Control Your Podcasts!
By Jeremy Gorman
If you need to use a podcast or a music clip to
augment a presentation, nothing may beat the original iPod. The problem
has been how to connect it to other devices. DLO (www.dlo.com
) has solved the problem with an extensive list of iPod docking options
designed to get audio from an iPod to a sound system input . At the
lower end of their line is the Home Dock Music Remote. The Music Remote
is almost perfect if you just want to listen to your iPod through
your sound system but not so good when trying to listen to audio on TV
or video projector, as classroom presenter is most likely to do.
The best feature of this docking station/remote is
the remote itself. It uses a radio frequency (RF) signal to communicate
with the base. Unlike the more common infrared controls, this remote
doesnít need a line-of- sight connection and can transmit through walls.
Impressively it even transmitted through thick concrete and steel walls
of an early post-WWII building used for testing.
The other big selling point of the remote is that
it downloads the track listings from the iPod to the remote itself. The
result is that you have a tiny, lightweight control that mirrors the
original remote control while the user can be up to almost 150 feet from
the base station that docks the iPod.. Theoretically the remote should
be completely transparent, meaning what it shows is exactly what shows
up on the iPod, and it should be able to be manipulated identically.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The Music Remote was tested with both a 4th
Generation 40GB iPod and the new, 80GB iPod Classic, with the same
results. The downloading of all songs and playlists did not go as
smoothly as was hoped. During the initial synchronization process, the
remote often lost the connection to the dock when only 10 feet away.
After several attempts, the lists downloaded and the remote became
usable. Cycling through the menus and tracks on the remote went through
alternating waves of immediate responsiveness and frustrating slowness.
But, neither the initial synchronization, nor the erratic
responsiveness of the remote are the major problem with this
I probably do not speak for the majority of iPod
users, but I tend to remember and use musical iPod tracks by album. I
want to be able to select an artist, then a particular album and let
that album play through. Unfortunately, this is not easy to do with
Music Remote because of its menu structure. Users are given several
options: first, a jukebox function, which can use a playlist that was
created on the fly through the remote; second, a shuffle function, which
randomly selects tracks; third, it can use pre-made playlists and,
finally, an individual track selection function. No function allows you
to browse music by album or genre. When you get past the menuís artist
level, every song from every album becomes one long list. I found it to
be a little too frustrating and time consuming to scroll all the tracks
through on a three line display. Having both studio albums and live
recordings on the iPod makes it very hard to tell where one album ends
and the next album begins.
The remote and dock themselves are aesthetically
pleasing. The remote has a beautifully bright OLED display
should be viewable under almost any lighting conditions. The remote
looks like a 2nd generation iPod Nano with a rubber click
wheel. The box contained a power adapter, which allows both a connected
iPod and the Music Remote to charge, an 1/8Ē -to-RCA cable for
connecting the Music Remote to a stereo input, a brief, printed manual,
adapters for any 4th generation or later iPods (except the
iPhone and iPod Touch), and a A-B USB cable. This USB cable allows the
HomeDock to also act as a computer interface.
Most presenters donít want their audiences to
stare a a blank wall while listening to audio material. Visual
information, even as limited as a static slide creates much more
interest and attention. DLO did not the cables to transfer a video
signal from the iPod to external monitors, projectors or TV but any iPod
AV cable will work. As a video presentation tool it has its drawbacks.
For example, the major selling point of the Home Dock is the remoteís
mirroring of iPod menus. Unfortunately videos cannot be browsed from the
remote, although the remoteís click wheel controls the familiar Play,
Pause, Next, and Back functions, after the video is selected.
DLOís customer service department was really
praiseworthy. The remote on the first model received for review
unfortunately would not charge. After three quick emails trying to
diagnose the problem, DLO delivered a new HomeDock Music Remote to my
doorstep the next morning. The correct response in a timely manner from
any company is all too rare and is very appreciated.
The bottom line is that if you want a means to
charge an iPod and to play music, primarily by playlist or artist, along
with the ability to control it in a huge room or from several rooms
away, this is the interface tool for you. If you donít fall into this
category, I would suggest you wait until DLO addresses its shortcomings
in the next generation of this docking station.