Amazon Echo vs. Sonos Play:1- Who Will Be Victorious?

echo-vs-sonos

The popularity of music streaming continues to rise as more companies enter the market to compete and win over customers looking for easy-to-use, high-quality playback devices. There seems to be a trend in the home stereo market that’s leading buyers away from complex systems with dozens of components to sleek, simple machines that roll your tuner, receiver, and speakers all into one. Of all the choices available, the Amazon Echo and Sonos Play:1 have become two of the top contenders, but which of these devices is truly worthy of your dollar?

At a glance the Amazon Echo seems promising. It features Alexa, a voice assistant program similar to Apple’s Siri. Alexa can be commanded to stream music from your collection, give you weather updates and even help you with your math. There is a large list of commands people can use and even some “Easter eggs” to get things done or have a little fun.

Digital Music News quoted The Times, saying, “While Echo has received mixed reviews for its sound quality, its Alexa voice assistant — which allows people to quickly play music with verbal commands — has captivated the tech industry and the public.

The Echo sounds like a great investment if you have your hands dirty and need someone to scratch your nose for you, but what about its sound quality? How does the Echo compare to the Sonos Play:1 and other streaming devices?

A number of reviews state that the sound quality of the Echo is uneven (despite its 360-degree, omni-directional audio capability), and that the bass frequencies are weak at high volumes. When pushed up against a wall, it showed minimal bass improvement, a poor use of the “boundary effect.” It also lacks resolution at times, which could be due to the fact that the Echo encodes mp3s at only 256 kbps using a variable bit rate. A variable bit rate means that while complex parts of audio are playing, the overall bit rate will be higher than when less complex parts are playing, so listeners are not hearing the same quality audio at all times.    

On the contrary, the Sonos Play:1 has received rave reviews for its audio quality. Trusted Reviews writes that it, “…produces excellent, rich and meaty sound for its size. It has pretty neutral voicing, but the depth and scale of the bass the speaker is able to produce is very impressive.”

A single Sonos Play:1 can fill a room with sound almost as well as the Echo, but if you’re looking for true surround sound, Sonos gives you the option of purchasing multiple units as well as woofers and soundsbars to pair together and play as one unit. What’s more, the device allows you to stream mp3s at a constant bitrate of 320 kbps, not to mention FLAC and ALAC files at a whopping 1411 kbps. That’s over four times the bit rate of the Echo!

In addition, nerdwallet.com reports, “the Echo can play songs from Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Amazon Music Library, whereas the Sonos Play:1 can stream music from your iTunes library, pull from over 100,000 free radio stations, and work with a number of popular online music services (Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, Google Play Music, Amazon Music and iHeartRadio, to name a few).”

Not to mention, you’re able to stream your entire Murfie CD and vinyl collection via Sonos. We at Murfie have been using the Sonos app and speakers to listen to music for several years now, and we love it!

Price-wise, the two are comparable. The Amazon Echo goes for about $179 retail while the Sonos Play:1 goes for $199.

There has been some debate on whether or not the Sonos Play:1 will remain a competitor in the streaming device market in the coming years. There are a number of other companies producing similar products for a fraction of the cost (i.e. Google Home priced at $129 or Muzo’s Cobblestone priced at $60). Regardless of what the future holds, the choice for audiophiles and music aficionados should be clear. The Sonos Play:1 is hands down the better buy. It may not have all the bells and whistles the Echo has, but it does what it was designed to do, provide listeners with the highest quality audio possible.

We at Murfie will continue to support Sonos because we know the importance of audio quality. When subscribers send in their collections, Murfie ensures quality playback, with full metadata, in 320 kbps mp3, lossless FLAC, and other formats, all of which Sonos is able to deliver.

To learn more about our streaming services, see our FAQ or contact us.      

DuckDuckGo: Because Your Privacy Matters on the Web

We recently stumbled across a search engine called DuckDuckGo. It’s a bit different than other search engines for one big reason: it doesn’t track you. Other search engines, including Google, pay close attention to the things you’re searching for and the places you go.

