A wave of new music-related products.
What say we take a break from the whirlwind of controversial online-music issues and gaze forward to the holidays? A few interesting computer-related audio products have come over the transom lately, and all bear mentioning.
My favorite item of the moment is Base40’s CD Trustee. It automatically builds a database of all song titles, artists, and albums, simply by inserting each CD into your computer. Working in tandem with the remarkable Compact Disc Database, CDTrustee catalogued the bulk of my thousand or so CDs in an evening’s time. What amazed me wasn’t just the program’s ability to quickly catalog every commercially released CD I had, but also every bootleg, and a surprising number of CD-Rs. The only discs it couldn’t deal with, understandably, were CD-Rs made from disparate sources or burned in track-at-once mode. CDTrustee also catalogs MP3s, helps with jewel case inserts, and generates a variety of reports about your music.
There’s certainly no shortage of declicking software and other products meant to restore old vinyl records, but one worth making special mention of is Wave Corrector. It’s a true WYSIWYG waveform editor for Windows that also includes a variety of dehissing and other audio filters, as well as the usual complement of .wav-editing tools. But Wave Corrector gets a blue ribbon for its ability to remove clicks and pops from vinyl-sourced .wav files without dulling or damping the sound. You can adjust how heavy-handed you want the noise-reduction to be, which means you’ll lose the noise but none of the music.
Then there’s listening to all that music at your PC. You can get a serviceable pair of headphones for $10 or less at your local electronics store, but if you spend more than a couple hours a day with music on, you should have something decent on your ears. I like Plantronics’ .Audio 90 PC Headset. It offers excellent bass response (which makes it key for gamers as well as music lovers) and a noise-canceling mic for speech recognition, Internet chat/telephony, and video conferencing. At $35 (MSRP), the .Audio 90 headset won’t set you back much more than a baseline set does, and you get much more for your money.
A new version of eMedia’s Guitar Method 1 contains 155 comprehensive lessons that cover the basics of chord strumming, playing melodies and fingerpicking. Along with 70 songs by artists such as Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Steve Miller, the software includes more than 30 videos and over three hours of instructional audio; an animated fretboard, multitrack audio, and variable-speed MIDI tracks. A built-in automatic tuner lets you interactively tune your guitar, and you also get a digital metronome, recorder with playback, Internet song guide and 250-chord dictionary.
Though it’s been out a while, I have to point out that I’ve been putting Micro Solutions’ Backpack Triple Play CD-Rewriter through its paces for several months now, and it hasn’t let me down once. Built for any parallel, USB, USB 2.0 or PC Card port, the Backpack (newly upgraded to offer 40x burning) has a great knack for reading information from virtually any disc, including CD-Rs and damaged CDs.