The WAV recordings I made of various music CDs were practically indistinguishable from the originals. Only by repeated comparative listening was I able to detect subtle differences such as slight background noise during quieter musical passages.
MP3 recordings were respectable too, but not quite as crisp as the WAVs, even at 320Kbps. Basically, they were marred by a low-level processor noise clearly discernible on certain tracks when the volume was turned up. Hopefully, this is something that can be resolved in a future firmware update. Without a record deck at hand, I couldn't test the phonograph input, but the stereo microphone was ideal for recording interviews and speeches.
Although the irritating MP3 processor noise was largely inaudible on most types of recordings, those planning on recording, say, classical music or a cappella material would be better off sticking to the WAV format.
Sound quality aside, recording to my iPod Video was a hit and miss affair. Occasionally, the iKey would freeze, leaving me with no option but to press the reset button and lose the current audio file. Thankfully, I had no such trouble with my USB Flash drive, which worked faultlessly throughout testing. It's just a shame the iKey Plus doesn't have a memory card slot as an alternative to the rather awkward arrangement of protruding USB sticks or dangling iPods.
It might not be perfect but the iKey Plus provides an innovative platform for anyone requiring a simple and affordable means of recording high quality audio, particularly in live environments. ®
iKey Plus portable USB recorder
RockBox not necessarily that good
For the Archos recorders, Rockbox doesn't support bitrates above 160/170kbps, and doesn't support CBR or uncompressed WAVs (well, more accurately the archos recorders don't support it).
It may be free but much of the hardware out there is not really designed for making professional recordings, etc. Some of the iriver's don't offer manual record levels either do they?
other digital recorders
There are several alternative small digital recorders with inbuilt microphones to record music, or as an executive toy.
Edirol's R-09 is a neat package http://www.rolandus.com/products/productlist.aspx?ParentId=114
and M-Audio offers an alternative
Essentially, the iKey uses the disk and power supply of the iPod, making it a bit cheaper but a clumsier plug-in.
Or use RockBox on your mp3 player and save the money
Why not run RockBox on your mp3 player (if it's supported)?
(recording works on some Archos, iriver and iaudio players, ipod recording is just around the corner).
Rockbox has following recording features:
- live peakmeters with
- configurable dB scale
- on the fly gain adjust
- pre-recording (never miss the beginning of the set)
- record as WAV/AIFF/WV/MP3 (many bitrates and frequencies)
- split into new file based on time
- split into new file based on filesize
- split into new file by keypress
Best of all it's free. No need to carry the extra hardware too.
Who's its target?
I'm struggling to see any real point to this device.
First up -- why does it include MP3 encoding? No-one serious about their music will take their master recording in MP3 format. After all, you would have to uncompress and recompress to do even the simplest of corrections or adjustments. Would anyone who would use this feature find any benefit over using an MP3 player's record function? I'm not convinced.
I don't think this is really for bands, we have the problem of "house mix" vs "record mix". Your average gigging band normally has most of its performance volume coming directly from the guitar and bass amps and the drum kit, with the PA carrying the full volume of the vocals with only some "reinforcement" of the instruments. This means that you cannot record from the house mix -- the balance is biased to the vocals. To run two mixes from the inputs requires two mixing desks, naturally, so why not buy/hire a desk with built-in recording facilities -- multitracking even?
The other option is to take the so-called "room mix" -- just plug in a mic and hear what the audience hears. But the quality on that is generally so poor that, again, you may as well just record directly on your MP3 player.
This device is so close to useful: what musicians need now is a dedicated multitrack recorder. One with the bare minimum of knobs, bells and whistles that just saves the raw data and lets us mix down on a PC with the sort of software most of us use anyway.
There are already plenty of ways of recording two tracks -- we don't need this new one.