Tech Rap: Easter Eggs
Spring is in the air. To quote Victorian-era poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of Easter eggs”. Actually, he said it turns to thoughts of love, but I took the liberty of modifying the line from his 1842 poem, Locksley Hall, to suit this month’s Tech Rap. I thought an April Tech Rap about Easter eggs would be apropos. No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. In this context, Easter eggs refer to hidden features, like hidden Easter eggs on Easter.
Honesty prevents me from claiming ownership of the clever Easter egg term. It was popularized in the early 2000’s as DVD menus became more elaborate. Extra hidden special features like bloopers and deleted scenes became known as “Easter eggs”. One of the earliest known Easter eggs was found in Apple Macintosh’s operating system from 1984. According to hiddendvdeastereggs.com, “By holding down the Option key and selecting the Apple menu, the first item becomes ‘About the Finder’ and a crude B&W graphic of Silicon Valley would come up with the names of all who worked on the OS.”
Truth be known, none of our features are deliberately hidden, but I admit some could be easier to discover than they are. As you have no doubt experienced, our models do a lot of things, and the user manuals can only go into so much detail without turning into the size a telephone book from the 1980’s. This means not every feature gets covered in the manuals. We have numerous how-to videos on our website under “Support” as well as a 50+ page Comprehensive manual that covers most of the features in detail, but the reality is, few people read manuals cover-to-cover if at all. Since I author all of our manuals, I will try not to take that personally. In this month’s Tech Rap, I highlight twenty-five Easter egg features I think you would use if you knew they existed. Let the hunt begin!
- One and Done Presets
Most everyone knows what preset buttons are and how they work, but did you know Como Audio reinvented the preset? For one thing, you do not have to power your Como Audio system on to use a preset. With your system in standby, simply press any preset button on the front panel (or on Musica’s remote control) and the unit will power on and play that source at the last used volume level.
Another reason our presets are different is because they are independent, meaning you do not need to be in the source of the preset for it work. For example, if a preset has an Internet radio station stored to it and you are in Auxiliary mode, press that preset and your Como Audio model will automatically switch from Aux to Internet radio and play the station saved to that preset. One and done.
2. All About That Bass
In direct response to customer feedback, a while back we issued a free software update that added a special setting under the Equalizer in the System settings menu exclusively for Solo and Amico users called “Enhanced EQ”. When selected, this option adds ½ octave of bass. Since Duetto and Musica have better bass response due to their larger internal box volume and two sets of woofers, those models do not include this special EQ setting. Of course, you can adjust the bass level and Loudness control on any of our models in System settings > Equalizer > My EQ profile. After all, it is all about that bass.
3. Super Size Me
The color display on your Como Audio system is quite nice, so why not take full advantage? When album artwork is displayed, such as when streaming music via Spotify, Amazon Music (Musica model only) etc., or for a better look at Internet radio station logos, press the center Menu knob in briefly and the artwork/logo will expand. It may take a moment for the image to appear depending on the resolution of the image and how fast your Wi-Fi network is, but from then on, your artwork and logos will be living large.
4. Take the Short Cut
There are many options in the source menu and navigating through all of them can be a chore. Although you cannot remove or hide sources you do not use, you can save oft-used sources to the presets, bypassing the need to constantly scroll through the many sources and select the ones you use most. For example, Bluetooth, Auxiliary in, CD (Musica only), and even a Spotify playlist can be saved as a preset. Save yourself some time by taking the short cut.
5. Do You Mind? I’m Trying to Sleep.
Need to turn your display completely off when the unit is in standby so you can sleep at night? With your Como Audio system in standby, press any key twice on the remote control (except Power, Alarm, or Sleep) to turn the display’s backlight off. Press any key twice again to turn the display on and off again automatically after 10 seconds. This is handy if you want to briefly see what time it is and then have the display turn off again by itself. Press any remote key twice again to restore the display’s backlight on. The center Menu knob duplicates the same behavior if you are not keen on fiddling with the remote in the dark. Nighty-night.
