Apple's iPod -- Belkin iPod Voice Recorder

THIS IS THE definitive gadget for a journalist. You can record long interviews with an accetable audio quality on your iPod. But nothing is perfect, so also the Belkin' iPod Voice Recorder as some little problem. Read the review.

I was in Tokyo, few days ago, and I had the chance to see the new Apple Store in Ginza. Great place: a cool six stores shop that is perfect for japanese shopping culture. I also had the chance to buy a 49.95 Belkin iPod Voice Recorder for 3G iPods and test it on the field few days later in Milan, Italy, doing some interview with my old 15 Gb iPod.

Belkin device records from a omnidirectional microphone and store the audio file in the abundant hard disk of the iPod. It saves audio as a mono 128 Kbits 44.100 Hz Wav file (probably to ensure compatibility with Pc iPods). File ratio is, more or less, 1 Mb for 1 minute of recording. Seems like that the Voice Recorder use the anti-shock memory (used as an anti-shock and to minimize disk access during normal music playback) to store the audio and spin the disk only when it needs to page the audio. It is saved in a folder named "recordings" accessible from firewire disk side of the iPod.

Belkin device has also a little speaker, useful to playback the audio without the need to unplug the little device. It can also be used as a speaker for a travel alarm clock, but the level of sound (the speaker is only 16 mm) is not enought and people like me probably cannot be awake!

The main problem with the device is the microphone sensibility. Too much. It is easy to saturate the audio and have heavy distortion. There are no software controls: you can basically only start, pause and stop-save. Also, you can playback each record (the default name is the complete date) and delete them.

Sensibility is a major issue: there is not enought quality to record for example music from a live gig and you can hear the noise when the hard disk start to spin to save data (every 5 to 10 minutes). This is not good if you, for example, want to record a voice for a radio interview. You also need to put the microphone really far away from audio source (i.e. your and interviewed one' mouths).

There also are no external microphone, line-in or line-out plugs. Ambiental noises (like other people talking in the next room) are usually magnified by the omnidirectional microphone. The last issue is that iTunes is not able to encode the Wav file you can transfer to a Mac in other formats.

But in my experience i find Voice Recorder a good device: it is relatively cheap, it always does what it is supposed to do (record voice) without fault. But it has a really sensible microphone and you cannot use a second, quality checked external one or you cannot software-control gain and sensibility. It also drains the battery faster (of course, you write on the hard disk) so the longest recording time is probably 4-5 hours for a factory new iPod.

Final opinion: if you need it, buy it. At least if you are a journalist you can justify to your wife the need for an iPod ("I use it because I really need it to work, dear").

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