Griffin iTalk

Turning your iPod into a recorder is one of the most useful tricks the iPod accessory developers have come up with.

In fact, if the digital voice recorder hadn’t preceded the iPod, it would have made as much sense to market the iPod as a recording rather than just a playback device. With disk sizes of 15, 20 and 40Gb, it’s one of the more versatile peripherals in the technology sphere, despite being sold primarily as a music player.

It won’t be long (if it hasn’t already happened) before some smart cookie comes up with an S video/firewire connector, allowing filmmakers to record footage straight onto their iPods for transfer to their Mac later on.

But for now, the focus on iPod’s ability to store recorded sound is focused more on voice recording, and depending on your industry, it’s a godsend. Almost every journalist (present company included) has a horror story about conducting an entire interview on a cassette recorder only to realise he or she has forgotten to release the pause button or the whirring of the cassette itself running on a hard surface has completely drowned out the voices.

The Griffin iTalk is currently among the second placeholders in the voice recorder race. The other company enjoying huge success with iPod accessories — Belkin — are still ahead with the rather boringly named Voice Recorder for iPod.

The iTalk isn’t as pretty as the Belkin model’s smooth, rounded, uninterrupted-white finish, but it is a little cheaper. The width of the iPod, it looks like a natural extension of it, with the same rounded corners and white plastic shell, a steel mesh speaker covering half the front.

The manufacturer’s claim is that you can record clearly from up to 100 feet away, so it’s perfect for seminars and conferences (but not rock concerts — iPod users aren’t interested in that sort of thing).

It seemed to take a little while before our iPod accepted the iTalk (a conspiracy between Apple and Belkin?), preferring to freeze completely than recognise the iTalk’s presence every second or third try. But after the teething problems, recording conversations and interviews worked a treat.

One thing that refused to work was the ability to connect another device to the input socket on top of the iTalk, allowing you to bypass the microphone. The lapel mike we tried resulting in the recording falling completely silent, so a list of compatible products somewhere would have helped.

But it’s a minor glitch because the wonderful thing about the iTalk is that you’ll never have to put up with scratchy, whirring, tinny analogue recordings over a cassette deck again. Even when a conversation is recorded across a room, every sound (including the background, so pick your location carefully) is crystal clear. No more operating or buffeting noises smothering otherwise lucid voices.

The speaker is the iTalk’s other great strength. For one thing, it brings the inbuilt alarm clock in your iPod to life. Rather than just emit a series of beeps likely to send you through the ceiling at 6am, you can attach the iTalk and have it start playing music when the alarm goes off instead.

A worthy addition to the iIndustry, the iTalk is great for journalists, spies and — as the manufacturers website claims, recording your next disagreement to prove you were right. It turns your iPod into a digital voice recorder worth hundreds of dollars for little extra money.

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