Using CD’s to playback backing tracks

Carol has asked me about using CD’s to playback backing tracks…

Good afternoon.. I
have to tell you how much I enjoy your website.. your info is great and covers sooo much! I just purchased a Yamaha Stagepass 500 system and for me and what I’m planning to do it’s wonderful.. however.. I am battling with cd’s.. I note your comments re mp3 players. and I’m wondering what you would recommend for this system.. are there things I should watch for or require of an mp3 player.. I would be using it for background tracks for performance..

Hi Carol

Using a CD live on stage to play your backing tracks will be a nightmare because of problems with pingerprints, scratches etc making the CD jump and skip.

This is not recommended at all!

MP3 is ,without a doubt, the way to go.

The two most popular machines for playing mp3 backing tracks on stage are the Apple iPod or a laptop computer.

Both have the advantage that they can also be used for other things.

The iPod can hold your personal listening music, photos, videos etc as well as your bacing tracks – very handy.

The laptop is…well, a laptop, so you have all the advantages of having a full Windows (or Mac) PC on the road with you every where you go.

The downside of an iPod is the rather small size of the screen – you need good eyesight to read the display on an iPod. It is back-lit though.

The upside of the iPod is the sheer usability and reliability – it is so user friendly, easy to operatem, and so far I have NEVER had an iPod freeze up on me on stage and I’ve been using my iPod for years live on stage.

The downside of a laptop is that it’s a computer – drop it and it’ll break.

Also Windows computers (and yes, even Mac computers) tend to freeze and crash from time to time and this is not good when you’re in the middle of a set. Imagine the crowd on the dancefloor waiting for the next song from you and you have to ask them to hang on while you re-boot your computer – not good!

The upside of a laptop is that the screen is large and is easy to see and operate on stage.

There are actually thousands of mp3 players which will do the same job as a laptop or an iPod. A lot of rack-mounted DJ style mp3 playing hardware has now come on to the market and is very popular with many singers.

However, in my humble opinion, when you are choosing an mp3 player to play backing tracks live on stage, there is only one thing which is important – the player needs to WORK perfectly every time and be reliable over, and over, and over, again without incident.

For a singer, there is nothing worse than the backing track player skipping, or stalling or failing half way through a song.

That’s why the iPod is the most reliable machine of all.

Yes, an iPod can freeze, crash or die at an inopportune moment just like any electronic device (although I’ve never personally experienced any problems).

It just happens to do it LESS OFTEN than every other mp3 player currently on the market.

So if reliability of playing your backing tracks on stage is your number 1 priority, then the iPod is the answer…

Bose L1 servicing

A couple of customers with a Bose L1 + backing tracks set up have asked me about servicing the Bose L1 so here goes…

As far as I’m aware there’s no set service intervals given for the Bose L1 by Bose (if there is, someone will no doubt correct me), so it can probably be treated the same as any other amplifier/speaker system when it comes to servicing.

Many musicians only tend to get a service done on their musical equipment at the same time as they put it in to the workshop for some minor repairs (kinda killing two birds with the one stone).

However others feel safer working with gear that they know has been serviced at regular intervals.

If you’re in the latter camp, the service intervals you should choose will depend very much on how hard you drive your equipment and how often you use it.

As an example, if your gear gets gigged every night then you should probably get a yearly service done.

Weekend “giggers” on the other hand may be fine with a service to their gear every couple of years.

Another thing to bear in mind is that different people have different ideas about what a “service” should consist of and whether it’s really necessary at all if everythings working fine.

Even many engineers themselves believe that if your equipment is working just fine then it doesn’t need servicing.

There’s certainly a lot of logic in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, but the flip side of the coin is should you wait till your gear breaks down in the middle of a gig before you decide to get it serviced or does it make more sense to have it checked/serviced regularly to try and prevent this happening?

Many of us have probably had a car at one time or another where something mechanical went wrong shortly after we’d just spent a load of money getting it serviced.

Musical equipment is no different, so there’s never any guarantee that just because you serviced your amplifier last week it won’t break down next week.

That’s life I’m afraid!

Certainly, things that suggest your musical equipment is due for a service are little pops, crackles, hiss, hum from the speakers, noisy pots, knobs and sliders and dodgy jack inputs etc.

A good service engineer should also PAT test your gear at the same time he services it (PAT testing, among other things, involves basically blasting a heavy current through the earth system to show up anything untoward). A good service engineer will test the insulation in the lead and look for any signs of wear and tear, dry solder joints, fried components that need replaced or signs of overheated components that may be on the way out etc.

Unfortunately there are a few unscrupulous engineers out there who’s idea of a “service” is charging you a fortune while spending 2 minutes opening up your equipment and spraying the circuit boards with a can of compressed air to clear away the dust…so beware!

