Music Tribute: Prince

GROM Audio Newsletter Music Artist

Prince Rogers Nelson–an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer from Minneapolis, Minnesota – was a music genius and pop icon. Known simply as “Prince,” he was a virtuoso who could play over 24 instruments including guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, and variety of brass. His style of music varied from R&B, Funk, Soul, Rock, Jazz, and many other forms.

Prince released his first album “For You” in 1978 and became pop success with the release of forth album “1999.” By 1984, Prince released an album and movie, both titled “Purple Rain,” that turned a mild music star into a music and pop legend. He followed this success with his backup band, which he called The Revolution, with series of major hit albums that included “Around the World in a Day” and “Parade.”  Prince then released “Sign o’ the Times” solo after disbanding The Revolution. But afterwards in 1991, he formed a new band called The New Power Generation and recorded with them the soundtrack album for his second film “Graffiti Bridge.”

Prince change his name to an unpronounceable symbol, which became known as the “Love Symbol,” and would release several albums until 2000 when he began identifying himself as Prince again.  He would go on to release 16 more albums from 2000. His last album “Hit n Run Phase One” was released into two separate parts on the music site “Tidal” and was his final exploration of dance and R&B music. By the end of his career, Prince released 39 studio albums, 5 soundtrack albums, 4 live albums, 5 compilation albums, 17 video albums, and 12 extended plays.

GROM Audio Newsletter Music Artist

His personality, hubris, and gravitas became one of his greatest creations. He died an untimely death due to medication that had been prescribed to him to handle chronic pain issues he suffered the last years of his life. His legacy remains immortal through the audacity of music, persona, and creative vision.

While we cannot stream Prince’s music via Spotify, here are places where you can listen to his music: http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7341641/listen-prince-music-online

Musical Tribute: David Bowie

David Bowie Music Tribute

David Bowie was a singer, songwriter and actor who was born in England.  He was widely consider as prolific and innovative for his pop compositions and performances. His recording legacy spans across five decades and encompasses several personas, pop music styles, arrangements, and sub-matter. With his first major hit in 1968 called “Major Tom,” which chronicled the travels of an astronaut leaving earth, Bowie was able to gain his first major achievement with third album called “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” The album would include many songs that would inconify him as a songwriter, including “Starman,” Ziggy Stardust,” and “Suffragette City.” The album became an icon for Bowie in that it featured his focus on concept albums, art rock, and glam rock. It would also introduce one of his most famous personas in Ziggy Stardust that eventually led him to the filming of a movie based on the album, and in its namesake.

Later, in the 1970s, Bowie would team up with Brian Eno to create three albums that featured a major shift in Bowie’s musical style to electronic music. Beginning with “Low,” then “Heroes,” and ending with “Lodger;” these albums would be known collectively as the “Berlin Trilogy.” These recordings started when Bowie became a resident in West Berlin in late 1976. Together with producer Tony Visconti and musician Brian Eno, these albums would include a variety of prolific singles including “Heroes,” “Sound and Vision,” and “Boys Keep Swinging.” Bowie credited these albums as his “DNA.” This period would see him taking on another famous persona as “The Thin White Duke,” which first became the preceding alum titled “Young Americans.”

During the eighties, Bowie focused more on commercial visions of his pop style, having his most success with his album titled “Let’s Dance.” The album would feature his most famous songs of the era including “Modern Love,” “China Girl,” and “Let’s Dance.” The album included a cover of Iggy Pop’s “China Girl,” which Bowie co-wrote, and “Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” which was released by Bowie previous but was re-recorded for this album. The album was nominated for a Grammy but lost to Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller.”

David Bowie Music Tribute

Bowie continued to jump from style and persona. Moving from his leading of the art rock group Tin Machine to an era of electronic focus music in the late 1990s to a neo-classical period and onward until his final recordings.

Bowie became inspired by listening to his father’s collection of earlier Rock & Roll artist like Little Richard and Elvis Presley. He began performing music with rock groups in 1962, originally using the name Davy Jones (his real name his David Jones), Bowie would eventually change his stage name after being confused by the television character in the show “The Monkees.” He took the name Bowie in honor of the famous American pioneer James Bowie, who would die in the famous last stand at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.

David Bowie Music Tribute

On January 2016, two days after turning 69 and releasing his last album “Blackstar,” Bowie passed away from liver cancer in his New York City apartment. His contribution to music and pop culture will endure eternally.

Listen to David Bowie on Spotify

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Musical Tribute: Leonard Cohen

GROM Audio Newsletter Music Artist

Leonard Cohen is a singer songwriter from Canada who launched his career in 1967 with his debut album “Songs of Leonard Cohen.” The album included classics like “Suzanne,” “So Long, Marianne,” and “The Stranger Song.” In 1977, he released his album “Death of a Ladies’ Man,” which was co-wrote by Phil Spector.  During the 1960s and 1970s, Cohen focused on creating some of the finest acoustic folk compositions in the genre, emplacing melody and mellow tempos. In the 1980s, Cohen would reinvent himself and his craft, setting aside his remarkable acoustic center compositions for modern sounds. Beginning with “Various Positions,” he began to introduce elements of soft rock into his music. The said album would introduce the world to his most famous song “Hallelujah,” a song that has been covered by myriad of different recording artist. His next album “I’m Your Man,” which was released in 1988, would lean to his final transformation into a new form or folk singer-songwriter that replaced acoustics with synthesizers and drum machines. This album would offer classics like “First We Take Manhattan,” “I’m Your Man,” and the often covered “Everybody Knows.”

GROM Audio Newsletter Music Artist

Cohen was born and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in the outer Montreal, Quebec area. He grew up reading the poetry of Federico García Lorca and study classical guitar. Before starting his career as a musician, he spent most of the 1960s writing novels and poetry. He published a two book of poems titled “Flowers for Hitler” and Parasites of Heaven” along with several novels, including “The Favourite Game”  and “Beautiful Losers.” The latter book garner controversy for Cohen because of many sexual explicit passages. Eventually, Cohen would find his way in music and draw out a legacy of songwriting composition and performance that create signature identity in popular music.

