Naim release a Headphones Edition of their Uniti Atom hi-res music streamer

Image Credit: Naim

British high-end audio manufacturer Naim’s new Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a high resolution music streamer and headphone amplifier.

Naim Audio are known for their wireless hi-fi music systems such as the Mu-so speaker and Uniti Atom streamer. Simply hook up a pair of speakers and stream hi-fi music directly to the Uniti Atom with no computer or mobile. Uniti Atom can stream from a variety of sources such as streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL and Qobuz, or AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Bluetooth, radio stations or your own music library. To maximise audio quality, wired connections are also available to hook up turntables, TVs via HDMI or USB drives. Uniti Atom can play music at up to 32bit/384kHz resolution. Uniti Atom’s new Headphone Edition is essentially the same beast, but geared towards headphone users specifically.

Image Credit: Naim

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition has three headphone outputs: 4.4mm Pentaconn (balanced), 4 pin XLR (balanced) and 6.35mm jack (unbalanced). If you have multiple different pairs of high-end headphones for different scenarios, you can keep three plugged in at once and switch between sets depending on what you’re listening to. Naim suggest Focal (pictured above), whose home headphones range in the thousands.

That’s not to say the Headphone Edition doesn’t also excel as a pre-amplifier for speakers. You can simply plug in active speakers, or an amplifier and speakers to use it as a traditional music streamer. The Headphone Edition still has the same voice, remote and app control options as the previous Uniti Atom, as well as the front LCD display.


We have designed this special edition of the mighty Uniti Atom to be the premium music streaming system for solo listening. Just add headphones to escape into your own world of high-quality sound.

Paul Neville, Research & Development Director, Naim

Naim’ Headphone Edition comes in at the same price as the non-Headphone Edition Uniti Atom at an eye-watering $3290.


If you’re after a similar experience, though not designed specifically for headphones, check out the $549 Bluesound NODE and $899 Bluesound POWERNODE.

Go back to the ’80s with MPC One Retro Edition

Image Credit: Akai

Mixing modern capabilities with retro cool, Akai’s MPC One Retro is a powerful all-in-one music production box.

Akai have announced a new limited edition MPC unit, and the result is a classy mashup of ‘80s style and powerful modern features.

The MPC One Retro Edition is a standalone music production workstation – you can make all the beats you want, without the need for a computer. It takes the design of the iconic MPC 60, MPC 3000 and MPC 2000 drum machines, famed for shaping the history of hip-hop, dance, pop and R&B music.

What can you do on the MPC One Retro? The multi-touch screen means you can edit MIDI on the piano roll, utilise effects and automation parameters and sample audio instantly. It contains a built-in library of plugins including a polyphonic synthesizer, vintage keyboard instrument and DrumSynth with hundreds of presets.

The simple workflow makes it easy to get to grips with the interface. MPC One Retro can also be used as a controller for the MPC2 desktop software for those who prefer to work in a DAW.

Image Credit: Akai

Features:

  • Powerful multicore system from the MPC Live and MPC X
  • 16 velocity sensitive RGB pads
  • Brilliant 7” Multi-Touch full-colour LED-backlit display with touch interface  
  • 2 GB RAM, 2GB Onboard Storage, 2GB pre-installed content
  • Mac & PC controller for MPC Software (included)
  • Stereo line level inputs
  • MIDI n & MIDI Out
  • 4 TRS CV/Gate jacks, 8 outputs
  • USB 2.0 slot for storage drives or MIDI controllers
  • SD card slot

The Special Retro Edition will set you back £640. Discover more about the MPC One Retro Edition from Akai here.

Top 5 bookshelf speakers under $200 (per pair)

Forget Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. These five pairs of bookshelf speakers, all come in under $200 and pack a serious punch.

Wireless smart speakers are a great option for those that want a simplistic way to stream music around their house. If you want to take it old school, bookshelf speakers are the perfect addition to a computer desk with plenty of space, record player or CD player.

On a tighter budget? Check out the best bookshelf speakers under $100.

If space is an issue, find the best compact computer speakers at every price point here.

