Gadget Deals – Record Yourself, Inexpensive Alexa, Upgrade Your Car

I’m going to be trying something new over the summer – since I have more time on my hands, and I’ve started getting lots more questions about both gadgets and musical equipment, I’m going to try and have a post once a week or so to highlight some good deals on quality products.

I’ll be keeping to items that I either have personal experience with or that have good brand reputations, so these lists will likely be relatively short.

Musical Equipment

Budget Microphones/Recording Software

If you’ve been looking to get into recording yourself (which I highly recommend) then you’ll need a microphone. There are a couple of Aukey mics on sale right now – an Aukey MI-W1 Condensor Mic and an Aukey GD-G1 Condensor Mic with a stand and filter for $28.

While both these mics have some pretty good reviews, it looks like the less-expensive MI-W1 mic is primarily for recording voices (for podcasting), and some reviews complain of lower-than-expected volume. The lower volume may not be a problem if you’re recording a brass instrument, though. The MI-W1 is omnidirectional, while the GD-G1 is a cardioid pattern. Depending on the instrument(s) and location your recording, that may also be a deciding factor.

Be aware that both of these are advertised as not being compatible with Mac OS X, and both require a 3.5mm input on your computer or recording device to use. If you need something with OS X compatibility or want a USB input, you can’t go wrong with the Blue Snowball iCE. This $50 mic has a cardioid pattern and is very highly reviewed for both voice and instrumental uses.

If you’re looking for recording software to use with your microphones and you don’t want to shell out a bunch of money, I highly recommend investigating Audacity. It’s a free, open-source, multi-track recording software for Windows, OS X, Linux, and other operating systems. It’s not as easy to use or nice to look at as something like Garage Band or something similar, but the price is right, and it is very flexible.


Home Automation/IoT

If you’ve been wanting to dip your toe into the world of home automation and digital assistants, the Amazon Echo Dot is the most cost-effective way to do it. Not only does the Dot have all the capabilities of the bigger Echo, it’s much less expensive, and it features Bluetooth connectivity. This means that the Dot can be used as a Bluetooth speaker for your phone’s audio AND you get all the abilities of Amazon’s Alexa. Right now, you can get refurbished Echo Dot's for $38.

To use the Echo Dot (or any Echo device) to control something, you’ll need an Alexa-enabled plug, and while Belkin plugs cost about $40-$50 per plug, TP-Link has a smart plug with almost the exact same functionality for under $25.

The TP-Link Smart Plug has an iOS and Android app to manually control the plug or set it on a schedule, or you can integrate it into your Amazon Echo and control it with your voice. The Amazon Echo app allows you to set multiple devices up in one room or scene, so you can say “Good Morning” to turn on lights and a coffee maker or “Good Night” to turn off lights and the TV. The TP-Link requires no central hub, and also works with Google Home. It won’t, however, integrate with IFTTT.


If you want to add Bluetooth to a car that doesn’t have Bluetooth OR an aux input, you can spend a few hundred dollars on a new head unit, or you can pick up a Nulaxy Bluetooth/FM transmitter for about $20. I’ve used one of these for the past 5+ years, and it has made many a road trip more bearable!

You can also pick up a pretty small and powerful 2-port car charger by Aukey for under $10. This isn’t the smallest 2-port car charger you can find (that would probably be this Aukey charger), but the small ones can be difficult to remove if you need to take it out.

That about does it for this installment. Let me know if you’ve found any of this information helpful – or tell me what you’d like to see!


About Colin Dorman

Colin is a freelance horn player and teacher, as well as a fan of tech of all sorts, aviation, and increasingly complex flight simulators. He also enjoys beer, bourbon and fitness - but not at the same time. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, as well as right here at!