The Audioengine A5+

x772A5PLUSB-o_frontI have had the AegoM speakers as my desktop speakers in my room for close to 7 years now. Recently, I have been looking to replace my aging speakers with a new pair, but couldn’t decide on a suitable one. The Aego M has set the bar really high in terms of audio quality, and getting my next pair is going to be tough. There aren’t many bookshelf speakers or 2.1 speaker set-ups that sounds as good as the Aego M or better at that price point. I bought my set for $300, and it was $300 well spent. For years it has given me nothing short but audio bliss. Coupled with a decent DAC, and any audio played through my Macbook Air sounds just terrific.

Last week, I set my sights on Augioengine A5+ speakers. It’s a bookshelf speaker with no discreet subwoofer. Instead, it’s larger than the AegoM, supposedly to make up for the lack of the subwoofer so that there is enough oomph to drive low frequency sounds through the speakers. At $600, this pair is not cheap. To be used in a room, is quite an overkill, because these speakers can go incredible loud if you want it to. Though I wasn’t able to do a comprehensive test on the audio quality output until I receive it this Wednesday, reports suggest that the Audioengine A5+ speakers have excellent stereo isolation, giving listeners an immersive audio experience and an expansive soundstage to most kinds of music being played.

I ultimately chose this because it was readily available in stores. I tested Dali Zensor 3, but it costed almost a grand just for a pair of speakers, but they sounded really good. Like, audiophile quality good. And just like the Audioengine A5+, it’s really loud, which in my case isn’t really suitable for a single room set up. The Dali Zensor 3, has enough audio power output to power your home theatre system in the living room, if you want a simple 2 speaker stereo set up that is. There is a Dali Zensor 1, but I wasn’t able to test those speakers at the store that was selling them, because it wasn’t connected to an amplifier or a receiver at that time. And yes, the Dali Zensor 1 requires a separate amplifier because those are passive speakers. So to think that I would need to buy the speakers and an amplifier, thus adding costs and complexity considerably just doesn’t cut it for me. What I wanted was a simple, straightforward speaker set up that blasts good quality audio.

There are other brands that I considered, namely speakers from Sonos, JBL, Bang and Olufsen, and Bose, but I think those are either way to expensive, or the price doesn’t truly justify the build quality and audio quality.

I am going to miss the Aego M. I am very used to the soundstage that it produces in my room. It would take a while for me to get used to the new set of speakers, especially when now it doesn’t come with a separate subwoofer, so I would miss the bass thumping beats from some kinds music or  low frequency rumble coming off the base speaker  from the movies I watched that I so enjoyed in the old set up.

Can’t wait for it to arrive tomorrow. I will probably write a short impression on the audio quality of the Audioengine A5+ and how I set it up in my room. Hopefully, I won’t suffer any technical difficulties with the speakers and that everything is brand new and working as intended.

Apple Music vs Spotify. My Personal Take

It’s been close to a month since I started using Apple Music, Apple’s newest streaming service, out to compete directly with Spotify. As a Spotify user for 6 months prior to Apple Music’s launch, there are distinct differences between the two services.

Personally, I think Apple Music has a better music collection available for streaming. I can’t say this definitively, but I have encountered time and time again, where artists’ latest album releases are simply not yet available on Spotify. Of course, the most coveted artist, Taylor Swift, made her entire music collection only available on Apple Music. Third Eye Blind’s latest, Dopamine doesn’t seem to be available on Spotify as with a number of movie soundtrack, compilations, acoustic albums and other more obscure titles.

Spotify’s playlist sharing feature is not available on Apple Music. I love the way how Spotify allows you to share playlists with others and it is quite amazing to discover them. Apple focuses on curated playlist, created by real human beings, people, who are passionate about music. They are essentially professional people working in the music industry, who knows how to compile music together to created playlist based on theme, genre, or era. Personally, I am going to side with Spotify playlist sharing feature, which, while may be flawed, because you might encounter empty playlists, makes discovering weird and wonderful playlists fun.

Spotify allows you to go to the artist’s page or album list, when listening to any music. Apple music app does not have this feature, which makes it frustrating sometimes. For example, if I encounter a new artist from one of Apple’s Curated Playlist, there is just no way to go to the artist’s page and see all the songs he or she has ever produced. Instead, I would have to tap on the search bar and then do a search. This makes music exploration a little less intuitive. I do like the curated playlist however, but I am sure, given time, more playlists would be created for users in the coming months, offering a diverse range of preferences for different users with wildly different tastes.

