporates a dedicated line output connector, and an internal loudspeaker. It does NOT have a buffer to allow you to store audio in RAM and therefore put the device on standby during press conferences.


The ARES-PII also offers a USB port. The PCMCIA card will appear as an external disk drive when connected to a PC of MAC using a USB cable. Alternatively the PCMCIA card can be removed and installed directly into a PC / MAC for rapid file transfers from a standard PCMCIA slot, although this rather bulky slot is being replaced by USB 2 or Firewire on most modern laptops.

Nagra and Nagra Audio are different companies. Nagra is a Swiss company that is in radioactive waste disposal. My verdict; Great device, for those for whom money is clearly no object.

Maycom's EasyCorder

Maycom's Easycorder Posted by Hello

I have used the Maycom Easycorder (the version with a built-in ISDN codec) and found it to be reliable. I especially like the audio buffer, so you can put the device into stand-by during press conferences and then release it knowing the previous 5 seconds are also on the recording. A unit witha built-in ISDN unit costs in the region of 3500 Euro.

The unit works on rechargeable batteries, but BE CAREFUL. There is also a small Lithium battery in the base of the unit. My experience is that you must replace that once a year or you will be stranded in the middle of nowhere with a recorder the just doesn't seem to respond. The battery fails suddenly, so if you're not carrying a spare, you'll have to head for a photo shop. Not clever!

MicTube and MP3 Recorder

MP3 kit consisting of a RIP Flash recorder and a MicTube Posted by Hello

Maycom market two useful units for the reporter on a budget. The MicTube
Professional microphone pre-amp is just that. Most MP3 recorders or Mini Disc recorders do not have a proper MIC input, but a line input at best. This tube clips on the bottom on a balanced XLR microphone and allows you to set the output level on a simple meter. It uses an internal battery. It costs 169 Euro, excluding BTW in the Netherlands.

Maycom also market an MP3 recorder sourced in East Asia. It does a fine job in making MP3 recordings - great for speech recordings. Not really the best for serious music recordings. A RIP_Flash MP3 recorder & the Mic Tube cost 299 Euro, excluding VAT (19%).

Maycom Handheld FlashRecorder Mark II

This is the a Dutch product from Maycom.  Posted by Hello

This device includes a built-in microphone and is compact in size. The Maycom HandHeld offers rugged and reliable digital portable recording for both professional and consumer use. You can connect an external microphone which plugs into the base of the device using a special adapter cable. Opinions are divided as to whether this cable is rugged enough for the sort of tough conditions journalists meet in the field. Personally, I found the built-in microphone to be excellent, although you can't put a windsock on it for publicity purposes.

The HandHeld recorder uses industry standard compact flash cards to store high quality, digital audio. The cards are robust, able to operate in severe environmental conditions and can be changed very quickly. Audio recording capacity depends on the size of flash card, but these days can easily be as much as 6 hours (using a 320 MB flash card at 128 kb/sec.).

Docking Station

The docking station is a fully equipped multi functional desktop device. It acts as the re-charger for the smart battery pack, but also provides (additional) loudspeaker functionality and external interface options. It offers connections for 2 microphones, a headset and PC (through USB). Maximum portability is secured through the 12 volts DC adapter next to the standard 100-240 VAC.

Through its USB connection, or via a Compact Flash Card reader, the audio can be directly ported from the HandHeld to a laptop or central computer system for further editing, communication or transmission.

Price? They sell the recorder on its own, but then you are required to use your own alkaline cells (that's 699 Euro excluding VAT). A kit with the recorder, plus docking station (XLR connectors) and a 128 MB flashcard costs 999 Euro, excluding VAT. I think an extra 300 Euro for batteries, a charger and a Flashcard needs review since the prices for Flash memory have dropped.

MAYCOM is a trademark of SOLID SEMECS BV, Oostwijk 18, 5406 XT - Uden
The Netherlands. Tel: +31 413 339 700. E-mail: sales@maycom.nl

Pocketrec from the USA

Pocketrec, not to be confused with Pocketrekorder from Austria, is a portable workstation using the IPAQ H5550 and a 512MB SD card. The complete system will set you back 1350 pounds in the UK. The Pocketrec software is written in the US, the UK importer is www.preco.co.uk Posted by Hello

Pocketrekorder from Austria

Pocketrekorder from Austria Posted by Hello

Pocketrekorder is an Austrian company that I bumped into at IBC 2004. They offer software for radio journalists. The software is designed for use with T-mobile version of the Pocket PC, allowing the journalist to send the file back to the studio using GPRS or GSM, or even a wireless LAN (Local Area Network) if Wifi is available. No indication of price at the show. Website is in German, which could explain the spelling of the device - not many journalists in the UK/USA will search for "rekorder"

Ipod Studio Equipment

Adam Curry tells me Hugo Schotman is collecting data about radio-like production for the I-pod. So what is your experience with podcasting studio setups? Please click the title above to share all the gory details with the world.

