Music Apps and Gadgets

There's nothing more relaxing than listening to great tunes, but there's nothing more frustrating than trying to do so with an inaccessible solution. This month we discussed smart speakers, converting old vinyl and CDs into digital music, and digital music services such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music.

October 29, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Tech It Out – Music Apps and Gadgets

Presented by Ricky Enger

October 29, 2019

Ricky E: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Halloween spooky edition of Tech It Out. Hopefully it's not going to be too, too spooky, but I'm glad that you all could join. If you're listening to the archive, we wish you had been here, and hopefully you're listening to this with some nice Halloween candy. Otherwise, I'm glad that those of you who are with us tonight could join, and again, my name is Ricky Enger, and welcome to Tech It Out.

If you're not familiar with how this works, we select a topic each month, and we take some time to explore that topic. I do a little presentation with some information that I've gathered, and then we get to the fun part, where all of you get to jump in and ask your questions, and answer each other's questions as well, because for sure, I don't know everything, and I learn at least one thing at each of these that we do, and so I'm very thankful to be a part of it.

Tonight's topic is accessible music, and we don't mean accessible music in the sense that we're playing instruments. That may be for another discussion entirely. We're talking about how can we enjoy our own music collection; how can we discover new music? What kinds of hardware is out there to make music listening more pleasant, and sound really awesome? So that's what we're discussing tonight. Before we do that, however, I had sent out an email at the beginning of the month asking for tech horror stories, because this is, after all, the Halloween edition of Tech It Out.

And, we got some really great submissions, and unfortunately, we got some submissions that were companies giving out more tricks than treats, and that was very unfortunate to see, and I was hoping not to see as much of that as I did. But we did get a fair amount of those kinds of things, as well as things that people really just are struggling with, in terms of technology, and that becomes a horror show when you want something to work a certain way and it just doesn't.

One story stood out to me though, and I want to share that, and this story comes from Albert, and just to give a little background, Albert says that he has always been afraid of the dark, and even as a child with sight. And as he started losing his vision, he became concerned that someday he was going to be in total darkness, and already having this fear, that was not going to be cool. Thankfully for Albert, he is still only apprehensive at night, even though he's lost all his vision, and has no more vision at night than in the daytime, and vice versa, thankfully he only has to deal with this at night.

So anyway, Albert decides that it's growing dark, but he's interested in taking a walk, and he decides to take Microsoft Soundscapes for a spin. And if you're not familiar with Soundscapes, this is a really neat app from Microsoft, and you'll find it on your iOS devices. Sorry to you Android folks, not there yet. But Soundscape, you use with a pair of headphones, and it will basically orient you to things around you, and it'll do it in a spatial way, so, as you're wearing headphones, you'll hear information about that object in the direction that it's located.

So, our protagonist Albert, is out strolling as it becomes darker, and darker, and he's taking this technology for a spin, and suddenly this very loud gentleman in his right ear, right behind him, says something about a nearby landmark. And needless to say, Albert jumped probably 40 feet in the air. Yeah, maybe not quite that high, but, needless to say, he will not be taking Soundscapes out in the dark anymore, because with a jump scare like that, my goodness, who needs coffee?

So, there's our best Halloween horror story, and thank you, Albert, for sending that into us, because I certainly got a chuckle, somewhat at your expense. But you laughed about it too, so it's all good. All right, let's talk about music. And I want to first talk about music services that are available. There are a lot of them, but there are kind of the big four. And each of them has something that makes them really appeal to people, and each of them has some things that maybe they don't do so well.

So there's Apple Music, there's Google Play Music, there's Spotify, and there's Amazon Music, and you're probably thinking to yourself, "Well how do I choose what music service I care about most?" If there are these four, and you pay a subscription to be a part of at least one of them. Apple Music is interesting, especially if you are very much in the Apple ecosystem. So you have an iPhone, an iPod Touch, maybe you've bought a Home Pod, perhaps you use the Mac, and you have iTunes.

Apple Music is great in that, obviously it works very, very well with Apple products, and you can take it with you wherever you go, as long as you have your iPhone, you've got your music there. The integration with iTunes is really nice if you're using that on the Mac, and Apple Music is a relative newcomer to the scene, so it's perhaps got a little bit of catching up to do.

