Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Nagra ARES-M

Thanks to a tip from Ward Weis, I realise that Nagra has come out with an update to their "asthma monitor" recorder Ares-PII (so called because I got the recorder past Nigerian customs by saying it was to measure my lung capacity as someone who suffers from allergies. No, that wasn't a microphone". I bought an ARES-PII when I worked for Radio Netherlands and we tested it in the field many times.

The shape was a bit off putting for some people - although the recordings with the capsule microphone were superb. However, at nearly 2000 Euro (when you had purchased all the accessories that were really essential) it was hard to justify the cost/quality, alongside other flash recorders from people like Maycom and Mayah.

The new recorder is MUCH smaller (more like the size of a mobile phone or the original I-pod) and retails at US$995 on some US websites, including the dynamic microphone. It seems this product was announced on May 26th 2005. I did ask at the Nagra stand at IBC 2005 in September, but they didn't show me this, only the older Ares-PII+

The Oades brothers audio forum points out that the 1 GB memory is internal and NOT removable. Although that means the card is less likely to be lost, it means you have to use the Mini USB cable to connect to the laptop to transfer the audio. Oades reports the transfer speed is VERY slow...says it takes
15 minutes to copy a 30 minute 16/48 stereo WAV file
(about 330MB). If correct, that's going to be a serious problem for news journalists in the field who want to keep the audio in the digital domain.

On the plus side, the Nagra ARES-M is extremely small and light (similar to the I-pod), but offering a thousand times better audio quality (I-pod restricts the audio quality of recordings to 8 kb/sec - ludicrous. Yes, there is a hack, but it voids the warranty). There is a built-in FM radio (though the press release doesn't say whether you can record directly from the radio. It works on 2 AA batteries and can store up to 10 hours of (stereo) audio onto the 1 GB memory.

The first production units will be shipped from Switzerland in November 2005, according to Nagra who phoned me this morning. I hope to do a side-by-side with the M-audio in mid-November. It is pointless reviewing the prototypes....if there are problems, manufacturers will blame you for testing a pre-launch model. I am only interested in what the average user will find. Watch this space for our independent evaluation.

 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

DR-100- Professional Audio Recorder.


Could this be the competition to the new M-Audio recorder mentioned below? The AEQ company is headquartered in Madrid, Spain, although it has a branch in Florida and was at IBC 2005. They concentrate on mixing desks, but a sales assistant was able to show me a prototype of what he claimed was the world's smallest flash recorder. It reminds me of the early Nokia phones, being 120 by 45 by 22 mm in size. It records in G.723, MP3 and MP2 compression formats with sampling rates between 32 and 320 kbps. They claim the battery will last 10 hours. The unit has a built-in FM radio as well, with 20 presets. The DR-100 comes complete with an external mike, case, headphones and editing software for use on a PC. No price mentioned at IBC 2005. I have sent e-mails to try and find out more. Posted by Picasa

M-Audio Microtrack Update

M-Audio Microtrack
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.

A couple of weeks back, Guido van Nispen showed me what looks like a great gadget for both radio and podcasters. It is going to cost 500 Euros(including BTW, plus the cost of memory cards. My first impressions about an 8 minute play around - looks good, although the colour looks a bit cheap. Technically it is a nice piece of equipment and very easy to use! The unit has professional input jacks (balanced) for an external mike (internal one is really only emergency quality), and 2 hours of battery life between charges. (The brochure claims 8, but Guido (who has the only prototype in Europe) has other experiences). You can get about 8 hours of excellent quality MP3 and WAV recordings on a 1 GB flash memory.

MP3 recording rates possible: 96 to 320kbps at 32, 44.1 or 48kHz
PCM (linear) recording possible : 16 or 24-bit at 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96kHz

The company M-Audio is owned by Avid. Dealers in Europe, including Mafico in the Netherlands, tell me the first production units expected at the end of November -early December at the earliest. The unit is made in China. There does not seem to be a way (on the prototype) to double the left or right channel to get full-track mono. We've passed that suggestion on to the manufacturers...would be useful.

Another death knell for the Sony Mini-Disc in this branch of the business.

Another view M-Audio prototype

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
The device uses Compact Flash memory (cheaper than Memorystick) and can be read by most card readers. I have good experiences with the Scandisk Professional series - less prone to read/write errors than the standard Compact Flash Discs I used for a couple of years with Nikon 990 camera.

Sony PCDM-1

They will be frisking you for one of these at the next rock concert. In December, Sony is promising the PCDM-1 recorder, aimed at the musicians market since the price is a hefty US$2000. It has that warm glow of a guitar amplifier.....familiar to musicians. It will scare the life out of the average reporter...would you stick this under a politicians nose?

