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XTremeMac MicroMemo with iPod as field recorder

I’ve been waiting for years for a device that will let me use my iPod for field recording. Being able to record on a moment’s whim without buying a separate device or lugging my mini-disc or portable DAT around would be nice. I was jazzed when it was reveiled that the 5G iPod would record at CD Quality stereo and even more jazzed when I read the review of the micromemo on iPodLounge. I finally got one last week and I have to say I’m really disappointed. I mean, it is probably fine for recording voice memos, but without more settings options, it is useless with external mics.

micromemo_1.jpgI did a little test with my two main, unobtrusive, field mics: a SoundPro SP-BMC3 dual-binaural setup, which is unpowered; and a Sony ECM-909A stereo mic that is self-powered. I also tried the included, mono, mic.

I did a little test sitting at my computer with Big Black playing at low volume in the background. I spoke into the mic and than just held it while the music played.

The results?

With the SoundPro: Silence, zero, zilch. XtremeMac says that you should use powered mics, so this isn’t completely a surprise, but I expected at least something. It does demonstrate how weak the attenuation is in the unit itself.

(linked files are the original WAV files produced with the recorder)

With the Sony powered Mic: Test with Sony Mic (3.4 MB) I was a bit underwhelmed here. Now, I wasn’t speaking in a “radio” voice. I was speaking somewhat sotto voce. I’m not bootlegging bands, I’m trying to capture ambiences. The sound of a market or church bells in the distance. I’ve often used this mic with my minidisc to do just that. There isn’t enough power in this Micromemo for this at all. You can barely hear the music coming out of the speakers less than two feet away from the mic.

With the included Mic: XTremeMac MicroMemo test with included mic (2.1 MB) The relative attenuation here is surprising. The included mic has a third ring around the jack, which I’m assuming is for supplying power. There is a lot of noise with the included mic, but it is also much brighter than my trusted Sony.

I didn’t bother using an extra booster inline with the mic because that defeats the whole purpose for me.

The gist? The MicroMemo is fine for recording memos. It doesn’t have enough power to do field or location recording, so I wouldn’t bother. I might carry it around in case I come across an interesting sounding construction site, but for Pike Place Market or down by the waterfront, I’ll continue to bring the mini disc.

[addendum: just saw Robin Hamman’s review. Sounds like he is in complete agreement]


2 Comments so far

  1. Chris Carfagno May 7th, 2007 9:24 am


    From what I understand about this device is that the mic input is mono only, not stereo. So, if you plug a stereo mic, like our SP-BMC-3 binaurals into it, they are not going to work. If the included mic has the 3rd ring, then they probably setup the mic input to provide power on the ring of the plug. On our mic, you would be providing power to the right mic, but only the left mic (on the tip of the plug) is connected to audio…, you have one mic with power and not connected to audio and one mic connected to audio, but with no power. The result, of course, is no audio.

    I would suggest having a look at this instead, which does work with stereo mics:

    Hope this helps!

    Chris Carfagno
    The Sound Professionals, Inc

  2. kevin May 9th, 2007 7:39 pm

    I don’t think it is the micromemo, I think it is that the SP mics I have aren’t powered. The sony stereo powered mic recorded fine (if a bit quieter than the included one). I didn’t buy the Belkin because I’d read that the audio recorded with it wasn’t as clear. I noticed that two of the suggested configurations on your web page have pre-amps, which adds unnecessary bulk for my uses.

    thanks for the comment though!

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