Spotify is actually one of the biggest music subscription services, and it's cross-platform, so you can have it on Windows, or Android, or your iOS device. So wherever you want Spotify, it's available, and it's also available with smart speakers such as Alexa and Google Home, and sorry, I just set off everybody's A-Ladies. It's hard to remember not to say that name.

Spotify, the thing that Spotify is really great at, is helping you to discover new music. So it's one thing, as with Apple Music, if you already know what you want to play, and perhaps you just want to be able to create your own playlists, or you have a specific artist, and you really want to hear from that artist. Apple Music is great in that sense.

Spotify is about, you know what you like, now let's help you find some music that is similar to these artists that you like. And I think Spotify is probably the best at doing this particular thing, so taking this artificial intelligence, and taking this algorithm and saying, "These bands are similar, so let's play this one and see if you like it." And, that's a nice way to discover things, especially if you don't always listen to Top 40, perhaps your tastes are a little more eclectic, it's hard to discover music if there isn't really a source, if you don't have friends who listen to the same things that you do, and they're discovering music, it's great to have the music service suggest things for you.

Now a neat thing about Spotify right now, is that if you get a Spotify Premium subscription, you're going to get a Google Home Mini, which is the smallest of the Google Homes, it's a tiny little speaker, it's the size of a donut, and they'll give it to you free. Now, the sound quality is not going to fill your entire room with beautiful sound, it's more for a bedroom, that you could put on your nightstand, and just have some nice music there. But that's a nice perk to subscribe to this music service and get a piece of hardware along with it. Now, who knows how long that will last, but here at the end of October 2019, that is still a thing, and so we'll see.

The third music service that is one of the big four is Google Play Music, and this is the one that I personally subscribe to, partly because we have several Google Homes in the house, and that makes it nice. Another reason I like Google Play Music is that not only do you have music available from Google and its library, but you can upload your own songs.

So let's say that you have taken a lot of time, and your old CDs, you have converted those to MP3, and you want to be able to play those on your Google Home, or from your phone, or what have you, Google allows you to upload all of those things to the cloud so that they're available, and you don't have to go looking for them on your hard drive. And I find that a really nice addition to the Google Play Music service.

Now, the downside to Google Play Music, is that it may be going away soon in favor of YouTube Music, which is slightly different, but will probably have similar features. It's just that the layout of the app itself isn't fantastic. Google Play Music, much like Spotify, does do this sort of curation, suggesting other bands, other songs that are similar to what you're currently playing. So what I like to do is begin by playing a song, and Google Play Music will automatically continue playing music based on that initial song, so it's kind of creating your radio station as you go.

The fourth of the big four, is of course, Amazon Music, and if you have an A-Lady, this is a really nice thing to have. Another cool thing about Amazon Music is that if you have purchased music, like actual CDs, you know those things that we used back in the day, if you've purchased CDs directly from Amazon, those things are going to be available automatically in digital form in your music library. So now if you're just using Amazon Music, you don't have to worry about copying the information off those CDs and uploading it somewhere. All of that's done for you, which I think is a nice touch.

Amazon Music is probably the lowest contender here for music discovery. You kind of need to know what it is that you want to listen to. There are some radio stations available, but not nearly as many as you might find on other music services, and so, if you're using Amazon Music, it's a good idea to be aware of exactly what you're hoping to listen to, and you're very likely to be able to find it on Amazon Music, because it's a pretty extensive library of music.

So all of these are streaming services, the music is on the internet, rather than being stored on a big stack of CDs somewhere, but where do you play all this music? There is of course, music hardware. And we'll briefly touch on some of these things. There is of course, the Amazon Echo family, and there's a wide variety of these. So you have the Echo Dot, which is pretty tiny, and then all the way up to the brand-new Echo Plus, and that just came out earlier in October. And so, it's a range of sound, from something to fill up a bedroom, to something that is pretty respectable. And you can even pair two of them, so if you want a very large stereo sound, and you want to place one in the front of the room, and one in the back, or one on the left, and one on the right, you can do that, and definitely fill a room with sound.

