Taking A Head Trip

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Most audio tours can put you to sleep on your feet with their bored-sounding narrators and long lists of dry facts. By contrast, Soundwalk CDs — a hip series of audio walking tours — are like movies you can stroll through. The Soundwalk brand features cinematic sound effects, cool music and colorful insights from neighborhood locals. Since 2002, Soundwalk has produced nine 50-min. audio tour CDs, including ones for the St. Germain des Pres district in Paris and discs that explore areas in New York City, including Chinatown and the meat-packing district. Says Stephan Crasneanscki, Soundwalk's founder: "Rather than bring my friends and relatives to places I love over and over again, I just decided to give them an audio guide."

The company is furthering its sonic exploration of the Big Apple with two new releases in April. A Wall Street CD will not only feature sounds of the financial district's bustling trading floors, it will also showcase ambient electronica and turntable sounds from hip record labels like Tigersushi and 75 Ark. A Little Italy CD will take tourists to Albanese Meat and Poultry, a traditional butcher shop that features Momo the Butcher behind the counter. Vinny Vella, the self-proclaimed mayor of Elizabeth Street and a veteran character actor (Casino), narrates the CD, which includes Italian and Italian-American songs.

Later this year, the company plans to issue CDs for San Francisco, London and Benares, India. "We focus on the stories behind the walls," says Michel Sitruk, head of business development for Soundwalk. "We want to give a sense of the pulse of a neighborhood." Besides selling its CDs through book retailers, the company has made a deal with download site Audible.com, the spoken-word audio content provider for iTunes. Now you can immerse yourself in the sounds of Chinatown without leaving Kansas.