I took a first look at Gemini’s new iKey portable recording device, first on its own, then in a roundup of portable recording products. Basically, it’s a 2 lb. box that connects to an RCA line in and outputs MP3s or WAV files onto a USB key.

Gemini iKey [Product Page]

I was initially critical of some things the device lacks, like integrated mic inputs or digital inputs, though some readers defended the idea. And the street price is only US$150, so if you just want to take a line-out recording of a set, it could be a good option.

But the criticisms attracted the attention of Alan Cabasso, president for Gemini Sound and iKey products, who sends in the comments of one of their product specialists. (after the jump)

The product specialist comments:

First off, the size of the unit is not that large – it’s about 5 inches long, 1 inch high, and 3 inches deep. That’s not all that large, when you take a look at other units comparatively. For instance, the iKey uses high quality components, along the lines of what you would find on an entry level professional audio card for a PC. The upside to this is that the iKey is able to make a recording of equal caliber.

If you take a look at other all-in-one devices that exist on the market, you’ll find units made by iRiver, Creative, etc. Not only are they more
expensive than our unit, but since they’re built to do so many functions, their recording function is not professional quality. Furthermore, those all-in-one units have to be relatively efficient in terms of power consumption – they’re powering a hard drive, an LCD screen, and a headphone amplifer. How do they keep the power consumption so low? They typically use electronics that are meant for low power consumption, and that are very small, as to stuff everything in a tiny box. The reality of this is that low power consumption &
small typically means that there is a trade off when it comes to things like audio quality.

The weight of the unit is less than 1 pound, so it’s very light.

As far as being economical, recording to USB flash drives is the same price as CF, SD, etc. Check a site like newegg.com and compare pricing. USB is univeral, so of course you don’t require a card reader when you transfer to PC. That’s where our definition of versatile seems to conflict. We feel that it’s a benefit to the user to be able to choose the device they want to record to, and it also helps keep the price this unit within reach of the average consumer.

With flash memory prices going down every week, we felt it was silly to include on-board storage. By the time the unit would come out, there would already be larger capacities available for cheaper than what it had originally cost to outfit it with built in memory. That almost defeats the purpose for trying to put out a unit that is affordable.

Also, with the ability to connect to a USB external hard drive, or even directly to an iPod (and allow playback on that iPod), the unit really
gives the user a lot of options. This really is a benefit to most people, because we’ve foudn that a majority of our clientelle are people that have something that they can record to – whether that means having a USB flash drive, a USB external hard drive, an iPod, another type of compatible MP3 player, etc.

As far as mic preamps go, we understand that some audio professionals have requirements for mic recording, and the suggestion will be taken
into serious consideration for future products.

CDM responds: Thanks to Mr. Cabasso and Gemini for responding; this is what the Web is all about and I’m certainly glad to know some extra details.

I certainly agree that the line in jack on an MP3 player is going to be nowhere near something like the iKey for audio fidelity. Some readers have suggested using an MP3 player like the iRiver; while that’ll work, it forces you to encode to MP3 (few of the line-in MP3 features include full-fidelity, uncompressed options), and you’re limited by the quality of the electronics on the device. It’s harder to say how the Edirol or M-Audio CF recorders would compare; hopefully we can test these products soon.

I’m a little confused on this weight issue: the iKey specs on Gemini’s site say two pounds, not under one pound.

But, clearly, this is a great solution if what you want is a line out. It won’t double for mic recording, but, on the other hand, it also costs only $150, and if you already own an iPod Shuffle or flash hard drive or MP3 hard drive with USB, you’ve got the drive. (I do question whether only “professionals” need to record with microphones — that doesn’t make sense — but maybe we can look forward to an iKey Pro with mic and digital inputs. Gemini, you still listening?)