Archive for the ‘Sounds’ Category

A week with the Creative Aurvana X-Fis

I am really late in posting this post, but I have been so busy lately.. that I really don’t have much time or enthusism to post much. It’s kinda like what Uzyn wrote.. With work pilling up and twitter the incentive to blog is really very little.

Anyway.. so I received a review unit of the Creative Aurava X-Fi for Tech65 from Creative a few weeks ago.. I had it for a whole week and I did use it quite a bit during that week. So here is my review about it..

The Creative Aurvana X-Fi is Creative’s attempt to combine their noise canceling headphone, with the X-Fi. So the 3 main features of the headphones consists of the Noise Cancelling; X-Fi Crystalizer; CMSS-3D.

Design.

The heaphones are well deisgned. They look nice.. A little geeky with the blue leds.. but I liked it. The buttons on the side simple and easy to remember.. So one doesn’t have to remove the headphone to switch on/off a certain feature.

I also loved the fitting, it fit snugly over my head and around my ear.. It did not feel too uncomfortable.. My friends did complain that it was tad too small for him.. but well.. we can’t always cater for the big-headed people..

My favorite design feature has to be the use of a standard stereo jack where the cable connects to the headphone. This makes it easier to replace the cable, if one gets damaged, or ..in the really horrible event… cut. It also allows one to use a cable of ones choice length, type, quality… I like this customizability option..

Sound:

Since the headphones themselves are not as spectacular as the features, I will talk about the sound with respect to each feature.

Noise Canceling

The closed cans, which fit really snugly, already provide a bit of ambient noise canceling. But, the real magic happens when you switch on the active noise canceling. It does take a few milliseconds to initialize, and during that time you won’t hear anything.. But once it start, it’s like getting dropped into a sound proof room.. OK. I am exaggerating, but its is some of the nicest noise canceling I have heard. And it’s really fun to realize that active noise canceling makes you not hear your own voice…

The canceling is well done. It does cut out the din and sound of TV Mobile in the bus, or the noise from the MRT traveling in the tunnel. But the voice of the super loud announcements in the MRT, or the uncle shouting into his cellphone, are heard, with just a little attenuation. This is good or bad, depending on how many years you have had in Singapore.. :)

My only issue with the noise canceling… two actually.. are the feeling of heavy pressure on my ear drums and the coloring of sound during noise canceling. When you turn on noise canceling, the way active noise canceling works, a lot more energy is put into your ear.. This is felt as pressure built on your ear drum.. and trust me.. its un-nerving.. especially after using it for long times.

Also, I noticed that whenever noise canceling turned on, the bass gets boosted!! What?? Why? Can’t you leave the bass? I’ll pump it if I need to in my player.. I don’t need the headphones to do that…

X-Fi Crystalizer

Next to the noise canceling, the X-Fi crystalizer was the something I tried the most. The crystalizer is one of X-Fi’s technologies that is integrated into this headphone. It is supposed to “up-sample” music and make it sounds like a 24bit 192kHz Track.

Now, that I will call bull.. While I can’t believe they are recovering the “lost” information, whatever they are doing sounds lovely. After listening to some tracks I realized, that it felt like adding a little high end, a bit of compression and a touch of echo.. and it works.. Most of the tacks on my Zen are mp3s, and the sounded more ‘live’ through the crystalizer.. The sound was indeed brighter..

CMSS-3D

This was the feature I tried the least. It is aimed at gamers and people watching movies. And the idea is to recover 3D information from stereo tracks, and make a stereo track sounds like surround sound. What’s with creative and recovering lost information… They should really start a backup and recovery service… But I digress..

At the demo, I was told, that when I turned this on, I’d feel that instead of listening from under the singers arms, I’d feel that I am listening to a live concert as an audience. Point being, that it ads a lot of stage, and possibly color mimicking the music being played live.

This is also supposed to help in gaming as it allow the player to feel the sound coming from various other direction, and not just left or right. Similarly for movies.. But being separated from these two form of entertainment for a great deal of time (~2-3 months) I did not bother trying it out… but I did try it with music.. and I absolutely hated it. And trust me, I turned it on a few times, just for the review.. as there is no way I would have had the courage to listen it again and again.. It basically killed the stereo in the tracks completely.. I agree it doesn’t work with most of the tracks which I listen to where there is heavy panning and lots of electronic sound.. but still, I did not find even 1 track in my library that sound anything close to listenable in that 3D CMSS mode.. And stop snickering about my choice of music..

