JBL On Stage II comments

JBL on stage IIMy latest gizmo arrived today. The JBL On Stage II iPod speaker was an impulse buy last week when I saw it on dealnn.com for 40 bucks. I had been looking for something like this to take along while traveling and for occasional use around the house. I don’t like wearing earbuds.

I like the size. I’ll have no problem taking this along in a suitcase. I can leave the iPod charger at home since this will do that, too.

The sound is big. It sounded good in the large great room in my house. I have no doubt that it could be cranked up loud enough to have hotel room neighbors complaining.

It comes with a short cable for hooking up non-dockable mp3 players or, say, a laptop. I think it would work well in a dorm room too, but a student might rather have a device that also functions as an alarm clock radio.

I was wondering why these were being sold at over half off. Well, I think the most current dock connecter in the package (and there were many) is the one for my now two-year-old 5g 60gb, which is shown. Also, the remote control only seems to be working intermittently so maybe the battery in it is nearing the end of its shelf life. There also may be concerns for some about whether it is iPhone compatible. I can tell you that it is iPod Touch compatible.

Some may consider it a drawback that it doesn’t take batteries to make it truly portable. I don’t care about that. If I need to be that portable, I’ll put on earbuds or headphones.

My favorite podcasts

One of the main reasons I bought my iPod last year was to use it as a portable hard drive to backup my photos from my laptop during my trip to Britain last year. Another reason was to consolidate the CDs in the car. I wasn’t buying the whole podcast thing, not quite.

A year later, what do I use it for? Listening to podcasts while driving–more on out-of-town trips than commuting. This morning I am loading it up for a trip to Mom’s. Here’s my top six:

  • The Digital Story – O’Reilly author and editor Derrick Story is building a cottage industry around his “online camera club.” I have a draft of another blog post about this. If you want to improve your digital photo skills, listen to this.
  • Science Friday – Ira Flatow’s NPR news show on the hot stories from the world of science that week. Listen and learn.
  • News from Lake Wobegon – The weekly update segment from Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” radio show. Last time I was at Mom’s, I played a bunch of these for her.
  • Living on Earth – Another public radio program, this one showcasing environmental stories. The producers do a great job of giving balanced coverage to the issues they cover. This show and Science Friday have both had very good coverage of alternative energy issues of late.
  • To the Best of Our Knowledge – Yet another public radio show, this one featuring authors of books. The official summary says it’s about “new ideas.”
  • This American Life – Mostly funny stories, both first person and fiction, hosted by Ira Glass. Sometimes the humor very dark. You have been warned. (Yes, it too is a public radio show.)

Looking at the list, I guess I get what I want from public radio when I want it. Another thing you may notice is that almost all are done by radio professionals. The common thread is high production value.

I read somewhere a while back that production value is what keeps people coming back to a podcast. I know I tried listening to one or two where a newspaper columnist basically read a printed article into either a small digital audio recorder or a computer microphone. It was almost unbearable.

Most of my CDs have yet to be ripped and copied to the darn thing. My headphones hardly get used either–that might be different if I flew more.

Feel free to leave further listening recommendations in the comments. I don’t know when I’ll get to them though. I seem to have a backlog. Maybe I’m not driving enough… or I need to fly more.

My new audio recorder

iPod plus TuneTalkStereoI picked up a new gizmo last week on my holiday Friday off of work, a Belkin TuneTalk Stereo accessory for my iPod. It records in either “CD quality” (44.1 KHz, 16-bit, stereo) or lower quality (22.05 KHz, mono) using its built-in stereo microphone or from an external microphone or sound source using its 1/8″ input jack. It only works with “5G” iPods. It cost $69 at The Apple Store.

We’ve been doing a lot more with audio at work this year and it’s been fun. It’s handy to carry an audio recorder around and this is certainly much smaller than a Microtrack is, if I have my iPod with me anyway. It can also record for a lot more time and certainly has longer battery life than the Microtrack.

I was asked today, “what are you going to record with it?” and couldn’t give a good answer. It would have been handy to have along on my trip to Britain this year so I could show family here what the family members we met over there sound like. I can take it to church and record more sermons for the Web site (even though Gary has passed away and I miss him tremendously). If my grandparents or my father were still around, I could use it to record oral history from them. If you’re a family historian or genealogist, I think an audio recorder is now a must-have tool (I’m a recovering one). I can record the wind chimes on my back porch or the sandhill cranes down by the lake.

When I showed it to Mindy today she said she wanted to hear some samples online (I suppose so she can hook me up on her work blog). These were made with the built-in mic. I haven’t tried any of the better mics we have around yet. They are also unprocessed except for conversion from .wav to .mp3 format.

The following was recorded in my office. I just grabbed an announcement off the table in the lab and read it into the recorder.


I wanted something better than that, though. So at home I read a passage from the book I read over the weekend. I like it better.


Update (14 Nov): I had a brief opportunity today to try it out with an Electro-Voice 635B handheld microphone. I read the guest speaker announcement again because that was handy. The levels came in a little lower than the built-in mic, possibly due the low-end cable that was available today. We have some other cables ordered and we’ll try that when they arrive in a few days.