DAB+ on a Como Audio Musica. Photo by Paolo Cavadini.

Several months ago, we began selling Global Editions of some of our models. Como Audio customers asked us why we were doing this and what the difference was between a Global Edition and a standard model. This month’s Tech Rap explains the hub bub behind the Global Edition. 

Four Models, Four Finishes, Two Regions

Except for Amico which is only offered in teak, our Solo, Duetto, and Musica models come in four different finishes (walnut, hickory, piano black, and piano white). On top of that, our models come in two different versions…US & EU. These finish and region variations for each model create a production and logistics nightmare. We wanted to streamline things but avoid reducing the finish options available to our customers, so we reduced the regional options by creating Global Editions. A Global Edition is essentially a universal model that will work anywhere in the world and comes with some extra features not found in a standard edition.

The Similarities

What exactly are those features? Allow me to first explain what is the same between the Global and standard models. A Global Edition has all the same features a non-Global model has…Internet radio with tens of thousands of free stations, FM, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, Aux and Optical inputs, USB thumb drive playback, dual alarms, tone controls, free software updates, included remote control, two-year warranty, free tech support, etc. In the case of Musica, Global Editions still include Deezer, Napster, etc., along with the integrated CD player, just like the regular Musica. All Global Editions will work with the free Como Control app for iOS and Android and in a multi-room configuration with standard editions and with other Global versions. 

The Differences

Listening mode on a Global Edition Musica. Photo by Peter Skiera.

There are, however, five main differences between Global Editions and standard editions. First, the Global Edition comes with both US & CE power cords (in the case of Amico, US, CE, and UK snap-in plugs) so the unit can be used in the USA or Europe without having to buy another cord or an adapter. Second, the FM band works like a standard edition but includes a finer tuning step allowing for more precise manual tuning since the FM tuning step in Europe is different from the USA. Third, Global Editions are certified to higher European safety and emissions standards. Fourth, there is an energy saving and safety feature in the System settings menu required by the EU called “Listening Mode” which automatically switches the unit off after twenty minutes if there is no sound and none of the controls have been used. Switching Listening Mode on disables the feature in Auxiliary mode only. Lastly, Global Editions include a DAB/DAB+ tuner and are DRUK-certified. 

What is DAB/DAB+?

An Italian DAB+ station playing on a Como Audio Musica. Photo by Paolo Cavadini.

Digital Audio Broadcasting is basically Europe’s version of HD Radio here in the US except with many more stations and sub-stations. Its signal is kind of like a call on your cell phone, you either receive it or you don’t. It doesn’t fade in and out or get noisy like an AM of FM station. A DAB/DAB+ station might broadcast the same exact station on AM or FM and/or Internet radio as well as DAB/DAB+. DAB/DAB+ stations transmit meta data showing song title, artist, etc., as well as station logos and even images like photos of the announcers and weather and traffic graphics. The best part is DAB/DAB+ is free. 

DAB+ is a newer standard that uses a higher quality audio codec (AAC+) for better sound and improved error correction vs. the older DAB standard. Britain’s Digital Radio & Audio Review recommended the UK Government consider legislation to mandate DAB+ in all DAB radios by the end of 2023. Our Global Editions support both DAB & DAB+. 

The “Tick Mark” logo on the box means the unit has passed the DRUK standard. Photo by Peter Skiera.

DRUK (known as the Digital Radio Tick Mark Standard) is an optional certification performed in the UK that lets consumers know a DRUK-certified product includes both FM and DAB tuners and meets UK & European minimum reception standards. Como Audio worked closely with the authorized lab in the UK to make sure all of our Global Editions were DRUK-certified. I personally went to the UK lab to witness the testing process. 

Down With FM?

An Italian DAB+ station playing on a Musica. Photo by Paolo Cavadini.

DAB/DAB+ has grown in popularity since its inception back in 1995. According to Wikipedia, 40+ countries now support DAB/DAB+, with 420 million listeners worldwide and over 2,200 stations. Some countries are moving to adopt DAB/DAB+ as their broadcast standard. Norway made headlines in 2017 when they became the first country to switch off its national FM network in favor of DAB. Switzerland and the UK are expected to follow suit in the years to come. 

Como Audio’s EU Sales Manager based in Italy, Paolo Cavadini, listens to DAB+ station Radio 24 regularly and tells me it’s “quite popular in Italy and it’s primarily news…They made lots of publicity for people to listen from DAB+ and it works well. Among the different shows they have one which is called ‘2024’ [that] makes a nice weekly review about Technology (every Friday night and on podcast). They also have a daily edition called ‘Digital news’, only in Italian.”

DAB+ station Classic Hits from Australia playing on Internet radio. Photo by Peter Skiera.

DAB In The USA

According to Wikipedia, “The United States’ FCC argues that stations on such a national DAB Band would be more difficult to control from signal interference than AM/FM/TV because of the continent’s large land mass; and corporations who sell DAB radio in North America could find it more expensive to market these types of radio to consumers”. By the way, DAB was tested in Canada and Mexico but abandoned. If you’re in the USA and try to tune a DAB station on a Global Edition you will not get anything. But should you ever bring your Global version music system overseas, you will have the cords, FM tuning step, and DAB/DAB+ tuner necessary to continue enjoying your music system. If you are in the US and are curious to hear a DAB or DAB+ station, in Internet radio mode, go into the Station list menu > Stations > Search stations > Type in “DAB”. You’ll hear the same station a European listener hears from a DAB tuner.

“Norway made headlines in 2017 when they became the first country to switch off its national FM network in favor of DAB.”



Have You Gone Global Yet? 

Make a date: The Date Format option in System settings. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Perhaps you already own a Global Edition and do not even know it. If your unit also came with a CE power cord, or there are CE and DAB logos on the back panel of your music system- Congratulations, it is a Global Edition! For your information, you will find a Date Format option in the System settings menu under Time/Date allowing the date to be represented as MM/DD/YY or DD/MM/YY, as you prefer. We enabled this feature to both the Global Editions and standard versions of all models in the last free software update. 

The ”G” (circled in red) means it’s a Global Edition.

Throughout 2022, Como Audio will continue transitioning to Global Editions for all of its models. When you’re on a product page on our website, on the right side, if you see a finish with the letter “G” over it, that means it’s a Global Edition. If you’ve not already done so, get ready to go Global in 2022.

Trivia: In May of 2018, DAB Radio listenership in England surpassed that of AM & FM listeners. In a Q4 2021 RAJAR report, it was found that DAB/DAB+ radio accounted for 64.4% of listening in the UK.



Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com.

MARCH BIRTHDAYS

Justin Bieber
Roger Daltrey (The Who) (1944)
Harry Belafonte (1927)
Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi) (1962)
Robyn Hitchcock (1953)
Jennifer Warnes (1947)
Emilio Estefan (Miami Sound Machine) (1953)
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) (1946)
Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees) (1945)
Jeffrey Osborne (1948)
Carrie Underwood (1983)
Robin Thicke (1977)
Edie Brickell (1966)
Neneh Cherry (1964)
Lisa Loeb (1968)
Bobby McFerrin (1950)
James Taylor (1948)
Liza Minnelli (1946)
Neil Sedaka (1939)
Quincy Jones (1933)
Terence Trent D’arby (1962)
Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) (1955)
Ry Cooder (1947)
Sly Stone (Sly & The Family Stone) (1944)
Mike Love (The Beach Boys) (1941)
Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) (1940)
Nancy Wilson (Heart) (1954)
John Sebastian (1944)
Queen Latifah (1970)
Vanessa Williams (1963)
Charley Pride (1938)
Jimmy Vaughan (Fabulous Thunderbirds) (1951)
George Benson (1943)
Chaka Khan (1953)
Nick Lowe (1949)
Elton John (1947)
Kenny Chesney (1968)
Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) (1948)
Diana Ross (1944)
Mariah Carey (1970)
Lady Gaga (1986)
Reba McEntire (1955)
Norah Jones (1979)
Celine Dion (1968)
Tracy Chapman (1964)
MC Hammer (1963)
Eric Clapton (1945)
Herb Alpert (1935)
Shirley Jones (1934) 


It was the winter of 2015. I had been let go from my Senior Product Manager position after 15 years, just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. There’s never a good time to be laid off, but to have it happen before the Thanksgiving holiday felt like pouring salt into the wound. The paltry severance didn’t help either. Needless to say, Thanksgiving 2015 was pretty darn depressing.

Unfortunately for me, my depression wasn’t limited to Thanksgiving Day. After 15 years of round trip commutes into Boston every weekday, I suddenly had no reason to get up in the morning. I felt alone, lost, and more than a little sorry for myself. I spent a lot of time in bed and ate like a pig because food was the only thing that gave me any satisfaction. I was quickly packing on the pounds during a time when I no longer had health insurance, but I didn’t care. Making regular obligatory trips to the Quincy, MA unemployment office also didn’t do much to boost my self-esteem. I never realized how emotionally invested I had become to my job, my coworkers, and the company. To say it was a low period in my life would be an understatement. As you can tell, even all these years later, it still smarts. This is the first time I’ve written publicly about that experience. Everyone kept telling me things would get better. I didn’t believe them, but it turned out they were right. 

One afternoon, Tom DeVesto (who was also out of work!) called me out of the blue and told me he was thinking of starting a new audio company. He wasn’t completely sure what he was going to do, but asked if I would do some consulting work after his non-compete expired in early 2016. I readily agreed.

An “exploded” view of the Como Audio Solo.

Taking Shape

Six years ago this month I found myself in DeVesto’s home office reviewing his design concepts with him, helping to define the new products, and eventually helping to tweak the sound of the working prototypes. It was very exciting to be involved at such an early stage of the company, as the two other DeVesto companies I had worked for had already been established when I came on board. We eventually rented a super cool office in the Seaport District of south Boston and gradually assembled our team. 





Beat The Clock

It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since Como Audio was born in DeVesto’s home office. I look back at how much was accomplished during that impossibly short time frame and wonder how it all got done. When it comes to developing products, I’m not sure I ever worked so hard. The Como Audio Solo and Duetto were designed, developed, and went into production in less than 7 months. In the world of product management, that’s crazy town. Musica and Amico followed about a year later along with some accessories. In 2019 we designed with our first turntable, the Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable, which became a runaway success. Our latest model is called the Como Audio Blu Bluetooth Streaming Stereo System which I hope will shake up the ho-hum Bluetooth speaker market. 

WCVB-TV’s Mike Wankum (right) and Peter Skiera (with a Blue Meanie tie). Photo by Ben Merberg.

Meet The Press

Speaking of Blu, rd.com (Reader’s Digest) said “the Como Blu also looks as impressive as it sounds.” Forbes.com said Blu “offers a pretty compelling option for vinyl fans who want high quality, stereo sound that will fit in a small space.” Although we’re a small fish in a big pond, Como Audio has made a big splash over the years with the flattering media coverage we’ve been fortunate to receive. We held several press conferences in New York. We exhibited at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Our Amico was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Boston’s leading TV news station, WCVB, did a story on us. We’ve been featured in the Boston Herald, The Boston Globe, Forbes, Sound & Vision, Martha Stewart, Rolling Stone, What HiFi, and many other high-profile publications. As a startup, it’s been very humbling to receive so much favorable press.

“The Solo and Duetto were designed, developed, and went into production in less than 7 months. In the world of product management, that’s crazy town.”

The Iron Age

As happy as we are about our six years in business, we’ve kept the celebration low key. If it was a 6th wedding anniversary, the gift would be something made of iron. Don’t worry, we won’t be making any models out of iron. Iron is hardly sexy, but it’s been an important material through the decades because of its strength and durability. Iron is also a mineral our bodies need for development and growth. So, even though this isn’t a wedding anniversary, iron still reflects Como Audio’s history. It also represents the tight bond we have with our music-loving customers.

Peek-A-Boo

As many of you know, DeVesto’s current focus is on starting some assembly in the vacant space adjacent to our Braintree, MA headquarters to reduce the reliance on China and create jobs. It’s an ambitious goal and an enormously expensive one, but this isn’t DeVesto’s first rodeo. Cambridge SoundWorks’ speakers were originally hand-built at the company’s Newton, MA headquarters. As you walked in, there was a large, long glass window on the right-hand side allowing you to see the employees hand-winding the voice coils and assembling the speakers. Pretty cool. 

Whether that dream of starting up some US manufacturing ever comes to pass will largely depend on funding. We’ve been in talks with the state, the town of Braintree, and potential investors. Regardless, we’ll be here with our free, superior customer service, two-year warranty, and our superb-sounding and looking products. We appreciate your repeated support over the years and the honest 4+ star reviews you’ve posted on Amazon and elsewhere. As highly-rated as our products are, we know we wouldn’t be here without you. And so, on this special anniversary, we say thank you for six great years and here’s to many more. As Tom is fond of saying- Enjoy the music. 

Trivia: Iron is second most abundant metal on earth, second to aluminum. It’s the key ingredient for making steel and is the main component of meteorites. Plants and humans need iron. 70% of the iron in our bodies are in our red blood cells.

 

Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

Say YES to radio. Image from Unesco.org

Everyone knows February 13th is Super Bowl Sunday, but did you know February 13th is also World Radio Day? No, this isn’t some new holiday dreamed up by Hallmark greeting cards. This year actually marks World Radio Day’s 10th Anniversary. The United Nations General Assembly adopted World Radio Day as an International Day in 2012. It was first proposed by the Spanish Radio Academy back in 2010. The point of WRD is to emphasize the importance of the medium, especially in emergencies. Today, radio is still one of the most effective ways to reach a wide audience. 

Granted, this isn’t World Internet Radio Day, but Internet Radio is still radio nonetheless. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to update you on the Top 30 Internet radio stations you and your fellow Como Audio music lovers from around the world have been listening to recently:

Radio Swiss Jazz
France Inter
NPO Radio 1
Rás 1
mvyradio
BBC World Service
WCRB Classical
BBC Radio 4
Rás 2
WQXR 105.9 FM
FIP
BBC Radio 6 Music
Bylgjan 989
WNYC 93.9 FM
VRT Radio 1
WFMU
VRT Klara
Radio Swiss Classic
Classic FM
NPO Radio 4
Deutschlandfunk
BBC Radio 3
France Musique
France Culture
franceinfo
NPO Radio 2
Radio Italia
SomaFM – Left Coast 70s
KQED
Ö1

As an additional interesting data point, here are the Top 30 Internet stations of Frontier Silicon listeners as a whole (Frontier Silicon is the leading platform solution for millions of Internet radios around the world including Como Audio): 

Triple R 102.7FM
SWR3
BBC Radio 4
Deutschlandfunk
WDR 4
NDR 1 Niedersachsen Hannover
ANTENNE BAYERN
France Inter
NDR 2 Niedersachsen
SWR1 Baden-Württemberg
BAYERN 3
Radio Paloma
Radio 357
BBC Radio 2
Hitradio Ö3
BAYERN 1 Oberbayern
RTÉ Radio 1
1LIVE
ROCK ANTENNE
radioeins
Klassik Radio Live
Ostseewelle Region Müritz/Usedom
NPO Radio 1
WDR 5
Radio Nowy Świat
Absolut relax
franceinfo
WDR 2 Rheinland
SWR4 Baden-Württemberg
OLDIE ANTENNE – Oldies 
Classic FM

Take time to explore some of the stations on these two lists. There’s a reason they made the Top 30. 

