The Future of Music

Tearing down the wall of noise

11 min read
Photo of woman singing.
Photo by Rainer Holz/Zefa/Corbis

You’re listening to your favorite Pink Floyd CD on your home stereo when you accidentally hit the “change CD” button on the control panel. All goes quiet for a bit as your CD player urgently shifts to play whatever is in the next tray. With dread, you desperately reach for the volume knob, but it’s too late—your speakers blast the latest Green Day album. Reacting like you were just pricked by a pin, your hand jolts to the volume knob and turns it down. You breathe a sigh of relief. But that’s not the end of it. Ten minutes later you feel that something isn’t right. Even though you love this album, you can’t listen to it anymore. You shut it off, tired, puzzled, and confused. This always seems to happen when you switch from a classic album to a modern one. What you’ve just experienced is something called overcompression of the dynamic range. Welcome to the loudness war.

The loudness war, what many audiophiles refer to as an assault on music (and ears), has been an open secret of the recording industry for nearly the past two decades and has garnered more attention in recent years as CDs have pushed the limits of loudness thanks to advances in digital technology. The “war” refers to the competition among record companies to make louder and louder albums. But the loudness war could be doing more than simply pumping up the volume and angering aficionados—it could be responsible for halting technological advances in sound quality for years to come.

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Meet the Open Source PC That Fits in Your Pocket

The MNT Pocket Reform is a seven-inch clamshell with a real keyboard

3 min read
A purple laptop on a desk

The MNT Pocket Reform is an open source computer with a seven-inch display.

MNT Research

Open source computing is coming to your pocket.

MNT Research, creator of the Reform open-source laptop and ZZ9000 add-in board for Amiga computers, is going small for its next project. The MNT Pocket Reform has a seven-inch screen with a clamshell design that, when closed, will be less than five centimeters thick. If its perky purple facade looks a bit retro, that’s no surprise; the Pocket’s inspirations read like a ‘greatest hits’ list of pocketable computers.

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iRobot Crams Mop and Vacuum Into Newest Roomba

The Roomba Combo j7+ handles both hard flooring and carpet in a clever, non-messy way

9 min read
A round black robot vacuum with a mopping pad that can move from below the robot to above the robot and out of the way

Not a spoiler.

iRobot

Robots tend to do best when you optimize them for one single, specific task. This is especially true for home robots, which need to be low cost(ish) as well as robust enough to be effective in whatever home they find themselves in. iRobot has had this formula pretty well nailed down with its family of vacuuming robots for nearly two decades, but they’ve also had another family of floor care robots that have been somewhat neglected recently: mopping robots.

Today, iRobot is announcing the US $1,100 Roomba Combo j7+, which stuffs both a dry vacuum and a wet mop into the body of a Roomba j7. While very much not the first or only combo floor-cleaning robot on the market, the Combo j7+ uses a unique and very satisfying mechanical system to make sure that your carpets stay clean and dry while giving your hard floors the moist buffing that they so desperately need.

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