Two things we want to see in 2018

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Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is shaping all entertainment areas, including music. This new audiovisual format isn't far-fetched as there are already dozens or 360º music videos (remember Saturnz Barz by Gorillaz). Adjusting such videos to VR sets seems quite possible in 2018. Let's just hope it's gonna be improved.
But it's not only Youtube video that can get a changed format. Music festivals can also get VR as not everybody can go to all fests they want. However, streaming to a VR from a live performance sounds like a great solution. It may offer a brand-new way to experience your favorite artist of DJ. Lollapalooza and Coachella have already expressed their interest in this idea, so the rest are likely to follow their example. 

Synthwave comeback

Love for the '80 culture is trendy again. Stranger Things, neon lights everywhere, mystical electronic sound – seems like it's time for Synthwave to hit the world again. The reborn of this particular genre was predicted by the fact that we always return to what was once cool. We're done with the 90's, so now it's time for the 80's.

We just want synthwave and retrowave back! 

Continue readingNov 28th 2017

Why does music give us 'chills'?

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When your playlist hits all the right sounds, your body can go on a physiological joy. Your heartbeat increases and your pupils dilate. The body temperature rises, and blood redirects to your legs. Your forebrain — part of the brain that controls body movements — becomes more active. Your brain floods with dopamine and atingle chills run down your back.

Fifty percent of people get chills while listening to music. Research shows that it happens because music stimulates some part of our brain, encouraging dopamine to fill the striatum — a part of the cerebellum activated by motivation, addiction, and reward. Music seems to have some effect on our brains in the same way that sex, gambling, and tasty food do.

Those dopamine levels can climax seconds before the song’s special moment. That proves that your brain is a good listener—it’s continuously predicting what’s going to happen next. It has something to do with evolution – a handy habit to make reasonable predictions is essential for survival.

But music is tricky. It's often unpredictable, teasing our brains and keeping those dopamine triggers imagining. And that’s where the chills can come in. When you finally hear that long-awaited chord, your brain sighs with dopamine-saturated satisfaction and — BOOM — you get the chills. The greater the accumulation, the greater the chill.

Gray Areas

There are competing theories. Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp discovered that sad music triggers chills more often than upbeat music. He claims that melancholy tunes activate an ancient,  mechanism—a distress reaction our ancestors felt when separated from their family. When a ballad makes us feel nostalgic and wistful, that evolutionary pattern activates.

A visualized X-Ray of a brain with some electric waves and headphones

What’s interesting about Panksepp’s theory, though, is that chills can't make people sad. The experience is extremely positive. Recent research reveals that sad music evokes positive emotions — sadness experienced through music is a bit more pleasant than the sadness you experience from a shitty day at the office.  

And this may hint at another theory. The amygdala – part of the brain that processes our emotions, responds oddly to music. A somber tune can activate a fear response in the amygdala, causing your hair stand on end. When it happens, your brain immediately reviews whether there’s any real danger. When it understands there’s nothing to worry about, that fear signal becomes positive. The fear fades, but the chills remain.

Anything Goes

You can feel chills from any kinds of music, whether it’s Bach, Beyoncè, folk, or techno. It’s the structure that values. The chills usually occur when something unexpected happens: a new instrument enters, the bridge starts, or the volume suddenly dims. It’s all about the surprise. However, the most powerful chills can occur when you know what’s coming. When our expectations are being matched, the nucleus becomes more active. This is related to that dopamine-inducing guessing game our brain enjoys so much. As a result, the expectation of the known can enhance the excitement for the chill.

Your personality matters, as well. Scientists at UNC Greensboro discovered that people who are more open to new experiences are more likely to feel goosebumps. Meanwhile, researchers in Germany saw that people who felt chills were unlikely to be thrill seekers, but were more reward-driven.

Continue readingNov 27th 2017

7 Things No Audiophile Should Have

A man sitting on a chair in front of a loudspeaker
I know how exhausting it might be to make the most out of your listening experience, but you should never go over the limit in your efforts and moreover, avoid some of the things trying to optimize your music sources. To make sure that only clean and distortion-free sound surrounds you, promise never to have the following things. At all costs. I mean it. 

Shower CD player

Shower audio player
For Hendrix's sake, listen to your music in the shower, it's beautiful. But don't waste your money on gimmicks that can't provide decent listening experience. There're plenty of ways to set up an audio system in your bathroom without making your ears suffer from audio pain. A portable JBL will work fine.  

Cheap iPhone dock

An iPhone dock
Even the pickiest audiophile can't help it but have some MP3, however, when it comes to filling a room with your Hi-Res collection, a shitty iPhone dock won't help. Lossy audio formats always sacrifice quality for convenience. Such sound can't be better using a poor dock, it can only make it worse. Instead of a dock, try a Hi-Fi system. Even an ordinary one can get decent results. 

Complicated equalizer

Elaborate equalizer
Remember a simple rule – you must spend more time listening to music than you spend preparing to listen to it. With the right equipment, the record is likely to sound exactly how the producer intended. Excessive use of an equalizer can oppose it. Don't be very obsessed with it, limit the adjustment time and focus on listening. 