The Como Audio Musica in piano gloss white.

In honor of World Radio Day, why not hold a radio listening party? Give your records, CDs, music files, and streaming services the day off and demonstrate some of the many free Internet stations from around the globe that your Como Audio music system is capable of streaming (not to mention the great hi-fi sound). Then you can transition directly into your Super Bowl party with your big screen TV connected to your Como Audio system. Go New England Patriots! Oh, I forgot. They didn’t make it. Well, maybe next season.

Happy World Radio Day. Enjoy the music (and the football game). 

My profound thanks to our Internet radio station aggregator, Airable, for compiling the Top 30 lists exclusively for this article.

Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com




Here in MA, WBZ-AM 1030 consistently ranks in the top of the Boston radio market Arbitron ratings. I listen to this 24/7 news station on my way into work every weekday morning as I have for the last 20+ years. They are the radio station to turn to for news. I vividly remember hearing a report on WBZ-AM in my car on 9/11 about the World Trade Center attack. WBZ is the oldest radio station in New England and one of the oldest stations the USA, having been licensed over 100 years ago. With its 50,000 watts of transmitting power, its signal stretches into CT, NY, NJ, and even parts of Canada at night. I also used to listen to WBZ via Internet radio on my Como Audio music system until something happened 4 years ago.

Don’t Call Me Shirley

In November of 2017, iHeartMedia, the country’s biggest broadcaster, bought Boston’s WBZ-AM along with several other radio stations in our market. Suddenly, I was no longer able to tune my favorite news station on my Como Audio system. Surely, I was doing something wrong. It turns out I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and don’t call me Shirley. I opened a ticket with our Internet radio station aggregator to inquire what the problem was. Their response: There was no problem. iHeartMedia doesn’t share any of their 860 station streams with 3rd party Internet station aggregators, so once iHeartMedia took ownership of WBZ-AM, the stream had to be removed. 

Image from iHeart’s Facebook page.



It’s Business

Mid-last year, iHeart had a slight change of heart, in a manner of speaking. They teamed up with TuneIn to add most of their iHeart stations to the TuneIn app. That’s fine for TuneIn users, but what about the throngs of Internet radio users who want to get iHeart stations on their Internet radios without streaming from an app? It was inconceivable to me that iHeart wouldn’t want millions of Internet radio listeners from around the world (iHeart app access is limited to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand, though it’s unclear if TuneIn imposes the same geographic restrictions) listening to their stations. Yet there was a method to their madness. The free iHeart app gives the media giant a platform for adverts and an opportunity to try to upgrade their captive audience to a premium account. Indeed, almost immediately after I downloaded the iHeart app I got a pop-up message inviting me to a free trial of their premium service. In other words, its business, not personal. 

Now please don’t get me wrong. iHeart has every right to have their own dedicated app and to try to make money off of it. Many radio stations have their own app and/or website allowing you to listen to their station. The difference is, most of those stations also make their streams available to Internet radio station aggregators allowing people the ability to listen on their Internet radios without having to stream via Bluetooth from an app or a website. 

The Silence Is Deafening

To get their side for this article, I emailed iHeart asking them why they refuse to share their stations with other aggregator directories. I received an almost immediate reply thanking me for my feedback. That was it. I responded asking them again to please answer my question. The person responding said they were in Customer Support and wasn’t involved in Programming, so they couldn’t answer, but they would pass it on. Gee, thanks. I never heard anything more. Of course, I already knew the answer. iHeart wants to drive radio listeners to their own app, not to Internet radios. I just wanted to hear them say it. 

Finger Pointing

Occasionally we get emails from customers unaware of this backstory who are content to assign the blame of missing iHeart stations squarely on Como Audio. The truth of the matter is, our data base originally included all of those stations prior to them becoming iHeart stations. Once they became iHeart-owned stations, their streams had to be removed per iHeart. I’m not aware of any product like ours that has iHeart radio stations integrated with their main Internet station directory. 

The iHeart Radio app.



50 Million Listeners Can’t Be Wrong

As a rabid listener of Internet radio, someone who blogs about Internet radio on his own website, and has his own Internet radio station, believe me when I tell you I understand the frustration of not being able to tune these stations on my Como Audio Musica. I used to encourage customers to contact iHeart directly and express their disappointment. However, with over 50 million downloads of their app, I highly doubt iHeart will start making their streams available to Internet radio station aggregators any time soon regardless of how many people complain. Put bluntly, Internet radios need iHeart more than iHeart needs Internet radios. That said, I’m going to share with you a few work arounds you might not be aware of. 

WBZ AM radio playing on my Amico after adding its URL in “Personal Streams”. Photo by Peter Skiera.



Every Problem Has a Solution

Before you contact a grief counselor over these missing stations, let’s examine some solutions. One option is to contact the iHeart station and ask them for the station’s shoutcast URL that you can cut and paste into “Personal Streams” in our portal which you would then access in your Como Music system’s menu under “My Added Stations”. You can then tune the station and save it to a preset or place it in your My Favorites list. For example, the playback URL for WBZ-AM is: http://stream.revma.ihrhls.com/zc7729 If you don’t know how to register on the portal and save a station URL, see my Tech Rap article here

“…with over 50 million downloads of their app, I highly doubt iHeart will start making their streams available to station aggregators any time soon.”

Click to play the iHeart station, then right click in the same area and select “View Page Source”.



If the station gives you the incorrect URL, or you prefer to see if the URL is available in the station’s player page, here’s what to do: Using your computer, go to the iHeart station’s website and play the station from their website. Right click in the area where it shows the playback control. Select “View Page Source” from the dropdown menu. See the above screen shot example for WBZ-AM.

Select the menu in the upper right corner, then select “Find in page”.



In the upper right of your browser page, click on the menu icon (3 stacked lines). Depending on which browser you use (I use Firefox), your menu icon might be in a different location. Select “Find in page…” from the dropdown menu. At the bottom of the page in the left corner will be a search bar. Type in the word “shout” and the word “shout” will automatically be highlighted on the page. Several words after that should be the station URL to cut and paste (don’t include “shoutcast_stream:” or the quotation marks) into your Personal Stream. As I said, in the case of WBZ-AM, the streaming URL looks like this: http://stream.revma.ihrhls.com/zc7729  See the screen shot below. 

Find the iHeart station’s shoutcast streaming URL amongst all the text and cut and paste it into the portal’s “Personal Stream” option.



This shoutcast URL solution doesn’t support radio station logos and may or may not show song/artist metadata on your Como Audio model, but it gets the job done.

Option 2

The above process isn’t as complicated as it might seem, but if you require a simpler solution, you can stream the iHeart station from the iHeart or TuneIn app to your Como Audio system via Bluetooth. Granted, this isn’t as convenient as accessing the station from a preset or My Favorites, and it might not sound quite as good as the streaming URL, but it’s an option nonetheless. 

Option 3

The other fairly easy option is to connect your Alexa device (assuming you’re an Amazon Prime member) to your Como Audio model via either Bluetooth or an audio cable connected to the Aux input. Then ask Alexa to play the iHeart station you wish to listen to and the station will play through your Como system. Again, not as convenient as a preset but it works. 

Option 4

A longer-term solution to the problem is if iHeart ends up selling off some of their 860 stations. Those station URLs would then be eligible to be included again in in Internet radio aggregator databases. In March of 2018, iHeartMedia filed for bankruptcy. In January of 2021, according to The Washington Post, hundreds of iHeart radio station DJs across the country were laid off. Still, I wouldn’t hold your breath for this solution.

Option 5

Internet radio station aggregators could use iHeart’s API to custom-build a section separate from their main directories just for iHeart stations only. The problem with this is it’s very costly and time consuming to develop and the listener would have to select that source to access an iHeart station rather than selecting the station from the main directory as they would to hear the other tens of thousands of non-iHeart stations. 

Image from iHeart’s Facebook page.



Valentine’s Day is this month, so I thought a Tech Rap article involving a heart would be apropos. It’s a cute tie in, but for me, it’s a serious topic. At Como Audio, we love Internet radio. It’s by far the most popular feature of our models. Our station aggregator adds new stations on a daily basis and the database currently includes over 61,000 free radio stations. We would like nothing more than to see iHeartMedia’s stations included in the overall station directory, but that isn’t likely to happen until, like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, iHeart gets a heart.


Trivia: In addition to their US stations, iHeart’s portfolio also includes radio stations in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.

Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own music-related blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. If you have any comments about or suggestions for a Tech Rap topic, Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com.


Links:

iHeart

February Birthdays

Shakira
Dr. Dre
Graham Nash
Yoko Ono
Dave Davies
Seal
Natalie Imbruglia
Smokey Robinson
Clint Black
Rihanna
Alice Cooper
Charlotte Church
Bobby Brown
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Rick Astley
James Blunt
Axl Rose
Howard Jones
Garth Brooks
Johnny Winter
Tom Rush
Rupert Holmes
Travis Tritt
Michelle Shocked
Carol King
Michael Bolton
Brandy
Josh Groban
Sheryl Crow
Cindy Wilson
Sergio Mendes
Chynna Philips
Henry Rollins
Peter Gabriel
Melissa Manchester
Ice-T


Last month Como Audio debuted a brand-new model called Como Blu Streaming Stereo System. We did so without any fanfare because frankly, we were just too busy handling holiday orders and dispensing our superior customer service. This month’s Tech Rap gives Como Blu its well-deserved 15 minutes of fame. 



Side by side: Como Blu Stereo.



What Is It?
Como Blu
Streaming Stereo System (Como Blu Stereo for short) is a Bluetooth speaker with a separate wired speaker for true stereo reproduction. When we developed Como Blu Stereo, we knew the market was already flooded with Bluetooth speakers, so we decided to design something different. Not just different, but better. 

To start with, as with our other models, our Como Blu Stereo uses thick MDF cabinets and real walnut veneer, not cheap plastic like so many other Bluetooth speakers. MDF costs more but it is more rigid and provides excellent sound, just like a home loudspeaker, and the walnut veneer lends it an elegant look. As of this writing, we do not expect to offer Como Blu Stereo in a finish other than walnut, our best-selling finish. In addition, the “face”, knobs, and speaker grilles are aluminum not plastic. 

Speaking of speakers, we decided to retain our custom dual voice coil woofer and fabric dome tweeter. Our powerful 30 watt per channel, Class D stereo amplifier and custom digital sound processor are also employed. These parts also cost more, but we knew the last thing the market needed was another poor-sounding Bluetooth speaker. 



A perfect pair: Como Blu Stereo.



Stereo? Yes Please. 

Our founding CEO and Designer, Tom DeVesto, felt very strongly that Como Blu should be a true stereo system, not a mono Bluetooth speaker or stereo disguised in a single box. Most music streamed via Bluetooth from smartphones and computers is recorded in two channel stereo. That is why Como Blu includes a dedicated right channel speaker, allowing left and right channels to be reproduced separately. The included speaker is connected to the main unit by a 15′ audio cable, allowing the listener to spread the two speakers apart. This results in a generous sound stage lacking from most other Bluetooth speakers. And since the main unit includes a stereo amplifier, there is no need to plug-in the separate speaker to an electrical outlet. It might strike you as strange for a Bluetooth speaker to have a separate wired speaker. Our experience with separate speakers connected via Bluetooth was not positive. There were frequently audio drop outs, or worse, the two speakers disconnected, requiring frequent re-pairing and reconnecting. Needless to say, this ruined the listening experience, so we felt it best to go with a wired separate speaker for the best possible listening experience. 



A basic, early Como Blu Stereo prototype without the clock and colored LED source lights. Photo by Peter Skiera.



Do You Have the Time? 

Although there is no alarm on board, during development we added a clock that sets the time automatically to an iPhone (or can be set manually when using an Android phone or a computer). A built-in optical sensor automatically adjusts the display’s red back light based on ambient light conditions. Above the display are a series of lights that indicate the current source…blue for Bluetooth and green for auxiliary input. If the 2200 mAh Li-Ion battery pack (sold separately) is installed, the lights turn amber and cycle whenever the battery is charging. 

“…we knew the market was flooded with Bluetooth speakers, so we decided to design something different. “

In addition to a stereo auxiliary input on the back panel there is also a stereo headphone output and a dedicated bass control knob. The bass control increases or decreases frequencies from 150 cycles on down. A center detent indicates the recommended position. A bass port further enhances the low frequencies and cleverly doubles as a carry handle. There are even helpful spoken messages that confirm the mode (Bluetooth or Aux), power status (Power on or Power off), and low power for the optional battery. I have recorded a how-to video posted on our website under “Support” to walk you through the simple operation.

Keep It Simple

As for our motivation for designing a Bluetooth stereo system in the first place, we heard from audio enthusiasts who did not need the myriad features our legacy models offered, or the semi-complex Wi-Fi setup. For those customers, we did not have anything to offer. It was decided to fill that gap with Como Blu Stereo. No Wi-Fi. No app. No involved setup. Just pair and connect your smartphone, computer, turntable, or other Bluetooth source, and enjoy. You can access a variety of content by streaming from your favorite Internet radio apps like TuneIn, and music streaming apps like Pandora, SiriusXM, and Spotify, via Bluetooth to Como Blu Stereo. Note Como Blu Stereo cannot be used as part of a multi-room configuration with other Como Audio models since it does not include a Wi-Fi module.



A match made in music heaven: Como Blu Stereo with Como Audio’s Turntable.



Mix In Some Vinyl 

Como Blu Stereo bundled with our Como Audio Turntable Analog makes for a great little Hi-Fi stereo system. Connecting our Turntable Analog via Como Blu’s auxiliary input leaves the Bluetooth source open to stream your music from your smartphone, computer, tablet, or other Bluetooth enabled device. You can certainly use the Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable if you prefer, but you will have to turn off its Bluetooth whenever you want to stream from a different Bluetooth device. 


Sounds Good, But How Much Does It Cost?

