IKEA are making the power of Sonos speakers cheaper

IKEA and Sonos are working together to create a new brand of powerful yet ‘affordable’ speakers to be revealed soon.

IKEA is the Swedish department store known for everything from flat pack furniture to authentic meatballs. They’re hoping, through an alliance with Sonos, that they can also soon make a name for themselves as quality smart speaker makers at a price that won’t offend your bank accounts.

With the incredibly catchy name ‘SYMFONISK’, we have been waiting to hear more for a long time and at long last we have some details. We now know that ‘SYMFONISK’ will actually be the name of a range of speakers. They will be revealed between the 9th – 14th April at Tortona 32 in Milan as part of a light and sound exhibition named FEEL HOME.

Together Sonos and IKEA have revealed a book-shelf speaker prototype with modern connectivity and multi-functions. Thought we don’t know much about the speaker it seems like it offers up a similar package to most modern smart speakers but they’re touting how affordable it is in particular.

 



IKEA’s business leader for IKEA Home Smart, Björn Block says: “Together with Sonos we wanted to combine our home furnishing knowledge with their expertise in creating great sound experiences for every room of the home, and in Milan we want you to experience the real difference that sound and light makes in your life.”

He continues: “For IKEA, the smart home is not about gadgets, it’s about making life at home better with solutions that create a better atmosphere, make you live a more convenient life and make you feel safe. The collaboration with Sonos is a great example of this, offering affordable high-quality sound in combination with a great design piece that we hope will find its way into the many people’s homes.”

IKEA partnered up with Sonos at the end of 2017 promising exciting new products that have only recently come to light. Last year the iconic furniture makers revealed a partnership with Teenage Engineering, the company behind the incredible OP-1. They are expected to launch the unique products from that range in June.

The speakers are expected to launch this August but we’ll get a much better scoop on what to expect next month.

Apple AirPods 2 rumours: Deeper bass and more sensors

The follow up to Apple’s popular wireless earbuds are on the way and we have new rumours about what they might feature.

A report from My Smart Price has suggested some of the new features we can expect from Apple’s 2nd generation of AirPods. The AirPods are expected to launch later this year, though details of what they’ll be introducing are scarce there are new rumours to get excited about.

The information given to My Smart Price comes from one of their ‘trusted sources” so may not be real. They say that the Airpods 2 will look pretty much the same in appearance but with a new coating to improve grip. A useful addition considering the high cost of the tiny and easily lost earbuds. It’s apparently a similar coating Apple plan to use on the “high-end” iPhone 11.

The audio quality will reportedly be improved thanks mostly to an improved bass response making for superior low-end playback. They will also include advanced sensors, according to the source, potentially for health features like heart rate monitoring. Their extra features will come at a price as the earbuds are expected to cost $200, $41 more than the 1st generation.

The ‘trusted source’ has also given information on Apple’s AirPower wireless charging pad. The AirPower will launch this Spring according to the source alongside Apple’s wireless charging case for their first generation of AirPods. The wireless charging pad will offer wireless charging to the latest iPhones with “exclusive features”.

Play a Choose Your Own Adventure on Alexa speakers

Bring stories to life on your smart speaker as you become a character in audiobooks on Alexa.

Amazon’s Alexa speakers have just gotten more fun with Choose Your Own Adventure books launching through Audible. Using Alexa’s voice control you can take part in interactive stories and decide how the tale you’re listening to happens.

Chooseco have launched 2 of their Choose Your Own Adventure stories to life through Amazon Alexa: The Abominable Snowman and Journey Under The Sea. To start you just ask Alexa to open the story and the narrator begins your adventure. Once it comes to a decision the narrator will ask you what you want to do; you decide and tell them and the story proceeds based on your choices.

It’s possible to fail in the story and if you die or have an accident then it will ask if you want to return to an earlier point. If you reach the ending you also have the choice to go back to crucial decisions and alter your choices to change the outcome of your adventure.

It will also keep track of the decisions you’ve made and the endings you’ve discovered to help keep you wanting to return to the story and find new solutions. The Abominable Snowman has a possible 28 endings and Journey Under The Sea has a total of 42 endings to discover.