Lightweight turntable

Lightweight turntable
If you decided to switch to vinyl, I'm super glad for you. But a 12" record is worth it only if you have a decent equipment for playing it. A cheap turntable with a light platter can add some unwanted noise due to audio vibrations. Moreover, modern turntable use ceramic cartridges which are usually heavier. They result in damaging your records over time. Those scratches won't make it sound old-school or whatever, more like dubstep.

Overpriced cables

Expensive audio cables
Audiophiles are famous for spending money on supposedly pointless items. Don't be a stereotype by throwing hundreds of dollars on luxury cables and wires. To some extent, higher-quality cables may help you reach a better listening experience, but after some point, they're a waste of money that you can spend on equipment that does make a change.  

Mediocre earbuds

Apple Earbuds
A great way to maximize the audio quality is to always give preference to Hi-Res audio formats. Sadly, cheap earbuds aren't designed to complement the benefits of that decision. It doesn't mean, though, that you have to be opting for trendy, opulent headphones, or bass-heavy buds. It could work out were you a naive teenager, but most people agree such buds only distort the sound. Find the happy medium.

CD wallet

CD wallet
If you know what it is, you must have been born before 1995. This is a rare object nowadays, but if you want to protect your CD collection, don't try to stick them in that hideous case. Such wallets fit better for kids who don't know what to do with their porn DVDs. There's a big chance of scratching your disks, and you can no longer read the packaging and notes that complement the album listening experience. 

Continue readingNov 22th 2017
A vinyl record with 'vinyl kills the mp3 industry' written on it
Greetings, audiophiles! You can't be listening to MP3, I'm sure. I'm pretty sure you know a lot about why Hi-Res music, however, I still believe I must tell you there’s another cool way to enjoy music. It’s called vinyl.
No, no. Vinyl didn’t die when Jimi Hendrix did. It’s very much alive and is much more preferable than listening to music in a digital format. Let's take a trip to a record store, and I’ll tell you the four reasons why 12″ vinyl records are better than digital MP3.

1. Vinyl Improves Your Taste In Music 

Let’s play a game. Go to your local record store and try to find One Direction's Made in the A.M., which sold  2,400,000 copies in 2015. Nothing?
Okay, try again. See if you can find anything by Justin Bieber. Nope? Okay, now check if you can find anything by Pink Floyd. What, a whole shelf’s worth? Why would you think that might be?
It's economics, my friend. People who prefer vinyl tend to be quite picky about what they listen to. 
Vinyl recorder on a bed playing 'A Collection of Beatles Oldies'
They don’t listen to airy, mass product kind-of-music. They listen to bands that have artistic honesty, and compose their own songs and play their own instruments. They listen to great songwriters and have an ear for production. Bands who meet those criteria are the ones you can find in a record shop. When you listen only to vinyl, you unconsciously decide to never, ever face One Direction and Justin Bieber. And that’s lovely.

2. Buying Records Is an Experience

There’s something magical about buying records. It’s the type of experience that got lost in iTunes and Spotify generation. It’s the kind of experience where can spend hours aimlessly searching for music. 
Vinyl records store
You take gambles, and you give money on albums having no idea whether they are worth it or not. You talk to people, and ask their opinions and suggestions, and ultimately make friends.
It’s a more of a social experience than any app or online music shop could ever be.

3. Vinyl Sounds Better

Sorry, friends. This one isn’t up for dispute. Vinyl sounds better than MP3s ever could. 
Most of the music is broadcast in some lossy format, where details are missed, and the overall quality is reduced. It happens because audio files get compressed to make them small enough to store thousands of them on the phone, and to stream online. Regardless whether you listen to music on a streaming service like Apple Music or prefer MP3s or even the radio, you can't get the full picture of that track. Vinyl is far more high-quality. No audio data is lost when pressing a record. It sounds just as great as the producer or band intended.
A collection of vinyl records and headphones on it
There’s another, far superior reason why vinyl is better than lossy digital formats. Vinyl, for the most part, avoided the ‘loudness war.' With the rise of digital music (CDs included), it's possible to make a track sound louder than it naturally should. The problem here is that it had a tremendous result on the audio quality. It caused songs to sound distorted and unpleasant and removed their depth and texture. Since vinyl is an analog format, it can suffer from the same problems. 

4. You Can Make Money  

When you buy an MP3 on iTunes, you don’t really own that particular MP3. You simply license it. But, vinyl? That’s an entirely different story altogether. There’s a huge community of people buying, collecting, and reselling vinyl, because it always keeps its purchase value, and even increases in value. When you acquire a record, you’re not just buying some album. You’re making an investment that you can later sell, or maybe pass down to your children. Some apps and websites make the process much more convenient. 

Vinyl Is Not Going Away

Vinyl is indeed an old technology and one that has remained relatively unchanged over the past thirty-forty years. But that's because it's the closest to the perfect device for listening to music. 
Continue readingNov 21th 2017