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Monster Y Splitter

Airplane entertainment systems are certainly welcome on long flights, but I like to watch my own selection of content too. For example, currently I'm hooked on Breaking Bad and am working my way through past seasons.

This is even more fun when shared with a travel partner. It's just like going to the movies: You can watch it together, then discuss the show over a cup of coffee afterwards.

For these occasions, I keep a Monster iSplitter 1000 Y-Splitter with Volume Control/Mute ($9.99) in my carry-on bag. With it, I can share music, TV shows, and movies with another. It even has separate volume controls.

The iPad is a terrific travel companion in many ways, and entertainment is definitely one of them. Sharing that content with another makes it even more fun.


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When you want to take a break from taking pictures and texting friends with your iPhone, consider using it to control the iHome iD50 App-enhanced Bluetooth Dual Alarm Stereo Clock Radio. I've been testing one, and I don't think I've ever had this much fun with a clock radio before.

iHome iD50 Clock Radio

The truth is, I generally despise these devices. What I mean is, I like the idea of a clock radio. But the user interface is usually so awful that I give up trying to configure the unit after a few minutes. iHome solved this problem by creating the iHome Set app for iOS devices. Despite some user reviews on the App Store saying it doesn't work for their particular model (which I don't know since I haven't tested it with other versions), it works great with the iD50.

iHome Set Top Screen

You can use the app by docking the iPhone to the clock radio via the connector atop the unit. But it's far more fun to use Bluetooth for communication. Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on the iPhone, then hold down the "EQ/Pairing" button on top of the iD50. Choose "add new Bluetooth device" on your iPhone, and they should pair without incident. From this point on, you're in remote control mode.

If I want to listen to Internet radio, then all I have to do is launch Pandora, and choose "iHome iD50" from the share menu. I can stay in the same Bluetooth mode and play selections from my Music App. Radio functions are also easy to enable from the iOS Set App. And the best part is that the station presets are much more fun to set via the iPhone than on the device itself.

iHome Set Screen 2

Music isn't the only thing you can control. These functions are also available via iHome Set for the iD50:

  • Power On/Off
  • Mode (iPod, FM, AM, Bluetooth, AUX)
  • Radio Tuner (including setting and controlling up to 6 presets each for AM and FM)
  • Volume
  • Alarm 1 and Alarm 2
  • Snooze Duration
  • Nap Alarm
  • Sleep Timer
  • Treble, Bass, and SRS WOW
  • Clock Brightness
  • 24 Hour On/Off
  • Time Set
  • Calendar Set
  • Time Sync
  • Search for Updates

Sound Quality

Clearly the functionality and geek factor is outstanding with the iD50, but how does it sound? Well, iHome included Reson8 speaker chambers, SRS WOW digital processing, and treble and bass controls into the iD50. These are features that you usually don't see on a clock radio. And if you play it like you would your old Sony single speaker unit, you'll miss out. I pushed the treble up to 3 out of 5, bass to 4 out of 5, volume up to 80 percent with SRS WOW on, and the iD50 sounded pretty darn good. This is definitely a "play it loud" clock radio. At lower volume levels it sounds like many other portable units. So kick everyone out of the bedroom and crank it up.

Gotchas

As much as I like the Bluetooth connectivity, it can be finicky at times. I found the best solution is to turn off Bluetooth on the iPhone, then turn it back on. This seemed to solve the problem.

On top of the iD50 itself are a number of physical buttons that can be used to set alarms, choose station presets, etc. I recommend that you don't use most of them. The basic buttons are fine (power, volume, pairing), but for much else, use your iOS device, or that old clock radio feeling may return.

If you're connected via Bluetooth, the unit may beep a few times when you walk out of range. Others left behind in the area may wonder what's going on. You can prevent this by turning off Bluetooth on your iPhone before departing.

Also, since this is a geek-friendly unit, it would have been nice if iHome had made this an RDS-capable receiver so the artist and song title would display on the LCD for stations that are transmitting that information. Seems like a missed opportunity there.

Bottom Line

$169 is a lot to pay for a clock radio. But the iD50 is more than that. Practically speaking, it's a charger for the iPhone and iPad, an alarm clock, AM/FM radio, stereo player for your iTunes music, speaker phone... and it looks pretty good too. But in use, the iD50 feels like more than the sum of its parts. It's one device that can change a room. And the iPhone app certainly elevates this unit to geek toy level.