Conslusion.

So overall, I’d say its a great piece of technology. As my friend pointed out.. if you are something like an audiophile, or if you care about fidelity and accurate representation of sound.. don’t even bother. But otherwise a lovely pair.. especially to use while traveling or at work.. Ah.. at last.. a peaceful office.. :)

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Womad.. an Audio tour..

Before I can do a good review of WOMAD.. let me just post up some audio clips..

I went there on Sunday armed with the H4 and lots of battery and SD cards..

Here are some of the sounds of WOMAD… Not at all comprehensive, but an appetizer..

David D’Or

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/16493023/view]

Clube do Balanço

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/16493233/view]

The Eccentric by Shooglenifty

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/16493213/view]

Shooglenifty

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/16493223/view]

Muntu Valdo

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/16493203/view]

Might take a little bit to load.. Have some patience..

NUS Arts Festival. A round up.

I managed to catch month of the events under the NUS Arts fest. And here is a review of all the events which I attended.

Press Play by EML.

Apart from the little ‘adventure’ I had while getting the tickets at the door, it was a really fun evening. The theme of the day was machines, and they approached it in a chronological order.

Starting with ‘old machines’. These were mostly peices influenced by old school synthesied sounds like 8bit sounds from old Nintendo games or other classics like Contra. There were some really interestingly videos along with the sounds.

They followed with comtemporary stuff, including making sounds with vaccum cleaners and other interesting devices. Finally, they played some futuristic pieces, which had various flavours.

While it was not amazing or surprising, I was satisfied to get what I expected at EML. There were many interesting toys they used to create the sounds including a couple of Kaoss Pads and a GameBoy sequencer and lots of midi controllers.

Spectral Spaces by Kim Cascone.

This was a very hardcore computer music event. Kim played 2 live peices on him Mac. They were basically created in his own software based on MAX/MSP. The cool part of it was that the sounds which he used to create his peices were randomly selected from his huge library of random sounds. He then used a simple Trim-pot based controller and some buttons on his Mac to controll the sound.

His idea was similar to something they have in Indian Classical music. There is “freedom in discipline”. He’s free to express himself but his discpline is the sound which his program had selected. It brought about some interesting sounds, some melodic, others just noise. I was surprised that I was very much attracted to the melodic sounds.

Kim also conducted a 3-day workshop where the participants played with various sounds and at the end presented an interactive peice, which I must say was very well done. I should really be going for such events. :(

An Interactive Visual Art Concert.

This was basically a project by the Mixed Reality Lab, in NUS. The idea was that the movements and sounds of a triplet playing Er-Hu, Cello and Piano were sensed and used to create graphics.

While the music was interesting, I was unable to link the music and the vizualizations. I started thinking about mental models and intuitive controls. I though that the mapping between the sound and the graphics was not very intuitive. It did not conform easily with my mental models.

But then again, it was a good try. Some of the people in the team were undergraduates doing their FYP. I am sure it was a fulfilling experience.

It was interesting to see them use MAX/MSP on a Mac to grab all the control data from the sensors and the sounds, and pass it over to another computer to render or control the video. This was done over ethernet.

Hmm.. possible usage scenario for OSC??

Electric Sitar and a Robotic Tabla!

Let’s start form the basics. Sitar and Tabla are both Indian musical instruments, widely used in Indian Classical Music. So what has Electronicsand Robotics has got to do with it?

Everything!

Yesterday, I attended a concert by Ajay Kapur. It was a part of the NUS Arts Fest. It was not quite a typical Indian Classical Music concert, though it involved a Sitar and a ‘Tabla‘.

Ajay Kapur, the composer, the performer, the engineer, has wired up his Sitar to make it electric! And to make sure he always has his rhythms to jam along, he created a robotic drummer (Tabla).

Nope, this is not your electric guitar and a copy of Garage Band. His setup was much more complex, though it did involve a Mac. The idea was to have an interactive drummer, which was mechanical/robotic. Basically drum sticks activated by solenoids.

