“ M-Audio Microtrack II - optimized gain adjustment - 48V phantom - anal - Limiter - USB 1.1 and high speed 2.0 „
For around £150 - £160 you can buy yourself a handheld, easily portable digital recording machine of very high quality. This is the MICROTRACK II from M-AUDIO.
It's small - 108mm x 60mm x 27mm, and is light enough to carry in a trouser packet. It comes supplied with a tiny stereo microphone, which simply plugs in at the top, and is remarkably good. Also supplied are in-ear headhpones, and a USB cable for computer connection. The unit is powered by a rechargable battery: this can be rejuvenated by your computer, or from the mains - a selection of plugs is also provided so the Microtrack can be mains charged in a number of different countries.
It will record from microphones - you can plug in your own if you want, line-level devices and S/PDIF signals. Recordings will be encoded as WAV or mp3 files according to what you select. Typically, mp3 files give you about eight times as long, but the quality is higher with WAV files.
Included in the box also is a comprehensive guide on CD-ROM - good news, as the paper starter guide tells you enough to get going, but not much more.
Operation is really easy. Microtrack boots up in seconds. If you are doing instant recording, all you have to do next is to press the RECORD button to start the recording, and then again to stop. Recording levels are monitored on the machine with LED displays, and they ae easy to adjust while recording. Obviously, with a bit of time, you set levels properly in advance.
Once the recording has been made, it's easy both to delete it (there's a DELETE button, which comes up with a caution message in case you press it when you didn't mean to) and to save recording files to you computer. Plug it in via the USB cable and it works rather like a memory stick, so you can see all the files, which are consecutively numbered, on your screen. If you rename them on screen, Microtrack takes on the new names as well.
There is a facility to add built-in EQ curves to your recording - Microtrack allows you to boost or reduce treble or bass. If you want to do this properly, then you will probably go to an independent and more sophisticated programme, but ti does what it says.
The CD-ROM also contains the audio editing freeware AUDACITY. This can be downloaded anyway, but this will save you the trouble. It's a great bit of software that allows to clean up recordings, splice separate takes, change pitch or speed or both, alter the amplification and a host of other things, all worth a separate review.
The Microtrack's memory is held on flash cards, such as are used in many cameras. Mine came with a 512 Mb card, and I have since bought a larger one, so that recording time is les likely to run out.
The battery seems to be OK for 3 to 4 hours, and then needs about 2 hours or so to be charged up, so that's enough for most uses. It's a pity that it can't simply be mains-operated, and I note that the battery is only guaranteed for 6 months, can only be replaced by Microtrack and that there is £54 charge for doing this. I suppose if you wanted to record something really long, you might buy two Microtracks just to be on the safe side! (On Youtube, there is detail of a battery extender for Microtrack, which could be worth a look).
A rugged high-fidelity mobile 2-channel digital recorder 24bit/96kHz) that records WAV, BWF and MP3 files to CompactFlash or microdrives.