CASTIV: The Guitar Sidekick Product Review

My love of gadgets is on par with my love of playing music, whether that be transmitted from a piano, guitar, flute, recorder, whistle or a number of other tone generating instruments.  As such, I frequently combine the use of my iOS devices with my acoustic or electric guitars.  My iPhone is clipped somewhere on my body when I'm playing in a band or solo at friends, family and neighborhood gatherings.  That iOS device is there to help tune my guitar (especially helpful for those compositions that require open tunings) as well as provide instrumental accompaniment when a simple drum track or bass line can help embellish the performance.

However, things get dicey when simultaneously attempting to juggle a guitar, capo, iPod, cables, mics, pedals and portable mixing boards. On more than one occasion, I have nearly lost my iPhone to the hard floor.  Had it not been for fast reflexes and attached headphone cable catching the fall, I would be going through iOS devices faster than guitar picks.  Fortunately for people like me, the folks at Castiv Media have a specialized clamp called the CASTIV Guitar Sidekick that is firmly clasps onto the guitar via the strings that pass between the guitar nut and the tuning pegs.

CASTIV Guitar Sidekick

When attaching the CASTIV onto my guitar for the first time, I had some trepidation about the strength of the base clamp, the stability of the platform holding the iPhone and, most importantly, the impact to string vibration such as any dampening or distortion of sound.  Fortunately, these concerns were dispatched once I hooked up my iPod and strummed a few bars.  Yes, the additional weight of the iPod or iPhone hanging close to the nut of the guitar does take some getting used to, especially if you do what I do and tilt back on an easy chair while playing fingerstyle (my acoustic is always within reach in case I need to pass the time waiting for a download to finish, a program to compile or an administrative function on my computer conclude its task).  For those situations, the CASTIV is unnecessary, since my desk is right in front of me and can easily hold the iPod or iPhone in place.  But for those occasions when I'm standing or playing away from the comfort of my computing command center, the CASTIV helps me keep an eye on my digital iOS bandmates.

In addition to accommodating the iPhone and iPod Touch, the CASTIV also supports other portable devices like the Zune, PSP, Blackberry and more.  For example, I have an old Android G1 that I keep around for development purposes and spare phone needs, but most of all because it has an excellent free instrument tuning application called gStrings that is one of the best I've used.  I was pleased to see how well the G1 was secured by the CASTIV and didn't seem to affect the guitar's weight distribution any more than the iPhone did.  

I also liked the way the CASTIV could be pivoted to accommodate my line of sight to the iPhone's display.  The ability to instantly access on-screen functions in programs like iShred LIVE made a big difference in the effortless and confident way I interacted the iPhone/Guitar combination that the CASTIV created.

This YouTube video features the CASTIV in action, though the video does somewhat shelter the fact that the base clamp tends to vibrate with a heavy handed strum, so much so that the CASTIV probably wouldn't stay in place for long with Pete Townsend-style windmills (nor would the neck of the guitar for that matter).  But for those who treat their axes with TLC, the CASTIV offers a third helping hand by keeping touch interface-optimized mobile devices like iPhones and Android phones at arms length. By doing so, the iPhone can help keep time with a metronome app, display guitar tabs or YouTube guitar tutorial videos, or even help capture that lightning in a bottle moment when it records hot lick magic destined to become the hook for the next big chart topper.

Rock (er, clamp) on, CASTIV!

Product: CASTIV: The Guitar Sidekick

Price: $29.99

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.