As is usual with Sony, the model number is strange. Don't confuse it with the PCMM-1 Portable DAT recorder (below) which I assume is now to be discontinued. The PCMM-1 is seen in shops for around US$840, list price well over US$1000.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sony MMR-60 Mini FM Transmitter Launched

According to Engadget & a press release from Sony-Ericsson has launched a mini-FM transmitter (a bit like the I-trip) but then designed to broadcast the music on your mobile phone all over the house, to be picked up on a normal FM radio. Hidden down the bottom of the press release is the note that this is not going to be in Europe.....against the law.

Note: Since FM-transmitters are not allowed in all countries yet, it will be launched in countries where we know it is allowed. This currently includes USA, South America, Australia and some countries in Asia. As we get knowledge about other countries allowing this, this list will grow.

Don't hold your breath that the list will grow. I don't see much restriction on these devices, simply because the strength is so low they are unlikely to cause interference problems in most situations.

 Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 10, 2005

SonyEricsson 990i Phone as a cam/audio recorder?

I wonder if this new Sony-Ericsson 990i is going to be any use for reporters in the field when they are 'first on the scene". The audio in the old 800 was great. Sony has released info in the hope of encouraging application developers. They claim release in the first quarter of 2006. So look for it in the shops in May - June 2006. The phone will also come out in North America too. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 08, 2005

If you're into HD production this weblog is worth following. They have also started to find HDef Easter eggs in TV productions like "My Name is Earl". These are bits than only 16 by 9 viewers see on the edge of their screens Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 07, 2005

Put maps on your ipod. Useful? I'd give it a 6 out of 10. And you? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

OJO - In Your Face Communication

So is the stand-alone gadget to enable broadcasters to do cheap video conference meetings? Nope...but interesting to see the design. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Revision3 - the secrets of podcasting


Interesting videocast with a how to podcast presentation - as well as a visit to Leo Laporte of This Week in Tech fame. Interesting to see what he has as kit....I notice he is a Mackie Onyx user as well.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Radio Heritage Foundation - Home

Radio Heritage Foundation - Home: "Radio changed the world. This electronic marvel bought drama, news and music into millions of lounge rooms and made stars superstars. People no longer needed to dress up and travel to major theatres. They could gather as a family and listen as the magic of entertainment was reproduced by the best piece of furniture in the house"

One of the best radio heritage sites around - from the Pacific viewpoint.

Monday, October 03, 2005

So long MiniDisc; don�t slam the door on the way out - Engadget - www.engadget.com

Engadget seems to agree with the notion that Sony Minidisc is also heading for the chopping block. In my view - it cannot come fast enough. Sony never took this format seriously enough to make Professional recorders themselves (it was left to others to try). And there was never a "Norton Utilities" for the discs to rescue corrupted tables of contents. Trying to make a HD version is a bit like Apple trying to extend the life of the old Apple IIe with the IIg. Remember that? No? Oh well.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bose & the 21st Century

Bose makes a great set of noise-cancelling headphones, albeit rather expensive (275 UK pounds). I am refering to the QuietComfort 2 series, designed in the US and manufacturered in China. The headphones sit the best on my (bald) head, in contrast to a pair I bought in Tokyo airport in 2003 from Sony MDR-NC20. They sound good too. Bose is clever in its marketing - inside the case are a few "courtesy" cards with info on the headphones - to give to people on planes who ask what you're wearing.

I am also impressed by the warranty. A crack appeared in the plastic on one side of the headphones (as a result of regular use in the last year) and Bose replaced the unit within 4 days (sent back to Dutch distributor), no questions asked. I have no idea why a technology company restricts its product registration to the US though. Better customer satisfaction through research?

Thank you for choosing Bose. Online registration is available for US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands residents only. All other customers please visit Bose Worldwide.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Logitech has better cameras - not animation

Now this is interesting. Logitech wants to sell a new generation of webcams that record video at 1.3 Megapixels and have noticeably improved audio (there is better echo cancelling software which is handy if you want to use Skype without headphones).

I just bought an older Webcam 4000 version in the UK and discovered it only took pictures at 1.3 Megapixels, video was just standard VGA. The problem in the PC World I was in (in Norwich) was that they clearly had a mixture of old and new stock. The Logitech packaging has the "specification icons" along the bottom of the packaging, rather than on the back where you tend to look first.

The new webcams for notebooks cost just under US$100 in the USA, 80 bucks for the Webcam 5000 designed for home desktop use.

Logitech have also just introduced a sort of animation gimmick called Logitech Video Effects, which looks like a crude version of the Talking Headz idea from Gizmoz.com (see the IBC 2005 report lower down). It is a first time that a webcam manufacturer has adopted this technology. But, contrary to Logitech's "first-of-its-kind" claims, Gizmoz was the first to launch the concept via MSN and other chat networks. Actually, it would be great if the two would work together. Gizmoz makes the better animation software. And Logitech are clearly ahead with their cameras.

I think the quality of the audio on these new webcams is worth investigating for live radio reporters. I keep a webcam with the laptop as a back-up. And video conferencing is going to become as important as the Skype conferencing. It really is "plug and play".