REVIEW: Blue Microphone’s Snowball mic

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Date: Monday, January 22nd, 2007, 08:00
Category: Accessory
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The Snowball microphone (US$159) from Blue Microphones is a nice USB condenser microphone for recording podcasts or anything else, for that matter.
Blue bills the Snowball as “the world’s first professional USB mic” and the sound quality bears that out. It’s dead simple to use, literally plug and play. There’s no software to install and it’s recognized immediately by Mac OS X. The Snowball also works out of the box with Windows.

With its dual capsule design and unique three-pattern switch (cardioid, cardioid with -10dB pad and omni), the Snowball can handle everything from soft vocals to the loudest garage band — and it’s ideal for podcasting.

I’ve been using the Snowball microphone to record the last six PowerPage podcasts (usually over Skype) and I’ve been suitably impressed with the sound quality. I don’t usually take the Snowball with me on the road because I prefer a more compact headset-based mic like the Plantronics DSP-400 (which I reviewed in 2005). The sound quality of the Snowball is far superior than the DSP-400.
One tip: if you buy a Snowball, immediately download and install the firmware update from BlueMic.com for the best sound quality. To find out more check out Blue Microphone’s Snowball product page and FAQ. Although the Snowball lists for US$159 it’s available online from Guitar Center for US$99. Which is an excellent deal.

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Launchpad Raises and Protects MacBooks

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Date: Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007, 09:28
Category: Accessory

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Anyone using a MacBook Pro for extended periods of time is familiar with the decent amount of heat generated by Apple’s Intel notebooks. While the Core 2 Duo models are cooler, the original Core Duo chips output enough heat to fry on egg on them.
Because the heat problem is a well-known issue, Apple and all other notebook OEMs with a legal department stopped calling the beasts “laptops” a long time ago, in favor of the less-litigious “notebook.” Apple even went far as to release a knowledge base article (Article ID: 30612) stating:

For prolonged use, place your iBook, PowerBook, MacBook or MacBook Pro on a flat stable surface. Do not leave the bottom of the computer in contact with your lap or any surface of your body for extended periods. Prolonged contact with your body could cause discomfort and potentially a burn.

The problem is that MacBooks and MBPs are just so darned easy to use while kicking back on the couch watching 30 Rock while slurping glorious bandwidth from a zippy WiFi connection. So what’s a hippy to do?
I always use protection when using my MBP on my lap and almost never use mine bare back. My favorite stand these days is Launchpad A15 (US$50) from a group called 604 Labs.
The Launchpad comes in three flavors for 12, 15 and 17-inch “notebooks” and in sliver and black. The angled surface created by the Launchpad is more comfortable and ergonomic for typing on a desk but it also keeps the notebook a comfortable distance away from your twigs and berries for those times when you just must use it on your lap. Cooling holes in the aluminum surface allow heat to dissipate quickly.
Sure, there are a million various wedges and stands out there that will help ensure that you’re able to have a Father’s Day (one day) but what makes the Launchpad unique is that it doubles as a protective shell for your precious iron. When traveling, you can place your MacBook or MBP inside the cavity created by the underside of the Launchpad and then stick the whole shebang inside your bag.
While I wouldn’t advocate testing it, the setup feels bulletproof. Launchpad provides an extra layer of protection around your fragile computer while on the road.
Launchpad slightly increases the footprint of your notebook while tucked inside so it may not fit inside the tightest of sleeves, but it should fit inside most looser fitting bags. I’ll be bringing mine out to Macworld Expo, so feel free to ask me about it if we cross paths. Just don’t try to test the bulletproof claim, ok?

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XtremeMac Tango: iPod Speaker System

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Date: Wednesday, December 27th, 2006, 08:26
Category: Accessory

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I’ve been using the XtremeMac Tango speaker system for the iPod (US$199) for about a week and it’s fantastic. Over the holiday it was really nice to be able to plug in my iPod and crank the Christmas tunes (Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocks, btw.) Then when it’s time to get down with some, you know boogie music, you can switch playlists and rock out.
Tango is technically 2.1 speaker system featuring two forward facing 1-inch tweeters, two 2.5-inch mid-range speakers and a 4-inch downward-firing subwoofer. All of the five speakers have high quality neodymium-magnet drivers. Tango’s sound quality is excellent, vocals are clear and crisp and the subwoofer provides enough bass to rock most house parties. Stabilizer feet grip on most surfaces so that bass vibrations do not cause the unit to shift.
My favorite feature, not found in other iPod speakers I have tested, is the wireless remote control. The remote allows you to adjust track, volume, bass and treble controls. The other nice feature in the Tango are the 3.5mm audio/video line in and out jacks. Many iPod speaker systems have an audio input, but not many have an output.
Tango works with all dock connector iPod models and charges iPod while docked. It comes with three universal dock well inserts to accommodate the various iPod footprints and five international plug adapters (US, UK, EU, AUS, KOR/PPK).
Speakers are a subjective thing and vary a lot depending on the type of music that you listen to. I recommend bringing your iPod into an Apple retail store and trying the Tango out for yourself. I think that you’ll be impressed.

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Shinza Releases ZeroShock Sleeve for MacBook, MacBook Pro

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Date: Thursday, December 14th, 2006, 07:13
Category: Accessory

According to an article on MacMinute, Japanese accessory maker Shinza has released a new line of ZeroShock Sleeve casings for Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro line of laptops.
The ZeroShock Sleeve is composed of high-resistance polyurethane form that helps cushion against external bumps and impacts.
The cases for the MacBook (13″) and larger MacBook Pro (15″) are priced at $32.95 and $34.95 respectively prior to delivery.
Now if only they’d come out with something that stops my MacBook’s casing from picking up small scratches. The only solution seems to be a protective layer of way-cool band stickers.