Similarly, the Google Home family of products, you can stream music to as well, and these are smart speakers, much like your Echo with the A-Lady in them. So not only do you stream your music to them, but they serve as smart assistants as well. The Google family has the Google Home Mini, which is tiny, donut shaped. The Google Home Original I guess you would call it, which is, to me resembles a tall air freshener shaped speaker, and you can pair two of those. And then there's the Google Home Max, and these are much, much larger. They put out a great deal more sound, and bass, and so on, and these too, can be paired. So having smart speakers that you can stream things to is quite nice.

Apple's Home Pod is a newer addition to this family, and naturally, if you're inside the Apple ecosystem, this is great. And Siri is going to be the assistant in that speaker. So, some of what you might purchase to listen to your music on, really depends on the ecosystem that you've chosen. The company that you tend to use the most. So, those are examples of hardware that can be used.

Now Sonos, Sonos is an interesting group of hardware that allows you to stream music, and these contain smart things as well. There are several different Sonos packages, some of which are just speakers, and then Sonos actually has things that can convert your current stereo setup to basically act as a smart speaker and stream all of your music to your existing setup, but you can use the Sonos app to work with it, and turn a dumb speaker into something a little smarter.

I want to move on now, to talk about CDs. We talked about those old things that people used to have, well guess what? Lots of people still have them, and still enjoy them. But we may have questions, such as, "If I have all of these CDs, how am I going to convert those into digital things? And if I want to be able to listen to my music without taking the CD out of its case and finding my old boombox, or CD player, or what have you, how can I do that?" And that's a question that was actually submitted to us ahead of time. Unfortunately, I don't have a great answer for this. So this is one that I'm going to put out to the community.

CDex, C-D-E-X, was a CD ripping piece of software that was used for quite some time, for those of us using Windows, and we were able to extract that and convert to whatever format we needed. I don't know that it still works as well as it used to. So there is a question for the community, for once we open this up, and if you have an answer, do raise your hand, and hopefully we'll get to you.

Another question that has come in ahead of time, is if you have something on YouTube that you really love, and here's where you found your favorite band, or album, or whatever, and you want to be able to actually download that and listen to it when you're not on YouTube. So there is a website that we'll have in the show notes, and it's called YouTube Playlist Converter. And with this, you'll be able to find a playlist that someone has created on YouTube, and you can then basically have that converted into MP3, and it will be downloaded as a ZIP file, which is kind of nice.

We have one more question, and see, I'm really making the community work for things this evening, and that is, "How can I stream my music to more than one Bluetooth device at a time?" And I bring this question up, because it's worth speaking about how smart assistants do this, and then asking the question, "What if you don't have a smart assistant? What if you have a dumb speaker, but you still want this multi-room audio, basically?"

So, Sonos is one example of, you can have speakers in each room, and you're using the Sonos app to stream to all of these speakers at once. So the same thing that's playing in your bedroom, can be playing on your nice living room speakers as well. For Google and the A-Lady, we have similar things, such that you can create a speaker group, and give it a name, and then when you're ready to stream the music that you want to listen to, you can either stream it just to your living room, from your assistant's app, or via your voice, or you can say, "Play that on this speaker group that I've created."

But of course, that doesn't address how you would do this on just a bunch of Bluetooth speakers that may be very different from each other. So, again, if you guys have ideas on that, we'll certainly welcome them.

One last thing I want to touch on, is a lot of us have components that belong to a stereo system such as an actual CD player. We might even have a turntable, or a tape deck, and we still want to be able to play that music. But as you might know, it's very, very difficult to find amplifiers that are not just touch screens, they really lack tactile feedback in how you operate them. And so, what happens a lot, is that not only do these amplifiers have completely inaccessible surfaces that you're working with, they also have apps that you can control them from. So that's the good news, is that potentially, you can find an amplifier that can be operated with an app.

The bad news is that it takes trial and error from the community to figure out which of these is accessible, and which of these isn't, because it seems to be that you can't easily go into a store, download an app, and perform setup on each of these amplifiers to see which thing is going to work for you, and which thing is going to be accessible, either via iOS or Android.

So, it's a challenge, but this is why we all come together, so that if we do have questions like this, and people have answers, and say, "Hey, I have experience with this particular amplifier." And they can share that, then we all benefit from it. So, those are the really overview remarks that I wanted to make about music, because it's such a broad topic, and I wanted to leave lots of room for questions. So, I'm ready to open this up for questions. If you do have a question, you can star nine if you're on the phone, Alt+Y on the PC, and Command+Shift+Y on the Mac. So we will begin taking questions now, and we're going to go first to 417, on the phone. And I will unmute you, that's 417.