“I have nothing to hide”—you might be thinking. It’s not about having nothing to hide. It’s about privacy. That’s our freedom.

You can use “Bangs“ on DuckDuckGo to search terms directly within another website. They are stylized as an exclamation mark followed by the name of the website you want to search, followed by the keyword. Example: !zappos sandals.

And guess what, we made a Murfie Bang! So now you can search for Katy Perry albums without judgement (e.g. !Murfie Katy Perry).

Ready to try DuckDuckGo? Head over to their website and try out the search engine that doesn’t track you!

Do you agree with the “Blurred Lines” verdict?

The jury has spoken! If you haven’t heard, a lawsuit recently found Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams guilty of copyright infringement, as their hit song “Blurred Lines” has proven to be too similar in composition to Marvin Gaye’s classic 1977 song “Got To Give It Up”.

The results of this lawsuit sparked interest in the music world, of course because of the popularity of each song, but also because there are believers that Thicke and Williams aren’t guilty of any wrongdoing. They’ve argued that the similarities between the songs are on a R&B genre and style level, not on a composition level—but the jury thinks otherwise.

Thicke and Williams have to pay $7.4M to the Gaye family as a result of the lawsuit. But now, the Gayes also want a federal judge to prohibit all future sales, distribution and performances of “Blurred Lines”.

Marvin Gaye’s children, Nona, Frankie, and Marvin III, published an open letter explaining their reasoning. It’s a very interesting read in terms of understanding what happened with the lawsuit, since Thicke and Williams were actually the ones who brought the Gaye family to court.

The open letter has heavy meaning in terms of creating music in the future. If the results of this lawsuit will be applied to all future music creation, then musicians who try to emulate a style connected to a certain genre or time period will be in trouble. Take reggae for example—almost all reggae songs use similar stylistic elements and lyrics that fit them into the reggae genre. The Sleng Teng Riddim, for example, has been used at least 380 times in different songs.

Do you agree with the “Blurred Lines” verdict, which found Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams guilty of copyright infringement? Vote below! Add your comments too!

[Opinion] Save the iPod!

I love my iPod! I have a shiny silver iPod Classic with a whopping 160GB of storage. For the past 4 years or so, it’s travelled all over with me, allowing me to listen to music on busses to Milwaukee (Cue: “Traveling Man”), on planes 30,0000 feet in the sky (Cue: “Leaving on a Jet Plane”), and on beaches in Jamaica (Cue: “Country Roads”).

The reason why I often listen to music on my iPod and not my phone, especially while traveling, is because it doesn’t drain my phone battery and I can access my entire collection offline. At home, I can plug it into my speaker system and I don’t need to worry about turning the music off to make a phone call.

This is why I was extremely saddened, disappointed, and upset to hear that Apple is discontinuing production of the iPod Classic! Now that the news is out, iPod Classics are selling for up to four times their original price online. But it’s no surprise, really, that Apple will be pushing people to buy the “next” thing.

I’m not alone in this sentiment. David Sims of The Atlantic says it’s okay to miss the iPod Classic. He noticed reactions like mine, and the spike in prices says it even more simply. “The surge of demand for old iPods suggests what I’ve long been thinking: There’s a hole in the market here. Something has to rush in and fill it eventually,” he says.

The hole he’s talking about is that even though streaming services exist, people still want permanence in their digital music collections. The tunes on your iPod occupy a sort of middle-ground between music rental (i.e. subscription streaming services) and ownership. With an iPod, you can collect digital music files, whether you ripped them from a CD or bought them from Apple (you technically don’t own the Apple files—you own a license to play the files according to Apple’s terms). But either way, you still can feel like you own them, because you’re in full control of where the files live.

Don’t get me wrong, streaming is great to have available! Streaming playback of my music is a great modern invention, whether it’s streaming what I own from Murfie or from a subscription service. But there’s still something convenient, and comforting, about having guaranteed access to all the music I care about in a package that follows me wherever I want to be. The iPod Classic is a great solution for the portable, offline listening and management of digital files, and I’m sad to see it go.

