iSpy: Make music on the go with these mobile tools
by Chris Pittman
Apr 20, 2012 | 5642 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Performers have been playing tunes on sidewalks for decades now. However, it’s rare to see anything other than a guitar in the hands of these street musicians.

Until now.

This week we’ll take a look at a musical keyboard that is fully compatible with Apple’s iOS device suite. You can plug-in to an iPhone, hit the road and give an impromptu concert wherever you want.

Go ahead and recreate the famous scene from “Big” in front of Walmart.

MXL Tempo by MXL Microphones; $79.95

One quick look at the MXL Tempo microphone is all it takes to see the quality put into the product. The sleek, professional design gives an appearance of a high-end television talk show mic. Now you can look like Larry King while talking to your grandma online!

Audio quality is among the best I’ve ever heard in a USB microphone. Everything sounds so crisp and detailed. There are bumps, of course, but that is to be expected from any audio/visual product these days.

The Tempo installs drivers when connected to a computer. Once ready, the user only needs to change the sound settings to use the device as the audio input.

The built-in headphone jack works wonders for recording in loud environments. You’ll be able to hear exactly what the mic picked up without the added background noise.

Plugging the attached cable into a USB port is all that is needed to power the Tempo. The lack of a dedicated power supply cord is fantastic and makes transporting the microphone much easier.

Online chatting is very popular these days and the microphone works perfectly in this arena. Those who use a webcam for Skype might prefer to switch the audio function to this device for the added quality. It’s also great for podcasts, though they have dramatically faded in popularity over the past couple of years.

Apple’s Camera Connection Kit, or any third-party variant, can be used to hook the Tempo to an iPad. The USB cord plugs perfectly into the tablet adapter just like it would on a Mac or PC.

Several accessories are included in the package. The tripod stand is the basic fundamental way to use the microphone. Three adjustable legs give the user freedom to prop the device in the preferred style.

Also in the box is an adapter to hook the Tempo to a regular-sized microphone stand such as the ones you’d see at a concert or comedy club.

The MXL Tempo is a fantastic product for anyone dealing with audio production work. It’s my top recommendation for a USB microphone to date.

Mobile Keys by Line 6; $200

I’m not sure if Keyboard Cat could handle all 49 keys on Line 6’s Mobile Keys controller, but I’m sure he’d have fun all the same. The multi-functional keyboard controller lets one take their piano playing skills on the road.

The creator touts one big feature that most similar products do not have — iOS compatibility.

Mobile Keys can connect to an iPod, iPhone or iPad with the included adapter. Now you can get your Beethoven on in a crowded subway with full digital functions and form.

Once connected to an iOS device, a prompt appears to download a free application. I personally recommend ignoring this action and sticking to Apple’s GarageBand.

The app works perfectly with the keyboard. Mobile Keys takes the software much further than the onscreen touch keyboard ever will.

The beautiful design of the product is a real treat. Every aspect is well-made and the look is professional. Playing the keyboard feels natural.

The top is covered with all sorts of knobs and buttons, including controls for the octave, pan and volume. Pitch and Mod wheels also line the face of the device.

The back of the keyboard features outlets for sustain and expression pedals, a USB port and the iOS connector slot.

Line 6 claims that one can get up to nine hours of use one a single iPad battery charge. I didn’t play piano that long to see if they’re right, but I can happily say that Mobile Keys is friendly to the battery — a big plus for any third-party device.

iOS support is the real highlight of Mobile Keys, but the product will work with PC and Mac OS X operating systems as well.

Digital music production is becoming extremely popular among those on the music scene. Mobile Keys provides a great way to play the piano or organ wherever one chooses. Those looking for a mobile keyboard should definitely give the product a chance. Just remember to download GarageBand as an accompaniment to the device. It should be required.
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iSpy: Make music on the go with these mobile tools by Chris Pittman

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