Anyone know about portable mic preamps or recording on mp3 players?
December 4, 2005 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Are my recording needs met by a Creative Zen Nano Plus? If not, what device would easily allow fairly good recording from an unamplified single point stereo mic onto my computer (Mac) at low cost? Alternatively, anyone know much about small, cheap, portable microphone preamps?

I'm trying to record music lessons and masterclasses and put them onto my computer at greater than playback speed. Right now, I use a Sharp Minidisc recorder, record using a single point stereo T-mic, then play it back into the microphone port in my computer and record it. This is a bit of a pain, and I'd like to make a bit of an improvement to this process.

I just got a $100 giftcard to bestbuy, and noticed that Creative Labs mp3 players are currently 25% off and have line-in recording capabilities. Might these fit my needs? Would I need a microphone preamp? Are there small, cheap preamps?

On a related note, it seems as if a preamp would allow me to record onto my iPod with the help of iPodLinux. Is this true?
posted by sirion to Technology (12 answers total)
If you're just doing this for yourself, you'll probably be fine with a Creative Zen or any other consumer MP3 recorder out there. If you plan on using it for even semi-professional recordings, though, you're far better off with MD.

That said, Sony now makes USB-uploadable MD recorders:
posted by diastematic at 2:13 PM on December 4, 2005

By the way, that Sony uploads to Mac, too. Minidisco features two such models.
posted by diastematic at 2:14 PM on December 4, 2005

I'm guessing your budget won't stretch to an Edirol R1? It's perfect for this application, although a lot more expensive than a Zen Nano I'd guess.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 2:16 PM on December 4, 2005

Re the Sony USB-linkable MD recorders - they're superb machines, but Sony's software is woeful. A great shame.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2005

If you end up buying a "Zen nano plus" keep an eye out for the "Muvo Micro N200". It's exactly the same as far as I can tell, just from before creative rebranded their line. Usually cheaper.
posted by true at 2:32 PM on December 4, 2005

Some of the responses to this question might prove useful.
posted by louigi at 3:42 PM on December 4, 2005

Sirion, I'm in the market for a similar device (I'm a music student). The iRiver models look very good; they have some gumstick sized stuff that Adam Curry reccomends for mobile podcasting. I haven't gotten a straight answer from anyone on this, but it appears they could be used with a small powered microphone.
posted by rossination at 4:50 PM on December 4, 2005

I got my mic pre-amp here. It's very powerful, and very clean and what you need if your mic input doesn't provide its own power.

SoundProfessionals also likes to sell some all-in solutions, such as a GMini 400 and pre-amp, for MP3 and WAV recording.

Another option is to get one of the older iRiver ihp-120/140 mp3 players, which have powered mic inputs (and optical inputs/outputs). Their built-in recording software is dodgy, but the open-source rockbox seems to have remedied most of the issues, enabling WAV and WAVPack recording.
posted by meehawl at 4:53 PM on December 4, 2005

and further to meehawl's comment, they've added peak level meters to the recording screen in the last couple of days. This project is amazing!
posted by scruss at 5:38 PM on December 4, 2005

Say, would a portable headphone amp do the same thing as a mic preamp?
posted by sdis at 6:13 PM on December 4, 2005

If not, are there any good DIY plans for a decent mic preamp? I built one of those altoid headphone amps a couple years back and could make another for my mic.
posted by sdis at 6:30 PM on December 4, 2005

Your mic preamp is going to need to be different from your headphone preamp. First of all, it needs to boost the signal a lot more. Second, since it's for the input stage, you're going to want the lowest noise possible. (Most people won't notice a little noise on the headphone output, but once you've got noise on something you've recorded, there's no getting rid of it.) Third, it's going to need to be isolated pretty well from the outside world to avoid amplifying outside noise and interference along with the signal. And fourth, you'll only need one channel instead of two.

You could probably put one in an Altoids tin... in fact, that would be good shielding. But it's a different circuit.
posted by kindall at 6:54 PM on December 4, 2005

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