Sims says, “The question is whether Apple will realize its mistake or some other company will do it for them.” If another company wants to step up and make a comparable portable player, I applaud them. But hope my iPod Classic will still able to be supported in some way.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.


Voter Lookup

Howdy Murfie friends,

Election Day is tomorrow, and we encourage all of you to get up and use your right to vote! This tool will give you access to local info about voting, like where to go, what’s on your ballot, and more:

Make your choice and let your voice be heard. Be sure to vote!

Cheers,
The crew at Murfie

“Who is U2?” and other funny reactions to Apple’s auto-download.

On September 9th, 500 million Apple users were given U2‘s newest album, Songs of Innocence, without prior knowledge. Apple described the surprise as “A big moment in music history”—and it certainly was, for many unpredicted reasons.

The big thing they’re pointing out is that 500 million people now have a copy of an album in their library, making Songs of Innocence the “most-owned album in history.” To them, this is ground-breaking, but to me (writing this article)—not so much. No offense to Apple, but these aren’t people who willingly went out thinking “Hey, I would love to get a copy of this album!” Some of them might have bought it anyway on its official release date, October 13th. But as the days go by, more and more people are not just wondering how to purge the album from their library, but they’re literally wondering, “Who is U2?”

Who is U2?

To me, that’s hilarious. Kind of like the musically oblivious 8th grader meme. Of course I know who U2 is, even though I’ve never sought out their music myself. How could you not know? But again, like the musically oblivious 8th grader, there are Apple users as young as 13 years old who honestly have no clue why this album is now in their library.

Some of the most entertaining reactions to the free album have been listed here, on the very funny, whoisu2.com. Case and point: “Okayyyy so who is U2 and how did they hack the iTunes system ????” – @EgyptianArabic_ 

(Fyi, U2 did not hack iTunes, even though that would have been epic. Apple paid the band an unspecified amount and paired the release with a marketing campaign worth up to $100 million.)

SOI removal

Almost immediately, people complained about difficulties deleting the album from their different devices. To best handle this, Apple eventually created a “one-click removal” button for the U2 album, found at itunes.com/soi-remove. “Once the album has been removed from your account,” Apple warns, “it will no longer be available for you to redownload as a previous purchase.” Darn, you guys.

Hey, I like U2!

Yeah, they’re not bad. U2 is actually our most popular artist on Murfie, based on the number of albums owned by members. So for those of you who like U2, congrats on the free music—I bet the wave of reactions is still equally entertaining to you as it is to me. I wonder if Apple genuinely thought everyone would like this album.

U2 actually has a bunch of albums that soared in popularity, without any free gifting involved. Examples:

U2 WarU2 The Joshua TreeU2 Achtung BabyU2 Rattle and Hum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With 13 studio albums and a multitude of compilations, you really can’t go wrong.

True ownership

Not to beat a dead horse, but true Murfie fans should have noticed another flaw in Apple’s “big moment in music history” statement. Having access to U2’s album in your library does not mean you own the album. Having a physical CD or LP is what technically translates as truly owning it. Owning the physical CD or LP legally gives you rights to sell, trade, and even pass on the album to the next generation when you’re gone. So if you dig U2 and want the perks and peace of mind of owning their stuff, plus lossless quality downloads and streaming, you know where to get Songs of Innocence on October 13th. ;)

For fun!

Check out Clickhole’s 8 Most Innovative Ways Artists Have Released Albums.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.



5 disc-ripping fails: What you risk by digitizing your CD collection yourself

So, you’re thinking about digitizing that CD collection of yours. Before you rip away, there are a few things to consider before ripping your CDs at home, since the pitfalls are ones that could ruin your original goal of flawless work that is worthwhile.

There are many reasons why Murfie’s trusted service is ideal for music collectors who want perfect rips of their CDs, which they can download and stream. Murfie prevents the common drawbacks that arise when trying to rip at home.

