In my never-ending quest for the better gadget for our staff, I came across the Alesis Pro Track handheld recorder. “So what?” you say. Well, the “what” is that it uses an Apple Ipod as the storage medium.
Since we made the transition from cassette and reel-to-reel here at KOTZ we have used various 600-series Marantz Compact Flash recorders. To add another layer to our ability to gather news, music and elder's stories, we needed a device that could be distributed cheaply with a short learning curve. After reviewing the plethora of available compact digital handheld recorders, I settled on the Alesis unit.
One of our problems here at KOTZ is equipment training. This applies to everything: consoles, announcer headsets for basketball games, you name it. Because a large part of our crew is volunteers, they don't spend the hours an employee has to familiarize themselves with our equipment. But everyone has an Ipod — especially the younger crowd.
Kicking the tires
|Performance at a glance|
Records 16-bit, 44.1kHz or 22kHz stereo
Onboard stereo condenser mics
Operates on ac, dc or 4 AAA
Threaded mounting adapter
On the lower front of the unit are two recessed audio level knobs (left and right), a menu button and an enter button with a VU meter between them. Right above that is the Ipod docking area under the clear cover. The unit comes with two covers, one for a fifth generation and Classic Ipod, and one for the third generation Nano. The cover of your choice slips over the Ipod to hold it in place, protect it to some degree, but still offer access to its interface.
The left side reveals a row of buttons: open, phantom power on/off, Ipod charge on/off, power on/off and the power input. The open slide-type switch basically disengages the protective cover. The Ipod can be charged in the unit when the power supply is attached. The Pro Track uses four AAA batteries as a power source.
Returning to the front, the menu button activates a menu on the Ipod. To record, press the enter button to initiate menu commands. The left and right input level control knobs are slightly recessed for protection, which makes them a little hard to turn in a hurry but not too bad.
Right below that are two mic inputs that accept XLR and TRS plugs. Between them is the mini headphone jack. On the right side of the unit is the volume control for the headphones, a limiter off/on switch, a record stereo/mono switch and a lock down connector.
Because of the simple operation of an Ipod, anyone can use the Pro Track. To use the recorder, first turn on the Ipod and then power the Pro Track. It shows a voice memo on the Ipod with a record or cancel choice. Select the record choice and recording begins. Using the built-in mics with the built-in limiter gave acceptable audio for voice, but watch the handling noise if you're moving around. Music was acceptable but using the external mic inputs gave better quality.
Combo XLR-TRS connectors make secure connections.
Can the user interface be better? I think so, but for the Ipod crowd familiar with the menu system it's no problem. Looking for where the recordings ended up was tedious, but not impossible.
Once a recording was made, I checked the transfer between the Ipod and Adobe Audition. Usually I dread anything when it comes to Apple, not because it's a bad product, but because it seems I have to go through convoluted procedures to get what I want. Well not this time. I put the Ipod in my dock and called up the files I test recorded. Wondering how to get files from the player into Audition, I tried drag and drop from Itunes to Audition, and it worked just fine.
Does it work? Yes it does. Would I use it for professional use? It depends on what the source material is. For voice work, certainly. Music, some but not all, certainly not for studio-level stuff, but that's not what it was intended for. You need to know your source sound and its destination in order to use it well. The physical package could be thinner and a little more sturdy but that is just my taste. In the end I'll say the unit is workable in any station but I would suggest it be used in high school programs and college radio station settings since the end users most likely have an Ipod and you both have an investment it keeping it working and not disappearing.
Lonewolf is the chief engineer of KOTZ-AM/FM, Kotzebue, AK.
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