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Welcome to Integrated Systems Europe (ISE 2012)

Showing off the Digital Drive PLUS at ISE 2012...

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I landed in Amsterdam a few days prior to ISE 2012. I felt confident I was mentally and physically prepared following the exquisite chaos called CES. But how would it go down with the added stress of frigid weather and jet lag?

I can report I was pleasantly surprised by the civility of it all.

The show itself was substantially smaller than CES. There were 40,869 registered attendees over the course of three days. The 825 ISE exhibitors occupied 11 halls of the Amsterdam RAI. These numbers are the highest in the history of the show, with the exhibitor total increasing 15% from 2011.

ISE, which started in 2004, is Europe’s largest tradeshow for the professional AV and electronic systems industry. It’s a kind of meeting place for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers from all over the world. The manufacturers can show off their latest technologies and distributors and retailers can see what’s available for their customers and consumers.

The show itself feels like a cool combination of a professional dress code and relaxed energy. It is truly international, representing companies from all over the globe.

The Standout Trend

There was "live" entertainment available in every hall.

The number one trend at ISE was digital signage. It was everywhere. In fact, ISE kicked off with the Digital Signage Conference (DiSCO). One of the topics covered was the potential for digital signage to help brick and mortar retailers compete with e-commerce websites by allowing them to reflect the new ways in which consumers are shopping. This includes providing the ability to allow shoppers to serve themselves, access products not on shelves, and obtain detailed product information.

That’s the cerebral take on digital signage. The sensorial take is the mind-blowing picture clarity and endless number of LED screens dominating the halls of RAI. There were single screen behemoths towering overhead, as well as smaller screens interacting seamlessly to create any number of awesome effects.

One of my personal favorites was a bit more understated, but really cool. These screens featured “live bands” playing in a sushi lounge located in the center of one show hall. Each member of the band had his or her own screen towering over the lunch tables. There were four screens in all playing simultaneously. The bands members were probably filmed separately, but they actually look like they are interacting with each other in each of their respective screens. You really feel like you’re watching a live show.

The European Aesthetic

A minimalist at heart, I felt a connection to the European aesthetic. There weren’t a lot of bright colors or flashy designs. And it was easy to see why as I looked up into apartment windows while walking through the city. They almost look bare compared to living space in the United States.

The fully invisible wall speaker complete with signature by Dave Santos, one of our sales aficionados.

For the most part, the walls were consistently white or off-white. And there seemed to be only one or two pieces of furniture or artwork. The industrial design and colors of most of the audio products reflected this aesthetic. It’s no wonder that our MicroVee and MiniVee are so popular in Europe. Most of the design is focused on hiding audio components. I saw the embodiment of this idea with a “fully invisible wall” speaker. It was quite literally a wall of sound. It’s also not surprising that our distributors in the United Kingdom are creating some pretty cool custom designs focusing on installing the SC IW (1250) In-wall subwoofer into the floor and other hidden locations.

Overall, the show was fantastic. It was fascinating to see what is happening outside of the United States. ISE showcased some of the major differences in the domestic and international markets. However, both markets are clearly utilizing incredible technology to fill consumer needs and demands.

A typical Dutch snack is the “Hollandse Nieuwe” or raw herring from the North Sea. It’s an acquired taste.

A Special Message to the People of Amsterdam

Thank you for your gracious hospitality. Thank you for delicious cheese and chocolate. I secretly believe these are your two major food groups, although I cannot prove this. I found your city to be absolutely delightful, but please consider holding ISE during the summer next year.

To all the bikers who jingled their bells as I wandered into their lane, unaware I was grossly violating local etiquette: In my humble opinion, your bike lanes look very similar to your pedestrian sidewalks. It was an honest mistake.

 A Tribute to Amsterdam in Trivia:

  • Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, as well as the largest city.
  • The name Amsterdam is derived from the city’s origins: it grew around a dam in the river called Amstel.
  • There are approximately 747,290 people living in Amsterdam proper and 2,158,592 living in the metropolitan area.
  • It is impossible to know for sure, but city authorities say there are well over 600,000 bikes in Amsterdam.
  • There are165 canals in Amsterdam, with a combined length of 60 miles.
  • There are 1,281 bridges in Amsterdam, many of which can open to let ships pass. In fact, “The bridge was open” is a popular excuse for arriving late to school or work.
  • Amsterdam has 6,800 16th, 17th and 18th century buildings.
  • Amsterdam is also known as the “Venice of the North” due to its many canals.
  • The Amsterdam zoo, Artis, was founded in 1838. It is the oldest zoo in Europe and the third oldest zoo in the world.
  • Established four centuries ago, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange is regarded as the oldest stock exchange in the world.