There is a delicate balance between trying to design an audio product using quality materials and providing great sound whilst maintaining a reasonable price. The two-piece Como Blu Stereo retails for $399. Add the Como Audio Turntable Analog to create a nice little Hi-Fi system for $799. You can certainly spend less (and get what you pay for), but you can also spend more. We think these prices hit the sweet spot. Since this is a new model, there probably will not be any specials on it in the near term, but be sure you are signed up to our email list to be notified of any upcoming specials.

We know there are endless choices (and prices) when it comes to buying a Bluetooth speaker. As you evaluate your options, pay close attention to the sound quality, whether the unit offers true stereo separation, the materials used, the design aesthetics, whether the brand offers free US-based technical support, and the warranty period (Como Audio’s warranty is two years). We think you will find few are like Como Blu.




Tip: If you buy Como Blu + The Como Audio Turntable, be sure not to mix up the two external power supplies. They are not the same. Using the Turntable power supply with Como Blu will result in Blu’s voice message repeating “low power” and could cause damage not covered by the warranty.

Trivia: Who’s voice is it that speaks the messages on Como Blu Stereo? Answer: Como Audio’s General Manager, Peter Skiera.



Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own music-related blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. If you have any comments about or suggestions for a Tech Rap topic, Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

January Birthdays

Grandmaster Flash
Naomi Judd
Stephen Stills
Kid Rock
Jimmy Page
Susanna Hoffs
John Paul Jones
Mick Taylor
Patty Loveless
Dolly Parton
Marilyn Manson
Michael Crawford
Kenny Logins
Paul Stanley
Paul Revere
Billy Ocean
Robby Krieger
Placido Domingo
Shirley Bassey
Steve Perry
Dave Mathews
Neil Diamon
Crystal Gale
Aaron Neville
Joan Baez
Alicia Keys
Shawn Colvin
Anita Baker
Pat Benatar
Nick Mason
Donald Fagen
Sara McLachlan
Rod Stewart
Jody Watley
Mary J Blige
Phil Collins
LL Cool J
Justin Timberlake
Rob Zombie
Ronnie Milsap
Sade
John Paul Jones



With the holiday resembling more of what we have been used to pre-pandemic, many of you will be entertaining friends and family this year. But a holiday gathering is not a holiday gathering without holiday music. That is where Como Audio’s great whole house audio feature comes in. Before you dismiss the concept as too expensive or too complicated, please read on. 

Music Is in The Hair

It used to be that whole house sound, also known as multi-room, meant running wires throughout your home and cutting holes in walls and ceilings to install speakers. I never understood the appeal of in-ceiling speakers. They might be fine for supermarkets and waiting rooms, but why would a serious music lover want music to fire into their hair instead of their ears? When was the last time you went to a concert and the band performed above you? But I digress. When I worked for B&W Loudspeakers, we had a whole house system called C.A.S.A. that consisted of B&W in-wall speakers that each had its own amplifier. The amps were powered and fed sound via Cat 5 and the system required professional installation by an authorized B&W dealer. It sounded nice but it was very expensive. 

As with the B&W system, you usually had to pay someone handsomely to perform the custom installation. Unless your speakers included built-in amplifiers, you also need a multi-channel amplifier and a wall-mounted keypad interface in each room to control the sound. This represented a significant investment, effectively putting whole house audio out of reach for most people, myself included. In addition, the new owner of this system would have to be “trained” on how to use it. And God forbid if a mouse or some other creature chewed through one of the wires in the wall or ceiling. 

With the advent of Wi-Fi enabled speakers like Como Audio’s smart music systems, snaking wires through walls and ceilings, cutting holes for speakers, and paying $10,000 for a custom installed system are things of the past. Yay. 

Whole House Audio Is as Simple as 1-2-3

The ingredients to whole house audio are simpler than cooking a holiday feast. First, you need a Wi-Fi network that adequately covers the areas of your home where you wish to have music. Second, you need at least two Como Audio models (not including Ambiente/Amica). Lastly, you need the free Como Control app for iOS or Android installed on your smartphone or tablet. That’s it.

The above example shows five Como Audio music systems grouped in a home. The sixth is actually an Ambiente stereo speaker in the master bedroom which is not connected to Wi-Fi but wired to a Solo.



Group 2 or 25

After you set up each Como Audio system to your Wi-Fi network and download our free app on your smart device, the next step is to create a group which will allow your Como music systems to “talk” to each other. A group can consist of up to five music systems, which for most purposes is plenty…a Musica in the living room, a Solo in the bathroom, another Solo in the kitchen, a Duetto in the bedroom, and an Amico for the backyard, deck, or patio (assuming your Wi-Fi signal extends outside). However, our whole house audio feature can support up to five groups, meaning up to 25 models in all (for those of you living in mini-mansions). Note the multi-room set up can also be performed using the display and controls on a Como Audio music system, but take my advice- it is faster and easier using the Como Control app. 



Whole House Hosting

To group the music systems, launch the Como Control app and decide which model will be the “host”. The host should be the model you expect to use the most. It will be the only one of the group that will show meta data (radio station name, song title, artist information, etc.) and artwork if applicable. The host will be responsible for distributing the music source to the other units within said group. That music source can be a holiday Internet radio station, FM radio, a holiday Spotify playlist, Auxiliary, a holiday DAB+ station (if you live in Europe), CD/Amazon Music/Tidal/Deezer/Napster (Musica only), even Bluetooth. Speaking of which, if you have our Turntable connected to Bluetooth or wired to the Aux input, you can even hear your favorite holiday records throughout your home! And because the units will be grouped, you will not hear any latency (audio delay) amongst the units. But I am getting ahead of myself. 

Select the “plus” icon on the right in the Como Control app for the unit you wish to be the host.



Once you have decided which unit will be the host, the next step is to select the plus (+) icon in the Como Control app for the unit that will be the host. 

Selecting the units in the Como Control app to be part of a group.



You will then be presented with a list of all Como Audio models connected to your Wi-Fi network. Tic the boxes of the units you wish to include in the group. If there is a model you want to control independently, such as playing a different source from the others in the group, do not include it in the group. 

At the bottom of the group screen in the Como Control app, you will have the opportunity to name the group.



Finally, name your group by selecting the “RENAME” tab followed by “OK” after entering the name, or leave the default name “Group 1” and then select OK at the bottom of the app. You have now successfully set up your first group! If you have more than five Como Audio systems, just repeat the process to create more groups. 

Now that you have your group set up and named, simply use the Como Control app to select the music source to be played throughout your home and use the app’s volume control to control the level of each model, or to maintain the same volume level across all of the grouped units. You can also select the source on the host unit which will feed that music to the other units.

The display of a grouped Como Audio Amico.



As explained earlier, the host unit will show what is playing on its display while the other units in the group will display the playback buffer only. The Como Control app will also show what source is playing.

Delete an existing group any time in the Como Control app.



If at any point you want to remove a unit from the group for whatever reason, you can easily do so by going back into the Como Control app and unchecking the box for that unit. Just know that you need a minimum of two units to make a group, so if you only have two models grouped to begin with and you remove one from the group, you can no longer have a group. There is no such thing as a group of one. You can also completely delete the group and start over again if you need to. 




Is Your Wi-Fi Up to Speed?

There is one very important caveat to be aware of before you become a Como Audio groupie. Whole house audio requires a great deal of bandwidth from a Wi-Fi network, and if you play a high-quality source on the group like Spotify Connect and Amazon Music, or high quality music files or Internet radio, it requires even more bandwidth. If your Wi-Fi network utilizes older equipment, or you have the lowest tier of service from your Wi-Fi provider, you may find the sound in your group goes in and out. If the playback buffer indicator on the grouped unit(s) is only 1/3 or ½, this also indicates a taxed Wi-Fi network. This is because your Wi-Fi network has pooped out. That is a technical term meaning your network does not have the bandwidth available to support the group along with whatever other devices you have connected to your network (computer, phone, smart TV, appliances, security system, etc.). As an experiment, unplug all of your Como Audio models except for one. If the lone unit runs mostly fine or perfectly, it is likely a bandwidth issue with your network. Locating your router closer to the “host” unit in the group may help. If you own a Musica, connect to it using an Ethernet cable and adjust the setting in the menu. This will relieve some of the stress on your Wi-Fi. If you don’t own a Musica or cannot use an Ethernet cable you should update your Wi-Fi equipment and/or consult your Wi-Fi provider about upgrading your service. However you look at it, Wi-Fi whole house audio is still a lot easier and cheaper than the old fashioned method of running wires and knocking holes in walls to install speakers and hard-wired control units. 

Another thing to know is that most whole home speaker systems are incompatible with others. If you currently own a non-Como Audio Wi-Fi speaker, it likely will not work with a Como Audio system. That is usually because the other system uses its own proprietary wireless scheme or they just want you to buy more of their models instead of a competing brand. 

The last topic I will raise is using Bluetooth as a poor man’s whole home audio substitute. Few Bluetooth speakers support multiroom and the few that do tend to experience frequent audio drop outs. This is due to Bluetooth’s limited range and inability to pass through walls, floors, and ceilings. Moreover, Bluetooth does not support artwork and meta data may be limited. Perhaps most important, whole house audio via Wi-Fi sounds superior to Bluetooth’s compressed audio. I think I can safely say that cheaper whole house work arounds will leave you disappointed if your goal is great sounding music and ease of use. 

People Are Talking

We often receive emails from customers praising our multiroom feature. One Amazon buyer commented: “This was my first purchase of such a system. I was nervous and compared [it] to [a competitor] system. However, once I received it and set it up and began using it, it has become a daily enjoyment for me. ALSO—-the customer service is amazing…I am planning to add to the system soon.”

A typical multiroom configuration…a Como Audio Musica and two Solos.



The holiday will mean so much more this year with the ability to gather with close friends and family once again. Make it that much more meaningful by enjoying your favorite holiday music throughout your home without stringing speaker wires as if they were Christmas lights. With their real-wood veneers and multi-layered piano gloss finishes (not plastic cases like some other systems use), Como Audio music systems will look beautiful in your home and will faithfully reproduce your favorite holiday music with crisp highs and impactful lows. Remember- The best way to spread holiday cheer is to play your Como Audio music systems for all to hear. Enjoy the music.

For a visual demonstration of whole home audio, watch my how-to videos in the Support section of Como Audio’s website.

Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own music-related blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. If you have any comments about or suggestions for a Tech Rap topic, Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

December Birthdays

Brittney Spears    
Barbara Mandrell      
Jimmy Buffet  
Karla Bonoff  
John Legend 
Edgar Winter
Nelly Furtado    
Marianne Faithfull 
Jeff Lynne 
Davy Jones  
Michael Nesmith 
Michael Mc Donald
Ozzy Osbourne
Jay-Z
Tom Waits
Sinead O’Connor
Donny Osmond
Joan Armatrading
Jermaine Jackson
Brenda Lee
Sheila E
Dionne Warwick
Connie Francis
Taylor Swift
Dave Clark
Billy Gibbons
Billie Eilish
Christina Aguilera
Keith Richards
Alan Parsons
Ricky Martin
Dido
Shane McGowan
Annie Lennox

As we head into the 2021 holiday season full steam ahead, this is the perfect time for another Ask Como Audio Tech Rap. This time of year is typically when we field the most questions from current and prospective customers. I have compiled a fresh new list of 35 frequently asked questions that newbies and long-time customers alike should find helpful. Regardless of your experience level, you should find most of this information enlightening. 

  1. What are the dimensions and weights of your models? 

Dimensions include antenna, power cord, knobs, and feet. Due to production tolerances dimensions will vary slightly. 

Musica: 16” W x 8.5” D x 6” H; 9.45 lbs

Solo and Ambiente: 9 7/16” W x 6 3/4” D x 5 3/16” H; 4.25 lbs 

Duetto: 14.5” W x 7.5” D x 5 9/16” H; 6.40 lbs 

Amico and Amica: 4 7/8” W x 6 1/8” D x 9.5” H; 4.35 lbs (including battery pack)

Turntable: 16.5″ W x 13 1/4″ D (including cables) x 4.5″ H (including dust cover); 11.1 lbs

Song meta data displayed for Internet radio station JIB On the Web. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. How do I see what meta data is available for the source I’m listening to on my Como Audio system?

There is only one way to scroll through meta data (song/artist information, bit rate, codec, etc.)…repeatedly press the “i” (information) key on the remote control. This function is not available on the unit or in the Como Control app. Note not all sources support meta data. 

You can get the Como Audio power cord in any color as long as it’s black and any length as long as it’s about 8-9 feet long. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. Can I get a power cord in another color or length? 

Stocking different colors and lengths of power cords is not an option due to the large quantities we would be required to buy. However, our power cords are not proprietary so you should be able to source what you need on the Internet.

  1. What if I experience a problem but I’m beyond my Como Audio system’s two-year warranty?

Please contact us to review some simple trouble-shooting tips that might resolve the issue. We will need to know the unit’s serial number (see next point) and your original shipping address and/or a copy of your purchase invoice. Please do not ship the unit to us without first obtaining a Return Authorization (RA) number.  

The serial number on the back of a Como Audio Solo. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. Where is the unit’s serial number?

The S/N is located on the rear panel on a white sticker with a small bar code above it. If you ever contact us with an issue with your music system, please let us know the serial number.



  1. What does “Not available anymore” mean in the Internet radio station portal?

This usually means the station does not have the license to legally stream in your country and can no longer be accessed in your country. 

  1. Why do some of My Favorites in the Internet radio station portal not include a “Play” option? 

Not all Internet radio stations support a preview option in the portal.

The Service input on the back of a Musica. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. What are the rear DC and Service jacks used for?

The rear panel DC input is used to connect an optional Como Audio external power supply should you lose your power cord or otherwise prefer not to use a cord for whatever reason. You should never use both the cord and the external power supply at the same time. 

The back panel Service input is used to connect to a computer to manually load software via a custom program. This can only be effected by Como Audio. 

Look for the grey knob extenders tucked inside the bottom pulp tray in the box. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. What are the three little grey covers I found packed in the box with my Como Audio model? Can I get them in another color?

These are knob covers/extenders. If you find the front panel knobs a bit slippery or too short to grasp, these silicon knob covers slide over the existing knobs to provide a better grip and extend them by 2 millimeters. They are not available in other colors.

  1. Do your models include a battery back-up for the clock and alarm?

No. An expensive, large-capacity battery would be required to power the unit on and sound the alarm and the battery would somehow have to be user-replaceable without the owner having to remove the back panel. 

The good news is, if power is lost, after it is restored, our models will re-acquire your Wi-Fi network and automatically set the time and date again. Alarms, presets, and other settings will not be lost and will not need to be set again. 

