Roxio, best known for its Toast software, has branched out into iTunes and iPod utilities. The Roxio Boom Box is a collection of five applications that can enhance your listening pleasure.
First, is an old favourite, CD Spin Doctor, an application for converting analogue (tape or vinyl) recordings to MP3 or any other digital format. If you don’t have an audio-in connection, as many newer Macs don’t, you may need to buy a USB input device, such as the Griffin iMic. Previously CD Spin Doctor was available only as part of Toast, for people converting vinyl to CD. Now most people are skipping the CD and going directly to their iPods, so it makes sense to offer the application without Toast.
This version offers enhanced features, such asthe Send to iTunes button, for completed recordings.The recordings can be automatically divided into tracks, or manually if you prefer (it can be difficult particularlyif you have a bunch of old prog-rock albums).
Once you have your music in a digital form, CD Spin Doctor has a number of filters to remove crackles and pops, and help you create your own re-mastered version.
The next application is a fascinating one, it claims to listen to your iTunes music, then act as a virtual DJ. It makes mixes of acoustically selected music – just pick a seed track and MusicMagic Mixer does the rest. Before it can start work, though, it needs to listen to your music. Obviously it doesn’t do this in real-time, my music would take a month like that, but it did take a whole weekend on my old G4. Once it had completed its marathon listening session it did appear to have a good handle on my music. It managed to keep the hip hop from the trip hop, the rock from the pop, but it was most interesting when it mixed unexpected tunes and it worked. For example who would have thought that Crazy Frogwould work so well with Primal Scream?
MusicMagic Mixer is a novelty that won’t replace your own talents any time soon. It is fun though, and is more likely to turn up old forgotten favourites that you are. One issue I had, however, was its inability to look at encrypted iTunes Music Store songs. Other than that it’s a fine, if non-essential, application.
Next up is Audio Hijack, a new version of the audio-capturing software. I know a number of people already regularly using Audio Hijack to capture BBC radio broadcasts and they all swear by it. It can capture any audio from your Mac, even if you aren’t actually listening to it. With the popularity of podcasting, and the BBC trying the format for some of its radio shows, the usefulness of Audio Hijack may be on the wane.But until that happens it remains an essential formany iPod users.
On the subject of podcasting, the recent explosion of its popularity means there are lots of options for automating podcast downloads. Included in BoomBox is iPodderX, an excellent management application for handling podcasts. It manages the disc space used, the shows downloaded and even reads text usingbuilt-in voices.
The new version of iTunes (see page 49) offers podcasting capabilities, but iPodderX is the best of the rest, with lots of advanced options. It might take a while to get it tuned and working to your liking, but then it will work without you even needing to launch it.
The final part to the suite is iSpeak it, a text-to-speech application. This is one of those things that might well be of little use to people until they find it fits a perfect need. I couldn’t think of a use for it until I realised that it could read PDF files. I’m studying at the Open University, where many of the textbooks are supplied in PDF as well as paper form. Dragging a PDF to iSpeak It converted the file to an audio file I could listen to on my iPod. Now I can catch up with my course work on my daily commute. The program uses the built-in voices of OS X, but you can buy better-quality voices from Cepstral (www.cepstral.com). Expect to pay around $29 for a voice, but the results are markedly better. It isn’t quite a real voice, but after a while you hardly notice it’s a computer speaking. You can download demo versions of the voices, which include English, American and foreign-language voices, both male and female.
It’s unlikely that one person would need all five applications, but in my case I found iSpeak It and iPodderX very useful, and MusicMagic Mixer a fun extra. The price is right, and for my needs iSpeak It justifies the whole price, including the extra moneyfor a better voice.