Product Reviews

Your easiest streaming solution!

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When it comes to video streaming solutions, we've learned a few things the hard way.  And sometimes, after learning the hard way, video streaming is still difficult.  The primary reason is that the public internet isn't always consistently as fast as your ISP claims. 

Many of our clients are smaller churches.  Why?  Well, because most churches are smaller churches.  So when a smaller church wants to stream video outside its walls, how much can it spend?  And how hard can it be to make it work?  The answers: not a lot, and it has to be simple. 

This isn't the solution you'd want if you have a second campus and need a life-size HD picture, but if you have various groups of people anywhere else who want to connect with you, whether they speak your language or are just staying home with a sick kid, this might be just what you need.  People can watch from any tablet, computer, smartphone, or internet-enabled television.  And yes, you could project its output onto a screen, too. 

This solution does not require a computer, it does not require encoding software and it doesn't even require any ongoing cost, if you're willing to watch an occasional advertisement.

Read more: Your easiest streaming solution!

 

Heil PR22-UT - The best value in handheld vocal microphones. Period.

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by Dave Horn

Best. Value. Period. 

That's a pretty bold statement, and might make some of our other microphone manufacturers uncomfortable, but I think that it's true.  At $117, the Heil PR22-UT is the best value in vocal microphones, but what does that mean? 

Is it the best microphone available?  No.  Is it the cheapest microphone available?  Hardly. 

Since its introduction over 40 years ago, the benchmark for vocal microphones has been the Shure SM58.  It's still standard by which microphones are measured and for good reason.  It sounds good and there are tens of thousands in use every day.  We all know what to expect when we plug one in. 

In comparison to the SM58 which costs $99.95, the Heil sounds better, but it should.

Read more: Heil PR22-UT - The best value in handheld vocal microphones. Period.

   

All-in-one streaming video mixer - Roland V-4EX

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Products that do everything don't do anything really well, at least that's what we've been led to believe.  If I were making a similar statement, I would change it to "products that do everything don't do anything perfectly."  And for many of us, the quest for perfect gets in the way of very good, not to mention that the more expensive options still aren't perfect. 

A few years ago, I was in search of an order management system for our company, and one of the vendors suggested that I quickly review the system and to figure out whether it would meet 80% of our needs and then if it did, to call him back for a full test-drive.  The system wasn't perfect, but it met more than 80% of our needs.  And it cost less than 10% of we would have paid for better (yet imperfect) systems.  There's something to the concept of "good enough" without making critical sacrifices in performance. 

The Roland V-4EX is an amazing piece of equipment.  It's a 4-channel video mixer with effects, it features a PC input with built-in scan converter (converts computer images to video signals), downstream keying and titling (for text or graphics to overlay the video), has HDMI and composite video inputs and HDMI output, allows audio to be embedded and de-embedded from those HDMI signals, has a video streaming output via USB with a 4-frame audio-for-video delay (helps match up audio with the video signal that is inherently delayed), and it's $1995 -- about 15-20% of what something like this would have cost just a couple years ago.  I almost forgot that it has a built-in touchscreen quad video monitor so that you can view and select the input signals.  You can hook up your iPad, camera(s), recorded video and/or your computer. 

So what's the catch?

Read more: All-in-one streaming video mixer - Roland V-4EX

   

My favorite small speaker

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by Dave Horn

Like any gear guy, I have my favorite products.  And like any good gear guy, those favorites change from time to time. 

Last week, our church launched its community garden space, and we needed a better sound system for the event.  Since our existing small portable system wasn't quite what we needed, we had borrowed a different system for our Easter Sonrise service (outdoors), but I'm a firm believer that churches should own or rent all of the gear that they need, and that borrowing is not a good option. 

So what constitutes a "better" sound system?  Frankly, I was tired of lugging an 80 pound amp rack, with a CD player/iPod dock, small mixer, a wireless microphone, a drawer full of cables, and a power conditioner -- along with speakers, stands, and cables.  The system had served us well for 5-6 years of our outdoor basketball league, for youth events, camps, and more, but I wanted something more portable and something easy enough for anyone to set up and use.  Even as simple as it was, it could have been better. 

The requirements for the speakers:  small, lightweight, built-in amplifier, great sounding, microphone input, line input (1/4" and XLR), pole mount socket, ideally could be used as a small monitor (with the horn in its proper rotation, of course), and they had to cost less than $500 each. 

What did I choose?  The Electro-Voice ZXA1.  For $499.95, I have a speaker that fills all of my requirements. 

One of the best features of the ZXA1 (like many powered speakers) is that it has a microphone level input so you can take a dynamic mic, the ZXA1, a speaker stand and cables and have a complete small sound system.  The line input will take the output from a music source, too - a two-channel mini mixer.  The ZXA1 weighs in at just under 20 pounds, and is about 11x18" on its face, and it sounds great. 

It's just as at home as a small monitor as it is a small main speaker.  Now, we're talking small when I say small.  You're not going to play rock and roll to 500 people outdoors and you won't rattle any windows, unless you get the ZXA1-Sub - and even then rattling windows outdoors isn't terribly likely.  The ZXA1 and ZXA1-Sub combo (a pair of each) is a fantastic small system for youth rooms and choir rooms, too. 

If you're looking for a similar speaker that doesn't need a lot of equalization and that serves a variety of smaller applications well, consider the ZXA1.  I just bought two for my own church, and I could have bought anything. 

   

Best New Headphones for 2013

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Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine published its picks for the best new headphones for 2013.  Not surprisingly, one of our favorites made the list.  In the category, "Best for Living Out Your Arena Rock Fantasies", the Westone 4R in-ear phones won out.  At $499, they are absolutely fantastic sounding, and will give you top-shelf performance for listening or personal monitoring applications.  If a detachable cable isn't important to you, get one of the limited-quantity Westone 4's that we have left at $399 - a relative bargain. 

If you'd like to read all of what the Forbes reviewer had to write, click here

   

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Dave,

It is so easy to work with you. If something goes wrong with something I got from you, I tell you and you fix it, since 2005!

Thank you once again,

Vic