While the setup and the control of the Tabla using the Sitar, was a really interesting part of the concert, especially with my personal dabbling in it, what really caught my attention was the use of electronics and computers with Indian Classical Music. Not that it has not been done before, but his approach to it indicated that it is progressing to newer levels and allowing space for more expression.

Music, I believe is nothing more than a form of expression. Various kinds of music allow musicians to express different things. Newer and novel methods of music composition or performance allow newer forms of expression.

Now, I should really get back to working on my OSC implementation.

Control Strategies in Real-Time Interactive Digital Sound Synthesis

WoooHooo!!! It’s finally done!!!!

Almost 6 months after the deadline I have managed to complete my FYP Thesis according to my personal standards. Well…not exactly the best peice of work I ever created, but I am finally content with what I have done.

I was never happy with what I had submitted to NUS. I knew no one was going to read it, so I didn’t care. So I decided to continue work on it during my spare time. And as you know, time is one luxury I cannot afford.

After many weekends of procrastination and plain old laziness, I have managed to redo most of the Thesis. There are some mistakes in it for sure. I will try my best to iron them out. Right now it v1.5 and its “Internet Worthy“. So here it is!!!

Control Strategies in Real-Time Interactive Digital Sound Synthesis

I am not sure about publication rights for this. But since the content was created by me, I think I should be able to distribute it to anyone who wishes to use it for scientific and educational use!

Call me crazy, mad or whatever you wish, I don’t care! Today…I am Happy!!!

Noise….

Noise.. is defined as unwanted sound. Techinically its a complicated concept, but I wanna talk about the cognitive concept of noise today. And especially acoustic noise. I have noticed that noise pollution is really high in Singapore. There is so much noise around, and some of it at really high levels.

Just a few days ago, I was waiting for bus at a bus stop when another bus passed by. I was not using my MD, but my mom’s CD player that day. That has some volume limiting function, so that it does not pump out the sound at levels that are harmful to our hearing. When the bus passed by, I couldn’t hear anything. I turned the volume to max and still the noise from the bus drowned all the music… :( It was one of those double decker air-con bus. You probabaly wont notice then because you are used to it.

It is also very noisy inside the bus, no thanks to TV Mobile. Not only is it noisy, its annoying. But never mind about that.

All this in comparison to Denmark, where they took so much efforts to keep noise down. I was amazed by the initiative in the whole of Europe about environment, and specifically noise in Denmark. Ever person feels for conservation.Thats where Singapore lacks. A common man does not feel anything about it. And unless people feel about it nothing is gonna happen. Sigh..

Another related thing that I have noticed is this tendency pump up volume at concerts. I never get that. Good music does NOT mean loud music. Actually many times, with mediocre speakers, it actually means you probably are worst off. I agree that everyone should be able to hear the music in the location, but that does not mean you have to damage everyone’s ear. Good speaker placement and proper speaker types can give out really enjoyable music without pumping up the volume.

I noticed it again today. There is some international festival thingy happening at PGP. It was so loud!! And I mean not just loud, but LOUD!!! I couldn’t stand it for more than a few seconds. Human ears designed such that one can actually reduce their sensitivity when you encounter loud sounds…But, that another day’s topic…

What is sound??

What is sound??

To a musician, its the note that is being played. To the acoustician its the pressure of air at the specific instance. To the engineer, its just a logical high or low value of a bit. To the physicist it is just a logitudinal wave. And to the normal human, it is the stimulus to one of the 5 senses we have.

It is simple… and yet amazing.

My Obsession with Sound.

I am obsessed with sound. Its crazy, everywhere I go, I hear sound. Haha..

Jokes aside, sound is really an amazing thing. Everying from it creation to perception is incredible.

Superfacially, it is very simple and elegant. Sound is vibrations of various frequiencies. It travels as longitudinal waves and is perceived by our ear again as a mixture of frequiencies.

However, if you really look into sound, it’s huge. Acoustics, the science of sound is an emense field of study, has applications in many other disciplines, has been studies for years and still an active research field, and NOT persued in NUS by any of the Departments. That’s sad, for me as well as NUS…..

Anyhow (as Lulu would said…:p), I have decided to start a sound blog. I’ll blog about all the cool things about sound and the related fields… Maybe I should move over to other blogging service like WordPress and use categories… Maybe…. A lot of ‘maybe’s shall remain ‘maybe’ untill 2nd May…