Steinheil GLAS.t

January 28, 2012

Steinheil advertised a brand new iPhone screen protector called the GLAS.t, and after reading about it, I decided to purchase one to try out. It’s a premium tempered glass screen protector, with oleophobic coating which helps repel oil and fingerprints. It’s total thickness is about 4mm, and that twice as thick as your normal 2mm plastic screen shield.

For the install, I ran the hot shower and installed it in the bathroom, as the humidity will keep the dust down. I was able to get a perfect install, without a speck of dust anywhere on the phone. That made me VERY happy, as I’m a bit OCD when it comes to dust under the screen protector.

You get ONE shot at installing this. You can’t remove it without ruining it. Once it’s on, it’s awesome. It feels like a naked iPhone screen, and CRYSTAL clear. Really nice at repelling oils from your fingers too. There is absolutely zero drag or friction, and it does feel like a brand new screen.

Since it’s 4mm thick, they give you some button covers, that are like a softer material and bubble like, with the same square design on it, so it looks like nothing is there. It helps raise the button so you don’t feel the 4mm gap when using the home button. This is a fantastic feature, and really does help the overall usage.

I’m using the ZooGoo iPhone case, which is a TPU style (only softer) material, and it seems to be OK with it. I tired the Switcheasy Vulcan TPU case, and it started to raise the shield in the corners and sides.

Tolerance is TIGHT on this. You need to line it up exactly perfectly, in one shot. That’s my biggest issue. If you blow this, you’re out $28. I almost had a panic attack making sure I lined it up perfectly. Sweating bullets in a steaming hot bathroom, and holding my breath applying it, like I’m a sniper with a 3 quarter mile head shot… This was nerve-racking. For $28, they should give you 2, or build an installer into the box for a perfect fit.

All in all, if you line it up right, install it in a clean environment, have a steady hand, nerves of steel, and $28 bucks to drop, I say it’s an awesome screen shield worth every penny.

BEWARE, this is going to give a whole of cases trouble. Make sure if you’re using a case with a lay on the table design, it goes over onto the glass enough, so it doesn’t interfere with the edges. It will raise the shield easily since there’s a 4mm edge to snag.

After the install, there IS some slight bubbling along the VERY edges. The instructions say they will go away in a couple of days, I’ll come back and let you know if they do.

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Tascam iM2 Stereo Condensor Microphones

January 4, 2012

Tascam iM2 Stereo Condensor Microphones

If you’re read through other posts in my blog, you know I’ve been on the eternal hunt for a high quality microphone, that would fit all of my needs. I want high quality sound, high product build quality, something that is positional so it works with both the camera back, or front, and most importantly, a mic that allows the user to set the input gain.

The closest think to this in the past was the Blue Mikey. For some reason, they never released a version that would work with the iPhone 4/4S or the iPad. The mic was great, and had a ton of potential, but also had it’s flaws. I needed to mod the inside, so the mics faced the back camera, and even on the lowest setting, it would still distort when recording loud noise, like a live band.

When Tascam announced the iM2, I was excited to try this out. From the images, and specs, this looked like it could be just the mic I’ve been searching for. And guess what, it is… Sort of. I have my complaints with this Mic as well as being blown away. I’m REALLY torn on this one, allow me to explain.

First, the pros. The Tascam iM2 is a 30 pin dock connector microphone, which allows use of the headphone port on the iPhone and iPad, but NOT the iPod Touch, since the unit itself will cover the headphone port. You plug it in, and a blue LED shows you it’s active. Tascam has it’s own recording app in the iOS app store which the recommend using, called PCMRecorder, and it’s a good place to start.

The iM2 has two microphones, which record in stereo, and has a few very nice features. First, a mini USB port allows you to charge your iOS device while using the Mic. The two mics on the unit can be turned180 degrees, so when plugged in you can face the microphones towards the front, back, top, and anywhere in-between you need it to be. This is a HUGE plus. There is a level potentiometer which sets the microphones input levels, and also a lintier switch for really loud noise recording.

In my testing, with the limiter off, and the input level all the way up, speaking in a normal volume, with the mic about 12 inches from my face gave me a rich, professional sounding recording, that is much superior to the internal iPhone microphone.

Cranking my car stereo as loud as it plays, I than started to test the level input, with the limiter on and off, and did achieve desirable results, with little to no distortion. The PCMRecorder app, although has a very clumsy interface, has a great input level meter, so setting the volume input is easy to set up by visual, but of course, all instances require different settings.

