Everyone knows iPods play music, but connected to the right accessories they can also record. Belkin’s TuneStudio exploits this fact by combining a simple four-channel mixer with an iPod dock to create the ideal solution for podcast producers on a budget.
There’s no reason to limit yourself to recording podcasts with the TuneStudio, but that’s clearly what it was designed for, with two mic channels, two stereo channels and a built-in compressor. A typical podcasting set-up might see it connected to a pair of microphones, a CD player and a fourth sound source that could be anything from a laptop to a Korg Kaossilator. That would have you sorted for two-way conversation, music and those all-important jingles.
Plug me in
You get four outputs: headphones, monitor speakers, USB (which can also be used as an additional input) and, of course, that iPod dock. The USB output gives you the option of streaming digital audio direct to a computer, but the iPod dock allows you to record anywhere there’s a mains power supply. That’s right, there’s no battery power, so it’s strictly an indoor affair – if you want to get out in the field, take a look at Belkin’s ultra-portable Podcast Studio.
Newbies needn’t be phased by the bank of knobs on the main panel. You could get by just using the gain and level controls to set the volumes of each channel, but there’s also the option to tweak the frequencies with high, mid and low EQ, along with pan and balance to add some width.
Express yourself, compress yourself
One of the TuneStudio's best features is the compressor. This sort of compression has nothing to do with compressed audio formats such as MP3 – instead it takes a hammer to loud audio peaks and bashes them down to the desired volume level. It’s particularly useful for recording the spoken word, ironing out fluctuations that could otherwise have your listeners straining to hear one moment before having their ears blasted off the next.
The process of actually recording to an iPod is very simple. Once docked, your iPod’s menu switches to display some basic options. Recording quality can be set to either “high” (44.1kHz 16-bit stereo – the same as CD) or “low” (22.05kHz, 16-bit mono).
Both are uncompressed (the audio is stored in WAV format, not MP3), so you won’t automatically lose quality if you need to edit the results. Sound quality is fine, with little noise from the mixer itself. Once you’ve finished, just dock your iPod with your computer, then tag the files with iTunes and do whatever you like with them from there.
The TuneStudio isn’t the most robust mixer, and it is quite choosy about which iPod models it works with – only the Classic, 2nd and 3rd gen Nanos and 5th gen iPod need apply. But it is now the most convenient way to get your witterings, wise words and garage band janglings into the digital domain. Who knows, you could yet taken on the ramblings and musings of Stuff.tv’s weekly podcast.