GROM Audio Newsletter Music Artist

Cohen passed away the beginning of November 2016 in his home in Los Angeles. He was 82 years old and left a legacy that will carry on him memory for centuries to come.

Listen to Leonard Cohen on Spotify

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How GROM’s Innovations Offer Safety and Congruence with California’s New Ban on Distracted Driving

 

Hands Free Car Safety

California has made it clear. If you drive with a steering wheel in one hand and your mobile device in another, you’re breaking the law. Last September, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB-1785. On January 1st, it became the law. This new law, also known as California Vehicle Code Sect. 23123.5, mandates that people may only use their mobile phones while driving if those devices are mounted on their dashboards while set up for voice activation or hands-free use. Aside from an exception for Emergency personnel, violators will be fined $20 for the first offence and increased fines for consecutive violations.

“The whole idea is you don’t have the phone in your hand, period,” said Bill Quirk, the California Assemblyman from Hayward. He believes the law will make it easier for police officers to discourage drivers from dangerous phone use.

Luckily, many manufacturers and retailers have already been designing technology and phone dashboard mounts to prevent distracted driving accidents. These devices ensure drivers are able to access their mobile devices without losing focus on the road.

GROM Audio, in particular as a company, has devoted their mission to offering smarter and safer integration of mobile technology to vehicles. Additionally, they spent time ensuring driver safety is number one in regards to accessing mobile technology. In particular, two ideas they have developed over the last several years have been key in making them innovation leaders in car audio.

After spending years developing their car kits that integrate mobile devices with car stereo systems and allow owners to use their stereos to control their smart phones, GROM looked for new opportunities to develop car tech for driver safety. One of their ideas was DashLinQ.

Hands Free Bluetooth Dashlinq

 

DashLinQ is an app that could be used to access audio, GPS, and other mobile apps while driving. If offers voice activation controls that allow owners to get what they need from their phone—whether music, navigation, phone, or texting functionality. The visual interface offers large icons and a simple display layout, suited for car mounted devices and quick referencing.

GROM also offers car mount solutions, which had been tested and approved.  They work for all smartphones, providing quick and hassle-free mounting to the car.

Hands Free Bluetooth Smartphone Car Mount

 

There are already 14 states that prohibit the use of mobile devices when driving and 46 states along with the District of Columbia that prohibit texting while driving. It’s not surprising.

The New York Times cited a National Highway Safety report that stated that 272 teenagers were killed in 2015 due to distracted driving. Additionally, the study reported that 3,263 of the 3,477 people who died in crashes were distracted while they drove.

GROM Audio has been concerned about distracted driving for years. They have realized that there needs to be solution that allows drivers to access mobile technology not just for entertainment, but also to utilize relevant apps like GPS navigation and road safety alert systems.

One key component in DashLinQ is an integrated Google maps feature that allows users to quickly get where they need to go through simple voice activation commands. Additionally, DashLinQ optimizes Google Maps for drivers using their phone from a dashboard mount.

Through the mount’s magnet system, Xway enables users to quickly and easily attach and remove their device from their dashboard, ensuring that there is no time wasted adjusting their phone while driving.

A recent California Office of Traffic Safety study, cited The Sacramento Bee, reported that one of eight California drivers focuses as much attention on their mobile device as they do on the road. State Road Safety officials have estimated the 80% of all crashes in California involve some kind of distracted driving. Now it is completely against the law.

This makes GROM’s goal to help eliminate distracted driving through tech innovations more urgent and relevant than before. GROM will continue to refine and develop their ideas to make life safer for drivers, passengers, and everyone else on the road.

Bluetooth Car Safety Hands free

Read more here:

Christmas Story Series – Featuring Wirelinq

An Unexpected Present

It all began days before. Mia’s mom called just to say hi and ask about Mia’s week. Eventually, the conversation drifted to how nice it was to see Brian and her for Thanksgiving, but ended with Mia’s mom admitting that her plans fell through with Mia’s aunt in Carson City. She was alone for the holidays. Brian was not prepared to take another trip up to South Lake Tahoe, especially when the snow was falling hard—but now it wasn’t an option. Mia wasn’t going to leave her mom alone during Christmas. They were going and needed to be ready in three days.

Brian was not ready for a road trip but made his best effort for his mother in law. He was able to work a half-day on the day before Christmas Eve, so they were able to leave before the rush hour traffic in Bay area.

Brian met Mia five years ago while vacationing in Lake Tahoe with his buddy Rommel. They were spending an extended weekend fishing and hanging out. Mia was there visiting her mom. They got talking about Tahoe and eventual discovered one another’s passion for skiing. Brian discovered Mia lived in and worked in Oakland, so weeks later Brian ended up calling Mia from the number she gave him. They hit it off soon afterwards. Now, Tahoe meant something special to the both of them. It wasn’t just Mia’s home; it was what brought them both together.

GROM Audio Holiday

In love pair on ski vacation

Though he really loved Mia, Brian really didn’t want to go up there without a lot of preparation. For one thing, it was snowing and he hated driving through the snow. Another thing—and most importantly—he had to cancel plans with his family in San Bruno. He understood why they were going, but it still irked him — especially since it felt so last minute.

Mia knew he would be irritated. It was obvious to her even before she said anything. He didn’t like change and hated last minute plans. It wasn’t the way his brain was wired. She learned this about him long ago. It bothered her a lot sometimes. But Mia loved him so much, she was willing to accept that was just the way he was as a person. She also could tell because he always became quieter when he was frustrated. He was really silent right before they got on the road.

Mia realized that he was making a sacrifice canceling their plans with his family during the holidays to help her and her mom out. He also knew that he got on really well with her mom, and it work out once they got there. She also knew what made Brian happy. Music—and that button was easy to push.

Brian used his Motorola G smart phone in his car to play music. He splurged and bought a massive SD card with over 80 gigabytes of RAM to store his entire music collection. Mia didn’t necessarily share his music taste for a sizable part of his collection but decided to let him choose the music on the way to Tahoe. Also, she had a surprise for him.

