I’ve always been a fan of keyboard overlays. Anything that stops your keyboard getting grubby is fine by me, and splash protection is a bonus. Sneeze on your keyboard with an overlay, you can just take it off, rinse it, shake it out, and it’s dry in a few minutes. Pop it back on.
An additional benefit is the rubberised (OK, silicon) layer between your keys and the screen, on laptops when you fold them, and the suppression of noisy key-clacking.
EditorsKeys from England makes excellent keys with all of the above properties, but there’s more. They have keyboard shortcut overlays for various pro apps like Logic and Final Cut Pro X, pointing out all the handy keyboards you may be using, and definitely should be using if you want to really get to grips with editing, and to speed up your work quite dramatically.
Key points — You see, beyond the obvious like tapping the Spacebar to stop/start play, and the delete key working as you’d expect, and Command X, C, V and Z for Cut, Copy, Paste and Undo, all those keys on your keyboard are only going to be used for typing in words when you name tracks and samples, add notes or retitle things. If you’re not editing text, why not assign functions to them?
So Apple wisely added all sorts of attributes to the other keys for when you’re not actually trying to type in words while editing movies or sound.
There are many key commands and abilities I didn’t even know in Logic and Final Cut, but now they are – quite literally – at my fingertips. These include tapping the T key for instant access to Track Header Tools. Other new faves include Area Focus, smart keys for screen sets and Move to Playhead – but there are a very many more. With an Editors Keys overlay on, you will find yourself discovering all sorts of new possibilities and soon you’ll be working faster and with more precision.
Yet another benefit is that Musical Typing (Command-K to turn your alpha-numeric keyboard into a virtual musical keyboard in case you don’t have your input musical keyboard handy, or just want to add in tome quick notes and/or beats) in Logic or GarageBand is a little more forgiving on your fingers with this thin layer of silicon padding absorbing some of the tap-shock, and perhaps as a result, I found it easier to hit beats on time.
What’s great — Smart, stylish, well-made, protective and very handy. A range available for different Apple keyboards – accessory and built-in – and for different pro apps (not just the Apple ones). (Boy, would I like to try the microphones this company has for sale!)
What’s not — Can take a little getting used to if you’re a look- (rather than a touch-) typist, as although the letters are clear for normal typing, it’s a different look.
Needs — Anyone wanting stylish keyboard protection while easy learning great new skills for editing and creativity.
Logitech’s latest all-in-one wireless speaker unit is out, and it’s even louder than the last one. It’s under the UE (Ultimate Ears) brand of bespoke audio products which go up into the professional arena – earbuds and other audio equipment, including thousand-dollar earbuds that reproduce the frequency range 5Hz-22KHz.
Rugged, a little hefty and cylindrical, this latest unit is well named, as it’s even louder – startlingly so – and more bassy than its predecessor.
The MegaBoom is designed to be grabbed and taken with you, for instant parties anywhere. It’s the perfect companion to, say, TV On Demand or Netflix on iPad, not to mention adding a whole new spectrum of immersive enjoyment to games. Also, thanks to it’s 360° sound emanation, it doesn’t matter all that much where you place it, although you won’t get stereo of course. Maximum Sound Level is 90dBA with a frequency range of 65Hz to 20kHz; there are speakers and even earbuds that go higher and lower, but that’s a decent enough range for a standalone accessory speaker and better than many. Midtones are clear and high tones crisp, and bass is surprisingly deep. The challenge with any kind of compact speaker is first, to get any real bass at all, and secondly to get any definition in that bass. The sound output is all thanks to two 2-inch drivers and two 2×4-inch passive radiators – these are typically like speakers without their own drivers – they bounce and radiate due to the sound from the other speakers that do have drivers.
The MegaBoom is tough,with a woven-fibre cover and rubberised top and bottom plus the side panel with the massive Plus and Minus volume controls. Since it’s waterproof; you can pretty much take it anywhere. It’s so waterproof, Logitech reckons, you can actually drop it in into water and it will survive. I wasn’t game to try it (besides, I had to send the unit back). Quite how sound can come out where water can get in, I don’t know.