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The Perfect Hump Day Playlist

Note: You can find this and all my other playlists on Spotify by using the post titles as search terms.

It’s Hump Day! Are you dragging? Need some RADICAL TUNES to pump you up and get you through the rest of the week? Here’s a list of jams that are currently putting a pep in my proverbial step.

 

  1. “Big Machine” by the Goo Goo Dolls
  2. “People, Running” by Jack’s Mannequin
  3. “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon
  4. “Paradise” by Coldplay
  5. “Baba O’Riley” by The Who
  6. “Mad Season” by Matchbox Twenty
  7. “This Love” by Maroon 5
  8. “Shake it Out” by Florence + the Machine
  9. “Ooh La La” by Goldfrapp
  10. “Sail” by AWOLNATION
  11. “Sing Out” by The Grand Magnolias

And if you need a new pair of in-ear headphones to rock out at work, there’s a 2-for-1 sale on vPulse at Velodyne.com in celebration of Valentine’s Day with promo code BEMYVELODYNE (1 per household; see promotion details). Because if there’s one thing I love more than music, it’s free stuff.

 

-Benevolent Siren

 

Admin note: This promotion is no longer in effect. Please visit Velodyne.com to learn about current promotions.

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5 Catchy Songs You Didn’t Know Were Tragic

  1. “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind  With its utterly singable “do-do-do” chorus and melody, this may be one of the catchiest songs to come out of the 90s–but did you know it was about a struggling meth addict? I certainly didn’t until I sang it at karaoke night in a bowling alley (I mean…something less depressing?) and read all the lyrics for the first time. Lines like “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break / It won’t stop / I won’t come down” and “We tripped on the urge to feel alive / But now I’m struggling to survive”  reveal the painful hopelessness that comes with crippling drug addiction. Uplifting, right? Some more dreary lyrics: ”She’s got her jaws now locked down in a smile /  but nothing is alright, alright…”
  2.  “Slide” by The Goo Goo Dolls: At first blush, this might sound like a run-of-the-mill catchy love song, with charming lyrics like “And I’ll do anything you ever dream to be complete /…/ Put your arms around me / What you feel is what you are, and what you are is beautiful / Oh May, do you want to get married, or run away?” If you take a closer listen, though, a darker undercurrent is revealed:  “Don’t you love the life you killed / The priest is on the phone / Your father hit the wall / Your ma disowned you” suggests that the song is really about a young Catholic woman dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. This interpretation was confirmed by songwriter and Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik during a VH1 performance.
  3.  “Drops of Jupiter” by Train: According to Pat Monahan, lead singer of Train, Drops of Jupiter is about the passing of the artist’s mother and his effort to overcome the loss. He stated that the lyrics “She’s back in the atmosphere” came to him in a dream, and are meant to represent the concept that his mother returned to him spiritually after leaving for a while. He explained in a VH1 special, “Obviously, loss of the most important person in my life was heavy on my mind, and I thought of, ‘What if no one ever really leaves? What if you just kinda…you’re here, but different?’ you know, and the idea was, ‘She’s back. Here, in the atmosphere.’” Heavy, man. But on the bright side, if you want to interpret this track as a simple love song, there’s always the Taylor Swift cover.
  4.  “Paper Planes” by MIA: Gunshot sound effects make up the majority of the “Paper Planes” chorus, hinting at the morbidness of the song’s themes. Still, the fun hook and danceable beat makes it easy to overlook the extent to which this pop hit deals with violence and drug dealing culture. Lyrics like “sticks and stones and weed and bombs / Running when we hit ‘em / Lethal poison through their system” and “Some, some, some I, some I murder / Some I, some I let go” are explicitly violent, and the disturbing levity of M.I.A.’s tone contributes to the overall darkness of the track.
  5.  “If I Had $1,000,000″ by Barenaked Ladies  BNL weaves a fantasy world in which the male protagonist outlines what he’d buy if he were to receive a million-dollar windfall. Whimsical and goofy, right? Well, on the surface, yes: potential purchases include the remains of the Elephant Man, a mini-fridge (filled with pre-wrapped sausages) and an exotic pet (like a llama, or an emu). Sadly, though, everything he would buy is for a woman who doesn’t seem to love him back. This refrain reveals the misery underlying this song:  ”If I had a million dollars / I’d buy your love.” Unrequited love is among the cruelest of life’s trials, and one could speculate that his riches would be of little comfort to him without this dream woman. And if numerous pop idols are to be believed, money can’t buy love. Sorry, BNL.

 

Can you think of any more? Let me know in the comments!

