[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post is part of my NOCTOBER series. A group of posts I’ll be writing throughout November that are about subjects I would have written about in October if I hadn’t taken several weeks off to focus on Halloween.]
I wanted to write up a quick product review on a media player I’ve been using during Halloween for the past couple of years and I need to give a shout-out to Big Ant over at Eerie Acres Cemetery as it was his video review that first put me on to this nifty little box.
Sound is an essential element of a home haunt. Like the background music in a movie it’s an important part of setting the overall mood that you’re going for; whether it be scary, eerie, or yes, even whimsical.
The problem is that sometimes getting the sound from where it is to where you need it can be a pain in the ass. Oh sure they sell these neat little things called cords, but those things aren’t always a cure all, in fact sometimes they can be down right frustrating.
Cords seem to be made these days under the assumption that nothing you have that makes sound is any further than 12ft from where you want the sound to go. Stores are full of terribly expensive cords that will move your sound 1, 3, 6 or 12 feet, but if you want to move it 30ft (something I do routinely in my home haunt) get ready to chain lots of cords together and hope that you don’t find yourself having an RCA jack when you need a 3.5mm. Sure you could go out and buy all those cords, or get custom ones made off the internet, but why not put your money into something that makes sound (and video) portability a little easier in Halloween (and non-Halloween) applications. Something with a little versatility?
The Micca Speck fills that bill nicely. This little unit (smaller than a pack of cigarettes) is a complete multimedia player capable of playing movies, music, and photos in a full range of formats; while also supporting folder hierarchies with a fully functioning file browser. The draw back? The Micca has no internal memory itself, but thanks to two slots on the unit’s front, if you can get it on an SD/SDHC card, or a USB host (flash drive, external hard drive, even a phone) you can play it on the Micca Speck. What type of sound are we talking about? The unit outputs HDMI PCM 2.0, analog stereo and supports MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, APE, AAC formats.
That all sounds fancy, but what’s the bottom line? I used a Micca Speck to run my haunt’s thunder and songs, through my Haunt Master’s lightning boxes. With the Specks small size (and lack of any volume control) I was worried that the little box didn’t have the punch I needed.
No worries. The unit sounded great pumped through my 600 watt stereo system and even with my Bose cube speakers just sitting in the front windows the clear, distortion free sound could easily be heard well before you got in front of my house. While this set up didn’t really solve a portability issue I was having, what it did do was free up a laptop that would usually be tasked with this duty and allow me to use it somewhere else.
The unit’s portability could definitely help out in other areas – think running sounds for a cauldron creep, flying crank ghost or some other prop (except for one issue that needs to be addressed. More on that in a minute), conveniently and easier right from the prop location. The unit comes with a 3.5mm AV to R/L/V male RCA cable, so if your prop’s sound system is set up to accept male RCA jacks, you’re golden. Plus, its small size makes it easy to conceal in any prop.
Need video in your haunt? The Speck supports formats up to 1080p and 20-50mbps per second and will play videos in the following formats: MKV, AVI, TS/TP, MP4/M4V, MOV, VOB, PMP, RM/RMVB, MPG, M2TS, and WMV.
I put my second Micca unit (yes, I got two. Usually when I get something like this, fall in love with it, go to get another and find out they don’t make them anymore. Decided not to chance it in this case) to run my window projection effect. I ripped some videos off of a couple AtmosfearFX DVDs I had bought, loaded them onto a thumb drive and hooked the unit up to my projector. This is the second year I’ve run it without so much as a thought. I simply turn on my projector at night, and turn it off when I want. The Speck unit does all the work.
Here’s some other basic information about the unit:
- The box contains; 1) one Speck Unit, 2) one IR remote control, 3) one 3.5mm AV to R/L/V male RCA cable, 4) one 100-240V AC adapter. The unit has an HDMI output as well, but does not come with an HDMI cable.
- The unit has features like auto play, repeat one/all, shuffle play, language settings, playback settings, and output settings; all of which can be controlled by the system’s menu or by the remote control.
However it’s not all puppy dogs and unicorns with the Speck. After a few years of using mine here are some things to be considered:
- The unit has no battery support, so you have to use the included AC adapter. That’s not a major issue because as home haunters, we’re used to running electricity all over the place.
- The unit is programmable through a system menu. To use the menu you need to hook the Speck into something that will accept the RCA jacks. To program mine, I just plugged them into the side jacks of a small TV I have, programmed the Speck to the settings I wanted, and then moved it where I needed it to be.
- Most of my applications have been set and forget. I program the Speck as to which file type I want to play (audio/video/photo), set it to auto play and repeat all, and forget it. Which I think is the best way to use this unit, because to me, the remote is kind of useless except for simple things like skipping songs or turning shuffle on and off. The bottom line is that programming the Speck is more easily done through the menu.
- The system uses a standard browser/file structure when dealing with media files. Any files in the top director of a device or card (IE not in a folder) will be played automatically if the auto play function is selected. I name my files so that they will be listed and be played in a certain order which seems to work great for my videos, but didn’t for the unit running the music. I didn’t have shuffle accidentally on (the files always played in the same order, just not the one I set up). This isn’t a deal breaker, but I’d like to find out why it’s doing it.
- This one could be tough. When setting up my unit for the music, I of course just needed the audio so I just hooked up the L/R jacks. No dice. I couldn’t get the unit to start until I also plugged the V RCA jack into a female RCA jack. Luckily, the unit was sitting next to my living room TV, so I just plugged it into an unused side jack. This is probably an issue with grounding but can be pretty inconvenient if you just want the unit out in your yard running audio and aren’t lucky enough to have another RCA female around. I’m going to do some playing around this year to see if I can figure out an easy fix, if I find one I’ll pass it on (likewise if anyone else has a fix, feel free to pass it on!)
And that’s pretty much it. The Micca Speck is a pretty nifty, straight forward media player that can be used in multiple applications in your haunt (or any other media activity you need a portability). The unit is still available on Amazon.com for about $37, which might seem pricey if you’re a bare-bones haunter, but I feel it’s better than untangling $37 dollars worth of wires every year.
In fact, I’m thinking of purchasing one more to run the sound for a new animated prop next year. But hopefully, that’s another post.