Sunday 17 September 2017


My best beloved and I like listening to music. Live music is great, but usually it's something played through speakers, at home, in the car, on the boat. Not all the time, but often enough to miss it when it's not available. Erin Mae came with a Samsung "home theatre" player, which was supposed to do FM radio and CD/DVDs, outputting visuals to the TV, and sound to a 5+1 speaker system. However, it was a casualty of the "Twelvoltification" process I engaged in last year, since it ran off mains voltage, and used a lot of electrons. It would mostly suit someone connected permanently to a landline.

Playing music through a laptop's speakers is not a very thrilling experience. Earlier this year I found a solution for the boat which has worked very well.

First up was a small amplifier, hung on the panel to the left of the TV. Mass produced in China, cheap (and therefore rather worrying), and able to run off a 12 volt supply. For those who like such info, it's a 20+20 watt Class-T design, which I researched since I'd never heard of it. I won't go into that here (!) but I found it very interesting to update my technical knowledge of amplifiers. I bit the bullet, disconnected Erin Mae's principal stereo speakers from the Samsung unit, and connected them to the new amplifier. The result, naturally enough, is not the best Hi-Fi in the world, but to our ageing ears the sound is pretty impressive.

Next I wanted to run it all wirelessly, and I bought an AudioCast device. It's the little round thing in the photo just below the amplifier, and normally it sits out of sight behind a panel. It runs off USB voltage, connects to the amplifier via a short lead, and to Erin Mae's wiFi  network. It was a doddle to set up.

I tested it all as we came down to Fazeley during the week, and it works a treat. I streamed some folk music from Spotify to my laptop, and sent it wirelessly via the AudioCast device to the new amp / speaker setup. Just as pleasing as the sound was my audit of how many electrons it was all using. An hour or two made not a dent in my SmartGauge readings. So we have music on tap, and the next thing will be to monitor what sort of a dent in my mobile broadband allowance streaming music from Spotify will make. Since we've got a good deal from Three at the moment, I doubt I'll have to worry.

So finally we turn to live music. Using the computer application MuseScore, I'd recently transcribed some folk tunes I'd come across via Spotify – mostly some of Phil Cunningham's compositions. We're at a BCF get-together at Fazeley for the weekend, and as the rain fell on Saturday afternoon a number of us who had instruments gathered round my laptop to play the tunes. Accordion, a couple of recorders, penny whistle, cello and a fiddle. It was great fun! The music was mostly new to everybody except myself, and all trying to sightread from a laptop screen presents some challenges, but we had a ball!

However, the musical highlight came in the evening when Halfie entertained us with the National Anthem and a couple of Christmas carols. Nothing unusual in that, you might think – but he was whistling the tune while simultaneously humming a bass accompaniment. I don't know anybody else who can do that!


  1. Halfie - a man of many talents in my opinion.

    1. Indeed, Cap'n! (like yourself, perhaps?). I forgot to ask him if he discovered it all by himself, or heard someone else do it and decided to it was worth investing a year of his life to learning this particular skill. Perhaps he'll enlighten us.