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with the Belkin TuneTalk
(special thanks to Cams for the
Our family owns both
the nano and regular size models of the latest generation iPod music
players. I love the nano for it's convenience but when I figured out the
regular size iPod had video playing and audio recording capabilities I
thought it fit my needs more than the smaller nano. I somehow shamed my
oldest son into trading with me since he needed a smaller more
nano iPod and never used all his features anyway.
My first discovery was
how I could easily import various quicktime guitar lesson videos from
my site onto the iPod which I can play and share anywhere on the road. The
video quality is remarkably crisp and detailed for such a small screen. Then
I noticed my friend Cams pull out his iPod at the last annual acoustic jam
and begin recording a guitar lecture that was going on. I was blown away how
cool and easy it was to record with the iPod and even more impressed when I
heard the quality of the audio after he posted it as a free POD CAST on the
web. There are sites that allow you to post these recordings to share with
other iPod users but these recording files can be used any way that you
choose. You could post them on your own personal web site or myspace, burn
them to an audio cdrom or convert and edit them to any format you wish.
This might be the
perfect solution for regular non technical folks to record near professional
quality recordings of music, practice, lectures, seminars and more.
There are other iPod microphones to consider and there are also other
portable mp3 recording devices but for the money I'm pretty sure the iPod is
about the best quality hardware out there. It's a very reliable platform.
- This module is fairly expensive if you buy full retail (79.00) but I was
able to locate it online for 49.00 at B&H Photo. It comes with a USB cable
so you can connect the iPod to the computer while the Belkin module is
attached. This is a feature some other iPod compatable microphones did not
have. The photo below shows the Belkin microphone module that attaches to
the iPod and the accessories that come with it. You get a plastic spacer
that you install if you are not using the stand. The iPod
recognizes the mic instantly and requires no additional configuration or
software. It's just magic. The coolest feature is the record button that
makes the iPod go instantly to the recording mode without having to navigate
the menu. I have the 30gb model that was out last year but it's the
same as the 60gb and larger models available today. The recording quality is
better than you would expect from a small device like this and the Belkin
mic doesn't have a boxy sound but I can hear little clicks from the hard
drive during quiet moments in the recordings. You can hear those in my sound
samples below. I don't know if newer model iPods have a more silent hard
drive but the total hiss and noises are acceptable for the purposes
intended. I wouldn't expect to record your next CD on this solution but it
would be great for seminars, lectures, acoustic instruments or any
semi-professional needs. There is another input jack on the bottom for line
inputs if you ever want to capture audio from another source. They recommend
using the AUTO-GAIN switch in the on position when using the internal Belkin
stereo mics. I recorded using both settings and I can hear more compression
going on when this feature is enabled but it does keep the input signal nice
and fat. I can also hear some hiss and noise in general but it's totally
acceptable for my needs. I can always edit and manipulate the recordings
with a sound editing program when the need arises. I've documented the sound
test and other procedures below and hope this will help in your own research
for recording devices. If you already own an iPod the decision is a simple
Information - My friend
Cams says in his tests the low quality only records in mono mode. He also
states that in his tests using an external stereo mic in high quality mode
only yielded one single track and not stereo. I've not been able to confirm the
external mic limitation but that could be a negative mark if true. I tried
to test the Belkin's stereo external recording ability by connecting a
cassette tape deck to the iPod seen in the photo. It worked and recorded
both channels using my brand new Belkin. I tested without auto-gain on and
got a weak stereo recording. When I switched auto-gain on the signals got
stronger when recording but had more hiss. I think the best solution would
be recording without auto-gain on and boosting the line-in levels to make
the iPod record with higher signal levels. I'm still investigating these
features and possible limitations. When I'm able to confirm the mic
limitation reported by Cams I'll update this article.
FREE WAV TO MP3 CONVERTERS
here and scroll to bottom for even more sound tests from Cams)
RAW from iPod
converted to mp3
Cleaned up with
Test 1 HIGH Quality
Test 2 HIGH Quality
Test 3 LOW
Record Step by Step
Below is the plastic
spacer you remove when installing the fold up plastic stand. It snaps off.
Below I have slipped
the Belkin connector through the white plastic hoop sticking out of the
plastic stand. When I connect these together the stand and iPod become
loosely attached as one unit.
Now this is the iPod
with the microphone installed and standing up. This positions the stereo
mics in a good position for recording. They naturally sit at a 90 degree
spread which is ideal.
Below: You can browse
the iPod menu and select the recording quality and mode but one easier way
is to simply press this record button on the side and the menu jumps
directly to the recording mode and you only need to press the center iPod
button one time to begin or pause recording. It's very simple.
Once you press the
button above you only have to press one more center button to begin
recording. Here's what that screen looks like. Ultra simple.
