Archos Jukebox Recorder: Ideal for student musician?
May 25, 2005 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a good recording device, and the Archos Jukebox Recorders have been suggested to me as an ideal device. I'm an opera major studying at a conservatory, and need a device to record my lessons and coachings. I don't want to spend much money. Is Archos the way to go? Are there any significant differences between the units or can I just get an old 10GB from ebay for $100?

I'm currently using a Sharp Mt-877 minidisc recorder with a Sound Professionals single point stereo mic (one of those T-mics from, and I'd like to get something that makes transferring recordings to my computer for editing(Mac, running Tiger) or to my iPod relatively easy, with the same or better sound quality than my minidisc.
posted by sdis to Technology (13 answers total)
There are some differences to keep in mind. Only the ones called "Jukebox recorder 20GB" or "FM Recorder 20" have USB 2.0. Without it it'll likely be a giant pain to transfer your data at any significant rate. I can't speak to the sound quality, I'll let an audiophile do that.

Disclosure: I have an FM recorder 20 I bought off ebay, seems to work fine. I'm looking to sell it as I don't ever find myself using it (I use a flash player and/or a portable HD)
posted by true at 7:57 PM on May 25, 2005

Archos Jukebox: Avoid - it doesn't record.
Archos Jukebox Recorder: USB only, so large file transfers wil be slow (1 megabyte per second). If that's not a problem, it will be the cheapest.
Archos Jukebox Recorder 20: USB 2.0, 20GB hard disk. I think ~$170 on ebay. This would be good.
Archos Jukebox FM: I think it's the same as the recorder 20, but with an FM radio added, and Li-ion batteries instead of standard AA Ni-MH. You might want to double check it records, but I'm fairly sure it does.
The more recent models I'm not very familiar with.

THe jukebox recorders recording input options are a built-in mic (mono), which is about dicta-phone quality, digital input (stereo), and analogue line-in (stereo). Meaning that if the built-in mic is not good enough for your task, you'll get the best results from a external mic that has a pre-amp, (or using a seperate pre-amp in addition to an unamplified mic). Without the preamp, you'll have to turn up the gain, meaning a noisier recording.

You might want to find out if a more recent model has a mic input (ie a pre-amp on the analague line-in), as that would simplify things.

You'll also find that the rockbox firmware is better for recording.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:02 PM on May 25, 2005

I bought an Archos Jukebox after a Phish fan recommended one on Metafilter. It broke. I ordered a replacement. It broke too. Great concept for recording, but when the chips are down I'd rather depend on something more dependable. The software froze once when I was interviewing someone.

I can't speak for the other models. I wonder if any new digital devices with mic input have come out lately -- a couple years ago the field wasn't too broad for hard drive ones.
posted by inksyndicate at 8:23 PM on May 25, 2005

I had an FMR-20 and I loved it. If you download Rockbox and use the open-source firmware, the Archos is darned near the perfect MP3 player.

I upgraded the HD in mine to a 60GB, and then it got stolen at my university.

So I bought an iRiver hp-140. It's great. Smaller than the Archos, same recording ability, same FM radio, but only 40GB and smaller form factor.

And Rockbox is almost finished being ported to the iRiver.

So the short answer: The Archos is great. The iRiver is smaller and prettier. Probably more likely to have a good working life, too. Archos is notorious for manufacturing defects.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:37 PM on May 25, 2005

The quality control on the things is terrible. I'm now on my second and it's flaky as well.
posted by sien at 11:04 PM on May 25, 2005

I have the Recorder 20 from several years ago with Rockbox. It's a so-so mp3 player without it, but with Rockbox I can't imagine anything better. (You can play games on it!)

With the internal mic you get a fair deal of hard drive whine, though. I can send you an mp3 I've made with it if you drop me an email.

I'm sure using an external mic would make a world of difference there. (I also seem to recall reading somewhere on the Rockbox site that it spins up the hard-drive less while recording than the Archos firmware does, but I haven't really made any recordings since downloading Rockbox.)
posted by rafter at 11:24 PM on May 25, 2005

How about the G Mini 120's?

Also, does the Rockbox firmware make these things more reliable, or is the hardware itself unreliable?
posted by sdis at 11:37 PM on May 25, 2005

Second the iRiver hp320 or hp340. You may even be able to sell your iPod..
posted by salmacis at 2:34 AM on May 26, 2005

Don't forget about Creative. I own a Nomad Jukebox which I used to record live music at least 100 times and, using a battery boost and a decent mic, I got excellent results. My wife also recorded speech samples with it for her language research, and again the clarity was remarkable.

The older units are available quite cheaply on Ebay. There is a lot of info from Creative users at the active community Nomadness. You can find some jewels of wisdom in the forums.

I never found the transfer time to be a problem, even with older USB. But YMMV.
posted by SNACKeR at 4:17 AM on May 26, 2005

So if I'm going for an iRiver, I should be looking at the HP___ series?
posted by sdis at 9:18 AM on May 26, 2005

Warning: The archos jukebox recorders have an awesome "feature" built into the software. If you record an item, then stop, then record again, the new file will OVERWRITE the old file, without even asking you. I just about hurled the damn thing across the room after it instantly destroyed a half-hour set of live music this way.

The "solution" is to stop recording, enter the file titling system, retitle the file, then back out to the recording screen and start another recording. All super easy to do in a dark club with only seconds between songs, of course. (Not!)

The Rockbox project is the way to go if you must use an Archos, and allows live splitting of recordings, but isn't perfect either. I'd look into any of the other, non-Archos recording devices before buying another one of these sub-marginal products. There are lots of great flash mp3 recorders on the market now which avoid the internal hard drive grinding noise while recording.
posted by Aquaman at 10:29 AM on May 26, 2005

I really want one of these:
it sounds really good.
posted by gnz2001 at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2005

I would like to give you a huge anti-recommendation for archos.

Their default firmware contains a number of extremely high profile data corruption bugs. You may record your lectures only to find them useless. I bought an archos jukebox 20 GB to take it on a long backpacking trip with me, to dump pictures from digital cameras onto. It corrupted ~ 20% of priceless reminders of my experience.

Yes they have a firmware upgrade. Yes I applied it and it seems to work "better" - I see maybe 1 file corruption per 200 or so. Still - I cannot believe that a company could ship a product like this. They had to have known, because the probability of getting a corruption is so high. But they chose to rush the product to the market to get some buzz before making sure it had any quality built in. As a software engineer I find this appaling beyond belief.

[end rant]

I recommend that you look into getting something made by iriver instead. I have a flash based player of theirs that certainly will not meet your requirements, but I just wanted to say I am extremely impressed with their build and software quality. Mine is 4 years old, which is ancient in this age of disposable hardware - and I still use it almost every day. Love that thing.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 4:31 PM on May 26, 2005

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