I was perusing an apple store today when I came across an iPod accessory that interested me. It’s a device that attaches to the bottom and claims to record at ‘CD quality’* through a built-in stereo microphone. There is also an eighth-inch jack where an external microphone can be plugged in.

Now, I’m not so much interested in this because I think it’ll be great for fieldwork, on the contrary, I assume the quality, even with an external microphone, would be far lower than a purpose-built flash-ram recorder or, say, a minidisk, given that it’s a one-hundred-dollar piece of hardware. But it shows that it is technologically possible to convert an iPod into a field recorder (the benefits of which means up to 80 GB of storage) with an external device.

I assume that the iPod itself is not doing any digital encoding and that this is all done within the accessory, which means that someone at some point may be able to construct a device that fits on the bottom of an iPod that could encode audio at higher quality, like archive-standard 24-bit resolution, 96 kHz sample rate, perhaps even fitted with a couple of 3-pin mic inputs so we can throw on a good-quality condenser or two.

Good, solid, reliable field recorders are unfortunately very expensive, which is why the humble minidisk has enjoyed a generous market with field workers. An inexpensive solution that didn’t rely on lots of media would be well-received in my opinion, at least by the utterly huge community of miserly, parsinomious, fiscally prudent field linguists out there.

*I can only assume that ‘CD quality’ means 16 bit resolution, 44.1 kHz sample rate, but to be honest, it may mean ‘mp3 format that, we swear, sounds as good as a CD’, in which case I don’t want a bar of it.

[Update: I’ve just done my homework and it seems a few assumptions were a bit off. Firstly, the encoding capability is actually inherent in the iPod, not the external device, and ‘CD quality’ does in fact refer to 16 bit, 44.1 kHz. I also found out that it uses the iPod’s power supply, so battery life is significantly reduced, which is a huge consideration in the field. Still, I wouldn’t mind getting one purely as an experiment.]