Speaker 2: I have to chuckle when you mention the 8-tracks, I'm like, "Oh my god, are they still around?" On the music services, I noticed that you did not mention Pandora. Is that-

Ricky E: There's no particular-

Speaker 2: Not a contender?

Ricky E: Yeah, go ahead. It's not that Pandora isn't a contender per se. They were actually one of the first to do music curation, music discovery. The interesting thing about Pandora, is that for the longest time, they were really not accessible on the PC without a third-party app, and on the phone of course, they were fine.

Now, Pandora is still around, and I think it's a great way to discover music in addition to Spotify and such, and you're going to have ads with a lot of these free services, so if you haven't paid for Pandora, you'll have an ad play after a couple of songs. But it's definitely a good service to have. It's just that it doesn't tend to get a lot of subscriptions, and it's not necessarily on a lot of these smart speakers.

Speaker 2: Ah, okay. Next question, on the music services. I like to play music when I'm outside. If I'm working in the garden, working out in the yard and stuff, and I have my iPhone out there with me. But I lose Wi-Fi connection when I get into certain spots. What, or how, do I go around that without loading, taking up too much space on my phone?

Ricky E: Yeah, that's a great question, and one thing I might try, and this sounds kind of weird, but if you have a playlist, or just a station that you really want to listen to outside, and you're willing to just leave your phone inside, or in a different spot, what you can do is, there are Bluetooth speakers that you can pair with your phone, and so you can keep the Bluetooth speaker near you, and keep your phone in a spot where it's not going to break up as much, and then just stream from your phone to that Bluetooth speaker.

Speaker 2: Oh, okay. I didn't think of that.

Ricky E: Yeah, so that would be my recommendation. And there are lots of Bluetooth speakers. We've talked a lot about smart speakers, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with a good old dumb speaker. I have the JBL Charge, and that one's a nice one. I have a Bose Bluetooth option as well, and that's really nice. So there are lots of choices, and they're, you can get a $20 Bluetooth speaker all the way up to a couple of hundred dollars. So, there's something for everyone's budget on those, which is nice.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Ricky E: Thank you.

Speaker 2: Okay, thank you.

Ricky E: All right. Next we are going to go to 520 on the phone. 520?

Speaker 3: Yeah, my question was about those four companies you mentioned. Which ones are paid subscriptions? And then you were talking about all the assistants. I don't own any of those. What's the basic cost?

Ricky E: Great questions, both of those. So, generally there are, your pricing is going to be around $10 a month for each of these that are paid. Now the cool thing is that, certainly for Spotify, and for each of these, there's a free option with ads, and then there's a paid option. So for Spotify, and Amazon for sure, you have a free option, and then there is a paid option.

For Google Play Music and the other one that has escaped me at the moment. Apple Music, wow, yeah. So for Google Play Music and Apple Music, there are extensive trials. I think you can have a three-month trial, and then you either pay, or you drop it. Now for your smart assistants, if you go with Spotify, you can get a very small little speaker that is a smart assistant, the Google Home, for free, and that comes with your Spotify subscription right now.

If you're paying for it, either that, or the Echo Dot, they're around $50, and they range from $50 all the way up to $200 to $300, depending on the size of the speaker that you want. But if you're just looking to listen to music on your phone, or via headphones, then you don't really need the smart assistants. They just make a nice a nice addition, so that you can say, "Hey Assistant, play this particular music." If you don't want to do that, then what you'll be doing is just using the app from your smartphone, and either streaming it to a Bluetooth speaker, or just listening on your headphones.

Speaker 3: And those assistants, they're rechargeable, correct? You just keep recharging them? And about how long do they last?

Ricky E: Generally, they are actually, you'll plug them in. Now there are some that-

Speaker 3: Oh.

Ricky E: Yeah. So there are some that do have batteries. They tend to be a little smaller, but you can just keep the assistants plugged in. Especially the larger ones that really put out some nice sound. So these smart speakers like the Google Home, and the Echo Plus, and of course the Home Pod, are going to be plugged in.

Speaker 3: Okay, so they're always on, so you want to put them on a wall where you could cut them off if you weren't using them?

