Why podcasters (and bootleggers?) will love the new iPod

It was one of our top feature requests, and frankly, one that was overdue. The new “iPod with video” has finally upped the ante on audio recording quality, so for the first time in two years, fans of iPod recorders can rejoice.

This new iPod can record in two modes – we’ve heard them called “standard and extended,” and seen them called “low” and “high” on Apple’s web page. Low is 22.05KHz, monaural – nothing special, but perfectly adequate for podcasts. High is 44.1KHz and stereo – potentially ideal for CD-quality recording. We recorded our first two podcasts on iPods at 8KHz, and though they worked, the audio quality wasn’t impressive.

Good guys will see this new feature as a way to use microphones and line-in accessories – not yet released – to make easily portable podcasts and other legal recordings of audio content. Some people will, of course, try to make direct-to-iPod recordings of things they probably shouldn’t record – like someone else’s CDs.

Apple’s decision to force all recordings into WAV format – an outdated, huge, entirely uncompressed way of storing audio – is actually pretty ingenious. The new iPod most likely can record directly into MP3 format. But by forcing files into WAVs, Apple limits the practical likelihood that you’ll copy libraries of CDs or pull other tricks with your iPod. It would be just too inconvenient, time- and space-consuming, and require you to use iTunes to convert into MP3 anyway.

The one possible loophole: live concerts. Recording these with an iPod mic will now be as easy as it is with a tape recorder. But still harder than with most of the iPod’s numerous competitors, which often include line-in and microphone recording direct to MP3 or other formats without any charge, or challenge. A full-sized iPod loaded with other content won’t be able to hold too many hours of uncompressed, WAV recordings, so don’t expect iPodalooza or iOzzfest to be recorded in entirety on an iPod.

In our view, the new feature gives portable podcasters what they want, and precludes the recording industry from complaining too much about Apple’s compromises. Now bring on the new microphones!

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