Developer: Griffin Technology
Requirements: 5th-generation iPod video or 2nd-generation iPod nano.
Unlike its predecessor, which attached to the top of 3rd- and 4th-generation iPods, the iTalk Pro uses the dock connector and requires a 5th–generation iPod video or 2nd-generation iPod nano.
To be candid, I’m frankly surprised that I find myself unable to echo ATPM’s top rating for the iTalk Pro that I gave to the original iTalk. This updated version of Griffin Technology’s digital audio recorder for the iPod simply has a lot of shortcomings that I didn’t sense from the original.
First of all, there’s no longer a built-in speaker. The mini speaker of the first iTalk, in spite of its size, was more than adequate to quickly listen to recorded memos without having to fumble around for a pair of headphones or earbuds. The loss of the mini speaker is a significant blow.
The second shortcoming is that the iTalk Pro costs $10 more than the original. If Griffin Technology were marketing the iTalk Pro as an iTalk with additional features and the iTalk were still available, then the $10 would be justified. But the iTalk Pro isn’t, in my opinion, a feature-added version of the iTalk. “iTalk Pro” is simply the name Griffin used for the same product, only updated to be compatible with the latest iPods. Period. So what happens when they have to be updated again to be compatible? Will it be called the iTalk Pro Pro?
Here’s the scoop on the updated iTalk:
- Yes, it now records CD-quality stereo, but this capability was added to the iPod by Apple, not by Griffin. The iTalk Pro simply accesses this capability.
- To take advantage of the better recording capability, Griffin needed only to add a second mic as well as the 3.5mm line input jack, then update the built-in software. In bulk, I guarantee that the cost of adding these two components doesn’t reach $10 per unit—especially considering the cost savings by eliminating the mini speaker.
- Recordings can now be initiated via a button on the front of the iTalk, which also includes an LED to indicate activity. Again, in the bulk quantities Griffin deals with, all of these new hardware parts wouldn’t raise the base cost per unit by $10.
Another factor that bothers me is that, unlike the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo, Griffin did not include a docking port pass-through. As such, it is impossible to charge or set your iPod in a dock while the iTalk Pro is attached.
An issue that is of no consequence to me is that the iTalk Pro only comes in black (with a shiny silver back). My iPod video is black, but the iTalk Pro doesn’t match a white iPod nor most of the iPod nanos.
I have to question the iTalk Pro’s ability to remain securely connected to an iPod. A few times, my iTalk Pro apparently became unseated and my iPod could no longer record because it could no longer find the recording device.
Audio quality is not bad. I have not had the opportunity to personally try competing products, but have heard samples by other reviewers of Belkin’s and XtremeMac’s recorders. Both were superior in quality to the iTalk Pro.
Like its predecessor, the iTalk Pro’s recording specs are dictated by Apple. The “High” quality settings records 16-bit stereo WAV files at 44.1 kHz. The “Low” quality setting records 16-bit mono WAV files at 22 kHz. (Note: at the time of this issue’s publication, Griffin’s product page incorrectly states that the “Low” quality setting records at 8-bit instead of 16-bit.)
Unlike its predecessor, the iTalk Pro now includes a setting to adjust gain levels: automatic, high, and low. My impression is that the automatic setting favors higher gain, and both automatic and high are prone to considerable amounts of background hiss. The low gain setting is adequate for hand-held voice memos. My suggestion is to use high or automatic when recording events such as group meetings. Regrettably, the gain setting always reverts to automatic when the iTalk Pro is reattached.
- Stereo recording with auto gain, multiple distances (1:44, 17.5 MB)
- Stereo recording with low gain, multiple distances (0:48, 8.2 MB)
- Mono recording with low gain, hand-held distance (0:46, 1.9 MB)
Though it was less noticeable in the low gain setting, the occasional sound of the iPod's hard drive activity was present in all gain modes. This wasn't so much an issue with the original iTalk because it mounted to the top of an iPod—further away from the hard drive. Naturally, the problem doesn't exist when using an iPod nano.
Other than a brief click at the beginning, presumably the moment the iTalk Pro switches away from the built-in mic, the line input recordings are great. Griffin should, however, default line input recordings to the low gain setting. The automatic setting causes rapid fluctuations between high and low, rendering line input recordings useless. The low gain setting is appropriate for standard line-level audio input.
- Line input recording with auto gain (0:17, 2.9 MB)
- Line input recording with low gain (0:17, 2.9 MB)
You may have heard what sounded like some distortion in the music clips above (even the low gain version). That’s actually a guitar effect in the music clip and is present in the original recording. My impression is that line input recordings in low gain mode are very clear. The reason I used this music clip is because it’s the only quality studio recording I could access which I knew would be OK to use here and not have copyright/license problems.
My verdict is largely the same as with the original iTalk. Since the iTalk Pro is the least expensive of the three main players for this product, it’s probably the best choice for a quick-and-easy recording accessory. But if you can afford an additional $10 or $20, you should consider either the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo or the XtremeMac MicroMemo.