I used this mic to record a live band from a balcony with the iPhone 4S’s video camera. I had the limiter on, and the level pot set about half way. I didn’t use the recording app to see my input levels, and it recorded the audio a bit to quietly. I used an app on the Mac to boost the volume, and it did sounds acceptable, especially for a live recording.

As far as sound quality goes, and this mic being versatile, covering any recording need I have, this is it. It’s clear, unidirectional, level input settings, and able to charge the phone while in use? For this, I love this mic.

And now, my complaints…

First thing, and I fail to realize why companies don’t take this into consideration, but most people use a case on their phone, especially if you plan to take it to a crowded show or concert, where it could potentially be bummed from your hand, you want to case the phone. The 30 pin dock connector is flush with a naked iPhone, so you can’t use this with a case. This is a HUGE design flaw. Even with Blue came out with the second version of the Mikey, they added a slight spacer to accommodate for cases. There IS however a solution. Radtech makes a small dock extender or a dock extender cable, and both of those do work with the iM2, so if you have a case, you can expect to spend another $15 over at Radtech to use it with the iM2.

And my biggest complaint… The one I’m having such a hard time getting over… The build quality is poor. In your hand, the iM2 feels flimsy, cheap, and made like a kids toy. Even the silver microphones on the top have too much give, and they are plastic, coated in that shiny chrome coating, to give the appearance of metal. it’s very lightweight, and I can see this getting broken easily in a bag or your pocket. If you sat on this, it would likely be a goner. For something that gives such a high quality recording, I can’t believe how cheaply made this feels. When you compare this to the original Blue Mikey, it’s a world of difference. The Mikey feels like you have a professional recording mic in your hands. I do hope, if Tascam puts out a revised unit, they redesign, and make the unit solid, use better materials, and give me something that immediately out of the box, feels like an $89 microphone. For example, the Mic W i266 is what QUALITY is all about.

Build quality aside, the iM2 has it all. This is now my go to mic for recording, simply for the sound quality, the stereo recording, and being able to set the input levels. I do recommend this Mic, but I can only give this a 7.5/10. Fix the build quality, and this would be the perfect microphone for your iOS device.

You can read more about it, and finds links to purchase the iM2 by clicking the link below.

http://tascam.com/product/im2/


Mic W i266 for iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch

December 16, 2011

Mic W i266 for iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch

Being a musician, Im always looking for a way for a portable way to record live music, take notes, or capture some unique sound I may want to add into a song at a later time. I’m a stickler for quality, and even when I use my iPhone camera to video record, in many instances the internal microphone just isn’t good enough. Apple has made vast improvements on the iPhone 4S, and what used to be acceptable alternatives to the iPhone 3GS are now inferior to the internal Mic. I’m sure you’ve seen external Mics before. Most are quite small, some are thumb tack shaped, some look like a fat pill. The one thing they all have in common, is they lack in quality to the internal iPhone 4S.

No one has come out with a better, portable headphone port mic… Until now.

After searching for years, and with Blue Mic’s seeming to be dropping the ball on the Mikey for the iPhone 4 series, I found a company called Mic W, and reached out them, explaining my needs, and that I would love to review a Mic. The good people at Mic W sent me out the i266.

The i266 is a cardioid broadcasting microphone, designed specifically for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. This cardioid mic has high sensitivity, and Mic W recommends using it for high quality sound recording, specifically for broadcasting, live radio interviews, and other live applications.

It comes in a clear plastic box with with foam and informational print surrounding the mic. My exact initial impression was “Wow. That’s bigger then I expected.” That’s what she said.

Since every external mic I’ve used is fairly small, I expected more of the same, but with the i266, there is no comparison. This mic is beautifully designed. You can tell the design team wanted something sleek, and industrial, to match the iPhone 4, and they achieved this. It’s made from metal, not plastic, and has real weight to it. Not making it too heavy to carry, but just enough to know you have something solid in your hand. This Mic is PURE class.

I started testing the mic. First I recorded normal speaking into the iPhone, using it’s internal mic, then repeated the test using the i266. Right away, you notice a difference. Where the internal iPhone mic may be slightly better with canceling out room and background noise, the i266 records a richer, more professional sound.

You do get a better sound speaking into the top of the i266, as apposed to the side of the mic (which has holes in it) but this mic is highly sensitive, so getting too close causes distortion. I found keeping the mic about 8 to 12 inches from my face, speaking at a normal level worked best.