6. Don’t Be Alarmed
Although it is necessary to have your Como Audio system on to go into the alarm menu to set the different alarm parameters, perhaps you are not aware it is not necessary to power your system on if you all you need to do is set the alarm on or off. To do so with the unit in standby, just press the remote control’s Alarm key (alarm clock icon in the lower right) repeatedly to cycle the two independent alarms on or off. Tiny alarm icons at the bottom of the display will indicate which alarms are set to activate and at what time. Alarms do not need to be complicated, and the alarm key on your remote makes it easy. Wake me up before you go-go.
And just in case you did not know, to Snooze the alarm after it activates, just briefly press the middle knob on the front panel or the Mute key on the remote control. If you press it repeatedly you will be presented with more snooze timer options for your snoozing enjoyment. Now, if we only had a button that stopped you from snoring…
7. Please, Don’t Get Up.
The remote control included with Solo, Duetto, and Amico does not support presets and Sleep like the remote to our top-of-the line Musica model does. The user manuals for those models available on our website under “Support” describe the remote’s functions in detail.
However, the Musica remote’s dedicated preset keys (1-6) will work with our other models, and the dedicated Sleep key will work with Amico. If you own a model other than (or in addition to) Musica and want the convenience of direct preset access via the remote, get yourself a Musica remote control and use your original remote as a spare in another part of your home. It also isn’t a bad thing to have an extra remote available.
If you do not want to purchase a Musica remote you can access the presets remotely for free via the free Como Control app for iOS and Android. Just be aware the presets in the app work a little differently than on the remote. Each source in the app will only show the presets for that source. For example, if you are in Internet radio mode, only Internet stations will show in the presets while presets storing non-Internet stations such as FM will show as “Empty”. Likewise, in FM mode, any non-FM presets will show as “Empty”.
8. Seek and Ye Shall Find
You know how to tune FM stations manually by rotating the middle knob in FM mode, but did you know the FM tuner will also seek out stations? While in FM mode with the rear external antenna fully extended, press the front panel’s Menu knob in briefly, or the remote control’s Play/Pause key briefly, to auto-seek to the next strongest FM station. A weak station or strong noise can fool the auto-seek, but this can be adjusted in the System settings menu. While in FM mode, press and hold the remote control’s Play/Pause key and select Scan setting at the top of the menu. You will be asked if you wish to scan strong stations. If you select Yes, the auto seek will be more selective about what frequencies it stops on. If you select No, the auto-seek will stop on most any strong signal, be it a radio station or noise. Tune FM stations on your own, let the Seek function find them for you, or try a combination of the two and get your FM on.
9. Presets: The More the Merrier
Having just six (or 8 in the case of Musica) presets can be a little restricting, but if you own more than one Como Audio model and have them grouped, you will be happy to know you can dramatically increase the number of presets. How? Simply save different stations to the presets on each unit. Since the units are grouped, any preset you press from any model will play on all the grouped models, effectively doubling, tripling, quadrupling, or even quintupling your total preset count! The more the merrier.
10. Time for A Reboot
If you experience any odd behavior with your music system, the first action to take is to reboot your router. Wi-Fi can leave confusing tracks in the snow and a router reboot clears away those tracks creating a fresh path. It is advised to perform a router reboot every few months as “preventative maintenance”.
The other thing to try is a System reboot as found in the System settings menu of your Como Audio system. A reboot power-cycles the unit without you having to fish out the power cord, unplug it, and plug it back in again. If you own a Musica or an Amico, it gets even easier. There is a tiny reboot button on the rear panel that accomplishes the same thing without having to go into the menu. Unlike a Factory reset, you will not lose any settings or have to repeat the setup process after performing a reboot.
A full Factory reset should be a last resort, but it is good to know how to perform one should the need arise. If you need to perform a Factory reset but are unable to get into the menu to do it because of a display issue or because the unit is frozen, you can still perform a Factory reset using this little trick: Unplug the unit, press and hold the Power and Menu knobs in while plugging the cord back in, and release the knobs when the display illuminates. This will require you to repeat the setup and re-save your presets but usually clears gremlins if the other options do not.