One of her past times was browsing through Kickstarter.com and looking at all the stuff being developed. Occasionally, she would fund some project that caught her eye, but mostly it was just to ogle all the stuff being develop. Once, she came across a company called GROM Audio and really like their idea behind Wirelinq cable, which is a USB cable with awesome technology. Not only does it charge the phone and allow users to stream content from their phone, but it also allows Android users to read meta data on their car infotainment or stereo systems — data like song title,  song track number, and so on. Wirelinq also allows owners to control functionality of their phone via their car controls.

Mia was intrigued and curious how GROM was able to develop a USB cable that seems to provide so much functionality for Android users. She read GROM’s proposal in-depth and discovered that Wirelinq has a smart chip with GROM’s proprietary algorithm inside its USB connector. Using Android Open Accessory 2.0 protocol, Wirelinq enables a phone to communicate to the car stereo easily. As a result of this “handshake”, a user’s stereo is able to play music directly from your phone, as well as display text, titles and cover art.

lifestyle2

She eventually bought a prototype of the device for Brian and was preparing to give it to him for Christmas. Now that they were on this unexpected trip, Mia surprised him while they were getting lunch at Black Bear Diner in Davis on the way to her mother’s house.

Brian didn’t believe it. He didn’t think that Wirelinq would work.  Admittedly, he did own a GROM Audio car kit with a previous vehicle. He loved the system. It allowed his phone to become an extension of his stereo system. But that kit had to be installed behind his dashboard. He didn’t believe that some special USB cable could offer him many of the features he had available through his car kit. He was really excited about Mia’s gift but was also doubtful it would work.

When they got back in the car, he quickly hooked it up. Sure enough, he had access to the media on his phone. They got back on the highway, and he started listening Green Day.

By the time they got to the mountains, it had already begun to snow. Mia had dosed off, and Brian was trying to stay awake. He was getting bored with his music collection and decide to see if he could get Truckee radio on his stereo but there was no reception. Brian decided to just drive in silence. Mia was asleep anyways.

Slowly, the sunlight vanished as the snow continued to fall. Brian’s car was struggling a little bit and somewhere near Donner Pass, traffic started to back up. Brian made a colorful remark under his breath and began trying to get Truckee radio again on his stereo. The backup could easily be due to a wreck further down the road. There were several lanes on the highway close to the pass, but the route grew narrow further on. It could also be traffic congestion traveling into the basin area. Brian needed to know.

GROM Audio Holiday

Close-up of Snowy Highway from Above on a Cold Blizzard Day of Winter

This is when he had a thought. Maybe he could use Dashlinq Web Radio on his smart phone to access Truckee radio. He went ahead and tried it through his stereo, just to see what would happen. Sure enough, he got to his Web Radio app and was able to listen to KTKE Truckee. He was happy to just get some signal bars on his phone—that was awesome.

But what wasn’t awesome was that the traffic was part of a rush to get down to the basin. Luckily, KTKE was playing Brian’s favorite program tonight, so it kept him focused and awake. Soon, Mia woke up, and Brian gave her an update. She shared some of her colorful words with him before thanking him for the news.

She was concerned that her mom might start worrying when they didn’t show up around the time Mia had mentioned. She’d called her mom when they were at the diner and said they’d be there no more than two to two and half hours. Staring down the highway with glowing headlights creating a swirling stream of illumination down the mountain slope, Mia realized they had at least four to five hours ahead of them on the road.

Brian suggested calling her since they had enough signal to get Truckee radio on his phone. Mia called her mom on her own phone and when she picked up, her mom assumed they had just parked. Mia explained they were parked—in the middle of highway traffic on the side of a Mountain. After sharing some colorful words, her mom conveyed that she would try to stay up as long as she could to wait for them.  However, if the lights in the house weren’t on, Mia could check under the welcome mat for the spare key.

It took them another three hours before passing through the South Lake Tahoe city limits. Brian decided to stop at a drive-thru before they pulled into his mother-in-law’s driveway. The both sighed in relieve when they saw the lights were still on.  Instantaneously, Brian removed his Android phone from the Wirelinq cable.  Tired yet somewhat relaxed by the music that was playing, Brian brought himself out of the car, followed by Mia who was carrying the drive-thru burgers. Brian grabbed the shakes. They walked quietly up to the front door where Mia’s mom greeted them.

Mia was relieved that not only did they made the trip safely, but Brian seemed be in good spirits still.  She sure was glad they had Wirelinq to help them through the drive.  Mia’s mom give both of them big hugs. She welcomed them inside and persistently invited them to the dining room where hot roast beef and mash potatoes awaited them. After getting inside, Mia’s mom asked what they bought. Brian softly told her it breakfast for tomorrow. She put the drive-thru in the refrigerator and everyone sat down to enjoyed a hot meal with cold milkshakes.

Bring us on the road with you.

For more information on our latest Wirelinq smart USB cable, check out on our store: http://gromaudio.com/wirelinq/.

Christmas Story Series – Featuring Dashlinq

The Road Most Traveled

The simple truth is that Anna’s mom lived five hours from San Francisco. John has taken the trip with Anna many times and now that they are getting married next spring, it was especially important to get everything right for the holidays. The packing had taken a while, especially preparing the gifts.

GROM Audio Blog Holiday

By the time they got on the road, it was 10:30am. Anna had paid for a GROM car kit several months earlier so, with the use of the GROM DashLinQ app, John was able to quickly access this Google Maps and get a route to Anna’s mom’s house. Anna had staid up late the night before, so she was still exhausted and drowsy. She quickly fell asleep after John had driven across the Carquinez Bridge and into Vallejo. By the time they had driven past Fairfax, John was bored out of his mind. There was traffic on the road according to Google maps, and they would be delayed an hour.

As John sat in traffic, his mind wandered. He thought about what could go wrong. Maybe they would show late enough that Anna’s mom had to leave the house and they were stuck waiting. Maybe gridlock would get worse, and they spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in traffic and ended dragging themselves into the mom’s house in the dark—both exhausted and annoyed. Maybe after they arrive they discovered that half there presents were left behind back in San Francisco, forgotten by the rush to get on the road and to Reno.

Dashlinq

John decided to listen to something on his cell phone. Using voice commands, he used DashLinQ to start WebRadio to access his favorite radio station from Truckee/Lake Tahoe—KTKE 101.5. He found them on their last skiing trip to Diamond Peak and fell in love. Using the WebRadio feature in DashLinQ, John would listen to Truckee radio while commuting in the Bay Area.

