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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 dock/remote.

 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 that 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.

 

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