11. Juice Me Up
Even if you do not use a USB thumb drive to play music, that does not mean you have no use for the rear USB jack on your Como Audio system. The USB jack will also charge your smartphone. So, if you notice your phone is running on fumes, plug it into the USB jack and fill ‘er up.
12. Watch Your Tone.
As great as our hi-fi music systems sound, it is nice to know there are adjustable tone controls (“EQ”) in the System settings menu. But what if you want a specific source to use specific tone settings? For example, perhaps there is an Internet radio station you listen to frequently that requires more bass, but you do not want the other sources to be affected. What to do? With your music system on, press and hold the remote’s Play/Pause key, go to System settings > Equalizer > My EQ profile setup > Adjust the tone controls as desired. Press the remote control’s previous track (left arrow key) and select (Play key) Yes to save your changes. From this point on, any time you want to engage that custom EQ setting, go into the Equalizer menu and select My EQ and those settings will instantly be applied to whatever source you are listening to. To return to the default tone settings any time, go back into the Equalizer menu and select “Flat”. There will be a tiny asterisk to the extreme right indicating whichever EQ setting is currently in use. Just watch your tone.
13. Zoom, Zoom
Zoom became a regular part of our vocabulary not long after the pandemic hit. If you want to hear your Zoom meeting through your Como Audio system, just pair and connect your computer wirelessly to your Como Audio model via Bluetooth. Next, in the Zoom app on your computer, set the speaker (microphone icon) in the Zoom drop-down menu to your Como Audio model. You will still use the microphone in your computer when you speak, but you will hear the audio through your Como Audio system. It will be nice when we can return to in-person meetings. Until then, feel free to Zoom to your heart’s content with your Como Audio system.
14. Spotify Freemium
As you know, all of our models support the premium (paid) version of Spotify Connect, but you might not be aware that the free version of Spotify is also supported thanks to a free software update we issued a while back. The features with the free version are more limited, like only getting six song skips per hour, and you will have to tolerate advertisements, but you will be able to use the free version with your Como Audio system without having to use Bluetooth like before. Hey, free is good.
As a quick side bar, if you ever want to know what is included in a software update, just go to the “Support” version of our website and click on “Software updates” to get all the details.
15. Cutting the Cord
If you own our mono models, Solo or Amico, you are not experiencing music in stereo which is the way most music is recorded. To get stereo, just add the wired Ambiente to Solo or an Amica to the Amico and set the rear audio switch to “ST”. But did you know you can enjoy wireless stereo with those models? If you do not want a wire connecting the two units, add a second Solo or Amico, set the rear switch to “L” (Left) on one and “R” (Right) on the other, then group the two units using the free Como Control app. Now you have instant true wireless two-channel stereo! Be sure you have a strong, stable Wi-Fi network because the wireless arrangement requires a robust signal.
Whether you use the wired or wireless method, the upgrade to stereo and a broad, convincing sound stage, means you will get the most out of your music. Amaze your friends with the magic of stereophonic sound.
Note Musica and Duetto do not include this option because those single-piece models are already two-channel stereo.
16. Hooking Up with Alexa
The growth of “Personal Assistants” like Alexa has been astounding. Unfortunately for music lovers, most of these devices sound pretty bad. Fortunately, Como Audio gives you several methods to use your Alexa device with your Como Audio music system.
The quickest and easiest way is to simply run an audio cable from the Alexa device’s output to the Aux input of your Como Audio model and place it in Aux mode to hear whatever is playing on your Alexa. You can even save the Aux in to a preset for easy access. Done and done.
Prefer wireless? Connecting your Alexa device wirelessly via Bluetooth is as easy as raspberry pie. Assuming your Alexa device has already been setup, at the bottom of the Alexa app, select “Devices”, then select “Echo and Alexa”, then select your Alexa device from the list. Next, place your Como Audio model in Bluetooth mode (with the unit on, rotate the Source knob until Bluetooth mode is highlighted and push the Source knob in briefly to select it), select “Bluetooth Devices” in the Alexa app followed by “Pair New Device”. Now, select your Como Audio model (e.g. “Solo”) when it appears in the list in the Alexa app. Your Alexa device will then pair and connect to your Como Audio system and henceforth, everything from Alexa will come through your Como Audio music system.
