In light of recent events, I thought this would be an appropriate time to post another Ask Como Audio article. I’ve split this article into 2 sections. The first is about the company and the second section covers more product questions.
Yes. As of February 28, 2023, our office is closed and we ceased accepting orders. We did everything we could to keep the company going but in the end we had to face the fact that it was impossible for the company to survive under the circumstances. We didn’t try to keep it a secret. We sent emails to everyone on our email list and ran ads in the New York Times. It’s been our pleasure to bring you great sounding music over the last 6+ years and we hope you enjoy your Como Audio music system(s) for years to come.
2. What was the issue?
Electronic components have been harder to obtain and at higher prices and much higher required quantities. This resulted in us being out of stock of our best selling and most profitable model, Musica, for quite some time. We fielded questions almost on a daily basis from customers asking us when we’d have Muscia back in stock. It would likely take us a year to get more Musicas, possibly even longer. The company couldn’t sustain itself on such a business model. We tried to cut expenses as much as we could but the reality was the company couldn’t continue to operate under such conditions.
3. Will I still be able to tune Internet stations?
Yes. The company that manages the Internet radio station database has no financial connection with Como Audio.
4. Will My Favorites and the Nuvola station portal still work?
Same answer as #4 above.
5. Will the Como Control app still work?
Yes, but it won’t be updated. The free generic version, UnDok, will continue to get updates and operates mostly the same as the Como app.
6. Will my music system still receive free software updates?
Not likely. The updates were defined, tested, and debugged by Como Audio and we paid our software partner to issue them. That infrastructure will no longer exist. However, we haven’t issued a new software update in nearly 2 years and our models continue to operate well.
7. What happens to my warranty? What if I need a repair?
There is no longer any method to support warranty claims or out of warranty repairs. You would need to consult a local electronics repair shop. The potential of not having a warranty and software updates was factored into the low prices in our big clearance sale. As of February, we are no longer accepting repairs. If your Como Audio Turntable requires repair we suggest you inquire here. Turntable Pro-ject belts and styli (Ortofon OM5e and OM10) are not proprietary to Como Audio and can be readily sourced over the Internet.
8. I own an Amico or a Como Blu Stereo. Where can I buy a replacement battery pack?
No party ever expressed an interest in licensing our proprietary battery pack so Como Audio was the only source. There’s no other place to source one. If you come across a ‘copy cat’ battery we strongly advise you to avoid it because it wasn’t authorized and likely won’t meet our specs or include the thermal protection circuit.
9. What about future tech support?
Normally when a company goes out of business they simply disappear. As a courtesy to our customers, we’re keeping our support resources (how-to videos, user manuals, blog articles) available on our website through most if not all of March. What happens after that is unclear since there are costs involved to maintain our site. Our how-to videos will remain accessible for free on YouTube. Former General Manager Peter Skiera who authored the user manuals, quality control criteria, web blog articles, recorded the how-to videos, and Product Managed every Como Audio model, can be contacted through his website: www.RecommendedStations.com. He has copies of all the user manuals and most of his Como blog articles. If you enjoyed Como Audio’s blog, you’ll find interesting music and radio station related articles on his website.
10. Is your Braintree, MA office still open?
No, our office is closed.
11. Can I still phone your office?
No. Messages will not be monitored and calls won’t be returned.
12. What does “all sales final” mean? If I made a purchase from your clearance sale can I return it for a refund or an exchange?
No. Due to the extreme discounts and the significant loss we’re taking, all sales are final, and we’ve tried to make this clear in our emails. There’s also no longer any infrastructure in place to facilitate returns/exchanges.
13. Why does everything say “out of stock” on your website?
Most models were sold out during our big February clearance sale. Any remaining inventory now belongs to our creditors. Our website can no longer process orders and our office and warehouse are closed.
14. What about your plans for US manufacturing?
Despite multiple attempts, we fell far short of raising the millions of dollars necessary to create a manufacturing facility, purchase equipment and materials, and hire the required staff.
Yes. You’ll see a splash screen warning. The amount of time you have left on the battery varies depending on what you’re playing and at what volume level but you should connect the external power supply ASAP or replace the battery with a fully charged spare pack.
2. Can I use the Ambiente instead of the Amica speaker with Amico?
You can use an Ambinete with an Amico without causing any harm but Ambiente wasn’t made in teak wood like Amica, its drivers are oriented differently, its rear bass port doesn’t double as a carry handle, and it has 4 rubber bumpers instead of a flat rubber pad. Other than those differences it sounds almost the same as Amica.