Regardless, KTKE kept John’s mind focused on driving and soon the traffic loosened up all the way through Sacramento. John was relieved on different levels. Just past Sacramento, Anna woke up and decided to change stations and used the DashLinQ to access her music collection she stored on Google Play. They spent the next forty minutes listening to Taylor Swift and John kept his cool the whole time, while looking for an excuse to get out of the car before he started crying.

GROM Audio Blog Holiday

He used a voice command and asked for the next restaurant, and Google Maps directed him to Dine n Dash Pub & Grill just past Colfax. Anna was game, and John was relieved. After eating and getting back on the road, John had already figure out what music to listen to so that both of them could stay sane.  They spent the rest of the trip listening to some smooth jazz on Spotify radio. Soon, they were off the highway and onto Virginia Street in Reno. The rest of the trip was quiet as they pulled into Anna’s mom’s house five and half hours since departure. But Mom wasn’t home.

They ended up using Google Maps, one more time, and had dinner at  Silver Peak Restaurant & Brewery, not too far from the house. They spent time having dinner and hanging out until Anna could get a hold of mom and head on over back to the house.

Bring us on the road with you.

For more information on our Dashlinq app and interface, check out on our store: http://gromaudio.com/dashlinq/.

How Music Affects Us

It always happens to me, especially in the worst circumstances. I find these situations especially disturbing since I’ve talked about it with friends and considered how it impacts my life. I’m on the freeway with my stereo blasting, listening to an FM radio station blasting hard rock. I have my two hands on my steering wheel. I drive into a traffic jam. My anger level rises until I realize I’m listening to the wrong kind of music for my commute. Slowly coming to the understanding that my blood pressure is rising, and I’m about to make an inappropriate hand signal to a fellow motorist; I quickly change my music selection via a voice command through my phone connected to my GROM Audio car kit via Bluetooth and begin listening to some smooth jazz, reducing my blood pressure and encouraging a more positive attitude in myself.

Music has always affected me in this manner. It uplifts me, excites me, relaxes me, and much more. Music has and is a way for me to establish my mood and cue my attitude throughout the day. Many times it seems to me that the music I listen to is tapping into something deep and instinctual inside my mind and passing beyond into the primitive foundations of my soul. Music stirs the deep roots of my spirit and causes a tonal quake that reverberates deep from this central portion of myself all the way back to my most conscious being.

In her essay for PyschCentral.com, Malini Mohana describes this phenomena of music as “a type of perceptual illusion, much the same way in which a collage is perceived.” She explains that the brain creates a structure to understand the content of the music and develops meaning based on the nature of the sounds. The mind begins to predict how the music will continue and what emotional reaction should occur:

Music, though it appears to be similar to features of language, is more rooted in the primitive brain structures that are involved in motivation, reward and emotion. Whether it is the first familiar notes of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” or the beats preceding AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” the brain synchronizes neural oscillators with the pulse of the music (through cerebellum activation), and starts to predict when the next strong beat will occur. The response to ‘groove’ is mainly unconscious; it is processed first through the cerebellum and amygdala rather than the frontal lobes.

Music involves subtle violations of timing and, because we know through experience that music is not threatening, these violations are ultimately identified by the frontal lobes as a source of pleasure. The expectation builds anticipation, which, when met, results in the reward reaction.

I’m into many kinds of music but hard rock and metal are some of my favorites. I like the energy and excitation generated in me while I listen. I become motivated and immersed in the energy of the music’s tempo. Whether it is Metallica or Motorhead; I am alert, I am able to focus, and I’m emotionally volatile. The music gets me moving. It’s easier for me to get house chores finished and get me in the direction of the gym. I am physically amplified, along with vigorously engaged and involved.

The opposite can be said for slow and more melodic music. I use music to sleep at night. It drove my girlfriend crazy. Something about certain music distracts my mind and cues the right state of being for me to slip from consciousness and enter into a state of relaxed sleep. I listen to a lot of classical and ambient music before bed. I set the sleep timer to go off so my girlfriend, who goes to bed later than I do, isn’t disturbed by the music—she requires silence. Music by classical composers like JS Bach and Debussy set the right tone for sleep. Whether listening to melodic waves of “Air on the G String” by Bach or piano key strokes of “Clair de Lune” by Debussy, I am able to relinquish consciousness and become absorb in a state meditative sleep. Likewise, electronic phrases of Chris Russel’s Bloom album or Steven Brand’s Circular Scriptures album are able to help release tension and clear my mind. Feelings of respite and calm circulate throughout me.

In an essay written for The Synch Project, Marko Ahtisaari and Ketki Karanam wrote on relationship between music and emotion.  One point they addressed in their essay was how music affects consumer purchasing behavior. They considered the possibility that though music may not dupe a person to buy something they don’t want, it may motivate them to consider something they would like to buy but are uncertain of acting on that desire. They cite a study of music played in a French restaurant to illustrate their point:

In a relatively unknown and somewhat concerning study for the free-willed person (5), playing characteristically French music in a wine shop increased sales for wines originating from France and or characteristically German music increased sales of wines from Germany. In another study (6), playing classical music versus pop music in a wine shop made people choose and purchase more expensive wines. Are people really this impressionable? Probably not. It is certain that hearing a certain type of music won’t make a person purchase something they absolutely do not want. This power that music can have in influencing our decisions may speak in part for the contextual nature of cognition. And the big role that music can have as part of your everyday life.

One way for me to make sense of this idea in my own life is to reflect back on how I use music to sleep. I listen to music that I find to be calming and relaxing. I’m in my bed with the lights off; my eyes are closed, and I am dug deep under the covers and into my mattress. I want to sleep and am looking for something to create and enhance this experience. I play classical music to entice me. It contributes to my state of being and helps me enter into a condition of deep restfulness.

Another example of how music influences my mood and behavior into states I both want and need is when I write. When I am writing I generally like to play music that is in tune with the topic or content that I am writing about. By creating a musical ambience—a sort of musical background—I am able to clearly illustrate and develop the mood and pacing of my composition.