If you are the adventurous type, you can connect your Alexa device using “Works with Alexa”. We did not see much point in building Alexa into our models considering most people who want Alexa already have the device(s). And for those who do not want it, why pay extra for a Como Audio model to get a feature you will never use? Works with Alexa means there is no Alexa built into our models, and no microphones, but for those who own an Alexa device, you can mate it with your Como Audio model via Wi-Fi. Once this is done you will still use your Alexa device’s microphones, but you will hear Amazon Music and TuneIn radio through your Como Audio system, plus gain basic voice commands such as Power, Volume, etc. The setup is on the extensive side so I shot a couple of how-to videos to walk you through the process. Caution- Alexa can be temperamental. She likes her Wi-Fi network strong and stable.
17. Sleeping with the Como Control App
The Sleep timer provides a maximum sleep time of 60 minutes. However, if you download and install the free Como Control app for iOS and Android smart devices you will be presented the additional options of 90 and 120 minutes in the Sleep setting of the app. I ask you- Who could not use more ZZzzz’s?
18. Standby to Transmit
Wireless headphones are truly liberating. Being able to move about without being tethered to an audio umbilical cord is priceless. Our models do not include a Bluetooth transmitter to send sound to Bluetooth headphones, but such transmitters can be had for not a lot of dough, and connecting one is a cinch. Plug the transmitter’s input into your Como Audio model’s Headphone output and the transmitter will stream the stereo sound wirelessly to your Bluetooth headphones like magic. Alternately, you could connect the transmitter to the stereo Line output of your Como Audio model and set its volume at Level 1. Using this method means you will not have to disconnect the transmitter every time you want to hear sound from your Como Audio music system.
Another advantage to using an outboard transmitter is you can get one with more features that might be supported by your headphones. Our models support standard aptX, but some stand-alone Bluetooth transmitters also support aptX Low Latency, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive, some or all of which your headphones might decode. It used to be when we heard the word “transmission” we thought of our car. Over the last year that word made us think of a virus. In the case of Bluetooth headphones, transmission is all good.
19. My Favorite Things
Whomever invented the Preset should be awarded a medal. The next best thing to presets is My Favorites. This option allows you to store an almost unlimited number of Internet radio stations. With 58,000 stations in the data base and more added each day, storage is important. You must register on the free portal to setup this feature, but once you do, you do not have to keep going to the portal to use My Favorites (unless you want to). The setup process is described in a previous Tech Rap article. If you listen to a lot of Internet radio like I do and have run out of available presets, this feature is indispensable. Clearly, My Favorites was what Julie Andrews was thinking of when she sang My Favorite Things.
20. 78’s Are Great
If you have or plan to get some 78 RPM records and you own the Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable, you can play them! The Turntable comes with a second belt that supports 78 RPM speed via the lower pulley section and setting the speed control to 45 RPM. But do not use the supplied OM10 with your 78s or you will destroy the stylus and that will not be covered under warranty. Pull off the OM10 stylus and slide the OM78 in its place and you are good to go. Give us a call to order the optional OM78 which is specifically designed to handle those brittle 78 RPM platters. Easy peasy. Note the Como Audio Turntable Analog does not support 78 RPM speed.
21. Going Big Time
Our round analog clock adds a touch of elegance, but it can be difficult to tell the time from a distance. If you suffer from myopia like I do, just change the analog clock over to digital and go big time. With the unit on, press and hold the Play/Pause key on your remote control, go into the System settings menu > Time/Date > Standby format > Digital. Now, whenever you place your music system in standby mode, you will see the time expressed in large digits along with the date at the top of the display. Give yourself a rest from those coke bottle-bottom glasses.