If it turns out to be a bit too much machine for the bedroom, possibly failing spousal approval, then take it to the office, or nearest man cave, close the door, and crank it up.

I like it.

More Audio on The Digital Story

Bongiovi DPS for iOS - Audio Magic

iHome iW1 Wireless AirPlay Speaker System Review

Review of the Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone

"Sound as Good as You Look" - Digital Photography Podcast 261


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Bongiovi DPS for iOS - Audio Magic

Bongiovi DPS

I first learned about Bongiovi Digital Power Station when I reviewed the iHome iW1 AirPlay speaker system, which incorporates this technology. I loved how the real time audio remastering dramatically improved the output of the iW1 speakers. I then discovered that Bongiovi Acoustics is also offering an iOS App that I'm using for my iPhone 4S. It's simply called, Bongiovi DPS, and it is impressive.

You access your music by launching Bongiovi DPS instead of your Music app. By doing so, you're able to take advantage of the improved output that comes with the on-the-fly audio remastering. The interface is quite good, providing the usual shortcuts to artists, albums, playlists, etc. You don't have access to DRM music in your iTunes library, which is one of its limitations. I hit this wall with some of my older music.

But, the songs that are available sound amazing. You can configure your audio environment by choosing a profile for each type of output: headphones, speaker, line out, AirPlay, and Bluetooth. You have many free profiles available, and with a 99 cent in-app purchase, you can unlock more. Once you find the sound you like for your headphones or speakers, the app remembers the profile until you change it.

I'm using it for my JBL earbuds and small speaker systems. The clarity and dynamic range are noticeably improved. You can turn off and on the digital processing by tapping the blue "B" icon. Smart move by the engineers. What a difference.

With Bongiovi DPS on, I can listen to music at lower levels and enjoy it more. I'm hearing subtleties in songs that I've missed previously. Using the free iOS app has reenergized by passion for music on the go. I highly recommend trying it.


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iHome iW1 with Remote Control

Music is important to me in the photography studio. Not only do I enjoy listening while working, it often helps my subjects relax or get inspired during a photo shoot. My audio system has to be hassle free, however. I'm already spending plenty time adjusting lighting and interacting with clients. I can't be fooling around with my sound system too.

When I read about the iHome iW1 AirPlay Stereo Speaker System,I thought it might be a good fit for the studio. It has enough sound to fill a room, it's portable thanks to a rechargeable battery, and it interacts well with my AirPlay music library.

Fits on a Bookshelf

The iW1 weighs 6 pounds and measures 317mm" W x 186mm" H x 94mm" D. It fits on most bookshelves and can be transported easily via its built-in handle. The rechargeable battery powers the unit for a full afternoon of music. The charging dock is easy to use -- you just set the iW1 on it, and charging begins.

iHome iW1 on  Bookshelf The iHome iW1 fits nicely on most bookshelves.

Inside the unit are twin 1" tweeters and 3" woofers. Controls are located on the top of the unit, with others in back. But the included remote control gives you access to just about everything you need so you don't have to fool with the unit itself. You can also connect devices directly using the dock connector for iPhones and iPods, or the mini-stereo input jack.

Great Companion for Old iPhone

I recently upgraded to the iPhone 4S. I still have my 16 GB iPhone 3GS. I cleaned everything off it but my music library, and now use the 3GS as a controller for the iHome iW1. The 3GS fits easily in my pocket while working, and the Apple Remote app provides excellent control of the iW1 output regardless of where I am in the studio.(This is one of the things I like about iPhones. They are still useful even after being replaced by a newer model.)

The iHome Connect App for the iPhone also makes set-up easy for the iW1. Just download the free app, connect the iPhone to the iW1 via the included dock connector cable, configure the unit, and disconnect the iPhone. You're now wireless.

Good Sound

The iHome iW1 incorporates the Bongiovi Acoustics Digital Power Station. According to iHome, this "real-time digital signal processing that extends audio bandwidth and adds missing harmonics without adding peak output to the signal. It effectively improves brightness, clarity and presence and delivers deeper, more resonant bass and crystal clear highs." The Bongiovi system is on by default. Leave it on. When turned off the output is flat and not appealing.