Chooseco only have 2 titles available now but if Choose Your Own Adventure audiobooks on Alexa prove popular it’s likely we will see many more. Chooseco have hundreds of books they could release, the only obstacle being recording the narration. According to those who’ve tried it the narration is brilliant and the format works on smart speakers really well – we will no doubt be seeing more.

Akai announce an all-in-one music production studio that doesn’t need a computer

The Force is a new powerhouse piece of kit from Akai that puts all you need to create and produce music inside one performance system – no computer, no MIDI needed.

Digital music production has revolutionised how music can be created and has made it possible for anyone to make highly polished electronic music and use digital techniques to create, edit and mix their music even on a budget. Akai’s Force brings everything you need into one single piece of kit.

The Force is an all-in-one music production solution with DJ performance technology. It features clip-launching, step sequencing, sampling, synth engines and touch screen control all in one system allowing you to play, perform, and produce without a computer or any other accessories or instruments.

It’s 8×8 backlit grid lets you trigger scenes and clips, step sequence beats, finger drum using an MPC style matrix, and play note data for seamless playing and launching. Alongside it are expansive controls for navigating your project and all of it’s pieces. The ergonomically positioned controls represent the Ableton Push but with even more functionality.

Akai Professional Force MPC studio music production all in one hardware

A multi-touch display at the top is the base of your experience, displaying your project and allowing you to navigate through samples, sounds, edit MIDIs, apply effects and so much more. It’s basically a built-in, touch-activated DAW.

The force comes with all the hardware and software packed inside it that you need to sample, chop, splice, loop and mix. Inputs in the back take USB or SD cards to load up samples and sounds with space for internal storage expansion. 2 XLR/quarter-inch combo inputs allow for microphones and instruments too.

Akai Pro Force all in one music production studio DAW hardware mpc producing pad

Akai Professional’s new Force has so many features and capabilities packed into. Get the detailed low-down on their website: force.akaipro.com

The Akai Pro Force will be available for $1499 and launches in February.

Mooer are set to blow multi-effects out of the water with this pedal

Mooer’s new multi-effects pedal gives unparalleled power with hundreds of effects, amps, and more in one board.

Mooer have unveiled the next in their GE multi-effects pedals and the 300 is a serious monster that takes on every other pedal in the game. Their new GE300 brings 164 effects, 108 digital amp models, 43 optional factory cab simulators and is capable of recreating an environment for custom tones using Impulse Response.

Mooer’s new pedal is packed full of features to leave you satisfied no matter what the sound you’re after is. With a new Synth Engine you can use the pedal’s tri-voice polyphonic synthesis module to edit wave form, pitch, filters, and arpeggiators without the need for guitar modifications or pickups.

Mooer say the pedal will feature 10 customisable footswitch controls, programmable stereo effects loop, 30-minute looper that can store loop sessions, external device switching, direct USB audio and that’s just the start of what it is capable of.

They’re promising that the user interface will be intuitive like it’s GE200 pedal but with far more capabilities. Mooer will be showcasing their final prototype for the GE300 at NAMM so it’s not going to be available until at least the 2nd half of this year. We’ll have to remain drooling over what we know until then.

This pedal puts the sound of Roland’s classic Juno synth in your guitar

TC Electronic’s new pedal brings the classic sound of 80s style synthesizer modulation to your guitar.

NAMM 2019 is already bringing us a lot of exciting new music tech and instruments to look forward to from the biggest brands down to the niche-st indie makers. A new pedal from TC Electronics has caught our eye, and not just because of it’s beautiful retro synth look.

The June-60 is a chorus pedal that takes inspiration from Roland’s classic Juno-60 synth. The pedal uses an all-analogue bucket brigade circuit that has been fine-tuned for guitars to create “warm, pulsating ’80s-style modulation in two flavours”.

The pedal looks gorgeous with the bold colours of classic synths in grey, yellow and red with dark wooden panels on the side.The design is simple with two buttons for control. The first gives a slow moving, rich chorus and the second is a faster, wobblier chorus that works great on a rock tone. Combine both modes together and let the double sine curves battle it out in your tone.