I like to write fiction in my spare time. I write in a variety of genres and settings. I’ve written comedies, dramas, and many other kind of narratives. My stories have taken place in both the future, present, and past. One genre I have used whole or in part is horror. This genre requires a very specific mood and setting. If I am unable to create the right mood, the story fails to be effective from my point of view. This is why setting the right mood and tone is very important while I am in the process of drafting a story. I commonly use music to get me into the right mode of consciousness to begin drafting and revising.  By playing moody, slow tempo atmospheric music I am able to write the type of material that creates tension and atmosphere for a horror story. The music I play becomes my personal soundtrack for my story, setting the tone for the events that occur and the behavior of the characters I create.

In many ways music may be perceived as an expression of emotion in itself. How many love ballads have been written over the last twenty years or more? How much heavy metal, rock, and rap songs have been composed expressing feelings of anger, frustration, and societal dissatisfaction?

Personally, I listen to many songs over the years just out of solidarity for my senses of loss or outrage. My breakups have been felt while listen to love songs and my anger has been mimicked in metal riffs. I have expressed my sorrow my creating playlist of Muddy Watters and Little Walter, as I have highlighted my rage with mixed tape collections of Anthrax and Slayer. I have encouraged the winter of lost love by seeking solace in Roy Orbison and Alicia Keys. I have reduced myself to meditative slumber with Schumann and Chopin.

In Matthew Kwong paper for Inquiries Journal, he explores the relation of music on the brain. He articulates earlier in the article how the brain has an immediate and dramatic effect when music is played:

The brain seems to have a natural reaction to music, causing listeners to tap their toes, sing aloud, and dance around. However “magical” it may seem, there are clear connections between music, the mind, and behavior. In fact, utilizing the latest in neuroimaging technology, researchers are able to observe how the brain processes auditory information when under the influences of music. Parts of the brain that show an increased activity include areas such as the hypothalamus, responsible for maintaining stress hormones, and the hippocampus, the area vital for emotion regulation (Levitin, 2006).

Like a flower blossom turning towards the sunlight, something in our minds turns towards music, reacts to it, and interprets it. I reacted both positively and negatively when suddenly hearing something for the first time; whether setting aside attention and focusing on what I hear, or covering my ears and walking away.

Getting back to my first example, I was driving into what I believed would be mild traffic. But that changed quickly. I found myself in a massive backup that would delay my arrival at work. Because I was playing loud, fast tempo music; my mood was further aggravated. The music began generating feelings and thoughts of outrage and exasperation, nearly causing me to offer a lude finger gesture to a fellow commuter. By turning off the music and focusing more on my driving, I was able to lower my blood pressure and focus on calm thoughts. By the time I got passed the main reason for the traffic jam, I had turn my stereo back on and played some Aretha Franklin. Her easy, slow tempo delivery helped make things easier for me to deal with and quickly I was able to get to work only ten minutes late and in a better mood.

As I get older music’s role in my life has changed. Less of my listening has been about having fun and more about focusing. Maybe this is simply because I have less free time and more work I need to complete. Time will only tell what emotions music will provide in me in the future, or how I will use it to inspire and enliven me.


About the Author:

Rudolfo San Miguel is an independent writer for GROM Audio. He works with several other companies creating compelling commercial content. He also writes fiction and poetry, He has published a book of poems titled “Cinders from the Bonfire.” He studied both creative writing and professional writing at San Francisco State University. You can see example of his professional portfolio at https://rudolfosanmiguel.contently.com

Nine Tips for a 4th of July Road Trip

The best pleasures are simple ones. Sometimes it’s great to leave everything behind and venture out on your own, or with friends and/or family. During the 4th of July weekend many American’s celebrate their nation’s birth by liberating themselves from their home and normal routine. Some people take the opportunity to pack their car and venture on to the open road. The time is perfect during the hot weather to head towards the wilderness or a local regional lake for camping, hiking, and other outdoor fun. Others take it as a chance to travel by road to a friend or family for a long overdue to visit.

 

travel

Traveling on the road can be challenging, especially with not knowing what to expect on one’s path. Proper planning and preparation can make a long driving trip easy and relaxing, avoiding hazards and time consuming variables. Here are several tips to consider when making your preparations.

1. Properly plan your start and end time, and decide how to avoid traffic.

morning_drive

Those of us living in the high density areas are quite familiar how bad the traffic can be at the start of the long weekend. Google recommends taking off early on Saturday morning, as early as before 7am, to beat the traffic. Many people leave work early in hopes of beating traffic, so the traffic starts early on Friday. The traffic will also be bad on the last day of the long weekend as the roads will be packed with the travelers returning back home.

2. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition for a road trip.

car_check

Check your tire pressure, oil, washer fluid. Pack a road safety kit and jumper cables. Get the OBD2 Dongle to read your OBD2 Diagnostic system. The Bluetooth based OBD II scan tool such as GROM’s SmartScan OBD II Dongle is able to diagnose a problem if one of your car’s warning light turn on.

3. Pack cash and old-fashioned paper maps.

maps

Bring at least $100 of paper money in addition to credit and debit cards. You never know when you cards may become inaccessible or lack sufficient funds to pay for vital needs during your journey. Never assume that whatever business you’re buying from will take credit or debit cards.

Pack old-fashioned paper maps! You don’t know when your electronic devices decide not to work and/or are not getting sufficient signal to be useful. This is the best contingency you can offer yourself in such situation.

4. Focus on your driving.

checking_phone

Don’t text and drive, or check Facebook while behind the wheels. Minimize distractions as much as possible. If you have a companion riding along, you can have them change the music, check the maps, or text to your friends. If you are feeling drowsy, pull over and have your passenger take the wheel, or stop for a short nap.

5. Make sure you are going the right way.

offline_area_downloadIt’s easy to focus solely on your driving or assume you’re following the proper path. By frequently checking your GPS navigation device, maps, road signs, and other relevant information; you can avoid retreading back to the proper road or having to use an alternate path. Use the latest navigation apps that are available on your Smartphone, such as Waze and Google Maps. You can get real time traffic updates and properly plan your trip. Additionally, you can download offline content with Google Maps. If you are aware that there will be areas without reception during your road trip, think ahead and download the offline content of those areas to your smartphone. You can do so by going to Maps > Offline Areas on your phone.