1. JBL Stage A130 – $179.95
  • HDI Waveguide: The HDI waveguide directs sound in a focused direction instead of in all directions and causing distortion and unkind reflections. The HDI waveguide acts like a flashlight that beams the sound into a specific direction to create a loudspeaker that sounds good in almost any environment.
  • Pure Aluminum Tweeters: The aluminum tweeters utilized in the Stage series reveal all of the nuances of today’s music and film recordings by virtually eliminating unwanted resonances.
  • 2-1/2-way Crossover Networks: JBL Stage loudspeakers use a high-order 2-1/2-way crossover network for optimal integration between the woofer and tweeter yielding a smooth and linear performance. With all JBL loudspeakers, a Straight-Line Signal Path approach is taken to minimize noise and signal loss.
  • JBL Polycellullose woofers deliver unrivaled purity, power, and realism: Decades of JBL® acoustic research and development have made their pronounced impact. Stiffer cones deliver more uniform pistonic motion, for deeper, tight bass. And their lighter weight delivers amazing attack and accuracy.
  • Specially Braced Enclosure: The goal when engineering a loudspeaker enclosure is to make it rigid and resonance-free as possible. Our combination of bracing pattern, materials and construction have been part of our DNA dating back to when we engineered the loudspeaker for the very first talking movie.

2. Sony SS-CS5 – $148
  • 100W maximum power handling: Ensures robust, controlled audio.
  • 5″ dual-layer, foam, mica-reinforced woofer: Uses the upper surface to provide faithful, supple sound and the bottom layer to deliver powerful, tight bass response.
  • 3/4″ wide-dispersion super tweeter: Along with a 1″ tweeter offers ultraresponsive high-frequency audio, so you can enjoy crisp, natural-sounding vocals and other tones.
  • High-quality crossover networks: Minimize signal loss to ensure energetic vocal response, reproducing even the most delicate emotional nuances. The networks are mounted directly to the cabinet for efficient vibration isolation.
  • 3-way speaker system: Sounds like 1 source rather than several separate sources.
  • Wood, bass-reflex enclosure: Along with a cloth grille provides a durable, sturdy design.
  • 53Hz – 50kHz frequency response: Ensures a wide range of accurately reproduced sound.
  • 87dB sensitivity (2.83V, 1m): For rich, crisp audio.
  • 6 ohms impedance: Efficiently conducts power through the speaker.

3. Edifier R1850DB – $199.99
  • 70W nominal power handling: Helps ensure rich, dynamic sound.
  • 3/4″ silk tweeter: Offers crisp high frequencies.
  • 2-way speaker system: Sounds like 1 source rather than several separate sources.
  • Built-in Bluetooth: Offers easy connectivity to your compatible device.
  • Remote: Lets you make adjustments from across the room.
  • 60Hz – 20kHz frequency response: Ensures a wide range of accurately reproduced sound.
  • Volume control: Lets you easily adjust the listening level to suit your preferences.

4. Crosley S100 – $139.95
  • 15W nominal power handling: Helps ensure rich, dynamic sound.
  • 4″ woofer: Along with 1″ tweeter for a complete range of sounds.
  • 2-way speaker system: Sounds like 1 source rather than several separate sources.
  • Built-in Bluetooth: Offers easy connectivity to your compatible device.
  • 50Hz – 20kHz frequency response: Ensures a wide range of accurately reproduced sound.
  • Volume control: Lets you easily adjust the listening level to suit your preferences.

5. Yamaha NS-6490 – $150
  • These 3 way speakers can be added anywhere in your home component sound system front or rear speakers, even as auxiliary speakers for another room
  • Each speaker enclosure has 3 drivers: An 8 woofer/ a 4 midrange/ a 0.75 dome tweeter that work together to provide an 45Hz to 23Khz frequency response range
  • Magnetically shielded to suit home theater applications

Twitter’s Tip Jar lets people get paid for their best Tweets

Image Credit: Souvik Banerjee

Tip Jar is a way for people on Twitter to easily give other users money as a reward for their good content, and musicians can benefit via Bandcamp.

All Twitter users have seen the customary “I don’t have a SoundCloud but…” after someone’s viral tweet, followed by a request for monetary contribution – offering a way to show appreciation beyond likes and retweets. Now, as a neater alternative, Twitter has added a Tip Jar feature directly onto the platform.

Users can now display their gratitude for a well-researched thread or hilarious tweet by giving money to the creator through an integrated feature on the app. Everyone using Twitter in English can send tips but setting up a Tip Jar is initially only available for select users, who can add certain payment services and platforms for donations. So far the services available at launch include Bandcamp, Patreon, and PayPal among others.

Image Credit: Twitter

The Tip Jar icon appears at the top of the user’s profile next to the follow button. Other users just tap the icon and select a payment service. Android users can also send tips within the recently launched Spaces area of the app. The easily accessible feature could prompt more spontaneous contributions from users, and makes things easier for creators who no longer have to send out links every time they’d like to ask for a donation.