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5. Wrong file format

It’s safe to say that many folks rip their CDs in mp3 format. While this format is the default on most drives, many people don’t realize that it compresses the music in a way that loses tiny details in the sound. Hence, it’s known as a “lossy” format.

The reason why some people compress music into to mp3 and other lossy formats is to save space. Discarding tiny bits of data is how this is achieved. This makes for a sound that is close to, yet not exactly identical, to the original recording.

Selecting the wrong format may also mean that your music won’t play on all of your devices. At Murfie, we rip and store the music from your CDs in lossless FLAC format, providing the flexibility to transcode to virtually any bit rate at any point in the future. Downloads in mp3, aac, and lossless formats FLAC and ALAC are included with all the CDs you send in. This means your music can bounce around all your devices, easily and without any manual conversion on your end.

4. Wrong bit rate

Even if you select the right file format, you’re still not out of the woods. Selecting the right bit rate (unit = bps) is important because it affects the amount of information processed per unit of time. More bits per second allows more details to be processed, making for higher quality sound.

Bit rate only applies to lossy formats (mp3 and aac) since lossless formats (FLAC and ALAC) make an exact replica of the original recording. Large music retailers like Amazon and iTunes provide digital music downloads in lossy 256 kbps mp3 and 256 kbps aac formats, respectively.

We’re fans of a higher default bit rate at Murfie, making for better quality sound. We use at least 320 kbps for mp3 downloads, and 320kbps for our standard free streaming. That’s a higher default rate than Amazon, iTunes and Spotify. 320 kbps streaming is available on Spotify, but with a premium paid membership. And as for Murfie’s paid premium streaming membership—well, that’s in lossless FLAC format, of course.

3. Errors/Incorrect Metadata

How do you know your rips are error free? Going back to listen to everything once you’ve ripped it and cross-checking track titles and album metadata against other sources will more than double the amount of time you’re spending on digitization. Every disc that’s ripped at Murfie is checked twice against our database to ensure all metadata like album title, artist name, and track names are correct. If Murfie does your ripping, you won’t have to worry about the unpleasant experience of putting your disc in a drive to find there is no metadata at all.

Metadata aside, Murfie uses AccurateRip to ensure the files themselves are seamless. We actually clean CDs that need to be cleaned, and polish CDs that have scratches. All this is to ensure error-free downloads and flawless streaming.

2. Data loss

Long-term, secure storage of your data is essential if you want your work to be worthwhile. Computer crashes, hard drive issues, theft, and other factors can be a nightmare for music collectors.

When your discs are ripped at Murfie, the original FLAC files are stored on our server, always available for you to request another download if your original is lost. Your discs can be stored in our secure facility in Madison, WI, alongside ~500K others that our members have already entrusted to us. With your original disc and FLAC files made available to you 24/7 for streaming and downloads, we’ve got the security of your discs covered in a way that goes above and beyond your average backup.

1. Your time

Time is money. Based on our calculations, a person can rip 10-20 discs per hour if they have one CD drive on their computer. That’s not counting any manual metadata entry and error checking.

Say you have 200 CDs in your collection. It would easily take you 10-20 hours to digitize everything. Is there something you’d rather be doing during the time it took to rip those discs? If your answer is no, check out these handy guides for ripping discs on Windows and Mac computers.

What’s your time worth? If you’re ripping at home, you can expect to process a maximum of 20 discs per hour. Again, time is money—and for 79¢/disc, Murfie can process your CDs for flawless streaming and downloads, shipping included. Let us do what we do best.

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Murfie is working to bring you uncompromised anywhere/anytime digital access to your music collection, in the highest quality possible. We’ll make your perfect ripped files available via downloads to your computer or hard drive, and via streaming to your iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet, web browser, and Sonos and other devices.

Do you have vinyl records that you want ripped too? Email info@murfie.com to learn more! Are you an all-round audiophile? Check out our lossless FLAC streaming available with Murfie HiFi.

Murfie is music collecting perfected. Request a shipping kit and begin your uncompromised collecting and listening experience!

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