Impressive Microtrack portable audio recorder

As a podcaster, I often record face-to-face interviews as well as presentations, workshops and other events for uses such as the For Immediate Release podcast series I do with my colleague Shel Holtz.

Such recordings take place on the road, ie, away from the office and the desktop PC-based recording set-up. So a portable recorder is pretty much essential.

I have an iRiver IFP-790 portable recorder which has served me very well on the road. At times, I use the combination of my IBM Thinkpad, external microphone (with a very long cable) and Adobe Audition software to make recordings, such as at the Delivering The New PR conference in London last month.

Microtrack 24/96 portable audio recorder
Now, I’ve taken a step up in portable audio recording with the M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 you see pictured here and which I received yesterday.

This is portable audio recording in a different league to recorders like the iRiver. It’s certainly truly portable compared to the Thinkpad method.

Here you have a gadget not much bigger than a cigarette packet yet packed with features and functionality that make high-quality portable recording simplicity itself.

Its core features are similar to the minimum you’d expect in any portable digital recording device. Choice of file formats, WAV or MP3. Recording options such as bit rate. Microphone, line-in jack, headphone jack. USB connection to the computer.

The Microtrack has all this and much more.

It has phantom power so you can connect an external condenser microphone. It comes with a plug-in stereo electret microphone. Connecting to the computer via USB also charges the rechargable batteries. There’s an external charger, too (with plugs that fit power outlets in the UK, US and continental Europe). There are twin mic/line in jacks. S/PDIF in. RCA line outs. A big LCD screen with sound level indicators. And sound level and clipping LEDs. See this picture for a visual spread of all the bits and pieces.

For its storage medium, the Microtrack uses industry-standard compact flash cards or microdrives. The unit ships with a 128-meg card, more than sufficient for most uses if you record in MP3 format, although I am going to buy a 1-gig card.

Let me also talk a bit about Dolphin Music UK from whom I bought this gadget. In two words, impressive service. I ordered the Microtrack from their website very late on Thursday night last week and had the order confirmation early on Friday morning followed shortly after that with the shipping notification including a UPS tracking number. Very easy to follow the progress of my order right to the moment of delivery early yesterday morning.

Bottom line – if you’re looking for a portable digital recording device that’s powerful, has a nice design and great form factor, is packed with the features you really need and is affordable, then I recommend the M-Audio Microtrack 24/96. And if you’re looking for an online place in Europe to buy it from, try Dolphin Music. [Edit: I didn’t mention the price as David Tebbutt points out in the comments. Might be helpful to know that! US list: just under $500 plus tax. Dolphin Music price: £319 including tax. Plus shipping.]

(Incidentally, M-Audio is a subsidiary of a publicly-listed US company called Avid Technologies. Avid is a company with people who clearly understand how to use social media to engage with their community – take a look at their collection of RSS feeds and the blogs.)

I’ve recorded a short podcast with some first general impressions of the Microtrack, which you can listen to or download from the links here. The MP3 is straight from the Microtrack, no editing other than adding ID3 tags. Pretty impressive.

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