Our portable Amico model includes a battery, but when it is switched off completely and not plugged in, the display remains off and the unit is not active in order to conserve battery power. However, once powered on again, it will reacquire the time and date automatically and no settings will be lost.

The only time settings are lost (including time and date) is when a Factory reset is performed. On very rare occasions a major software update will trigger a Factory reset, but we will notify users in advance if we know this will happen. This is why it is very important you be signed up on our email list. If not then we have no way of contacting you in advance to warn you.

Setting the Snooze time from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. How can I adjust the Snooze interval?

Snooze can be adjusted to last 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes. Just repeatedly press the center Menu knob or Mute key on the remote control after the alarm sounds. Leave it at the time you want and it will set to that snooze time automatically. This feature is not available in the Como Control app. If you own our Musica model, the Musica remote includes a dedicated Snooze key that only works with Musica. 

  1. Can I fall asleep to one station but wake to another?

Yes! Our dual alarms are independent, so you can wake to a source other than the source the unit is currently playing, even to a different volume level if you wish. For example, you can wake to an Internet station, FM, a tone, or a CD (Musica model only). Meanwhile play the station you wish to fall asleep to and activate the sleep timer.

  1. Why do I not see responses from Como Audio to user reviews on Amazon?

We read every review posted on Amazon, good or bad. We used to respond to all of the low star reviews, however, Amazon removed the ability to respond to reviews in early 2021. Now that we no longer have the ability to respond, it’s more important than ever to please give us a fair opportunity to assist before posting a review. We staff a MA call center with knowledgeable people who will take the time to help you if given the chance. 

A list of recent podcast episodes as shown in My Favorites. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. I have podcasts saved to presets and My Favorites. Will new podcast episodes update automatically?

No, they will not. However, the most recent 30 or so episodes will show in My Favorites when you select the podcast, making it easy to access them.

Checking which network your Como Audio model is connected to is easy. Photo by Peter Skiera.



  1. My Wi-Fi network has a few different networks like 2.4G, 5G, and Guest. How do I know which network my Como Audio system is connected to? And how can I find out my network password?

Go into the System settings menu on your music system, go to Network, then select “View settings”. Scroll down to “SSID” and the network name will be shown.

Although you can see your network’s name, it’s not possible to see your network password. This is done deliberately to protect your privacy and security. If you’ve forgotten your password, you should contact your Wi-Fi service provider. 

An adapter that converts a stereo RCA cable to a single 3.5mm stereo connector. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. What do I need to do if I want to connect a separate CD player or other audio device to my Como Audio system?

If your CD player or other device has a Bluetooth transmitter (not all of them do), you can stream the sound from the CD player to your Como Audio system in Bluetooth mode without any cables. Otherwise, connect an audio cable from the audio out of your CD player to the Aux in on your Como Audio system. Our Aux in accepts a 3.5mm stereo connector. If you are using a standard RCA audio cable, you will need an adapter to convert the left and right RCA connectors to a single 3.5mm stereo connector as shown in the above picture.

Outside with the Como Audio Amico. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. Can I stream sound from my Como Audio model to an outdoor speaker?

Como Audio models use Bluetooth receivers but cannot transmit audio via Bluetooth. You can buy an external Bluetooth transmitter, connect it to the stereo Line or Headphone output, and stream to an outdoor Bluetooth speaker. However, the best option is to use a Como Audio Amico outside and link it wirelessly with your other Como Audio models via the free Como Control app so they all play the same source and can be easily controlled. 

We’re off to see the Wizard.
  1. My display is stuck on “PC Wizard”. What is going on?

If your Como Audio model experiences a problem, such as static discharge or a surge, it might lock up in protect mode and show “PC Wizard” on its display. You can try performing a hard manual reset. To perform a hard reset: Unplug the unit. Press and hold the Power and Menu knobs in while plugging the unit back in. Release both knobs when the display lights up. If the Amico has this issue, be sure to remove its battery pack before performing the reset. The reset doesn’t always work but it’s worth trying and it won’t cause any harm. If it doesn’t resolve it, please contact us and include a copy of your purchase invoice and/or your shipping address, the unit’s model name, and serial number so we can confirm your warranty status and issue you an RA# to send it in to us. You might want to consider getting an inexpensive surge protector to plug your music system into and applying the included grey silicone covers over the knobs.

Our free Como Control app + your smartphone= A fantastic touch screen display.



  1. Do your models use touch screen displays?

No, they don’t. We chose not to use touch screens because the cost at the time of development was prohibitive. Moreover, we could never have as nice a touch screen as used in your smartphone or tablet, so just download our free Como Control app for iOS and Android you will have a beautiful, big touch screen display always at the ready.

The free Como Control app in the Google Play Store.



  1. Where will I find the free Como Control app?

For Android/Google devices, search in the Google Play Store. For Apple devices, search in Apple’s app store. Search under the names “Como Control” or “Como Audio”.

  1. Is the Como Control app the only way to setup and control your models?

No. In fact, we highly recommend you run through the Setup Wizard using the unit’s front panel controls or the included hand held remote, not through the app.

Our models can be controlled using the remote and front panel controls as well as our app. Some users find apps very handy so we developed the free Como Control app for iOS and Android especially since a phone/tablet has a large touch screen vs. the unit’s smaller non-touch screen, but it’s not required to be able to setup or use our models. If you plan on doing multi-room by grouping multiple Como Audio models together, that can also be done using the unit’s menu and controls but it’s much easier using the Como Control app.

One exception is if you plan on using Spotify Connect or other music streaming apps. Those would have to at least be initiated from a smartphone/tablet/computer per those services.

Como Audio’s Turntables come with a transparent dust cover that is removeable.



  1. Some of the pictures I’ve seen of your turntables do not show dust covers? Do they include one?

Yes, our Bluetooth and Analog Turntable models come with a clear dust cover that is removable. 

  1. What is an “authorized reseller” and why are they important?

Sometimes we hear from people who bought one of our models off of eBay. Whether you buy new or used, eBay is not an authorized reseller. We list authorized resellers on our website. We will certainly be glad to help you with any technical support you may need at no charge, but if you require service or an exchange and you purchased from an unauthorized reseller, you must contact the seller you purchased from first. If they are unwilling to help you, please contact us and let us know the situation. If you are unsure whether a reseller is authorized, please ask us before you buy.

Authorized resellers pay us a premium to get our two-year warranty. Unauthorized resellers do not. Therefore, unauthorized resellers must provide their own service.

  1. Is it okay if I buy a Como Audio model from eBay?

Ebay is not an authorized reseller, so if you buy from eBay, regardless of whether the unit is used or new/never used, you won’t get a warranty, as the warranty applies to the original buyer only. If you do buy from eBay, we will certainly provide you with free tech support, but if the unit breaks or develops some other problem, it won’t be covered under warranty. You should first contact the party you bought it from since they are responsible. If they refuse to help, please get in touch with us and we’ll see what options we can provide. 

We know everyone loves a bargain, but it is not much of a bargain if you do not get a warranty. You might want to check out our B stock models before you risk buying on eBay, or sign up to our email list to be notified of sales. At least that way you will get a warranty and peace of mind. 

Image from SGS’s Facebook page.



  1. What kind of quality control do you exercise?

When mass production has finished, we require our finished goods to undergo to a rigorous third-party sample inspection prior to shipping. Our factory would be happy to conduct their own inspection for free, but we pay a premium for an independent company to perform all of our inspections. So, we partnered with SGS, the world’s leading inspection, testing, and certification company. We have worked with SGS for over 20 years. We craft comprehensive inspection procedures for each model that cover the cosmetics as well as the acoustic performance and software. Should an inspection fail, the goods must be reworked to correct the issue before anything ships. Prior to COVID, Como Audio’s V.P. of Product Development, Peter Skiera, would often tour final assembly unannounced to monitor the quality. 

As high as our standards are, things sometimes break. What is important is that we stand behind our 2 year warranty when purchased from an authorized reseller. 

  1. Why wouldn’t I just buy a Bluetooth speaker instead of one of your models?

You can spend as much or more for a high-quality Bluetooth speaker as you can for one of our models, so why not get more than just Bluetooth with a Como Audio music system? 

Unlike most Bluetooth speakers on the market, our models have presets, built-in Internet radio (60,000 free stations), FM, tone controls, alarm clock functionality, Spotify Connect, Works with Alexa Certification, a color display, a remote control, a stereo line output, optical input, and USB input for a thumb drive and smartphone charging, the free Como Control app, grouping units for wireless multiroom without any audio delay, a two-year warranty, free tech support for life,

and in the case of Musica, a CD player and integrated premium music services like Amazon Music.

The Setup Wizard normally shows upon first power up. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



  1. I just powered on my Como Audio system for the first time and I do not see the Setup Wizard. What do I do?

The unit should default to the Setup Wizard automatically but on occasion it does not. This is not an indication of a problem and you can manually get to the Setup Wizard in just a few steps. First, with the unit on, perform a Factory reset. Set the unit to FM mode by rotating the Source knob on the right to FM and pressing in to select. Once in FM mode, press and hold the center Menu knob and scroll down to System settings and press the knob in. Then scroll down to Factory reset, press the knob in and then select Yes. After the unit reboots, power it on and the setup Wizard should show. If the privacy policy shows first, just press the Menu knob in briefly to clear it. From there, just follow the Setup wizard.

  1. Why do you not recommend leaving a CD inside Musica?

There is no problem leaving a CD inside Musica as long as you don’t forget it’s there and don’t try to force another CD inside! This could damage your music system and require shipping it back to us for service, and such a problem would not be covered under the warranty.

The Musica remote’s Eject key. Photo by Peter Skiera. 

  1. My CD is stuck inside my Musica, or will not play, or I can hear a noise when I play a CD. What should I do?

If a CD is stuck the first thing to try is to press the Eject key on the remote control in the upper right. This overrides the Eject key on the unit’s front panel. If that does not eject the disc, or the CD won’t play or there is noise, then press the tiny reboot button on the rear panel. If that does not resolve the issue, the last resort is to perform a Factory reset in the System settings menu. This will require repeating the setup and re-saving presets but usually forces the CD out and often cures odd gremlins like noise or not playing a CD. 

The Ortofon OM10 on a Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable. Photo by Peter Skiera.

  1. What stylus comes with the Turntable Analog and what is its specifications? 

Our Turntable Analog comes with a premium custom Ortofon cartridge that has no model designation. Its specifications may be found at the end of the Turntable Analog’s user manual. For most listeners, this stylus sounds very good. If you wish to upgrade the stylus on your Turntable Analog we highly recommend the Ortofon OM 10. The Ortofon OM10 stylus comes standard on the Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable.

Normalize the volume when streaming from Spotify.



  1. The volume level between songs when streaming Spotify varies. Can I level it out?

Yes. Spotify has such a setting. Open the Spotify app, select Settings (the gear icon), scroll down to the “Playback” section, then turn on “Normalize volume”. 

Adjusting the tone controls in the menu. Photo by Peter Skiera.

  1. How do I get to the tone controls?

A design decision was made to minimize the number of controls on the exterior in order to provide a clean appearance. Moreover, we felt tone controls were not something users would need to constantly adjust. Most people set it and forget it, so we placed the tone controls in the System settings menu under “Equalizer”. There you will find adjustments for Bass, Treble, Loudness, and Balance. After you select Equalizer in the System settings menu, select My EQ profile setup, then adjust as desired. Hint: Use the remote’s up/down arrow keys to adjust the values, not the left/right arrow keys (/<<  &  >>/). When done, press the remote’s left arrow key to back out and then select Yes to save your changes. Now, go back into the Equalizer menu and select My EQ to apply your custom settings.

  1. How do I delete an Internet radio station in My Favorites list?

You must log in to the portal to remove a station from Favorites. Once your log in, select the Favorites tab. You will see a trash can icon to the right side of each station in the list. Click on it to delete that station from your list.

  1. Do you accept trade ins?

We do not accept trade-ins or allow model upgrades unless you purchased from our website within 60 days. In that case you can return your unit for a different model or a refund anytime within that 60-day window. If you purchased from Amazon, Amazon’s return window is 30 days. 

No blue “Works with Alex” logo.

  1. I own multiple Como Audio models. When I see the list of models in the Como Control app, sometimes some models show the blue Works with Alexa logo but some do not even though they all have the latest software. Why is that?

If you’re streaming from a premium music service like Spotify to your music system, we are prohibited by those services to show the Amazon “WWA” logo. In Internet radio mode, Aux, FM, optical, and Bluetooth (and CD with Musica) the logo will be displayed. 

  1. Bonus question: I have an Amazon Prime Music Playlist or Amazon Station saved to a preset but when I press the preset button it only plays one song and then stops. Why is that? 

In Amazon Music mode, our models take their “instructions” direct from Amazon’s music servers. If Amazon is only providing the URL for one specific song, then that is all the preset will be able to play. If Amazon is providing the URL to a complete Playlist/Album/Station then the preset will playback the entire set.


Tech Rap’s Ask Como Audio posts are designed to give you quick but helpful answers to frequently asked questions and issues. Check the other posts in the Ask Como Audio series (links below) to learn more about our products. As always, please reach out to us directly anytime if you have other questions or require more information about using your music system. We are here to help and more than happy to do so. Our email address is info@comoaudio.com and the toll-free phone number to our Braintree, MA office is 1.844.644.8606. Our tech support center operates weekdays 9a-5p ET and we answer emails on weekends when possible, all in the effort to help you enjoy the music.

Next month’s Tech Rap: Multiroom

General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecomendedStations.com. He can be contacted directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com.



November Birthdays:

Lyle Lovett
K.D. Lang
Adam Ant
Puff Daddy
Delbert McClinton
Yanni
Bryan Adams
Peter Noone
Art Garfunkel
Joni Mitchell
Ricki Lee Jones
Bonnie Raitt
Neil Young
Buckwheat Zydeco
Petula Clark
Diana Krall
Gordon Lightfoot
Graham Parker
Joe Walsh
Dr. John
Miley Cyrus
Bruce Hornsby
Amy Grant
Tina Turner
Paul Shaffer
Randy Newman
Chuck Mangione
Billy Idol
Paul Stookey

Related articles:

Ask Como Audio 1

Ask Como Audio 2

Ask Como Audio 3

Image from Airable’s website. 

Recently, UK-based Internet radio station aggregator Reciva went out of business, rendering tens of thousands if not millions of Internet radios around the world unable to play any Internet radio stations. Unfortunately for the owners of those radios, there was no way to switch to a different aggregator, as such a significant work around would have required both software and hardware changes. 

When we were developing our first Internet radio back in 2008 at our previous audio company, we evaluated the Reciva solution extensively for weeks. The Reciva staff were very supportive and responsive, but in the end, we chose a different solution mainly because the Reciva UI proved agonizingly slow. Those Internet radios still work to this day. 

