capsule review

Griffin Technology iTalk

At a Glance
  • Griffin Technology iTalk

One of the hidden features of 3G and later iPods (except the iPod mini) is the ability to record audio, provided you have the appropriate accessory. If you've got your own high-quality microphone, you can use Belkin's $30 Universal Microphone Adapter to connect that microphone to your iPod. However, if you want an all-in-one solution, your choices are Belkin's $35 Voice Recorder or Griffin's $40 iTalk. In our testing of both, the iTalk is clearly the better product. (Note that the iTalk will also accomodate an external microphone.)

The iTalk sits on top of your 3G or later full-size iPod, connecting to the headphone jack and remote port. At only .75 inches tall, half an inch thick, and the same width as the iPod, the iTalk adds very little bulk and gets its power directly from the iPod's headphone jack. When you connect the iTalk to your iPod, the iPod automatically enters Voice Memo mode (also accessible later by navigating to the Voice Memos menu item). The familiar iPod menus let you record; cancel or stop recording; and save, playback, and delete recordings using the iPod's Menu, Select, and Wheel controls. A red light on the iTalk indicates that you're recording, and your iPod's screen shows the recording time. (Note that the iPod's recording software only allows 8-bit, mono recordings, so don't expect to be able to record your band's next demo track using the iTalk. You'll want to restrict your recordings to spoken word.)

When using the iTalk's built-in microphone, recording quality -- though mono -- is excellent at close range (3 feet or less). At distances of 10-20 feet, the iTalk still picks up loud voices clearly thanks to its automatic gain control, but ambient noise becomes more noticeable. For better recording quality, the iTalk's passthrough headphone jack doubles as a mic input, allowing you to use a high-quality microphone. (If you're going to be recording at long distances, we recommend using the iTalk or Belkin's Universal Microphone Adapter with either a wireless microphone or one designed to pick up distant sources.)

At any time -- even if the iTalk is not connected -- you can listen to your recordings by accessing the Voice Memos screen. Although you can listen using headphones or external speakers, the iTalk can also be used to listen to your recordings (or your music, for that matter) via its built-in speaker. The sound is mono and won't win any awards for quality, and the speaker's maximum volume is quite low, but for listening to mono voice memos it does an adequate job -- certainly good enough for spot checking of your recordings.

The iTalk's small size, excellent functionality, and flexibility make it one of our favorite iPod accessories. If being able to record mono audio to your iPod is something you'll find useful, the iTalk is highly recommended.--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • Microphone for recording voice memos and other audio to full-size, dockable iPods

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