I figured since I’d got some new stuff I’d write a little review, since there are not exactly loads of these around. Seems like something the major retailers (like Connevans here in the UK) could be do actually, one way to get a variety all in one place.
Although the Inspiro is marketed as a paediatric transmitter (adult versions being Zoomlink+, Smarlink+ and the other one I can’t remember the name of) I chose to get it for various reasons. The first one being that I really want it for educational settings, so one with education rather than offices in mind spoke to me. I also liked it because it can be programmed, along with the MLXi receivers, via the desktop software FM Successware, without having to fork out for an interface or “toaster”. If you get this product, I strongly advise getting a copy of FM Successware. Technically this is for distribution to professionals, but if you call up and sound confident that you need it few questions will be asked.
What you can do in Successware is “allocate” the units so your name is stored (and displayed) in the Inspiro, and if the receivers or DynaMic are connected they will also be instantly recognised as being yours. It also means that when you want to do adjustments to the receivers using the Inspiro it will recognise them as “YourName Left” as opposed to a serial number, and you know which one it has found. It helps to “allocate” your DynaMic to a slightly different name, otherwise when searching for a network (something I’ll come to later) it simply finds “YourName” as another option instead of being clear it’s your DynaMic it’s found.
Also in Successware you can open the extended menus (usually it’s sold without, you absolutely need this to use the network facility), drop it down to “light” menus if you are going to have to give it to someone who might poke about without knowledge, and also set up your channel preferences - lock off channels you don’t want to use, set the default - and the “FM advantage” you want, which is a formula I don’t entirely understand but it’s a volume preference with a dB slider. Oh, and you also get to choose the tone and volume of the warning beeps (or turn off entirely) from 4 dropdown options. One moment of programming madness is it often cannot find the receivers and tells you to keep them away from sources of interference such as computers… while you have to be connected to a computer by USB cable!
You can also set the receiver volume using the Inspiro itself away from the computer, just select from the menus and turn up or down, which is good if you are trying to balance an FM/M program where the FM is too dominant or not dominant enough, instead of turning the whole HA up to hear a poor FM signal.
Physically speaking, it’s a compact, light unit. It’s quite cute that you can wind the microphone cable up around it and clip it safely on. The case is a bit of overkill if you only want to carry the basics around with you, it’s meant to carry all your bits and bobs in it, yet the charger doesn’t fit, so you get a case that’s way too big for just taking your transmitter but doens’t fit everything you want to take it away overnight. My charger is also white, which doesn’t match the pictures, but that’s no big deal, just a surprise. The belt clip is a bit odd, I thought it would fit flush with the back of the transmitter itself, but in fact the transmitter rather dangles from it, I’m not a huge fan.
Because this is set up as a paediatric unit you don’t get hearing instrument remote control on the Inspiro, which could be a downside for some (doesn’t bother me, I don’t have a Phonak). You get some other buttons such as “mute” and originally I wondered why bother when you could just turn it off, but turning the Inspiro off makes a nasty noise in the receivers so I prefer the mute setting till I’m totally finished using it. It also vibrates in protest if you leave it muted for about 10 minutes or so, so if your lecturer mutes and forgets to unmute you at least catch up eventually instead of fruitlessly waving your arms in the air for the rest of the lecture while they plough on regardless. Another cute feature is you can check the battery status of your hearing aids so you can be reasonably sure not to hear the dreaded warning beeps part way through that vital lecture.
Not a huge amount to say about the receivers having upgraded from the old MLX fixed channel, except that they are smaller, are slightly less prone to interference, and are easy to flip to another channel if you are in a multi FM environment like when I go to the Deaf school (though sometimes I have to duck the Wallpilot to avoid receiving an unwanted English lesson). The main bugbear is that there is not a more solid and obvious “off” to them. When you turn them on they beep and make radio squelch noises for a while. When you turn off they just go silent. Only normally by the time you want to turn them off you have already stopped receiving transmission so you are silent to start with, so I can rarely tell if they are on or off. I preferred the switch on the old version as it was clearly in either an on or an off position.
So now we come to the major attraction for me, the Multi Talker Network and DynaMic. In a nutshell (cos Phonak’s website has loads of info on it) with an Inspiro you can set up to run several transmitters on a single channel with only one transmitter active at any one time. The transmitter is automatically switched if someone starts speaking into the other transmitter, switching back and forth. The exception is that the original Inspiro that started the network has priority, and if there are two people talking at once and one is the ‘lead’ Inspiro it will cut out the other person.
So this is where we come to the DynaMic. It’s a reasonably large microphone if you include the antenna, which doesn’t come off. It’s much lighter than I expected. It’s a very “bog standard” microphone that you can pass around a group discussion easily and the familiar shape means people understand how to speak into it and handle it. Noise from the actual passing is very well attenuated, you don’t hear a lot of shuffling and bashing noise at all, and if you have a responsible enough group you can use the “mute” setting during the passing if preferred. There is a very tiny delay auto-switching, so it would be possible to miss very short responses such as “me too” but on the whole it catches up with the conversation very fast, and certainly faster than the average DHH person doing the old lipreading head-swivel to try to work out who is talking and where.
Downsides of the Dynamic – a case is not available and it doesn’t fit in any microphone cases I’ve yet found from music retailers. You can carry it in the original box, which has a good quality custom-cut foam inlay, but there is no carry handle on the box, so the option to purchase a case would be very useful. The included microphone stand is truly ridiculously tight/small for it, I fear to push it in in case I snap the microphone clip, but if you don’t then it could drop out because it’s unbalanced, so hopefully with time it will slack off a bit. I’m also not a fan of how fiddly the mute button is, I like the idea of small and subtle on/off functions so you feel in good control of your microphone, but if people are going to use the mute to pass it one to another I’d prefer it was a big button with some kind of light on it to indicate it’s active/inactive.
Although the DynaMic will not function alone, and will only work as part of a network initiated by an Inspiro, if you are in a situation where you don’t want to entrust your Inspiro to anyone, just set up the Multi Talker Network then mute your Inspiro and leave it on in your bag, presto the DynaMic will transmit for you without anyone ever clapping eyes on the Inspiro.
Long, but wanted to cover the points.