audio hardware

M-Audio KeyRig 49

A little too basic for super serious composers, but it should be just right for everyone else.  GarageBand brought low-cost home recording to the average household Mac, giving weekend rock stars the opportunity to create musical masterpieces. But pecking out notes with a mouse cursor on an onscreen keyboard is no way make music. To really harness the power of GarageBand, you need a MIDI keyboard controller.

Portable 'Pod Performers

 When you’re on the road, and you’ve finally arrived at your hotel room, unpacked your things, and clicked on the TV to see what’s on, it finally hits you—that feeling that you’re someplace unfamiliar, someplace strange. The best way to cure that feeling of displacement? Music. Bust out your iPod and some portable speakers, and fill your room with audible comfort. We’ve found a pair of portable speaker sets that are both quite capable of being your best buddy during your travels.

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It’ll wake you up, all right—if the bright display lets you get to sleep.  The iLuv i166’s retro circular design is a nice break from the current set of shoebox-shaped alarm clock iPod docks glutting the market. But when the room lights go out, the problems of the device shine through. Even though you have the option of dimming the blue display, the choices seem to be bright and oh-my-God-my-eyes! bright. Covering the display negates the reason for having a clock in the first place, and moving the i166 across the room brings up a new issue: The display is unreadable at about 10 feet. You’ve basically traded your alarm clock for a bright blue night light.

The Rig Kontrol 3 pedal requires a Mac host.  The Holy Grail of the electric guitar involves a single magical box that replaces racks of gear and puddles of pedals, with no compromise to quality, accuracy and flexibility. Guitar Rig 3 is a significant evolution in digital guitar hardware and software. It could easily serve as the cornerstone of a completely digital guitar setup.

Apple iPod Touch

The iPod touch is primarily a media player. Everything else is gravy.  In our first look at the iPod touch last month (Nov/07, p68), we said that it’s basically a phoneless iPhone. It turns out that the iPod touch is even less than a phoneless iPhone. But if you want a media player first and an Internet device a distant second, the touch offers a satisfying experience.

Maximo iMetal iM-390

You get three pairs of ear fittings with the iMetal iM-390.  Maximo’s iMetal iM-390 earphones don’t say “iPod” like the iPod earbuds do, but they certainly say “shiny.” Like V-Moda’s Vibe (4 out of 5 stars), the iM-390 earphones have fashionable aluminum bodies that are more than decorative - they also produce impressive sound.

Griffin GarageBand Microphone Cable

The GarageBand Microphone Cable is a lot cheaper than an XLR converter box.  If you’re a podcaster who wants good voice audio in your podcasts (and who doesn’t?), you need to use an XLR microphone. Macs don’t have XLR connectors, but you can use Griffin’s GarageBand Microphone Cable, which features an XLR jack for your mic and a stereo minijack so you can plug into a Mac’s standard audio line-in port.

Touch it, love it. The guitar gods compel you!  Sliding around the living room in your underwear with a hairbrush for a microphone might be cool…wait, wait, wait…that was never cool. If what you really want to do is learn how to play an instrument, it seems that starting with one that’s got a built-in cool factor is, well, cool. 

Griffin Technology Amplifi

Remember to put your iPhone in Airplane Mode when using it with an iPod speaker like the Amplifi. It’s getting harder and harder to find a simple iPod speaker: one that doesn’t have a clock, a radio receiver, a CD player, or a space-age design. But we found one in the Amplifi, and for $150, we like what it has to offer: great sound for your iPod tunes, and not much else.