Knowing this was a broadcast mic with such high sensitivity, I already knew the answer to this next test, but for the sake of science, and being as thorough as I could be, I tested the mic recording a live band in very high volume. This is not the mic for that, as it distorts horribly, but I knew that, and they don’t advertise the mic for use in that way. I had to try it though. I was that kid when mom said “Don’t touch that pot, it’s hot” the first thing I would do, was touch the pot.

This is only my initial impression, and testing. This is something I need to use much more, field test this, and do another review later down the line.

I have 3 minor complaints…

1) You need to put the iPhone into airplane mode to achieve the best sounding recordings. As with every other mic I’ve tried, you get a periodic static on your recordings if you don’t do this. Audio, or video, if using this mic, use Airplane mode for sure. I was hoping Apple had fixed this, but not yet.

2) I always keep my phone in a case, but to use this microphone, I need to remove the case as the mic’s circumference is large at the base, and will not fit into the headphone jack. This could have been resolved if they had added a small spacer as many companies are doing now, for this very reason. BUT, I did find that an adapter does work, and Mic W sells a kit with an external wire.

3) The mic can’t be bent and repositioned. There is no hinge on this mic, so once it’s plugged in, it points straight up, and that’s it. Now, for interviewing or speaking, this is fine, but if I wanted to use this mic for video recording, I have to keep in mind, the mic’s best position is now facing to the side, and not facing the subject I’m recording. Again, this is solved with an adapter wire, but then I need to clip or mount the mic facing front.

All minor complaints, as the recording quality on this is suburb, and the recording quality outshines the negatives. I would highly recommend this Mic to anyone who needs or wishes to capture broadcast quality audio on their iPhone. Right now, I’d be hard pressed to find a headphone port mic that offers better quality, although, Mic W does have a couple other, higher end models. I can only imaging how great those sound.

Keep an eye on Mic W, they are a major player in the portable audio, with some of the very best design, build quality, and sound quality I’ve come across so far. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

I will be adding a Youtube video on this Mic, and comparison audio in the future.

 

You can check out and purchase the i266 from Mic W by following this link… http://www.mic-w.com/


ZooGue iPhone 4S / 4 Case

November 11, 2011

Today in the mail I received my iPhone 4S case from ZooGue. A couple months back, they had a promotion, pay only the S/H and the case was free for the first 50,000 people. I paid for this, and it wasn’t sent for review.

It’s a TPU style case, but much softer, and more playable then your typical TPU case. My comparison is to the Switcheasy Vulcan. This case has a matte finish to it, and I’d almost say it feels between a silicon case and a TPU. It’s feels soft, but not tacky like silicon.

This case is very thin. The thinest TPU style I have seen yet. It has a nice lay on the table design, and a unique feature is the ridged sides for grip. Not only does this look good, but actually serves a purpose, and works well. The TPU is hard enough where it grips very well in your hand.

All the cut outs on this are perfect, for both my 4S and 4. The images here are the case on my 4, photos taken with the 4S. There is also a screen shield on the front glass. This has enough room, where I can’t see any issue with a back shield on as well, I still think it would be a good fit.

My only criticism would be, I wish the TPU material was a bit harder around the lay on the table design. It pulls away from the edges easier then my Switcheasy Vulcan, but no where near as much as a silicon case, and not a deal breaker by any means.

For only paying S/H, this case is beyond fantastic. Even at the posted price on the ZooGue website at $14.99, this is a great value for the money.

ZooGue’s first offering into the iPhone case market is a home run, and like all the other ZooGue cases, this screams QUALITY.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It comes in Black, Grey or Black.

http://www.zoogue.com/free-iphone-4s-social-shell-case/


iSLIM WALLET CASE FOR IPHONE

November 4, 2011

I have been searching for a wallet style case for my iPhone for awhile now. I’ve wanted the BookBook, but I have a few features that are a must for me, and the BookBook falls short. I’m my many hours of searching, I came across the islim, and decided to give this a try.

For my needs, I wanted a wallet case to carry the many cards I have, and the full use of my phone, with the ability to plug it into my automobile charging cradle. Since I would handle the phone so much out of the wallet, I wanted to be able to keep it in my Switcheasy Vulcan TPU case for added protection.

That’s when I found the islim wallet case. I paid for this case, and it was not sent as a review piece.

I ordered this directly from islimphonewallet.com for $44.99 plus shipping. It arrived in only a few days, so their shipping is very fast. It arrived in a manilla envelope, with a hand written return address and mailing address. Inside the envelope, was a plain black box, just large enough for the wallet to fit inside. The box was crushed, but since this is only a leather wallet, it didn’t harm the product at all.