6. Stay entertained online or offline.

dashlinq_web_radioTo stay connected, you can get a hotspot with pre-paid data plan, or use your phone’s internet. If you will be traveling to the areas without cellular reception, prepare ahead by uploading some music/audiobooks to a USB stick and connecting it to the GROM-USB3 or GROM-MST4 device. You can also download music on your phone to listen to while you are offline. You can download your purchased music files directly from Google Music or Apple iTunes before you begin your journey. With GROM DashLinQ’s WebRadio plugin you can record your favorite pieces of music while streaming, and listen to them later while offline. If all else fails, dig up some of your old CD’s and pack them in your car.

7. Make sure your phone and other electronic devices are always charged.

car_charger

If you are not traveling alone, you probably have more than one electronic device with you such as a phone. The problem is that there are not enough power outlets in your car. Here are some useful devices that can help:

8. Plan on fueling your car and yourself.

fueling

Always make sure that you’re prepared to pull over to get more gas when you notice you only have a quarter is left. Use GasBuddy or any other smartphone app that will help you to plan for your pit-stops. You may even save some money on gas. Make sure to always carry enough water in your car and replenish your water supplies whenever there is the chance. “When I travel during summer, I always make sure to have the access to the icy water. It helps me to stay energized and hydrated”, says Rodney at GROM Audio.

If you are traveling by electric car, check http://www.plugshare.com/ to plan on your recharging wisely.

9. Get a travel pillow for your passengers .

travel_pillow

If you are the driver you need to make sure to stay focused behind the wheel (unless you are inside the self-driving vehicle). Passengers, on the other hand, can afford such a luxury as taking a nap. Travel pillows and blankets can make your passenger’s life easier, and help to avoid neck pain.

In addition, to these tips, it is also helpful to keep a checklist of everything you need and will be necessary to complete your journey. With the proper foresight and some practical sense, you can ensure that your road trip is both pleasant and hassle free.

Drive happy.

 

GROM Audio is the developer and manufacturer of state of art USB, Android and Bluetooth car kits to integrate to your factory car stereo for music, GPS and phone calls. http://gromaudio.com

GROM VOL01B3 Bluetooth Car kit for select Volvo 01-07 Review

by David French

Introduction

Recently I “upgraded” my 2008 Volvo V50 to a 2002 V70 model. (Yes, it’s older, but I’m starting to think cars have got too complicated for their own good now… sometimes older can be simpler and more reliable.)
I drive a lot, and in the UK it’s illegal (not to mention dangerous) to use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving.

The V50 had a Bluetooth-enabled head unit which worked fine with my iPhone, but this only accepted voice calls. In order to play stereo audio, I bought a separate cigar-lighter Bluetooth receiver which paired with the phone and provided an aux out; however, of course there was no Aux In in the V50 head unit.
The solution was to buy a Sonichi DAB radio, which rebroadcasts the DAB channel onto FM, and handily also has an Aux In feature. So I could play my phone’s audio to the Bluetooth receiver, which then output to the Sonichi, which then rebroadcast over FM to the Volvo head unit… This worked surprisingly well, but the audio quality wasn’t brilliant, and it was a bit of a bodge job really.

The new V70’s head unit, a Volvo HU-603, comes from an era before Bluetooth was widely used, and also doesn’t have an Aux In. I initially set up the same Bluetooth / Sonichi mashup, but this time round I was relying on the Bluetooth unit to handle voice calls too. This was more problematic, as it was unreliable (outgoing calls routed through Bluetooth but not incoming ones), had no external mic, and I had to switch the Sonichi to Aux In every time I wanted to make or receive a call. Time for a rethink.
My original plan was to add a cabled Aux In to the HU-603, which led me by a roundabout route to GROM Audio.

grom-bt3

A few forum users recommended their gear, and a hunt around their website confirmed they supported the Volvo head unit, with a range of products. Of greater interest was the BT3 Bluetooth interface, which is a standard module with leads available to
connect to a variety of manufacturers’ head units. The clincher which attracted my order was the option to add a cabled Aux In to the Bluetooth module. (It actually accepts up to two external inputs in addition to the Bluetooth functionality.) £120 including shipping later, and my GROM BT3 was on the way, complete with Volvo HU adapter and external USB out and Aux In.

Out Of The Box
The GROM arrived in a jiffy bag, containing:
• The main BT3 Bluetooth unit
• A cable specific to my Volvo HU head unit
• An external microphone, which was of surprisingly good quality with plenty of cable and a 3M sticky mount & bracket
• The additional cable I’d ordered with USB output (female) and Aux In (headphone jack, male)
• A set of instructions covering the Volvo HU cable, and a user manual for the BT3

Installation
The GROM user manual was of refreshingly good quality compared to a lot of manuals you get, which are often translated from Chinese or Japanese quite badly. The first task I faced was removing the Volvo head unit. This isn’t simply a case of sticking a couple of bits of wire down the side and pulling it out, as with many head units. Instead you have to remove the pen holder at the base of the dashboard, then the heating / air conditioning control panel, and finally the head unit.

Fortunately I found a video on YouTube which explained this in all the necessary detail. It’s not entirely surprising that the GROM instructions don’t aim to cover head unit removal details for all potential models and head units, but a huge amount of information is available on YouTube. At this point I made my one mistake. My V70 is an Auto model, and the gearstick was in the way of removing the aircon control panel fully, so I turned the ignition to Position II in order to release the gearstick. Unfortunately the ECU panicked at not being able to see the aircon ECU, and immediately stuck an “Airbag / SRS Fault” warning on the dashboard. Ultimately I had to visit a Volvo independent service center to get this warning reset, which kindly they did at no charge. DIY installer beware. Once the head unit was out, the HU cable connected directly to the CD auto changer DIN connector, and also needed splicing into a permanent live feed in the head unit harness.

