SendStation PocketDock

September 16, 2009

When traveling, or using my iPhone in my vehicle and on the road, I’m always looking for was to consolidate cables, chargers, and items I bring with me. I try to find as many universal use items as possible. In my car, I’m currently using the Griffin AutoPilot, to charge the iPhone, and I use its AUX out jack into my AUX on the car stereo, for the best sound I can get. There are times, I want to use the docks ability to output audio, without the subpar headphone port, with built in amplifier, and there’s not many products that allow this.

I picked up the SendStation PocketDock, which allows for 2 things… First, it’s a very small dock connector. Almost the eat same size as the previous dock cables before the iPhone came out, so it’s a little longer then the new cable plugs.

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On the bottom, two ports are included, one is a mini USB, and the other is an Audio Out. The Mini USB will allow you to charge AND transfer data. Plugging the unit into the iPhone brings up the “Not compatible with iPhone” screen, but it does work with my iPhone 3GS.

The Griffin AutoPilot has a feature where you can set the output level, and I was afraid the SendStation might not be loud enough with no level option. It is softer then the high setting on the Autopilot, but it still works very well. Once you turn the volume up on the stereo in the car, it’s more then loud.

Using headphones with the audio out is a different situation. Since using the dock connector, the volume slider disappears on the screen, so there’s no way to control the volume. It’s always the same level, unless your headphones have a volume pot to adjust it. I picked up a small volume pot from my local Radio Shack for about $3.00. I still like my headphones louder, so this may not be something I use like this.

The unit comes with 2 cables, one is a standard 1/8″ to 1/8″ (or headphone to headphone) cable for using the AUX port on the car stereo, and the other is a 1/8″ to RCA Left and Right stereo cable. Both cables are decent length and have a built on velcro cable tie on them.

I’m not sure $30 is a great deal for this, but It’s certainly something to consider if you want a charge and audio out solution for the car.

I am currently using this in combination with my Belkin Mini USB auto adapter, and a Belkin USB to Mini USB retractable cable, making this the most portable and compact system I’ve used to date.

Pros: Small, Charge, Data transfer, Mini USB, and Audio out from the Dock.

Cons: Pricey, No level adjustment for Audio out.

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Brando Workshop Flexible Mini Capsule Microphone for iPhone 3GS

September 2, 2009

I have been looking for a audio solution for microphone recording on my iPhone 3GS. I want to be able to record rehearsals of my band, and the level is just too hot, and distorts the audio horribly. I need something that will allow me to adjust the line in levels. In my search for this (and I have still yet to find it) I can across the Brando Workshop Flexible Mini Capsule Microphone.

The website boasted “10 Times Better Audio Reception!!” which for what I need, would actually make things worse, but I got to thinking, I could use this for other things as well. After looking at their audio samples on their website, I was impressed ad had to order one for myself.

Ordering from Hong Kong to Chicago took much less time than they advertised. They claim 7-22 working days. It was in my mail box in about 7 days total. Very nice!

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The box they package this in, could house about 150 of these microphones, it’s so small. It’s out the size of a large pill, no taller then a dime (minus the plug). The website says it comes in Black or White, and I purchased the black one.

First impressions of this product, is the flexibility or bending hinge feels a little bit cheap. I wouldn’t want to flex this over and over. It’s a bit still, and feels like it could easily break. Maybe it’s because of the small size, but it does concern me a bit.

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I tried this with 2 applications. First, I used the audio voice recording with the iPhones 3.0 software. I started recording without the microphone using the iPhones mic, and speaking clearly. During the recording session, I plugged in the Brando mic, and the recording stopped. I recorded a second test with the microphone plugged in.

Listening to the first test, with the iPhones built in mic, the voice is warm, deep and rich. A decent level of volume. Certainly good quality. When I listened to the second test, using the Brando mic, I was blown away. this is a HUGE difference. It’s loud, bright, clear, and much better sounding then the internal mic.

I had to try this with the video camera, and this is where the flexible mic is valuable. I was able to bend the mic toward the back side, facing the subject being recorded. Again testing, I started recording with the built in iPhone mic, and plugging in the external mic this time, did NOT pause the recording. Again, the difference is incredible. This mic is fantastic.

But wait… What’s that noise I’m hearing in the background? It’s sort of like GSM noise, but that’s not it… It’s a clicking? An odd sound I’ve never heard before… After much troubleshooting, I had to contact Brando with my issue. Guess what? Thay did have a solution, and this is where I have a HUGE problem with this product…

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Their solution to fix the back ground noise is to turn OFF WiFi during use. Wait… What? I have to turn off my WiFi capabilities while I use a microphone that is plugged in? And if this is known issue, why the hell isn’t this on the website? This is major inconvenience when wanting to use this. Now, one more step is needed to use something they claim is “Plug and play.” Well, it IS a company in Hong Kong, and FCC standards don’t apply. Plus, I suppose it’s not a lie in China, since the iPhones coming out there are sans Wifi… All kidding aside, this is not a HUGE deal, but certainly a hassle.

