TuneTalk Stereo

Older iPods record 8KHz, 16-bit mono sound in WAV format. Most sound recorders available for this iPod use a port situated on top of the iPod, the Remote Control port. However, Apple removed it from 5G iPods with video, meaning owners of the latest media players couldn’t record sound, as no dock-connector recording devices were available – until now. Belkin’s TuneTalk Stereo employs the improved audio-recording facilities Apple has built into video iPods, recording sound directly to the internal drive at a selected compression rate.

TuneTalk enables iPods to record WAV files in either 44.1KHz (16-bit stereo, CD quality, 10.3MB per minute), or 22.05KHz (16-bit mono, 2.6MB per minute). TuneTalk lets you use both compression rates, with 44.1KHz being ideal for music, the other perfect for voice capture. Recordings are automatically added to your library next time you sync your media player with iTunes.

The ability to record audio directly to an iPod and then transfer it to iTunes or another audio application is a boon for journalists, students and podcasters, as it lets you digitally record lectures, interviews and memos. (Transcribing these can be made much easier by using third-party software, such as Transcriva [$19.99, www.bartastechnologies.com], available separately.)

The Belkin TuneTalk Stereo measures 2.4 x 1.3 x 0.6in and weighs half an ounce. It’s as thin as a 30GB iPod and hosts two high-quality omnidirectional microphones to capture sound. There’s also a 3.5mm stereo input jack for an external microphone, and it ships with a stand to position your iPod so it faces the sound source you want to record. It’s available in black or white.

At the bottom of the device there’s an adjustable gain control switch and the 3.5mm line-in port. When the gain is switched off, you can connect an external microphone to the line-in port. You can also connect that port directly to other audio devices, including CD players and turntables – a potential short cut for digitising vinyl or tape.

TuneTalk has a button on its side that invokes the iPod’s recording menu. That menu is also invoked when you first plug TuneTalk into an iPod. The menu (which can also be accessed through the ‘Extras’ menu) also lets you select between low (22.05KHz) and high (44.1KHz) quality. A red LED shows when you are recording. You use the Voice Memo menu to stop and save recordings.

Speech therapy
Recordings are high quality – if you have used an iPod voice recorder in the past, you’ll appreciate the better quality stereo sound, though the left/right separation is limited by the proximity of the two microphones on the unit. You do sometimes hear the iPod hard drive clicking in the background of recordings, however. But, you can use an external mic to yield better results. What is notable is that you get good recorded sound from up to 15ft away from the sound source.

The TuneTalk drains power from the iPod when in use, which means you can only record for one and a half hours on a full iPod battery charge. To help mitigate this, Belkin has included a USB 2.0 pass-through port on the bottom of the device, which ships with a USB 2.0 cable. This lets you record audio while recharging the iPod – you just need to connect the USB cable to a computer or to any form of USB-capable battery backup kit, or mains power adaptor. You can also use the cable to sync your iPod, which gives TuneTalk a tertiary use as an emergency dock.

When you connect your iPod to your computer iTunes automatically lets you transfer recordings to your library. These are named by the date and time of capture: find them by using the Date Added or Voice Memos views and you can name them. You can encode recordings into MP3 format using iTunes to save space.

There’s two missing features to this device: it would benefit from a recording level monitor, and an integrated speaker to let you preview your recordings would be handy.

OUR VERDICT

While expensive, presumably due to Apple’s Made for iPod tax, if you need to record audio with the ease of use of direct synchronisation of recordings into iTunes, then this lightweight device is an effective choice, and the first solution to actually ship. Recordings are good quality, the addition of USB recharging is thoughtful, and its ability to record from a line-in connection gives TuneTalk an additional use as a device to digitise your record and tape collection.

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