Image Credit: Twitter

Tip Jar will roll out to more languages and more users beyond the initial “creators, journalists, experts, and nonprofits” approved at launch. Twitter said it’s the first step in their work to “create new ways for people to receive and show support on Twitter – with money.”

The addition of Bandcamp as a payment platform is certainly a step forward for musicians, producers and bands looking to make a bit of money from their presence on Twitter. A further positive push would be for the platform to license music, so that video clips using music can generate revenue for the artist. Currently there’s no equivalent of YouTube or Facebook’s Content ID on the platform to ensure that rights holders get the money they deserve.

Get new SweepDelay advanced delay plugin totally free

Image Credit: SaschArt

Give your tracks an extra little bit of something special with this advanced delay free VST from SaschArt.

SweepDelay is an advanced delay plugin that SaschArt are offering as a completely free plugin to use in your tracks. Add an extra layer of creativity to your effects.

The simple free delay plugin offers surprisingly versatile results. With two resonant filters and a delay rate that offers normal, dotted or tripled notes, you can create inventive texture and colouring.

The free plugin has cool ping pong settings to play around with in your DAW. Despite being a powerful delay plugin it’s super-light and not going to trouble your CPU. Contribute as little as $5 and the annoying pulsing “Donate Now” button disappears.

The free delay plugin is available as 32 or 64bit VST or AU.

Get SaschArt’s SweepDelay plugin for free here.

Keys Magazine releases Sawrizor Lite free synth plugin

Image Credit: Sugar Audio

Get an exclusive free virtual synthesizer plugin from Sugar Audio and Keys Magazine.

Sawrizor Lite virtual synth is an impressive, simplified version of the Sawrizor plugin by Sugar Audio – which Keys Magazine are kindly offering as a free plugin.

The free synth plugin offers an 11-fold saw oscillator. Effects-wise, the Sawrizor Lite offers reverb, delay, chorus and EQ, lending creative depth to the sound. An oscillator and sub-oscillator gives it that punch, with different wavetables to pick from.

Use the synth lead and bass sounds in your electronic music production to instantly dominate the track. Keys Magazine have also included a preset bank by sound designer Carlzon, offering classic EDM sounds.

Meanwhile the more advanced paid pro version of Sawrizor, which has a bigger set of features, is available to buy for €30.

Sawrizor Lite is easy to install and use, and nicely low on CPU use. There’s no sign up required to download the free synth plugin.


Features:

  • Voice unison with detune, mix and other features
  • Three sinewaves, drive, triangle, saw and square waveforms
  • Available in VST, AAX and AU formats
  • Not compatible with macOS Big Sur or later

Get Sawrizor Lite free synth plugin for free from Sugar Audio and Keys Magazine here.

Can you teach yourself a musical instrument?

It’s easy to access the tools and resources needed to learn a new instrument. But is it possible to master a musical instrument by teaching yourself?

Getting your hands on a musical instrument, whether it’s a guitar or bagpipes, is only the first step; the tricky part is learning how to play the thing. Is there a vital need to take lessons to learn how to play a musical instrument?

Generally speaking, yes, it is definitely possible for someone to teach themselves an instrument and be able to play it well. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. However learning a musical instrument boosts your mood and improves your mental health, boosting self-esteem, with benefits depending on the instrument like improving your breath control and multi-tasking skills.

Everybody learns in different ways, and you never know until you try.


Why would you want to learn a musical instrument on your own? It sounds hard

Not everybody wants a teacher bossing them around and dictating what direction their learning path will take. Plenty of people find they flourish best when not being judged by someone else. Teaching yourself a musical instrument also means you save money on music lessons.

Perhaps you’re just after a new project, or looking to challenge yourself. You never know what natural talent might emerge once you pick up an instrument.


Serious about teaching yourself music? Time to get organised

Research is the first step to teaching yourself a musical instrument. Start by listening to famous music featuring your chosen instrument, getting familiar with the sound it produces and different musical genres associated with it.

When it comes to the teaching itself, you know your own learning process better than most. Say you’ve been handed down a violin – are you content with mastering a few well-known folk songs, or would you rather complete a course to learn techniques that will give you a grounding to play a whole range of music? Having a think about what you want to get out of the process and setting goals will help to streamline your learning, saving you time.

There are YouTube tutorials out there for even the most obscure of instruments, and you can’t go wrong with teaching yourself from an educational music book. A vital step of learning an instrument on your own is establishing a routine right from the beginning of practising every day.


Is it worth it?

There are unique challenges to teaching yourself an instrument. Some instruments are arguably easier to learn than others – if you’ve zero knowledge of music or music theory, an easier instrument like the piano might be a better starting point than something like the cello. Saying that, plenty of determined learners crave a harder challenge.