Ricky E: Yeah, exactly. Yep.

Speaker 3: Okay. Thank you, that's what I needed to know. Thanks.

Ricky E: Absolutely. Great questions. All right, so next we will go to Marty.

Marty: I have some answers to some of your questions.

Ricky E: Great.

Marty: Or at least what I do, anyway, as far as converting my CDs to MP3 files, and I've done this for some people for a fee. But I use Windows Media Player, it's pretty simple. Takes about 12 minutes to do one CD.

Ricky E: Now are you on Windows 10 or Windows 7?

Marty: I've done it using Windows 7, I have not tried it using Windows 10 yet.

Ricky E: Gotcha, and I think that's where things fall apart. But with that said, Media Player may work perfectly fine on Windows 10. It's really a matter of not having tried it, and lots of people are making that jump from Windows 7 to 10.

Marty: Well we're going to have to, here soon, but.

Ricky E: Yeah, exactly.

Marty: And also, as far as downloading audio from YouTube, I use Pontes Media Downloader. It's a very accessible app that you can download to your Windows machine. The only drawback I see to that one, is it doesn't let you choose the bit rate for converting to MP3, it seems to default to 128, which I'd rather have a lot more.

Ricky E: Yeah, that'd be nice.

Marty: But it does give you a variety of file types to download to, and you can also download the video, different video files.

Ricky E: And the name of that one more time please?

Marty: It is Pontes Media Downloader.

Ricky E: Thank you.

Marty: It's a free download.

Ricky E: Free is good. Free is definitely good.

Marty: You had several questions, and I thought I had an answer to another one. I can't remember what the other question was.

Ricky E: Let's see. The other question, yeah, I think that definitely covers two of them. The one question was streaming to multiple Bluetooth speakers at once.

Marty: Oh yeah. I use a little device I bought from Amazon, it's a little tiny square box, that has RCA jacks on the back of it. It's a Bluetooth receiver.

Ricky E: Okay, yeah.

Marty: And I can plug that into my component stereo system, and Bluetooth stream music right from my iPhone through the stereo using that. It was about a $25 little gadget.

Ricky E: Yeah, that makes sense. So if you're looking to, we talked about Sonos earlier, which was a way that you could, the Sonos amp allows you to convert your existing stereo into a Sonos streaming thing, and here's a way to do it much, much cheaper, to just simply hook your little Bluetooth receiver to your stereo and do it that way. Yeah.

Marty: Yep, right through the auxiliary in, or in any other input you have on your stereo.

Ricky E: Excellent.

Marty: And it works really well.

Ricky E: Thanks very much for that, yeah.

Marty: I don't know if you're going to cover it tonight or not, but, I'd like to talk about media playing apps on the computer sometime, so like Windows Media Player, Winamp, VLC Media Player, and do a comparison of those sometime.

Ricky E: That is definitely a great set of topics. And we will talk about that once we take a couple more questions here, and hopefully if there's time, you can give some thoughts on that when we come back around. So keep your hand up if you'd like to talk about that.

Marty: Okay.

Ricky E: Cool. One question that has also come in, and if you have an answer to this, anyone in the community, do raise your hand. We have someone who has an iPhone with a lot of songs from iTunes on it. Those same songs used to be on her computer, which has since been lost. And she's hoping to be able to transfer those songs from the iPhone to the new computer as well. So anyone with an answer, go ahead and raise your hand, and we'll get to you in just a bit.

Marty: Probably have to do it through the Cloud in iTunes.

Ricky E: Yeah, and Apple has changed that, even recently, so if anyone has experience on how that works as of an update ago, that's useful, because they've-

Speaker 5: [inaudible]?

Ricky E: The thing about Apple, is that they tend to be a little proprietary, and there is a certain way that they want things done, and a certain way that they want to refuse, and so it's not as easy as it should be on this one, sadly. Let's go to 303 on the phone, with a question. 303, I'll unmute you. At least I'll try. 303, you ready?