GROM provide clear and unambiguous instructions on how to do this, and also a proprietary connector to intercept the live cable without having to cut it or damage it irreversibly. Finally, the cable needed to be earthed; this was simply a case of screwing the supplied spade connector to a spare screw on the head unit. This was the only part of the instructions on which a non-technical user might have been unclear. The HU cable then plugged into the BT3 unit. The cable is long enough to fit the BT3 elsewhere, for example behind the glove box as GROM recommend, but in the V70 there was enough space around the back of the head unit to leave it there. I nestled it to one side behind the dashboard; the manual refers to securing it with Velcro strips, but these weren’t provided with mine.

The next step was to connect the microphone. It’s recommended you fit this away from doors and windows, to avoid road noise. I fitted mine up by the rear view mirror, and it’s easy to run the cable along the headlining and down the rubber seal of the A-post to the dashboard. Once installed, the cable is entirely concealed. The decent length of cable supplied assists with this.

GROM Volvo Bluetooth Integration

Finally I connected the USB Out / Aux In lead, and ran it behind the dashboard to the far side of the steering wheel. In my case I wanted to use the USB Out to power my Sonichi DAB radio, and the Aux In to take the audio feed from it. This was simple enough – I needed a USB A to Mini USB cable to go from the GROM lead to the Sonichi – and the excess wiring tucked back under the dash beneath the steering wheel.

GROM recommend disconnecting and reconnecting the head unit to make sure it recognizes the BT3, which it will see as a CD autochanger, and it made sense to do this now before reassembling everything, rather than having to take it all apart again later. I also tested everything was working before refitting the head unit, aircon controls and pen holder. On power-up the head unit saw the GROM as a CD auto changer, and we were in business.

In Use

Pairing between the phone and the head unit is simple; GROM state it has to be done within 3 minutes of powering up the head unit and vehicle, but later I found this wasn’t necessarily the case. Once paired, the BT3 will switch to the Bluetooth audio channel when it detects stereo (A2DP) audio or an active phone call. If it detects no Bluetooth activity, even when the phone is paired and in range, it defaults to the Aux In (in my case the Sonichi DAB radio). This is exactly the behavior which you’d want, and it works well.

The first thing I noticed was the sound quality, which was excellent. Volvo sound systems always punch above their weight, and having audio fed via a cabled input to the head unit, rather than re-transmitted through FM, makes a considerable difference to the clarity and fidelity of the audio. A2DP audio is clear, crisp and undistorted, and the analogue Aux In from the Sonichi was likewise more than satisfactory. At this point I also noticed that the USB Out from the BT3 powered the Sonichi with a smoother supply than the cigar adapter I’d previously used. I’d noticed before that the Sonichi suffers noticeably from interference and dropout when powered by a substandard USB supply.

With the BT3, it’s completely happy with the USB power, leading to a more stable connection with few dropouts. Conveniently, the USB power stays on for a few seconds when the ignition is turned off, before shutting down (which powers off the Sonichi); this means when you restart the engine from warm, you don’t have to keep powering the DAB radio (or whatever USB device you have attached) each time. Little details like this make a difference. I’d hoped the outward quality of the mic would turn out to extend to its innards too, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The audio quality for hands-free calling is excellent, with the third party unable to hear any background noise at all at speeds up to 70mph. I’ve used several in-car phone systems, both OEM and external, and the audio quality of the GROM system beats all others I’ve tried. The steering wheel controls on my V70 allow track forward / back, and this works seamlessly with the phone. Here GROM have thought ahead again: I was unreasonably delighted to find that a double-tap (or long press) on the Scan button on the head unit triggered Siri on the iPhone. This opens up access to proper hands-free use and is invaluable. My head unit doesn’t seem to display track information text, but GROM suggest some head units may allow this if configured to see the BT3 as a minidisc player (although you may then lose steering wheel controls). There have been a couple of issues (once every 8 weeks or so) with the audio not being switched correctly, or the phone not connecting. This is easily solved by power-cycling the unit or re-pairing the devices. An issue with incoming phone calls not routing correctly through the GROM was quickly solved by GROM technical support pointing me towards an Accessibility setting on the phone I didn’t even know existed. What little support I’ve needed has been very good.

Conclusion
The GROM unit isn’t particularly cheap, but in terms of quality you do get what you pay for. As a way to bring a dated head unit into the 21st century, adding on all the functionality you’d expect from a high-end Bluetooth-equipped unit, it’s unbeatable.
Fitting, on this model at least, is well within the reach of anybody who is handy with a basic set of tools. If you’re tempted, go for it – you won’t be dissatisfied.

Image source: GROM Audio

Crossroads: Paths to Connecting Your Android Phone to Car

Smart Phones are redefining the concept of a “Personal Computer. Resting in your pocket, in your car, on your desk, and many other spaces, these small communications and computing hubs offer many different functions and tools to assist and enliven their owner’s lives. From navigational mapping to text messaging, these “phones” are a central device of the common “connected person.”

use of android phone in car

The value of having a smart phone can also increase your efficiency as a driver by offering important apps like GPS navigation with traffic alerts and accident reporting, along with route mapping and weather reports. At the same time, having a smart phone can also increase you risk of colliding with another vehicle or becoming involved with other driving hazards and accidents. The good news is that app designers and Google, maker of Android, are becoming increasingly responsive to these challenges and responding by making major changes in how smart phones operate.

For instance, GROM Audio has released DashLinQ, a smart phone app that provides an Android interface specifically for use and operation while their owners are driving. Motorola has released Motorola Assist, an app that includes special functionality for drivers.

Regardless, there is still much debate about connecting your smart phone into your car, as well as interfacing with either car stereo or infotainment systems, depending on availability in individual vehicles.

In the following portion of this post I’ll review several of the most common methods/interfaces of connectivity between smart phones and vehicles. Each method is subject to interface available in each owner’s vehicle. GROM Audio does provide car kits that can supplement and enhance car connectivity to vehicles. To learn more, please visit their website at: www.gromaudio.com

Method I: Analog Auxiliary Input

auxiliary input car connection

The double-sided-impute Auxiliary Analog 3.5mm cable has become as common as basic earphone/earbud brands found throughout many drug stores and discount stores around the country. They are the basic plug-and-play accessory for connecting your hand-held devise into a multitude of separate audio equipment, which includes car stereos. Most car models include an auxiliary port to play music from your smart phone and/or other hand-held device.