You can send your setup details at: podcasting@mac.com.

Hugo writes...

I do not want to become a helpdesk but I wouldn't mind collecting and aggregating studio setup details for a while. As soon as it makes sense to move this to another place - when more people are actively working on it for example - I'll gladly move it over.

Platforms: preferably Mac Os X. I can post details about Linux, Windows or other setups but I can't verify/test them and will not do anything else with the information.

What should be captured:
1. How to set up a stable environment!
Anything that makes a setup more or less stable should be shared so not everybody has to go through the same trouble.

2. How to reduce latency.

3. What settings produce the best sound.

- What were you doing when the recording crashed?
- Which applications were running/ playing audio when the recording crashed?
- Which applications are you using? (Include URL if it's a new one.)
- What are the exact settings of your applications?
- What have you tried that didn't work?

I have offered to collaborate to test software/hardware for the Windows Platform.

Time delayed recordings?

The Froglogger comes from the natural history world. The system described by Peterson & Dorcas (1994), and now commonly known as a Froglogger, enables the researcher to record audio, without supervision, for later analysis. This enables the monitoring of animal calls during intervals and long periods of time that would be impossible for a person or too expensive. For example, you can record a few minutes every hour during several days or weeks.

As an example of the important and valuable information that can be obtained only by using a Froglogger is the paper by Bridges and Dorcas (2000). They found that Rana sphenocephala, which was described previously as calling during early spring and early fall, was also very active calling during the summer, but between 2:00 and 5:00.

AudioTX Communicator

How did Andy Gilligan manage to broadcast from his house on the famous morning last year? He had an "ISDN Unit" in his house. That means he was able to originate studio quality down a ISDN telephone. To do so you either have a special piece of hardware, or you can now do it by plugging a reporter's microphone into a laptop and firing up a piece of software.

In Birmingham in the UK, a company called MDO-UK seem to be the furthest with the ISDN laptop codecs.

Their Communicator software turns your PC or Laptop into an ISDN codec that's compatible with virtually all other manufacturers' units and with MPEG Layer 2, Layer 3, G.722 and G.711 (tele-hybrid mode), mono or stereo, full studio quality connections. It offers the same or even better audio quality audio and performance as most other manufacturer's ISDN codecs. Use it for live audio transmissions, to connect your studios, to send and receive broadcast material, or for voice-over work, news and sports reporting.

The company offers a 30 day free trial to see if it is compatible with your laptop. At 725 Euro, the software solution is considerably cheaper than buying separate hardware.

Audio Hijack

AudioHijack Pro

Simple US$32 software that allows you to record audio from all kinds of sources onto your computer hard drive. Use it to capture anything from internet streams to DVD audio and everywhere in between. If your machine can play it, Audio Hijack Pro can record it. The Pro version of Audio Hijack will also enhance any audio, using industry-standard VST and AudioUnit audio effects to make your music sound better. I understand Adam Curry has been using this software for experiments with I-podding.

Sony HD Mini Disc

Sony HD-MD

This looks to me like the last gasp from the Mini-Disc department at Sony. The company claims they are moving the MiniDisc™ a big step forward, with a new range of Hi-MD™ Walkman® digital music players.

With Hi-MD technology, users can record up to 45 hours of music at up to 100 times transfer speed on one disc, while still enjoying the extensive battery life, compact design and robustness for which MD players are recognized. Removable, re-recordable Hi-MD media provides music lovers with unlimited storage capacity to build an infinite library of their favorite songs.

The Hi-MD Walkman recorders incorporate the ATRAC3plus™ codec. The ATRAC3plus format is a high-quality audio compression technology that Sony developed to effectively reduce the size of audio files while preserving more of the sound quality. With ATRAC3plus compression, more audio files can be burned to Hi-MD media or for that matter, to a standard MiniDisc. Music can be compressed to 132, 105, 66, 64 or 48 kbps (kilobits per second), so you can store more music or record at higher fidelity. By compressing at 48 kbps, users can enjoy 45 hours of music on one Hi-MD disc or 13 hours of music on one standard, 80-minute MiniDisc.

Unless there is an excellent indexing system, and the system is reliable (not my experience with MiniDisc recordings), then you would be crazy putting 45 hours of music on one disc.

There is an excellent site for Mini Disc users at www.minidisc.org. Recommended

High Definition TV Production For Prosumers

Now this is interesting. As a video documentary maker, I'm very interested in the new HDR-FX1 from Sony, due out in November for around 3500 Euro. It has a MUCH better resolution than what I am doing now. The new HDR-FX1 utilizes the 1080 lines horizontal resolution / 60 interlaced frames per second frame rate for the HDV specification, which records to standard MiniDV tapes. Wonder what the sound processing is like and whether they will come out with a Desktop recorder like the DSR-11.