Speaker 6: Thank you. I had more of a comment than a question. Something I have enjoyed very much doing, when I stumbled on it, was just an idea I had. I take one of my downloaded books, downloaded through BARD, and if it is a music biography, or autobiography, and there's going to be a lot of music referred to in the book, then I use it as a bedtime meditation, bedtime reading, where I'll read a little bit, and then when there's something mentioned in music, I'll ask the girl for it. I'll ask the A-Girl, "Play me whatever." If I'm not familiar with it. And it's been just delightful. It took me the whole summer to read Elvis Costello's autobiography, in fact it was read in his voice.

Ricky E: Oh nice.

Speaker 6: And, he's quite the musicologist, and in fact, that's why I wanted to read it, more so than his own music. And every single thing, except for maybe one or two, and there were hundreds of references that he would make to, back to the 1900s, his father's music in the 1940s, and 50s, and every single thing was available to me through the A-Girl.

And so it was just delightful to read his ideas on it, and then to pause him, and listen to the actual music. And as I said, there were hundreds of references made, and I think it was Alan Lomax, some of his very obscure research and stuff that was not available. But I was just shocked at how many things were available, and it was just delightful.

So I just wanted to pass that on to the community, so that if anyone is indeed into reading for their non-fiction selections, memoir and stuff, Carole King has one out, and she makes a lot of mention of her friends, and it was just fun to read it in the musician's voice, and then to refer to the music that they were mentioning.

Ricky E: That's excellent.

Speaker 6: The end.

Ricky E: Thank you, and that actually reminded me of two things to say, one of which is that, yes, having this kind of music discovery, where you hear someone talk about something, and now you don't have to go buy the CD, or borrow it from a friend, or whatever, you can ask your assistant, or you can search in your app that you're using. We've talked a lot about assistants, and perhaps that's because that's what I tend to use a lot.

But again, there's nothing wrong with using this just from your phone with headphones or streaming to a Bluetooth speaker, and you're able to search for these things that are mentioned. And since the music library is so huge on any of these services, you're very likely to find even really obscure stuff, and that's nice.

The other thing I wanted to mention, that isn't necessarily related to music, but kind of fits here, is that with the A-Lady, anyway, you can read Audible books directly on that speaker. And so, you could even potentially be reading this book on Audible, pausing the Audible book, and asking the A-Lady for the music that was mentioned there, which is pretty neat.

Speaker 6: Well I even pair it with, my husband, bless his heart, and his little pointed head, he is a complete Bob Dylan fan. I am not.

Ricky E: Oh, no.

Speaker 6: But Bob Dylan has a series of, we have the whole set of CDs, and it's now on, I can call anything up on the A-Girl as well. And it's not his music, it's his, as a musicologist he might discuss everything that has to do with coffee, for example.

Ricky E: Right.

Speaker 6: Or, a storm, a rainstorm, for example. And he goes way back in musical history, and he talks about it, and it is his voice. But he goes back, even into the 1800s, where he's dug up massively ancient recordings of different things. And so, that's another thing that can be enjoyed using multiple resources, I think.

Ricky E: Absolutely, thanks very much for that.

Speaker 6: Okay, well, enjoying everyone's comments. Thanks very much.

Ricky E: Thank you.

Lisa S: Ricky?

Ricky E: Yes?

Lisa S: Excuse me for butting in. As a co-host, I can't raise my hand. So I'm not being rude on purpose. I just wanted to mention two things. I do use CDex on Window 10. I saw one person's Windows 10 system, that it absolutely refused to work on, but the system was sort of cobbled together with paperclips and duct tape. And so, on your quote, "Average system," it should still work. I mean, it's a little slow, and it's really verbose. So you want to turn down the volume on your speakers, or plug in a headset, or leave the room, or something. But it does get the job done nicely.

The other thing is a bit gimmicky, and it's sort of along the lines of Spotify with the free Google Home Mini, but I just checked, and this is still a thing. Right now, on Amazon, if, and there's a lot of ifs. If you are a Prime member, you can get an Echo Dot for basically a little under $10. Now there is a catch. It comes with, that price includes a one-month subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited. Now it does auto-renew, but you can cancel it anytime. Obviously, they're trying to entice you to use their service, but, if you want to get an Echo on the cheap, it's a good way to do it. I actually have two Echo Dots and I have them set up as a stereo pair. And it's not super amazing sound, but it's adequate. It's pretty nice. So, just a thing to mention. And the Echo Dot that is part of their, excuse me, part of their promo is the third generation Dot.