Some concerned customers contacted us inquiring whether their Como Audio music systems would be impacted by Reciva’s demise. I am happy to report that our models rely on Airable as the station aggregator, not Reciva, so none of our models were impacted. For many, this was their first introduction to station aggregation, and it was baptism by fire. I thought this an opportune time for an exclusive Q & A with Como Audio’s Internet radio station aggregator, Airable.

Your Como Audio music system draws from the over 59,000 free Internet radio stations in the data base. The data base must be continuously updated and the stations maintained and that is where Airable comes in. Based primarily in Nettetal, Germany, Airable has been around for over a decade. Airable’s Vice President of Product Management, David Litt, has personally been in the business for more than twenty years. Litt took time out of his busy schedule to address my questions for Tech Rap.

PS: For those who do not know, what does an Internet radio station aggregator do?

DL: “We organize, categorize, test [Internet radio and podcast] steams, so we are able to distribute the data for many different products with unique playback or curated requirements.”

PS: How is Airable different from other Internet station aggregators? 

DL: “Responsive to user feedback, and station feedback. We automate much of our testing but have our editors review the results. We also aggregate other content services such as TIDAL, Deezer or Amazon…”

PS: What is the most common question or issue you get?

DL: “New station requests are the most common…Station requests are generally handled in one day.”

PS: If an Internet station that previously tuned fine but no longer loads and plays, what is the typical culprit? 

DL: “The streaming server going temporarily bad is the most common issue, as stations usually come back within a day. The link may have also changed which involves reviewing the station’s web site for updates. We are in a better position now, in that stations usually reach out to us before stream changes are made. The more frustrating issue is when a station moves to a codec or protocol that is [not] supported…” 

PS: Why don’t more stations stream using the better-sounding AAC or WMA audio codecs?

DL: “AAC is heavily used, and comprises about 30% of all streams. MP3 is about 70% of all streams. Compatibility is a big factor in choosing what codecs are used…and MP3 is an easy way to know your station will work everywhere.”  

Image from wfmu.org

PS: What are three Internet stations you personally listen to on a regular basis?

DL: “I prefer freeform and Jazz radio, so I listen to WFMU (US), DR P8 JAZZ (Denmark), and Radio Panik (Belgium).”

PS: Is there a type of Internet station you personally would like to see that does not exist?

DL: “Yes, a station for improvised Music/Chamber Jazz/Avant-Garde Jazz. I should probably make it myself.”

PS: In your view, what is the best thing about Internet radio?

DL: “People will often say it is the variety of choice, as you can get different perspectives from news from outside your country, or listen to different genres around the world, but people in general listen to their local stations, and a few internet-only music, and some foreign stations. I think it is the ability to find what you want (what is familiar). Internet radios allow you to listen without worry about static, and offer it in higher quality than over the air. I do not want to discount discovery of stations around the world. Western Rock/Pop is ubiquitous and you will hear the same songs across the world, but there will also be local bands, or trends that will sound fresh…”

The free portal allows you to contact Airable, manage “My Favorites”, and link multiple Como Audio music systems together to share the same My Favorite stations.

Should you ever need to report a problem with an Internet radio station or podcast, or would like to suggest a new station or podcast be added to the data base, you can open a ticket with our station aggregator using this link and report the issue or request the new station/podcast be added.

Photo by Peter Skiera.

New station requests are typically added within 24 hours. Note not all stations/podcasts can be added due to codec compatibility, streaming license restrictions, etc. 

Once added, scroll down the Station List menu and select “My added Stations” to find the new station, and/or find the station by searching for the station by location, genre, or station name. 

On The Move

As of this month, Recommended Stations has moved to www.recommendedstations.com, where you will find my latest recommendations. There is also a contest you may wish to participate in.

On Hiatus

I have been writing Tech Rap articles for the Como Audio blog for three years without a break, so Tech Rap will be on hiatus next month. I will see you back here in November with a brand-new Tech Rap. I cannot believe I just used the word “November” already. 

As always, thank you for being a loyal Como Audio Tech Rap reader, and keep enjoying the music.

September Birthdays:

Gloria Estafan
Barry Gibb
Beyonce Knowles
Dweezil Zappa
Al Stewart
CeCe Peniston
Roger Waters
Chrissie Hynde
Gloria Gaynor
Pink
Amie Mann
Jose Feliciano
Michael Buble
Macy Grey
Harry Connick Jr
Mickey Hart
Ben Folds
Fiona Apple
Don Was
Peter Cetera
Nick Jonas 
Marc Anthony 
Richard Marx
Frankie Avalon
Trisha Yearwood
Faith Hill
Lita Ford
Bruce Springsteen
Joan Jett
Julio Iglesias
Will Smith
Olivia Newton-John
Bryan Ferry
Debbie Boone
Don Felder
Shaun Cassidy
Meatloaf
Hilary Duff
Mike Post
Jerry Lee Lewis
Basia
Johnny Mathis
Cissy Houston
Marilyn McCoo

Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his pwn blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

From left to right: Original MTV VJs Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, and Mark Goodman. Photo from SiriusXM’s 80s on 8 Facebook page. 

Allow me, if you will, to take you back to August of 1981. Some of the pop songs topping the charts back then were Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes), The One That You Love (Air Supply), and Elvira (Oak Ridge Boys). Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie had just been released. Raiders of the Lost Ark was gaining traction in movie theaters. Ronald Reagan was entering his seventh month as U.S. President. Regular gasoline set drivers back an average of $1.19/gallon. Lady Diana had just wed Prince Charles. Deciphering the Rubik’s Cube was the latest craze. The top programs America was watching on their cathode ray tube television sets included M*A*S*H*, Dallas, Alice, The Jefferson’s, Three’s Company, The Dukes of Hazard, and One Day at A Time. Oh yeah, there was one other thing…


Ladies And Gentlemen…

Forty years-ago this month, MTV officially launched an around the clock, stereo music video channel on cable TV. It opened with footage of Apollo 11 lifting off, MTV founder John Lack announcing “Ladies and gentleman…rock n’ roll”, an astronaut on the moon staring at a rapidly-changing MTV flag, and the MTV guitar theme music playing in the background. No one had seen or heard anything like it before in the history of television. MTV boldly claimed it would do for television what FM did for radio and that we would never look at music the same way again. It turns out they were right, at least for a few years anyway. 


Wait. A Monkey Invented MTV?

No, not a monkey, a Monkee. In 1977, former Monkee Mike Nesmith crafted a short promotional film for his hit single Rio at the request of his record label. It was essentially an early music video prototype. Later, he assembled clips of music videos introduced by comedians for a pilot for a TV show he called PopClips. Nesmith found a believer in Warner Communications’ John Lack who debuted PopClips on Nickelodeon. The reaction was immediate and off the charts. Nesmith was offered a role in the new venture and was asked to make some changes to the show. He was not too keen on the changes and even less interested in becoming a TV executive, so Nesmith sold his concept to Warner Brothers and moved on. Talk about Monkee business. Lack, who had developed Nickelodeon and The Movie Channel (TMC) for Warner, built upon Nesmith’s idea to form MTV and scored a hat trick.  

Trivia: Michael Nesmith produced Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” music video in 1983. He also produced Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” music video in 1987.


I Want My MTV!

I used the term “hat trick”, but MTV was hardly an overnight success. For one thing, there were precious few quality music videos to play back in those days. For another, according to Wikipedia, only about 25% of American homes had cable when MTV launched in 1981. The fledgling network teetered on having its plug pulled. For the first few years the majority of cable TV subscribers never heard of it. It was not even available in Manhattan where MTV was based. The MTV staff had to take a bus to New Jersey to watch the debut in a seedy basement bar. Cable companies and record executives simply did not get it. Rock music was to be heard and not seen. It took a good three to four years until MTV finally came into its own as more and more cable TV viewers began demanding “I Want My MTV!”.

Trivia: MTV’s John Lack paid Mick Jagger $1 in cash to record a “I Want My MTV” video promo. 


The King of Pop Single-handedly Changed MTV

Even after MTV took off, it was not all smooth sailing. The biggest criticism the network faced early on was the almost total absence of music videos by black recording artists. MTV staunchly denied their network was racist, arguing they did not play videos from black artists because the available music did not fit MTV’s rock format. Prince’s hit song 1999 received light rotation on MTV in 1982, but it was not until Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit Billy Jean, and his epic music video Thriller, that the MTV doors really started to open to black artists. 

Trivia: In 1988, MTV debuted Yo! MTV Raps, a program dedicated entirely to Hip Hop music. It became MTV’s highest-rated program at the time. 


Luke’s Record Exchange in R.I. (R.I.P.). Photo from Luke’s now defunct Facebook page. 




Got MTV?

As a teenager with divorced parents, I could only watch MTV when I was visiting my father since my mother did not have cable. But I also got my MTV fix for free from my regular excursions to Luke’s Record Exchange in Pawtucket, RI., where I often bought used Beatles records (I was and still am a big Beatles fan). Unless he was play-testing a record, Luke always had music from MTV blaring through massive public address speakers set up inside his store. The sound quality was poor but the big PA speakers lent the music a kind of “you are there”, live concert effect. 

I had a best friend in school whose parents blocked MTV from their cable package, which I never understood. His mother did not strike me as the Tipper Gore-type. As a result, I was not able to discuss the videos or the VJs with him. Luckily, I had a couple of other school chums who had more liberal-minded parents. For those parents who saw MTV as a bad influence, most of us original MTV fans turned out just fine, thank you. The kids are alright. 

I liked MTV and the VJs, but I never fantasized about becoming an MTV VJ. I knew I had neither the charisma nor the looks. However, MTV was one of the inspirations I credit for making me think seriously about a career as a DJ in commercial radio broadcasting. I had and still have a great face for radio. To its credit, MTV is still with us (albeit a considerably different network today), whereas I lasted less than seven years in radio before burning out. 




What Is Your Favorite Music Video?

The video I think of the most when I think of MTV is Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible. It was not flashy or full of special effects, but it was sexy in a tasteful way, and it was a great song to boot. Most viewers probably associate Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing with the music channel because of its lyrics. Some other memorable videos: A-ha’s Take On Me utilized rotoscoping which combined hand-drawn sketches with live action. Genesis’ Land of Confusion featured creepy looking puppets. David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes was the first music video to cost over a half million dollars to shoot. It goes without saying, Thriller was the mother of all music videos. MTV made artists realize they could stand out by creating their own unique look…Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Boy George, the Gloved One, Prince, ZZ Top, and the list goes on. Think back. What is your favorite music video from the 1980s?

In 2011, to celebrate MTV’s 30th Anniversary, Billboard.com readers voted for their top ten favorite music videos from the 1980s. The results were:

  1. “Thriller”, Michael Jackson
  2. “Like A Prayer”, Madonna
  3. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, Cyndi Lauper
  4. “Take On Me’, A-ha
  5. “When Doves Cry”, Prince
  6. “Sledgehammer”, Peter Gabriel
  7. “Hungry Like The Wolf”, Duran Duran
  8. “Walk This Way”, Run-D.M.C + Aerosmith
  9. “Every Breath You Take”, The Police
  10. “Rhythm Nation”, Janet Jackson


Trivia: What were the first ten music videos ever to air on MTV?

  1. “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles
  2. “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar
  3. “She Won’t Dance with Me” by Rod Stewart
  4. “You Better You Bet” by The Who
  5. “Little Suzi’s on the Up” by Ph.D.
  6. “We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Cliff Richard
  7. “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders
  8. “Time Heals” by Todd Rundgren
  9. “Take It on the Run” by REO Speedwagon 
  10. “Rockin’ the Paradise” by Styx 


Cool Is Their Rule

Sports 2 CD set. Picture from hueylewisandthenews.com

In September of 1983, just as MTV was gaining traction with cable TV providers and viewers, Huey Lewis and The News released their third record, Sports. This self-produced powerhouse of an album climbed to #1 on the Billboard albums chart the following year and yielded four top-ten hit singles. The Heart of Rock & Roll, Heart and Soul, I Want a New Drug, and If This Is It, and the corresponding music videos, firmly put the band on the map. Or as Patrick Bateman put it in the 2000 film American Psycho before murdering his co-worker with an axe, “…when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost.” There is no higher praise than getting your record endorsed by a music-loving axe murderer. I remember when this album came out and it is hard for me to believe these great songs are 38 years old! 

I reached out to the band and asked for their two cents on MTV. Huey Lewis and The News co-founder, backing vocalist, and drummer Bill Gibson responded to my query on behalf of the band: “We were one of the first bands on MTV, and it quickly became evident that it was extremely influential in appealing to the masses, which is what we were trying to do musically. That said, we weren’t too keen on many of the early videos that they would show – we thought people were taking themselves a little too seriously, hence our M.O. of keeping our tongues firmly implanted in our cheeks when we made our videos. MTV definitely played a big role in our success, but we like to think it was the music first!”  

Trivia: According to Wikipedia, Huey Lewis and The News’ “Sports” album has sold nearly ten million copies in the USA alone. 


MTV Unplugged


My Tony Bennet “Unplugged” minidisc and limited-edition McCartney “Unplugged Official Bootleg” CD, stamped #18,478 out of 500,000. Photo by Peter Skiera. 



Aside from my brief Beavis and Butt-Head phase, my favorite show on MTV was Unplugged. I am a big Beatles fan and Paul McCartney’s live Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) CD from 1991 is one of my all-time favorite McCartney albums. It was released as a CD and on vinyl as limited editions, though the CD was eventually issued as a standard title. The album has a fantastic mix of Beatles songs, solo McCartney tunes, and 50’s hits. Unlike other artists who had performed on MTV Unplugged, McCartney truly went unplugged by not even amplifying the band’s acoustic instruments. There have been many other notable Unplugged recordings of various genres including releases by Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Maria Carey, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton. It was a rare treat to experience their classic hits acoustically. Clapton’s tender acoustic treatment of Tears in Heaven, a song about the death of his four year old son, is very moving. His unplugged, low-key arrangement of Layla is nothing short of musical brilliance. Who ever thought he could take one of his most scorching rock hits and turn it into an acoustic ballad. 


And The Award Goes To

One MTV show I honestly could have cared less about was MTV’s VMA’s (Video Music Awards). I was perfectly content to see the highlights on the national news the following night, like the time in 2003 when Britney Spears exchanged some serious saliva with Madonna before millions of viewers. You’ve come a long way, baby. 


