NodeBeat App Review

NodeBeat App Review

Jan 6, 2012

If you’re one who is regularly stressed, soothing music is a welcome stress reliever. It’s even better if that soothing music is created by you, but that’s got to be asking too much, right? Enter NodeBeat, a quirky little app that lets you serendipitously create your own trance masterpiece. You do this by connecting glowing orbs that come in three varieties, octave and beat generators and notes. The two generators send different octave pulses that make a sound when they hit the different note orbs. Each octave and note has a corresponding color which makes for a gorgeous (read: trippy) display of light and sound.

Not everything that comes out of this machine is pretty and some combinations can be really annoying actually. But NodeBeat gives you plenty of options for adjusting the sound, such as altering the tempo or note length. It’s fun to see how much your song can change just by moving one note or offsetting a beat or two. There’s also an option to allow the notes to slowly float around the screen which gives the whole thing a dynamic, living feeling. I wish there were more options for this because it can be really powerful but sometimes it devolves into a mess.

If you’re really feeling lazy you can just listen to NodeBeat make its own music. When starting up the app you have the option to create or listen. If you choose to listen, NodeBeat creates a song automatically which can be played for a set amount of time if you’re trying to fall asleep to it. This is great for those who regularly fall asleep while listening to relaxing music or nature sounds, and even if you don’t, give it a shot, it works really well.

While NodeBeat has a recording option; those looking for something to really lay down a track may be disappointed by the lack of individual note customization and the lack of timing precision. But this isn’t what NodeBeat tries to be, it’s a great casual music making app for those looking to relax or trying to be creative. Don’t let NodeBeat’s nearly $2 price tag scare you off, for the price of a Snickers bar you can snag this polished, beautiful app.

Guitar BTX Review

Guitar BTX Review

Nov 17, 2011

Ask anyone who’s ever tried to learn an instrument and they’ll likely tell you that the part they hate most is practicing scales. It’s boring! Up and down, up and down… repeating the same notes, over and over. It’s tedious, mind-numbing and seems to go on for hours. But, if you want to learn the basic fundamentals of music while building dexterity and muscle memory, practicing scales is the only way it’ll come to you.

Part of what makes practicing scales so dull is that it doesn’t seem practical when taken out of context. You want to learn an instrument so you can play music and have fun, but scales aren’t fun; they’re just a bunch of notes! That’s where Guitar BTX comes in. Guitar BTX turns practice time into fun time by laying down a groove and getting you into a rhythm. But that’s not the only benefit.

Practicing scales with a backing track also makes sure you’re learning correctly. When you’re playing the notes by themselves, it’s not always easy to hear where they fit in. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the right note from a wrong note, and it’s easy to learn incorrectly. But if you have some context to guide you, it’s much easier to hear where the notes go.

To use the app, you simply tap on the scale and key you want to practice. After a moment, a rocking guitar strums out appropriate chords while bass and drums lay down the rhythm. For reference, the app includes an image of the scale and neck position so that you can look up any notes you’re unsure of. Guitar BTX works exactly as it should, but there is room for improvement.

To save on space, none of the 35 mp3 backing tracks are included with the app — they stream to you when you choose a scale. This means that Guitar BTX will not work without an internet connection. While this may not be a huge problem, it would certainly be an inconvenience if the server went down or a connection wasn’t available. Would it have been wiser, or even possible, to use General MIDI tracks, instead? They would sound a lot different, but the tiny size of MIDI files means that they wouldn’t take up a lot of space and could be included with the app — no internet connection required.

There’s a much worse problem, however. I really don’t like that the app stops playing the backing track when you tap on the tablature to see the notes in the scale. It stops the learning process and adds frustration to have to go back and forth to hear the music and see the notes. I’m sure there’s a simple solution, but as is, it’s a major annoyance.

As for the rest of app, I think Guitar BTX is incredibly useful. Even as someone who’s been playing guitar for 16 years, it’s always helpful to go back and brush up on those scales. Guitar BTX does a great job of turning a dull, tedious chore into a fun way to learn.

DoubleTwist AirSync Review

DoubleTwist AirSync Review

Nov 1, 2011

This review is one part of my two part look at Mac compatible/WinAmp alternatives for wirelessly syncing music to your phone. Because doubleTwist is one of the more highly used programs, I figured that a full Rundown would be appropriate.

DoubleTwist comes in with a lot of hype. There are three parts to the full package: one iTunes-like desktop app, a free media player app, and a $4.99 AirSync app that’s basically an add-on to the media player. The aim for doubleTwist is to be the Android version of Apple’s iTunes and iCloud service. It comes close, but there’s no way for Android to replicate the success and simplicity of their Macintosh counterpart.

Starting with the desktop application, I’ll say this first: I am an iTunes slave. I’ve tried multiple other media players but I always end up reverting back to iTunes eventually. I admit that iTunes is bloated and needs a rewrite, and I thought that any new media player would have to be faster and smaller. Shockingly, I was proven wrong with the doubleTwist media player. I’ve uninstalled/reinstalled this program a few times on my MacBook Pro but it doesn’t seem to alleviate the sluggishness through the menus, and the program will frequently lock up for 30 seconds before working again. The program also takes longer to load than iTunes, which I wasn’t even aware was possible. Without the Android AirSync app, however, doubleTwist does do a good job of wired syncing; it organizes your files accurately within the Music folder on your phones SD card. But a means to easily put music on your phone is the only thing this application should be used for. This is not an iTunes replacement, even though it tries to be. It also hijacks the play and next/previous buttons when closed but not fully quit which can be very frustrating.