3. Why aren’t the Amica and Ambiente speakers wireless?
It might strike you as odd that we designed wireless music systems, yet these speaker models aren’t wireless. This was a cost decision. To make them wireless would require adding an amplifier, Wi-Fi module, controls, and a display. Adding these things basically makes them a Solo or an Amico. In order to offer a less expensive stereo option we made these models with an audio cable. You can buy a second Solo or Amico and get true wireless stereo without a cable between the two models.
4. Can I use a pair of Ambiente’s as regular wired passive speakers with a receiver or amplifier?
Yes. The Ambente was designed as a regular wired speaker but its audio cable terminates in a male RCA connector. You can cut the RCA connector off, strip the insulation, and connect the exposed wire to your amp or receiver. The side with the printed text should go into the positive terminal of your receiver/amp. Note the Ambiente is rated to handle no more than 30 watts max so watch your volume!
5. I heard a message on a BBC station warning that BBC Internet stations might not be available after the middle of 2023. What’s that all about?
The BBC will stop streaming using the older Shoutcast platform which some Internet radios don’t support and will switch over to both HLS and DASH starting around mid-2023. Your Como Audio model supports DASH technology so we are expecting our customers will still be able to listen to BBC Internet radio stations after the changeover. Please be sure your Como Audio model’s software is up to date: System settings > Software update > Check now.
6. Why is it when I play certain Internet stations in the portal a separate player opens up?
It’s a work around because in such cases the station’s stream is using the older http protocol instead of https and only the newer https protocol is supported.
7. Why are all of my Spotify playlists stuck in shuffle mode?
Per Spotify, the free version of Spotify is frozen in Shuffle mode. There is no ability to cancel Shuffle mode unless you have a paid Premium Spotify subscription.
8. Why can’t I save a Spotify playlist to a preset? Can I store more than 1 Spotify Playlist?
Per Spotify, if said Playlist is too long, the preset is unable to store it. Spotify has yet to define what “too long” is, so it’s trial and error. Assuming you find lists that aren’t too long, you can save each to its own preset. There is no limit.
9. Why is the volume control with Spotify behaving erratically?
This was caused after Apple updated to iOS 16. Previous software versions didn’t exhibit this problem. The work around is to stream Spotify from your computer instead of your iPhone or use the free UnDok app which behaves similar to the Como Control app but is the generic version.
10. I’m getting no sound/low sound/distorted sound from my Turntable. What can I do?
There is a plastic yellow/orange band at the end of the included audio able. Be sure the end with the plastic-colored band is connected to your Como Audio model (or the 3.5mm adapter) not to the Turntable’s jacks. The direction is important.
Also, be sure the audio cable and power supply are not next to each other or bundled together. This can pick up noise and inject it into the audio path.
Be sure the 3.5mm adapter is fully seated in the input. Try the other Aux input and see if that’s any better.
If you’re using the audio cable instead of Bluetooth, be sure the cable is connected to the correct output of the Turntable. If you’re connecting to a Como Audio model or other device’s Aux in, depending on which model you own, be sure to use the Turntable’s Line out jacks or set the phono pre-amp switch to Line. I have a video on our site that runs through these tips.
11. I’m unable to pair my Bluetooth Turntable (BT TT) to my Como Audio model or other BT device. What can I do?
There are several tips you can try.
First, be sure the TT’s power supply isn’t near the TT. Same thing with a Wi-Fi router. Both of these can interfere with Bluetooth.
Next, if possible, get the receiving device or the TT very close to each other. Once they’re connected you can then place it where you want it.
The BT TT has no memory but your receiving device probably does. Clear it’s memory (this might be done via a Factory reset) and try pairing again.
Place the BT TT on and leave it for about 30 minutes and check it again. Sometimes it takes an extended time for initial paring and connecting to occur. Once connected it shouldn’t take so long the next time.
12. Do you recommend any kind of “preventative maintenance” for your radios?
Yes. Resetting your router/modem every 4 months or so helps reduce Wi-Fi-related issues. There should be a reset or reboot button on the back of your router. Some routers might have a recessed button that requires inserting a bent paper clip. You can also unplug your router for 10 seconds and plug it back in as a reset. Even if other devices are fine, this often prevents Wi-Fi related issues with our models.
13. Do your models use an auto backlight dimmer?
Except for Como Blu Stereo, our models don’t have an auto dimmer. There are, however, basic adjustments provided in the backlight menu.
14. Does Como Blu Stereo use the same DSP, digital stereo amplifier, and drivers as your other models?
Yes, it does, so the power and sound quality will be almost the same.