-Benevolent Siren

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Must-Hear Song of the Day

If you’ve never heard this version of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” you’re doing yourself a grave disservice by not listening to it now. Stop what you’re doing, press play, and take some deep breaths (song starts at 1:07):

I’ll be sobbing in the corner if anyone needs me.

 

-Benevolent Siren

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ALBUM SHOWDOWN: Mylo Xyloto (Coldplay) vs. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (Coldplay)

If you’re not a Coldplay fan, maybe read one of my other posts instead of this one.  I’m about to talk about Coldplay a LOT.

In the age of the single, few pop albums are greater than the sum of their tracks. In my humble opinion, though, Coldplay bucks this trend, offering radio-friendly singles alongside brilliantly-crafted deep cuts that add up to wholly cohesive and engaging albums. This is especially true of their two most recent albums, which represent a marked departure from their previous offerings in terms of musical and lyrical complexity. As such, those are the two top contenders for My Favorite Coldplay Album, and I’ll be sussing out the winner in this here blog post. (Grammys are nice, but this honor is pretty prestigious too. Just saying.)

In one corner, we have 2008 release Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (VLVODAAHF, if you will), winner of a Grammy for Best Rock Album and the best-selling album of 2008. In the other, we have Mylo Xyloto, released in October 2011, which has hit #1 on the charts in 30 countries and racked up a few Grammy nods to boot. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Let’s get right into the head-to-head.

More gripping overture: Mylo Xyloto. Both albums introduce their respective musical tapestries with lovely instrumental overtures. Mylo Xyloto devotes 42 seconds to its rock-out intro, while Viva la Vida’s is two and a half minutes long and gently eases the listener in. This disparity is indicative of each album’s pace–MX rocks a little harder overall with songs that make you dance, while VLVODAAHF is in no rush and unfolds in a more deliberate fashion. This gives the advantage to MX, as it jumps right into the action without delay.

Stronger thematic consistency and flow: Viva la Vida. The cohesion of an album depends on the connection between songs: transitions between them, thematic ties, recurring aural motifs, etc. Mylo Xyloto is a little disjointed and suffers in this category. For instance, track 9 (“UFO”) is a stripped-down and intimate semi-acoustic offering, while track 10 (“Princess of China” feat. Rihanna) is electronic and synth-heavy. By contrast, VLVODAAHF is meant to be heard in its entirety, with a haunting tone that inhabits each track and glues the songs together in a gooey glob of ethereal perfection.

Catchier singles: Mylo Xyloto by a landslide. This category pits VLVODAAHF’s “Viva la Vida” and “Violet Hill” against Mylo Xyloto’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and “Paradise.” (Plus, “Princess of China” feat. Rihanna is slated to be released as a single on Valentine’s day 2012.) There’s no contest here for me. I never loved “Viva la Vida” as a single–the emotional connection just isn’t there for me–and even though “Violet Hill” is a great song, it works better with the rest of the album around it. Meanwhile, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and “Paradise” are both extremely engaging and emotionally charged. “Paradise” in particular rings true with the current economic climate and its effects on the outlook of the global workforce: When she was just a girl // She expected the world // But it flew away from her reach // So she ran away in her sleep // And dreamed of paradise…

Greater emotional involvement: Viva la Vida. Viva la Vida’s mournful vocals and piano spin a dreamworld that addresses war, death, and desire, singing right to your soul. Mylo Xyloto is billed as one long love story with a happy ending, but somehow it doesn’t connect on every level the way VLV does for me. Maybe you’ll disagree, which is your right. I can’t decide this one for you. But when Chris Martin murmurs the following lyrics on the closing VLV track, “Death and All His Friends,”  I always stop what I’m doing to really listen: And, in the end // We lie awake and we dream of making our escape… and it gets me every time.

Overall: I have to give it to Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Mylo Xyloto had me dancing at my desk and is chock-full of anthems that will fit right in on the radio. VLVODAAHF, on the other hand, makes slow, sweet love to your soul, seducing you song by song with its haunting melodies and lyrics. Listen to Viva la Vida while meditating, falling asleep, or writing about Coldplay (or anything, really). Listen to Mylo Xyloto on road trips, while taking a brisk walk, or pop in some headphones and listen during work hours.

 

Both albums are strong offerings, but one of them had to win. Do you agree with my choice? Disagree? TL;DR? Let me know in the comments. I’ll read ‘em, I promise.

 

-Benevolent Siren

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Why Do I Need a Subwoofer?

