Sound Hound music discovery application

Sound hound, making us look smarter than we should
Sound hound, making us look smarter than we should

For all of us that work at radio stations but are not programmers, Sound Hound great app for those “WTF is the name of that song?” moments.  As I get older, this seems to happen more and more.  These are either senior moments or I am just not keeping up with the new music today.  Probably a little of both.

To use the application, one can play, sing or hum the song in question and if Sound Hound can match the audio to a known song, it will return the song title, version if more than one and artist to your mobile device.  It will also provide links to lyrics, chart information, artist concert dates and Youtube videos, which is pretty cool.

It comes as a free version with banner ads.  For those of us that hate banner ads, a paid version is available as well.

I fooled around with this for a while playing songs from youtube club videos.  If the audio is not too distorted (some of those club videos are pretty bad), it will work.  It will also pick out live performances (and include venue and date if available), club mixes, etc.

Best of all, it makes me look like a genius to my kids.  Any help I can get in that department is most welcome.

More radio engineering apps, then I’ll leave this alone

Since I posted about Andoid phone apps for engineers last February, I noticed several others have picked up the thread and published articles as well. Good for you! I am glad that we can be of assistance here at Engineering Radio.

Radio World had a good article back in July on this subject.  I’m not going to link to it, just because.  I figured I’d add a few others that didn’t make the grade last go around, either because they didn’t exist, or I didn’t know about them.  I am limiting my choices to free apps for Android phones.

  1. Router passwords.  Often, very often in fact, the default password on any given router does not get changed when it is installed.  I found this app to be accurate and useful for speeding up various router tasks required in day to day radio engineering.  Things like opening ports for VNC, routing outside IP addresses to internal ones, etc.
  2. Navaile Electrical Calculator.  Great for National Electrical Code questions, wire sizes, breaker sizes, box fill, conduit fill, voltage drop, etc.
  3. RF & Microwave tool box.  Has handy calculators for filters, mismatch, return loss, etc, just in case those things need to be done by hand.
  4. GPS test.  Shows available GPS signals, gives time, location and accuracy in WGS84 datum.
  5. Shortwave Schedules.  Data base of shortwave schedules searchable by station, time, and frequency.
  6. Note pad.  Just what it says.
There are several other good ones, but these are the ones that I tend to use most often.

Comparison: Over the air listening on FM vs. streaming audio on Android phone

I have had my HTC Android phone for just about a year now, which is enough time to learn the device’s strengths and weaknesses.  I have done a fair amount of listening to audio, watching youtube videos and playing .mp3’s to give me some idea of the technical quality and operational issues.  Like anything else, these are general observations.  Some radio station’s streams sound better than other due to the effort those stations put into audio quality.

The listening test was done with a set of Sony earbuds, which sound far better than the small speaker built into the phone.  For ease in streaming audio, I used the TuneIn Radio application for Android by TuneIn Inc.  For this test, I only listened to FM broadcast stations, both streaming and over the air.

The over the air tuner is the stock factory radio in my 1997 Jeep Cherokee.  I would rate the radio average in every way.  The actual tests were done driving around on interstate highways and other major roadways.  There were a few instances where I had to give up on the Android phone due to traffic and driving considerations.

My Android phone has an FM tuner installed in it, however, it is really useless.  I get only local stations, and then their audio is all hissy and for the most part unlistenable.  The HTC FM tuner uses the headphone wire for an antenna, which may be a part of the problem.

Here is a chart of my observations:

Category evaluated Analog FM radio Streaming via Android
Overall Station Selection Only those stations that can be received Any station that is listed in TuneIn Radio App*
Varity of interesting programming Only those receivable signals which limits it to a few well programmed stations, the rest being garbage Almost unlimited, world wide*
Available formats Only those stations that can be received Any station that is listed in TuneIn Radio App*
Ease of use Can press the preset or scan buttons on radio without taking eyes off the road* Requires squinting at a small screen and pressing several little boxes to get to the desired station
Annoying commercial avoidance See above on preset and scan buttons* Very difficult to change stations quickly
Quality of sound Good to excellent, depending on the station’s signal strength* Fair to good, depending on the bit rate and network congestion, some stations sound very good and some can sound very bad
Drop outs Occasional picket fencing with distant stations, otherwise, non-existent* Varies depending on location, can be quite annoying, especially in mobile environment.  App also occasionally locks up and needs to be restarted
Expense Free, radio came with the vehicle, no paid data service needed* Requires data plan with smart phone, some plans cap data amounts, can be fairly expensive
Overall enjoyment Good Good

*Wins category.

I am having a difficult time assigning the overall enjoyment as well as an over all winner.  One the one hand, it was very cool, driving down I-84 in Danbury, CT listening to Howlin’ Wolf on New Orleans’ non-commercial Jazz station, WWOZ.  On the other hand, it was a right pain in the ass to get to that point, in rush hour traffic.  By the way WWOZ’s web stream is excellent, audio wise.

From a safety and ease of use, the FM radio in the Jeep wins hands down, I just don’t know how many more times I can listen to the same Led Zeppelin song on i95 (that used to be I-95, frankly I thought Steve Jobs copyrighted the lower case i).

The drop outs were also a concern, mostly taking place in on the section of I-84 going through Putnam County, NY.  I don’t know if my cell carrier needs to beef up it’s data coverage in that area, or if there were just a great many users on the network checking their e-mail, etc.

If they could sort out the ease of operation problem and get rid of the drop outs, streaming audio over HTC Android would win hands down.

 

Opting out of Smartphone Spyware

A while ago, I was extolling the virtues of my Android smartphone. I have to say, I am still pleased with the unit, having a mini-computer/camera/phone/calculator etc is handy. It makes life easy to find a needed part on Mouser.com, order it and get it the next day.  I can snap a picture of something and send to somebody in less than a minute.  When trouble shooting a transmitter, sending a picture to the factory rep cuts down on the back and forth and brings the effort directly to the point.

I have also blogged about my mediocre Pandora experience.  Now, it seems there is another reason to be weary of the mighty Pandora machine.

The Wall Street Journal has a good article about what these companies are doing with your data.

Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks.

Read the whole thing, it is enlightening.

Is my Smartphone spying on me?  Apparently so.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of this.  There is nothing compelling or even terribly unique about Pandora.  I’ve found the Pandora listening experience to be adequate, but certainly not worth all the hoopla it gets.  Being constantly bombarded by advertisers selling all sorts of garbage is becoming annoying.  I’ve gone through and deleted all apps that access personal data of any kind, including Pandora.   There are a few which are hard rooted in the phone such as Skype mobile and Facebook which can’t be deleted.  Skype mobile can’t even be deactivated, as soon as the program is ended, it restarts on it’s own.

So, is Skype mobile recording everything I do and sending to some black hole somewhere?  I don’t know.  If it is,  it is likely boring somebody half to death as most of my life is pretty mundane.

Update: I rooted my phone, which was far easier than I thought it would be, and deleted all the programs I didn’t like.