Ricky E: Yeah, now you can choose a music service, and get a speaker. So, you could get a Google one, or you can get an A-Lady, which is nice. And they both have their place. I just got a brand-new A-Lady. I didn't have one of those in my home, and I got the, just the standard Echo, and I got the newest one that's been released, and it actually puts out some nice sound. The Dot probably doesn't sound nearly as good, just as the Google Home Mini doesn't sound as good, but they all have their place.

Lisa S: You'd be amazed. The third generation Dot, I mean I had a second generation, and a friend of mine said to me, "You really need a third generation. Listen to this." And I'm like, "Oh, this is going to be fantastic. It's over the phone." And she played part of a song on her second generation, and she played the same part of the same song on her third, and I could hear the difference over the phone. It was like-

Ricky E: Wow.

Lisa S: Wow. Yeah. And you know I'm a little audio challenged, so if I could hear the difference, I mean it was-

Ricky E: It's significant.

Lisa S: Pretty good, yeah. Yeah.

Ricky E: Excellent. Let's go to 207 on the phone, with a question. 207?

John: Hi Ricky, this is John. A quick question, and maybe some of your other listeners can weigh in on this. I am an NLS patron, I get books from my state NLS Library, which means I've got one of them cartridge players. I'm wondering if there is any way to convert stereo cassettes to such cartridges?

Ricky E: So-

John: I'm looking for a low-tech option.

Ricky E: Yeah. I hear you. And I think that you can convert cassettes to something digital that would play on your NLS player, perhaps from a thumb drive or a cartridge. The issue really isn't so much playing it on the NLS player, it's actually doing the conversion from a cassette to MP3.

John: Yeah.

Ricky E: There are a couple, and I've bought them both, and sadly neither one of them did a great job, but they are essentially, you play the cassette. It looks like a little boombox, and you play the cassette, and you insert a USB thumb drive into this thing, and you, again, play the cassette, and it converts that to MP3.

The bad thing is that you're not able to select your bit rate, and it actually does it at a fairly low quality. And so now, not only do you have tape hiss, but you also have what I would call artifacting, so, little jumps and squeaks and things in the audio, and it just sounds lower quality than it should. So I think these ripped at 64k, and that just wasn't good enough. I will have links in the show notes to both these things that I own, just perhaps as a what not to do thing, or, go and grab this, it works great, if you're not super concerned about how great it sounds. And so-

John: I'm just wondering if anything-

Ricky E: Yeah.

John: Just wondering if any of the listeners, or the other people that are on this call, have any ideas, other than what you're suggesting and will put in the show notes?

Ricky E: Yeah.

John: That's all I had. Oh that's all I have. Oh, the other thing was, it's unrelated. I wish you would do a session on typing quickly on a piece of slippery glass.

Ricky E: Oh, yes. And actually, we may do something that is somewhat related. There is, if you are on an iPhone, and I forget if they have it for Android as well, but there's something called Flick Type, and it's a way to input things a little more quickly, and of course there's Braille screen input, if you do that.

John: Oh that doesn't help me.

Ricky E: Sorry?

John: That doesn't help me. I've got an Apple iPad.

Ricky E: Gotcha. Yeah, no. Flick Type works there as well. But alternative keyboards and alternative input would make a great session, so I appreciate that. If anybody does have an idea for John of how to easily convert cassettes to MP3 that could then be played on an NLS player, go ahead and unmute yourself and jump in if you have thoughts.

Marty: Yeah, it's Marty again. I don't know if this gentleman has a way of connecting his cassette player via analog audio into his sound card on his computer, but there's a lot of software that would do that. Of course you'd have to do it real time, playing the cassette. And there's Audacity, which is a free download, which is an audio recording editor program.

Ricky E: Absolutely, and that's definitely a way to do it. It's not necessarily a low-tech way to do it, but it's probably-

Marty: Well if you want quality, you're going to have to do something...

Ricky E: Yeah, I agree with you. Probably, that's exactly what I was going to say. It's going to be the best quality option.

Marty: What I would suggest though, is unless this is really rare, hard to find material, is try and download it from somewhere else.

Ricky E: Yeah.

Marty: Yeah. It'd be a lot easier, and quicker, and probably better quality.

Ricky E: Thanks for that, Marty.

