Next up in the series of Pocket Recorder reviews is the latest version of the one which started the whole mini-digi-recordi-thing - the M-Audio Microtrack.
We first caught sight of the pre-production mock-up back in 2005 at the Musikmesse, and to be honest, we couldn't wait for it to be released. Up 'til then we'd been battling with portable DAT recorders and even MiniDiscs, in our quest to find the perfect show recorder - and one which allowed us quick digital access to recorded files.
The Microtrack seemed an ideal solution, and as soon as we could we got hold of 3 of them.
Now like all passionate affairs, the heady initial period was followed by the reality-check - the recorder was great, and certainly did help our workflow, but there were a few niggling doubts. The units were occasionally overwhelmed by really hot signals and we had to wire up & carry break-out cables with 10dB and 20dB pads, which weighed more than the unit itself; the nav-button was tricky to use in a hurry, and you often overshot in the menu, and the habit of going straight into 'Record' when setting levels could be irksome.
Very straightforward to use - easy access to Record, Levels and Volume
Supplied microphone sounds great
Full 48V phantom power available
Analogue limiter works well and can be channel independent
'Proper' Balanced 1/4 TRS jacks, and RCA Line-Out and SPDIF-In
24bit / 96kHz recordings
Easy to use in low-light conditions
Compact Flash allows for high memory capacity
Records to BWF/WAV or MP3 (BWF allows Markers)
Can create seamless files over the 2GB FAT32 limit
Plug-in Mic, rather than built-in
No onboard memory
No stand mount (have to use Blu-tac ;-)
Did I mention the battery?
But there was one Big Blunder which kept the Microtrack from being the ultimate mini-recorder (you'll have to watch the video to find out! ;-)
Anyway, here we are a few years down the line, and several other manufacturers have picked up the ball and released their own models. They've had the benefit of building on the legacy of the Microtrack, and have introduced new features, one of the most significant being built-in microphones.
Moving parts, either tape mechanisms or spinning discs, had made the previous generations of mobile Digital Recorders too noisy to use microphones on the unit itself, and the Microtrack still followed in this mindset, it seemed.
Microtrack 2 is based on exactly the same form-factor as the original version, and also has a plug-in mic, but it has been significantly upgraded in other areas, notably in terms of the gain structure. You can now set L & R levels independently - this includes the onboard analogue limiter too, and it's no longer necessary to dive into the menus or change a slide switch to access the newly expanded range of gain.
Looking back, it's clear that the designers of the Microtrack, given pretty much a clean sheet, got it right in many respects - it's a no-frills recording machine with the focus firmly on the practicalities of recording audio [apart from that One Thing]
A great-sounding no-nonsense audio recorder, built for use out in the field rather than looking flashy on a desk - just don't expect to be out there too long.