When I tell non-audiophiles that I work at a subwoofer company, the first question is usually either something like “What is a subwoofer?” or “Why are subwoofers important?” Believe it or not, I love getting these questions, because they give me the opportunity to go on and on about how a subwoofer can fundamentally change the way I experience media until my conversational companion’s eyes glaze over. Since I now have this platform to gush about them, I may just refer people to this page for my answer in the future.

Subwoofers like this Velodyne DD-18+ are indispensable to a satisfying audio experience.

So why do you need a subwoofer? Here’s my answer, in a nutshell: subwoofers reproduce bass (sound frequencies at the low end of the spectrum), and bass is absolutely essential to the emotional connection you forge with audio media. The cleaner and more powerful the bass, the more you can lose yourself in what you hear.

As far as I’m concerned, low frequencies are the id of entertainment. They tap into the base-level emotional and physical instincts that compose our collective psyche. Bass is sex; bass is terror; bass is overwhelming, uncontrollable joy. The heart and soul of sound lies in the foundational frequencies, and what is sound without feeling? Why listen to music, or watch movies, if not to be moved in some way?

Take hip-hop, where the bass is explicitly held in high regard. (Bass is essential for every musical genre, but in hip-hop the low frequencies take center stage.) I listen to rap to feel like a badass, and every time the bass kicks in a core-shaking rhythm, my whole demeanor takes on a life of its own. Thump thump rap lyrics thump, and I’m feeling like the king of the world in three beats flat. Badass indeed.

Or, consider the home theater experience. Movies are meant to be experienced, not just watched; a good film is meant to involve you wholly in its story, stealing you away from your daily life. If you want to be truly engulfed in a movie, you need to feel like you’re right there in the action, and the soundtrack is instrumental in bringing you there. Nautical battle scenes can’t seem real without thundering cannons; the tremors of an approaching beast’s footsteps can’t scare you if you don’t feel them thumping. Full and accurate bass reproduction allows you to forget that you’re watching a movie, letting you feel everything the characters do.

So, audiophiles and audio-philistines alike, I say to you: let there be bass! No matter the media, a subwoofer rounds out the sound and lets you turn on, tune in, drop out with all your consciousness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray and put my subwoofer to work.

-Benevolent Siren

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Wrapping Up CES 2012

A Strange and Wonderful World Called Las Vegas

My first glimpse of Las Vegas as I arrive for CES 2012.

I started off the year with two adventures rolled into one. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, that legendary desert oasis also known as Sin City. So what better time to go than during the city’s largest tradeshow of the year.

Of course, you know I’m referring to the 2012 International CES show. This was my first CES experience and I was blown away by the latest and greatest in innovation and technology. I’ve heard about the show, but could never have comprehended the enormity of it without having seen it firsthand. It literally holds the city captive for five days.

 

Some Fun Facts of About the Show

  • The International CES is the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow.
  • Exhibit space at CES covers 1.7 million net square feet of space-the equivalent of more than 35 football fields.
  • The show draws more than 140,000 attendees-3 times the number of slot machines on the Las Vegas Strip.
  • Some 30,000 international attendees travel to CES-more than double the population of Santorini, Greece.
  • By attending CES, attendees avoid 700 million miles of business travel-enough to travel from the earth to the sun seven times.
  • The show recycles 122 tons of waste and has been named North America’s Greenest Show.
  • There are 17,135 cups of coffee sold at CES-enough coffee for one person to drink a cup a day for 47 years.
  • A person walking the carpeted aisles of the CES show floor would walk almost 15 miles-and burn up to 1,500 calories.
  • The average U.S. household has 24 consumer electronics products and U.S. consumer electronics industry sales exceeded $190 billion in 2011.

 

The Year of the Headphones

These speakers double as a docking station and embody the theme of primary color and great industrial design.

Velodyne kicked off 2012 by unveiling the vPulse at this year’s show. It was a huge success. And I’m not just saying that because I work at Velodyne. Just take a look at the cnet vPulse review. I was blown away by the buzz these headphones generated. Our suite at the Venetian Hotel was jam packed all week long. I have the blisters to prove it.

Although we exhibited at the Venetian, I was able to make it over to the convention center to take in some of the main floor. And it was impossible not to notice that headphones dominated the show. There is no denying that 2012 is the year of the headphone. There were headphones in every price range and style. And strong branding was the cornerstone of this market.

The other undeniable was color. Most booths were dominated by shades of primary colors, although white seemed to be popular too. A splash of clean white or pop of bright color combined with sleek industrial design brought new life to classic products.

And speaking of industrial design, some of the docking stations I saw could take center stage in an art gallery. They were truly works of art.

So, that’s a quick rundown of the highlights. I’ll be off to ISE 2012 in Amsterdam soon. I look forward to sharing the highlights with you, so be sure to check back in with me.