Fortunately, the mobile app fares better. The mobile media player is very capable, and has a very elegant lock screen widget. There isn’t much to set this app apart from other mobile media players like WinAmp, but like I said in my review for UberMusic, if you want a basic media player to replace an iPod, this will do the job handedly. There are many complaints of sluggishness and “glitchiness” on the Android market, but in my experiences with it I have not found any problems on my HTC EVO 4G. There is an add-on to the media player that adds Gracenote album art automatically and allows for an advanced equalizer. But for $5.99 it kind of seems like a raw deal.

Finally, the last part of this package is the separate $4.99 AirSync application. This application basically allows you to wirelessly sync music, photos, and videos to your Android phone over a home network. Setting up AirSync with doubleTwist is easy enough, but I would like to see it simplified down a little bit more. I can easily see less experienced users having a hard time getting doubleTwist to recognize their phone. I was impressed with the speed that my files were synced over to my phone. It took less then a minute to sync a 19 song album to my phone, which is faster then it takes to do the same thing wired. I had no problem is having other media players recognize the files, which means that even if you do not like the mobile player or the desktop app, you only have to use them to transfer your files.

The final aspect of this app is its integration with the Xbox 360, PS3, and Apple TV. Surely, the Apple TV feature can’t be true. Streaming music from your Android phone onto an Apple TV? No way. Well yeah, it’s true. DoubleTwist easily streams your videos, photos, and music to Apple TV. It’s not perfect; when a song is playing, no info appears, displaying just a black screen, but come on. Close enough. Even better is the streaming to the Xbox 360. Your phone appears under the list of drives when you open the music tab and the songs start playing instantly after selecting them. This actually surprised me. One problem is that the AirPlay feature will stay on even when DoubleTwist is closed which will drain your battery, so just make sure to turn it off when done.

Overall, DoubleTwist is a good Winamp alternative if you can deal with some fairly noticeable problems, even though I’d recommend TuneSync if simply wirelessly syncing music is what you’re after.

UberMusic Review

UberMusic Review

Oct 19, 2011

One of the first things I did when I got my new HTC EVO 4G over the summer was find something, anything else, to replace the awful stock HTC music app. On the most basic level a music player has to be two simple things: efficient, and attractive; unfortunately HTC’s music player is neither. On the Android Market there are a bevy of media players, and it’s very hard for one to stand out from the other because their jobs are incredibly simple: play music and don’t get in the way of finding that perfect song. UberMusic, created by Federico Carnales of LauncherPro fame, does just that perfectly.

UberMusic is a perfect port of Windows Phone 7’s striking media player and can be easily skinned to give the classic Zune look, complete with album and artist backgrounds. There are a handful of customization options as well as downloadable skins, but the customization options aren’t too impressive. Regardless, out of the box this is the best looking media player available for Android. Artist photos load with a slight delay the first time they are used but then appear instantly afterword, and the whole app swiftly navigates between panels without any sign of lag.

Unfortunately this app is not perfect. One of UberMusic’s major downsides, especially if you currently use an app like WinAmp, DoubleTwist, or MixZing, is that the number of features offered is noticeably slim. Currently, the only connected feature is Last.fm scrobbling. If features are what you’re looking for then UberMusic will be very disappointing even with an included live wallpaper of moving album artwork. However, if a simple, beautiful, iPod replacement is what you are in search for when looking for a high-quality music app for Android, then UberMusic should be at the top of your list.

PowerAmp Music Player For Android

PowerAmp Music Player For Android

Nov 10, 2010

It wasn’t soon after Winamp released its beta media player that we caught news of another diamond in the rough. Originally only available through 3rd party downloads, “PowerAmp” has since found its way to the Android Market. First it was released in trial form but we now have the “Full” paid version available for $4.99. This newest addition to the music player market is one that will completely change the way you view mobile music players. PowerAmp is by far the most feature rich medial player I have had the pleasure of using.

As soon as you see PowerAmp you are visually impressed. The rich, sleek UI is extremely sexy and comes in 3 different color themes. PowerAmp scans and loads up music almost instantaneously. Songs can be played from pre-selected folders or from the standard Android system library. Poweramp will find and download album art which is not only static but becomes interactive upon swiping. Unlike most media players, PowerAmp gives users amazing sound control with their 10 band equalizer and preamp controls. Pretend you’re an audio engineer as you tweak all the multiple settings or simply choose one of the many presets made available.

SoundHound

SoundHound

Sep 13, 2010

Is there really any wonder left in the world? With music recognizing apps like SoundHound, the answer is a definitive no. You see all you have to do is fire this baby up, point it at some music and it tells you the song. Now don’t get me wrong, instant gratification is what smart phones are all about. However, I don’t see much more than the “wow” effect in this app—especially for the $4.99 price tag.

SoundHound works. It scored 100% on recognizing songs on several radio stations (save for the live bluegrass on NPR). It also recognized “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” after I sang them like a fool into my cell phone. After SoundHound recognizes a song, it gives you the lyrics and also lets you listen to a clip to verify. You can share them on a variety of sites, and can also buy the .mp3 from amazon.com.