All the products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through any of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
This week our reviews have largely focused on unique audio devices, including a “magic radio” and a digital saxophone. James Trew tried Rode’s Vlogger Kit and quickly became a fan of the Microphone, Light Cube, and Windshield Filter. He also experienced Teenage Engingeering’s OB-4, a “magic radio” that can also record loops, play FM radio and act as a turntable. Meanwhile, Jess Conditt brushed her saxophone skills to perform with Yamaha’s YDS-150, a digital instrument she says is best reserved for studio musicians. In addition, Devindra Hardawar screened the new Studio Ghibli film Earwig and the Witch … and had nothing nice to say about it. Ouch.
James Trew has been looking for something that would help him prop up his phone and record an interview on the fly for a while, and he found a good option in Rode Vlogger Kit. Including a micro shotgun, a phone grip, an LED light cube (with diffuser filters) and a tripod, the kit is available in Android, iOS or universal version. While the Universal Kit won’t let you monitor audio with wired headphones, it does come with a dual shoe and Rycote Lyre shock mount, so there’s a trade-off to consider.
In testing, James found that the cubic LED light could brighten indoor videos and was absolutely sufficient on its own to light up those who record a lot at night. He also said the tripod was fine and the ball joint made it easier to position, but he wished he could extend it as well. Make no mistake, the microphone here is the star of the show – plus he was a huge fan of the furry windshield cover for the mic, which looked hilarious but worked pretty well. All versions of the kit sell for $ 149 and for the first time, it supports USB-C connectivity for Android devices.
It had been a while since Jess Conditt played the saxophone regularly, but she was gone to find out Yamaha YDS-150 – a digital saxophone with a matte black body, pearly keys and a brass finish on the bell. The YDS-150 is closest in size and shape to a soprano sax and light enough to hold, and it comes with a slim carrying case that can be hung over the shoulder like that of a yoga mat. . It also uses four AAA batteries or a micro-USB power cable, the latter allowing it to connect to a speaker or headphones (via a stereo mini-cable) or receive input via Bluetooth from a phone, a tablet or a computer.
There’s also the YDS Controller app, which Jess found handy to use for editing, entering, and recording custom channels or one of the 73 preprogrammed voices for soprano, alto, baritone tenor, or non-sax. In addition, the YDS-150 has permanent settings for tuning, key response, reverb type and resistance and respiratory pressure response. Yamaha designed it to be a studio instrument and Jess agreed that its range of vocals and styles make it ideal for this use (but not a good replacement for an acoustic soprano, alto, tenor or bari saxophone). It’s quite pricey at $ 1,078, but Jess deemed it worthy of the price considering its features and beautiful design.
James Trew can’t really explain what OB-4 is, and neither is the Teenage Engineering team. The closest they come is to call it a “media instrument” or “magic radio” with an angular, futuristic and retro design. Two speakers sit at the front while the carrying handle stores the FM antenna cable and speaker stand. There is also a motorized “tape” dial on the top, which gives fast forward / rewind control and acts much like a small turntable. The volume wheel also syncs with the volume of your source device (when connected via 3.5mm or Bluetooth) and can also function as a speed / pitch control.
James concluded that the OB-4 was essentially the weirdest DJ tool in the world – and he certainly had a great time experimenting with the different features of the speaker, especially the loop function. The OB-4 can also rewind live radio, play things backwards, or browse recordings. And it has a “disk” mode, which Teenage Engineering calls a place for experimental features like a metronome or a karma mode with soothing sounds.
James appreciated both the sound quality and the volume capability of the speakers themselves. However, the companion app only provides volume control, transport controls, or input selection. And it doesn’t have a line, so you can’t save your work or feed it into another device. Although his price tag of $ 600 is quite steep, James is still a fan and is excited to see what else he can do.
Studio Ghibli Earwig and the Witch is a disappointing watch
Devindra Hardawar didn’t throw a punch when it came to seeing Goro Miyazaki again Earwig and the Witch CG animated film. He called it an insult and a creative failure on every level. The film, an adaptation of a novel by Dianna Wynne Jones, centers around a girl from an orphanage who is adopted by a witch and a warlock and discovers her magical powers. Despite the source material, Devindra believed the narrative to be incomplete and the characters unkind.
As Studio Ghibli’s first CG film, Ear piercing is an attempt to branch out into a different form of animation. But Devindra said he lacked the magic of a typical Ghibli movie on almost every level, including the music composed by Satoshi Takebe, which he found forgettable. He was also not a fan of the CG character animation, which he said was stiff and lifeless, although the backgrounds were more detailed and lush because they were hand drawn first. Devindra said the only way for Ghibli to embrace CG going forward is to fully engage in larger Pixar-style film productions.