A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Packard Bell AudioDream digital MP3 music player/recorder.
While Packard Bell is not a brand I have a load of confidence in, to be frank (a view based on very poor experiences some years ago with a desktop PC), they have a potential winner with this little gadget.
The impressive spec includes 1Gb of flash memory, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, colour LCD display, plays WMA and MP3 files, supports ID3 tags, has voice recording capability in WAV file format and a line-in socket for a microphone. The whole thing is about a third smaller in size than a credit card (thicker, of course: it's about a quarter-inch thick) and weighs just 30 grams.
What I wanted such a device for was to record conversations for the podcasts Shel and I do in For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report. There are a few conferences coming up during the next few months that I'll be presenting at or otherwise participating in, with opportunities for conversations with some interesting people.
Today, I bought an external microphone, and a very neat one at that. It's an Eagle G157B clip-on (or desktop standing) stereo mike that comes with a powered sound amplifier (which is actually bigger than the AudioDream), that uses one AA battery, to help capture the best-quality sound. I think it does that - check the short test recording I made (MP3, 03:33, 1.5Mb). Note: this isn't a podcast, just an MP3 file. It would be a podcast if it were available via RSS, but it's not.
Now, voice recording on the AudioDream is in WAV format only, so how did I get an MP3 file? Quite easy, actually, using a method that's simple and straightforward.
Once I'd done the test recording, I connected the AudioDream to the PC via the supplied USB cable to copy the WAV file to the PC. Then I opened that file in Audacity, the free cross-platform sound editor (I have the Windows version) which enables me to save the WAV file in MP3 format.
I could also have manipulated the WAV file if I'd wanted to. Perhaps enhance the quality, or strip out any extraneous noise, add a fade, etc. But for this test, I just saved it as an MP3.
While this certainly isn't a studio-quality or professional sound recording, I think this set up will do just fine for recording conversations for our podcasts.
Incidentally, the AudioDream makes an excellent backup device for files. It's one-gig capacity is pretty huge, really. It's by no means the simplest device to use for managing music files - no simple synchronization here with iTunes, for example, which automatically updates a device as it does with an iPod.
No, with the AudioDream, you get the device and a USB cable (plus headphones, carry case, etc). When you connect it to your PC, Windows see it straightaway as an external drive. So you'd access it to copy and delete files just as you would with any drive. Getting music on to it means manually copying the music files.
I'll likely be using it more for file storage. I don't need this to play music as I have my iPod Mini!