With the Bongiovi Acoustics system on, however, I like the output from the iW1. At medium sound levels I rate it as very good. If you crank it up all the way, you'll probably hear some distortion with the bass and the overall sound degrades a bit. This isn't a problem for me in the studio since I'm usually playing music at low to medium levels where the iW1 sounds terrific.

Final Word

At $299, iHome iW1 AirPlay Stereo Speaker System,is a hardware investment. Much of what you're paying for is the convenience of built-in WiFi, AirPlay compatibility, easy app configuration, and portability with the rechargeable battery and easy grip handle. The physical design is also appealing. It looks great in the studio or at home.

Discriminating ears might be disappointed with the sound when played at full volume. But for those who want a handsome, out of the box audio solution, with a good dose of technology fun, the iHome iW1 should be a satisfying investment.


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The iHome iD9is a rechargeable speaker system for iOS devices including the iPad. Unlike the iHome iDM12 that I reviewed earlier, the iD9 requires direct connection via dock or mini stereo jack. Like the iDM12 however, this is a rechargeable device that's easy to take with you on the go.

iHome iD9

The iD9 is large enough to dock an iPad in the portrait position. The docking area is designed so that you can leave many of the "skinny" cases on and still use the iD9. Where this unit really shines, however, is its output.

iHome employs its SRS TruBass and Reson8 sound technology for rather impressive audio quality from a portable system. The speakers are positioned on the ends of the iHome, slightly angled toward the listener. I found that I could position the unit in various spots throughout the house to get just the type of sound I wanted. Audio wise, the iD9 is a very satisfying portable device.

When plugged into the wall, it also serves as a charger for your iOS device. The iD9 also works with the iHome+Sleep app for custom alarm settings, social alerts and more; and with iHome+Radio app for global internet radio.

While on the road, I still prefer the iHome iDM12 because of its very compact size and wireless connectivity. But around the house or studio, it's hard to beat the iD9 for beautiful output and stylish design.

You can learn more about the iHome iD9 at the iHome web site. It sells for $99 at Amazonand other retailers.


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iHome idm12b

At this moment, I'm working in my hotel room listening to music streamed from an iPad to the new iHome iDM12 Portable Bluetooth Speaker Systemthat has terrific sound, including decent bass, yet only weights .35 pounds. I charged the unit before leaving home, so I don't have to mess with batteries. Just turn it on, connect to the iPad via Bluetooth, and play.

There are four buttons on top of the iDM12: Power, Volume Down, Volume Up, and a multifunctional button. Initially you use the MF button to pair the device with the iPad. After that, you can use it to play/pause music. This is handy because I have the iHome on my desk in the hotel, with the iPad across the room. I can actually control playback without having to touch the iPad.

If you like to watch movies or TV shows on your iPad, the iDM12 enhances the experience nicely. You can use the included stand to set up your iPad, then enjoy great sound via the iHome speakers. Very handy when two people are watching together. And when you're traveling, the stand folds up and attaches to the front of the unit.

If you want to use the iHome speakers with another device via stereo mini jack, use the dual-purpose USB cord that also has a male stereo jack for a regular MP3 device. I've also paired the device with my MacBook Air. Use the Bluetooth setup on the Air, then choose the iDM12 as the audio output device. Sounds great!

You can buy the iHome iDM12 directly from iHome for $69 with free shipping, or from Amazon for $64with free shipping. The unit produces rich sound, hardly takes up any room, and frees you from wires when using with the iPad or MacBook. Definitely recommended for anyone who wants to enhance the audio output of their portable device.


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My Old Apple TV is My New Media Server

I was one of many who was disappointed to hear that some features from the new Apple TV would not necessarily be ported to the previous version. Most notably for me was Netflix streaming.

So if I do upgrade to the new $99 version, what to do with my current model? I decided to make it the media server that I always wanted. Why not? It has a 160 GB hard drive, is WiFi network saavy, and has a remote control. Once I set it up, I don't even need the HDTV interface anymore because I can control its operations from my iPad or iPhone via the Remote app.

