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.



Switcheasy Vulcan

January 29, 2010

After I picked up the iSkin Solo FX for my wife’s iPhone 3GS, I absolutely loved the material along with the fit and feel. I really thought it COULD be the case, that would replace my long time use of the Speck Candyshell. Stopping me was the color, and the multi circle designs on the back. It’s not at all my style, and looked for a solid black version. They didn’t have the Solo FX in black, but I was thrilled to see they had a regular iSkin Solo in solid black. I ordered 2 of them, I was so excited to see it. When it arrived, I was underwhelmed by the fit. It’s a slightly different feel then the FX, and the case just does’t sit on the phone the way the FX does. Disappointed, I began looking for alternatives, and saw some comparisons to the Switcheasy Vulcan, and placed my order to try it out.

I’ve owned a few Switcheasy cases on the past. I had an original black Capsule Rebel, and I loved the design, but it suffered from the dreaded sagging bottom. I then picked up the Capsule Neo on it’s launch day, and after the install, it became my favorite case for awhile.
Switcheasy produces quality, and some of the very best cases on the market, and most people who use them, know this as well. The Vulcan is no different.
The material is something they call “Hydro Polymer.” It’s very similar to the material on the iSkin Solo. It’s not a hardshell, and not a silicone rubber, but something somewhere in-between. In my opinion, it’s superior to both of those, for great scratch protection, and impact protection. This material is soft, flexible, yet still enough to hold it’s shape. It’s smooth, and slick feeling, and can slide in and out of your pocket easily, but has enough tack where it will stay in your hand. It won’t collect dust, but it IS a fingerprint magnet. The entire chrome bezel is covered, and it creates a very nicer lay on the table design.
Putting the case on is simple, and does require a bit of massaging to line up the camera hole perfectly, and the bottom mic and speaker openings. It’s only takes a second or two, to fit the case dead on.
Switcheasy always gives you a lot of extras as well. In the box, you get a screen shield, microfiber, and the greatest thing in the box, 2 dock covers, and 2 headphone port plugs. They also come in the color of your case, so for me, it’s the smoke colored pieces.
The Vulcan has a slight design on the back, which is subtle, and adds just enough flair to the case. The shape reminds me of the logo from Star Trek, and I’m sure this is why the case is called the Vulcan.
The case adds very little bulk to the phone. It’s close to the iSkin Solo in thickness, but the fit and finish of the Vulcan is superior. The only 2 issues I found with the case, was when putting in the dock connector plug, the lip on the bottom would raise up. This was an instant disappointment, BUT I solved with with a very easy solution, you can see in the video review. The second issue, are the lines along the sides of the phone from the molding process. They feel a bit sharp in your hand, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. At only $19.99 on the Switcheasy site, this to me is a fantastic buy, and highly recommend it.

iSkin Solo FX

January 18, 2010

Today I picked up a new case for my wife’s iPhone. My wife is BRUTAL on cases. It’s not that she drops the phone, or is rough with it. I honestly don’t know how the hell she does it. In the past 6 months, she’s gone through 2 Speck Candy shells, by breaking the bottom plastic piece that goes across the dock port and lower bezel, and 2 Speck See-Thru cases, where the rubber rim that surrounds the bezel has come up from the case.

My wife is sort of… clumsy, so I want the best protection I can give her phone, and yet she wants a “cute” looking case. I HATE silicone cases. They stretch, never fit quite right, attract dust and link, and when dirt particles get under the skin, it will scratch the hell out of the phone. Not a good choice for the Mrs.

I picked up the iSkin Solo FX from the Apple Store today in Blue. This could possibly be the best case for my wife. First, she loved the blue color of the candy shell. The blue on the Solo FX is damn close. She wanted a “cute” case. This has a girlie design, with little circles in it. Bingo. It’s not hard shell, so she can’t crack it, and it’s NOT silicone, so it will retain its form.

This case is a soft, pliable polymer of some sort, too hard to be silicone, too much like plastic to be a rubber… It’s actually a very cool case. If this came in solid black, I might actually use this instead of my Candyshell.

It comes with a mirror screen protector, and some iSkin stickers if you so dare to show off your allegiance to the iSkin Army.

This is well made, and nice looking, and after if goes through the stress test that is my wife, I’ll let you know how it holds up.

iPhone 3GS 32GB

June 25, 2009

You can find hundreds of unboxing photos and videos, thousands of reviews, benchmark comparisons, and even more sites on the list of features firmware 3.0 and the new 3GS have. I won’t bore you with that sort of thing. This is more of my impression of the phone.

iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS

I wasn’t going to upgrade from my 3G to the 3Gs. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I was not yet eligible through AT&T for the phone, and I couldn’t justify paying full price for more ram, a video camera, voice controls, a compass, and a slight speed bump. I actually had to convince myself I didn’t want to the new phone, and it worked. Until I got the message, that AT&T was allowing me to get the subsidized price, early. I was going to get my new 3GS with the slight speed bump.

Wait… Did I just say “slight speed bump?”

Holy crap. It’s like going from a Yugo to a Ferrari. This thing SCREAMS. From booting, to launching applications, and loading games, this is a huge difference. Launching a game like the Sims at the same time on a 3G and a 3GS… Let’s just say you’re playing the same at least 60 to 90 seconds sooner. I know this doesn’t seem like much, and believe me, I didn’t it would be either, until I sat down to compare the 2 phones. Websites load faster. Sometimes by twice as fast. Just for the speed alone I would have upgraded.

