Question for Audio Gurus

I want to create a portable podcasting rig, something I can carry in my hands or on my bike and travel around with easily.

It looks like the something like an iRiver or a Muvo would be fine for my purposes: both can record, both have enough “disk space” to record lots of audio, and both are quite small.

The Muvo seems to have the edge, especially when used with a Mac, because it just mounts as a drive on the desktop, and files can be copied to and from it, while the iRiver requires using proprietary software to do this.

But both seem to accept audio input only through a “line in” jack rather than a “microphone” jack, which leads me to believe that I would run into troubles if I just plugged a regular old microphone into them.

Can anyone (a) confirm that this is true or not and (b) if it is true, what can I do about it (preferably by some mechanism that doesn’t involve another piece of heavy equipment). Bonus points if you can do this without trying to explain to me how impedance, resistance and balancing work, and without using the abbreviation “dB.”


DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on June 1, 2005 - 20:27 Permalink

Simple solution is to add a small mic mixer, and run a cable from its output to the line in. Here’s a small one that runs on both batteries and AC for US $40 from Radio Shack USA (the Canadian site, as you know, is closed for reno while they change the name):

According to (a href=…, mics do not work properly when plugged directly into a line-in:

Some sound cards have an additional stereo input labeled “line in. ” This is designed to accommodate the stereo signal from a VCR, CD player, or tape deck, and is not suitable for use as a microphone input.

Further on, they talk about interfacing with the input port on an Apple Mac, which is probably a standard “line in”:

The sound input port is stereo and requires an

Paul Pival's picture
Paul Pival on June 2, 2005 - 15:15 Permalink

Peter, first, please do post your final results when you make a decision, and second, you might consider a minidisc with a mic-in — that’s what I use because I had one sitting around, and it does work quite well. The single (and admittedly major) limitation is that to get the audio OFF of the MD and on to your laptop is a real-time analogue transfer (unless the newer models have changed when I stopped paying attention). So that’s a bummer, but it is very portable, no amp is needed, and the audio quality is great. Always tradeoffs, eh? :-)

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on June 2, 2005 - 15:52 Permalink

Paul: others have suggested minidiscs to me, and I’ve resisted precisely because of the “real time transfer” problem you mention.

Alan's picture
Alan on June 2, 2005 - 16:02 Permalink

I am no guru but I bought a Sony ICD-ST10 which is a dedicated digial dictaphone with built in ambient stereo microphones as well as a USB and a microphone jack. It is a little frustrating that it has no other functions like paying music (but maybe I can if I figure that out) and so maybe the wrong tool but the sound quality is great and it comes with a software that allows everything recorded to be saved as .wav which makes it handy for editing with Audacity. It also would allow you to do on-the-fly interviewing you are interested in with a tool that fits in your shirt pocket but add a mike if you want to do something more formal.…

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on June 2, 2005 - 18:53 Permalink

The Olympus DM-10 Digital Voice Recorder and Music Player is another possibility. US$134. records and plays music in MP3 and WMA, voice in DSS and WMA. Has external mic jack. PC/Mac compatible. Docking station. 64 meg flash built-in (DM-20 at $219 has 128).…

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on June 5, 2005 - 02:10 Permalink

At the high end, the Marantz PMD660 (about US $500) is the current choice among reporters.

records on plain old Compact Flash cards
runs for hours on 4 AA cells
fits in your hand
Records uncompressed 16-bit PCM .wav files at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz
Records mono .mp3 files at 64 kbps
Records stereo .mp3 files at 128 kbps
Two XLR mic connections
Two built-in condenser mics
“Copy Segment” cut-and-paste editing to a new sound file
USB port
WINNER of the 2005 Radio World “Cool Stuff Award”
WINNER of the 2005 Radio Magazine “Pick Hit Award”
Review here:

A similar unit worth considering is the R-1 Portable 24-Bit WAVE Recorder & Player, also around US$500. Product announcement from

Bellingham, WA

Ken Williams's picture
Ken Williams on June 5, 2005 - 16:59 Permalink

Test drive an iRiver from UPEI, courtesy of their generous offer to lend you one
My MuVo has dissapointed me in the level of distortion during line in recording, plus I had to buy a mic preamp just to discover this.

Clark's picture
Clark on June 6, 2005 - 05:32 Permalink

Sorry, I didn’t read DEREKMAC’s reply carefully enough.