Teaching yourself an instrument does pose the danger of learning bad habits, which a beady-eyed tutor would normally spot before they become ingrained – things like breathing techniques and hand positioning. There’s also nothing like being mentored by a talented music teacher with musical life experience to draw from, eager to introduce you to their own unique way of playing an instrument.

Consider whether you need the structure of music lessons to motivate you to keep learning. Some people find they need the motivation of being monitored week to week, craving that competitive feeling that nudges them to keep practising and not let their teacher down. If you find you’re struggling to motivate yourself, consider documenting your progress on social media, perhaps setting yourself a challenge to give yourself accountability.


The sense of pride and achievement that comes from teaching yourself a musical instrument is hard to beat. You know you got there by your own hard work, and you’re in total control of your own destiny. Everybody learns in different ways, and you can always take a few lessons later on if you’re struggling learning advanced techniques by yourself.

With all the online resources available, as long as you’re in possession of an instrument there’s absolutely nothing to stop you teaching yourself how to play it.

Trap and hip-hop sample pack ’50 Kits Bundle’ from Studio Trap is currently 89% off

Featuring 50 trap and hip-hop construction kits, 554 WAV loops, and 50 multi-track MIDI templates, the bundle is only $20, down from $185.

50 Kits Bundle is comprised of 10 full sample packs, each costing between $15 and $20. Producer Spot is currently selling the entire bundle for just $20. Inspired by artists such as Lil Baby, Travis Scott, Da Baby, Migos, Gunna, 808 Mafia and Future, the pack is full of contruction kits, WAV loops and MIDI files, with complex melody patterns, trunk-rattling 808s, hard kicks crisp snares and claps, and more.

Included in this bundle are sample packs Bank Roll, Dripp, Fast Life, Hip Hop Plug, Jet Life, Mask On, Out Da Mud, Slatt Talk, Slime Music and Woo Gotti. Everything is 100% royalty-free, allowing you to mix and match the audio to create your own unique sound, then upload your music to stores and streaming services, without any licensing issues or fees.

Music education app Yousician secures $28m in funding

Image Credit: Yousician

Subscriptions to the Yousician music learning app increased by 80% in 2020 and the company has raised millions in its latest funding round.

The world’s leading music education platform Yousician has raised a hefty $28m in a Series B funding round. The company’s two apps, Yousician and GuitarTuna, have a combined 20 million monthly active users, and counting. Those millions of users earned the company $50m of revenue in 2020.

GuitarTuna is the number one guitar tuning app in the world, and Yousician is an on-demand music school. It lets people learn piano, guitar, bass, ukulele or singing, with a Guitar Hero-esque interface that makes the learning process as accessible as a game. Users can get started for free. The platform provides real-time feedback through audio recognition technology, and also provides lesson plans from music teachers.

Yousician music app and Guitartuna app
Image Credit: Yousician

Chris Thür, co-founder and CEO of Yousician, said: “This is a very exciting time for Yousician and aspiring musicians everywhere. With this new funding round, and investors that really understand what we are doing and why, we are poised to bring learning and playing music to more people, in more places, than ever before.”

Yousician said it would use the funding to expand its hiring, further develop its product offerings, and make investments in marketing. Also on the cards are new partnerships with professional musicians to provide tutorials on the app. Previous artists providing lessons include Jason Mraz.

When the pandemic shut down in-person music lessons last year, Yousician offered music teachers and students free access to its “Yousician for Teachers” platform. Meanwhile, as people looked to learn an instrument to fill their time in isolation, subscriptions to Yousician increased by 80%.

The funding round brings the total raised by Yousician to $35m. New investors in the company included the Alexa Fund from Amazon. MusicAlly reasoned that therefore smart speakers may well play a part in music education on the platform in the future.

The top free VST plugins in 2021

What are the best free VST plugins out there right now? Everyone has a favourite. We’ve found 6 top free plugins to bring something new to your music producing.

Producers of all kinds are lucky to be living at a time when there’s so many delicious free plugins available to download, ripe for stuffing any DAW fill to the brim. Falling into a rabbit hole hunting out free VSTs can get overwhelming, fast.

It’s sometimes hard to separate the good from the bad and the ugly – while there’s thousands of free music software plugins out there for producers and musicians, they need to be stable and from a reliable source.

As a taster, here are six of the best free VST plugins available now, from great virtual instruments to stunning effect plugins. Let’s dive in.


