Pursuit of Performance

High-Tech Updates to Familiar Music Devices

Kristin Houser Writer & Editor, LA Music Blog

Whether you prefer the crackle of vinyl records or the crisp sound of digital recordings, chances are the technological boundaries of your favorite music medium are currently being pushed.

Acclaimed musician and producer Jack White has long been a strong proponent of the vinyl record, acting as the official “Ambassador” for Record Store Day in 2013 and opening his own record shop, Third Man Records, in Nashville, Tennessee in 2009.

With a motto of “Your Turntable’s Not Dead,” Third Man Records strives to keep vinyl in vogue, and with the upcoming release of his second solo LP, “Lazaretto,” on June 10, White is making sure the Ultra LP version lives up to its name.

In addition to using absolutely zero compression during the recording, mixing, and mastering of “Lazaretto,” White used dual-groove technology for his forthcoming album. Depending on where the needle is dropped on the record, listeners can enjoy two different intros for the song “Just One Drink,” one acoustic and one electric, after which the grooves meet back up for the body of the song.

The “Lazaretto” Ultra LP also includes two really hidden tracks beneath its center labels. Those tracks play at two different speeds (78 RPM and 45 RPM), making “Lazaretto” a 3-speed record, which is just another way in which the album goes above-and-beyond the standard vinyl release. 

If vinyl isn’t your thing, perhaps you’d be more interested in hearing what Sony has done to the classic mixtape medium, the cassette?

Alongside collaborators IBM, Sony announced in early May at the INTERMAG Europe 2014 conference in Dresden, Germany that they’d developed magnetic tape technology with the world’s highest areal recording density.

What this means is that they’ve created a cassette tape capable of recording more than 185 terabytes of data, which is roughly 74 times the capacity of current mainstream coated magnetic tape storage media. Sony offered further technical details and graphics in the press release announcing the development, but for non-techies, this basically means you could store roughly 64 million songs on a single tape.

While these high-capacity cassettes aren’t likely to be offered for consumer use (they’re far better suited for use as database backups and other commercial efforts), think about this: a single one of Sony’s new cassette tapes boasts enough storage space to keep you listening to music nonstop for over 350 years. Your 16GB iPod doesn’t seem quite so impressive now, does it?

Speaking of portable digital music players, one big name in music is determined to make sure you never listen to a compressed MP3 again. 

With his PonoPlayer, legendary songwriter Neil Young has found a way to allow music consumers to experience studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible — all with the same convenience offered by portable MP3 players.


This triangular-prism-shaped device features a LCD touch-screen display and comes equipped with a total of 128GB of storage, half of which is built into the player, and the other half of which is on a removable microSD card.

To add music to a PonoPlayer, users simply access the PonoMusic.com store via their computer or PonoMusic app. From there they can browse, search, purchase, and download high-resolution FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files to add to their device using a micro USB cable.

Music fans are clearly excited about the combination of high audio quality and portability offered by the PonoPlayer. The Kickstarter campaign for the project was the third most funded in the website’s history, exceeding its goal pledge of $800,000 by more than $5 million.

The first PonoPlayers are expected to ship in October, but until then, give Jack White’s high-tech “Lazaretto” Ultra LP a spin and consider how amazing it is that you could now store it (and every other album ever recorded) on a single cassette tape.

Images courtesy of Nasty Little Man and Pono Music.

As Co-Founder and Lead Writer/Editor for LA Music Blog, a Los Angeles-based music news and review website, Kristin Houser’s life revolves around music and technology. She has been an avid fan of music ever since discovering her parents’ vinyl collection while still in elementary school, and she is fascinated by all the ways technology allows her to discover new music and share it with the world. She currently manages a staff of fifteen writers and contributors at LA Music Blog, and when she isn’t scouring the internet for her latest musical obsession, Kristin frequents Los Angeles’ many music venues where she can usually be found hovering near the front of house engineer while jotting down set lists in her smart phone. She is very pleased to share her latest music obsessions and all the ways technology allows her to discover and enjoy music with iQ by Intel’s audience.


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