The good news is you get simple, quick, and direct access to audio content on your smart phone. You simply plug your smart phone into car stereo with the aux cable, and then you can play music from your phone and hear it through your car audio system. The bad news is that there is no other connectivity via your aux cable between your smart phones to car stereo or infotainment system. Nothing on your smart phone will display in your stereo/infotainment system, nor will you be able to control anything outside your smart phone.

Analog Auxiliary cables are simple and easy; however, they only offer basic connectivity and simply import sound from your smart phone.

Method II: Bluetooth input

connect bluetooth to your car

Bluetooth has come a long way from simply offering a method of talking on your phone via a wireless headset. Basically, Bluetooth allows connectivity between two devices via a wireless signal. Here is how Bluetooth.com defines this technology:

Bluetooth is a global wireless communication standard that connects devices together over a certain distance…A Bluetooth device uses radio waves instead of wires or cables to connect to a phone or computer. A Bluetooth product, like a headset or watch, contains a tiny computer chip with a Bluetooth radio and software that makes it easy to connect. [https://www.bluetooth.com/what-is-bluetooth-technology/bluetooth-technology-basics]

The good news is that you can connect wirelessly from your smart phone to car audio system for audio output and advanced connectivity features, such as being able control your smart phone via your car audio equipment. The bad news is that sound quality is less than perfect—this is not the choice for an audiophile. Additionally, the availability of this method of connectivity is limited in many car models and an external interface, such as GROM Audio Bluetooth car kit, will be required to use this method of connection.

Bluetooth is a fast and effective method of connecting your smart phone to your car stereo or infotainment system. It’s fast, simple, and hassle free; however, audio quality is not as great as digital audio, and the availability in the factory stereos is limited. You may need a supplementary device to make the wireless Bluetooth streaming and hands free phone calls happen.

Method III: Analog Auxiliary Input USB cable input

USB car integration

USB cables have become the staple go-to cable for most computing needs. From cables for printers to cable for connecting hand-held device to your computer, USB is the workhorse of digital transfer for computing. Not only does USB connections offer higher quality audio output from your smart phone, but also provide further connectivity between your smart phone and your car’s audio system. Many but not most new car model include these ports for access to car stereo or infotainment systems.

The good news is that you can use this connection (if its available in your car) to not only listen to music, but also control and view information from your device on your car stereo or infotainment system. The bad news is that the stability of this form of connection is relatively unstable due to technology restraints and only recently has become more stable after recent updates to the Android operating system.

USB connections offer more comprehensive and interactive connections; however, they lack the consistent stability available in other methods. GROM offers USB connection on its IPD4 and USB3 USB car kits.

Method IV: GROM with DashLinQ via USB connection

Lexus stereo DashLinQ USB connection

GROM Audio has been developing car kits to integrate smart phone (and other hand-held devices) in car audio systems, providing more options for drivers who may be limited to only one or two of the latter mentioned methods for car audio connectivity. With the introduction of their smart phone app called “DashLinQ,” they are providing a “driver mode” for smart phone owners to safely use their device while behind the wheel. DashLinQ is capable of connecting to GROM Audio car kits to further extend the value for owners of have both devices. Features like “Where’s My Car,” which allows owner to find their parked vehicle based on a DashLinQ being able to identify the location of the connected car kit attached to their car audio system.

The good news is that you have advanced connectivity with GROM’S DashLinQ app in conjunction with one of their car kits via a USB connection. You can use advanced features to further enhance the value of your combined systems. The bad news is you need to purchase all components (Smart Phone and GROM Audio car kit). DashLinQ is free with ads, or $4.99 one time purchase.

GROM Audio has worked for nearly a decade assembling a line of equipment to advance the value of using a smart phone in a car. By acquire the variety of components to achieve this value, owners will greatly enhance the quality of your smart phone experience while driving.

Method V: Plan your next car purchase with Infotainment options to match your needs

modern car stereo

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, now is the time to consider your smart phone connectivity needs. There are several automotive brands that now offer infotainment/smart phone connectivity options in their newer models. Here are several for your consideration:

  • Ford’s Sync AppLink: Offers a wide range of Android apps using commands that require little more than the sound of the owner’s voice. Among the apps offered are: Stitcher, NPR, Slacker, iHeartRadio, and Pandora, along with Scout and Sync Destinations for navigation.
  • Toyota’s Entune interface (or Enform, if you’re in a Lexus): Connects to an Entune app installed on your Android phone, providing touch-screen access to apps such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Bing.
  • Several other auto brands also offer similar service, including Mazda Navigation system, General Motors’ MyLink/IntelliLink, and Hyundai Blue Link systems

The good news is that these new cars offer factory system smart phone integration. The bad news is you have to purchases one of these newer vehicles that offer these advanced infotainment systems.

Method VI: Android Auto

android auto

There is a new service for Android smart phones called “Android Auto that allows owner to “cast” to car infotainment systems. The basics of this technology are that it allows owners to control their car infotainment system through their smart phone via Android Auto. The service takes over the touch screen of infotainment systems and using primarily voice commands. It also offers use of your vehicle’s steering wheel controls. You’re able to tap a button to ask for directions to your destination or tap to compose a message such as, “I’m driving right now, call you in a bit.” After connecting to a compatible vehicle, your smart phone takes control of your infotainment screen with a simplified version of Google Now, offering quick shortcuts to Google Maps, road info, hands-free calling and messages, along with additional content.

The good news is that now you can have advanced connectivity between your smart phone and your vehicle. The bad news is you need to have Android Lollipop or a newer version of Android, in addition to having a compatible infotainment system.

Android Auto is an extremely new technology and still hasn’t proven itself to be both stable and accessible to most infotainment systems; however, it shows great promise.

Crossroads: Summary

Smart phone and vehicle paring is quickly becoming the next niche market for smart phone innovators. Connectivity is a major challenge; however, there are many methods to make these connections. This niche market is in midst of a crossroads, where new technology, such as GROM Audio DashLinQ/Car kits or Android Auto, are reaching for a newer method to make these connections more simple and stable, while providing a higher quality experience. It is important for consumers to be familiar with both their phones and vehicles to find the best method of connectivity to suit their needs.