If you’re giving your equipment to an engineer to service or repair, ALWAYS make sure it’s someone reputable that you trust and don’t be scared to ask him to give you a checklist of exactly what he intends to do before you hand your equipment (and your money) over to him…

Bose is not your friend

Oh well, it had to happen some time!

One of my Bose L1 speaker systems stopped working mid-way through a gig and I had to put it in for repair.

It was a normal breakdown type of problem – nothing out of the ordinary. It hadn’t been dropped or physically damaged. It hadn’t been driven too hard or mis-used or anything like that.

It’s just one of these things in life – electronic components don’t last forever and equipment breaks down from time to time and Bose equipment breaks down just like any other musical gear.

However the problems started when I took the Bose L1 to my local engineer to fix…

To begin with, the news was good.

My engineer opened up the Bose L1 power stand, tested it, and within minutes was able to tell me exactly what was wrong with it.

It was a simple problem with the a part in the auxiliary power supply.

He’d order the part from Bose and by his calculations, if Bose DHL’d the part to him the next day he’d fit it in minutes and get it back to me the following day.


It’s vital for gigging musicians that they get good, reliable, and QUICK repairs done whenever things go wrong with their gear. Every day that a musician is without his gear is another day of lost gigs, lost income, angry venue owners and disappointed audiences…

But then the Bose nightmare begun…

Bose refused to sell my engineer the part he needed to fix my system!

Just plain refused!

They said that the only people who they want working on Bose systems are Bose themselves.

He would need to package it all up and send it to Bose.

The result?

Bose left me without a system for nearly 2 WEEKS…and in the end my wallet was £200 lighter!

And the most annoying thing about it all?

My engineer had diagnosed the fault in minutes and could have had it fixed for me real pronto…if Bose had only been willing to sell him the part he needed to replace the faulty Bose part.

Just to add insult to injury, the Bose guy my engineer spoke to when he called them was cheeky and very arrogant. My engineer was surprised by the Bose guys real bad attitude.

I wasn’t.

A colleague of mine phoned Bose about a year ago asking a simple question – he asked if it was possible to change the power supply of his 110v Bose L1 power stand to 240v. There was nothing wrong with his Bose system, everything was working fine – it would just save him having to carry around a 110v/240v transformer everytime he took the Bose L1 to a gig, that’s all.

He got the same rude, cheeky, arrogant and unhelpful response from the Bose tech guy. In fact the actual answer he got to his question from the sniffy Bose guy wasn’t even an answer – the arrogant Bose guy simply told him  “Buy a new power stand…” and put the phone down on him!

So, what’s the moral of the story?

Bose equipment is great quality – but that great quality comes at a price and I don’t just mean in a monetary sense.

If you buy a Bose L1 system and it works without a hitch and never, ever breaks down (which is highly unlikely) then you’ll be fine.

But if your Bose L1 system does break down, don’t expect any sympathy from Bose.

Bose tech guys and customer service people are not your friend.

If you have any problems with your Bose L1 system, DON’T expect the normal level of help, assistance, efficiency and politeness that you get from other main brand musical equipment manufacturers.

Instead, expect an arrogance and condescending attitude from Bose that will literally take your breath away.

Bose will make you feel as if you must have done something wrong to make their perfect product break down.

Then expect to be without your Bose L1 system for much, much longer than necessary while you send it back to Bose for a simple repair that could have taken your local engineer a fraction of the time…

Oh, and if you complain to Bose about all this?

Well, expect the usual predictable response of “our products can only be repaired only by our highly trained Bose engineers…yadda, yadda, yadda.”

Yeah right!

This is an amplifier we’re talking about here, not NASA’s space shuttle!

You don’t send your car back to the Ford factory when it needs a new exhaust. Your local garage simply orders the part and your local mechanic fits it. Easy.

Come on Bose, surely you can think of a better excuse than that.

Then once you’ve been deprived of your Bose L1 system for much longer than you needed to be without it, reach for your wallet and dig deep.

So here’s my theory why Bose are like this…

Bose employees are starting to believe their own company hype instead of leaving the hype where it belongs – to the Bose marketing department. It’s always a mistake when you believe your own publicity. Hype is intended for customers – it’s an aid selling products and should be treated as nothing more, nothing less.

When your employees start believing the company sales hype, then they get a distorted and inflated view of how they themselves and their companys products really are.

Don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing wrong with self-belief.

But when you get an attitude creeping in to a company where they not only believe they are “the best” but they let that hyped up self-belief turn to downright arrogance and condescending attitudes to their customers, then that company is on a slippery slope I believe.