Over all, I would recommend this mic, even with the WiFi issue. Just know, you need to turn that off, or simply put your phone in Airplane mode when you want to use this, and the background noise disappears.

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Their website claims compatibility with the following: iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, iPhone 2G, iPod Nano 4G, iPod Classic 120GB, and iPod Touch 2G.

It sells for $14.00 plus a few dollars shipping, and for under $20, this is well worth the money. Now, if Brando comes up with a Line Level solution, I’ll be a happy man, and the frost to place an order.

http://www.brando.com


Zacuto Zgrip iPhone Jr.

September 2, 2009

Shortly after my feeble attempt at modifying a Bracketron into a tripod mountable iPhone holder, I saw a video for a company called Zacuto, and they released a product called the Zgrip iPhone Jr. I was thrilled to see this, as I was beginning to think I was the only person to see the usefulness of a product like this. I was met with some ridicule from a few Mac related forum regulars, but I stand by the idea.

Of course the iPhone 3GS doesn’t replace my Nikon DLSR, but in a pinch, when out with the family, or wanting to make a quick video for youtube, or to share with someone, the iPhone 3GS is a fantastic tool to use. In proper lighting conditions (outdoors comes to mind) the camera is fantastic. The exception is the lack of image stabilization. Videos can en hard to watch, and photos can turn up blurry.

Enter the Zacuto Zgrip iPhone Jr.

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Zacuto has attempted to solve this problem with a device which holds the iPhone in place, and give you a solid, pistol grip type handle, to help hold the iPhone steady while shooting video or still photos. The iPhone Jr. is a consumer version of their professional version, and priced lower making it more affordable for people to use. I have not had the Pro version in my hands yet, but the options look fantastic, but the consumer Zgrip iPhone Jr. looks to be more then enough for the common user,

The handle looks to be mold injected and made of a solid but very light weight material, with a texture to it, almost like sand paper, making it virtually slip free. Even with wet hands, there’s no way this will slip from your hand.

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The top clamp portion is made of a light weight metal, feeling slightly heavier then the handle side, with rubberized caps along all the points, to protect, and grip the iPhone in place. If I had to compare, the design is similar to that of the PED3 iPhone stand, but the layout of the “arms” are in different positions. The metal is sturdy, but can be bent with a bit of force to open or close on the iPhone to create the perfect grip for the device.

This has 2 features built into it, which is a huge selling point for me. First, the addition of the 1/4″ 20″ thread on the bottom of the handle, to be used for any standard Tripod. This is fantastic, finally a solution to mount the iPhone for stationary use. Using this on my tripod, I found this to be solid, and sturdy. It simply works! This is perfect if you’re shooting something like an unboxing or review style video for youtube, or a quick and simple snapshot for Ebay. This is a huge plus for this product, and turns it into something very cool, into something totally useful.

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The second feature is the same 1/4″ 20″ thread on the top of the clamp, where a light can be attached to the unit. This as well was a genius idea. The iPhone had difficulty in darker conditions, and Zacuto came up with a solution for that too. I sadly do not have a light which stays on with this adaptor to use, but I plan on looking through the Zacuto website (www.zacuto.com) to find one.

So, now onto my only criticism on this product. With the home made version I created with the Bracketron, if gave me the ability to adjust and clamp the phone in to any size. I keep a case on my iPhone, and with the Zacuto, I have to remove the case anytime I want to use it. This is a hassle, but not the end of the world. If I could make a chain to this product, or offer a suggestion to them, I think many people keep their phones in cases, and would like to see a different style of mounting bracket, to accommodate for a cased iPhone. Even with bending the arms open wider, there wasn’t enough grip to hold onto my Speck Candyshell case. Maybe some sort of adjustable option would work best.

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Over all, this is a unique and inventive product and works exactly as described. The addition of the tripod and light mount’s and genius. I will continue to use this, and add to this article again, when I’ve used, and abused this more.

The Zgrip iPhone Jr. sells for $69.00 (www.zacuto.com)

Design: 3.5 / 5 (With an adjustable clamp, this would easily be 5 / 5)

Build Quality: 4.5 / 5

Features: 5 / 5

Price: 3.5 / 5

Innovation: 5 / 5

OVERALL: 4 / 5

If you need stabilization or a way to mount your iPhone to a tripod, what are you waiting for? Go buy this! Made in the USA as well, so you’re helping support manufacturing and jobs here at home. (Home if you’re living in the USA that is.)

Zacuto is also a fantastic company for all your professional camera needs. You’ll find unique ways for mounting, and stabilizing just about any for of camera. Check them out at http://www.zacuto.com.