iPods and recording phone interviews

I’ve completed my migration to using my iPod for recording phone interviews. What a lot of people don’t know is that the iPod has a built-in microphone and recording facility that third-party manufacturers can use. It records 8-bit, mono WAV files and when you plug it into your Mac or PC, iTunes automatically syncs it back into its library, where you can then convert them to AAC files to cut their size by half.
This makes it very useful for journalists: my iPod has a 60GB capacity and a 12-hour rechargeable battery, which means

  1. it’ll outlast any tape recorder
  2. I can store all my interviews digitally, making it easier to keep them for years if I want without having to resort to renting a lock-up
  3. it will almost never run out of power and is automatically recharged when it’s plugged into my iMac.

The two main microphones (ie the ones I know about) for recording phone conversations are the Griffin iTalk and the Belkin Universal Microphone Adaptor.


The iTalk seemed like the better choice, at first, since it has a speaker (which makes it good as an alarm clock as well), its own microphone, a single socket that senses whether an external microphone or pair of headphones is plugged in, and a meter for automatically setting the correct sound level.
By contrast, the Universal Microphone Adaptor has two sockets, one for a microphone and one for headphones, no microphone or speaker, and a switch for setting the sound level. One thing it does have that the iTalk doesn’t is an LED that glows red, amber and green depending on the input volume.
Yet, despite its source (Belkin, which you can normally count on for producing something that simply doesn’t work), the Universal Microphone Adaptor comes out top for phone interviews. The one flaw with the iTalk is that its automatic sound meter sets the input levels for my voice, rather than the interviewee’s voice, making it impossible to hear whatever they’re saying during playback. The Belkin adaptor does the same, except I can use the switch to boost the volume of the interviewee, even if it means my voice ends up a bit distorted at its loudest.
I’m not exactly going to throw away my iTalk though. For face-to-face interviews and as a portable speaker for the iPod, it’s a lot more useful than the microphone-less, speaker-less Belkin adaptor.
Next step is to automate some processes. Once the audio file’s in iTunes, I’d like to automate the AAC conversion, get iTunes to copy to the Desktop the original and the AAC file and then get it to disable or delete the files in the Library and the Voice Memo playlist so that they don’t get synced back to the iPod. I sense an AppleScript coming on.