My firm opinion from my recent experience with Bose is that Bose wanted my L1 system sent back to their own repair shop so they could see WHY it failed and hopefully they could then use that information to gain knowledge of potential weaknesses in their systems and help improve manufacturing of the system and future products.

All very commendable.


This doesn’t help me or you, the Bose customer. They’ve forgot about you and I!

In fact Bose are causing you and I more problems than we’ve already got as we sit frustrated with a broken L1 beside us that Bose won’t let anyone else fix.

They are hindering us, not helping us!

Bose leave you in a horrible situation where their product has failed, and you, their customer, have to get by without your equipment while Bose callously use your misfortune to benefit themselves.

They don’t seem to care that your Bose system could have been repaired and you could have been back gigging with it long ago.

The only thing that seems to matter to Bose is their own ego.

And nobody likes a selfish friend with an over-sized ego.

That’s why Bose is not your friend…


Have you had trouble with Bose, either with their bad attitude, unhelpfulness or just plain rudeness? Don’t bother writing about it on the Bose forum – Bose moderate that forum themselves so can filter out posts they don’t like or that criticise them. Instead, contact me at the MP3 Backing Trax helpdesk at the link below and I’ll publish your grievances:

Environmently UN-friendly

Have you ever bought a backing track from a company on the internet and couldn’t download it or unzip it or your PC tells you that the file is corrupt?

It can be very frustrating(!) but it’s surprisingly easy to fix.

So before you send the proverbial insulting email to the company saying things like “I’ve never had problems downloading before…” or “The track won’t play…” etc read on…

You see, your computer works in what’s called an “environment”.

Every computer in the world (yes, I mean EVERY computer in the world) is unique – it works in its own particular “environment” which, in laymans terms, means that your computer, my computer, the next guys computer, will all handle a file in a completely different way.

The way YOUR computer handles a file is entirely dependant on all the OTHER programs your computer has installed…and since every computer has different programs and tools installed, every computer will behave slightly differently.

If you’ve ever sat down and used someone elses computer you’ll know that it just doesn’t behave the same way as yours does.  For example, some people may have Winzip installed while others have Freezip or 7zip. Even Windows XP and Windows 7’s built-in zip programs behave differently to the Windows Vista built-in zip program.

Then there’s firewalls and anti-virus programs – there’s hundreds of different types – they often “jump in” and hijack a file while downloading to scan it and decide what they want to let you do with it.

You may use the Windows firewall while the next guy may have Norton or McAffee or PC Tools or AVG installed on his computer – the list goes on. Different AV and firewall programs will treat your downloaded file in a different way.

Then there’s your browser…

Internet Explorer has a host of plugins that get installed when you run other programs and these can change the way your browser makes a download. Many plugins are installed through automatic updates and you don’t even realise that the configuration of your browser has changed.

Then what happens when you try to actually PLAY your downloaded file?

Well, how your PC plays the file depends on your default mp3 player.

If you have iTunes, you may have to drag it in to the iTunes window before it will play.

If you have Windows Media Player set as your default player you may only need to double-click it and it’ll play.

If you have Real player or Winamp or any of a thousand other mp3 player softwares installed, it may just confuse Windows because it doesn’t know which one to use and cause a conflict which crashes your computer.

All these problems happen because EVERY computer is working in a different “environment”.

The different programs installed on your PC all interact with each other and that’s what makes each and every computer in the world behave differently.

And that’s why sometimes you can buy a backing track and it won’t download, or unzip, or your PC tells you that the file is corrupt…even though everything worked fine before…

Help is at hand though. But be warned, it’s not easy troubleshooting someone elses computer when you don’t have the benefit of being able to sit there right in front of their computer to see how it’s behaving.

But if you let us know as much information about the problem your having, we can usually use our expertise to narrow it down to find what’s making your computer go haywire (firewalls, security settings, browser issues and hardware/software conflicts are the usual culprits when your computer won’t play ball).

So if you have any problems at all downloading and unzipping the backing tracks you purchase from us, don’t send us a cheeky or rude email all accusational in tone – that’ll get you nowhere (in fact we won’t even reply to you). Instead, just let us know what the problem is and at which point in the download or unzipping or playing process the problem is occuring and we’ll help troubleshoot it for you.

Also let us know which operating system you are using (eg WinXP or Vista or Windows7 or Mac OS) and the browser and version you are using (eg Internet Explorer 8 or Safari etc).

Then give us the name of the unzip program you are using (eg Winzip, 7zip or Windows built-in zip program etc) and the name of your anti-virus software and your firewall software.

Finally, let us know if you are using anything else which you suspect could interfere with your download (eg Download Accelerator or CA security software).

The more info we have about your computer and its “environment”, the quicker we can help troubleshoot what part of your system is causing the problem…