The wallet itself was wrapped in a white onion skin style paper to protect the surface further. The case smells of real quality leather. To the touch, the leather is very soft, and again, quality. You can feel there is a slight padding on the outside to help protect the phone and the wallets contents.

When open, the left side of the wallet has 4 credit card slots, and 2 pockets for currency, paper, or more cards. On the right side, there are 2 more slots for credit cards, or a drivers license as the front window is a window. Behind those slots is where the iPhone slides in. The phone pocket opens with a slight accordion fold, to accommodate difference sizes, or different phones.

I am able to fit the iPhone 4S into the pocket, while wearing the TPU case, and it just fits, pretty well. The accordion fold is completely open, and it’s about as wide as the wallet can go. In the card slots I have (on the rights side with the phone) A drivers license, State ID, FOID card, Starbucks card, Auto insurance, Medical insurance, Auto warrantee card and an HID gate key, about the thickness of 2 credit cards.

On the left side I have 2 debit cards, one credit card, and a PayPal card. The 2 pockets below have some folded currency, about 5 to 8 bills in each pocket.

All together, this makes for a bulky wallet, but I think for me, the trade off, not having to cary a wallet and a phone is worth it. To be fair, I never carry my wallet or phone in my pants pocket. It’s always in an inside pocket on a leather vest, so the bulk is less cumbersome for me. I don’t think I would be comfortable with this in a pants pocket, it’s just too much. For those of you, who don’t need to carry so many cards, this will be slimmer.

The leather is very soft. It’s so soft, I worry about how well this will hold up to the daily wear and tear. With the extra case on the iPhone, the leather inside the accordion fold is much thinner, and I can see it wearing out quickly. I may be completely wrong, so I’ll update this over time.

For now, I’m going to try this solution for awhile. I’m quite impressed with the material quality, and stitching. This Wallet seems very well made. I love the real leather smell and feel, and I was able to put every card I needed inside the wallet. The only cons, the leather may be too soft, and rip or wear out easily (time will tell) and this is very bulky when fully loaded.

With all that said, I recommend the islim Wallet Case if your looking for this style, with your iPhone easily removable while using a second case.


ZooGue Smart Case for the iPad

June 30, 2010

I have followed the journey of Tim Angel for months, ever since his story was posted on a Mac forum I frequent. His goals are that of many inventors, and start up business owners out there, only this man has taken it beyond a dream, he actually put all his time and savings into an idea. What makes this story unique, is that he has archived his entire story on youtube, from beginning through now. He moved to China for months to oversee the production of his product. He’s posted his visits to a Chinese hospital… It’s been quite fascinating to watch his struggle, and I found myself cheering him on, wanting to see the underdog win, and admiring his drive, dedication to his dream, and the enormous set of balls to actually put everything on the line for his company.

So, reaching out to Tim, he was kind enough to send me out a Smart Case to review, and I have to tell you, this has no impact what so ever on my thoughts, and opinion of this case. So, without any other boring text from me, here’s what I think…

I will start with the very basic, the packaging. Right off the bat, you realize from the box the case sits in, this is going to be quality. The box is thick, with a magnetic clasp in the front holding the lid closed, and the images are printed in full color on the box. Hell, the box alone is so nice, I may try to find another use for this.

Once you open the box, your nose get’s slammed with the scent of leather. Quality leather. Being a metal head, I own several leather motor cycle jackets and vests, and I love quality leather. This surprised me. Most cases other then a company like Vaja, uses second grade materials. Not ZooGue. This is top notch, and you’ll know from the small.

The build quality of this case is superb. Every stitch is dead straight, with no loose strings hanging anywhere. The leather is soft, and clean without blemish. The inside of the case is very soft, and will not hurt your ipad in any way, quite the opposite. It feels like a very solid, well made, quality piece. I can only attribute this to Tim living in China, and overseeing the detail. This feels like a labor of love, and we get to reap the benefit of that.

Putting the ipad in the case, the first thing you notice is how nicely the ipad fits into the case. Unlike the Apple case, which makes it almost impossible to easily put your ipad in and out of the case, the ZooGue Smart Case is made to easily slide the ipad in and out. (That’s what she said.) There is a small leather strap and snap on the top, to lock in the ipad to the case. All of the openings are perfectly cut, giving access to all the ports, speaker, and volume controls. No issues there at all.