The Big Secret

Five VJs (“Video Jockeys”), Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Mark Godman, J.J. Jackson, and Nina Blackwood, with virtually zero television experience, served as cable TV ambassadors for this new thing called “music videos”. The charter member VJ’s had a very down-to-earth, personable style, just like DJs on the radio. If any of them had big egos, they hid it well. They came across like they were “live”, yet the big secret they were hiding was they were not live at all…it was Memorex (video tape to be more accurate). Also, they often never saw the music videos they were talking about. This required them to keep their comments brief and generic. Ah, the magic of television. 

No matter. We loved our VJs. They spoke as if they were talking to each one of us personally, not to throngs of pimply-faced teenagers and young adults. Besides introducing music videos, they conducted interviews with major rock stars, covered live concerts all over the globe, and hosted live MTV New Year’s Eve party broadcasts. And they were getting paid for it! To quote George Gershwin, nice work if you can get it. 


Where Are They Now?

Looking good (left to right): Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, and Alan Hunter together again. Photo from SiriusXM’s 80s-on-8 Facebook page.




Today, the surviving original MTV VJs are all in their 60s. Some are married (or remarried), most have kids, and they are all still involved with music in one way or another. They also all still look fantastic. Yet I look at them today and I cannot reconcile in my brain how I remember them…Martha Quinn with her pixie hair looking like she was all of 17 years old (she was actually 22), the suspender and tennis shoe-wearing Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood with her 80s hair looking so rock ‘n‘ roll, and Mark Goodman with his expansive hair. So, what are these four amigos up to today? 


Martha Quinn

Martha in the morning. 

Although all of the original MTV VJs were perfect, if I had to choose one favorite VJ, it would have to be Marth Quinn. I am not alone. In 1991, Rolling Stone readers voted her “MTV’s Best-Ever VJ”. She had a sunny personality and she always acted like she was having the time of her life, which she was. She was young, adorable, and pioneered hosting rock music videos on television. I guess you could say, to coin a song from the 80s, she blinded me with science. 

As a teenager with more testosterone than I knew what to do with, I secretly longed for a Quinn wardrobe malfunction before wardrobe malfunctions were a thing. Considering anytime I watched her she was dressed like a 17th century Quaker instead of a 20th century fox, there was little chance of that happening. Sorry if I sound bitter. I forgive, but I do not forget. 

Over her years at MTV, Quinn got to interview some big stars like David Lee Roth, Frank Zappa, and Paul McCartney (see the Trivia note at the end of this segment). 

At the end of last month Quinn wrote on the 80splusradio iHeart website, “As we celebrate MTV’s milestone, I reflect on the fact that today when you see the iconic MTV logo it takes no time at all to process what it represents. You recognize it as instantly as when you look at a grilled cheese sandwich. One second. Boom. Got it…MTV came flying out of left-field like a meteor into an unsuspecting world. August 1st, 1981 a fiery, mind-blowing, meteoric pop-culture disruptor blasted into our consciousness, changing the lives it touched forever.”

Quinn generously took a few minutes out of her very busy schedule to answer my questions:

PS: Did you own a boombox, Walkman, or a record player in the 80s? 

MQ: Yes! A Sony Sport boombox that could record from the radio, a must for my Howard Stern years :))

PS: You went from a college grad to a TV star hanging out with rock stars. Do you think it changed you? 

MQ: Yes, it gave me a sense of purpose and belonging that I didn’t have prior. 

PS: Do you have any MTV memorabilia you cherish besides the famous McCartney tea cup? 

MQ: I still have the shirt I auditioned in; it was given to me by my NYU roommate who was from Nashville. It said “Country Music Is In My Blood”!

PS: What kind of music are you currently listening to besides 80s? 

MQ: I don’t have much time in my day to listen to music other than 80s, but every once in a while, I’ll decompress with some old-school tunes, anything from Aerosmith to Earth Wind and Fire, to the Beatles, Cheap Trick, even some Uriah Heep. Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book and Cat Stevens Tea For The Tillerman are two albums I can listen to over and over.

PS: Are you into records, CDs, downloads, or streaming? 

MQ: Mostly streaming these days! I have a turntable but only have a few records out of storage. 

Today, Quinn is still married to her husband of 29 years, Jordan Tarlow (Fuzztones), has two grown children, is a vegetarian, and resides in California. She is originally from Albany, New York. Quinn celebrated her 62nd Birthday in May. She hosts The Martha Quinn Show from her home studio during morning drive on San Francisco’s KOSF-FM, an all-80s (what else?) radio station, in addition to her “After Party” podcast. 


If you don’t mind me saying so, Martha Quinn can still rock a dress. Photo from Quinn’s Facebook page.



“Considering anytime I watched her she was dressed like a 17th century Quaker instead of a 20th century fox, there was little chance of that happening.”


As she was during her time on MTV, Quinn is bubbly, upbeat, and quick witted. To listen to Quinn’s morning show, download the free iHeart radio app to your smart device, select KOSF, and stream the audio via Bluetooth to your Como Audio music system. Or, if your Alexa device is connected to your Como Audio music system via an audio cable or Bluetooth, ask Alexa to play KOSF from iHeart Radio and hear it through your system. By the by, Quinn also played Bobby Brady’s wife in a Brady Bunch TV show reunion years ago. I cannot believe Martha Quinn was a Brady by marriage. 

Trivia: After finishing an interview with Paul McCartney, Quinn swiped the tea cup McCartney had been drinking from, but not before downing what was left. Ew. She still has the unwashed cup and once jokingly said she could use it to clone Paul McCartney. 


Nina Blackwood

A tip of that hat from Nina Blackwood. 



Nina Blackwood was born in Springfield, MA, about a 1 ½ hour drive from Como Audio’s office, 65 years ago (she will turn 66 next month). She is a passionate supporter of animal rights, owning six cats, two parrots, and a dog. Rumor has it she lives in Maine but she prefers to keep her exact whereabouts private. Blackwood was the first of the five original VJs to be hired (and years later would be the first VJ to exit MTV). She had the most distinctive voice of all the hosts, and with the passage of time, it has only become more so. 

Blackwood certainly had her share of interviews with the stars…John Mellencamp (I still refer to him as John “Couger” Mellencamp), Ray Davies, The Cure, Annie Lennox, Tom Petty, and the list goes on. Her worst interview was with Frank Zappa who came down with a serious case of ‘who the heck are you?’

John Waite sure knew who Blackwood was. A couple of month’s ago, Waite confirmed in an interview that his smash hit “Missing You” was about his then wife, some gal named Patty, and Nina Blackwood. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to know you inspired a hit song. Now, if she could only earn some royalties off of it…

She had sex appeal for sure, but Blackwood also brought smarts, wit, and sophistication to MTV. She was the thinking man’s VJ, and I am sure a lot of men thought about her!

I caught up with Blackwood via email but I experienced some kind of Internet gremlin and never found her responses to my questions. She graciously answered them all over again for me:

PS: Did you own a boombox, Walkman, or a record player in the 80s?

NB: “Record player and later Walkman.”

PS: Was there a rock star/group you wanted to meet or interview back then that never happened? 

NB: “George Harrison.”

PS: What do you miss most about your time at MTV?

NB: “Miss living in NYC.”

PS: Do you have any MTV memorabilia you cherish?

NB: “Saved everything, however, it was destroyed in storage in the 90s, unfortunately.”

PS: Do you keep in regular touch with your fellow VJs or not so much?

NB: “Yes. Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and I work together on SiriusXM 8 Big 80s on 8 and we have a weekly PODCAST “I Want My 80s Podcast”. Martha and I are in touch regularly.”

PS: What kind of music are you currently listening to besides 80s?

NB: “My favorite “new artist” is Wolfgang Van Halen [Eddie Van Halen’s son] Mammoth WVH. Always like listening to the Rolling Stones.”

PS: Are you into records, CDs, downloads, or streaming? 

NB: “Vinyl or streaming.”


Photo from Blackwood’s twitter page.

“She was the thinking man’s VJ, and I am sure a lot of men thought about her!”

Nowadays, Blackwood hosts 80s-On-8 seven days a week on SiriusXM and co-hosts Big 40 Countdown. If you do not have SiriusXM, no worries. Blackwood hosts Absolutely80s and New Wave Nation both airing on the United Stations Radio Networks. As she mentioned above, she also co-hosts the weekly SiriusXM podcast I Want My 80s. Happy Birthday, Nina! 

Trivia: During her MTV job interview luncheon at Manhattan’s exclusive Tavern on the Green, Blackwood literally almost chocked to death on a hard dinner roll. After recovering, she was offered the VJ job and accepted. She figured since they saved her life, the least she could do is accept the job.


Alan Hunter

Peace and Progress from Alan Hunter. 

Of all the original MTV VJs, Alan Hunter struck me as the most laid back…like someone you would hang out with and have a beer (or whatever) and talk about music (or whatever). Regarding the whatever part, not that I have lived the life of a Saint, but if I had false teeth, they would have fallen out onto the floor when I read in VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, that Hunter snorted cocaine (as did Mark Goodman and J.J. Jackson) during a portion of his MTV days. 

With his suspenders and tennis shoes he came across like he was not entirely sure what he was supposed to be doing. In the aforementioned book VJ, Hunter recounts many of his antics. One time, he appeared in full clown gear. Another time, he cartwheeled himself right into a teleprompter, scattering broken glass all over the MTV set. Then there was the time he awkwardly caught a full-grown Zippy the chimp and injured his back in the process. Despite his shenanigans, he was such a nice guy, you just had to like him no matter what he did. 

Hunter readily admits his MTV VJ audition was a train wreck, yet MTV hired him anyway, probably because they could not stop liking him. His female MTV fans really liked him, too. So much so, MTV management insisted Hunter remove his wedding ring during his on-air segments so as not to disappoint his female viewers. He eventually went back to wearing his ring at the understandable insistence of his then wife.


The present-day Alan Hunter. Photo from Hunter’s twitter page.



“Despite his shenanigans, he was such a nice guy, you just had to like him no matter what he did.”


Hunter, 64, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, is married with three children, and now lives in California. He hosts SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind as well as 80s-On-8 six days a week, co-hosts SiriusXM’s Big 40 Countdown and I Want My 80s podcast, co-owns Hunter Films production company with his brother, and co-founded and is an Advisory Board Member of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. Be careful if you approach him on the street. He has a black belt in Shotokan Karate. Obviously, Hunter does not know the meaning of slowing down. 

Trivia: Hunter was very excited when he received a fan letter that included a naked picture of the attractive female author. She said she thought Hunter was ”so sexy”, but then proceeded to ask him to please pass her naked picture on to Steve Perry, the then lead singer of Journey.


J.J. Jackson 

J.J. Jackson passed away on March 17, 2004 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 62. At the time, MTV released this statement: “J.J. Jackson’s deep passion for music, his ease and good humor on air, and his welcoming style really set the tone for the early days of MTV. He was a big part of the channel’s success and we are sure he is in the music section of heaven, with lots of his friends and heroes. We are fortunate to have had him as a part of the MTV family. He will be greatly missed.”

Jackson’s last gig was as host of The Beatle Years on the Westwood One Radio Network. 

I was surprised to learn that Jackson, who was born in New York, was a DJ at legendary Boston rock station WBCN-FM in the late 1960’s- the same radio station I interned at while a student at Emerson College. 

Trivia: After a night of clubbing, Jackson used to apply Preparation H under his eyes to reduce the swelling before taping his MTV VJ segments. 


Mark Goodman

Goodman with normal hair. Photo from SiriusXM 80s on 8.

I guess it was the hair, but during his MTV days, I thought Mark Goodman was a Robert Hegyes’ (“Juan Epstein” on the TV show Welcome Back Kotter) doppelganger. Goodman was to kick off the very first VJ segment on MTV and introduce his four fellow VJs, but there was some sort of satellite snafu resulting in Alan Hunter being the first VJ ever to speak on MTV. At one VJ reunion, Nina Blackwood said Goodman still held the distinction of being the most divorced VJ. During his time at MTV, Goodman interviewed big names like David Bowie, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and David Lee Roth.

Goodman was born in Philadelphia in 1952 and has one daughter. He currently resides in New York with his wife. He is all over SiriusXM hosting 80s-on-8 five days a week, SiriusXM’s VOLUME, co-hosting SiriusXM’s Debatable (a talk show about music), Big 40 Countdown, and the weekly I Want My 80s podcast. 

Goodman did not respond to repeated requests through SiriusXM to participate in this article. 

Trivia: During one MTV segment, Goodman was thrown down on the floor by legendary professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper (R.I.P.), but Piper did it in such a way to ensure Goodman was not injured.


Kurt Loder

Kurt Loder. Image from Loder’s twitter page. 

Former Rolling Stone editor Kurt Loder was never an MTV VJ, but he was just as well known and arguably, just as important. In the late 1980s he hosted MTV’s The Week in Rock and went on to become the first anchor and correspondent for MTV News. He had a great voice, a dry delivery, and brought credibility to television music reporting. I used to love the opening of MTV News…the twirling white satellite dish with the MTV logo and the typeball loudly banging out “MTV News”. Except for Alan Hunter, the other original VJs never cared much for Loder, pointing out before he joined MTV, Loder frequently denigrated the music channel while writing for Rolling Stone magazine. 

Loder was born in New Jersey but is a long time New Yorker. He turned 76 in May. He reviews films for reason.com and creators.com and hosts True Stories which is currently on hiatus on SiriusXM’s VOLUME channel. Loder was unable to participate in this article due to his current work schedule. 

Trivia (from Wikipedia): “Loder was one of the first to break the news of Kurt Cobain’s death; he interrupted regular [MTV] programming to inform viewers that Cobain was found dead.”


Photo from Amazon.com

VJ’s Unplugged

In 2013, the four surviving VJs collectively went “on the record” (pun intended) in a best-selling book about their MTV experiences (plus quotes from the late J.J. Jackson). In “VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave” with Gavin Edwards, they recount fascinating, behind-the-scenes stories of what it was like to be in the center of a television revolution. 

I was curious how the VJs related their memories so I queried co-author (and one-time Jeopardy! contestant) Gavin Edwards: “The VJs were mostly interviewed separately, because they’re scattered all over the country”, Edwards explained to me in an email. “But there were some exceptions: I interviewed Mark and Alan when they came to LA (separate trips), and each time, Martha made a point of joining us for a while so there would be some back-and-forth dynamic (and being around each other reminded them of stories they would have otherwise forgotten). And if one VJ said something about another one, I’d repeat it to them so they could respond. They were, honestly, all happy to have a chance to interact with each other.”

In “VJ”, you will read about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. You will hear tales from the studio side of interviews gone wild, water fights, a streaker, romances, and a runaway TV camera. And of course, there is plenty of name dropping. You will even learn about invisible fish. You will also find out how MTV ended for each of the VJs, proving in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. 


