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The state of technology for listening to music - it's complicated

Music makes the world go around.  We all know the importance of music – every type of device has a song and dance for accessing, storing and hearing it. Gadgets and apps for listening are everywhere, even as the world of hi fidelity speakers is diminished to ever-smaller and more remarkable sound reproduction.  In the 70’s MIT entrepreneurs founded Tech HiFi, which boomed into 80 stores and some fabulous catalogs before collapsing in the 1980s, along with nearly every other store, including the original not-online-140-character nonsense, the once-$750 million chain was actually called Tweeter. Okay, so all that is gone except for the gear bought by those aged 50+ -- including grand pianos and stereo equipment that the boomers and beyond may have left in their to-be-downsized homes.


Streaming software apps. Today it’s a whole new miniaturized and dangerous world of sound piped into your head at dangerously high decibel levels, whether you are in a safe place to listen to it – even more dangerous apparently than wandering around in the streets playing Pokémon Go.  You see it -- city streets and jogging paths filled with oblivious people wearing earbuds, planes are filled with passengers blocking out all sounds, including the flight attendant pleading with folks to listen to the exit row willing-and-able speech.  In newer cars, you can use a smartphone and Bluetooth to pair with the speakers in the car, accessing streaming sites that aggregate your selected radio stations -- like Neutron on Android or iTunes radio, Pandora (both Android and Apple), or Spotify on iPhones


Hardware devices.  Assume folks are in a safe place (like their own home!) with high speed Internet available. The sound world is their oyster, sort of, with Amazon’s Echo: “Alexa, play [Your Favorite Here]” and IF you have Amazon Prime access, and IF anything like that is available from its own library or your own library, you’re all set.  You talk, it listens and obeys. Coming “later in 2016” to a Google Home device near you, notably different for offering Google Play music.  Then there are the mini-sound devices that pair with smartphones, including the remarkable Bose SoundLink Mini II and its host of competitors.  And then there’s grandPad that comes with selectable music – and of course, smartphones with downloadable apps. Ah, but do seniors download apps?  Maybe – only Nielsen knows.


Easy-to-use interfaces – sort of, but not yet. So all this is really easy to configure and use, right? Not exactly. Can’t (easily) speak to the Bluetooth setting on the phone. Multiple Bluetooth enabled devices (like two smartphones) are feasible, but can create confusion (yours, not the devices).  Internet connection must be reliably high speed – and nearby, measured in feet.  Can you speak a pairing request to Amazon Echo? Yes, it helpfully says, ‘Ready to Pair’ with your device. Okay, that device may, perhaps, be paired with Bluetooth speakers that have better sound. Whew.  So where is the software user interface that hides all of that complexity, making it possible to say “Let’s have some music” and the device and software menu will pipe up, so to speak, asking you how you’d like it and at what volume? 

Comments

interesting article, and one that could apply to many things - heating, lighting, security, as well of course as music.

what it leads to though is your final comment "where is the software user interface that hides all of that complexity". Well the user interface that simplifies all of these things, and makes them appropriate for all user groups, is out there, but you cant buy it off the shelf, and you cant do it DIY, which is where many of these products fail, but if you engage with a reputable smart home installer, they should be able to create a design, in a 3rd party app, that brings together the best features you like, automates things you don't want to have to do in a complex way, and makes it as simple as open an app or press a button and get the result you want.

to give you a for instance - if i tell the app I want my music streaming service (but could just as easily be my trusty 8yr old CD player), it automatically powers on my amplifier, then all i do is select the music i want and click the room im in and at a nice low preset i get my music, then all i do is set the volume where i want it and relax.

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