The video rocks. Good quality, easy to use. Awesome addition. The camera is better, and takes better pictures. It’s still lacking a bit in the dark side of things, but overall, an improvement. Compass… Check. it works. Great, I will now always know where north is. Not something to upgrade for, but cool to have.

The 32GB is the main reason I wanted to upgrade. I was always at full capacity on my 16GB and wanted to add more. All music, and apps. No video. Now, I have room for video.

The iPhone 3GS is a powerhouse. I can’t stress enough, if you own the 3G, upgrade as soon as you can. Even if you don’t think you need to, do it. You’ll be happy you did. I know I am.

Now, we just have to wait for AT&T to catch up with the rest of the world, and turn on the MMS and Tethering functions for the iPhone.

Speck Candy Shell iPhone Case

June 25, 2009

So, my new iPhone 3Gs is fantastic. (I’ll put that in another review) and I was very happy with my Griffin Clarify case. I’ve been using that for many months. Well, people all claim that the 3GS is the exact same size and form as the 3G, so the cases all work. Sweet.

The Griffin Clarify does fit, but in my opinion, does not fit as well. I had issues with the lip lifting the Steinheil screen protector, so instead of the continuous headache of trying to mold it into position, it was time to head to the Apple store, and try something new.

The selections were slim, and my guess is new phones, means lots of new cases sold. I did not want, and will never use a silicone case. Just not my thing. I don’t like them, and I much prefer a hard shell case. I also have other requirements. The bezel must be covered. There must be a lip around the screen, so if I put my phone face down on a table, the glass will not come in contact with the screen. The look and style of the case is also of major importance to me. I want it to look as sleek and classy as the phone itself. Switcheasy does a GREAT job of all these things, but alas, the Apple Store doesn’t sell Switcheasy.

Enter Speck. I love Speck products. I’ve used their shells on my Macbooks. Their iPhone cases however never caught my eye. That is until I saw the Candy Shell on line when it was released. I’ve been wanting to see on up close since, and with my choices slim, I decided it was time to check it out.

Speck Candy Shell

Speck Candy Shell

I own a black phone, I want a black case. It must be the metal head in me, but I like simple. Black. White. Easy. My issue with the Candy shell cases are the color combinations. I dislike them ALL. Why Speck, WHY didn’t you make this case in SOLID black? I had no choice, but to buy the Black and Yellow case, or as they call it, Lemondrop Licorice. I cringe even typing that.

The packaging is nice, interesting snap idea to close the box. It comes with directions, a hazard orange cleaning cloth which is a bit too small for my liking, a screen protector, and the little cardboard thing that you use to smooth out bubbles when applying the screen shield.

The case it self is damn nice. I was amazing at how soft the inside was, and sturdy and solid the outer shell is. It’s made of a 2 play  concept, giving you the best of both worlds, silicone and hard shell. BUT, it’s neither like a silicone nor a hard shell case. It’s too hard for Silicone, and too soft and plyable for a hard shell.

The volume rocker, and the power button are both covered with the softer material, and still makes the buttons easy to use. The case snaps on easily, and the fit is perfect. The camera lines up, the holes are perfect, and remember, this is a 3GS phone.

The Bezel is not 100% covered. You can still see about an 8th of the silver on the inside, next to the glass, but the majority is covered. Because of this, this case works perfectly with any screen protectors you use. A huge plus. The lip around the glass is made of the softer material, and is a perfect height.

My ONLY complaint is the yellow. Damn I hate yellow. My phone reminds me of a bumble bee now. I LOVE this case. I HATE the color options. Please Speck, oh PLEASE make me a solid black case. I’ll buy from you for life if you do. I’ve even considered dying the silicone… I won’t go that far… I’ll just stomach the bumble bee for the time being.

Damn my lack of taste for the colorful.

Paul Frank Skin for iPhone 3G

June 25, 2009

Waling into one of my favorite places on earth, The Oak Brook Apple store, I needed new cases form my newly purchased iPhone 3G, as well as my wife. We’ve both kept our phones in cases all along, from the 2g and 3G versions. She didn’t want a boring case.

I myself and not a fan of skins, or silicone. To me, it may provide fine protection from drops and dings, my experience has always been negative, as they collect too much lint and dirt for my liking.

When looking for cases, she was immediately drawn to the colorful images of the Paul Frank collection. Bright colors, cartoon monkeys, some skulls… All eye candy, and I admit, sort of neat… for a girl.

She chose the Julius Dots, in a cyan style blue, with colorful dots and monkey faces. Yeah. For a girl.

For a girl.

For a girl.

The case itself is actually made of a much thicker type silicone, and not like a flimsy skin. It certainly has some bulk to it. It went onto the new 3GS very easily, and fits the same as a 3G. All the corners are well covered, and the volume rocker and power button are covered as well. Very nice protection all over. A concern other then collecting dirt, is that silicone tends to slide around and needs constant adjustment to keep it on straight. This seems think enough where this may not be an issue.

I wouldn’t use this case if I was going to keep the phone in a front pocket, but for a purse, or bag, this will suit her just fine.

So, in the end, She’s happy with the look and style, I’m happy with the protection of the phone, and the prices was about average for these types of skins, coming in at $29.95.