80s Internet Radio 

Dr. Pundits 80s Lite Hits.

If you miss all that great 80s music, Internet radio offers plenty of free options. With your Como Audio music system on, just press and hold the remote’s Play/Pause key in Internet radio mode, select Station list > Stations > Search stations > Type in “80S”, select “OK” on the right, and then browse through the list. Dr. Pundit, for example, offers three excellent choices all streaming out of Minnesota in very high quality at 320 kbps: 80s Radio, 80s Lite Hits, and 80s Love. As Dr. Pundit says on his website of 80s Lite Hits “…you’ll only hear the biggest adult contemporary hits of the decade. Twenty-four hours a day. Classic light 1980s pop for the masses!”


Spotify Connect is yet another free option having numerous 80s-related playlists.


MTV Was So 1980s

My shirt says it all. 

Unless you are of a certain younger generation, you would not recognize the current MTV. As music video ratings declined, MTV pointed its cameras on its viewers, morphing into the premier reality TV channel with shows like 16 and Pregnant, Revenge Prank, Jersey Shore, Ghosted, Jackass, Teen Mom, The Osbournes, Punk’d, and occasional mainstream movies. MTV pioneered the reality genre with The Real World in 1992 which centered around eight young strangers moving in together in a new city. Want more? There is MTV 2 with even more shows and movies. As it so happened, video did not kill the radio star, reality TV did. 

Mind you, I am not opposed to reality TV. I am not sure why, but I have become addicted to TLC’s Return to Amish. I suppose I was just never able to make the adjustment from the original MTV to what it became. I had a similar experience when CNN Headline News (HLN) ceased being a 24/7 news channel and turned into the Forensic Files marathon channel. Goodnight Chuck Roberts, wherever you are. 

MTV Turns 40 This Month. Celebrate 14 Years of Music.

MTV survived because of its ability to change with the times. So much so, the “M” in MTV no longer stands for “Music”. Appropriately, the “M” does not stand for anything anymore. On its website, MTV calls itself “…the leading youth entertainment brand…”. Although the channel itself is airing some specialty programs marking its 40th Anniversary, as of this writing I was unable to find any mention of it on its website. MTV also declined my invitation to participate in this article. 

At least there is one organization happy to shine a light on MTV’s musical past. The Grammy Museum (which I never knew existed) in Mississippi is holding a year-long exhibit that celebrates MTV. “I Still Want My MTV” displays Michael Jackson’s leather suit as worn in his Dirty Diana video, the dress Madonna wore in her Vogue music video, the 1986 VMA award given to Dire Straits for their Money for Nothing video, plus other MTV-related memorabilia from Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Run DMC, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift among others. Sweet. 

Cannot make it out to Mississippi? Tune your Como Audio music system to Internet radio station WXPN out of Philadelphia for “MTV Week” (not to be confused with Shark Week). The week of August 2-6 will feature MTV-inspired programming including the former host of MTV’s 120 Minutes, Matt Pinfield, and Rob Tannenbaum, author of I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution.


MTV Classic: I Want My 80s on cable TV. Photo by Peter Skiera.

If you want your MTV served up the way it used to be, satellite TV and most cable services offer “MTV Classic” in their channel lineups. I Want My 80s, and to a lesser extent, House of Pop, play those classic music videos we remember, lamentably, without the vintage VJ patter and interviews. If your TV speakers are not up to the task (most are not), consider connecting your TV’s output to your Como Audio music system either with an analog audio cable or an optical cable and experience a sound upgrade. Of course, you can always call up your favorite music videos anytime on YouTube and stream the music from your smartphone or computer to your Como Audio music system via Bluetooth.

“As it so happened, video did not kill the radio star, reality TV did.” 

Whether you have fond memories of the original MTV as I do, are a big fan of the current iteration, or never cared for it at all, you cannot deny the major influence the channel had on music, the artists, our culture, and on its audience. MTV provided us with a new way to connect with our favorite rock bands and literally gave us a new way to look at music. There is a reason why we are still talking about this channel forty years on. Like the Apollo rocket that launched MTV, the music channel was a blast. Ladies and gentleman…rock n’ roll. Happy 40th Birthday, MTV! Enjoy the music (videos). 

Footnote:

The iconic MTV logo was created by a tiny Manhattan graphic design studio tucked behind a Tai Chi school. In case you are wondering why I did not include any vintage MTV logos and a couple of period snaps of the VJs in my article, it is because MTV insisted on charging a $750 licensing fee per image. It occurs to me that perhaps the “M” in MTV really does represent something today…Money.

September’s Tech Rap: Recommended Stations


Debbie Gibson was one of my favorite artists from the 80s. She turns 51 at the end of this month. 


August Birthdays:

Debbie Gibson
Andrew Gold
Tony Bennett
Patti Austin
Ian Anderson
Ronnie Spector
Charlie Sexton
Joe Jackson
Sir Mix-A-Lott
Pat Metheny
Sarah Brightman 
David Crosby
Joe Jonas
Madonna
Donnie Wahlberg
Belinda Carlisle
Lee Ann Womack
Robert Plant
John Hiatt
Demi Lovato
Tori Amos
Rick Springfield
Billy Ray Cyrus
Elvis Costello
Van Morrison
Shania Twain
LeAnn Rimes
Gene Simmons
Branford Marsalis

General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016 as Vice President of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

Links:

Martha Quinn

Alan Hunter’s Sidewalk Moving Pictures

Nina Blackwood

SiriusXM: Subscribers can listen to SiriusXM channels on SiriusXM radios, online, on-the-go with the SiriusXM app, and with Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant or however they stream at home. Go to www.siriusxm.com/ways-to-listen to learn more.

VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave

Huey Lewis and The News

Grammy Museum

Related articles:

Happy Birthday, Cassette

Amico on the rocks. Photo by Peter Skiera. 

This month’s Tech Rap is dedicated to the portable that could- Amico. Even if you already own an Amico, read on because there is some history I think you will find interesting and I have also listed a few summer-related stations you might wish to audition. If you do not own an Amico (yet), July’s Tech Rap will lay out the reasons why you will want one.

Model Behavior

Como Audio’s Founding CEO and Designer, Tom DeVesto, has always offered a portable audio product going back to his Cambridge SoundWorks days. Rewinding the tape, I worked at CSW over twenty years ago and I remember selling The Model Twelve Transportable Component Music System by Henry Kloss. That is a mouth full. Needless to say, I always just called it The Model Twelve. It was hi-fi stereo but did not have an AM/FM tuner and it was before Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technologies came along, so connecting wired speakers and audio cables were standard operating procedure. Its patented Bass Case doubled as a subwoofer! It became quite popular amongst professional musicians. Fleetwood Mac’s co-founder, Mick Fleetwood, used to take one on the road with him in order to listen to demo tapes in his hotel room. He was such a fan he licensed his name to a “Mick Fleetwood Signature Edition” Model Twelve, a rare product endorsement indeed from the famous drummer. 

As marvelous as the Model Twelve was, it was heavy and overkill for the beach or outside on your patio. There was a smaller 2.1 system (also without a tuner and before Bluetooth) simply called SoundWorks by Henry Kloss designed as “computer speakers”, though it sounded good enough to be used as a “compact” audio system. They sold like hot cakes. Back in the day I had one connected to my tube television and it made a big improvement to the sound. An optional carry bag about the size of a back pack made SoundWorks portable, though it still had to be plugged in. The bag had mesh pockets allowing the system to be played while it was still packed inside the bag. 




A clean backside: Amico’s inputs and outputs. Photo by Peter Skiera.





Enter Amico 

Now, fast forward the tape to present day. Como Audio’s Amico is DeVesto’s best portable model yet. When he introduced it, our Designer said: “Today, people of all ages have active lifestyles and want the ability to not only access music content from several music sources, but to listen to music while outside, whether sitting on one’s terrace, in the backyard, at the beach, or on even on a boat. Amico was designed to not only make it easy to access all of your music content with the press of a button, but to listen to great sounding music wherever you go.” 







To help drive home the point, our E-Commerce Manager, PJ Vecchiarelli, traveled with an Amico to a few states on the west coast to perform live demonstrations to the public, all the while providing regular updates through social media. We dubbed it “The Amico Tour”. 

So Rectangular, So Firm, So Feature Packed

Based on our popular Solo model, Amico has all the same great features as Solo…58,000 free Internet radio stations, FM, Bluetooth (with aptX support), a 2.8” TFT color display, remote control, six presets, Spotify Connect, tone controls, alarm functionality, wireless multi-room compatibility, smartphone app control, Works with Alexa (WWA) Certified, and superb hi-fi sound, but in a portable. Like Solo, Amico also sports a variable stereo headphone output, fixed stereo line output, USB input which doubles as a smartphone charger, and a stereo auxiliary input.



I’m singe: An early Amico single-driver prototype. Photo by Peter Skiera.



The Cyclops Version

DeVesto’s original concept called for Amico to utilize a single, full-range driver, but listening tests against the Solo proved the two-way acoustic design (3/4” tweeter + 3” dual voice coil woofer) was too superior to ignore. By utilizing a two-way design, a tweeter is dedicated to reproducing the high frequencies while a custom, long-throw mid/woofer is devoted to the mid range and low (bass) frequencies, providing more accurate sound than a lone driver struggling to reproduce the entire frequency range. This is the way most home loudspeakers are designed. Although a two-way design cost more and added more complexity to Amico’s development, we wanted our portable to be all it could be, to borrow a phrase from the Army. In retrospect, it was the right call. Amico represents everything a portable should be and its two-way design, 30 WPC digital amplifier, custom DSP, tuned bass port, and wood case sets its sound apart from the rest. 

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

The similarities between Amico and Solo are not difficult to see. One question we are most often asked from customers trying to decide between the two models is what the differences are between Amico and Solo. There are several key features that sets Amico apart from Solo and indeed competing portable models. The most obvious difference between Solo and Amico is Amico’s upright orientation. This was a deliberate design decision on DeVesto’s part to position the display at a better level for the eyes, put the controls at a more convenient level for the fingers, and to occupy less space. 

Another contrast is the included custom 2200mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery pack allowing you to take your music with you, unlike Solo which is strictly intended for indoor use only. With roughly eight hours of playback on a full charge at 30% volume, Amico will be the last man standing after a party. Plug in the included external power supply and the integrated smart charger fully charges the battery pack in under four hours. No need to buy an external charger. Some of our customers like to be prepared…they buy a spare battery pack and keep it charged up so they can perform a quick swap rather than be caught with a low or dead battery. 



Unpacked: A rare peek inside Amico’s ½” thick marine-grade wood cabinet. Photo by Peter Skiera. 

A less obvious difference is hiding just below the surface…Amico’s wood cabinet. Constructed of thick, marine-grade plywood and assembled using marine-grade glue, this tough substrate is handsomely attired in a real teak wood veneer just like a fine yacht’s interior. Though not water proof, Amico was designed to be splash-resistant. Just do not take it into the pool, lake, pond, or ocean with you, as Amico cannot swim. 

“With roughly eight hours of playback on a full charge at 30% volume, Amico will be the last man standing after a party.”

But Wait. There’s More…

The differences between Amico and Solo do not stop there. Amico’s tuned rear bass port is shaped in such a way to allow it to be used as a convenient built-in carry handle. There is a rubber pad on the bottom so it sits flush with more grip as opposed to Solo’s four rubber bumpers. Also, Amico’s included 100-240V universal power supply (vs. Solo’s power cable) accommodates optional snap-in plugs for use in other countries should you decide to travel with your Amico.



It ain’t heavy, it’s my Amico: Amico posing with its Carry On case. Photo by Peter Skiera.

The Sound That Carries 

Speaking of travel, Amico has its own custom case, in case (excuse the pun) you have not heard. The rigid, light duty case features an integrated handle and thick die cut foam compartments to safely house your musical friend, its dedicated power supply, remote control, an optional spare battery, and those optional snap-in adapter plugs I mentioned earlier. The case is large enough to fit all of these things, yet small enough to easily fit in an airplane’s overhead luggage compartment, or for that matter, behind the seat of your car. Best of all, our Como Audio Carry On case is 100% made in the USA.



Practice safe listening with the Amico Protective Cover. Photo by Como Audio. 

Show Some Skin

If a full-blown travel case is more than you need, consider the Amico Protective Cover, affectionately referred to as a “skin”. Manufactured from premium silicone, the seamless 3 mm (0.12”) thick casing is soft and flexible without adding significant bulk or weight. Yet it is durable enough to provide reliable protection against bumps and scrapes. The Protective Cover offers additional weather resistance for the teak wood veneer and makes Amico easier to grip. The open front and rear design allow for easy access to controls and inputs/outputs with no covers or flaps to open. The Como Audio logo is tastefully embossed in the top, letting others know you go first class when it comes to sound. The Protective Cover will also fit the Amica dedicated right channel speaker. Speaking of which…



I now pronounce you Amico and Amica. Photo by Peter Skiera. 

BFF

Switching gears, something Amico has in common with its Solo cousin is its own optional matching wired speaker, Amica, for stereo sound. The marriage of Amica and Amico results in a huge upgrade…the soundstage opens up dramatically and the imaging is enhanced. Most music is recorded in stereo, and two-channel music loves to take full advantage of these two best buds. If you decide you want an Amica, ask us to add you to our wait list, as we are expecting a small quantity later this month and once those sell out, we will be out of stock for a while due to ongoing COVID supply chain disruptions. 

If you prefer wireless stereo, Amico satisfies there as well. With two Amico’s you can dedicate one to the right channel and the other to the left by setting the rear audio switch on each and grouping the two in the free Como Control app. No need to physically connect the two. Pretty cool.



Check your software every 6 months (or every 5,000 miles if you are traveling). Photo by Peter Skiera.

Are You Up to Date? 

Another feature Amico and Solo have in common is they are both eligible for free software updates. We recently sent a new update to Musicas, Solos, and Duettos, and we issued the same update to all Amicos. This update includes some important upgrades such as support for Internet stations and podcasts that stream using the newer https protocol. We added a new option under the Time/Date menu to select the date format of your choice: MM/DD/YYYY or DD/MM/YYYY. There are also a few unrelated bug fixes specific to Amico pertaining to USB thumb drive playback and the alarm volume. If you own an Amico (or any Como Audio model for that matter), to verify it has the latest software, with Amico on and plugged in to its adapter, press and hold the remote’s Play/Pause key, select System settings > Software update > Check now. We also post a detailed list of all software changes on our website under “Support”. 



The Amico rocks. Photo by Peter Skiera.

