Computer-based digital recording is not anything mysterious; just toss together the basics – install a hard drive, CPU, RAM with a soundcard on a motherboard and add the right application software. As it happens, these are the same ingredients that make up Creative Labs’ Nomad Jukebox, a hard-drive-based MP3 portable.
While primarily intended for playback, the Nomad Jukebox includes recording capabilities. With the 6.4-GB hard drive and USB connectivity, this has the potential to be a terrific field recorder. USB is a relatively fast means to dump the data into a DAW for production. There is ample room to gather hours of uncompressed mono audio.
It gets several hours of recording from standard AA batteries and is about the size of a portable CD player. Its less than $500 price tag should make this a serious contender for the field recorder of choice for radio reporters and others looking to capture quality audio on the fly and on the cheap.
Before you run out and buy one to replace your DAT, MiniDisc or cassette re-corder, please note my use of the terms “potential” and “should” above. The Nomad has all the elements of a terrific field recorder, but the quality of the consumer connectors and the A/D-D/A converters make for somewhat disappointing recordings.
Recordings with pro microphones and cheap electret lavalieres alike were decent, but contaminated with a high-pitch howl and a cassette recorder-like hiss. This is likely due to RF pollution drawn into the unbalanced analog jack. Company officials indicated that these issues were being addressed and that later revisions would correct these obvious problems. While they are at it, add stereo recording plus metering capabilities.
It would be wonderful if Creative took this basic concept and tuned it for field recording. With some modifications – and, of course, some added cost – the Nomad could be a popular and inexpensive field recorder for a variety of pro and semipro uses.
Contact Creative Labs at 408-546-6400.