TrailMix Review – A step-synced music player iPhone app

TrailMix Review

TrailMix is a ”fully automatic step-synced music player”. What the heck is that, you ask? Good question. Let me see if I can explain it simpler terms.

TrailMix is an iPhone app for listening to music while walking or running that detects your pace using the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer, and rapidly adjusts the tempo of the song to match your stride. So, basically, it speeds up or slows down songs to always be in sync with your steps. Run faster and the track goes faster. Slow down and the track slows down. You get the idea.

It’s actually pretty clever. And while the music does sound a bit strange going faster or slower than what you’re used to, TrailMix doesn’t change the pitch, so you never get that effect of listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks singing Daft Punk.

Remember a while ago when we went through a process of adding beats-per-minute (BPM) info to our iTunes library? We tried an automatic way and a manual way. Well, with TrailMix you don’t need that anymore. The developers figured out a way to “listen” to the songs and get the BPM as they play without the need for any fancy stuff. Not even an Internet connection.

From the developers:

The app will play and sync with any song in a user’s library, as well as playlists containing up to 20 songs, whether the listener is running, walking, sprinting, or strolling. TrailMix incorporates a pedometer, and health- and fitness-related rewards from Kiip, an online service that motivates users to exercise by giving away free items and coupons. A Pro version of TrailMix, available separately for $4.99, removes banner ads and includes enhanced features like Magic Shuffle, which chooses songs automatically to match your current tempo, and Cruise Control to lock in a song at a preset beat. The Pro app also provides enhanced stats and an intelligent stopwatch that starts and stops as the user moves to keep track of workout sessions automatically.

I only tried the Pro version, so no idea if the ads are annoying. But honestly, for $5 just get the full version. No ads is a beautiful thing, and that Cruise Control feature is awesome. You basically set a BPM before you start to run and TrailMix magically makes every song fit that tempo. Most of the playlists I’ve been sharing here are based on BPM. No need to spend hours finding the right songs anymore!

I wrote a separate review of TrailMix Pro in another of my sites if you’re interested in more. I liked it.

Thru the Gears – AudioFuel Review

A few days ago I ran into AudioFuel, a company in the UK that produces music specifically for running. The interesting thing is that their tracks include coaching, which I’m starting to like now that I figured out how to create good sessions in Runkeeper.

Looking through their site, I found a free track called Thru the Gears, so I downloaded and took it for a spin yesterday.

It’s only 15 minutes, but it does serve as good sample of what they’re about. The session starts with slowish music and a voice telling you to stretch for a few moments. Then the tempo increases a bit to a brisk walk. After a few minutes you start jogging at a specific BPM. This is when I really started to like it.

After a few minutes the voice comes back and tells you to run at a higher pace, with the music changing accordingly. After about 10 minutes I was running fairly fast and truly enjoying it.

Unfortunately, the workout ended too quickly. I was truly into it when I heard the voice telling me to slow down for the cool down.

I think doing this workout 2 or 3 times in a row will be amazing. It’d be great if I could just skip the intro for the second and third time. Maybe I’ll give it a go.

The question is: did it make me run faster?

Honestly, I really think it did. The combination of music that’s playing at a constant tempo and a coach telling you what to do is definitely inspirational. I loved running to the music and each step perfectly matched with my foot hitting the road. It felt like dancing.

My only concern is that since the music is instrumental only, it might get a bit boring after a while. Plus, I really like listening to my old songs when doing smart playlists in iTunes.

UPDATE: This is how AudioFuel describes the Thru the Gears track:

Thru the Gears begins with a minute of stretching to warm up followed by a minute at a walking pace. Then the pace builds up to a jogging pace, gradually revving right up to a 170 beat per minute sprint. The last minute gives you a recovery period to walk and stretch out.

I also found this graph that shows it visually. Pretty cool.