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Holiday Shopping: Speck Products 20 Percent off

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Date: Tuesday, November 28th, 2006, 09:32
Category: Accessory

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Speck Products is offering 20 percent off in their Friends and Family Holiday Special. Speck makes a number of great cases and accessories for the iPod, MacBook Pro and mobile phones. Just enter this promo code at checkout: SpeckFF06.
Do you have a holiday discount to share? Get in touch.

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Home Theatre Remote Controls

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Date: Monday, November 20th, 2006, 11:14
Category: Accessory

logitech-harmony-880.jpgI purchased what I thought was the ultimate home entertainment system remote control about a year ago (the Logitech Harmony 880, pictured) for a whopping US$249 and it sucks.
The promise of a programmable remote is that it will control all of my various video components: TV (Dell W5001C), DVR (DirecTV HR10-250 HD TiVo), DVD player (a lame Pioneer DV-525). Sure it sounds great in theory, but in practice it doesn’t work.
I’ve tried numerous times to program the Harmony 880 and it still doesn’t switch the inputs correctly on my TV. I am forced to pull out the TV remote any time I need to switch from DVD to TV. All the programming is done via the Web site (which is drudgery) which then downloads a configuration file that you sync to the remote via USB.
The 880′s form factor is decent because it’s basically a clone of the popular TiVO “peanut” remote but that’s where the the similarity ends. The 880 doesn’t have the peanut’s rubberized buttons, instead the buttons are shiny and slick – and not in a good way. The buttons are slippery and hard to press.
To add insult to injury the 880′s volume up/down and channel up/down buttons are atrociously thin. It’s almost impossible to find them without looking and pressing them requires a delicate touch. And these are the buttons you use the most!
The 880′s range is pretty poor too, forcing me to point it directly at my DVR to work. There’s also a lag from when you press the remote button and when it actually executes the command, which is annoying. And to wrap up a horrendous experience the 880 has to be placed on the charging cradle ever so perfectly or it won’t charge. Sheesh.
Rob Parker likes the Home Theater Master MX-700 remote control (US$349) but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.
My question to you: what universal remote control do you use with your home entertainment rig? Does it work with the Mac?

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REVIEW: XtremeMac MicroMemo iPod Microphone

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Date: Monday, October 23rd, 2006, 08:00
Category: Accessory

micromemo.pngMicroMemo is a new voice recorder for the iPod that captures 16-bit audio at 22 kHz and 44 kHz to the hard drive.
Recording audio has tons of uses but it’s most beneficial to anyone that attends meetings, lectures, and interviews or otherwise needs a recording of an event.
MicroMemo attaches to the dock connector of the full-size iPod and requires no software. Once attached a simple interface appears on the iPod screen that allows you to either “record” or “save” a recording.
MicroMemo includes a flexible, detachable mic and you can attach any microphone with a standard 3.5mm plug. A built-in speaker allows you to listen to your recordings immediately.
The sound quality was very good as you can hear in the following sample files:
High Quality – 44kHz, WAV, 00:23, 3.9MB, (~170kb/sec)
Low Quality – 22kHz, WAV, 00:38, 1.6MB (~42kb/sec)
MicroMemo is available now from XtremeMac for US$60 in black and white is available to pre-order.

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Q&A: Speck Products SeeThru MBP Hard Shell

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Date: Monday, October 23rd, 2006, 08:00
Category: Accessory

speck-seethru-mbp-clr.jpgAfter I posted a note about the new See•Thru hard shell for the MacBook Pro on my ZDNet blog I received some questions about its thermal characteristics. Specifically you wanted to know how it affects the MacBook Pro’s overall thermal signature?
I posed the question directly to Speck products, who answered:

The SeeThru hard shell was engineered with a 74-slot ventilation system to facilitate the MacBook Pro’s internal cooling process. The shell is designed to allow for thermal exchange out of the heatsinks and fans of the computer. The hard shell should in no way affect the performance of the MacBook or MacBook Pro.

I have to concur that after using a See•Thru hard shell over the weekend my MacBook Pro (2GHz) temps weren’t any higher than the 160°F (highs) that I normally observe.
On a side note, I am getting extremely used to using smcFanControl to keep my MBP well under 160°F – usually 40-50°F less. Apple needs to add this type of user fan control to the OS by the time Mac OS 10.5 Leopard is released. Temperature figures as reported by CoreDuoTemp.

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Merlin S720 EVDO Rev A Card PowerBook Hack

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Date: Tuesday, September 5th, 2006, 21:56
Category: Accessory

ImageThis article will descibe how to get the Merlin S720 to work with your PowerBook on Sprint’s Mobile Broadband. The Merlin S720 is the first EVDO Rev A PCMCIA card available.

PowerBook Sprint Merlin S720 Directions – EVDOinfo.com

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Apple T-Shirts from the 80s

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Date: Friday, August 4th, 2006, 09:44
Category: Accessory

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Want to make a fashion statement? Check out these Apple T-Shirts from the 80s. C’mon, you that you want one! My favorite was the black t-shirt with the word “Apple” on it where each letter was one of the colors from the Apple logo. (Thanks Digg)

What’s your favorite Apple T?

Scaryideas.com: Weird & Funny Adverts

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