Best portable digital audio recorder under $400?

by Dan Nims - 10/7/05 8:22 AM

In Reply to: M-Audio Flash Tracker!!! This is the one!!! by pvercello

I just picked up the M-Audio Micro Track 24/96 after placing an order with a local dealer. Bear in mind, I was so anxious to try it out that I only read enough of the manual (charge the battery; format the media card) to make it work. There is a lot more to learn from the manual (which comes on CD.)

In spite of the price (ok, good stuff doesn't come cheap) there is a lot to like with this device. It is suprisingly light, and the amount of features they've cramed into it is amazing. The recordings I've made so far are the ''demo'' type, capturing conversations and other sounds, then listening with headphones. The ''earbuds'' supplied work but seem rather flimsy. I'm using my Sony MDR-150 and the playback is great!

When you plug in the supplied USB cable to a computer, the unit shows up as ''removeable media'' and the computer then treats it like another drive. Files can be transferred with click and drag from the flash card to the computer hard drive and the other way around. I dropped a couple of wav file music tracks in the card (these had been ripped from a CD)
and the playback thru headphones sounded terrific when I later disconnected the USB cable.

I have not used the TRS balanced inputs yet as I need an adapter to use XLR connectors. Considering how good the supplied tee-shaped stereo mike works (not a scientific evaluation) I am prepared to be impressed with using a pair of condenser microphones. (Yes, there is a phantom power switch)

I'm not sure how practical this outfit is for the person who wants mostly to listen to MP3 music files. Yes, you could easily load up a compact flash card with your tunes and the package is quite small and easy to carry. The cost of flash cards to hold one's library may be more than what one would invest in an IPOD type player with a high capacity hard drive built in. What I wanted was something to capture high quality audio and be small and lightweight AND be easy to download recordings to a computer. Owning this only a few days, I believe I bought the right one!

Incidentally, I have not opened the package with the 64 MB flash card yet, as I found a good deal on a Sandisk Extreme III one-gigabyte card on E-bay and bought it in anticipation of getting this recorder. This will also fit my digital camera. The chart listed on the CD-ROM manual shows it should permit a little over an hour of recording time at 24 bits, 44.1.

(For those about to buy one: Control your zeal as you tear open the package. The battery needs charging and the first time they recommend you leave it plugged in for six and a half hours. I did as advised but that's a long time to wait to play with a new toy!)

Dan Nims
Eugene, Oregon