Advances in technology have transformed the way we discover, buy and listen to music. In seconds, you can stream or download a song and share it with friends and family. Amateur musicians can forgo conventional (and expensive) recording studios and instead record their own mixes using a series of apps. And now you can listen to music anywhere -- even from a rock.
Hum, search and get the lyrics
If you're curious about a song that's playing in a bar or repeating in your head, the SoundHound music recognition app can help. After as little as four seconds, the app will name the tune – whether it's coming from a speaker, or being sung or hummed by you. (If there's too much ambient noise, the app may not work.) There's also a LiveLyrics feature that displays the lyrics in time with the music. You can buy songs directly from the app and share your favorites on Twitter and Facebook. The premium versions ($6.99 for Apple; $4.99 for Android) remove ads and continually add new features.
SoundHound app Free for basic version; Apple iOS 4.0, Android
Share and discover
Spotify is a digital music service that gives you access to millions of songs on your PC, Mac or smartphone (with a free app) for a monthly fee ($9.99). You can create playlists and sync them to your phone so you can listen without a web connection. If you don't need mobile access, a desktop-only version with unlimited listening ($4.99) is available; there's also an ad-supported free version. Spotify's not the only game in town - see our recent roundup of music streaming apps.
Spotify app $9.99 per month; Apple iOS 4.0, Android, Symbian (Nokia), Windows Phone and Palm
Play, record and fine-tune
You may already be familiar with GarageBand software for Mac. Now you can take it with you on your Apple smartphone or tablet. The app turns your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch into a series of touch instruments, and a complete recording studio. You can play anything from piano, organ, guitar, drums and bass. In addition, you can hook up an electric guitar, or record vocals using the built-in microphone. After that, you can arrange and mix your song with up to eight tracks that include touch instruments, audio recordings, sound effects and loops. When you’ve fine-tuned everything, share your songs via email or iTunes, or continue refining it on your Mac.
GarageBand app $4.99; Apple iPhone, iPod touch and iPad; requires at least iOS 4.3
"Rock" out, outside
Yes, these are wireless speakers disguised as rocks. These 2-set speakers let you play music wirelessly (up to 150 feet away, according to the company) from your smartphone, tablet, computer or any device with a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. The rocks are weatherproof and water-resistant so you can keep them outside for barbeques and other parties without worrying about humidity or a splash from the pool ruining the speakers. The Rock Speaker is also available in sandstone; individual speakers cost about $90 each.
Audio Unlimited Granite Wireless Rock Speaker $170 for two speakers and an audio dock
Sleep and don’t disturb
Enjoy your favorite music while you take a nap with the Sound Oasis Sleep Therapy Pillow. Inside the 20-by-26-inch pillow are two ultra-thin stereo speakers. The cover can be machine or hand washed -- just don't forget to remove the speakers first. The speakers are compatible with most electronic devices, including iPods/MP3 players, CD players and TVs.