Below: The Belkin mic
has a few options on the bottom. One switches the auto gain on which
regulates the input levels when you record with the internal mics. It's
recommended to switch auto-gain off when using the external line in
connector on the right. The other connection to the left is the USB and
power which allows you to have power or connection to a computer while the
Belkin is in use.
Obviously this makes it harder to
stand it up on the stand when power is connected but as you can see below it
can be done and you can even lay the whole thing on it's side. The optimal
recording position though is when the power is not connected.
Sitting on the back
Sitting on the side. This might
actually be good if recording vocals and guitar.
How to record
and then get the files on your computer, web, cdrom or other medium.
Below: Once you press a
few buttons you see the iPod screen counting away and recording. You can
only do two things while recording. You can pause and continue which is a
very handy feature. Or you can stop and save the recording. You can see I've
been recording for 15 seconds.
Below: Once you stop
recording it saves the file and returns to this menu. You can simply
playback and listen to the recordings with the headphones or delete them.
You can also change the quality of recording. Both quality levels sound
excellent and you can only choose HIGH and LOW. The high level uses about
10mb of space per minute of recording or about 600mb per hour. The low
quality level uses about 2.5mb per minute or about 150mb per hour. Each
recording is displayed by the date and time they were recorded.
Recording rates vs
file sizes as I tested them
HIGH - 4.8mb for 29 seconds high quality wav = 9.93mb per minute, 595mb per
LOW - 1.89mb 45 seconds low quality wav = 2.5mb per minute, 151mb per hour
retrieving the recording files from the iPod
BELOW: I'm prompted
when I connect the iPod whether to add these new wav (memos) recordings to my Itunes music
library or just leave them alone as they are stored on the IPod. Say no to
this if you plan on easily locating and copying the file off of the iPod. If
you say yes to this question it renames the wav file and hides it in the
ipod in folders with your regular music. I don't recommend answering yes.
Say no to this question and the files will remain on the iPod inside the
original folder named "recordings". Now let's see below how to copy those
files to your computer since that's what most people will be doing.
Below: Oooops my iPod
software has detected it needs a firmware update from Apple to bring it up
to the latest level. I went ahead and chose Download and Install. Just be
aware you might see this message when connected the iPod.
Below: Now I'm back to
trying to grab the recorded wav files off of my iPod and putting them on my
computer. This basic procedure will
work almost identically on the Mac as the PC. Have no fear non-techies this
is simple. First go to the MY COMPUTER icon located under Windows. Or basically take a look at all of your disk drives
with the file manager or explorer. One
of the disks you will see is your iPod . My iPod is
labeled Doug LittleBrother and I can see it's the "F" disk drive so I
click on F disk to explore it's files and folders. Please
continue through the next several steps.
WARNING IF YOU GET
THIS ERROR TRYING TO BROWSE THE IPOD you may have to eject the Ipod from
the Itunes interface but this is not always required.
Once I clicked on the
F disk I can see the
folders contained on my iPod which is nothing but a hard disk anyway. See the
folder called "Recordings"? Well click on it and let's
see what's inside.. and proceed to the next step.
Below we see
there are two recordings located in this folder as wav files. They are
numbered so that the oldest recording has the lowest number. Now we simply
drag these files and copy or move them to your desktop or any other folder
on the computer's hard drive.
waited until the wav files were copied off the iPod and onto my computer
desktop then I opened one of them up with my AUDIO editor because I want
to crop off the sloppy ends and then save it as an MP3 format so I can
share it on the web. You could also add effects, noise reduction or
anything you please. You can even burn these to audio cdrom or any form of
media you wish. Many software editors are also free and you might check
www.macdownload.com for free software.
You might also look into real full versions that sell on Ebay for a
fraction of the cost in shrink wrap. For example the last version of Adobe
Audition 1.5 can be bought for 20-30 dollars at times. Or there are many
free ones you can locate as I mentioned. In either case you dont need much
technical expertise to convert wav files to mp3. There are some programs
that do nothing but that task.
FREE WAV TO MP3 CONVERTERS
remember that before disconnecting your iPod from the computer USB port
please right click on the DEVICES "Ipod Name" on the left side with the
mouse and choose EJECT. Itunes shows much info about your iPod and you can
get more help from within Itunes or visiting the support forum on the
Apple.com web site.
POWER TIP: If you
plan on recording long battery draining events that last hours at a time
you may decide to buy a power supply for the home or automobile. They
come in a variety of combinations for auto and home. If you want to use
the iPod while connected to a computer and use it as the power source
simply EJECT the ipod from the iTunes menu and you can regain full
control of the menus and record for hours without draining batteries.
WINDOWS USERS TIP
If you install Itunes for the first
time it might take over the responsibility of playing mp3s and other files
on your windows PC. If that happens simply open up the Windows Media
Player program and take back ownership of those files under the tools and
options menu selection. See below. Select all then click okay and
quicktime will stop playing everything you click unless it's an actual
END OF ARTICLE