iPod Voice Recorders: iTalk vs Belkin
At a Glance
Until recently, iPods could receive information only from a computer -- contacts, calendars, and MP3 files all had to be imported. Now the iPod can be used as a recording device, too, for directly storing and playing back audio. You're not going to want to record your band's demo on your iPod, but if you want to capture close-range interviews or voice memos, the Belkin Voice Recorder for iPod and the Griffin Technology iTalk iPod Voice Recorder can get the job done. In the end, though, the Griffin is our pick, thanks to its better sound quality.
These microphones work only with iPods that have dock connectors; they don't work with the iPod mini, which lacks the appropriate software.
Voice Recorder for iPod
These devices work similarly. When you plug one of them into the iPod's headphone jack, the iPod goes straight into voice-recording mode -- you don't have to install anything. In this mode, the iPod displays a large, stopwatchlike counter that marks recording time in hours, minutes, and seconds. Two menu choices below the counter offer Record and Cancel options.
The Belkin Voice Recorder is an omnidirectional microphone that records in mono sound at 8KHz and 128 Kbps, or about 1MB per minute of audio. It records audio as WAV files; there are no options for recording in other formats. (We wish that both recording devices had options for changing the file format -- to MP3 or AAC, for example -- and recording quality, to allow for smaller files.)
The Belkin also has a small speaker for playing back recordings, or any MP3 file on your iPod.
Once you've made recordings, you can play them directly from the iPod or through iTunes, and you can even work with them in an audio-editing program.
Belkin's microphone works fairly well for voice memos and other similar audio recordings. The company has acknowledged that the product is meant for very close-range recording, rather than for interviews at a longer distance. This might explain its tendency to distort more projected syllables and to play back sounds such as ess and eff with a loud popping sound -- a major drawback. In addition, at $60, it's priced far too high, considering its limitations and that its competition makes a better and less expensive product.
iTalk iPod Voice Recorder
Although the Griffin Technology iTalk iPod Voice Recorder's setup, interface, mike level, and file format are the same as the Belkin device's, it is far superior. It's less expensive ($40), it has more features, and it does a better job overall than the Belkin.
The Griffin records more clearly and with more-consistent sound than the Belkin. And it has a nicer-sounding speaker (but it's also significantly larger than the Belkin). There's a standard 3.5mm port on the top of the microphone for both audio in and audio out, so you can attach another microphone or listen via headphones. Depending on the microphone you use, you may be able to improve the quality of your recording. (Belkin makes the Universal Microphone Adapter, which you can plug an external microphone into; this adapter costs an additional $40.)
Macworld's Buying Advice
If you want to use your iPod as a digital voice recorder, we recommend the Griffin Technology iTalk iPod Voice Recorder: its recordings sound better, it has an extra jack for a headphone or a mike, and it costs $20 less. The choice is clear.
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