 

The vPulse display at our suite in the Venetian hotel.

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The Perfect 30-Minute Cardio Workout Playlist

Note: You can find this and all my other playlists on Spotify by using the post titles as search terms.

Hi there! I’m the Benevolent Siren, and I’m going to be a regular columnist here on Velodyne’s blog. If you want to know more about me, feel free to read my bio. I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with all you Velodyne fans. (Actually, it’ll be mostly music/audio talk, but I’ll probably slip a few hopes and dreams in there now and again.)

Now that we’ve been introduced, I’d like to share my formula for the PERFECT playlist for a 30-minute cardio workout. Assuming each song is about 3-4 minutes long, it’ll take about 10 perfectly-chosen songs to guide you through your workout without missing a beat. After all, pushing yourself is all about mind over matter, and as long as there’s music on your mind, fatigue won’t matter!

Songs 1-2: Upbeat, Dance-y and Cheerful (Sample song: I Like It Like That by Hot Chelle Rae): Welcome to your workout! The first few songs in your playlist should ease you in with a fun and bouncy track, reminding you that exercise can be fun even before your endorphins kick in. Warm up with a pop song with a catchy melody, like Hot Chelle Rae’s “I Like It Like That,” and before you know it you’re dancing down the track (or treadmill, or trail, or whatever).

Songs 3-5: Badass and Bass-Heavy (Sample songs: SexyBack by Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland, How We Do by The Game): Now that you’re warmed up, it’s time to start taking yourself—and your workout—seriously. You’ve taken the time out to do something great for yourself, and you deserve to feel like a freaking badass doing it! Dominate your workout with pumped up, ego-boosting songs like SexyBack by Justin Timberlake or How We Do by The Game. Make sure songs 3-5 hit hard with the bass, so the music resonates throughout your whole body and keeps you going strong. A good rule of thumb: the more the bass kicks, the more you’ll kick ass!

Songs 6-8: Motivational and Fast-Paced (Sample songs: My Body by Young The Giant, Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO)

LMFAO works out--and if you do too, they've got some sweet tracks to keep you moving.

Getting tired? Must be time for songs 6-8. Any good workout will have its tough moments, and that’s when you need your tunes to take over and push you through with flying colors. Pay attention to the lyrics when selecting these songs; the right track can act as your personal trainer singing motivation right into your ear. For example, “My body tells me “NO”//But I won’t quit//’Cause I want more” (My Body, Young the Giant) or “I wanna see you move” (Chris Cox Britney Spears Megamix) or “I work out!” (Sexy & I Know It, LMFAO).

Song 9: Your Favorite, Fastest-Paced Song! (Sample song: Drop by the Ying Yang Twins, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana)

Now that you’re nearing the end of your workout, it’s time to pull out all the stops and throw your blood, sweat and tears into the next three minutes. This is the last song before cool-down, so dig deep and enjoy the endorphins you’ve worked so hard for. This is the place for your most motivational, fastest-paced, hardcore-to-the-max song, and I’m betting you already know what it is. For me, it’s Magic by B.O.B. feat. Rivers Cuomo, because by this time in my run I’ve proved to myself once again that I do, in fact, have the magic in me. Some other great choices are Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, Till The World Ends by Britney Spears, or Bangarang by Skrillex feat. Sirah.

Song 10: Moderately-Paced and Feel-Good (Sample song: Good Feeling by Flo Rida)

Good job! You’ve made it to the cool-down, but the workout’s not over yet, and neither is your playlist. You owe it to yourself to finish your workout on a high note, so choose a track that makes you feel amazing about yourself and your accomplishments. That said, this song should be a little mellower than your previous tracks. Bring your heart-rate down with a laid-back hip hop song like Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z if that’s your jam, or choose something more literal like Good Feeling by Flo Rida. Either way, ride that “good feeling” all the way to the end.

Phew! I pumped myself up writing this, so I’m going to go work out some energy on a run. Here’s the playlist I just made for myself following these guidelines, and I can’t wait to pop in my vPulse earphones and test it out. It’s about 37 minutes long, which gives me leeway to skip a song or two in my 30-minute run if I’m not feeling a particular track at the moment it comes on. Feel free to borrow from it:

1. Tonight, Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae
2. Teenage Dream by Katy Perry
3. I’m Really Hot by Missy Elliot
4. SexyBack by Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland
5. Drop by the Ying Yang Twins
6. Chris Cox Britney Spears Megamix
7. Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO
8. My Body by Young The Giant
9. Magic by B.O.B. feat. River Cuomo
10. Young, Wild and Free by Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg

 

Happy workout!

-Benevolent Siren

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