Review: XtremeMac MicroMemo for iPod nano 2nd Generation
Pros: A high-quality digital recording accessory for iPod nanos, complete with a flexible, detachable microphone and an integrated speaker. Optional access to 3.5mm port for mic or line-in recording, with solid voice and line-in recording quality, full integration with iPod’s simple menus and iTunes storage. Black- and silver-colored versions match two current nano bodies.
Cons: Despite selling for the same price, audio recording and speaker quality aren’t up to snuff with prior MicroMemo; built-in speaker is next to worthless for previewing regular audio recorded by the system. Still no pass-through port for simultaneous charging and recording, only connects to caseless iPod. Packed-in omnidirectional mic is only monaural.
It seemed like a gimme. With two competitors already on shelves and at least two more planned for release this year, XtremeMac’s original MicroMemo (iLounge rating: A-) remains our preferred fifth-generation iPod audio recorder, boasting clean sound, a high-quality flexible microphone, and an acceptable built-in speaker for immediate iPod audio playback. All the prior version’s positive and negative details - full integration with the iPod and iTunes, the detachability of the microphone, its lack of a pass-through port for charging, and certain monaural limitations - are discussed in more detail right here. If you need a way to make simple voice recordings, or to create line-quality stereo audio duplicates - especially if you need to check recordings mid-way through - the original MicroMemo is a great little package. So making a version for the recording-enabled second-generation iPod nano should have been easy, right?
Apparently not. Snuck into stores late last year, MicroMemo for iPod nano 2nd Generation ($60) is physically beautiful, but it’s not the performance rival of its larger predecessor. Given its price, and with only the smallest caveat, we’d recommend that even iPod nano owners consider the larger, less physically appropriate version to be a smarter purchase.
Most of the new MicroMemo’s issues are related to audio volume, which is partially a consequence of its substantially diminished physical volume. Considering that XtremeMac had to fit both recording and playback components into a smaller chassis, it’s immediately obvious that the newer model - sold in black or silver, and tailored to perfectly fit any of the “impossibly thin” second-generation nanos - now lacks the physical space for a speaker with more than a whisper of output capability. Unfortunately, the company hasn’t found a way to deliver loud, audible sound from such a tiny enclosure; instead, you’re paying the same price for much-diminished speaker performance, output at a level that’s enough to hear songs played back at maximum volume, but seriously not enough for MicroMemo’s audio recordings.
Played back on your computer, recordings made by the nano version of MicroMemo are slightly quieter than those made by the 5G version; the difference is not enough to radically reduce their overall quality, but they’re not quite as strong as the easy-to-understand original MicroMemo’s. If you try to play them back through MicroMemo nano in anything other than a completely silent room, you’ll have trouble even hearing them - even at top volume - which wasn’t the case at all with the prior model. In essence, the nano version of MicroMemo is nearly what its predecessor would have been like minus the speaker.
There is one arguably positive change to report here, and that’s the only reason for our small caveat above. In addition to resculpting the unit’s casing to fit the 2G nano, XtremeMac now also provides a way for you to access the nano’s blocked headphone port if you want to hear your recorded audio (or anything else) without using the speaker. MicroMemo’s bottom right side includes a three-position switch labelled “earbuds - line - mic,” which toggles the accessory’s microphone port between listening and recording modes. While the switch isn’t as easy to toggle as we’d prefer, recessed and requiring a fingernail, it works and isn’t easy to accidentally change. Unfortunately, just as was the case with the 5G iPod version of MicroMemo, you’ll still have to unplug something to use your headphones - this time, it’s the microphone rather than the Dock Connector - which makes this a neutral change in our book. Similarly, XtremeMac has relocated the recording and speaker-activating button that used to be centered in MicroMemo’s speaker grille; now it’s on the right side, another neutral change.
Overall, MicroMemo for the second-generation iPod nano just isn’t as impressive as its same-priced predecessor - its smaller speaker is nearly useless for realtime checking of just-recorded audio, and though it looks a lot nicer on the nano than the 5G version, it otherwise adds next to nothing in convenience or functionality. It retains our standard-level recommendation on the strength of its still unique flexible microphone and overall recording quality, but given that it sells for the same price, we’d recommend that all but cosmetically-concerned users pick the larger, better version of MicroMemo instead.