On the underside is a D-ring – so you can hang the unit – and that’s removable to reveal a tripod mount. Also on the underside are ‘weather doors’ that open to reveal the charge port and the stereo minipin auxiliary-in port, to connect outputs via wire. It stands 22.6cm high, it’s 8.3cm in diameter and weighs 877g.
Charge it up for 20 hours music — it has Lithium rechargeables inside that reach peak charge in 2.5 hours via the supplied micro USB cable and, in the case of the dark grey unit anyway, this goes into a fluorescent green power brick for charging. Untypically, by the way, once these rechargeables lose their kick, they can be replaced.
I found it hard, at first, to pair with my Mac, but easy with the iPad and iPhone, where it appeared as discoverable immediately after holding in the top-mounted Bluetooth button for a couple of seconds. So the usual sound files I run to see what speakers/earphones/headphone can do had to be run from my iDevices. Do this via Settings/System Preferences>Bluetooth. Once it’s playing, the App equaliser settings make an immediate difference; I found I mostly preferred my custom setting that dropped the bass a little and boosted the very top end worked best for my music.
Sounds — Good.The amazing thing is how much sound this thing, a little shorter than my forearm, can pump out. I always use the same test songs: Tropical Hotdog Night by Captain Beefheart, is one of my all time faves with a great range of tones; it really pushes speakers and it’s a good test of how well they can define, and keep up with, a range of sounds across the spectrum. Public Image Ltd by Public Image is a great test of bass thanks to Jah Wobble’s habit of leaning a four-speaker box up against a wall then putting pics on the wall, rather than to the speakers, to record. This can overwhelm the bass response of almost anything.
Finally, Alanis Morrisette’s You Oughta Know has a great speaker stress point just after three minutes when she’s done her wailing bit and the bass and everything else comes back in. If you can clearly hear the bassline bobbling along and then its higher-range riffs (really nice bass work, here) you are probably on to a good thing. Also, Morrisette’s voice is a good push in the vocal range, straining as it does sometimes to express her jilted anger.
Mostly, the UE kept up – and I’m talking flat-out full volume. It’s slightly muddied compared to a dedicated speaker setup, but remarkably good considering it’s not. I get awesome, taut mids on my Mission stereo speakers, and this is missing on the UE – and to be fair, it’s missing from most other things I’ve ever tested. But the Megaboom certainly has the volume you can have a good time to, and loud enough, if you have it outside, to annoy the neighbours a bit. In other words, it’s damned impressive.
Run it as-is, as a Mac speaker (if you can pair it – actually, I easily could once I updated the Boom’s firmware via the app) or as an iDevice sound system or use the free UE MegaBoom app (for iOS) to set audio profiles, use a 5-band EQ, run two MegaBooms at once, and to choose between the sound profiles ‘Stereo’ (if you have two) or ‘Double’.
Under More you’ll find other options, for example you can give your Mega Boom a distinctive name, handy if there are more around, and you can turn the built-in audio alerts on or off.
These are actually pretty handy – there’s a start-up sound, an off sound when it decides to sleep (after a certain period of non-use), there’s a Bluetooth ‘discoverable’ melody, and if you hold the volume up and down buttons in together for a couple of seconds, a woman’s US-accent voice tells you how much charge you have: ‘Sixty percent charge.’ It also let me update the firmware – all this was under Settings.
You can also select one of nine languages (2 Asian, 7 European) to run in.
However, I utterly failed to find this app via the App Store on the iPad, but I did find it in iTunes on my Mac, and downloaded and syncced it that way to an iPhone and an iPad. If you do find the app, it can even set a musical alarm that will have you leaping out of bed to your favourite – or perhaps more effectively, to your least favourite – track.
The setup guide (you can run two Booms at once and pair any one Megaboom to two devices at once) is best read online, I found.
Mac NZ Buying Advice —For many situations most m=people can think of, this Bluetooth speaker has everything going for it.
Logitech Ultimate Ears MegaBoom, NZRRP $399.90. Available in dark grey, red, purple or blue.