Tape Cassette 2
Image Credit: Caelum Audio

Lo-fi hip-hop and bedroom pop sounds are still all the rage. Luckily you can get the perfect vintage dreaminess and add a warm classic sound with the Tape Cassette 2 free plugin.

An update on Tape Cassette 1, Caelum Audio’s free VST can be used on your entire track or on individual channels for a hit of nostalgia. Mess around with your synths for added experimental textures and create cosmic soundscapes.

Features:

  • Selectable Type 1 Cassette Impulse Response (IR)
  • Dynamic saturation curve algorithm implementing hysteresis and including oversampling
  • Wow & Flutter engines rebuilt to focus on smoother emulation
  • Real sampled noise from a Type 1 Cassette
  • Low Pass range increased down to 5kHz

Get the Tape Cassette 2 free plugin and find out more here.


Spitfire Audio BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover
Image Credit: Spitfire Audio

Get every exquisite sound of the BBC Symphony Orchestra within a simple free plugin from Spitfire Audio that’s compatible with all major DAWs.

No more tinny, fake-sounding virtual orchestral instruments. Fill in a simple survey and you’re on the list for a huge free 33-strong orchestral instrument library worth waiting the 14 day online delivery for. The sounds work as individual instruments in your DAW.

Ever wondered how to be a classical music producer? Now’s your chance.

Get the BBC Symphony Orchestral library free from Spitfire Audio here.


DearVR Micro

Whack your headphones on to experience the 3D capabilities of the DearVR Micro free plugin. A collaboration between Sennheiser and DearVR, the Micro is the redesigned successor to the previous AMBEO Orbit plugin.

The updated plugin has got full 360° panning, immersing you directly in the middle of your track. Put your sounds anywhere in the stereo field – not just left and right but above your head and behind you. Freaky and completely free.

Features:

  • Full 360° panner
  • Highest audio quality using Dear Reality’s advanced HRTF filters
  • Azimuth and Elevation control
  • Width control
  • Adding spatial accuracy by defining shoebox-shaped binaural room reflections
  • Five different wall materials to control the reflection timbre
  • Focus parameter using the patented AMBEO Clarity algorithm for a maximum spectral balance
  • HRTF selection to choose Sennheiser AMBEO Orbit HRTFs
  • Support for mono and stereo input signals

Download DearVR Micro VST free here.


Diablo Lite
Image Credit: Cymatics

Cymatic’s Diablo Lite free plugin beefs up your 808s, enhancing drums to cut through your mix. The Punch transient shaper and clipper features make the loudness of sounds hit so much harder, making your kicks smack just as powerfully as you dreamt they would, without affecting the .dB. Get your teeth into that.

Find out more and get the Diablo Lite plugin free here.


Satellite Plugins 2.0

This collaboration plugin lets you work with anyone in any DAW at any time, so you can work together without bouncing tracks. The audio or MIDI recorded into the Satellite Plugins 2.0 plugin automatically syncs between producers working within major DAWs. You can work together in real time and easily export audio.

Especially valuable at the moment, when remote working is the norm for so many musicians.

Features:

  • Collaborate with anyone, anywhere, within your own DAW
  • Connect Ableton, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Cubase, Studio One, Bitwig, Pro Tools, Reason, Reaper, GarageBand and Digital Performer DAWs through Satellite Plugins 2.0
  • Invite collaborators to your session, record and export audio and MIDI
  • Assign Host, Co-Host, VIP+, VIP and Viewer permissions to determine who can upload/download tracks and invite others to the session
  • Use Satellite Plugins 2.0 in your streams on Twitch and YouTube and invite your audience to collaborate
  • Back-up your sessions seamlessly to the cloud
  • Perfect for remote session work, bands, and mixing/mastering engineers

Satellite Plugins 2.0 is free for a limited time so grab it quick here – apologies if you’ve missed the boat!


TAL-Chorus-LX
Image Credit: TAL Software

A cheeky little free VST. Small, simple but effective – turn the stereo width and wet/dry knobs and press the two buttons to recreate the chorus from the classic Roland Juno-60 synth. Two settings, one to add a subtler texture and the other a richer sound, together faithfully recreating the much-loved synth.

Get the TAL-Chorus-LX plugin free here.


Hungry for more free plugins? Of course you are. Check out these great free synth plugins, top free guitar and bass VSTs, best free mixing and mastering plugins and best free effects plugins.

And there’s far more besides… what’s your favourite free plugin? Show off your knowledge in the comments.


Want everyone to hear how incredible those VSTs sound in your finished tracks? RouteNote can get your songs onto all the major streaming services and stores. Before you know it you’ll be earning money from your music – and the best part is, it’s free. Find out more here.