Steve Jobs didn’t mention it during his introduction of the second-generation iPod nano in San Francisco, but the newest iPod has gained an impressive extra feature: recording capability. Much demanded by podcasters and students, this feature enables an iPod to create live lecture, conversation, or even concert recordings – assuming you have the battery power and storage capacity to store the audio.
Over the past several months, we’ve been testing recorders specially designed for use with the fifth-generation iPod – Belkin’s TuneTalk Stereo (iLounge rating: B+) and XtremeMac’s MicroMemo (iLounge rating: A-) are already on the market, while Griffin’s iTalkPro (shown in this iLounge First Look) has finally been confirmed for a near-term release*. These recorders enable 5G iPod owners to use two quality settings – both High (44.1KHz stereo) and Low (22.050KHz mono) are far superior to the scratchy old 8KHz recorders released for 3G and 4G iPods years ago – and capture hours worth of audio from built-in microphones or line-in audio sources. (Updated (*): On September 26, 2006, we tested an advance version of iTalkPro and found that it had only limited functionality with the new iPod nano; it is unclear whether later units will become fully compatible.)
Thanks to a new Apple firmware feature, the new iPod nano works almost seamlessly with these recorders – in some ways, better than with the 5G iPod. Menus are the same as the 5G iPod’s: a Voice Memos option is available from Extras, and transforms the nano’s screen into a large recording clock with pause and stop/save options. Recordings are stored on the nano in a list that can be previewed immediately through headphones or speakers; the MicroMemo continues to have a major advantage here because of its built-in speaker, while TuneTalk Stereo lacks a speaker and blocks off the nano’s headphone port, besides.
Additionally, the nano has no hard drive to drain its battery during frequent accesses or create occasional loading noises that the microphone can pick up. Recording times are not yet known, but will in some ways depend upon the size of your nano – Apple forces the recorders to create large WAV files that suck up storage space at a surprising rate, so owners of 2GB nanos probably won’t have room for both their music and recordings. That aside, we’re already doing further tests to see how the recorders perform with the nano, but so far, so good.
The only bummer: cosmetically, the nanos don’t even slightly resemble the look of the recorders, which have been made to fit and color-match full-sized iPods. Will companies release nano-specific recorder add-ons? We’ll have to wait and see, but our hope is obviously “yes.”