15. I cannot access the Menu in Bluetooth mode except in the Musica.
This is normal software behavior in all of our models except for Musica.
16. Why doesn’t Tidal work in the Como Control app on Musica?
Tidal made changes to its log in requirements, presumably for security reasons, and these changes caused a problem with our app. You can log in using the free UnDok app which works mostly like our app but isn’t branded with Como Audio’s name.
17. Can the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) in my model be switched off?
No. You can tailor the sound in the EQ menu but the DSP cannot be switch off.
18. My Amico didn’t come with a US plug for the external power supply. What can I do?
The supplier of the various snap-in plastic plugs for the external adapter closed and we were unable to get more US plugs. These plugs were proprietary so we couldn’t get them anywhere else. In it’s place we provided a US adapter allowing you to install the CE plug onto the Amico power supply and then sliding the US adapter over the CE plug so it could be safely used in a US electrical outlet. After we closed we received word from several customers that their Amico shipped without this US adapter. Now that we’re out of business, we no longer have the ability to provide the adapter. Our apologies for the major inconvenience, yet the good news is this EU to US adapter is universal, inexpensive, and can be sourced from many different places including Amazon.
19. I get a “timeout error” when I try to tune any Internet radio station. I have a ASUS smart router. What can I do?
Disable the “Smart Connect” feature on your router and then you’ll be able to tune Internet stations. Just tap the “Smart Connect” entry and choose “Disable”. Then tap “OK” followed by “Apply” and “OK”. Your router will require a couple of moments to restart the Wi-Fi and apply the new settings.
20. I’m was an investor. Where can I get information about the company’s performance?
The Annual Report, Form C-AR, should be available on our WeFunder page. It’s public information and is also available for download direct from the SEC’s website: https://www.sec.gov/edgar/search/#/q=Como%2520Audio
Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers/Rotel, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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+?
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+.
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?
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 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.
Have You Gone Global Yet?
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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|
|NPO Radio 1|
|BBC World Service|
|BBC Radio 4|
|WQXR 105.9 FM|
|BBC Radio 6 Music|
|WNYC 93.9 FM|
|VRT Radio 1|
|Radio Swiss Classic|
|NPO Radio 4|
|BBC Radio 3|
|NPO Radio 2|
|SomaFM – Left Coast 70s|
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|
|BBC Radio 4|
|NDR 1 Niedersachsen Hannover|
|NDR 2 Niedersachsen|
|BBC Radio 2|
|BAYERN 1 Oberbayern|
|RTÉ Radio 1|
|Klassik Radio Live|
|Ostseewelle Region Müritz/Usedom|
|NPO Radio 1|
|Radio Nowy Świat|
|WDR 2 Rheinland|
|OLDIE ANTENNE – Oldies|
Take time to explore some of the stations on these two lists. There’s a reason they made the Top 30.
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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Chapin Carpenter
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
John Paul Jones
Mary J Blige
LL Cool J
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
|Brittney Spears |
|Michael Mc Donald|
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.
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
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.
Stocking different colors and lengths of power cords is not an option due to the very large quantities we would be required to buy of each from cord suppliers. However, our power cords are not proprietary, so you should be able to source what you want on the Internet. You can use just about any UL certified, 125 Volt, 7-10 Amp, figure 8 cord. Our cords are about 9’ long but you if you’re buying a new cord you can get the length you want.
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 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.
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.
Not all Internet radio stations support a preview option in the portal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If your Como Audio model experiences a problem, such as static discharge or a momentary surge, it could lock up in protect mode showing “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 disconnect 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. In future you might wish to consider getting an inexpensive surge protector to plug your music system into and applying the included grey silicone covers over the knobs to reduce the chance of static discharge when touching the metal knobs particularly during the winter months.
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.
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”.
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.
Yes, our Bluetooth and Analog Turntable models come with a clear dust cover that is removable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our Turntable Analog comes with the Ortofon OM5e stylus. Its specifications may be found at the end of the Turntable Analog’s user manual on our website under “Support”. 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Ricki Lee Jones|
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.”
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…”
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.
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.
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.
Harry Connick Jr
Jerry Lee Lewis
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 email@example.com
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.
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:
Trivia: What were the first ten music videos ever to air on MTV?
Cool Is Their Rule
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.
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?
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?
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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
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
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
|Sarah Brightman |
Lee Ann Womack
Billy Ray Cyrus
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Hunter’s Sidewalk Moving Pictures
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
You’ve reached our US based website. Please click one of the links below to see products and offerings in your area.