Sasha and Rennie Pilgrim use it for recording sounds for their tracks while the likes of Above & Beyond and Steve Lawler swear by it for live gigs so when a chance came to road-test M-Audio’s new Microtrack II, I jumped at the chance.
M-Audio promise their new fangled digital device picks up high quality WAV size sounds whether you’re recording a set via a cable out of a mixer or with an external microphone sticking in the air and promptly mailed me a kit, with the brief to give it a try.
Seven days later the package arrives, with all sorts of plug adaptors, rabbit ear mini-microphones and the recorder itself, a small light handheld machine about the size of an old Sony Walkman. The marketing literature stresses its ‘easy-to-use’ functionality, though unfortunately M-Audio DON’T provide a necessary compact flash card or microdrive, The flash cards are readily available online or from electronic shops from about 10 euros for 4 gigabyte cards though it’s a shame one’s not provided automatically to allow immediate testing of the machine.
The package also doesn’t include a cable for recording out of the back of a mixer, so DJs should be careful to buy a cable when they pick up the compact flash card (also checking the size of the likely mixers’ output sockets they’ll be most often recording from).
Necessary extras issues aside, the recorder itself is indeed extremely easy to use, with a simple and logical file system and relatively few buttons to choose from such as volume levels and a simple red record button. Testing it at home it works like a dream, delivering top quality crystal clear recording capability, though the first proper test comes in Czech, at the Full Moon Party at the Abaton Theatre.
Arriving at the legendary warehouse style rave venue, I’m pleased to note my favourite mixer of choice, the Pioneer 800, plus a warm up DJ using Traktor who’s even brought his own mixer. Plugging in the Microtrack II into the Pioneer is simple, a matter of sticking the cable’s two red and white jacks into the ‘audio’ sockets next to the main power out holes and within a minute, the device is set to go with minimal effort or disruption. With more and more DJs now spending ten to 15 minutes fiddling with cables for Traktor or Ableton before their sets, it’s an impressive contrast, and with one click of the red ‘record’ button’ the set commences.
Fully charged, the machine records three hours, and checking back after the gig all has recorded seamlessly. The WAV level quality of the recording (checked via headphone on the player itself immediately after) is excellent and transferring it to a laptop is simply a matter of attaching the USB cable, then dragging and dropping into the desktop (Mac’s too).
Future test sessions at Fleda (also in Czech) and Tresor Berlin prove equally fruitful, providing reliable radio quality recorded DJ sets that are perfect for promotion across all possible media sources.
With M-2’s instruction guide emphasizing the Microtrack II as being a ‘portable digital recorder’ the company are clearly aiming at an audience far beyond just DJs though with almost every DJ now producing it’s also a great tool for that. By installing the rabbit ear phones in the player and slightly changing the record settings, I found it an excellent device for both recording interviews and picking up ambient sounds whether traffic, trains or crowds, which is always an asset for escaping from sample libraries.
The Microtrack II Recorder costs £229 and is it worth it? if you’ve got the money, unquestionably yes. With podcasts, digital radio and the explosion of web 2.0 media outlets, releasing DJ mixes regularly is increasingly vital for exposure and marketing, and being able to record sets effortlessly (at home too) is a major asset for every DJ spreading their name. Plus you won’t have to spend money on digital software to record straight into sets, or lug around boxes of DAT squares, which already are starting to look as obsolete as the 8 track.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)