22. Hand Me the Wrench
If you want reliable radio without noise and reception problems, Internet radio is definitely the answer. If you do not have your music system connected to your Wi-Fi network, please consider doing so, as you are missing out on 58,000 free stations from all over the world. Think of it as short wave without noise and in stereo. However, if your favorite FM station is still operating in the dark ages and does not stream on the Internet, your only choice is standard FM. We include FM on our legacy models primarily as a backup source in case your Wi-Fi network becomes unavailable for whatever reason. Regardless, if you use the FM and experience reception issues even with the antenna fully extended, consider trying a different external antenna, such as an amplified antenna or a dipole. Changing your music system’s antenna does not involve power tools or plastic explosives. Como Audio sells a proprietary plastic wrench used to easily remove the stock antenna, allowing you to connect an external FM antenna of your choice (the wrench comes with a basic FM wire antenna). Slide the wrench down the antenna and push it over its connector at the end, turn the wrench counter clockwise to loosen the antenna, then turn the antenna until it comes off. Save the wrench just in case you ever need it again (you never know). Hands-down, Internet radio is the way to go (FM is so 1970’s), but if you still rely on traditional FM, order our wrench, connect your own FM antenna, and see what stations you can reel in.
23. Got HD?
We often receive emails asking whether our models support HD Radio. The answer is yes and no. Although our models do not have an integrated HD Radio tuner (we are not aware of a product currently on the market like ours that does), there are many AM & FM HD Radio stations that stream their HD multi-cast “channels” over the Internet (e.g., HD-2, HD-3).
One drawback to HD Radio is its signal coverage tends to be a smaller footprint than its analog counterpart, causing an HD station to continually flip between digital and analog. Internet radio neutralizes that shortcoming. Plus, the Internet stream has the same frequency response as the source HD channel, so it will still sound great. And you will see the HD station logo and song/artist meta data if they are provided by the station.
If you are a North American customer you have probably seen “HDi” in the Station list menu in Internet radio mode (this category is not shown overseas since HD Radio is primarily a US-based system), but not understood what it was for. HDi stands for HD Radio on the Internet. Select this option and you will be presented with a list of available HD Radio stations on the Internet (except for iHeart-owned stations since iHeart refuses to share their URL streams with station aggregators). If you have a favorite AM or FM HD Radio station, check the HDi list to see if it also streams on the Internet so you can enjoy it on your Como Audio music system.
24. Get a Grip!
Packed with every Como Audio music system is a bag of three grey knob extensions. These were added as a running change in production, so you will not find them mentioned in the included Quick Start Guide or in the user manuals. Talk about an Easter egg. Slide them over your Como Audio music system’s front panel knobs to extend them by a few millimeters, and the silicon material makes the aluminum knobs easier to grip. I almost use the remote or the Como Control app exclusively when I am controlling my music systems, but the extensions are a nice touch (literally) whenever I reach for the knobs.
25. Can I Get a Lift?
I am cheating on this final Easter egg because it really is not a hidden feature, but it is a cool accessory you might not be aware of it since they only just started shipping this week in very limited quantities. It is the Como Audio Platform… a place for everything and everything in its place. Perch your Como Audio (or other brand) turntable on the Platform above your Musica or Duetto to position it at a more convenient height, isolate it, gain some extra space, and hide away the audio cable (unless you are using Bluetooth).
The Como Audio Platform is Amish-crafted in Indiana, constructed from MDF, and painted a smooth, matte black. Your turntable will be sitting pretty atop the Como Audio Platform.
Trivia (from historiesoftheunexpected.com): “It was not…until the early nineteenth century that the first chocolate Easter egg was manufactured in France and Germany, though these were predominantly solid rather than hollow. The first British chocolate Easter egg was produced in 1873 by J.S. Fry & Sons, closely followed in 1875 by John Cadbury.”
The Como Audio monthly Tech Rap blog series is in and of itself a kind of Easter egg because many music lovers do not know it exists. Please help spread the word.
I hope you had fun discovering these Como Audio Easter eggs and I hope they help you enjoy the music.
May’s Tech Rap: Promoting Great Sound
Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development in 2016. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org