Sonos

I took the plunge recently into the Sonos family of sound systems – very clever software is the difference between these speakers and anything else.

I chose the smallest speaker as an introduction to the range. If I want I can extend my Sonos network one speaker at a time. They can play music at the same time if I want. You can group speakers and set them up as home cinema systems too. They work with bluetooth, wifi and other standards like Airplay from Apple. Very clever.

For now though I just got the most rugged and smallest speaker to carry around with me and withstand the household with all the kids smashing it. The Sonos Roam is waterproof and pretty sturdy. We could take it camping and to the beach, if the adverts are to be believed.

Happy Thursday chimps. The latest podcast episode is up today. It was fun to record something again.

Music plus tech

As a teenager I used to think I would listen to my walkman for the rest of my life. It was so essential to me – the cassette tapes I had painstakingly curated, the stock of fresh AA-size batteries, the headphones I found in an airport in England. The ritual of plugging it all in and pushing play. It just didn’t get any better.

One day in my early 20s I found my dad’s LP collection and an old hifi setup. I heard classics like Otis Redding and Springsteen in such clarity and power. Besides the fidelity, there was the long beautiful process of choosing the record, cleaning it, playing one side through and flipping it over, reading the liner notes, poring over the album covers, adjusting the needle and the audio settings. A new ritual was born. My life changed.

Now in my 30s I have my iPhone and an Apple watch. New tech, new ritual. I can call up any song I want no matter where I am. The digital liner notes are getting better every day and the sheer convenience of Bluetooth and music on the go is changing my life again. Don’t even get me started on Spotify’s daily mix and discover weekly playlists. That revolution in curation is a topic for another post.

Older forms of technology can all still be used of course. And often they retain their original power even though the convenience factor is low. Vinyl has made a come back. Audiophiles also tout the benefits of CDs and cassettes. For me this means I now have an arsenal of ways to access the Music drug. The music is the constant, Platonic form while the tech revolves and morphs around it in a clumsy, circular dance.

Perhaps one day the headphones will be nothing more than chips in our brains. A neuralink device Elon Musk sells for a fee. What might a music listening ritual look like for this scenario?

I get comfort from the fact that the music never changes. Taste and quality may vary, but a song is a song no matter what. The catalogue keeps on growing, but the essential form and function of a song is set. It is information in the form of a sound wave being received by the brain. Only the tech for delivery varies.

Developing a concept

The addition of ‘escape the jungle’ to my blog’s main menu is taking shape. I plan to add a few sub menus to cater for all the things in life that help me to escape the jungle – to be less chimp and more rational being. Less anxious and more free.

So far I have art, design, productivity and psychology.

Within these categories I will post my favorite stuff. There will be subcategories too I guess…sport goes somewhere. This is the stuff I love and enjoy. The stuff that makes my life better.

Happy Sunday chimps.

New Years purge

We are purging our cupboards on the first day of the year. Although it wasn’t planned for this exact day, the timing feels extremely cathartic and right.

We will send our old clothes to one of the multitude of needy causes nearby. Africa does not struggle when it comes to charities and needy folk, unfortunately.

The purge is also spreading to my man cave/office which is chock full of my stuff….this includes all the coolest stuff (posters, guitars, Hifi amps and speakers) and all the junk I have collected over the years (old battery chargers anyone?)

If you are looking for something to do to start the new year right, I’d highly recommend a purge.

Happy New Years chimps!

Design impacts Art & Design impacts Health. Therefore Health = Art.

Odd title, let me explain.

In reading about the impact of design and space on our wellbeing, I have come more and more to believe in well designed homes as a source of wellbeing. Conversely poorly designed homes are bad for our long term health. Certain spaces will create stress or isolation, and others will create relaxation and communion. Healthy spaces should account for all stimuli entering the brain through all the senses.

So far so good. I imagine, dear reader, that you are with me on this…or at least you are willing to entertain the notion that a room full of comfy couches, mellow music, warm lighting and sweet lavender smells is better for our health than a damp, dark basement with odours of rat poo.

But this is where my mind makes a weird connection, so as Samuel L Jackson famously said about the dinosaurs: “hold on to your butts”.

