We’ve been big fans of Slacker since we saw it earlier this year at CES. Now, we were big fans of the Slacker Internet radio service, but that meant you had to keep Slacker in your browser. With the Slacker G2, all that Internet radio goodness is now portable. So, why the Slacker G2 over a regular MP3 player? Well, first off, the owner doesn’t have to pay for the music. You don’t even have to use a computer to transfer music to the device, as that can all be done with the devices itself. It connects to the free Slacker service over Wi-Fi, and will update itself with music whenever it has a connection. The 4 GB Slacker G2 supports 25 stations, and retails for $199.99. You can pick one up at Amazon.
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So this morning we gave you the scoop on the new Sonos 2.7 features, along with the news of the new (and free) Sonos Controller for iPhone and iPod touch, but we figured you’d be interested in seeing how all this worked. Luckily, Sonos CEO John MacFarlane was able to stop by to give us a first look at all the announcements. In this episode, John walks us through all the new hotness that Sonos announced this morning. That includes a walkthrough of the new iPhone app, which incorporates and supports all those slick new Sonos 2.7 features that we’ve been raving about so early in the morning over here. If you are a music fan, you owe it to yourself to look into Sonos, if you haven’t already.
Oh, and be sure to check our Sonos for iPhone gallery if you wanna see some screenshots of the app in high resolution.
If you thought we were done with today’s Sonos news, think again - they’re on a roll, having just announced the availability of Sonos Controller for iPhone and iPod touch, for free. If you’re a Sonos fan, then you immediately understand what this means. If you own an iPhone or iPod touch, you get a touchscreen Sonos controller, at no extra cost. Seriously, that rocks. The new app gives you access to all the new Sonos 2.7 features we told you about earlier as well, like Rhapsody, Sirius, Last.fm, and tons of radio from across the globe. In fact, with the Sonos Controller for iPhone, you can access music from any computer on your network, a NAS drive, or even a Time Capsule. When you realize that one of the standard Sonos Controller remote costs $400, you begin to see how big a deal this is. Releasing this as a free download makes Sonos instantly easier to use, especially in a multi-zone, multi-iPhone household, like mine.
We are big fans of Sonos here at Gear Live, which is why we are super excited about the new Sonos 2.7 update that is launching today. This one truly fits in with the whole goal of filling your home with music from anywhere on the planet. Let’s jump into this. The new update provides computer-free access to services like Last.fm, Pandora, and more than 15,000 radio stations from around the globe, all at no additional fee. If you subscribe to a subscription service like Napster, Rhapsody, or Sirius, they’ve got you covered there too. They’ll all stream directly to your Sonos system, with no need for a computer or server running in the background. That’s some slick stuff.
Even better, the Last.fm integration is fantastic. Every song you listen to through a subscription service, or your music library, is scrobbled and added to your Last.fm profile. A few other new features in Sonos System Software 2.7:
- Rhapsody now streams at 192 kbps MP3 as opposed to 128 kbps WMA
- RTSP streaming protocol now supported, allowing for greater Internet radio coverage
- Better language support
The update is free to all Sonos owners.
EMI has decided to offer their music directly to consumers with an online Web portal. Not only will they offer tracks and videos, there may be some freebies and non-EMI artists as well. The label says that it is doing this to collect customer behavior data and may use something akin to Pandora, which recommends tunes based on what music the user already prefers. We find this a fine idea, not only because it might cut costs in the overpriced and ailing CD sales market, but also isn’t it nice that someone may actually be listening?
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There is no way that you can hit snooze and still be able to do so with the Pandora Alarm Clock. Turn the thing off and just as you start to fall back to sleep, it will issue noises and, as you open your eyes, it plays animation on your ceiling to berate you about what you should be doing rather than hanging in bed. The imaging includes a shower, coffee brewing, a toaster, and tooth brushing. To see a demo and hear the strange sounds it makes, check designer Melanie Graf’s site. There is only one glitch to her prototype that we can figure. There would never be enough guilt to have to go through the routine day after day. Hmm. Maybe Pandora would be a good thing.
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Slacker Internet radio is going portable! Slacker offers free, sponsored Internet radio with 1 to 2 minutes of interstitial ads per hour. In its free service, Slacker allows 6 skips per hour per station, but with over 100 genre stations to be listened to (working out to the ability to skip 600 songs per hour), even the most skip-happy listener can satisfy their urge to get to the next song quickly. Slacker’s Premium membership offers unlimited skips and saving and replaying favorite songs starting at $7.50/month.
Slacker Portable is Slacker’s companion personal media player. Available in 2, 4 and 8 gig models (translated to 15, 25 and 45 stations), Slacker Portable fills itself from the user’s favorite stations every time it’s synced. Not only is the music on the player, but anything available from Slacker’s site is available on the Slacker Portable, including artist bios, reviews and album art. Because Slacker Portable isn’t constantly connected to Slacker’s HQ, there’s no cutout when a listener enters a subway train, goes into a tunnel, or anywhere that a signal would be lost with an FM or a satellite radio. And if you can’t live without that certain album at your disposal at all times, Slacker Portable allows you to load mp3’s from your own library.
For AT&T phone users, the company now offers music from Pandora. Type in a song or artist, and the service creates a station for you in that genre. We have enjoyed the service for a couple of years now, but for the rare bird that is not familiar with it, Pandora works on the basis of its Music Genome Project. All songs have been analyzed by musical qualities such as harmony, rhythm, lyrics, and melody to suit your preferences. If you already have the service online, AT&T will deliver the music through a universal account. If not, you can subscribe for $8.99 a month after a 5 day free trial. They also offer a MEdia Max bundle with browsing and access to video for $19.99.
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The newest Squeezebox has a bright LED screen along with a nice, metallic console, and is the perfect gift for any audiophile. Hook this thing up to a stereo system using it’s digital outputs, and you are in for a treat. The Squeezebox supports just about any format out there (but not iTunes DRM), and can even stream from services like Rhapsody. There are third-party plug-ins that let you change fonts, and even use the display as a caller ID. Our favorite part, though, is the fact that it can stream Internet radio without needed a PC to be powered on.