Apple music is just not snappy enough, especially browsing from one song to the next. Unlike Spotify, there is a noticeable lag or buffer when skipping from one song to the next, either from a playlist (assuming none of them were downloaded for offline listening) or from an album, or from the iTunes chart list. Spotify is really snappy, skipping songs is much faster, with less buffering needed to start the music playing. This buffering lag, is made worse if you have a bad connection. I know this because from where I use my pc at home, my wifi hotspot is pretty far away, and I usually get less than ideal wifi connection. Try streaming music through Apple Music with a 3G connection. It is just a pain to use sometimes. Spotify on the other hand is still usable most times and I do not encounter long buffering lags even with a bad connection. Spotify app on the iOS is even more impressive with the tap and hold feature. This allows you to preview song snippets in your playlist without interrupting your current music being played. This just shows the robustness of Spotify in their buffering technology.

On a more personal note, (and this is a deal breaker for me when it comes to which service I would ultimate subscribe to) I have problems streaming music from the Apple Music app when I’m on my workplace’s wifi network. After having checked with my IT department to get clearance and advice on how to allow data to pass through the company’s wifi router, their refuse to do it due to security issues. Even my workplace’s mac connected to an ethernet connection simply wouldn’t allow packets of data coming from Apple Music’s server to go through. As such, I cannot use Apple Music to listen to my favorite songs via Wifi. I am not willing to burn through my 4G data just by listening to music. Spotify work perfectly fine on either platform, and that unfortunately becomes the biggest deciding factor.

So ultimately, given my personal experiences, which service would I choose? I have 2 months left to my Apple Music subscription, thanks to the 3 month free subscription upon signing up. But once that is up, I think I will revert to Spotify. Sorry Apple Music, I think you are just not ready for primetime yet. While your music collection is impressive, I can live without a song or two in my playlist. What I ultimately value more in a such services, is the robustness of the app or software used for streaming. And, I can stream while at work via wifi. Spotify wins in this regard.

iTunes 11: A giant leap forward, a small step back.

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The new iTunes 11 was released a couple of weeks ago. Many lauded the new version as the boldest change ever made in the history of iTunes. Almost everything from how your multimedia files are displayed, organised, played and looked, were given a major overhaul. After trying out extensively, iTunes 11 is a giant leap forward in how we interact and organise our music files, but at the same time, it is mired with small bugs and annoyances.

Continue reading iTunes 11: A giant leap forward, a small step back.

Those who watched American Horror Story S2 will know this song.

I started watching the second season of American Horror Story season 2 and the show just gets sicker by the episode. Seriously, I don’t know what is going on in the producers’ and scriptwriters’ head, but them thinking about sadistic stuff is really disturbing. There are several instances in the show where they played this really old song through the vinyl record in the recreation room in this mental institution. I started to find out what the song was and within five minutes, I was directed to a youtube video of this 1960’s song called “Dominique”  sung by The Singing Nun.

That song really got stuck in my head. These songs are what I call “sticky songs” and it doesn’t help the fact that it is only played when the show is showing the recreation room. So this psychological conditioning really helps to make you remember the song vividly. Now, when I played back this song on youtube, I find it really creepy. Partly because the mental institution from the show is extremely horrifying. So playing this song just triggers an adrenaline rush through your body in anticipation of a flight action. Your body just tense up at the moment you hear this song, because this song is just plain creepy!

Just hear it for yourself.

The Script Intimate Showcase at Avalon, Singapore

One of the best nights of 2012 was the chance to see The Script live in Singapore. They performed a special one night only showcase, at Avalon, one of the premier nightclubs at Marina Bay Sands.  Continue reading The Script Intimate Showcase at Avalon, Singapore

iTunes Match

A couple of months ago, iTunes Singapore went live. And with it, Singapore customers using iTunes now have access to a huge library of music, and movies in which they can buy legitimately through the iTunes store. Singapore customers also get to use their relatively new service called iTunes Match. I decided to try it and there are some good points and bad points about this service. Continue reading iTunes Match