I recently came across this quartz article which looks at the impact of headphones on media and pop music: link I found myself nodding to the words throughout the article. Media has become a certain way (mainly bass heavy music or intimate chats in the form of podcasts) because of its main mode of consumption – headphones which have tiny speakers and offer a private signal direct to your brain. The design of the headphones affects the media in exactly the same way the design of your house affects your wellbeing.

Think of wellbeing as a piece of amorphous art you need to try and shape with whatever you have at your disposal. Just like the music that is shaped by the arenas, churches or headphones in which it is played. Life is a song. Life is art. I’m sure those are old, cheesy sayings but they suddenly make a lot of sense to me.

Christmas is upon us like a tidal wave now. I have started to crank some soulful Christmas carols and hang some sweet smelling decorations for my family’s wellbeing and communion if nothing else.

Happy Friday chimps.

Hifi Inventory 1 – Amplifiers

1. Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amp. A beautiful addition to your desktop. It suits the Apple aesthetic and it will crank any headphones you can throw at it. Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.

2. Onkyo TX8270 Stereo amp / network receiver. This is what powers our TV setup. It is a bit of an overkill at the moment considering the majority of our TV watching these days consists of “Pippa Pig”, “Puffin Rock” and “Llama Llama”. But I digress – this thing will give you any music you can think of, from Spotify Connect to Tidal to TuneIn radio, it will stream from the net. Then there is the DSD option, Bluetooth…basically anything you can think of. And it’s powerful enough for most speakers. Onkyo | TX-8270

3. Denon DM41 mini Hifi. This is a beauty for bookshelf or desktop in a small room. CDs and other inputs and Bluetooth make it very flexible – it sounds amazing too. Highly recommended. Denon D-M41DAB review | What Hi-Fi?

4. HRT MicroStreamer. This thing is a portable Amp and DAC to improve the sound from your laptop or cellphone. It certainly sounds good hooked up to the Asgard, but I am not sure if it is any better than the laptop’s internal system. Either way. Hifi marketing works on me. HRT microStreamer review | What Hi-Fi?

5. Musical Fidelity A1 stereo Amp – this one I got second hand from a wheeler dealer who sold me on the sound by hooking it up to an insane set of speakers. I couldn’t afford the speakers but the old map was doable. It’s (supposedly) a Class A amp which means a better build and sound. I need to get some speakers to really test it. Musical Fidelity A1 › Introduction

Hifi Inventory

Hifi equipment seems to grow in the corners of my house like a sort of ‘metal and wires’ fungus. It drives my wife crazy, but I can’t get enough of it. You see, setting up Hifi systems is strangely soothing to my mind. It gives me an escape from the jungle of life, and of course it gives me music.

To keep track of this (expensive) habit, I am starting a new section under the menu and widgets section (top right of the chimpwithcans.com webpage). “Hifi Inventory” will keep track of what I have and what I lust after. Maybe it will help me keep track of spending too!

What do you collect? Is it creating more of a jungle in your life? Or is it somehow helping you escape?

Designers on Instagram

Good design can help you escape your own personal jungle. These are some of the cool people I follow on Instagram for design stuff:

Studio Dylan Thomaz: @studio.dylan.thomaz – interior design in Cape Town SA with a focus on happiness through design.

Tone Alexander Design Studio: @tonealexander – Interiors and gardens designed locally here in Cape Town.

Fern & Roby: @fernandroby – Industrial design and Audio (speakers and turntables mainly) and beautiful furniture made in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

Happy Tuesday Chimps.

Making it interesting

Check out this passage from a book I am reading:

The eardrum is connected to three tiny, loosely hinged bones inside the middle ear. Each bone is delicate and exquisitely shaped. One looks like a hammer and is called by its Latin name, malleus. The next, the incus, looks like an anvil. And the third, the stapes, looks like a stirrup. When the eardrum vibrates, these bones vibrate in tune with its movement and with the movement of the air.

Three bones make all the sound you hear in your head! This sort of thing blows my mind, and yet I gave up biology at 15.

Maybe if my biology teacher had linked it all to music I would have paid attention.

Footage

I received a video yesterday from my dad. He was fronting a full on soul band. A blues brothers style suit on, he was singing on stage playing his Stratocaster next to my sister who played saxophone.

It made me think that not many families have such cool footage. It reminded me that my family roots are creative, bold, and musical.

It was such a great video to receive and I was so proud of them. Thanks dad.