It Goes to 11

Like Solo, Amico includes tone controls in its System settings allowing you to tailor the treble and bass to your own liking. But Amico and Solo also share a custom equalizer setting not found in our other models. Based on customer feedback we added an “Enhanced EQ” option in the Equalizer menu. When selected, this setting adds ½ octave of bass for those desiring just a little more octane in their music. 



Musica’s remote has dedicated preset and sleep keys that are compatible with Amico. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Working Remotely

One last similarity I will share: If you want remote access to your presets, get yourself a Musica remote control which can be purchased separately on our website. Amico and Solo’s remote does not include preset keys. The Musica remote includes dedicated preset keys and a dedicated Sleep key, all of which will work with Amico. Of course, you can use the free Como Control app for iOS and Android to access your presets, but a physical remote control is handy and you can never have too many remotes. Okay, you can have too many remotes, but the Musica remote is well worth it. 



Stand and deliver: Amico assuming the position. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Go Play Outside

In addition to questions about the differences between Amico and Solo, we also are frequently asked if we make an outdoor speaker that will wirelessly link with our home music systems so the same music can be enjoyed outside. The answer is yes: Amico. Amico can be grouped via Wi-Fi with our other models connected to the same network (including other Amicos) to play the same source outside without any detectable latency. This means you can play Internet radio, Spotify, Bluetooth, and FM from your Como Audio system inside and enjoy it on Amico outside without running speaker wires everywhere. Why, if you have a turntable connected to your Como Audio music system, you can even hear your favorite vinyl records outdoors!



Bug Off

Listening to FM radio outside reminds me of one of my own summertime radio experiences. Quite a few years back, a very popular Boston classic rock station embedded a high frequency signal in their FM broadcast which listeners were unable to hear, but according to the station, was especially annoying to mosquitos. They claimed if you played their station outdoors it would ward off the pesky female blood suckers. I shall resist the temptation to follow with a wife or mother-in-law joke. The station regularly aired audio clips of a “scientist” who explained the concept without ever actually endorsing it. The benefits were highly dubious, but it garnered the station a lot of media attention and likely gave their ratings a healthy boost over the summer.

Streaming Summer Stations

This story makes for a convenient transition to my next topic: Summertime stations. Summer is here, and not a moment too soon for our mostly naked mouths and noses. Frankly, a face mask tan line is hardly chic. If you are going to take your Amico outside and can connect it to a Wi-Fi network, here are some summertime Internet radio station suggestions for your BBQ, pool, patio/deck, beach day, boat, and beach cottage partying pleasure. I picked out a few locations from our station data base known for their beaches and filtered the myriad stations to come up with these six summertime suggestions of varying genres but all with good sound quality:

  1. Brazil: Radio Inconfidencia FM (Belo Horizonte; 97 kbps, AAC)
Amico streamingRadio Inconfidencia FM from Brazil. Photo by Peter Skiera.

I do not know about you, but Brazil is one of the first countries that comes to mind when I think of great beaches…Copacabana, Ipanema…need I say more? In fact, Brazil has almost 4,700 miles of coastline with no less than 2,000 white-sandy beaches. November through March is the peak beach season in Brazil, so get a jump on the tourists now with Radio Inconfidencia FM. Radio Inconfidencia FM captures the spirit of Brazil and makes itself right at home at whatever beach you are lounging on. 

  1. Mexico: Miled Music – Tropical (256 kbps, MP3)
Miled Music’s inviting station artwork reproduced on an Amico display. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Quite a while back I spent a week in sunny Acapulco. I chose Acapulco because it used to be the playground of the stars…Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, etc. It is where JFK and Jackie had their honeymoon. How times have changed. Now it is a hot spot for violent drug dealers. Quickly setting that unpleasant thought aside, there are plenty of very safe and very beautiful beaches in Mexico. Listening to Miled Music – Tropical drops you everywhere you want to be in Mexico. Add some Mexican to your summer outing by streaming this station from your Amico. 

  1. Jamaica: Jahkno Radio (Kingston; 320 kbps, MP3)
I will bet Jahkno Radio’s bit rate is not the only thing high in Jamaica, man. Photo by Peter Skiera.

I must say, those Sandal Resort television commercials are very enticing. I have been wanting to visit Jamaica for some time, but I think I would enjoy it much more with a significant other. Call me crazy, but SPF 50 sun block always seems more effective when lovingly applied by a significant other. Suffice to say, based on my recent track record, I will not be making the journey to Jamaica any time soon. Life is a beach. Be that as it may, Jahkno Radio streaming from Jamaica’s capital will put you there, be it alone or with your sunscreen partner. And I hope you like jammin’, too. 

  1. Rhode Island: WCRI (Block Island; 64 kbps, AAC)
A Classical Cluster on RI’s WCRI. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Do not look so surprised. After all, Rhode Island is known as “The Ocean State”. Despite being the smallest US state of the fifty, counting its islands, coves, etc., R.I. is host to 400 miles of gorgeous coastline. I grew up in R.I. and my family took our summer vacations in South Kingstown, also known as God’s country. Those are some of the happiest memories I have as a child. One genre that goes hand in hand with the beach is classical music. So much so, The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra performs live on Narragansett Beach with some regularity. 

WCRI is southern RI’s only full-time classical radio station. Its transmitter is located on lovely Block Island which allows its signal to invade southeastern Connecticut. Thanks to Internet radio, you can receive WCRI anywhere, but listening by the ocean is the best. 

  1. Australia: Sunshine FM (Nambour; 63 kbps, AAC)
Sunshine FM is the sunshine of your love. Photo by Peter Skiera. 

I went on holiday in Australia many years ago, though not for the beaches since I went during their fall season to get better rates. Among other things I saw the awesome Twelve Apostles and ate Ostrich meat from an authorized farm. I rented a car and drove from Sydney to Melbourne. At one point on the highway, I passed a huge billboard advertising a women’s-only gym. The image showed several very attractive young women working out in tight fitting outfits with the caption: “No Toms, No Harrys, and definitely No Dicks”. That true story has absolutely nothing to do with this Internet station but I could not resist telling it. 

This Aussy station caught my attention because of its summer-sounding name. Just speaking it triggers a smile from your lips. Its format is classified as “easy listening”, but it is not the kind of easy listening you think. Sunshine FM plays laid back vocals from names you know (Bob Dylan, Cher, The Supremes, Tammy Wynette, Petula Clark, Phil Collins, Mariah Carey), mixed with popular Australian artists you do not know. The varied playlist is as big as the land down under itself. Plus, you just have to love the accent of the announcers. G’day, mate! More shrimp on the barbie? When your day at the beach starts to wind down and the sun begins its deliberate descent, kick this station in. It is the perfect soundtrack to the end of a perfect beach day. 

  1. Greece: Offradio (165 kbps, AAC)
Offradio on an Amico. Photo by Peter Skiera.

I saw a segment on NBC Nightly News reporting on how the hotels in Greece quickly filled up for the summer, mostly by American tourists. Greece is especially known for its beaches and there is no lack of choice. So, an Internet station from Greece must be included in this short list. Offradio is a strange name for a radio station. Their description says they play “handpicked eclectic music for analog minds in digital times.” Catchy, but it really does not tell you much. I would classify the music as techno/electronica, but not like music from outer space. You can equally groove to it, or chill to it, or do one and then the other, especially if no one is watching.   



Amico catching a wave- literally. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Ocean, Here I Come

If you are unable to get to a beach or a boat, why not use Amico to transport the ocean to you and enjoy a stay-cation? Tune an Internet station that streams ocean sound effects, like Positively Ocean (128 kbps, MP3) out of Dubai, and import the warm sand and fresh salt air. Imagine the cool ocean mist gently caressing the cheeks of your mind. Let it become your oasis of relaxation. I like Positively Ocean over the others because it has much more wave variety. Some ambient stations sound like they have their nature sounds on a continuous twenty-minute loop, but not Positively Ocean. Whether I am in the office or at home, I will pop on Positively Ocean when I find myself needing a momentary lapse of reason. There is nothing quite like the serenity of ocean waves. Granted, it is not the same as being there, but it sure beats listening to loud traffic and guttural motorcycles all summer long. 



The Como Audio Summer Playlist on Spotify.

Spotify Hits the Spot

As I mentioned, Internet radio is not the only thing to play from your Amico this summer. There is also FM, Bluetooth, Auxiliary in, and Spotify Connect to enjoy. We curated our own Spotify Connect Como Audio Summer Playlist for you to enjoy on your Amico or other Como Audio music system. Just search in the free Spotify app under comoaudio, click on our profile, scroll down to access our playlists and start streaming some summer fun. Save our playlist to a preset on your Como Audio system and listen with the press of a button without having to fire up your smartphone. 



Look Ma, no wires! The Como Audio Amico sitting pretty in an outdoor garden. Photo by John K. 

Say Cheeeese

Recently we asked Amico owners to send us some pictures of their outdoor friend for us to share on social media. The above garden photo was sent to me by John of Califon, New Jersey (“The Garden State”), who also owns a Como Audio Duetto. Of his Amico, John told me “[it] makes the transition from indoors to outdoor with style and grace! Excellent Wi-Fi range, ingenious handle, and rubber base make it easy to enhance any outdoor activities. The sound is rich and well balanced and I love [the] simple interface (no downloads, computer, phone needed!” 

If you have not yet done so, it is not too late to send us a pic of your Amico outside. This is not a contest so you will not win anything, but your Amico will get its well-deserved fifteen minutes of fame. Incidentally, be sure you are signed up on our email list so you will be notified of these kinds of things as well as important messages and specials. It is the best way to stay up to date on all things Como Audio. 



What Say You?

After purchasing his Amico, Willie K of Brookline, MA told us: “It is great!!! It lives up to my expectations and then some! As a classical music lover I am particularly conscious of sound quality. The sound is excellent! I was particularly interested in the Amico since it is portable, permitting me to play it wherever convenient without concern about nearly outlets. It lives up to expectations on this front, enabling me to listen wherever convenient, even the back yard. The battery has enough capacity so that even after a few hours of portable listening there seems to be much battery life left. It recharges quickly. Wonderful! What else could I ask for?”

We really appreciate it when our customers leave honest, favorable reviews. Here is a sampling of five- star comments from Amico owners posted on Amazon:

“The thoughtfulness of every aspect of hardware and software (on screen UI and app control) is absolutely excellent. Highly recommended. Buy it.” – Prime Reviewer 

“I have a number of quality table top and bookshelf music systems…as well as the Como Amico paired with the Amica for stereo. If I had to choose just one it would be the Como. It comes closest to replicating the uncolored sound of a quality hi-fi system plus has the benefit of the Amico being portable. It can also play quite loud without distortion.” – Junior Mintz

“I want to take the time to give Kudos to all the folks responsible for bringing this awesome piece of equipment into my home. If you are a radio buff, like myself, you are going to love this and the same holds true for those of you who aren’t radio enthusiasts but still listen. The sound quality is quite enjoyably superb and the styling is sleek and attractive. It will give you hours upon hours of unlimited listening pleasures.” – Amazon Customer

“Better sound quality and extras then I imagined.” – Genny B

“I’m using the Amico to provide additional capabilities to my home stereo system via its line output and it does a great job. I have used other Como Audio products since 2016 and I recommend them unreservedly. They also have very responsive tech support…” – Harvey L.

“Looks great, sounds great. Hard to find something that will play local over the air FM stations as well as all the connected music options. This fits the bill perfectly.” – Z

“Whether I’m listening to talk radio or using it to play my MP3s, I’ve found it to be great. Occasionally, I play with more advanced features. I’m amused by listening to international radio stations.” – Amazon Customer

“Works well, very beautiful.” – SNJR



Made in the shade with my Amico. BTW, that drink is Sprite + cranberry juice. Scout’s honor. Photo by Peter Skiera.

To Group or Not to Group

In my case, I take my Amico out onto my small deck (see pic above). I cannot have permanent outdoor speakers because the salt air would turn them into rust buckets, so I rely on Amico. Thankfully, my Wi-Fi network extends just barely enough outside of my house for me to be able to access Internet radio. I can listen to my My Favorites while I charge my Motorola smartphone from Amico’s UBS jack. Sometimes I will connect my smartphone to Amico via Bluetooth and stream my music files while I relax on the deck. If I have an Internet station playing on my Musica in my kitchen, I will group it with my Amico outside on the deck and have the same station playing on both without any audio delay. I can control everything from the free Como Control app for iOS and Android on my smartphone, such as having my Musica at one volume level and my Amico at a different level. I can also access the tone controls and presets from the app for…no need to have the Amico remote control nearby at all times. 



Amico catching some rays. Photo by Peter Skiera.

The Radios They Are A-Changin’

It used to be that having a portable radio meant listening to Wolman Jack, Cousin Brucie, Dave Hull, or Murray the K on a cheap, plastic, mono transistor AM radio filled with big alkaline batteries, and the louder you played it, the worse it sounded! Times have changed. With its many music sources, multiroom capability, alarm clock functions, marine-grade wood cabinet, and custom rechargeable battery pack, the Amico smart music system is indeed smart fun in the summer sun. It is even smarter if you have an outdoor hot spot (pun intended). Connect to your Wi-Fi network and listen to Internet radio stations from around the world in hi-fi sound with no noise, no antenna, and no fees. Amico also makes for a thoughtful wedding, housewarming, Birthday, and anniversary gift. The gift of music is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Ready? Set? Summer! With summer here, our mouths and noses finally liberated, and most of us finally getting outside, now is the time to consider the Como Audio Amico and get the most out of summer. Look around and you will find there are not a lot of portable Internet radios on the market, and almost none like Amico. Alas, summer will not last forever. It’s “use by” date will be here before you know it, so do not delay the ideal outdoor way to enjoy the music. 



Amico’s vital statistics:

Dimensions: 9.53” (242 mm) H x 4.96” (126 mm) W x 5.87” (149 mm) D (including antenna and knobs)

Weight: 4.3 lbs (1.95)kg 

Battery pack: 14.8V, 2200mAh

Average charge time: 4-4.5 hours

Average playback time: 8 hours (depending on volume level and source)

Power supply: 18V/2.8A, 100-240V, 50-60Hz

Audio inputs: Aux 3.5mm, USB

Audio outputs: Headphone 3.5mm, Line out 3.5mm, RCA (for optional Amica Speaker)



July Birthdays:

Debbie Harry
John Waite
Huey Lewis
Ringo Starr
Christine McVie
Linda Ronstadt
Carlos Santana
Kim Carnes
Don Henley
Mick Jagger
Cat Stevens
Paul Anka
David Sanborn
50 Cent
Robbie Robertson
Joan Osbourne
Suzanne Vega





August Tech Rap: Happy Birthday,…



Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development in 2016. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

Links:

Como Audio Amico

Como Audio Spotify Playlist

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