Marty: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ricky E: We've got five minutes, and a few more questions, so let's go ahead and move on to 575, with a question?

Speaker 9: I wonder, I was listening to a woman earlier ask about, I guess the music that they were, people pay for and stuff?

Ricky E: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 9: I know Apple costs, and so does those other ones. But I was hearing that Amazon, I haven't tried it yet, but a friend of mine has, I guess the prescription.

Ricky E: I do that too.

Speaker 9: That word just slipped my mind.

Ricky E: Subscription.

Speaker 9: That thing you pay for, is usually like $12, $13 a month, or something, is what I heard.

Ricky E: Yeah, it's around $10.

Speaker 9: But I think she said, yeah, she says what she does, is if she's got, I don't know if it's Medicaid or food stamps, I'm not sure which one it is, that you get half of that off for Amazon Prime.

Ricky E: Oh right.

Speaker 9: I haven't tried it yet, but that's what she has. I haven't done it yet, but she has it to where she only pays $5.99 with her being on either Medicaid or food stamps, and I'm not sure which one she uses, because I hadn't really asked her, but that [inaudible], that thing you said, down to $5.99, and it gives music, books, and videos to watch. I don't know if they're...

Ricky E: That's interesting, because there is Amazon Prime, which is a yearly subscription that gets you access to a lot of things such as free shipping, video, and I'm not sure if Amazon Music is treated as a separate thing that would work under this food stamp/Medicaid thing as well.

Speaker 9: I think it does, because she does listen to music on there, so I'm pretty sure it's on there itself.

Lisa S: I think the program-

Speaker 9: Go ahead?

Lisa S: I think I heard about this program, and I think what it is, what I also suspect, this is based on part memory and part what you're saying about what your friend has. I think that reduced rate, she's paying for Amazon Prime.

Speaker 9: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lisa S: Now, there is such a thing as Amazon Prime Music, and it's-

Speaker 9: Yes there is, uh-huh.

Lisa S: It's sort of a halfway point between not having music on your device or having some. It's not like Amazon Music Unlimited, it's not as wide a selection, but you still do have some music.

Speaker 9: But you still get music, yes.

Ricky E: Yes, okay.

Speaker 9: It's just not a whole, I'm thinking it's not all the new stuff, is what I'm thinking. I think it's all that old stuff, is what I'm thinking it is. But she does listen to music, and I know, like I said, it's $5.99 I believe she told me. I just hadn't looked into it, but I mean, it has movies, and some stuff like old movies. It gives you a thing, and I know you can listen to books, and you just got to download that little whatever it's called that reads them for you. You've got to read it yourself, but you turn the pages. I forget what that thing's called.

Ricky E: Oh, Kindle. Yeah.

Speaker 9: Kindle, yeah. All the things gone out of my mind. But, anyway, but I thought that lady would get something out of that, because I know at like $5.99, if she's on either or, food stamps or Medicaid. But $5.99 is better than whatever, $12.99 or $11.99 or whatever is, because you still get movies and books and everything, you know, there's pretty much on there, because I'd seen it, because I'd listened to some of her books over there at her house, and you get, there is quite a selection on all three parts.

Ricky E: Yeah, I feel like Amazon has something for everything. Books, music, movies, all of that stuff.

Speaker 9: And stuff to deliver that they do for free, if they buy something.

Ricky E: Yup.

Speaker 9: But I thought I'd share that, because I wasn't sure if anybody knew that.

Ricky E: Yeah, I appreciate that. And I think, in closing, and unfortunately, we are out of time, and don't have time for another question. But in closing, what I wanted to say was that we've talked about so many things here, and it's difficult to keep track of what is free, and what is paid, and what is generally paid but has a free alternative. There's so much out there. Do check out our show notes once the episode is out, and look for links to things, and basically do a little of your own research if you have found a music service that sounds like something that you want to try.

All of these are going to at least have trials, and that point, you can decide what things you really, really care about, and what you actually want to pay for, and what you're fine with having free, which has some ads and things like that. So, there is no shortage of music out there, and it's just a matter of settling on which things you care about and want to use. Thank you everyone for joining us this evening. I always appreciate it, and again, always learn something. If you have questions, or any additional things to submit, please send and email, Enger, E-N-G-E-R at Happy Halloween and see you next month.