Mobile Apple users, I’ve got a couple of recording solutions for you – a hardware mic for the iPod (not the touch), and a multitrack audio app for the iPhone and second-generation iPod touch. I’m sure they’ll be a godsend to some people out there. But this time, I’m not waiting for commenters to say “I’m sick of iPhone apps.” I have to offer some healthy skepticism of my own this time around – and a bit of regret that the first-generation iPod touch is getting left out in the cold. But don’t let that stop you if this happens to be just the thing you’ve been looking for.

First up, the new Mikey from Blue Microphones is a stereo condenser mic designed for the iPod (4G, 5G, 6G, iPod Nano 2G, 3G and iPod Classic). It’s not for the new iPod touch, but basically other iPod models are ready to go. You can’t set gain beyond three pre-determined levels, but it does double as a speaker and has a positionable head. I’m not sure I’d use it for really serious recording situations – Blue’s lower-end mics haven’t performed quite as well as their high-end models, as you’d expect – but it appears to be a pretty nice solution for a lot of situations, and fantastic for recording practice sessions and the like. At US$79.99 list, it’s practically an impulse buy. I’m curious to hear how it stacks up to the cheaper digital recorders out there, like those from Zoom.

Blue Microphones [A product page for Mikey was unavailable at press time]

The Mikey isn’t for the iPhone / iPod touch, but we have seen a slew of new recording apps out there, like Griffin’s iTalk (as seen on ZDNet from our friend Jason O’Grady). Most of these are pretty dead-simple – the Apple SDK includes a recording mechanism – so the primary engineering challenge is just writing a tool to get the audio from your mobile device to your computer, since (cough) Apple left that bit out.

Sonoma Wire Works’ FourTrack is a different animal. It’s a full-blown four-track recorder (well, at least you can record one track at a time and play back four). I could try to talk about it, but the talented Eliot Van Buskirk over at’s Listening Post does a great job:

The New Hotness: FourTrack Audio Recorder for iPhone, iPod Touch

Sonoma FourTrack: Product Page, iTunes App Store

Here’s the catch with FourTrack and a lot of these apps, though: what do you do for a mic? Options are extremely limited on the iPhone and second-generation iPod touch – at least until Blue Mics releases a Mikey for iPhone. Pro options, or anything coming close to it, are out of the question.

And those of us with first-generation iPod touch models are entirely out of luck. While prior to 2.x firmware, hackers had managed to make DIY solutions for mic support on the first-generation iPod touch, that solution is still missing on the second-generation unit. Part of the fault appears to be Apple’s: they left out software support in the earlier models, and they aren’t exactly making third-party hardware makers’ job easy, either. It’s a problem with phones in general: the Google Android-based G1 from TMobile doesn’t even have a standard headphone jack, let alone mic input.

For that reason, I can’t personally comment on the FourTrack because my iPod is useless with it; I defer to Eliot for that. But here’s the feature list – US$9.99 and (with the iPod touch 2nd generation, required) a third-party mic sets you up.

  • Track Count – 4
  • Track Length – unlimited
  • Recording Quality – 16 bit, 44.1 kHz
  • Calibrated Meters – accurately monitor record and playback levels
  • Recording Clip Lights – ensure input levels do not cause distortion
  • Calibrated Faders – accurately adjust playback level of each track
  • Pan Control – move tracks from left to right
  • Time Line – seek to anywhere in your song instantly
  • Shuttle Wheel – accurately move within your song
  • Slide-to-Record – prevents over-writing your tracks
  • Latency Compensation – accurate to within 1ms
  • Compressor-Limiter – automatically fattens sound of the output mix
  • Song List – unlimited song count
  • WiFi Sync – copy recordings to a desktop computer

Part of the beauty of mobile apps is that someone will find some novel use for them. But for many, I fear that mobile recording could just be a novelty. I’m all for multi-function devices, but I don’t see iApps coming close to the array of dedicated mobile recorders out there any time soon; it appears more hassle than convenience, which would be the whole point. FourTrack is definitely the most serious app I’ve seen yet, but I still think recording may be best left to recorders, at least for now.