This is a folio style case, and when closed, the lid that covers the screen is solid, and protects the screen well. It closes flat, and when you open the lid, it folds all the around, also flat, so holding this case in your hand, open or closed, is quite comfortable. the outside of the case has two strips of soft velcro. This is used for the Smart Case’s most unique feature, and what in my opinion, makes this case “smart.” There is a flap on the back of the case, which is also secured closed by velcro, and when opened, this flap can be positioned so the case doubles as a stand for the ipad, allowing the iPad to be set at almost any angle, for watching a movie, to typing. It’s a fantastic feature and at first, I wasn’t sure how much I would use it, and it turns out, I use it a lot. I use it so much, my wife is now jealous, and keeps demanding me to give her this case when i’m done with this review… I don’t think I want to take this off, so Mr. Angel will be getting business from me after all. I need to buy one for my wife!

You’ll love the fine details, like the elastic strap which serves several purposes. Holding the case closed, securing the case to a head rest in a car for the kids in the back seat, holding the lid back while the iPad is opened and in use, and a strap to put your hand through while holding the iPad. Don’t overlook the small detail, like the indent in the leather, where the strap rests so the case sill lay flat on a table… It’s all been thought of here. Sitting on countless airplanes, vans, and tour buses, this is something I will use all the time.

Are there cons? Sure. I have a couple things I personally would change on future editions. The dock connector port needs to be opened up wider, so the camera kit will sit flush. As it is, the camera kit will work, but doesn’t lock in. I would also like to see the lip around the screen a bit smaller. Right now, it comes to the edge of the viewing area. This makes it difficult to do anything that you need to tap or scroll near the edge. I’m also concerned on how well the elastic strap will hold up over time. Elastic looses it’s elasticity over time, so this could happen if you use the strap a lot. Time will tell.

I know from reading the forums, Mr. Angel has taken some grief from forum regulars about the size and placement of the companies logos on the case. I have to be honest, seeing photos, it bothered me. Once I got this in my hand, I don’t notice it as much, mostly because I’m so taken by the quality and workmanship of this case. Could they be smaller? Sure they could. Will it stop people from buying this case? Yeah, I’m sure for some people will be bothered by this. I myself, like plain looking cases, but I have to tell you, if I made something of this quality, I’d want my name all over it too. Those who will overlook this case due to this… It’s your loss, trust me.

I HIGHLY recommend this case, in every way. I was happy with my Belkin Grip Vue, and didn’t think I’d ever need another case… Until ZooGue. I’m sold.

You can pick this up from http://www.ZooGue.com for $49.95


SQUARE credit card reader

March 3, 2010

I recently received a device from Square, which allows the ability to accept credit card payments directly through the iPhone. For someone like me, who is a traveling musician, this is a game changer, in the way we sell our merchandise. To have the ability to accept credit cards at the mercy booth at club venues is huge. When performing live, most people enjoy consuming alcohol, and like to keep their cash on hand for drinks. This, gives them the ability to continue spending cash at the bar, but opens doors to purchase merchandise using their credit card.

The software is simple to use, and what impressed me the most, is this is very polished. It’s nothing like a 1.0 at all. This feels like Square has spent a very long time, working out all the details, so at public launch, this will be flawless.

Setting up an account with Square is easy. All you need is a checking account, and supply them with your account and routing number. Enter in some other basic information, and you’re up and running. It’s that simple. No set up fees, no credit card monthly service fees… It couldn’t get any easier then this.

How Square makes their money, is charging a small percentage of your charge. You have the ability to either swipe the card, using the provided device for a charge of 2.9% or you can key in the credit card number if you do not have the device handy, for a fee of 3.5%.

The swipe system currently only works with credit cards in the USA, as the reader converts the magnetic strip data into audio, where the software does the rest. In most other corners of the world, their credit cards are the pin and chip style, but Square has mentioned on Twitter, a Euro reader is in the possible future.

I was in Europe recently, and as a test, I used the key in feature on a european VISA card, and it worked, so keep in mind, even in Europe, if the card is VISA, or Mastercard, you should have no problem accepting it. Since this works, I would love to see a currency option on the software, to change from Dollars, to Euros or other forms of currency.

After you enter the amount you are charging, you can enter what the item is in the notes field, or click the camera icon and snap a picture of that item as well. Next, enter or swipe the credit card. Once approved, the customer signs their name on the screen. You can also email a receipt to the customer, which shows the amount spent, the item name entered in the note field, the image you took of their item, and a google map, with a pin to show the exact GPS location of where the transaction took place.

This device is a game changer. I believe in a short amount of time, this device will change the way small business handle money, much the same way PayPal handles money over the internet. I can’t wait to get on the road, and start using my Square, and I suggest, once this goes public, jump on it. Get the software, get the Square device, and enjoy the ability to take credit cards anywhere.