Musician and author Mark Nelson tries out the highly anticipated M-Audio MicroTrack recorder for O’Reilly Digital media. Mark takes the test seriously, actually heading out into the field (Maui) and recording with it. (See Hawaii, above. Now why don’t I get to do a review like this?)

The verdict? The recorder isn’t perfect: no real phantom power (30V instead of 48V), as others have noted, made worse by the inclusion of TRS inputs (read: don’t fry your mic), and it’s hard to get adequate signal level. Setting record levels is unusually tricky, and there’s no standby mode for recording. The MicroTrack also weirdly doesn’t start over its file numbering from 1 after you’ve deleted old recordings (odd, as even my iRiver can do that). But overall, he loves the recorder for its portability, low price (relative to other options), and computer connectivity. If you’re in the market, don’t miss his detailed review and sound samples; this is the most info on this recorder I’ve seen yet:

Review: M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 Pocket Digital Recorder [O’Reilly Digital Media]

M-Audio appears committed to this device, and I’d say it has a serious edge on its competitors at the price point (HD-MiniDisc, I’m talking to you).

Previous product reviews in scenic locales:
Numark’s $99 Portable Turntable, Torture Tested in the Burning Man Desert

  • johnsrude

    Which iRiver do you use?

    What features do you want in an HD-MiniDisc that costs less than the MicroTrack?


  • admin

    Nothing against MiniDisc per se; as I've observed before, the ability to have removable storage that you can buy up cheaply is not to be sneezed at for many applications.

    But MD has downsides: ATRAC, not MP3 compression (as this review notices), which is a pain, moving parts that create noise, and most importantly, it's harder to move files over than it is from a hard drive.

    I'm using an iRiver H320, which has its own issues and is MP3-only, but is a joy in many respects (and much cheaper). Not my only recording device, mind you, but as the portable do-all box that also plays music, can't be beat. More on that, erm, once I write it up somewhere other than in comments.


  • m15a

    i'd also be interested in a cheap portable recorder write up. (hi-md, iriver, ??? . . .)

    agree with the issues of hi-md. also, design-wise, in the u.s. there's basically only two design options available (and they barely differ). definitely room for competition when it comes to portable player/recorders. still considering hi-md, since as far as i know, there's nothing else (that's still on the market) that's small, cheap, can play compressed music, and can record uncompressed. maybe i'm wrong though?

    such an article could also mention some of the portable pre-amps available.

  • johnsrude

    Is there something in particular that bugs you about ATRAC compression artifacts? MP3 compression artifacts bother me a lot but I don't hear as much difference between CD-quality and ATRAC as I do between CDs and vinyl.

    Maybe I just have strange ears.


  • m15a

    but i think the universality of mp3s is a plus to many. i'd probably flip off a website if it said, "uploaded here are so samples i recorded *in atrac format*".

  • johnsrude

    The folks I know use lossless compression formats such as SHN or FLAC. Lossless compression means that the sound is the same quality as what first came down the microphone. Lossy compression such as MP3 and ATRAC introduce artifacts into the recording which irritate some folks.

    ATRAC to MP3 converters are free and readily available.
    Me, I don't care. If I hear someone's doing good music and it only takes me a minute or so to download a codec, I'll do it.

    The whole discussion is probably moot as there are indications that Sony may soon stop making MD players.

    Fine with me. In a couple of years I'll just pick up the old ones on eBay or at the local thrift shop. I own vinyl, cassettes, VHS, CD, DVDs and MDs. What's another format once sound quality is at a level where only dogs can tell the difference? javascript:ac_smilie(';)')

  • admin

    Well, we're comparing apples to oranges a bit — the old (non-HD) MiniDisc used lossy ATRAC compression, though the loss in fidelity was pretty small. (The compression was about the last thing you'd worry about on a MiniDisc recorder — equipment noise and low-end analog-to-digital converters are more of an issue, plus, of course, the quality of your mic.)

    The HD models now have lossless compression.

    But I still say convenience is a big issue. It's easier to drag a file off a MicroTrack or my iRiver and open it in any program than it is to convert an ATRAC file. Also, I don't see a price difference, talking street price here, that would make me choose the Sony MD over the MicroTrack for the reasons I mention.

    That's not to say an HD MiniDisc isn't the perfect solution for some people.

    With high-end recorders like the new Tascam coming down, I also wonder if the best combination (if you can afford it) would be a reasonable MP3 player for light duties and something more serious for heavy-duty recording needs.

    More on this soon . . . thanks for the comments, especially since recorders I think are never really one size fits all.


  • m15a

    another model that might be a contender is the archos gmini 402. line-in recording in wav and (i think) mp3 formats. 20 gig hard drive. $240 on amazon. also has video playback capabilities (and a colorful screen), which is a plus or a minus depending on your wants. also has the benefit over many iriver recorders in its availabity. anyway, i've never used it. just been looking at it.

    . . . this page doesn't have its own message board, does it? 🙂

  • johnsrude

    Just got this. Under $150 street, 1 GB, 17 hours of MP2 recording at 44kHz sampling, 128K BPS.

    You just plug an external mic into the Line-In, change a couple of settings and go.

    Downside: You have to use software to transfer recorded music from it to your PC–it's not a USB drive.

    Upside: It sounds pretty good and doesn't need a preamp.

  • dave

    Have had my Micro Track 2496 since they first

    became available.Have had my ups & downs with this unit but now I love this little box.

    Over the last 9 months,M-audio has been upgrading the firmware to this unit…with each upgrade, the Micro Tracker has slowly come to life & can actually perform like it was suppose to.I just recorded a 4 day Bluegrass festival in May & used the MT to tape the entire weekend. On a 6 gig microdrive CF card, you can record 9 & a half hours of 44.1.

    So, all this said & done, here are 3 criterias

    that make the MT 2496 excell in performance.

    1.You must have the latest firmware revision

    2.Buy the largest Compact flash card available

    3.Purchase an external power supply…I found

    an 8800millamp USB supply on ebay.

    Happy recording!


  • Cla

    Any field tests and reviews comparing Edirols r-09 with Microtracks?