Aside from the stomp pedal and the two buttons there is the option to switch between mono and stereo chorus so you can optimise the sound to exactly how you want the pulsing tones to fill the room. With it’s bucket brigade delay circuit the sound is an authentic recreation of the same analogue circuitry that the Juno-60 used to create it’s unique tone.

The June-60 pedal in a nutshell:

  • Authentic recreation of the legendary synthesizer chorus from the ’80s
  • 2-button interface for intuitive and breath-taking modulation tone
  • All-analog BBD (Bucket Brigade Delay) circuitry
  • Mono/stereo switch for ultimate chorus experience
  • True Bypass for ultimate signal integrity
  • “Built-like-a-tank” metal chassis
  • Runs on 9 V battery or TC Electronic Powerplug 9 (not included)
  • 3-Year Warranty Program*
  • Designed and engineered in Denmark

The June-60 will be available for $49.99 sometime in the first quarter of 2019. Find out more on TC Electronic’s site.

The 5 best budget MIDI controller keyboards 2019

Laying your ideas out and creating tracks is simpler than ever with the help of DAW’s and thousands of plugins but without a digital instrument you can only get so far.

We’ve got you covered with the best MIDI keyboards for playing, recording and controlling your software that don’t break the bank.

Arturia have built a feature packed controller with the MiniLab MkII that gives musicians and producers extensive control over their software and costs less than £100.

The MiniLab, as with all of the controllers listed here, has been built with portability in mind. It fits 25 slim-line keys, 16 knobs, 8 pads and touch controls into a package small enough to fit into your rucksack and doesn’t require a whole studio to fit in and work with. It comes with Ableton Live Lite with which it works seamlessly.

Kelly from the RouteNote team got hands on with the MiniLab MkII and delved into it’s power for a review. You can check it out here.

Get your own and find out more here.

Alesis offer an incredibly affordable solution to basic music production with their Vmini controller. This bite sized keyboard offers 25 velocity-sensitive keys to play virtual instruments and control samples with.

The Vmini packs essential controls into a tiny package making it easy to take anywhere and lay out ideas from. There are four assignable knobs for volume control or effect manipulation and 4 velocity-sensitive pads give control over clip launching or finger-banging out a beat.

It’s not as feature-laden as some of the others but for the price you get a quality keyboard that is more than enough to lay the groundwork out for your ideas and small enough to take anywhere you go.

Get your own and find out more here.

This is my personal favourite and the controller/keyboard I have used when I want to simply plug in, play, record, and expand. The APC Key’s giant clip-launching grid makes it the perfect Ableton companion and lets you create on the fly and easily manipulate and launch clips and tracks, all without touching your computer.

The APC Key adds 8 customisable control knobs for adjusting each tracks volumes or effect parameters all of which are easily switched between using the expansive functions on the controller. The 25 key keyboard ensures that you have all you need to play and write your music whilst it’s function-packed pads give you extensive control over your DAW and instruments.

It works as soon as you plug it in and comes with Ableton Lite Live so you can craft your masterpieces with ease and without hassle.

Get your own and find out more here.

The Keystation offers 7 more keys than the others making it the perfect option for the travelling player who wants a better range for laying down melody. The highlight of M-Audio’s offering is it’s 32 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys offering dynamic range in a portable package.

It’s controls beyond keys are limited but offer pitch-bending, modulation, and sustain whilst octave controls let you increase your range even further. The keyboard uniquely supports iOS connectivity with the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit so you can link it up to your iPad or iPhone to play and compose with iOS audio apps.

Get your own and find out more here.

Akai’s MPK Mini MkII offers a more performance based solution to it’s DAW-control built sibling, the APC. It features a 4-way joystick for pitch and modulation manipulation as you play and an on-board arpeggiator makes the creation of intricate melodic lines simple.

The MPK features a sustain pedal input allowing for truly expressive playing that is still in a package small enough to take wherever you go. 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC style pads and 8 assignable Q-Link knobs mean you still have power over your software.

