September 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm

This Week In Music Apps: Change Your Ears’ Age, Collaborative AirPlay, and Spotify-as-Pandora

this week in music appsIt’s been raining music apps at headquarters again, and that means we’re due for another installment of our This Week In Music Apps series, which delivers the latest and greatest music apps from the iTunes App Store, Android Market, and the web each week.

As usual, let’s start with reviews you might have missed since the last installment. We’ve been working on some behind the scenes improvements, so this week’s a little light, but we’ll be back up to full speed soon. Enjoy!

The Week in Reviews

Apple iPhone

Play It Down (free, pictured): Ever want to hear your music would sound like if you were five years old? What about if you were over 60? Play It Down, from the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation, lets you do that and more. Pick any song from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, adjust the Auto-Old slider to any age from 12-19 to 60-plus, and the app applies effects that let you experience the degradation in hearing that results from overexposure to loud sounds over the years. Meanwhile, the Ear Knob puts your ears and those of your friends to the test by ascertaining the highest frequency you can hear (younger/better ears can generally hear higher frequencies). Finally, the Volume Zone feature is a handy decibel meter for outside sounds that includes advice on how much exposure to that sound your ears can safely tolerate. The app is clearly meant to promote hearing safety, but it’s also entertaining — a rare combination.

Zeppelin Air (free): If you’ve been to an Apple store, you’ve probably seen the Zeppelin speaker system on display. Now, it has its own app from the same company, Bowers & Wilkins, specially designed for playing music on your iOS device and zapping it to the ZeppelinAir via Apple AirPlay. Of course, there’s a twist: anyone on the local network with an iOS device can use the app to add music to a collaborative playlist playing over the device, rendering the ZeppelinAir appropriate for office or other group environments. Although the app was developed exclusively for the Zeppelin stereo system, this app works with anything that supports AirPlay.

Jessie J Mobile Backstage (free): Fans of this R&B artist, who call themselves the Heartbeat community, will be all over this artist app, which lets them share videos, pictures, audio tracks, and comments with each other. Users can rate the material that other people submit, so the cream should theoretically rise to the top. It also lets fans send each other private messages, while a GPS feature lets them see where other members of the Heartbeat community are located across the globe.

Ringtone DJ (free): This simple tool lets you create an unlimited number of ringtones using the music stored on your iOS device. It lacks remixing features, but you can adjust the start time and duration of each ringtone, add effects (pitch, scratch, delay, low pass, and high pass), and record your own voice (or any ambient noise) to add that to the ringtone as well. When you’re done, the app emails the ringtone to your computer so you can add the ringtone to iTunes and sync it to your iPhone.

Congas Free (free): If conga drums are your thing, well, you already know you want this app. Congas Free uses samples from an actual conga drum, and the “harder” you hit the drums, the louder they sound. And if you swirl your finger around the drum in a circle, you’ll get a “drum roll” whose speed is determined by that of your finger. We also appreciate the Dueling Congas feature that lets you battle a friend for conga supremacy, using the same device.

Google Android

TuneSync ($6): If you’re an Android user who prefers to listen to music using iTunes on your computer, a number of options exist for syncing your music wirelessly from your computer. TuneSync does a better job than some of them, transferring your music, playlists, cover art, and even videos from iTunes to your Android device’s SD card over WiFi. In addition, all of the play counts and ratings that you accrue on Android transfer back to iTunes, which is nice. If you’re not ready to commit six bucks, the free TuneSync Lite version lets you transfer one playlist of 20 songs to see how it works.

Speedy Spectrum Analyzer ($5): If you do live sound, have an interest in audio science, or just plain like to know what’s going on around you, this app could be of interest. It breaks down the elements of any sound you encounter so you can see what frequencies make it up. You can zoom in to examine sounds more closely and analyze sound using too many scientific tools to list here. And impressively, it manages to analyze sound above the standard human hearing limit of 20 kHZ.

Web Apps

Echofi (free): Spotify is available in America now, but it is not Pandora, despite the tendency of the non-technical media to conflate the two. Spotify is an on-demand music service, while Pandora is a streaming radio service that programs music in succession based on a seed artist and your own preferences (like, duh). Echofi essentially turns Spotify into something resembling Pandora. Enter an artist name and it starts playing a song on Spotify from that artist, followed by a bunch of music that’s similar to that made by the artist in question. To guide the channel further, you can Love or Hate songs — just like with Pandora. It’s a neat trick (and one that relies partially on an API from The Echo Nest, publisher of, although it does require that you agree to “launch [the Spotify] application” in between each song. Still, it’s a useful way to find new stuff for your Spotify playlists, and all you need to use it is a free or paid Spotify account and a web browser.