When Zenith Mattered – 1950s User Interface Design

I’m a big fan of new technology, but occasionally something ancient like my Zenith radio shows me how a twist on old technology improves a product design and user experience.  My grandfather Hale T. Shenefield’s 1950-vintage Zenith AM radio (G503 / Chassis 5G41) takes a routine technology of the day – tuning a variable capacitor by a string-and-pulley system – and uses the method advantageously to give the radio a simple operation and clean appearance.

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CES 2014 Impressions – ClearView Audio

Just returning from CES 2014 in Las Vegas, I contemplated what made the biggest impression on me.  It’s not 4K “UltraHD” TVs, this year with curved screens.  It’s not the “Sonos killers.”  I’m hard to impress, having gone to this show for years.  The product that struck me the most was relatively simple – the ClearView Audio Clio Bluetooth wireless speaker with a clear panel producing the sound.  The fact that the product came from renamed local Boston company Emo Labs was a complete surprise that I discovered later.

ClearView speaker and a Shrubbery

ClearView speaker and a Shrubbery

However, I found myself being more impressed by the quality and extent of press coverage – certainly no accident – than even Continue reading

Why I like the Sonos PLAY:1 … (part 3 – computer speaker system, and THREE-channel stereo!)

In this blog series on the Sonos PLAY:1 I’ve been describing observations and experiences with the product in a variety of configurations, so far concentrating on stereo usage and adding a subwoofer – either Sonos’ own SUB or any sub you want, using my vintage ZonePlayer (similar to the current “CONNECT” or “CONNECT:AMP” products).

Used in its purest form, the PLAY:1 already does a great job in several very different (but more routine) applications.  Most people will just use 1, or maybe 2, of the speakers on a shelf or kitchen counter or nightstand.  Custom installers will find applications for PLAY:1 units around the house, owing to its humidity resistance (important in a bathroom or covered porch), small size, and integral threaded insert on the back (for wall mounting with an Omnimount 10.0 W/C or equivalent).  This time around I want to show two usages a bit more off the beaten path – using the PLAY:1 as a desktop computer speaker and also building a three-channel stereo system. Continue reading

Why I like the Sonos PLAY:1… (part 2 – adding stereo and bass)

In my earlier blog article I commented on the first rate fit and finish of the new Sonos PLAY:1.  This time I want to share some of my experiences combining different Sonos pieces – I wanted to configure different systems for more functionality and performance compared with typical usage of the Sonos products.  What I found was that the products were surprisingly configurable.  This aspect of Sonos system capability is admirable and probably not accidental – I think it a result of their considering all the possibilities and testing them exhaustively.

SonosLogos_Large

In this article I will share my experiences setting up a Sonos 2.1 system (pair of speakers plus a subwoofer) including some less-than-obvious configurations combining Sonos and non-Sonos equipment.  Continue reading

What Killed Apple’s AirPlay?

By Stephen Shenefield

The Apple team has succeeded over the years because they continue to offer a premium user experience – what many call “easy to use” – but which really extends to all aspects of working with the company and its products.  Apple products are easy to buy, and relatively easy to set up and use.

Apple’s AirPlay is a networked (usually Wi-Fi-based) streaming audio system that allows the owner to choose music from iTunes (PC or Mac) or an iOS device (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch) and play it on a compatible Apple-certified AirPlay audio product.  In the case of Apple’s own Apple TV, it is possible to play videos as well, or photos, from a modern Mac or iOS device.

Apples’ AirPlay for many people has been a disappointment because it simply doesn’t Continue reading

If the highest note on a guitar is below 1000 Hz, why do you need a tweeter?

From the Boston Acoustics Blog Archives (circa 2011, updated 2013)

If you pick up an acoustic guitar (depending on the design of the neck) and play the top E-string on the top fret, you are playing B, at about 988 Hz. Some electrics even go a couple notes higher. A quick look at speaker specs will show a transition to the littlest driver, the tweeter, somewhere around 2,500 to 3,500 Hz, and the tweeter specializes in the highest frequency range, up to 20,000 Hz or higher.

Of course you would point out that a piccolo goes even higher than the guitar. How high? The top note on Continue reading