Get your own and find out more here.


Got a favourite we didn’t mention? Share it in the comments below.

Devialet are back to melt your face off for under £1000

Devialet came to prominence with their incredibly powerful 4,500 watt speaker and now they’re back and a bit more realistic.

Back in 2016 we wrote about Devialet’s Gold Phantom speaker, the successor to their Silver model which doubled the power and saw it coated in 22-carat gold. It could truly blow you away with 4,500 watts worth of power that were capable of up to 108 decibels of sound blasting.

Devialet are back with another impressively powerful speaker but this one won’t cost you $3000. The Phantom Reactor is their latest offering which packs a powerful 900 watts of power into it’s more compact design for 2 grand cheaper than the Gold Phantom.

Whilst not as powerful as the Gold Phantom the Reactor is still capable of up to 98 decibels. The Reactor is portable meaning you can take this unmatched sound power with you anywhere for an incredible sound at home or on the go with high fidelity.

The Devialet Phantom Reactor lets you hook your music up via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, optical connection or a plain old 3.5mm mini-jack. Devialet have yet again achieved an immensely powerful speaker that doesn’t take up space, and it’s much more affordable this time.

Explore the ins and outs of Devialet’s Phantom Reactor and purchase your own for £990.

Light up your music with a lightning-fuelled synth

Infuse your music with the elements with a synth module that overdrives your music with actual lightning.

The digital age of music has brought with it many innovations and developers are always looking for new and unique ways to create music like never before. Latvian developers, Erica Synths have unveiled their new eurorack synth module that truly puts the sound of electricity behind your music.

The Plasma Drive integrates a Tesla coil into an overdrive synth that boosts audio signal to 3000 volts. Using “a new and previously unexplored method” the module transforms your audio into a series of continuous high-voltage discharges in a xenon-filled tube.

Erica Synths worked with another Latvian company, Gamechanger Audio, who are responsible for the Plasma Pedal. The natural predecessor to the Plasma Drive, the pedal infused a Tesla coil into a distortion pedal for guitars and basses providing a uniquely elemental crunch for real high voltage rock.

They both have the same effect on your sound but Erica have brought it to synth racks as part of their Erica Fusion Series. The Plasma Drive module offers CV control over distortion and dry/wet mix and octave up and 1 and 2 octaves down tracking oscillators to create even more harmonics.

The Plasma Drive will be released on the 20th February for €310. If you’re interested in the Plasma Pedal you can nab yourself one of them for €247 from Gamechanger’s site.

Tencent take Siri on with their own voice assistant

Watch out Siri, you may be about to launch in China in the shape of Apple’s smart speaker but Tencent are looming with their own artificial intelligence on the way.

As Apple build up to the launch of their HomePod speaker in China this week on the 18th, native tech giant’s Tencent have announced the readying of their very own powerful artificial intelligence. China’s most notorious tech company Tencent have revealed that they are preparing the launch of their own smart-assistant called Xiaowei which will debut in their popular messaging app WeChat, the biggest social media platform in China, and will be used to control Tencent’s services like QQ Music.

The Western world, and in particular the US, has quickly adopted voice assistants and made them part of the home in recent years with AI’s like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri aiding people through their smartphones and smart speakers. China however has not seen the same level of uptake and they remain a novelty in China, making this potentially the first big digital assistant from a native Chinese company to have an impact across China.

Tencent sell smart speakers in China as well as other local internet companies like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. which use voice assistants to accompany them. Integrating this into further tech products like their apps could mark a shift in China’s adoption of the new technology that sees them catch up with the popularity voice assistants have seen in the US and other Western countries.

WeChat is a massive platform in China with over 1.08 billion monthly active users at the end of September 2018. On Wednesday Tencent said they are also focusing on expanding the monetisation of their Mini Programs. Mini Programs is a platform for external apps that can be integrated into WeChat to provide extra features such as e-commerce, task management, coupons, and more.

Tencent haven’t announced when Xiaowei might go live for it’s apps.