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Friday, January 27, 2012

Silent Dancing and $68,000 Sound Systems: The Music of Macworld

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 10:53 AM

click to enlarge Macworld attendees check out Silent Frisco, the wireless headphones-assisted dance party. - DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN
  • Douglas Zimmerman
  • Macworld attendees check out Silent Frisco, the wireless headphones-assisted dance party.
There were more curious wallflowers than hula-hooping dancers yesterday as the wireless headphones-assisted dance party Silent Frisco took over the second floor of the Macworld conference. (It continues today from noon to 6 p.m. with DJs Motion Potion and u9lift). For Sunset Promotions, which takes Silent Frisco to locales like Ocean Beach and Treasure Island and plans an ambitious schedule of events this year, it's a huge opportunity to turn people on to the joys of a dance party, without the elements that can be barriers to entry for many (late night hours, intoxication, loud noise).

Across the hall, in the area dubbed the "Music Studio," students and staff from Berklee College of Music are offering live performances and workshops. Highlights from today's schedule include learning how to build the best project studio for your personal music needs and surveying the best of the current mobile music-making applications. But let's review the real draw for music fans at Macworld -- the gadgets.

click to enlarge The All Jack sound system will cost you a mere $68,000. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • The All Jack sound system will cost you a mere $68,000.
Tooling around the main floor of Moscone West at the Macworld conference, the musical emphasis is on speakers and headphones, from the cheap and insignificant to the outrageous and extravagant -- the latter nimbly represented by a $68,000 gold-plated and Russian diamond-festooned sound system from All Jack.
click to enlarge X-Mini speakers: Big on sound. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • X-Mini speakers: Big on sound.
On the much lower end, X-Mini capsule speakers run around $30 and provide obnoxiously loud sound for their size. We say obnoxious because yesterday they were blaring Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga ad nauseum, but they'd be cool with your music of choice emanating from them.
click to enlarge We don't think this means they're hiring DJs. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • We don't think this means they're hiring DJs.
Orange County's OrigAudio created displays of swiveling silver heads to show off Designears, the company's customizable headphones. They came sporting logos of UPS, Corona beer, Starbucks, and, in a nod to Macworld, the Golden Gate Bridge. While the sound quality was clearly not in the class of veteran exhibitors like Bang and Olufsen or Sennheiser, there are more consumers than ever who want headphones and don't care about much other than them looking cool. (But it's pretty hard to look cool in a pair of Starbucks-logo headphones, we think.) Much better is OrigAudio's Rock-It 2.0, a portable vibration speaker that can be slipped into an ordinary object to turn it into a speaker.
click to enlarge Music schwag from TuneUp, a program that cleans up your errant iTunes files. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • Music schwag from TuneUp, a program that cleans up your errant iTunes files.
While we didn't see a lot of fresh titles in the software category that would be of interest to music fans, TuneUp -- which purports to "clean up" your messy iTunes existence -- could be a dream for those who have too many unlabeled track names and artists in their collections, so long as they're not so obscure as to elude the Gracenote databases.
click to enlarge British DJ/producer A. Skillz spins for Silent Frisco. - DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN
  • Douglas Zimmerman
  • British DJ/producer A. Skillz spins for Silent Frisco.
The musical highlight of today's slate of Tech Talks at Macworld starts at 3 p.m., when seminal hip-hop producer Hank Shocklee, a sonic architect who had a vital role in shaping the sound of Public Enemy, presents "Future Frequency: Artistic Freedom in the Digital Age," a practical discussion followed by what he's dubbed a Drum Programmers Camp exhibition and performance. Macworld continues at Moscone West through Jan. 28, when the event will conclude, strangely enough, with a communal drum circle.

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