So I set about copying 2,430 songs from my iTunes library to the old Apple TV. This was easily handled in iTunes, which is synced to the Apple TV.

appletv_sync.png

Then I downloaded the latest version of Remote for the iPad. It provides the graphical interface I need for controlling the Apple TV, including controlling the speakers on my AirPort network throughout the studio.

remote_on_ipad.png Remote app on the iPad controlling my Apple TV "media server". Click on image for larger view.

If I need to update the content on the Apple TV, I can just move songs from my iTunes library. It's all handled easily and without wires. And like I said, once everything is set up, you don't even have to turn on the HDTV. Apple TV will stream music throughout your network using the iPhone or iPad as the controller.


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logitech_z-10_speakers.jpg

I've been testing the Logitech Z-10 Interactive Speakers, which are stylish desktop companions for your Mac or Windows computer. The Z-10s feature 30 watts of power driving a pair of 1-inch dome tweeters and 3-inch high-excursion woofers. They can sit on both sides of your laptop or desktop computer and deliver full-bodied audio for slideshows, movies, digital music, and gaming.

Logitech's innovative backlit display features tons of control and information for Windows users, but is only partially enabled for the Mac set. You can get all of the details about this, included set up for Macs, in my blog post titled, Logitech Z-10 Interactive Speakers for Mac Users.

At $149, the Z-10s are not cheap, but they are well designed and sound terrific. And if you've been depriving yourself of quality audio at your multimedia workstation, these speakers are a treat for the ears.

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Marware Trailvue Case

The 30GB iPod video (5G) is my top pick iPod of all time. Great sound, slim design, amazing video capability, and excellent storage for my still photos. But after trying many different cases, I had yet to find one that I liked as well as the iPod itself. That is, until I discovered the Marware Trailvue iPod case ($27.95 from Amazon.com).

First of all, this case is rugged. It feels good in the hands. Marware uses a combination of nylon and other synthetic materials to create a case that inspires confidence while on the go. Plus it looks good, very stylish. The included bungee cord provides a handsome accent (5 different colors are included), and it comes in handy for securing your earphones when not in use.

The Trailvue case includes a nice large opening for the earphone jack that can be used when the case is open or closed, and a robust Velcro tab keeps the top flap securely in position when closed. When the case is open, a clear plastic faceplate protects the video screen but allows direct access to the scroll wheel. A nice touch is that you don't have to remove the case to access the Dock connector.

If you want to maintain the iPod's slim profile, don't attach the belt clip. Your iPod will slide in easily among your other gadgets in your camera bag or backpack. If you need the clip, it attaches quickly and secures your iPod to your belt or backpack strap.

This is a very nice case...

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MicroBlast Speakers

I've always thought that the black iPod nano was one of the best looking music players ever, and XtremeMac's new MicroBlast powered speakers do justice to the nano's stylish design. The black aluminum grill, clear folding cover that ingeniously becomes the base, and tailored protective pouch all perfectly match the nano. And if you have a white iPod, the MicroBlast includes a matching interchangeable frame.

The quad micro speakers are powered by four AA batteries or the included AC adapter. If you use the AC adapter, it also charges the docked nano, even while it plays. I rate the output as above-average for this type of system, especially if you keep the volume setting (on the nano) between 50 and 85 percent. Considering that the MicroBlast is only 1" thick and roughly the dimensions of a standard paperback novel, its big sound surprisingly fills up a small room. I recommend that you play with the nano's EQ setting to customize the output to your ears. Try them all, including the Spoken Word EQ.

I also like that you can leave your nano docked, fold close the clear protective cover, and hit the road without worrying about the safety of your iPod. The included slip cover keeps the clear plastic case free of scratches.

My only nit with the MicroBlast is that it doesn't include an optional audio-in jack enabling me to use it with my 30 GB iPod video. This would be a great sound unit for watching The Daily Show while sipping my morning coffee. The MicroBlast is designed for the nano, and only the nano.

MicroBlast Side View

Is the MicroBlast a good value for its $119.95 price tag? I think so. Based on its quality construction, dashing good looks (I really like the aluminum speaker grill), portability, good sound, and choice of power sources, it's a worthy accessory for the handsome iPod nano.

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