Gadget Reviews: Akai Miniak, Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ and more

MINIAK.jpgYou are lost in a maze of twisty house patches, all alike.

Akai's Miniak virtual analog synth is a blast, especially its combo of old-school vocoder, 37-key semi-weighted velocity-sensitive keyboard, and a goose-necked microphone. Capable and hefty, it could fit into a sports bag despite a full complement of features: 8 voices with three oscillators, hundreds of preset patches, and a (laborious) built-in sequencer and arpeggiator. I'll admit right now I fiddled with the editor for 10 minutes, broke down in frustration at the one-line display, then went to sit in a corner, sobbing and hugging Reason 4. Three 1/4" inputs slurp up external audio sources, to which the Miniak's filters and effects can also be applied.

It's made in partnership with Alesis, whose mic-less and cheaper Micron is similar stuff. Note that there's no USB, meaning you'll need to get busy with MIDI hardware (cheap, good) if you want to hook it up to a computer. At $500, it's also a bit pricey for those just wanting an occasional bang on the ivory. If you are a one-man digital band, however, the only conceivable improvement would be … a keytar edition.

More info [Akai] — Product Page [Amazon]

seagatethumb.jpgSeagate's FreeAgent Theater+ is perfect for the media library you already own. Eschewing elaborate home theater features, baked-in storage or the need for a LAN, you just plug a hard drive or thumbdrive full of stuff into it and hit play. 1080p output over HDMI fixes the flaws of the last model, and an ethernet port's now included if you already have your media networked. Codecs supported include MPEG4 (Divx/xVid), WMV9 and raw DVD rips. It's $150, or $300 with a 500GB drive that slides into its dock.

Product Page [Seagate]

417FJh6grkL.jpgCasio's Exilim EX-FC100 puts fancy features from the high-end EX-F1 into a pocket-friendly format.

Able to record 1000 fps at 224×64, 420 fps at 224×168 and 210 fps at 480×360, it slows time at low resoltuion and with much noise in dim light. The 720p video is fantastic, however, and short 30fps bursts at even higher resolutions make it easy to capture the moment.

The best thing is pricing, now it's been out a few months: at $250, it's hard to find a better deal that covers so many bases. Cherry on top: 5x optical zoom.

Casio High-Speed Exilim EX-FC100[Amazon link]

NC200B_web.JPG.jpegAbleplanet's Clear Harmony LINX audio headphones claim top-shelf noise reduction at an affordable price: $100. They worked great with the dull ambient hum of home, but not so much so out in the streets. Audio quality is decent, but if you're going to spend this much, why not get something even better?

Product Page [Ableplanet]