The new Sony has apparently much better handling of low-light situations, better than the only other Prosumer HD camera on the market from JVC. The JVC came out last year with a minimum of 25 lux, the Sony boasts a 3 lux minimum. Try before we buy :->
 Posted by Hello

IBC Gadget Article

DMB Receivers from Korea

IBC was good this year. There was real stuff to see. Ideas that were whispered two or three years ago are now products you can play with rather than vapourware. But you had to be cheeky to find some of them. Marching up to the stands with a request for a 90 second product demonstration certainly helped to cut through the sales bitch, sorry, pitch. Camera man Dave Allen and I spent a couple of days preparing our "gadget safari", looking for products, including software, of interest to the independent producer.

Digital Lifestyles magazine has picked up on the presentation and now has the text and videos we shot online.

Satellite Radio with Pause & Replay

Delphi Corp., a manufacturer of in-vehicle entertainment and electronics, and XM Satellite Radio, America's leading satellite radio service, are introducing another product, the new Delphi XM "SKYFi2". The set takes the original SKYFi, their existing satellite radio receiver, and adds several new features, including the first-ever "pause" and "replay" functions for satellite radio. Utilizing flash technology, the "30 Minute Replay" function continuously and automatically saves the last 30 minutes of programming -- including programming from multiple XM channels. In addition, listeners can pause the program they are listening to with the option to play back that programming within 30 minutes. The unit also has a built-in wireless FM modulator, personalized stock ticker, personalized sports scores, a clock, TuneSelect(TM) by song and artist and much more.

The new vehicle kit is upgraded for wireless FM modulation through the antenna allowing users to self-install SKYFi2 in their vehicle. The Delphi XM SKYFi2 will be available at most major consumer electronics retailers this fall for US $129.99 MSRP. It is already rolling out in some areas of the US in limited quantities.

New Sirius Satellite Radio from Tivoli

Sirius taken seriously

Tivoli Audio says it is planning to introduce the world’s first satellite Table Radio designed exclusively for home use with SIRIUS Satellite Radio. It will come out in Autumn 2004 in the US only. The new satellite radio is designed by Tivoli Audio CEO Tom DeVesto, and are based on the popular tuner used in the Tivoli Model One, Two and Three radios and engineered by Audio Hall of Fame member Henry Kloss.

The new Tivoli SIRIUS radio delivers digital quality sound in 61 commercial-free music streams, and over 40 news, sports and entertainment streams. The large LCD provides multiple display options. The radio has 15 pre-sets for favourite Sirius streams and searches by artist, song, and stream, and the digital clock sets and updates automatically.

The radio is housed in a furniture grade cherry wood cabinet with beige metallic faceplate and champagne-toned knobs. It comes with a remote control device and a compact indoor/outdoor SIRIUS antenna.

New DAB Radio

The new 80 quid DAB/FM radio from Pure in the UK. Works on batteries too. Reminds me of the earlier Roberts Radio designs Posted by Hello

Zen & the art of Multi-Media

500 bucks buys a new Zen Portable Media Center which started shipping in the US to places like Best Buy, Fry's Electronics and . Similar to the Archos 400 player I mentioned earlier, this device works on Windows Media 10 technology (Archos uses MPEG-4 Div-X) This device comes with a rechargeable, removable Li-ion battery, a case that doubles as an adjustable stand, an AC adapter, USB 2.0 cable, high-quality earphones, and a video cable. Optional accessories, including a docking station, spare battery, FM wired remote, and an IR remote. Microsoft people are walking around with these things at IBC 2004. Wonder how long the batteries last...

 Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Nagra Reel to Reel

Nagra 4.2 Reel to Reel Posted by Hello

This is for nostalgia, more than pratical I-podding! The manufacturer still says the NAGRA 4.2 is a portable mono full track 6.35-mm (¼ inch) analogue audio tape recorder designed for radio, cinema and television applications. I think the cinema application means as a prop in films that have some form of police interrogation in the script or on site surveillance. A reel-to-reel machine immediately tells the audience something is being recorded, even though the cost per MB makes it totally in-efficient in these days. It is a bit like the sound of a telex machine or Morse Code in news jingles.

The NAGRA 4.2 contains separate recording and playback heads for confidence playback, built-in monitoring speaker switchable to source or tape, a reference generator, modulometer, alarm indicator for power supply and tape transport. It also has high-pass filters for recording or playback and a switchable automatic level control and limiter. It is a beautiful piece of mechanical and electrical engineering.

It will also turn you into the Hunchback of Notre Dame when you have lugged one of these beasts around an exhibition. Some people still swear by them - I just swear at them.

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