Back in the day, if you wanted to record an interview or a conversation, you used a portable cassette recorder. Technology evolves, of course, and the standard cassette recorder morphed into the microcassette recorder (using smaller tapes) and the digital audio recorder (using Flash memory for storage). Given that the iPod, in data storage mode, works similarly to a Flash memory storage device, why can't you use your iPod for voice recording?
The answer is, of course, that you can. With the right accessories, you can use your iPod to record conversations and interviews, and even to record and mix podcasts for broadcasting over the Internet. Read on to learn more.
Turning Your iPod into a Voice Recorder
The secret to turning your iPod (from the Flash-based nano to the bigger hard disk iPod) into a voice recorder is to somehow attach a microphone to the unit, and then input digital audio signals from the mic to the iPod's internal storage. Which is exactly what several accessory manufacturers have done.
How iPod Microphones Work
All iPod microphones work in a similar basic fashion. You connect the microphone to either the iPod's earphone jack or dock connector. When powered on, the microphone picks up the surround sound and sends it into the iPod for storage.
Using an iPod mic is as simple as turning it on, configuring the recording settings, and then pressing the Record button. While recording, elapsed recording time typically displays on the iPod's screen, and you can listen to what you're recording via the iPod's earphone jack.
The audio you record is automatically stored on your iPod, where it can later be retrieved by the data storage methods discussed in Chapter 15, "Using Your iPod as a Portable Storage Device." (Naturally, you can also play back your recordings on the iPod itself, as you would any audio file.) Once exported, you can edit your recorded file in any audio editing program, such as Apple's GarageBand.
Popular iPod Microphones
Most iPod microphones let you control the type (mono or stereo) and quality (bit rate and volume level) of the recording, and then save the recording as an audio file on the iPod's hard disk or in the unit's Flash memory. Some microphones are monophonic (containing a single mic), others are stereo (with two mics built into the unit), and still others feature jacks for connecting external microphones.
Let's look at some of the available models.
One of the more unique iPod microphones is the XtremeMac MicroMemo. As you can see in Figure 16.1, the MicroMemo attaches to the dock connector on the bottom of the iPod or iPod nano, and features a flexible, removable microphone and a built-in speaker to listen to the recordings you make.
Figure 16.1 The XtremeMac MicroMemo iPod microphone.
The MicroMemo doesn't limit you to its attached microphone. You can connect any external microphone to the unit's 3.5mm mini-jack connector. (XtremeMac happens to sell a neat little lapel microphone, dubbed the MemoMic, that's a good fit with the MicroMemo.)
In terms of recording quality, the MicroMemo offers two different quality levels—Low and High. The Low level records 8-bit audio at a 22kHz sample rate. High level records 16-bit audio at a 44.1kHz sample rate. As you might expect, the two settings result in different file sizes. The Low level requires 2.6MB per minute of recording; the High level requires 10.3MB per minute. Use the High level for better-sounding recordings, but make sure you have enough storage space for longer recordings. All recordings are in WAV-format files.
Different versions of the MicroMemo are available for the fifth-generation iPod and the second-generation iPod nano. Both versions sell for $59.95 and are available from www.xtrememac.com.
Griffin iTalk Pro
Taking a slightly different design approach, the Griffin iTalk Pro also connects to the iPod's dock connector, but uses two miniature microphones built in to the unit's compact case to record in stereo. As you can see in Figure 16.2, the iTalk Pro is very discrete; it looks like a short extension to the bottom of the iPod.
Figure 16.2 The Griffin iTalk Pro add-on microphone.
As to sound quality, the iTalk Pro records 16-bit stereo audio at 44.1kHz or 16-bit mono at 22kHz. If the twin built-in mics are not good enough for you, you can connect any external mic to the 3.5mm mini-jack connector on the bottom of the unit.
The iTalk Pro sells for $49.99 and is available from www.griffintechnology.com.
Belkin TuneTalk Stereo
Another high-performance stereo microphone is the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo. It's compatible with the fifth-generation iPod and connects to the bottom dock connector.
As you can see in Figure 16.3, the TuneTalk Stereo contains two small microphones, mounted in the middle of the unit. You can also connect an external microphone via the 3.5mm mini-jack connector. Also nice is the ability to adjust recording levels in real time, using the iPod's Click Wheel controls; the screen displays a useful clipping indicator.
Figure 16.3 Belkin's TuneTalk Stereo, connected to a 5G iPod.
You can purchase the TuneTalk Stereo for $69.99 from www.belkin.com.
Belkin Voice Recorder for iPod
If you have a different or older iPod model, check out Belkin's Voice Recorder for iPod. As you can see in Figure 16.4, it's relatively universal in operation, in that it connects via the iPod's earphone jack. It's a mono unit with a built-in speaker for listening to playback of your recordings.
Figure 16.4 Belkin's Voice Recorder for iPod, a universal add-on microphone.
The Voice Recorder for iPod sells for $49.99 from www.belkin.com.